Archives for category: Imperfect Kids

Half way through her ham and cheese sandwich today, Rae asks the inevitable.

“Mommy, where does ham come from?”

“Uh…um…er…the farm.”

“The farm? But what is it made of?”

“Erm…meat.”

“Meat?”

“Yes…like, pork.”

“What is pork made of?”

I look away. I blink. I clear my throat.

“Pork is made…from a pig.”

Her little face freezes. A small piece of ham she’s chewing stops its passage into her mouth and hangs off it, slack. A second later, it falls out. Rae does not spit it out. She doesn’t cry. She simply lets the thing drop onto her plate, her eyes resting heavily on me, accusing, shaming, basically stunned in coagulating disbelief that I’d made her eat Babe the last five years or so.

“But pigs…are nice.”

“I know, baby. But they…are good for you.”

“But…that’s painful,” Rae’s eyes start to glisten.

“Well…the pigs are already dead…when they make the ham, baby,” I struggle to explain.

Unable to stomach her lunch – and my treachery – Rae pushes her sandwich away. I sigh pitifully, reflecting on the days ahead. What the heck do I know about cooking vegetarian? I’m already struggling with just…cooking.

I feel like the Meat Grinch.

I look over at Skyler, who’s attacking her slices of slaughtered animal with blissful ignorance. What I will not give for Rae to have that uncaring trust again, that whatever I’ve put on my children’s plates could not, should not, would not have involved bloodshed and carnage.

“Yummy!” Sky declares, chomping gleefully on a leg, as if to reinforce my silent gratitude.

Rae swipes her sleeve over her eyes and bravely picks up a cheese stick.

“And what’s CHEESE made of?” she asks, louder this time, her eyes steadily on mine. It’s as if she’s bracing herself for more ugly, horrific facts about nutrition. I gulp and catch myself. Haplessly turning my daughter into a vegetarian the last five seconds is one thing. I don’t think I can handle turning her into a vegan the next two seconds.

Choose. Your. Words.

“They’re made from milk. From cows. And cows don’t have to die to make cheese,” I answer as seriously as I can.

Rae eyes me warily. She slowly peels a string of cheese, and places it into her mouth. What seems like a century later, she chews. She keeps chewing. She swallows. I exhale.

“I love cows,” she says softly, looking at her string cheese as though it’s a gift from the divine (or should I say, bovine).

My thoughts turn to the 2lb pack of minced beef in my freezer.

And my husband’s shiny new grill.

Time to look up how to bake beef into bread.

Update: So far, Rae is only associating ham with carnage and death. Not pork, chicken or any other meat. And I’m not saying a word until she asks again.

There’s nothing quite like waking up to a sink full of pink, bubblegummy Princess toothpaste, is there?

That’s the last time I’m buying a squeezy tube, that’s for sure.

The last week has been filled with wonderful moments such as this. Wonderful moments my husband is missing since he’s 30,000 miles away doing his boring old job.

Aside from the insanity that is cooperative-preschool-setting-up-work, which I’m not even going to talk about here because another word about will likely push me over the edge and I may just have to swear a little, I’ve been potty training Skyler. And so far, she’s done pretty well in the “tell Mommy when you wanna make a poo” department.

In fact, she’s volunteered to do more, such as clean herself with 50-feet of toilet paper (and STILL managing to get poop everywhere else but). Plus Sky wants to sit on the Big Girl toilet and not the $20 glorified bucket we’d gotten her.

When will we ever learn not to spend on our kids?

Still, I have very few complaints. Both the girls have been very easy to pottytrain because I’d listened to some advice I’d read online and waited until they were ready (in that their diapers were relatively dry in the mornings). And Sky is also of an age where she can follow what her big sis and Mommy does (yes, we model that too). She’s still having problems feeling the need to tell me before she wees but I expect that to take more time. Just a few days ago, she did say, “Mommy, wee wee coming!” and of course I was so pleased I had to put that on my Facebook. This mother thing is just non-stop, isn’t it?

The other HUGE news around these parts is that Rae is now a kindergartener. She went on the big yellow bus and everything, although there were a few very anxious “where the flippin’ fudge is the bus schedule?” moments from Mommy but everything went really smoothly and Rae loves school. She loves her teacher, the bus, recess and even homework (actually it’s not homework, it’s more parent-child projects). Don’t you just love this age?

Well that’s it from me. Gymnastics in 30 mins. TTFN.

Our $15 CD player finally expired.

And so, my five-year old daughter took it upon herself the task of singing a song to lull her almost-three year old sister to sleep.

Go to sleep, my baby
Go to sleep, my child
Tomorrow we’ll wake up
And have pancakes for breakfast
(very smooth)
And then go for gymnastics
And then come home
For lunch
And then dinner
And then dessert
(God forbid we forget that)
And then if we have time
We’ll take a loooooong bath
And we’ll go to sleep
Agaaaiiinnnn

Rae just learnt the meaning of the word ‘expert’.

Yesterday, driving around, she had a fight with Sky and did not want to speak to her. Sky kept talking regardless.

“Mommy, can you tell Mei Mei I don’t want to talk to her?”

“You’ll have to tell her yourself, Rae.”

“But you’re THE EXPERT at telling people to keep quiet!”

A few days ago, during a meeting for our new preschool, us moms got into a discussion of our older, soon-to-be kindergarteners, and the topic of the cut-off age for enrollment was brought up.

You see, in the US, school begins in the Fall, which is in September, unlike in Malaysia, where school commences as the year begins, right after New Year’s Day.

Needless to say, this took a lot of getting used to, because of the cut-off date of birthdays for qualifying students, which is usually August 31st of the year. For a three-year old preschool that begins classes in September, a child would need to be three by August 31st, and for a four-year old preschool, a child would need to be four by August 31st, and so on and so forth.

For example, Raeven, whose birthday is in June, would qualify for school the same year she turns the required age. For Skyler, who turns three November this year, she will have to wait until the next school year to attend preschool because the cut-off is August.

The interesting dynamic here is in terms of development, Raeven will be considered one of the youngest in her kindergarten class, because she would have friends who may be like Skyler, who have turned six by September, October, November or December of this year, while she would only do so next June. And in the same vein, Skyler would be one of the oldest in her toddler’s class of two-year olds, because when she attends toddler class in September, she would be just two months shy of turning three.

Because of insurance issues, schools adhere to the cut-off date requirement strictly. In fact, parents of children born in late August or early September, are often advised to let their children wait a year instead of trying to squeeze their kids in on the same year, so as to put their children ahead of the class the following year because they would be developmentally a year ahead than the rest of the class.

I confess that I had trouble accepting this at first, for this is a very strange concept to an Asian, to delay school to get ahead. In Malaysia, parents are always scrambling to put their kids in school early by at least a year.

“My child can read and write already! She may only be three but she is ready for kindergarten! Test her if you don’t believe! “

Sadly, this need to be smarter younger, smarter faster, is more often than not due to the parents’ kiasu attitudes than their child’s real ability, driven by meer peer pressure aka other kiasu parents. 

For all our cool Asian calculative logic, we seem to hold on to the irrational belief that with enough pressure and discipline, our children can exceed their potential – without even finding out what that potential is. School readiness, and sometimes developmental milestones, to an Asian mother or father, is but a state of mind. Like the spoon that is said not to exist, we disregard what is solid fact, deciding that we can bend and even wave them away with a flippant “Aiya, this is all just gwailo bullsh*t”, and continue to push our kids forward because “so-and-so’s six-year-old is already doing calculus!”

When I told Lokes about moms holding their borderline-age children back a year so that they will be developmentally ahead of their class, the first thing he said was, “That is so fake!”

What my illustrious husband means is that the child is actually given a false sense of security and achievement because when it comes down to the fact and figure, he is five, and therefore should really be in kindergarten, learning kindergarten things.

I then asked, “So which is more ‘fake’? Pushing a four year old who’s not developmentally ready to kindergarten or holding back a newly-turned five year old for one more year of preschool?”

When I sat down with Rae’s four-year-old class preschool teacher for her year-end eval May this year, I was told that Rae was more than ready for kindergarten. Like any normal parent, I was relieved. Relieved that Rae is socially and developmentally ready. Relieved that she’s got all her fine motor skills down pat. That she can draw figures that have necks and torsos, not just legs growing out of heads. That she can cut out shapes. That can colour, occasionally, inside the lines (even I have trouble doing that!). That she is able to listen to instructions and follow them. That she is able to stand in line, and sit in a circle and participate (sometimes, more than required). And most of all, that she can deal, quite normally, with the whole emotional mindfield of Making and Breaking Up with Friends.

So what about her academics? Surprisingly, we never even discussed it. As far as I know, Rae is already reading words off my blog and is able to write words that only a mom would understand like MOMIILAFUVRMUC. But if her teacher, who has a Masters in Early Childhood Education and 20 years of experience working with kids, is not making it a priority – so will I.

As for Sky, I know that she will be more than developmentally ready for her school age since she will be held back a year, if we continue to stay here in the US. And that’s fine with me. You can call it ‘fake’ ahead, or accuse me of becoming more Americanised.

I’ll just call it plain Cutting My Kid Some Slack.

ps. I joined a few groups in Facebook called Asian Parents Are Too Crazy About Grades (950+ members!) and APS – Asian Parents Syndrome and Against Strict Asian Parents and AA: Abnormal Asians who aren’t smart and defying the Asian stereotype discussions, just to see what the discussions are like. There are Asian kids in there, of about 10-18 from all over the world, lamenting over their high-pressure kiasu parents. Some talk about wanting to run away. Some talk about ways to rebel. There is even a thread asking how some high school kids are coping with rejections from Ivy League universities. Most complain that no matter how well they do, nothing is ever enough for their parents.

I wonder: Will this be my child ten years from now?

It is a frightening thought.

I’ve known it all along, that I would be the kind of mom who would take it easy with a lot of the rules associated with raising a child.

While my husband would disagree vehemently – since he is more slack than me, claiming that we all have ‘different standards’, still not realising that as parents we’d better sync our standards up pronto or suffer the consequences because we have deviously cunning demonspawn – I am actually very, very relaxed with our kids.

I don’t force them to finish their meals (I have tried in the past but you know what? It’s not worth the trouble and I have it on good authority it’s bad for them).

I don’t force them to learn.

They don’t really need to clean up at the end of the day because I don’t have the energy to clean up myself.

I still swear, and sometimes do so in front of them (by accident, of course), because you know what? A lady can’t be a lady all the time, much less a mom.

I still play video games and I let them play some every day.

Before you think me less than imperfect, I do have some rules.

I make sure they go to bed on time with a flexi hour allowance during the weekend. I make sure I read to them 30 mins a day. I make sure to floss and brush their teeth every evening myself. I enforce the max two hours a day of computer and tv time.

And by sheer miracle, they’re turning out fine. They are not rude children, and very rarely do they bite. I’d say these are very good kids by anyone’s standards.

Which is why I am at a loss when another kid is rude to mine.

The other day, at the park, I met the strangest child ever. She looked to be eight or nine, but her mother was still accompanying her up and down the play structure as though she was two. She may have been mentally handicapped or autistic but from my vantage point, on the grass munching grapes, you couldn’t tell these things. As far as I could’ve surmised, she was an ordinary grade-schooler – except for the overanxious parent at her side.

She was a hefty child, but very active, and ran around so quickly her poor mother could hardly keep up. There I was, sitting lazily on the grass while my own two littler children played, and this woman was huffing and puffing running around the structure cooing lovingly to her overgrown child to be careful.

Rae and Sky, as usual, were mucking around at the bottom of the twisty slide, trying to climb up it, when the girl had wanted to go down it. The mother started yelling at her not to do until my children had cleared off, which of course, they took their sweet time with. And so, I had to get off my fat ass and go make them. The girl stomped around above them impatiently, huffing and puffing like an animal, mumbling something I could not hear. Sensing all was not right, I barked at Rae to get her sister the hell off the slide RIGHT NOW. That, of course, worked, and Sky was barely off the damn thing before around 100lbs of child came thundering down the slide.

I stood watching the girl and her frantic mother (who did not apologise, by the way) go about their business, while Rae and Sky started to climb up the structure to have a turn at the slide. Sky decided it was too much trouble after the third rung and ran off to ride the bouncy animal thingies while Rae persevered. But before she could reach the slide, Miss Impatient pushed past her and got to it first.

As Rae started to approach the slide, the girl put her hand out.

“NO! GET AWAY!” she’d demanded.

Rae stood there looking at her, a little shocked.

The girl’s mother started to protest at the bottom of the slide.

Rae tried again to climb up to where the slide started, where the girl was standing, and again, the huge girl made a shooing gesture.

“BUGGER OFF I SAID!” she shouted.

Hmm, I thought. English.

The mother’s protesting instantly became louder, and Rae looked at me as though she’d been slapped. I stood where I was, about 20 feet away, by our things, not sure what to do next. Should I go rescue my daughter? She wasn’t in any kind of trouble. Besides, she didn’t look distressed at all, just kind of surprised at the whole thing.

Eventually, Miss Rude went down the slide into her mother’s arms, and the both of them ran off, mother after daughter, to the other structure to continue their reign of terror. Rae moved on.

While nothing untoward really happened, my daughter was shortly exposed to the word ‘bugger’. I’d hoped she did not catch it, but this is a girl who can remember the sequence of scenes after she watched The Sound of Music only once (“Mommy, the girl is going to meet her boyfriend!”). I didn’t ask her about it and she’d most likely forgotten the whole fiasco two seconds after.

I wondered then, on the way back, what I would’ve done if things had taken a turn for the worst. Would I have marched up to the lady and told her to keep a tighter rein on her child, handicapped or not? Would I have quietly escorted my children to a spot on the playground, far away from Attila the Hun? Would I have laughed about it with the mother in a “Ah, children. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them!” sort of way?

Honestly, I have no idea. I think about my children being bullied all the time, especially when I hear about my friends’ kids being strangled and pinched and beaten up at school. And yet, I have no prepared course of action if these things should take place, beyond having a talk with the teacher and most probably with the parent of the child. I myself have never been bullied, or bullied, anyone. Or I might’ve blocked these events out of my mind, who knows?

Slacker mom or not, these things happen. I guess the best course of action to take, even before these things take place, is to cross the bridge when you come to it.

At the rate things are going, I might have to deal with being the parent of the bully than the other way around.

One of the things I enjoy most about being a SAHM is the time I get to spend talking to my children.

In the car, over a meal, at bedtime or bath time, the things you hear – and learn – are just priceless, and each conversation reminds me what I gave up my career for.

Like for instance, today, Raeven used the word ‘exhilirated’ for the first time. That is, I think, her first four-syllable word. Oh no, the second. ‘Sanitizer’ is her first. Yes, Mommy has a bit of the OCD when it comes to clean hands.

Anyway, so we’re on our way to her first swim lesson (a little recap at her blog) when suddenly, she asked, “Mommy, how did you feel when you went for your first swim lesson?”

“Mommy was older than you when I learnt to swim. But Mommy loved the water. I was very excited,” I answered, trying to psych her up for what I was expecting to be quite a touch-and-go situation.

It was true. I still remember my swimming instructor, a tall, thin man by the name of Mr Oon, at the ACS Boys School swimming pool. I was seven when I performed for him, rather noisily, my version of the freestyle.

“Oh…well, I’m exhilirated,” she replied.

I stifled a smile. The fact that my daughter copies the words we use is not a new thing, although I cannot recall when the last time was that I used such a fanciful word. To think she caught, and retained, such a word! She is an amazing child.

“Oh? Are you?”

“Yea.”

I grinned surreptitiously into the mirror, where my daughter sat all rigged up in her brand new swim cap and goggles, looking all serious and nervous.

“Mommy?” she asked a second later.

“What does it mean, exhilirated?””

My smile widened.

“It means you’re both excited and happy at the same time,” I offered.

“So you were happy and excited at the same time when you first learnt swimming?”

“Yes, Mommy loved the water very much,” I spewed more pro-swimming propoganda.

“Well, I’m also a bit nervous,” she added, smiling shyly, as though admitting to having taken a second helping of cake.

“Mommy will be there the whole time, and your teacher, so don’t worry,” I assured her, knowing that these words won’t mean a thing when she saw the size of the pool and the depth of the water.

At that, my five-year-old daughter nodded silently and looked out the window, contemplating her fate.

“Are you still exhilirated tho, baby?” I tested.

“Yea. And nervous too.”

“Okay.”

“Mommy?”

“Yes baby?”

“Thanks for my new goggles!” she grinned, peering at me, her eyes pinched tight within the colourful fibreglass ovals – the source of her exhiliration.

That’s Rae for you. Nothing’s too scary as long as you look good.

Today, I read the Princess and the Pea for the first time to the girls.

Now I don’t have fairy tales memorised but I had sort of remembered what the story was about, that this queen had wanted a ‘true’ princess for her son and so she’d used a magic pea that could weed out the fake ones because apparently, sensitivity is the essence of a ‘true’ princess.

As I read the tale today, it slowly began to occur to me, like the spread of a dark urine stain – the moral of the story. Oh. My. God. The Princess and the Pea is really about The Mother-in-Law From Hell. After all, why would the queen need her daughter-in-law to feel a pea through 20 layers of mattresses?

Why would she need her son’s wife to be sooooo sensitive?

Duh.

I laughed out loud when I finished reading. Rae asked what the joke was, and I shook my head, saying it was just a very funny tale. I could not help but laugh at the fact that there it was, a hundred-year-old cautionary fairy tale to all the women in the world who want to marry a prince, real or imagined.

Don’t forget that he too, has a mother, one who will make you jump through hoops to prove your worth.

I think I’m going to read this story to the girls a couple of thousand times more, just to be able to one day say, perhaps 20 years later, when one of them giddily decide to do something insane, like marry the man they love. I will ask,  “Do you remember the story The Princess and the Pea?” and to which Rae will probably reply, “How can I forget? You gave it to me for my 25th birthday.”

Heh. The things you learn from books. Incredible.