Archives for category: Imperfect Sense

Before we came to the States, Lokes and I was part of the usual Malaysian cycle of life.

We met. We got married.

And got busy.

Lokes and I knew next to nothing about bringing up children, but went ahead and big fat did it anyway because like everyone else, we thought the only reason to get married WAS to have babies. We never planned any of it, and had let nature take its course.

Turned out nature was a little enthusiastic, and we got pregnant like a month after the huge wedding.

When we had our first child, I was working from home, which is just a fancy way of saying I couldn’t find a real job and was freelancing full-time. And I dare say now that it’s because I spent so much time with Rae that I learnt a lot about parenting. Good old-fashioned hands-on practice. Although we had a maid and my in-laws, the former was just for cleaning, while the latter handled most of the cooking. I bathed Rae, diapered her. I tried to Ferberise her, and failed miserably, after which Lokes and I happily embraced the wonderful concept of co-sleeping and attachment parenting. I read to Rae and sang to her. I took videos, pictures, watched my baby grow up.

When Skyler came, it was rinse and repeat. And today, I dare say I have LOADS of baby/toddler-sitting experience. Am I an expert parent? I’ll let you know in another 15 years.

At least.

Taking care of a baby is a lot of hard work. Don’t let what you see on the outside fool you:

The pushing of the nice Graco stroller in shopping centers with a sleeping baby inside.

The sitting at Starbucks enjoying a latte and chatting with other fabulous-looking after-birth mommies.

The gajillions of happy, smiling people in the perfectly Photoshoped Flickr images.

Nobody sees the ugly, sleep-deprived moments when you feel as though you’ve made the worst mistake of your life and wonder if you should be locked up for even THINKING that.

Nobody feels the frustration of not understanding your own child, and even worse, feeling the frustration of your child not understanding you.

Nobody will ever know the amount of emotional and mental strength you need to make it through day after day of the same routine because that’s what your child needs to grow up properly: consistency.

And after coming to Seattle and getting to know many other mommies of similar-age children, I’m even more convinced that I still have LOADS to learn.

Something disturbing I’ve observed, though, is how good we in Malaysia have it – or how bad.

The cheap daycare. The cheap labour. The FOC family support.

In Seattle (or perhaps this part of the world), young mothers have to sweat it out on their own. Most of the time, grandparents stay out of the child-rearing process. Daycare is crazy expensive, and don’t even talk about getting a maid or a nanny. Unless you have a good US2,000 to spare, forget about getting the kind of help we take for granted back in Malaysia.

The flipside is that these ladies KNOW parenting and taking care of their families – something we Malaysian young mothers will never know on our own accord.

And I find it kind of sad.

But guess what? The most important lesson I’m learning now isn’t how little I know about parenting.

It is how much I am finding out about my own kids.

How much, really, do YOU know about your own child?

Sure, you know his/her favourite colour, or food/drink/toy.

But do you know that when he doesn’t speak, it’s not because he doesn’t want to, but it’s also because he is selective?

Or when your daughter is angry, she’s not just spoiled, but scared?

Can you, in all honesty, say, and mean:

“I know my daughter. She won’t hit your child.”

“I know my son. He will not do drugs.”

“I know my kid. She won’t kill herself.”

We have lost sight of what is important in Malaysia as young parents. It is time we regain some semblance of sensible and responsible thinking because hands-on parenting isn’t JUST about knowing parenting: It’s about knowing your child.

That no matter who they turn into eventually, you will always be the one who knows that special something about them that nobody else knows because you were there.

All 18-20 years of it.

I’m watching Bones and am thinking Eric Millegan reminds me of a latter-day Scott Baio slash Elijah Wood.

millegan.jpg

That kinda tells you how ancient I am.

Still, SO cute. Can you believe he’s in his 30s? Un.Fair.

That’s the bane of consumer tech, isn’t it?

About eight years ago, I got my first mobile phone. It was an Alcatel, if I remember correctly. Lokes (we weren’t dating then) told me I sorely needed one if we were going to be friends – haha, j/k.

I had like five phone numbers in there. My friend Hazel’s. My mom and dad. Work. My house.

Okay, I had four.

The rest of it, I remembered. I was so good at remembering phone numbers that it made me really good at my job then, which was writing for a small trade magazine, coz I would remember all my clients’ numbers.

Today, I have close to 120 numbers in my handphone. Some of them are to people I’ve met only once, ‘coz I use a Windows Mobile phone (who can guess why?) and can synch it to my Outlook, where all the data pertaining to everyone I’ve ever met is in there since like 2000. It’s good, so if I ever change my phone (to another WM device, of course, or something that can grab the numbers from my Outlook), I can just synch and be done with it.

How many numbers are in my head? Only Lokes’ and my house. Even those took a while to get carved in stone in my increasingly decreasing brain.

Yes, my phone number mojo is all dried up. No thanks to mobile phones and their ability to keep 500 phone numbers.

Why am I talking about this?

Lokes outfitted a GPS device in our car a while ago and now I think I’m losing my already faulty mental compass.

Like my mom, I’m totally unreliable when it comes to roads and routes, so yes, I’ve been truly brave and lucky to have been able to drive around the Puget Sound area without getting a ticket and/or hurting myself/the kids, and/or just get so hopelessly lost I’ve had to have Lokes come get me (touch wood).

Before, I used to Google all my directions. Then I Local.lived them. But more and more now, I’ve been using the app CoPilot on my Smart Phone with our GPS thingie attached to the dashboard. And guess what? I’m slowly, but surely, losing all sense of direction since I don’t have to remember any landmarks or road signs anymore.

Technology. Love it or loathe it, we can’t get rid of it now. The more we rely on tech, the less we use on our own God-given faculties, prefering the man-made wonders. Thing is, these things purportedly allow us to use our brains for more important things.

Thing IS, the less we use our brains for these seemingly unimportant (or rather, not important enough) tasks, the less adept our noodles become, because how else would we exercise them on a daily basis, if not through remembering names or numbers or directions? I mean, what if one day someone makes a device to help us remember faces and names so that we won’t NEED to?

Or is that what THIS is? I mean, imagine having one of these on your phone that transmits by voice any data on a person through your tiny Bluetooth headset furtively. You’ll never have to suffer the embarassment of forgetting someone’s name again!

What’s left for your brain to remember when the day comes when we don’t need to remember phone numbers, appointments, addresses, faces, birthdates, hobbies, a person’s favourite movie, colours, artiste, to buy bread?

Will there come a day when you don’t even need to remember what you ate for lunch? When to eat lunch? To eat?

Maybe I’m being ridiculous. Maybe that’s what my brain does with all the extra space left thanks to all the other unimportant data I’ve now flushed into my phone and computer.

You know what they say about idle minds…

Okay, so one of my top four is out. Good luck, Will. Hello, Chris Daughtry. A bit Rob Thomas wannabe (his favourite artiste) but I think he will go far, altho I prefer Taylor Hicks because he’s Just. So. Cute!

Luckily noone DARED to wager me, the Great Top Four American Idol 2006 Finalists Bookie.

This morning, I heard on the radio about a high school teacher being suspended for drawing ‘eerie similarities’ between US President George Bush and Hitler.

BJ Shea, my favourite morning DJ, played the recording a student took during the class on air. Didn’t sound at all unreasonable to me.

Made me realise though that even here, in the purported land of the free, one is not so free after all. You get the government suspending you for asking kids to think. And then there’s the whole privacy issue, where someone actually got arrested for PAYING his credit card bill.

What can I say? At least back home, we aren’t sold the whole concept of freedom (well, no Malaysian would believe for one second we have total freedom of speech), believe we can actually talk out of our asses, to have someone knocking your door and taking away your job the next day.

Would this qualify as false advertising?

As a parent, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what Mr Bennish did. The important thing here is my child learnt enough to come to me with what he/she thought was disturbing, which is credit due to Sean’s parents (the boy who ratted on the teacher). However, if my child came to me with this, I think it’s my job to let her know that being afraid of such issues is normal, rather than going to the school and making a big fuss. This sort of reactiveness isn’t healthy. The president, or our own prime minister in Malaysia, is not infallible. They are human, and make mistakes like the rest of us.

Interesting blog entries on the suspended teacher issue here:

Jay Bennish: Free speech or liberal indoctrination?
A Right ≠ an Ought
Parting Shot
Stop the Right-Wingers’ Lynching of Colorado Teacher

Which is more dangerous: a teacher using names like Hitler and Bush together, or allowing a student’s complaint to blow out of proportion?

I can’t decide.

Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) from Grey’s Anatomy…

or

Dr House (Hugh Laurie) from House MD?

Tsk. So seksa I wanna be a nurse.

The verdict?

In the mornings, the guys can leave it up. In the evenings, they have to leave it down.

Why? If you have the patience for it, read this amusing, but lengthy piece.

Now how about a logical approach?

I say a seat is called a seat because it’s to be sat on, and therefore, has to remain down.

The only reason why guys flip it up before peeing is because they don’t want to have to wipe any of their stinky pee off when they’re done, and you just know they WILL wet the seat because, well, they are boys.

Why do us girls make such a fuss about the seat being down? Because it’s unsanitary to have to touch the damn seat before we have to remove our pants and undies.

We have to:

1. put the seat down
2. wash our hands
3. line the seat
4. remove our pants/panties
5. sit down and pee
6. wash our hands again

I know your job isn’t to make our lives easier, but the next time you need to make a Number 2 (American politespeak for passing motion) and the seat is up, think of someone’s pee germs all over your fingers.

This morning, on the way home after driving Lokes to work, a radio ad on IVF treatments was on, starting with a woman talking about how when we were young, we tried everything to avoid getting pregnant, and when we are ready, we try everything we can to conceive.

She then said something about IVF treatments and how she was now happily a mom of a six-month old.

I’ve never been a fan of expensive fertility treatments. Lokes and I agreed a long time ago that if we were unable to have children, the furthest we would go is oral medication. If that didn’t work, we would just leave it to nature since we did not have the money for it anyway.

Of course, that’s all moot now since we have two beautiful girls. So yes, we count ourselves extremely fortunate. Which, of course, makes me the least deserving person to talk about people who aren’t as lucky.

But I must. Because this IS for OUR own good.

I remember once discussing the necessity of expensive fertility treatments with a friend of mine (also a parent), and she, being more understanding than me, said that at least people now have a choice. And the freedom to choose.

My answer?

Yes, but people should make better choices. They make crappy decisions all the time, and that should stop. Like paying half a mil to have a baby they will eventually stick to their parents to care for, or a maid.

Fact: The world is now officially overpopulated. So unless you’re are under some government mandate to make like rabbits because your country’s population is dwindling (which is still a little ridiculous), or thinking of colonising Mars, please do not indulge in the delusion of thinking you’re doing the world, God, or even worse, your freakin’ Clan a favour by having kids.

Have you ever thought that perhaps the rise of fertility problems (which may be brought on by a more polluted environment, the food we eat, bad genes) is the universe’s way of telling us to STOP TRYING TOO HARD TO HAVE BABIES?

I know this isn’t really FULLY our decision and that God has a part to play, in that he’s the one putting souls in them babies. However, if I spent years and the family fortune trying to have one, I would get His drift and think before bruteforcing my way through.

And if you’re religious, ponder this: If God forbids abortion, what would he think of you insisting on forcing His hand on the whole baby issue? I haven’t read the bible in a while but I’m sure if cloning is iffy, then manipulating your hormones and growing babies in test tubes may be on the fence as well. He says be fruitful and multiply. So if you’re NOT fruitful, DON’T multiply!

Fact: Fertility, or rather infertility treatments, are expensive. More than ever, we have now got better options to get pregnant, but what does that really mean? We can go to the moon now but can we all afford to? No!  

Fact: You can get married and NOT have kids. People do it all the time! 50 years ago if you didn’t want a child or couldn’t, you would be subjected to ridicule by old-fashioned mother-in-laws and an oppressive, archaic society (at least that’s how it was where I come from). These days, this choice is more or less, yours. So why do people still think it’s an obligation to propogate the earth?  

Are we just kids ourselves, wanting what we can’t have?

Most of the time, parents who want to have kids don’t even know what they will be in for. We get told how wonderful it is and what a noble job being a mom or dad is and then we get it into our heads that that’s what couples who are in love do and should go towards as a sign of maturity and progress. But you know what? It takes more than that. Way more. And no amount of books or parenting classes or advice will prepare you for what the job entails.

Of course, in Malaysia, we won’t know that, since we have grandparents and maids and daycare centres to do our dirty jobs for us. I still remember what a friend of mine said.

“My mother-in-law wanted the child. Let her take care of him.”

We are fortunate to live in a time where medical science has advanced to a point where we are afforded choices – even if some aren’t really choices since they cost so damn much. But now, more than ever, we need to make better, choices. More selfless, educated choices.

The choice to adopt a kid whose reluctant parent has no means to care for him or her.

The choice to use the money you’ve saved up, to give some other kid a chance.

The choice to enrich your life as a couple in other more meaningful ways.

Like joining the Amazing Race. Or climbing Mt Kinabalu. Or helping to eradicate poverty.

Why aren’t we making THESE choices?

My post will not make a dent in the world of fertility treatments and desperate parents. I will never understand that desire to conceive that’s so strong and intense it can create divorce and heartache.

But when the time comes for my two girls to have kids, I will for damn sure tell them to choose better.

At least, better than I did.