High heels, skirt suit, high rise apartment,
university freshmen dreams.
Loans, bills, car mortgage payments,
Dirty diapers, stains,
mother’s real world.
High heels, skirt suit, high rise apartment,
university freshmen dreams.
Loans, bills, car mortgage payments,
Dirty diapers, stains,
mother’s real world.
After a wonderful Chinese New Year reunion dinner and the massive clean up afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with a retreat in the woods. Just an hour’s drive from home to Sungai Congkak, Kajang. I rephrase; an hour without the KL notorious traffic. It was a risk worth taking because of the bank holidays and weekend all nicely lined up, making sure many of the city dwellers would have seized this opportunity to travel outstation.
I have never seen KL roads or city this deserted. When we arrived at our destination, even that wasn’t crowded.
We found a nice snugly spot underneath some bushy trees which gave just the right amount of shade from the bright morning sun and just a couple feet away from the stream.
The stream was calm and shallow. It’s flowing water, gently smacking against big boulders in its way, emitted a nice lullaby for a power nap. Ahhh, the comfort of an uninterrupted nap for an overly worked stay-at-home-mom was just minutes away.
All I had to do was get everyone excited to jump in the stream for a splash with their godmother. For once, I was able to just shut my eyes and listen to the surrounding without anyone forcibly opening my eyelids or whispering into my ears “are you up mom?”, like an alarm clock.
It didn’t matter I had to lay down on a thin sheet instead of my nice comfy bed. It was simply amazing soaking up the surrounding. I just let myself go, to be part of my surrounding with no fear or an iota of doubt, of my children’s safety.
I heard five different types of bird chirping, the buzzing of insects and the laughter of children, playing in the stream. But all this except for the laughter disappeared once I opened my eyes. I shut my eyes again and heard more new sound’s of nature.
It was such an amazing experience. I did so little but that bit of doing nothing and being in a place where nothing mattered, was wonderful. There was no clock to beat or task to be achieved. It was just me learning to let go, chill and relax.
I was in such a zen mood, even during our drive back home. There was not a single complaint heard from the back of my car. Everyone seemed contended having spent such a lovely time at the stream.
I was too mellow and all zened up to think that my kids were up to something when they were awfully quiet on my drive back from the picnic at the stream.
With kids, I have learned one thing, when they’re awfully quiet, they’re up to no good.
Everything was fine right up to the point when we arrived at my friend’s house.
All Zen instantly flushed out of me when I saw my girls holding a chick in the back seat. They had kidnapped a chick from a free range hen at the stream. They wanted to keep it as a pet and dared not ask me because they knew I would have disapproved.
They were damn right about that! I mean seriously, raising a chick in an urban area? Is that even possible?! My face must have been so crossed, I’ve seen me when I’m not happy and it ain’t pretty, my tween loosened her grip and the chick jumped straight into a monsoon drain. That just made matters worse.
Luckily it was reunited with its mother, unharmed, but my girls got labelled as chicknappers. A deserving nickname after all the trouble they put their godparents through in reuniting the chick with its mother.
Another beautiful lesson learned in my crappy parenting chronicles, don’t lose your top because nothing good comes from it. It will only make matters worse.
What I should have done was mask my face and kept it devoid of any emotions, especially signs of anger and disappointment.
Perhaps my tween would have handed the chick over and a good discussion with them could have spared us the need to climb down to the drain and rescuing the extremely stressed chick.
After analysing my own failure, failures would be a more accurate terminology for a repeat offender, I’m worried sick because my coping mechanism aren’t working well. They definitely aren’t in sync with good parenting. I’m struggling already with the challenges these little brats bring abreast, how would I react when they screw up big time.
Do they trust me enough to confide in me? I really do hope so and want them to come to me or my husband (whom by the way seems to be doing pretty good at this parenting stuff) if they ever get into any trouble. Would they come to me for advice?
Would I want to speak to me? Looking in the mirror, I’m leaning towards a most probably not. So I better learn to let go and chill a little more.
How do you do it? How do you keep your calm and don’t go ballistic when they start pushing all your buttons, not one at a time, but altogether, at once?
A boy, the age of my second daughter,
with the same sparkle in his eyes, the same laugh, the same smile,
sat next to me on the train.
He was loud and so friendly.
He wasn’t lost nor was he a beggar.
But he was alone, in the train and perhaps in this world.
Not a care in the world but with that smile and laugh.
My husband shared how he met a young boy, who looked and behaved exactly like my daughter, on his way to work. At a time when most children are already in school or on their way to school but this boy wasn’t going to school. He was just where he wanted to be, on a train.
We always thought, we would know how to handle such situation. How we would talk and iron things out if we ever came across a lonely child but in reality it is much harder to do.
This boy, although clearly looked and fit the profile of a homeless person was simply different. He just wanted to talk. He was heading some where. He didn’t want cash, he just wanted to talk. He was eager to talk to all the passengers on the train. He wasn’t rude, he was just excited. He wanted to share his story.
Many ignored him. Steered away from him because he smelled and he was dirty. The boy found an empty seat next to my husband and sat there, but he asked permission before sitting.
My husband described to me what happened in that 10 minutes. How the boy spoke in Hindi to my husband, thinking that he would understand, because technically my husband should have but unfortunately that’s one language he did not pick up whilst growing up. So much of what the boy said didn’t make sense to him. But he listened and from the boy’s gestures and enthusiasm, he knew the boy wasn’t talking about his troubles. He was just excited to share his story with someone. Like how my kids share their stories because every little detail in a child’s life is very important.
But he forgot to do what we always thought we would do in such situation. He forgot to ask the boy where was he going, why did he look like he hadn’t showered for a couple of days, if he needed some cash or if he needed to call someone? But all that did not cross his mind as he watched the boy talking and when his stop arrived, he just got up and left, like he has been doing for so long.
He only realised all that he had not done and should have done, only after he sat down for breakfast. Feeling so awful and playing the whole scene over and over in his head, thinking how or what he should have done differently. How he should have handed out his jacket to the boy because he looked so cold in the train, how he should have given him some cash even if the boy didn’t ask for any or how he should have hugged the boy though he did not have the guts to do it when he felt like because he looked so much like our daughter. So many regrets and an opportunity gone to show the boy and many on the train how one must treat a child, no matter how or what the child may be like.
But what was even more sad was the way, no one in the train wanted to look at him. Not wanting to make eye contact with him so that they would have had to deal with him.
That got me sad and thinking, if ever my child is lost and gets filthy or dirt on her clothes and starts smelling, no one would want to help her. No one would offer to ask her if she was alright. Everyone, even those who think they would have, might just forget to do the right thing at the right time.
Blessed are those souls who are able to respond in real time and handle such situation so accurately. They are definitely made up of something so special. Ingredients and compositions that gives them the ability to react so differently than most you and I.
I am compassionate but I am judgmental too, a little too judgmental. Sitting in the comfort of my house it was easy for me to tell my husband, I think he should have done this and that but would I have done the right thing if it was me on that train? I don’t know what is right or wrong but I do know, ignoring a child who wanted to speak is so wrong.
Hypothetically speaking I would have aced this situation but in real time, with so many others reacting in a certain way, would I have reacted differently;
Would I have had the guts to embrace him, skip work and travel with him to where he wanted to be?
Would I have actually said “sorry boss, can’t come to work today because I have a lost boy who needs me more”?
Would I have dared enter a restaurant with all eyes on us and sat there eating together?
Would I dare follow him to wherever he needed to go and see whom he was meeting?
What would you have done?
Remember, thinking that you know what to do and to actually be doing it are two different things.
The CD amazingly didn’t look like it was stashed away for a good half a decade ago. The filament of dust was easily cast aside with a simple blow of my breadth. I smiled because I just knew there were some memories waiting to be unlocked by playing anyone of the 15 tracks on it. It was one of those compilations CD, adorned with classic soundtrack theme music from some of the movies I grew up with. Some of these movies were even before I was an appreciating movie aficionado, or so I would like to think of myself rather unashamedly.
I was a bit of a weird teenager growing up, because my taste for music was completely formed around my imaginations of being the small bit roles in the movies I devoured through countless videotapes we had in the 80s. Mind you, for the uninitiated and young, videotapes were rented from rental stores in Malaysia mushroomed in all towns across the country. It was a completely affordable pastime, especially for the middle class wage earners with families growing in small towns. And because it was so cheap, the videotapes were also very easily accessible, and easily played repeatedly at home, at your own leisure. That’s when my imaginations would leap into the world created by the movie makers, the directors, the actors, the animations, and most importantly, the soundtracks.
These soundtracks were played on my walkman (go google what this was in the 80s) as life went on, and as I grew through the throngs of puberty, puppy love, crushes and embarrassing moments of trying to be that weird sidekick of the hero of the movies that I loved. I figured I wasn’t good looking or athletic enough to be the hero, but I could be that rather intelligent shy nerdy best friend who meant the best for his hero friend and who helped him out get the girl. The one that the hero usually saves from being bullied in the beginning of the movie. It was rather awkward because these soundtracks played in my mind as I role played whatever my imagination conjured up to make up the almost multiple personalities I had as a teenager. Imagine playing the March of the Imperial in your head as you walked across the hallway passing by that girl you had a crush on to maintain that ungeeky look for her. Can’t be suave or handsome, just be normal and not disgustingly idiotic. Yes, that was the right soundtrack to cool the nerves down.
I never grew out of this habit of playing internal music in my mind while I experienced every bit that life to offer as I grew up to be the man I am today. It was my own secret, it was something that I was ashamed to share with those close to me, but it was something I was a bit proud of to call my own all by myself.
This CD that suddenly popped up back into my life had a few melodic themes that fit quite nicely into my life soundtrack about 5 years back.
My other better half and I had decided rather unsurely to become a single income family, the 2 girls were at the age that would perhaps gain some attention from their mother as they maneuver through primary school. And both the girls were also getting ready to welcome another addition to the family in just a handful of months later. It was a big decision to make and the uncertainty of how our lifestyles, individually and collectively as a family, would change was getting heavy on my shoulders. My darling wife resisted this decision sternly when it was mooted, but she never outwardly insisted that we would be doomed from the get go. She understood it, didn’t agree with it wholeheartedly, but decided give it a go, seeing that we were already struggling with the few caretakers we had to watch over the girls. She loved her teaching job and leaving it was the scariest thing she ever did. I knew this and the weight on my shoulders grew heavier just seeing her trying to dignify our decision as a partnership. No outbursts, just silent and strong willingness to make it work.
There was this wistful sad rendition on the CD, from a love story I’m sure, about torn lovers and their passion through the sands of time. It had the sort of flashback feeling whenever a movie wants to flesh out the history behind the story. And it played out rather fittingly into a scene I imagined myself, of me 10 or 15 years older, all grey and creaky, and well rather cranky. In the scene, I’m sat with my three adult daughters, they are laughing among themselves unashamedly displaying their love and affection for each other, no more squabbling young girls. I’m there rather relaxed, in a reminiscing mood, as the wife is somewhere in the background, perhaps cooking a feast or writing her novel, and I’m reminded of the decision we made for her to be a stay-at-home mother. The soundtrack weaves it’s way into this scene, and it tugs at the heart strings of a time where my shoulders don’t seem as heavy as they were. This was the soundtrack of that chapter in my life at that point. That point where life was changing rather drastically but never catching us off guard. And that’s how I remembered it when I played the CD very recently.
But, as if there was some cue in my head, a new memory came crashing in, completely overwhelming the memory of those heavy shoulders, like waves wiping out sand castles, wiping out the memory of hope that it would all turn out for the better. This newly registered memory was more precise. It was of a holiday we took, as a family with much lesser to spend from our monthly income. We could hardly afford it but we wanted to make the best of it. Borrowed apartment from a family friend, food at the stalls, the not so glamorous and not so clean beaches of Penang. And then a laughter came in, further adding another layer to the new memory. It was her laughter while doting over my two very young daughters, cleaning them and hugging them as they tried to run away from her playfully to the small waves on the beach. Mom’s voice was crystal clear as the memory took a firm grip and played itself out while I concentrated more, while the same soundtrack weaved in and out of the imagery, the sounds, and the feeling of sand at my feet. The grip was strong, as I felt tiny droplets of warm tears at the sides of my eyes. It’s vividness was alarming for a few seconds, further making sense of the phrase ‘a blast from the past’. And so strong it was that the soundtrack that was playing now has become the soundtrack of this memory of Mom. The scene is of that holiday when she was there with us and I think it’ll be that soundtrack for a long time, for me to cherish a wonderful and pleasant time when Mom was with us all. The heavy shoulders I had then was so much more trivial than being there with her, hearing her laughter, and of her affection with my family. I can’t help but feel how apt this piece of music is to commemorate this very chapter in my life.
Unlike my adventurous drive to Kem Bola a couple of weeks ago, the drive to Temple of Fine Arts was much more pleasant; the advantages of a weekend drive. We even managed to find a parking spot right in front of the venue. Thanks to my skillful driver, we secured that spot because only he could have parked our SUV in such a tight spot, lodged between a big lorry and a minivan. A spot many dared not attempt.
It was full house and everyone was dressed to the nines for this play –“Kultar’s Mime” a theatrical presentation using poetry, paintings and music, to tell a tale of four young children who survived the massacre of Sikhs in India (#1984SikhGenocide).
It happened in 1984, after the assassination of Indra Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguard which led to waves of mob violence and slaughter of more than 3000 Sikhs in just three days. It was a coordinated widespread killing by the leadership of India at that time. There was unrest for 36 hours in Delhi but only the Sikhs were targeted, tortured, tormented and killed.
Well that was the extent of my knowledge of the 1984 genocide which I gained through some articles I’ve read online.
I have even seen similar stories of such dastardly acts when men turned against each other simply because they had suddenly realised that they were from different religious beliefs or sect. But what I experienced that evening, at the play, shook me to my core. I am a crier and cry easily but this was beyond that.
There was a lump in my throat. I was overwhelmed by the emotions that kept hitting me all the way from across the stage right to the back of the room, where I was seated. With a simple backdrop of eight painting, a black glove and head scarf, a pair of sunglasses, a red shawl and only lighting, the cast members entranced me and a majority of the audience because there was pin drop silence from where I was seated.
My sensitive heart could not take the agony and pain of those four young and innocent children and what they had witnessed and endured during the 1984 pogrom.
I was sitting in a comfortable air-conditioned room but bits and pieces of me were sucked into the play. I could smell the gasoline poured unto a father who could no longer fight off the mobs. I curled up my feet, pulled my knees closer to my body when different coloured hands stripped the innocence of young naive girls. I dug my nails deep into my palm when eyes were gauged because it had seen men turned into barbarian and pounced onto their mothers, sisters and fathers like they belonged to a different species.
I wasn’t prepared to be sucked into this vile time but neither was I a coward to run out of the room. I stayed and watched and realised that violence in this world is not limited to any one community. Such similar injustice has happened before; well-coordinated and murderous riots against Jews in 1903 in Kishinev, Russia. Or the Turkish massacre of Armenians, the holocaust, mass killings carried out in the former Yugoslavia and the African country of Rwanda during the 1990’s.
Tyrants will always want to oppress people so people need to speak out if that is going to stop and this is exactly what Kultar’s Mime play is all about.
It’s opening the drapes off the injustice that had taken place and forgotten as if it never happened or that it was their own fault it happened in the first place. These genocides, ethnic cleansing, mass murders or whichever term deemed fit, needs to stop.
As it is, we are already at war with mother nature due to our bottomless greed, do we need more reasons to wage war against each other?
To assume is to make an ass out of you and me. That’s something I heard long time back at some camp. But it has never stopped me from making assumptions or jumping to conclusions.
Assuming, that’s the first thing I do when something goes wrong. But I try to refrain from blurting out my assumptions because too many times, I had been wrong. I was the ass to assume the wrong thing.
Assuming is quite natural I must say. It’s like a defense mechanism to ease guilt of wrong doing or to make one feel better about oneself in an unfavourable situation. The mind starts working at warp speed to find excuses or reasons why I am not wrong at whatever wrong had taken place. So the easiest way out is by playing the blame game.
Shift the blame to another, start doubting the other or completely be ignorant about it and walk away.
A funny thing happened today, which is the reason why I am sitting writing this post. My anniversary is coming up soon and I wanted to surprise my partner with a little gift which had a naughty message.
For the record, I am not so good at pulling surprises. I don’t think I have ever successfully pulled a proper surprise without spoiling it. Alas, today was no different.
I was suppose to hide the gift where he was sure to find it and be pleasantly surprised, but a fright was all he got. “It gave me palpitation and a tiny heart attack for a millisecond”, he confessed.
In my defence it was a half baked plan which he foiled because he was too curious.
I had just received the gift, hand delivered to me, when my toddler got up from her nap and started screaming. I quickly grabbed the parcel, stashed it in his office and dashed to my bedroom. He walked in moments later and discovered it.
It was the naughty note and the handwriting on the card plus no signature that shocked, not pleasantly, him. “Who’s this for and from whom?” he demanded immediately.
“Ah man, why you had to be so nosy? It’s for you darling” I sighed knowing my surprise was ruined. “But what for?” he wanted to be certain that I wasn’t playing any games. “C’mon don’t be modest, you know it’s for you” I added with a cheeky smile.
We had a good laugh later on. But just imagine hadn’t he asked me about the note, it would have been a whole different story, until of course I surprised him with it the way I intended to. But that small window, when he assumed, would have flared up like a flame. Would have fed his doubt and worse.
So yea, making an assumption is easy. I do it all the time but how you handle it, can make or break a relationship.
Some like to sleep on it as to avoid confrontation while others want an immediate response.
Whichever you pick the just remember there is a lot of wisdom in this cliche; don’t go to bed angry. And there is a lot of strength in apologising.
“Nooooo….” I exhaled. I effing forgot my daughter’s birthday, not once but twice! There are so many causes for this forgetfulness but none will matter to an 11 years old. All that she’s going to remember is that her mom forgot her birthday.
Something had to be done. I could not undo the fact that I sent her off to school without wishing her and that I only realised it was her birthday when her godmother called to ask the best time to ring me back so she could wish my daughter. “Such a bad mother”, she must have said after hanging up the phone.
Luckily it was still early in the day so I had all the time I needed and planned to surprise her after school. Bought a slice of her favourite cake and a fancy travel mirror. I even managed to convince my toddler not to let the cat out of the bag when we see her at the school gate. It was the longest five minutes silent walk for my toddler. I could see it on her face, how eager she was to say it out loud, “mummy bought you a cake and candles!”
Told my tween to get herself a drink from the gas station while I put her bag in the trunk and that was just the distraction I needed to take the cake out of the box and lite a candle. FYI, do not ever lite a candle anywhere close to a gas station, it’s not safe. It supposed to be our little secret but my girls shared it with my husband and got an earful from him. *facepalm*
As she opened the car door, “surprise!!!” my toddler and I cheered (screamed more like it). It was perfect. I could see it on her face. For once she was speechless and smiling from ear to ear. Even her shy dimple; which only appears when she is overly joyed or terribly embarrassed, showed on her cheeks. It was the best opportunity for me to apologise for forgetting about her birthday in the morning.
But before I could say anything, “I forgot too mom”, interrupted my other child. “But it’s alright if I forgot, I’m her sister. How can you forget? You gave birth to her!” said this sassy mouthed middle child of mine.
Alas, I was glad I managed to redeem myself for the blunder and promised not to forget it, again. “It’s alright ma”, she said. “It’s much better than last year. Not only did you forget, you were such a nag so early in the morning over a trivial matter and it made my whole day crappy” she continued.
Ouch! I didn’t see that coming but I have no excuse for forgetting. Thankfully this year I wasn’t a nag like the previous year.
There’s a silver lining to this; I am on the right path towards becoming a better parent. I strongly believe that till I screw up again.
“This is an out of body experience. Your car is at bottom of the river. It was foolish to drive over the shallow flooded bridge. There is no point crying over it now. It’s time to let go.” said the Death Messenger.
First time mom, oh boy!
I was a nervous wreck and a pain to everyone around me after receiving my first bundle of joy. She, my first-born became the centre of my universe. I made it so tough for everyone around me to love her. Too many rules, a strict standard operating procedures (SOP) in handling her and a rigid timetable. I became her Superman, swooping in and rescuing her even when she didn’t need any rescuing.
I said and did things which seemed so necessary at that time because her survival depended on it. Little did I know she would have survived even if I hadn’t done those things but I was a first time mom. I believed I had to.
Was I a good mom? Hell ya! I would have said it back then and if you didn’t see why I did what I did, you would have been speaking to my taut behind. I thought I was the best thing that could have ever happened to my first born simply because everything I did, I did it for her. Gosh! I was so deluded.
If I could turn back time, I would have chilled out a little more and allowed nature to take it course. I would have learned to listen to mine and my first born’s biological clock instead of insisting she followed a strict feeding and sleeping SOP. I would have learned to allow my instincts to guide me instead of tons of first-time parents, parenting books. I would have wiped her tears, hugged her longer and took her back home instead of forcing her to attend a play school at that tender age, when all she wanted was me and not a formal, classroom education that caused her pain because she could not see me.
I wouldn’t have blown my top off for every splatter of milk and spilled food because I was somewhat of a OCD type. I wouldn’t have broken a spatula in front of her when she refused to eat her lunch which was important for her growth and because I didn’t know how else to handle my frustration. I wouldn’t have thrown a fit when a friend pushed my first born’s clothes hung out for drying to make some space for his own clothes while on a holiday.
If only I could turn back the clock but I cannot.
First time parents are a pain in the arse. Don’t be shaking your head in disagreement. We just are and shouldn’t be blamed for it. Caring for a life is an overwhelming experience and these tiny beings come without a manual.
So if you do have to spend a lot of time with a first time parent, be prepared. They will expect too much and feel entitled to too many things. They would expect you to give up your favourite show on tele and switch to cartoon network in order to stop their little brat from crying. They will demand you to change the way you speak and behave whenever their child is within earshot distance. Conversation with them always sways to how cute, capable or special their daughter is. They will cancel on you last-minute because of an unavoidable emergency like they had to capture their first born’s first word and share it with whole damn world. If they do make it outside the house without their precious, they’d constantly check on the babysitter. They will make you travel, always, to their place for dinners. They’ll stop attending your adults only party. After all this, they’ll have the cheek to say, you never supported them.
I was once a first time parent. I know what I am talking about.
Stay clear of first time parents. You’ve been warned.
If you could just calm down I promise I would buy you an ice cream, chocolate, cotton candy, the pink My Little Pony dress you always wanted or the doll you don’t need. Just don’t hit the floor and have a meltdown.