Penny attended the Sound of Music audition yesterday.
Back story is, a lot of followers and friends sent me the audition notice calling for children. I casually showed it to her, not expecting her to want to actually audition. She has shown no real interest in singing besides car karaoke wtf and she has definitely had no training in it.
Even more notably, she doesn’t sing in tune all the time wtf.
I gently told her that I would sign her up if that’s what she wanted but that she probably had only a very small chance of making it because a lot of kids would probably audition and many would probably already have had training or just more exposure.
She wanted to do it anyway.
So we went for it. She took a day off school and I drove her to the auditorium. It was packed! I later found out that more than 800 children showed up for it.
We waited for more than two hours before it was her turn. We were finally ushered in to the auditorium where each child had to sing individually two lines from ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.
We had practiced this in the days leading up to the audition but she still not very consistent leh fml. Seated in the audience, my heart was hammering, my legs were weak and I felt like fainting wtf – I was soooo anxious for her.
She sang. Not as loud as the loudest ones but loud enough for me to hear. She was pitch perfect.
The directors announced they would call out some numbers and those who weren’t selected would unfortunately not go through to the next cut.
Penny was one of those called. I stood up, weak kneed. I had to meet her and leave the auditorium together. I assumed we would leave for good. I tried to smile at the attendant but I was sooo emo already Hahahha. I held Penny’s hand and we walked out.
Outside a lady with a bunch of lanyards put a lanyard over Penny’s head and smiled. “Congratulations!”
“Wait, she made it?” I asked incredulously.
“Yes she made it to the next round!”
I never imagined. I was amazed and ecstatic. Penny, who tends to keep her feelings close to her, was calmer but she smiled and smiled.
Getting her picture taken and height measured. Based on her height, she would be trying out for Gretl.
For round 2, us parents had to leave them. They were meant to go learn how to sing Doe A Deer and then audition with it.
We reassembled an hour later and the second cut began. Penny was cut this round.
She’d made a friend, and within twenty minutes they were holding hands while walking. Her friend got through to the third round.
I was so torn. Friends without kids ask me what motherhood is like and today I came to a clear answer: having kids changes your heart.
On the one hand, I never really wanted her to win a part. She already had so many classes and commitments she loved and if she was in the musical I’d have to change up her entire schedule. I’d have to ferry her around even more, affecting my own work and time. It was a lot. I was relieved we wouldn’t have to come back again the next day for more auditions.
On the other hand, my heart ached for her. When you’re a parent, it’s as if your heart envelopes your children. every hurt your child experiences automatically becomes yours. I felt dejected and rejected. I was irrationally upset that the musical directors didn’t love her as much as I did. I was jealous and sour that her friend got in but she didn’t.
On top of that though, I was so so proud of her. To go and try out for something that she didn’t have a clear talent or advantage for. To have the courage to stand up on that stage and sing for everyone. To push herself and practice even though it didn’t come naturally to her.
We walked out hand in hand. I told her how proud I was of her.
She beamed. “Mommy, do I get a treat for trying out?”
I laughed. “No. Your reward is you feeling proud of yourself and me being proud of you.”
She seemed satisfied with that.
I asked how she was feeling.
“A bit sad,” she confessed. “But also happy because my friend got in.”
She taught me selflessness today. I was bitter and grumpy lol but she showed me her heart was big enough to be happy for her friends even while she was grieving for herself. I’m not sure I can do that myself, I know most people probably can’t but she could and she did.
By the time we got home though she was quiet and moody. We cuddled in her room and talked about her feelings. Again I asked how she felt, was she ashamed she didn’t make it? Did she feel rejected? She said no, just happy, sad and disappointed.
Would she like to cry it out and let our her feels?
She cried. Boy, did she cry. She cried for 45 minutes. She kicked at her bed in frustration, clasped her hands around her head and sobbed. She threw her body around as if throwing out her sadness. She cried as if her heart was breaking.
Fatty and I watched her while she dealt with her feelings, our hearts soft and sad. How next time when she experiences her first breakup.
Finally she let everything out. She quietened, her sobs slowing, her head in my lap. She asked for her stuffed bee and hugged her toys.
Then she asked for ice cream.
Today two things happened.
One, Penny had her first audition. She didn’t make it but oh how she made us proud with her courage, her strength and her big heart.
Two, I learned what having children is really about. It’s about having your heart change. You experience a completely new way to love, and a new way of hurting. you wish you could tank everything for your kids, protect them from every sadness and force the world to love them. Because every hurt they feel, you feel as much if not more. But you cannot, you need to let them go and learn for themselves. And that’s the dichotomy of parenting.
So a few weeks back, we found out that Penny… *drumroll* started a paper business at school. She’s been selling paper to her friends.
Specifically tiny sheets of paper that come from a notebook that another friend gifted her for her birthday.
RM 1 for a post it note size of paper each.
*buries head in hands*
(She brings this little notebook filled with rainbow colored pieces of paper to school and when she has free time, she uses the pieces of paper to either doodle or fold origami. Her classmates sitting around her have noticed and asked for paper for themselves to draw too; in fact, that’s how she made some friends – by giving them pieces of paper. Ahh seven year olds.)
She actually told our helper Sassy and Sassy told me and Fatty.
My eyes widened. I went to grab her wallet. I opened it and this is what I saw.
Stacks and stacks of 1 ringgit notes. O_O Hahahahaha.
This is the conversation that ensued.
Me: “Why didn’t you tell us yourself, Baby?”
Penny: “I wanted to make more money first.”
Me (thinking): Because she wanted to have something substantial to show us or because she was scared we’d shut her down? wtf.
Fatty: “So why did you start selling paper? Can you tell us?”
Penny: (looking slightly shifty eyed): “Well my friends kept asking me for paper. So I thought to myself, why not sell it? I sell one paper for 1 dollar. Lucas bought a lot! He’s very rich, he brings a lot of money to school.”
Me: “Um, well, so are you going to sell more paper tomorrow?”
Penny: “Yeah. Or else how can I buy nuggets from the canteen.”
The next day after school, I gently prodded her, “So did you sell any more paper today?”
Penny: “Oh no. Today is promotion day. Actually every Thursday is promotion day. So I give out paper for free. So that more people will take.”
Me: “Wow, very good strategy. Since when is every Thursday promotion day? You haven’t been selling paper that long.”
Penny: “I just decided today.”
Me: “Oh, so you gave away paper for free today like samples?”
Penny: “Yea. But I sold cellophane tape for the paper. 1 dollar per tape.”
What. No wonder a couple of days ago I overheard her asking Fighter if tape was permissible in school. And selling pieces of tape? That’s an even bigger margin of profit than selling post it note sized paper! I started to sweat.
(by the way guys, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that she’s making pure profit. Her cost is zero since she brought the tape from home and her notebook was a present wtf.)
Fatty decided to ask, “So when you sell your paper, do people come up to you and ask you to buy? Or do you go around and ask people if they’d like some paper?”
Penny: “Oh usually they ask me for paper. But if nobody asks me for paper I go and ask them if they want to buy.”
*doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry*
Plenty of mixed feelings for us! Fatty and I were half worried, half amused and maybe another half impressed.
So we were pretty impressed at her business acumen, that she came up with the idea of selling something scarce that she owned that was also in demand hahaha. That she was savvy enough to recognize that demand and created an opportunity for herself to get something in return.
On the other hand, she clearly had a very easy captive market with no sense of the value of money LOL. And it didn’t seem right that she was making money off her friends without even exerting any effort. (As a seven year old myself, I had designed, drawn, colored and cut out jewelry – rings, watches, bracelets – from paper which I then taped up – for the waterproof factor – then sold to my friends. I’d told her this story and she’d responded, “Well at least I don’t have to do any work like Mommy did.” FML.)
On the third hand, we didn’t want to dampen her entrepreneurial spirit either. I loved that she came up with these funny ideas by herself and I didn’t want to stem her thinking and creativity; I would like very much to encourage her ideas and endeavors.
On the fourth hand, I wasn’t ready to face angry parents of classmates who are out of pocket lots of ringgits because of her paper business LOL.
In the end, it was Fat Her Ooi who told us how to resolve this.
We told her that it was fine if her friends wanted to pay her for her stationery. But she shouldn’t keep the money all to herself because paper doesn’t cost that much la wtf. Instead what she could do was use the money to buy nuggets or treats from the canteen and share them with her customers hahaha. Then everyone happy wtf and at least she’s giving her friends back their money in kind.
She agreed to it happily enough.
Well, her business didn’t last long after that though. I guess the kids got bored of the novelty of the paper and demand steadily declined from there hahahahaha. Penny didn’t seem too bothered, probably because it meant more paper for herself.
And today I heard from the kids that her paper business has officially been shuttered. Because at assembly, the school made an announcement that students are not allowed to give each other money. I hope it’s not from her case wtf.
Seems like I only update my blog for Things Fighter and Penny say now.
But they’re so worth saving!
We asked the kids the classic train question:
There is a runaway train going down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The train is headed straight for them. There’s a lever next to the track. If you pull this lever, the train will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is a baby on this second track. What do you do?
Do nothing, in which case the trolley will kill the five people on the main track.
Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill the baby
The kids unanimously: “Kill the baby. Because the baby is young, it can easily be reborn and get back quickly to its current age.”
Hahahahah what’s your answer?
Fighter: “Mommy, did Japan ever get conquered?”
Me: “No. Japan conquered other people.”
Penny: “That’s not fair!”
Fighter: “No, I mean like a long time ago. Before World War 2. Like in 1506” (??)
Me: “Yea, they didn’t. You know the book I’m reading now is about Japan in the 1500s?” [I was reading Shogun by James Clavell.]
Fighter: “What was it like then?”
Me: “Well, there were samurai. Do you know what a samurai is?”
Fighter: “Yeah. It’s those fat guys who wrestle.”
Us watching Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the scene at the end where Dumbledore cancels school exams.
Dumbledore: “As a school treat, all exams have been canceled!”
Penny: “Woo hoo! I wish my school would do that.”
Me: “Do you even have exams?”
Penny: “What’s exams?”
Us reading a book about Julius Caesar.
Me: “Penny! Julius Caesar was killed on 15 March something AD! Your birthday!”
Penny: “How old was I?”
Me: “You weren’t born yet. This was 2000 years ago.”
Penny: “Oh. How old were you then?”
Me: “Am I 2000 years old, Baby?” -_-”
Penny: “Oh. How old was Ah Chor (great grandmother)?”
Me: “Is Ah Chor 2000 years old?”
Penny: “How about my antessors?”
Fighter: “She means ‘ancestors’!!” *howling with laughter*
Penny: “I can see pi sai (boogers) in your nose Dada.”
Dada (her nanny): It’s not pi sai, its something else.
Penny: “No it is I can see it hanging there.”
Dada: “Why you so rude Baby” *trying not to laugh*
Penny: “What is it if it’s not pi sai? Is it spider web?”
The critters are really into riddles right now. And they’re pretty good at coming up with answers too!
Fatty: “What has one eye but cannot see?” [the normal answer is a needle]
Correct also and I thought it was very clever of her hahaha.
Fatty: “What must you break before you use it?” [the normal answer is an egg]
Fighter: “Disposable chopsticks!”
Also correct and very relevant hahaha.
Fatty: “I have no life but I can die. What am I?” [the normal answer is a battery]
Fatty (answering his phone in the middle of asking riddles): “…tomorrow you settle already?”
Penny: “I don’t get that one, Daddy.”
Hahahahahaha this girl knew Daddy was answering his phone and turned it into a joke.
We were having dinner at a friend’s house.
Fighter: “Why are your utensils gold in color?”
Penny: “Because they’re rich!”
Penny (pooping in someone else’s house): “I cannot poo because my backside not used to the shape of this toilet.
(proceeds to poop anyway)
Me: “Eww! Who farted [in the car]?”
Penny: “Ewwww! Why do I have to be the one sitting behind you! Because Daddy’s backside is behind him and I’m behind his backside!”
Reading a book about school uniforms.
Penny: “Uniforms are good cos bullies will have one less thing to focus on.”
Penny: “We’ve decided. When we grow up me and Koko are going to get married and stay together.”
Me (grossed out): “Brothers and sisters can’t get married! And they definitely can’t have babies together!”
Jude: “Oh. Okay, we’ll just live together. And we’ll adopt.”
Penny: “Because I don’t want to cut my stomach.”
We’re back with more Things Fighter and Penny say!
Fighter: “Mommy, I’m gonna friend J on Roblox.”
Me: “Who’s J?”
Fighter: “One of my friends. He’s a bit fat but never mind.”
O_O I promise I have been teaching them not to judge others by their appearance ok hahaha
Penny bought something with her allowance and I paid for her first. She was supposed to pay me back when we got home.
Penny: “Mommy, how much do I owe you?”
Me: “Twenty five ringgit.”
Penny: “I don’t have twenty five. I only have a thousand. So I pay you a thousand.”
Fatty to Penny: “Baby, who do you prefer to send you to ballet – me or Mommy?”
Fatty: “Why not me??”
Penny: “Because Mommy stays and watches me dance. You didn’t see me dance. I dance so nice.”
Penny received a Nintendo Switch from us for her birthday but because it wasn’t Fighter’s he didn’t get one. Instead we encouraged him to save up enough money to buy his own. We set him a list of goals to hit, and if he hit them we would reward him. So stuff from winning a medal in his poetry recital competition, reading x pages of a book by himself etc. He eventually made it and bought himself his own Switch! But it’s notable that Penny actually gave him RM100 of her own money because “she didn’t need it” hahahaha. She also offered to go to Grandma’s house and wash dishes and give Fighter her earnings from Grandma lololol. Sometimes they’re so sweet and sometimes they’re so irritating to each other.
And when they’re irritating? One day before Fighter bought his own Switch, he wanted to play with Penny’s but she wouldn’t let him. In a huff, he stalked off to his room, pulled his cash out and started counting it. To see how long more until he has to put up with this shit LOLOL.
So we have some people in our lives who think that Black Lives Matter is a joke and um who happen to view Black people in a racist manner. Fatty and I were discussing this, and Fighter overheard. So we had to explain in short that Uncle X doesn’t like Blacks.
Fighter: “No! Wrong answer.”
When singing karaoke at home.
Penny: “Daddy’s singing is so bad he sounds like he’s talking.”
Fighter (seriously): “Mommy, I think the house is haunted. Every time after I charge my Nintendo I turn the switch off, but the next time I see it again, my plug head isn’t there, it’s on the table.”
Me: “It’s me. I’m unplugging it.”
Fatty was singing one of Penny’s favorite songs bad on purpose just to annoy her.
Fatty: “How do you like my singing, Baby?”
Penny: “Well how do you like my kicking?” *makes as if to kick Fatty*
Penny has a new teddy bear.
Penny: “What do you think I should name her?”
Me: “What about Flora? Because she’s wearing a floral dress.”
Penny: “How about Toto?”
Me: “You already choose, why you ask me….”
Sometimes when we have leftovers, we give bits to Butters as a treat.
Penny: “Butters is the dustbin in our house and Grandpa is the dustbin in Grandma’s house.”
Penny was helping me cook and received a small burn on her finger.
Penny: “My finger hurts. But if I cut my finger off then it won’t hurt anymore cos it won’t be there.”
Penny’s logic hahahahaha
We are watching Captain Marvel
Fighter: “How do they create gravity inside the spaceship?”
Fatty: *goes into long spiel about how something has to move in order to create gravity and having to create propulsion to simulate gravity*
Me: *keeps quiet because I was gonna answer ‘they just press the gravity button’ *
We gave Butters a haircut so for about a week he looked thinner than normal hahahaha.
Penny: “I like Butters when he’s skinny. He looks cute and smart. When he’s fat he looks dumb and greedy.”
We posed the “Trolley Dilemma” to the critters. If you’ve never heard of the Trolley Dilemma, it’s an ethics question. It basically tells of a runaway trolley running down a track. The track splits into two, and on one track is five people tied up there so the train will kill them if nothing is done. However, if you pull a lever, the trolley switches to the other track. Unfortunately, on the second track is one person standing on it, and pulling a lever means you would kill that one person. What would you do?
Fighter and Penny: “Easy. Kill one person is better than killing 5 people.”
Me and Fatty: “But what if that one person is a baby?”
Fighter and Penny: “It’s okay. Still kill the baby because the baby is so young it can easily be reborn and go back to its age.”
Hahahahahahah omg. First, they clearly have very Buddhist beliefs hahaha. And secondly I think how they got to this idea was because I was telling them it’s not a good thing to chop down old healthy trees because they took so long to grow to this age that it would be such a waste. So I think they applied this logic to humans hahahahaha.
Some time in the beginning of this year, Fighter developed what I suspect was a crush (or the beginnings of one) on the older sister of one of Penny’s friends’ who at ten, is two years older than him.
Back in March, we had a small birthday party for Penny at home. 4 or 5 little girls Penny’s age came to play and they all busied themselves doing little girl things. Fighter ended up playing with the older sister most of the time. I guess he had a blast because after that he kept talking about Rachel this Rachel that the next couple of days after! He also told us how he wanted a birthday party at home too. When I asked who he wanted to invite, he mentioned a few boys and then Rachel, the sister.
Me: “Rachel? Wouldn’t she feel left out as the only girl?”
Fighter: “But I like Rachel!”
Me (dawning on me): “wait. Do you like Rachel like you like Chase and Ayden? Or do you like her as a girl?” I actually didn’t know what I expected him to answer at this point hahaha. It just struck me because he has never talked like this much about any friend before, much less one who’s a girl.
Fighter: “What do you mean like her as a girl?”
Me: “Um. Like do you want to marry her?”
Me: “Oh okay then.”
Fighter (pauses): “Too soon, not yet. I’m not ready.”
I didn’t push it or ask anymore but gradually as time passed he talked about Rachel less and less hahahahah. I’m not sure if it was even a proper crush now, or if he was just super impressed by this older, knowledgable friend who spent time with him when he was kicked out of Queen Bee Penny’s room. I hope it’s not la I’m not ready for them to grow up this fast!!!
We have a neighbor, a boy a year younger than Penny. I’ve mentioned before in my Insta I think but this boy can be erm quite naughty. He doesn’t listen to his dad, often does the opposite of what his dad or any adult says, lies, and I even caught him trying to step on Butters on purpose.
Anyway one day, Fighter and Penny were downstairs playing (or trying to play wtf) badminton with each other. Neighbor kid runs up and asks to join them.
He picks up a racquet but instead of playing properly, he swishes it around going, “Haiyak haiyak” then attempted to hit Fighter with the racquet. O_O
When Fighter missed a shot, Neighbor Kid said…
Neighbor Kid: “Haha!! You missed!”
Fighter: “Hey don’t laugh at me!”
Penny: “It’s not that funny also. Nobody else is laughing.”
Penny (getting angrier): “If you laugh again I’m going to get angrier and angrier and fire will blast out of my head.”
Hahahahahahahhaha these two. They can fight with each other and complain about each other and tease each other every day, but if someone else does it, it’s a hard no lolol. I love these two.
I have a whole blog category dedicated to my dad, “Funny Fat Her Stories” just because there are so many hilarious anecdotes attributed to Fat Her Ooi.
But today I want to tell my mother’s story.
Growing up, my dad was the fun one. The one who arranged trips to Novel House (a book rental store in SS2 in the 90s), made up amazing bedtime stories featuring two iconic characters called Backside Boy and Backside Girl and lots of poop, was always joking and making us laugh, buying us books and magazines when we outgrew toys, embarrassing us by hugging and kissing us all the time, even in front of my friends, and the one to “pujuk” my mother when she got angry.
My mother on the hand, was the cool, practical, serious one. The original superwoman. She single handedly cooked, cleaned and ran the household, while simultaneously, chauffering us to and fro from school and tuition classes and activities, and kept us on top of our schoolwork. I remember my dad referring to her as “MacGyver” too lol because she even fixed appliances and whatever went wrong in our house. She was capable, productive and no nonsense. We were terrified of her.
Okay I can’t really speak for my brother but *I* was.
I was always afraid of getting on her nerves, treading on thin ice around my mother. I also found her fussy and focusing on details that never seemed important to me. So what if my bed wasn’t made I’m going to mess it up again at night what wtf.
Looking back, my mom was just a more perfectionist, neater kind of person, while the rest of us were tornadoes leaving a trail of destruction through the house, which must have really frustrated her. I’m not surprised if she was grumpy or irritable because she was tired from trying to keep the house tidy and all of us clothed, fed, and in line (including my dad LOL).
As a child and teen, my mother in my mind was a scary dragon, but as I grew up, our relationship gradually evolved. Nowadays whenever we’re visiting in my parents’ place, most of the time I’m in the kitchen verbally diarrhea-ing and updating her with every detail of my life (and my friends’ lives hahahaha). I love my dad equally of course, but now it’s my mom that I naturally share all the little bits of my life with.
I tell people that my mom mellowed as she grew older, that she used to be much fiercer. Maybe it’s true that she mellowed with age, but maybe it’s also her role change in life. Maybe there is less pressure involved in being grandmother and not a mother 100% responsible for her babies; she doesn’t have to raise and feed children anymore, just play with them on weekends.
Or maybe it’s me and the fact that I’m a mother now. I realize as a mama myself now how both my parents adapted so skillfully to whatever life stage Barry and I were at – knowing when to hold on to us and when to let go. Maybe I’ve changed as a mother, and that has altered how I view my own mom.
Last week, Mummy Ooi and I did a video shoot for The History of Whoo, a gorgeously packaged beauty brand from Korea with a very interesting name hahaha, in conjunction with Mother’s Day. You can watch it below.
The angle of it was that I would basically “interview” my own mother, with what I initially thought were pretty generic questions provided by The History of Whoo – favorite part about being a mom, funniest bit, biggest sacrifice etc. What I didn’t expect was Mummy Ooi’s answers. Isn’t that crazy? I thought as a mom now I understood her but really, do children ever really know their parents? Will Fighter and Penny really know me for me and not as just their mother?
Her answers made me realize how much I did not know — and how little I understand her. And they made me love her even more.
I wanted to write them down here and preserve them forever wtf because those bits of info are so precious to me. T____T
On one of her hardest times
It was the day she had to leave me at Mount Holyoke. I had never been away from home even one day in my life, but when I was 19, I packed up and my parents and I flew to the US for me to start my new life as a freshman in college. International students were required to get there earlier so we would have more time to acclimatize (and get used to the time difference I presume). My parents and I spent a few pleasant days unpacking my things in my dorm room, and exploring the campus and the surrounding town together.
The night before they were due to fly home, we had dinner and they dropped me off at my dorm room. I remember feeling a little sad and homesick that they were leaving. When the door shut between us, I burst into tears like a dam had bust open. I threw myself on my single bed and sobbed and sobbed, unaware that back in her hotel room my mom was also crying at being separated from me.
This was such a revelation then and now. Back then, I didn’t expect my own reaction — I loved my parents sure, but I was so excited to start an independent new phase of life as a college student; I hadn’t expected the sense of loss I would feel when the door closed. And I would definitely not have guessed that my mom — the woman who scolded me every day, nagged at me to study, disapproved of my clothes etc — would be weeping a few km away too.
On one of her biggest challenges as a mother
When I was very young, my parents moved down to KL for work. I stayed behind in Penang with my brother and grandparents and went to kindergarten in Penang. Both sets of grandparents not to mention my parents’ siblings were all there so I guess it was easier to leave us there in their care while they went to work. This was what I knew.
My mom revealed that my parents were in their late 20s when they left for KL for better opportunities and money. They suffered financial problems and couldn’t afford to hire a helper to take care of me. And my mom did not want to send me to a daycare or babysitter because she’d heard horror stories of babysitters abusing their charges.
Thirty years ago, people worked 5.5 day work weeks. Saturday was a half day’s work so for the love of their children, every Saturday after work, my parents would board a bus or train and make their way down to Penang to see us. This was before the construction of the North South Highway so it took like 6-8 hours one way? They would arrive around midnight on Saturday, or the early hours of Sunday.
Then they would spend mere hours with me and my brother, before taking another bus back to KL on Sunday evening. T______T
I. did. not. know. this. I mean I did, but I never properly considered what a burden my parents shouldered, balancing earning a better future for the family and not being present to care for us and watch us grow.
I have a memory from when I was four and my parents were again leaving for the station. I was so upset at their departure but at the same time, I was a sensitive child and I knew that if they knew I was sad, they would feel even worse. I remember running to the back of my grandma’s colonial shop house so they wouldn’t see me cry.
Eventually when I was 5-6, my brother and I moved to KL to live with my parents ok so all is good. ^^
On her sacrifice for motherhood
The initial years of marriage and parenthood were financially tough on my parents. But as years passed, they worked hard and managed to creep up the ladder. My mom trained as a secretary, going to secretary school to learn typing and shorthand. She must have done well and been promoted because she started working in Ogilvy & Mather as an advertising exec. (Coincidentally, in my own career in media, I worked with Ogilvy too as a sister agency hahaha).
When I was seven years old, I caught sick and was hospitalized with bronchitis. I was generally a weak kid with asthma wtf.
I recovered, but I am that annoying kiasu kid you’d hate lol. I got very stressed out because I’d missed so much school and I didn’t know how to do the work wtf hahahaha. I couldn’t accept cos I had always been a top achiever lolll. I have a memory of myself crying on the staircase at home wishing that my mom would take me out of school WTF.
My mom didn’t do that but she did resign from her job. At that point, she told me, her career was on the ascend. She was working in the PR department of the KLSE by then, and doing very well. But she made the choice to give up her job, give up her career and be a stay home mom to look after me.
Tears pricked my eyes. “Why did you do that?” I asked. “I had recovered by then.”
“Yes, it was very difficult because I was doing so well. I was flying high and so proud of myself. But at that point I asked myself: which is more important, my career or my daughter? And the answer was always you,” she told me gently.
She went on to say that she had no regrets doing that because under her care, I was finally putting on weight (I was always skinny and sickly before). And that you could have amazing helpers but there’s no replacement for a mother’s care and watchfulness. And look at me, the me and Barry today is her success.
I really cry max lo T_________T I would have sobbed out loud if not for the entire video crew staring at me wtf.
On her greatest achievement
She simply said, “the both of you.” Me and my brother. The best day for her was our graduation days.
She cried watching us walk up to get our diplomas (some more I walked the wrong way wtf). Again, I didn’t know this cos she’s always so tough and practical.
Our successes today are her successes. Her happiness is knowing that we’ve both turned out to be smart, book loving, thoughtful, filial adults. And crazily, that we both make it a point to see them at least once every week. Because she said a lot of her friends live in the vicinity of their grown kids, but their kids don’t even see them as often. Whaaaaat. That’s the bare minimum to me wtf.
That day, I saw my mom as she is, not as I knew her.
Not a mother who nagged and didn’t distribute hugs and jokes the way my dad did. But a woman – a wife and mother – who loved so fiercely that sometimes it overwhelmed her bonds with her family. Who was so protective of us and would fight for us, but was so soft and vulnerable inside that she created a hard shell for herself that as I didn’t know how to see through as a child.
Well now I do. And I appreciate and love her more than ever.
Happy Mother’s Day, mummy.
One with the two halves of me. <3
I posted this picture on Instagram the other day and got a lot of messages from people who were tickled that Fighter wrote “I hate” for math in his timetable lolol.
But there’s a deeper darker story to this that I’m going to share here. 🙁
If you look again, he also wrote “I hate” for art and that’s because the math teacher and art teacher are the same person.
Now, Fighter is good in languages. He’s progressing steadily in Mandarin and Bahasa even though we don’t speak them at home. And he’s still working on his Korean!
But everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and Fighter’s weakness happens to be math.
He doesn’t grasp concepts as quickly as Penny, and even when he does, if the question is phrased differently, he has to start from scratch again. And he’s also super careless la wtf (like me lol) so he often makes silly mistakes as well. So math is and continues to be a challenge for him. He doesn’t enjoy it, and to make matters worse, his math teacher sounds like a dragon wtf.
Fierce never mind, but from what I hear, she often scolds and picks on kids who get problems wrong or don’t learn as quickly as the rest. Which is Fighter la wtf.
I also don’t know why she feels the need to scold for mistakes — to me scolding should be reserved for outright disobedience or dishonesty or something willful, not honest mistakes or not grasping a concept. Maybe it’s Chinese school, maybe it’s her I don’t know.
What’s more, Fighter is an extremely sensitive and emotional child. He’s so afraid of stepping over a line that most of the time, I don’t even need to scold him when he does something wrong. I just have to look “not happy” wtf and he will immediately stop whatever annoying thing he’s doing hahaha. So for him to go to school and get scolded by his math teacher nearly every day took a toll far worse than we’d ever anticipated. 😥
I knew he didn’t like his teacher. So I tried to help him by buying math workbooks for him to practice with. I told him when she scolded him to imagine her in her big underpants, so it would be easier to cope with a scolding. Life went on.
Then he had three meltdowns, all within a week. He’s nearly eight — he hasn’t had a proper tantrum in a long time. But within the span of days, he had a meltdown when he couldn’t stuff his color pencils back into their box. He cried and screamed when I asked him to do his extra work book. And when he was having BM tuition, he exploded at the tutor because she made a joke when he spelled something wrong. This tutor is relatively new to us so I felt damn bad about her getting caught in his outburst. I also knew at once that something must be going on with him that I didn’t know about — the math teacher was at the back of my mind, but shamefully I didn’t think it was that serious, instead I worried it would be something worse like bullying or inappropriate touching WTF.
So I took him aside and talked to him. He said, “Nothing, except my math teacher.”
I think at this point at some level I still did not really connect his issues with the teacher to his outbursts. I thought he was frustrated and emo because of her so we talked about how I could coach him to improve his math so she wouldn’t pick on him anymore.
I also explained to his Bahasa tutor what was going on. His tutor happens to also teach at his school and she told me she would talk to his class teacher about this. This touched me because I was actually hesitant to speak to the math teacher myself — I’ve never met her and I didn’t know how she would react to me essentially telling her how to do job, what if she took it out on Fighter again?
That evening, we went out for dinner as a family and Fighter seemed calm, talking and joking like normal. Later on though while we were walking through the mall, Fighter suddenly gripped my arm and said, “Mommy, I don’t know why but I suddenly feel scared.”
“Scared? Of what?”
“I don’t know. Just scared.”
I felt his hands. They didn’t feel cold. I tried to feel for his heartbeat but couldn’t feel anything wtf. “What were you thinking of when you started to feel scared?” I asked him.
“Nothing. Michael Jackson,” Fighter told me. Michael Jackson is his favorite artiste at the moment wtf.
I asked if he felt like crying and he said no, he just felt scared. He looked around at the world around us and just felt afraid of everything. His feeling of fear lasted for around ten minutes I think.
I was panicking inside, wondering if this was an anxiety attack and planning to call our pediatrician the next day. Outwardly I kept calm and we continued on home. In the car, he suddenly said in a choked voice, “I think I want to cry now.” He proceeded to let go, screaming and wailing until his tears were spent. I let him cry, handing him tissues to mop his tears until he was done.
When we got home, he started to get emotional again. I told him to let it out, and again he did, sobbing into my chest. I held him close, intermittently wiping away his tears. When he had nothing left, he quietened down. I asked him if he felt better and he nodded.
I got him showered, put him to bed and the next morning, he really did look back to his usual self – cheerful, patient and good natured. I was overcome with relief naturally, I don’t know what happened but it seemed like an anxiety attack which is super scary in a child his age! Some more I was thinking how ah die I have to deal with two people in the household with anxiety issues wtf.
That was last weekend. This week, one day I picked him up from school and he came out, dragging his roller bag behind him, muttering, “I had a bad day.” Asked him what happened and it turned out the math teacher rushed him for not knowing his seven times table. He couldn’t memorize it in time and she apparently said, “Faster!” This doesn’t sound like much on its own but keep in mind that Fighter has been feeling very wounded with her and this was the latest hurt. He has been trying hard to win her approval and I think a major sting was that for some reason she praised other kids who were at lower times tables than him but still snapped at him.
He got home, put down his bag and went into his room to cry again. I was late for a shoot but son > work so I sat with him and cuddled him while he cried. And he clung to me like a koala while he wept. T___T One silver lining though, is that his BM cikgu had got in touch with his class teacher. His class teacher is a super sweet lady who called him to her desk during recess to talk about this. She told him not to worry, she would find a solution for him. I’m so thankful for her. T_____T At least someone is on his side and can help us.
When Fighter’s panic attack happened, I was so scared. Nothing had prepared me for the possibility that he might have mental health issues and I was so afraid for what life would be for him. I’m not a helicopter parent at all and I don’t like stepping in or interfering with children’s issues, believing they need to learn how to overcome problems themselves, but this seems way too big to just leave alone. On one hand I’m scared of molly coddling him; on the other, what if I don’t and it gets so much worse and I regret my inaction?
I’m also writing this because I wanted to highlight the importance of listening to children. Fighter told me he didn’t like the teacher, but I didn’t want to overreact and over protect him so I let it be.
When he let everything that he was bottling out and felt better, I realized how stupid we grown ups sometimes are when we tell kids, “why you cry over this small thing? Nothing to cry about” or “so big already don’t cry” or “shame on you for crying” or even “it’s okay” because something is NOT okay, that’s why they’re crying!
I learned how important it is to listen to kids and give them the space to feel, and to acknowledge their emotions.
I told Fighter, “I’m sorry for the times I told you not to cry because you should cry. When you’re upset you need to cry and let out all the bad feelings so that those bad feelings don’t stay inside you and make you feel scared for no reason.” I think that’s why the last time he did cry over the teacher, he held on to me, rather than me holding him. Because he knew I would accept him, tears and sadness and all.
I do regret dismissing his and Penny’s feelings sometimes. I’m sure I did whenever I tell them not to cry over small stuff. This is a very timely lesson to me wtf.
On the teacher’s front, I thanked his tutor for highlighting it to his class teacher. She sounded taken aback and shy, like she didn’t expect to be thanked for it. I also texted his class teacher. I don’t know why the math teacher is acting this way — is Fighter being over sensitive? Is she overworked and tired? Is she just impatient — but I trust we will find a solution. I’m glad to know that Fighter at least has these two caring teachers in his corner.
Time for another Things Fighter and Penny Say!
Penny: “I think next time I want to be like Auntie Sherlyn. I’ll get a dog and have a husband but I don’t want kids.”
Fighter: “I changed my mind, Mommy. I think I don’t want to get married I just want to stay with you and Daddy forever.”
Me: “How about you, Baby? Do you want to stay with us too or have your own house?”
Penny: “I want my own big house.” *gestures widely
Fighter: “YAY then I get the Barbie house!”
Fatty: “Somebody’s gotta tell him than in 20 years he won’t want the Barbie house.”
Me: “I tried. He can’t imagine ever not wanting the Barbie house.”
Fighter: “Mommy, you know why Ah Chor [their great grandmother] and all the old people are still alive? Because on my 6th and 7th birthday I wished that they would be alive forever.”
Mummy Ooi: “I don’t really like caviar, I don’t know why people like it.”
Fighter: “I also don’t really like Javier, he bombed my Minecraft house.”
editor’s note: He heard caviar as Javier HAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Fighter: “Mommy, does a serial killer eat cereal?”
Not really something they said but it was too cute I had to include this. The kids play a game called Bloxburg on Roblox which is similar to The Sims. You work a job, earn money to build your own house and furnish it. The difference is you get to interact with other players in your town since it’s an online game.
One day, Penny comes up to me crying because…. she had made a friend in Bloxburg and she designated that person as “roommate” which basically gave that player permission to edit her house! And that player for god know what reason started deleting furniture in her house and moving her staircase around LOL. Penny was so distraught she cried, but Fighter turned out to be such a protective older brother – he was in the game too, and he immediately sent out a message to this player: “Hey why did you delete my sister’s stuff. YOU STUPID” LOL but I guess stupid is an off limits word cos it came out as ****** ahahahaha I cannot.
He then proceeded to block that user and report her lolol.
Later on, I also found out that Penny had zero money left in the game because she kept giving her money away. When I asked her, she cried and confessed that she did that to make friends. T_______T Omg I cannot with this funny little girl hahahahaha. She didn’t know how to type or read so she couldn’t communicate with the other kids. So in her 5 year old head, she thought she would make friends by giving people money omg hahahahahaha.
And it turns out that was the reason why she made that player her roommate too. Because she was so happy to have a friend who played with her in the game. Hahahahaha.
We’re eating mangoes.
Fatty: “Dada [our helper], take the mango seed. You like it right?”
Fatty: “You know, Kong Kong loves the seed too. Even Daddy likes mango seeds.”
Penny: “I don’t like the seed, I like the sofa.”
editor’s note: she thought we said ‘seat’ LOL.
I forgot how it came up but we were talking about LGBT and I was explaining the concept to the kids.
Me: “Usually boys like girls and girls like boys. But sometimes there are boys who like other boys, and girls who like other girls. And that’s okay because everyone is different and likes different things.”
Both of them: *digesting this info*
Me: “So it’s up to you next time if you want to marry a girl or marry a boy.”
Penny: “I want to marry a boy.”
Me: “Oh? So you like boys?”
Me (thinking she had some boy she liked): “What boys do you like?”
Penny: “Kind boys.” (then whispering in my ear) “Also handsome. Handsome boys.”
It’s Orientation Day for Penny’s school and they’re doing it on Zoom. The kids haven’t been back for so long the teacher is showing them photos of their classroom.
Ms Ho: “Do you remember your old classroom?”
Penny (yelling): “I don’t even remember my old life!”
So a group of boys in Fighter’s class established a “gang”. The gang’s main activity is to stay back on the Zoom call after class is over and teacher has left, and they talk to each other and watch each other play Minecraft LOL. One of Fighter’s good friends, Ayden asked him to join the gang, and said he already told the gang leader Fighter would be joining LOL. This was what Ayden’s mom told me.
Me: “So I heard Ayden asked you to join the gang.”
Me: “Are you going to join them to play Minecraft?”
Me” “Oh why not?”
Fighter: “Because Luke [gang leader] said only boys! No girls allowed! I said it’s not fair to not let girls join. So I said I don’t want to join.”
Oh my son. T_______T We would be a better world if there were more of you hahahaha.
Something I keep thinking about is if my kids will ever know the me I was before I became a mom.
I take vacations with Fatty, trips with girlfriends, solo staycations, all in the pursuit of myself. To do the things I want to do, not the fruit of my loins wtf.
It’s nice to remember when I’m by myself the things that define me. That I once wrote an honors thesis. That my music of choice is Broadway musicals and 2000s Jpop wtf. That I have an amazing sense of humor *ahem* that doesn’t just include fart jokes wtf. That I love learning and absorbing new things. That the beginning of new friendships excite me and make me feel a little like I’m falling in love.
But all these things that make me me don’t show up when I’m being Mommy. What they see is someone who’s generally calm but flares up when they whine (lol), whom when she’s on her phone or takes out her laptop is “doing work”, someone who dishes food into their plates for them and who they negotiate with when they’re full. They see the nagging person who rushes them to shower, who hollers at them to get back to bed when they come out with excuses at night. They see a person who drives them to school and picks them up, but maybe ceases to exist when they’re at school hahaha. They ask me about my childhood but to them it’s a faraway thought that entertains them and doesn’t have any bearing on Mommy today.
It hit me the other day because Fighter is seven years old now and starting to indulge in the world of poo filled humor and sometimes snarky school age talk. It really began after he started Standard One, where he’s mixing with a larger more diverse pool of kids. He’s more forthcoming with his opinions and they are sometimes damn blunt wtf. I don’t think he understands that some of the things he says (while not exactly rude) are also not very polite wtf. Seriously every stage is a new challenge. T3T
So recently I noticed that it’s become a sort of running joke with him that Mommy is the fierce one. Or Mommy is the grumpy one. Once we were talking about cheerfulness and Fighter was like, “that’s like Daddy”. It hit me that between me and Fatty, I’m actually the bubbly, silly one but the kids don’t even know that side of me . T_______T
What they see is Daddy as the fun one because Daddy makes the effort to funny and play with them. I rarely do that because I’m either too busy doing something or other, or looking at the clock to the next thing we have to do, or annoyed with them cos I’m breaking up fights or putting up with whining. :/
So Mommy becomes the cheerless, grumpy parent.
There’s no clear one way to fix this, but one of the things that we decided to change (Fatty came up with the idea actually) was how we managed screen time.
So every day the kids are allowed half an hour of iPad time. They set their own timers and turn off the screens when the timer goes off. Fighter is pretty good at this, although once or twice I went into his room at night to check on him only to find him awake and furtively using his iPad. Penny on the other hand is not so good at this, many times whining or asking for five more minutes wtf.
Generally we stick to this half hour rule but there have been more arguments and nagging than what I’d like. So Fatty suggested we give them a bit more autonomy in deciding their day.
We asked them how much screen time they would like in a day. They said an hour. This hour would include not just iPad time, but also Playstation or whatever game console which I was okay with cos they wouldn’t only be looking at close distances all the time.
We said that’s fine but we also need you to have more outdoor play time – to counter the staring at close screens, outdoor play would make them look further and rest their eyes – and learning time. Which could be anything they wanted as long as they learned something new – reading, drawing, doing workbooks. Most of the time they choose reading!
They agreed to it and even suggested themselves an hour for learning time.
How has it worked out so far? Pretty okay I think.
Because screen time is not as scarce as before, they don’t go full retard on it. Sometimes Penny even chooses not to do iPad time. And because they made the decision themselves, they’re pretty good at sticking to the times. Sometimes they forget about reading time, but when I remind them they do it without much fuss.
When it comes to reading, they always prefer me to read to them! *pulls hair out
Fighter can read on his own for a few years already but he still wants me to read to him especially at bedtime, while Penny has only recently been reading on her own. So I don’t know if Fighter is just being lazy or he has such good memories of me reading to him since he was a baby or what wtf. But this bugged me a lot cos I think at his age I was already reading full story books on my own. I love reading up till now and it really bothered me that my kids didn’t seem to get the same joy. Is it a matter of too many distractions or what I also don’t know.
But because of this (mandated) learning time, I think they’re starting to enjoy reading for its sake. Like Fighter snorts and giggles his way through certain books and keeps trying to tell me what happens in the story. Baby definitely gets satisfaction in being able to complete books on her own without my help. It’s not what I would call ideal lol but it’s okay! They’re on their way! (to liking books)
Anyway I digressed off the point of this post. The point is that this was an experiment to give them more autonomy to make choices to see if it would also give them more sense of responsibility.
And I think it worked! (for now wtf)
What are your thoughts?
What a year it has been. O_O
I haven’t really been enthused about writing yearly look backs for a while; I hardly even remember what happens in a year, but 2020 is a year I don’t think we will ever forget.
I remember Chinese New Year this year we were back in Penang as usual, and I scrolled through news article after news article about the rise of a virus from Wuhan. I remember pictures of Chinese highways crammed with cars making their way home for CNY and how it led to the spread.
I remember the concern we felt when the virus hit Malaysian shores. I remember wondering whether I should keep the kids home from school, as more and more of their classmates became absent. I remember being very conflicted cos I hate my kids missing school for no substantial reasons hahaha. Penny’s birthday was also around then, and I had planned a swim play date for her with a few of her friends! We decided to go ahead with it because it was just a few of her close friends and it was outdoors.
No regrets cos three days later, Malaysia went into lockdown.
Lockdown was surreal. It started off feeling a loooong weekend with no work to do and it was at first nice and chill. We were one of the lucky ones whose personal finances lockdown didn’t affect too badly and we got into the swing of a routine. In the mornings I would do a home workout, then plan what to make for lunch. In the afternoons I would bake or work from home, or come up with indoor activities for the kids.
We were only allowed to go for grocery and pharmaceutical runs. Police roadblocks were set up and I sweated every time I passed one. I was on totally legit errands – driving to the supermarket a km away from my house but somehow I still got so nervous. I even developed mild agoraphobia from staying home so much that every time I had to go out for supplies, I low key felt anxious that I would “do something wrong”. No matter that I don’t even know what could go wrong, but it just felt weirdly like performance anxiety, that I would just commit some faux pas outside wtf.
The truth is, I actually really enjoyed spending mandated time at home. Life before the virus had been so hectic with work and meetings, school runs, ferrying the kids to activities and maintaining a healthy social life with other adults that it felt good to have no reason to go out. I could stay home and spend time properly with the kids without some errand or to do list nagging me. And I had time to focus on myself and learning actual new things.
Exercise was already something I did pretty regularly. A few times a week, after I dropped the kids at school I would go to a yoga or spin studio and get a class in. When we went into lockdown, we were so confined that I committed to a workout every single day. Along with eating at home, I lost maybe just a kilogram but I think I lost more fat because suddenly I was looking lean wtf. Didn’t last though when lockdown lifted hahaha cos we’ve gone back to being busy and eating out more. I’m still lighter but the fat is back wtf.
Baking and cooking
I like everyone else, turned to baking and cooking at home. It was fun seeing everyone’s dalgona coffee and other culinary creations. I still don’t like cooking but I found more different recipes to add to our menu (mostly Japanese wtf). Always good to have a bigger variety of food right! Some more these are stuff we all like – Korean army stew, Japanese hamburger eaten with rice, Popeye’s inspired chicken sandwiches, salads, saba shioyaki yum.
I started baking again too; I used to bake more before Penny was born but life got in the way as usual. So during the MCO I had the time to experiment and bake more – brownies, bread, cheesecake, all kinds of cookies …. I forgot how therapeutic baking is for me T____T Penny loves helping me in the kitchen too so it’s a nice bonding activity to do with her.
Zoom classes didn’t start until sometime in June? I don’t think I’m a tiger mom leh and I didn’t mind my kids having so much uninterrupted play time. But at the same time I like being productive and I like my kids being productive lol. I also wanted to give them some structure so for two hours a day, we set aside for learning time.
I went on Pinterest and researched ideas for home learning. We did printable sheets. Every day was a designated subject – math, reading, writing, science or art. We played Pictionary so the kids could read the words I wrote for them. I devised card games so they could practice counting. We did science experiments. I created pretend games where they were running a restaurant and had to write out the menu, write down the customer’s orders and make the food using play dough.
I remember this time so fondly. T_____T I was so proud of myself for making the kids learn and have so much fun at the same time. Every day they would demand for activity time or ask what we were doing today oh bless me wtf T________T It did cross my mind that maybe I’d be good at teaching, something I never thought of before hahahaha.
Colony wise, work was at a standstill. We were at the tail end of completing an office for a big client and the lockdown ensured that we couldn’t finish it and the client couldn’t move in. At the same time, our landlord who is the nicest landlord ever, already gave us as much help as she could. So our expenses and rental were running but we had no revenue.
I remember every time the lockdown was extended which was every two weeks, I would have to call the client again and renegotiate and beg them (for my life wtf). T____T It was so stressful because this was a huge account, this client was quite demanding (also I have a serious discomfort with phone calls lolol) and I remember my heart beating damn fast is this what anxiety feels like wtf. Our entire revenue was suffering and everyone else in our team bless them were doing their best to mitigate our losses and I felt I couldn’t let them down.
I definitely grew from this though, although I didn’t get over my fear of phone conversations wtf.
HAHAHA. Yea I picked Tiktok up wtf. And now I am very committed to working on my changes and transitions hahahaha. You can follow me on Tiktok at @4feet9 wtf. Or just find my videos on my Instagram la.
I don’t think I properly shared but I taught myself to play the ukelele by watching Youtube videos hahahaha. Ukelele first entered my mind when Fighter started Standard One – one of the extracurricular activities the school offers is ukelele class wtf. The kids also started piano class this year which got me realizing how much I miss playing. Growing up, I’d learned the electone/organ/whatever you call it until grade 8 but I didn’t take the final exam my excuse was SPM wtf. I hated it but twenty years later I feel the feels wtf.
I chose to learn the ukelele because it’s small and doesn’t take up space, and looks relatively easy to pick up. So I ordered one from Lazada and the rest is history wtf. My transitions are still not very smooth la but I can play most pop songs now since most songs feature the same bunch of chords. I stopped playing as much though because I have tennis elbow AND golf elbow (despite playing neither sport wtf) and it hurts to hold the ukelele too long.
Honestly the best thing that happened to us this year. :))))))
During MCO, the critters and Tim were campaigning for a dog wtf. Because of Fatty’s depression, his sister suggested getting a dog because of you know, all that unconditional love wtf. Fatty was open to try anything, and he and the kids naturally got very excited over the idea. I was quite resistant cos no prizes for guessing who would be the one doing all the work wtf. I don’t want the additional responsibility la!
But majority wins because we ended up getting this fluff. Not to say we didn’t have conflict when we got him okay! Some people around us disapproved but eventually everything settled.
Butters turned out to be the most attached to me cos maybe I got mom vibes or something and he thought I’m his mother wtf. And like all pups, he’s so playful, so loving and forgiving and so funny that our only regret is that we didn’t get a dog earlier. :)))
Welcome to the family, Buttface.
This time last year, Fatty was going through a tough time. One day I asked him how he was feeling, and his answer sounded like it came right out of a textbook for depression wtf. I contacted my brother’s friend who’s a psychiatrist, got a recommendation and set up an appointment in January this year. Fatty had a rough time during the MCO in March and April and my heart ached for him just watching him go through it. But the good news is his therapy and medication is helping. He’s not totally fine yet but it’s okay not to be okay wtf. He’s doing much better now guys.
Fast forward a year, Fatty told me in the car on the way back to Penang the other day that he wouldn’t have believed it a year ago, that he would be driving a car he always wanted, have a dog as part of the family, and feel happy. <3
2020, you were tough. You challenged us, erased our jobs and projects and our incomes. You took away our freedom to travel, to move around, and kept us from our loved ones. You made us fear and gave us a renewed sense of our mortality. But through this year, we also learned new skills, new realizations about ourselves. We learned perseverance and how to take blows. We learned how to slow down and how much of our lives were unnecessary. We valued our time with our parents more and were thankful for our relationships.
And for that I am grateful.
Happy 2021 guys, may it give all of us a break. Hahahaha.
One of my proudest moments in parenting to date happened today.
I was editing Tiktok videos on the sofa *ahem* when Fatty came up to me and said, “You’ll be glad to hear this”.
So the kids are big Roblox fans (in addition to Minecraft) and they’ve recently been absorbed in this Roblox game called Bloxburg. From what I can tell, it’s essentially The Sims for us 80s and 90s babies but to this Gen Z (or whatever gen our kids are), it’s the bomb.
Roblox is an online gaming platform so when they play Bloxburg, it’s with other kids online all in the game. Today they were playing on it when apparently, some boy on it said, “Boys are better than girls.”
To which my seven year old son replied, “No they’re not! Boys and girls are all equal! Girls are strong too.”
I don’t know if it incited a big debate in Bloxburg or what but apparently the boy who said it then apologized for it! Fighter told me he said, “Sorry I said boys are better”.
I am on my way to raising a feminist. T_________T
Not just a feminist, but a rabble rousing one who can actually change other boys’ minds. T______T
(Also, I say on my way cos he’s only seven and we have some way to go before he’s done growing up.)
I always knew I wanted to raise my children as feminists. Feminism doesn’t mean touting that women are better either; it’s just the idea that men and women, boys and girls are equal and deserve equal opportunities and rights. I am a feminist. I went to Mount Holyoke College, the oldest women’s college in the US and there’s no way you could come out of there and not be a strong believer in equal gender rights and opportunities hahahaha.
Raising a daughter to be strong and recognize her own value and to break barriers etc etc is kinda like the norm now. But what’s equally as important – or maybe even more so – is raising our sons differently from what boys have always been told to behave.
Gloria Steinem once said “I’m glad we’ve begun to raise our daughters more like our sons, but it will never work until we raise our sons more like our daughters.”
We now teach our girls that they can achieve anything, to dream big and aim for the stars, that they’re strong and clever. That they can be girly, that they can play with dolls but also monster trucks if that’s what they want. But what do we do with boys? We still tell them big boys don’t cry, that pink is a girl’s color, that they need to “be a man” or “man up”. This kind of thinking creates a very narrow and toxic definition of what it means to be a man – that being a man means showing no vulnerability, that men are supposed to be the breadwinner, that men should not deign or be bothered with “women’s work” (which may include but not limited to caregiving, raising children or housework).
We don’t ask our daughters to “woman up” – why then do we tell boys to “man up”, as if being a man is a goal to attain, one which they need to constantly work towards, instead of just being?
When I go to the bookstore there are tons of books targeted specifically at teaching girls to be courageous, or strong, or independent — traits traditionally associated with masculinity. There are modern retellings of traditional fairytales in which the princesses have a lot more agency and fight for their happy endings rather than wait to be saved by princes. There are books focusing solely on inspiring, barrier breaking female figures – Marie Curie and Amelia Earhart and the like. But try as I could, I could not find any books targeted at little boys to teach them strength, or gentleness, or kindness. Is this because there are enough superhero stories out there that we don’t feel like we need to show little boys what strength is anymore? Is it because we think there are enough male figures around for boys to look up to? I seriously wondered at this.
There were no books celebrating boys (or men) in typically female pursuits.
Fighter is not a typical boy — he’s not into guns or cars or pirates. He’s obsessed with trivia, skyscrapers, historical facts, natural disasters (lolol) and stuffed animals. He’s also extremely gentle and sensitive. Where were the role models and stories for a little boy who isn’t into superheroes (because they fight wars and Fighter prefers peace haha)? I remember being frustrated at one point at the lack of children’s literature I saw out there when it comes to showcasing strength in non typical macho ways. (One exception I found is the Little People Big Dream series.)
So what do we need to do in order to raise feminist boys? I think it all boils down to not enforcing gender stereotypesI don’t know all the answers and I’m sure there is lots of room for discussion and learning! But here are some of the things that I can think of that we do with Fighter.
Don’t enforce gender stereotypes
When Fighter was two or three, his favorite color was pink and his favorite character was Hello Kitty. Okay I suspect this is due to my influence la hahahaha he liked whatever mommy liked. One day after recently starting preschool though, he came home and declared that his favorite color was now blue, because “pink is a girl’s color”. Apparently green, blue, black and white are boys colors and all the warm shades like pink, red, purple belong to the ladies. 0_o
It made me a little sad, not gonna lie, that he went out into the big world and received news that his color preference was deemed too girly and therefore unsuitable for him as a boy. 🙁
My children are very much entrenched in gender stereotypes when it comes to colors unfortunately hahaha. Penny identifies with very femininely associated – like baby dolls and pink and unicorns and Fighter is into green and blue, and sometimes orange because he has this orange tshirt which is supposedly damn comfortable wtf. But sometimes Penny asks for a blue plate in a restaurant or something and Fighter a pink, and I just give them whatever they like. Sometimes they both want the blue and Fighter would say but blue is not for girls in an effort to win wtf, but I reply that there are no colors specific for girls or boys and they accept it. These are tiny things that don’t seem to make a difference – I mean, colors?! -but they add up.
Allow him to play with whatever he wants
This is a big part in not enforcing gender stereotypes I think. So the other day, to cope with the monotony of CMCO, we decided to take the kids out for a treat. We took them to Toysrus and let them each pick a toy. Penny rambang mata too many choices hahaha but Fighter couldn’t see anything he liked. In the end he asked if he could take a look at the girl’s section. Without batting a lash, we said sure, and he picked this little guy out:
Some funny thing that came inside a plastic box shaped to look like a popsicle. It’s purple and pink with eyelashes so clearly meant to appeal to little girls but Fighter chose it. He named him Rufus hahahahaha.
Fighter has always loved soft toys and I don’t see anything wrong with that lo! He once went through a phase where he was obsessed with toy household appliances and we just rolled with it. But I drew the line at a second toy washing machine wtf. But we’ve purchased Polly Pockets and Mel Chan dolls for him too.
Even up till today, when Fighter and Penny play, one of their favorite games which they can spend hours on is “Barbie Doll House”. They take out Penny’s Barbie house and her assorted Barbies and Disney princesses, and their stuffed animals and create an entire township in the playroom, complete with houses for the dolls and roads. And they just role play. Which is actually what me and my brother did as kids – we transformed our shared bedroom into a ‘country’ for our soft toys we called Babyland LOL.
Some people might think but Barbie and her hot pink branding is a different matter. Fatty and I have never made a big deal about this so neither Fighter or Penny see anything unusual about the way they play.
Don’t tell him “big boys cannot cry”
I really hate this. Why boys cannot cry boys got no feelings one is it!? Sometimes I hear male relatives saying this to Fighter and it triggers me like crazy. Crying is a normal reaction to sadness, grief, hurt and pain. Everyone cries – or feels like crying at some point. But society states that crying is for girls, or girls are supposed to cry and boys are supposed to get angry. This is super toxic masculinity right here because it does not give boys (and men) the space needed to process, acknowledge and release their emotions. It teaches them that they aren’t allowed to feel sad or hurt or blue. Suppressed emotions frequently devolve into suppressed rage (cough school shootings cough) and I’m sure into a potential host of unhealthy relationships with other people and themselves.
Introduce to them heroes from both genders
So as I mentioned earlier, one of our favorite series is the Little People Big Dreams one because each book features an inspiring historical figure, beautiful illustrations and their stories told in simple language. Some of the male role models I really liked were Mahatma Gandhi and Stephen Hawking because of the focus on values of peaceful struggle (as opposed to you know, fighting super villains wtf). They also have a lot of really good female figures – from Audrey Hepburn to Frida Kahlo to Marie Curie.
So that’s what I try to do – tell them stories about heroes from both genders. We’ve gone through Joan of Arc and Mulan, which started a whole discussion about why girls weren’t allowed in the army back then, and why Mulan had to pretend to be a boy. I explained that back then, people didn’t know better and thought that girls weren’t as strong or as smart as boys and they were expected to stay at home. Fighter got very indignant about this and exclaimed, “What! That’s silly – Penny is stronger than me! She can carry me!” LOL. And Penny nodded sagely as if to affirm this HAHAHAHAHA.
And afterward, even up till today Fighter would come up to me and ask again why were people last time so silly, why would they think girls are weaker because they’re not. (maybe got whacked by Penny too many times wtf kidding hahahaa)
I think this was what really inspired Fighter to speak out in that Roblox game, to be honest.
Which brings me to….
Speak out against injustice
When Fighter was entering preschool, as overly worried first time parents, we were concerned he would get bullied in school due to his small size and gentle nature. So it started with us coaching him to say “No!” if anyone made him feel bad. Lolol. But as he grew, I also started to tell him speak up or tell a teacher if he ever saw any bullying going on. He has a very pronounced sense of justice and fairness (which I think came from me wtf) so this came naturally as part of our discussions.
Bullying and harassment can happen in school and I think it’s common for boys to just go along with their peers and not speak out even if they see something wrong.
There’s a stereotype that “boys will be boys” which may further let harmful behavior go unchecked. Peer pressure is very hard to resist though, and I expect its influence to increase as they grow older. But a good beginning step would be to get them to recognize what harmful behavior looks like and teach them that being strong is doing the right thing, not going along with the wrong.
Equal household chores
We have helpers at home so don’t say gender specific chores or what, more like my kids would just not have any chores at all to do if I didn’t step up wtf. It’s important for them to learn survival skills ok which include housework! Don’t be like me wtf. The truth is, growing up I didn’t have that many chores to do – maybe my parents indulged us; the most I had to do was the dishes, set and clear the table for meals, keep my own room neat and maybe wash my school shoes wtf.
So we’ve been working on getting the children to help out with small chores at home. Stuff like tidy their own beds in the morning, bring the dog out for potty time and wash away his pee, bring their dishes to the sink after eating, etc. We don’t classify chores for example, washing dishes or cooking or babysitting as women’s work, or say, gardening as men’s work. Actually they’re supposed to wash their own dishes too but my plates are very heavy and Penny already dropped one wtf so this one gotta put on the back burner a bit hahahaha.
Teach them empathy
Girls are often raised to have empathy – we give them baby dolls and soft toys and cooking sets to play with, and when they grow up, very often they are expected to do the the majority of childcare or shoulder the care of old parents. Boys are taught to be “tough and rough and ruthless and strong” and many men naturally see childcare is a woman’s job. It is then our job as parents to teach boys empathy as well. For example, we could let them babysit younger children, let them take care of a pet, or help with sick or older relatives.
This was one of the reasons why we chose to get Butters, as we wanted to get the kids thinking about caring for smaller beings. Ironically among them, Fighter is the empathetic one, while Penny can be quite unaware of people’s feelings hahahaha. When we took Butters for his vaccinations, Fighter couldn’t bear it and turned away and cried. Penny watched interestedly. Butters just sat there like a stone with no reaction to the injection WTF.
Don’t use “like a girl” in a derogatory way
“You hit like a girl”. This kind of sentence is so common in our culture even today. Even I have caught myself thinking or saying stuff like that, so entrenched is it in the way we perceive others around us. Like, “yer why so sensitive like a girl” wtf smack my own mouth. I am trying to be very careful with what I say in front of the kids cos I don’t want to pass down this sort of behavior.
I’m sure there are lots of other things out there we can watch out for and do to help the kids not get stuck in toxic masculinity and machoness. There are tons of resources online too if you want to read more about raising kids as gender equals.
Feel free to leave a comment to share your thoughts or how you do it with the children in your life!