The Things We Are Proud Of

Trying to sneak behind the high chair and into the kitchen, I hear a "Mum."

Motioning to Rockstar to hold it in or move into the bedroom where I'm pumping (still!) my milk while the baby attempts all manner of not eating theatrics is fed by our helper (almost-dead expressions/ reactions to emotional blackmail are useful for something!

Still not too bad?

Still not too bad?

It gets worse...

It gets worse (see the puppy-dog eyes?)...

Y-eah, this'll do it.

Y-eah, this'll do it.

Despite my best attempts at ignoring theatrics, we discovered that an actual inability to respond perhaps due to a genuine lack of capacity (I'm real pissed at my helper right now she just won yet another award for Stupidest Thing To Do With Kids Ever I mean it's not like she even gives anyone else a chance at these prizes), is still more effective:

"NNNGGGGEE- Oh, it's you. Like, why bother?"

Hence my avoiding eye contact with Little Miss, having grabbed the refrigerated bottle of water I use to make the milk flow faster.)

And so it's only an hour later when I emerge to a fed baby and Rockstar still vegging on the sofa that I find out what Rockstar wanted. "I told Grandmum I got claps at school for knowing about the 4 seasons. She said she was proud of me."

That's nice, dear.

"She said to tell you she was proud of you too."


My mum and I uh, don't always get along. I think Rachel in Friends said it best: "She's my mother, I love her, but she will drive me cuh-razy." My mum would say of course Dogs and Dragons don't get along, they are right at opposite sides of the Chinese zodiac wheel. 

Plus, the element happens to be fire. 

Like, of course.

Well, d-uh.

She reads and underlines the important bits in books like Is God Dead?

And so the Fire Dog and the Fire Dragon maintain an oftentimes cautious congeniality, expressed via the postal service in the form of greeting cards, bookmarks, photos of the kids, microwaved ikan bilis, dried shrimp, off-season pineapple tarts (baked longer for that extra-chewy texture), in place of actual phone calls where we say stuff to one another, just so we don't piss each other off and spoil the day.

(Well, more recently it's been ikan bilis, dried shrimp and tarts with an almost apologetic flavor because my parents can't come over in the foreseeable future due to their being convinced their Muppy-dog will have a nervous breakdown if they board her again anytime soon.

Recall their obese border collie had a stroke, was apparently blind for several weeks/ months after, and my dad mailed us a video clip of the "blind" dog successfully navigating around tables and other obstacles in the vet's office at checkup, albeit with a very unsteady gait, which is why I describe what could happen to the dog if they board her again as "nervous breakdown" rather than anything else.

As in more One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest territory than ER territory. I am not kidding. I know people think about these things. I myself once sent an email to someone who said his receptionist is a dog whisperer who's been interviewed for tv before and she can seriously tell you what your dog is all huffy about (that was originally for JD - I was hoping they could hypnotize her and bring her back to the time she was 3 months old, before we randomly drove up and bought her, so she could tell us what her life was like in (we guess) Aussieland and how she came about an Aussie microchip. Drugged Up Dog Voice: "I see...... grass. Trees. And..... There were..... These fluffy white...... things! And somehow....... I just knew. This is what I was born to do. Herd.... white... things!") and I can't believe the person reading his email while he was on vacation never bothered to reply me.)

Ok somewhere in there was a point, but I've forgotten what.

So anyway if ever parcel-sending between Island Glades Penang and Cyberport Hong Kong were abolished for goodness-knows-what reason, there would be a communication crisis between my mum and me. (For my dad, there's Whatsapp.)

How to say I love you without ikan bilis?

Among other things  is all that resentment at the times like when she loaned my New Kids On The Block cassette tapes out to her students without asking me. We've all been there right, our mums just loan our NKOTB out to their students like it's not important. And yes I know some of her ex-students read my blog (some of are also my friends haha can't believe we didn't make Oprah. Or therapy.) So anyway:

Whoever has my NKOTB cassette, I'd like it back, please.

It'd go in a frame on a wall. I'd post a picture.

And so I run out of snarky things to say and have to address That Which My Son Has Just Told Me My Mother Uttered. Scroll back up to the purple words for a reminder, please.

I don't know how she knew. Dogs and Dragons are not supposed to understand each other, remember.

Little Miss has been her most difficult these last few nights and days - a combination of reaction to Rockstar being home for Easter break and me repeatedly putting her down for nap and then taking him out somewhere (we come home and take her out somewhere when she wakes and has had her lunch but who's counting), what seems to be a little clinginess/ anxiety at being alone, her being "stuck" standing up in the cot and unable to lie back down and go to sleep, and just a general This is Fun To Do To Mummy! When She's Stressed From My Screaming Full Volume Close Range In Her Face She Has All These Interesting Faces! attitude. It's like put her down, she immediately rolls over, boom she's on her feet and 10 minutes later life sucks.

I don't know which part of that she picked up, or even if she did, at all. But growing up I don't remember my mother ever telling me she was proud of me. I remember an I Love You for straight As at A levels. (You know, that very traditional culture our older generation have, where approval is just rarely expressed, only disapproval.) No pride expressed, for the black belt or Grade 8.

I mention as a contrast, because it would seem she knew, or thought she knew, how I didn't need to hear it then. Not the way I needed to hear it now. And she was right. "On paper" achievements don't need as much affirmation, there's always ego. That'll do it for you. The real challenge is exorcising ego as much as you can from parenting, knowing your kids aren't yours, they are themselves', they are the Lord's.

Knowing every single day as you stay up at night, wake up at all hours, get screamed at, barfed on, rescue both children from a bathtub-full of pooped-in water and toys, reminding yourself that someday you will have to be able to let them go.

My mother wasn't saying she was proud of me because she's proud of Rockstar. She was saying she was proud of my choices.

And this week it was what I really, really needed to hear.

My mum and me - I was about 5, Rockstar's current age, in this one. That would make her 35.

My mum and me - I was about 5, Rockstar's current age, in this one. That would make her 35...

....about my age now...

....about my age now...

Related posts:

About Aileen

I blog about living and raising my son in Hong Kong - where toddlers have entrance interviews, parents keep test score spreadsheets, private school debentures can trade for more than half a million USD. Raising Rockstar's the most important thing I'll ever do. We show our true colors by the choices we make in bringing up our children. My blog is a message to my toddler son, about what the world and his parents are like today - for when he becomes a teenager and knows everything.
This entry was posted in Rockstar Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • mun

    I believe your mother is very happy after she has read this post. She looked so stern in the photo and you were smiling so sweetly. Did you bring all your old photos to HK? Mine are still in my childhood home – I did not bring them with me when I moved away.

    Miss Rockstar looks so sad in the photos. Will she have indigestion if she keeps crying while eating? It must be really difficult not knowing why she is crying during feeding times. Could it be due to some reasons? I am just guessing here – you must have looked up “crying during feeding times” to try to find out the reasons.

    • Aileen

      My mum’s always stern (unless it has to do with the grandkids)… wish I had more photos, the blurry few I have are simply hurried pictures of photos in frames from long ago…

      Touch wood she doesn’t get indigestion from crying, and it’s not that she particularly does it during feeding – that one above was the worst – she’d been more demanding and refusing to be put down etc especially this last week. Now Rockstar is back in school touch wood touch wood she seems to be very slowly stopping with that, i suspect the primary reason was she lost her “morning alone with mummy time” while he was home – that was the most drastic change in her schedule. i mean she loved having her bro around, but she also identified that i went out with him alone each day as she often “caught” us coming home after her nap (helper texts me that she is starting to wake, the one thing the helper does with her is take her out and change her diaper before feeding her a pre-laid-out meal, while Rockstar and I are on the way back – we come home from wherever we are when I get the text saying she’s awake).. that’s the only one I can figure because she would wake in the night or after naps demanding to be held for awhile. i just didn’t think she would mind that much re me going out with the bro alone because we spent a lot of time with her all together as well…

      Kings just got back and did the last two night shifts (coincides also with Rockstar back at school) – she didn’t require any night cuddling, not even once.

      • mun

        Maybe it is separation anxiety. She just doesn’t like to be left alone with the helper – to wake up and not see you and her ko ko and Kings but see the helper alone with her so she does not feel secure. With Kings around, she feels secure and could sleep soundly through the night.

        I guess in a way it must feel warm to be so needed (despite some inconveniences).