Last night I hit my limit. Kings did the bedtime ritual, not me. Rockstar and I are grappling with each other. He’s getting better and he’s fighting to keep all his sickie privileges. I know, I’m supposed to be the parent, but really, I’m struggling for control. And I need a break. We both do. This could be the toughest break since Ross and Rachel. Lucky for him he’s my flesh and blood or I would’ve locked him in a cupboard.

I’ve gone soft. Or it’s birthing hormones. Mother Nature knew there would come a time when mummy dearest would need a little extra help to keep from abandoning her child and hopping a plane to Bali in search of drinks with little umbrellas in them. There is no stop loss on this trade, and I’m in way to deep. This deep:

9 months of lugging him around completely cold turkey on alcohol and flu meds; despite the doc’s reassurance, the moment we discovered I was pregnant, no more nightly glass of red, and I took a cold pill just once during pregnancy.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed every second – almost no morning sickness!

11 months of getting at least 3 hours less sleep; waking 90 mins earlier and sleeping 90 mins later each day while I pumped breast milk around a crushing job in private banking derivatives (no breastfeeding room available at work and I wasn’t preparing my son’s lunch in the toilet). No alcohol and hardly any meds during this period too.

After a good feed.

12 months of not caring what I ate for dinner; hurriedly spooning rice, veg, fish chunks, anything easy to eat from a bowl with a spoon, sitting on my bed. After I bathed Rockstar, I let him crawl/play on our bed next to me so he could see me “reading” something, anything (but I have to eat sometime, I usually came back from work tired and starving). I felt with his Don’t Tell Me What To Do personality I could seriously end up making him hate books while trying to do the opposite, so instead he saw me reading every night and if he decided to join in, well there just happened to be a heap of interesting kiddie books handy and mummy was there to answer any questions he might have – with the most colorful stories about the characters in the books that she could dredge up.

Shaking his bootie on our bed

2 years of my life. No other man has dared treat me this way. I cut loss fast, when it came to bad men in my life. But somehow, insidiously, Rockstar has a terrifyingly strong hold on my heart. The heart is after all a muscle, and Rockstar’s is so buff he’s jerking me back and forth effortlessly for 5 sets of 30 reps each, cruel little man that he is. It may have been a labor of love for me, but he’s still a cruel little man.

At the end of the day, Rockstar’s face is puffy from so many crying tantrums. At least he’s strong enough to cry and scream, I keep telling myself. And telling myself.

We force fed him his meds in the afternoon, after he decided he would not be drinking any more milk for the day (which was how he was taking his meds. Doc Chan would have a fit. This is a huge no-no because if the child doesn’t finish the milk you have no idea how much meds he’s taken. Hence we use very little milk and interesting cocktail glasses and cajole and beg him to finish).  We don’t usually force the meds on him because he fights so hard he often throws up. But today I took a minute bathroom break and when I got back he was elbow deep in his father’s potato chip stash (this is the first time he’s found chips – we were tired and eating anything). After insisting and pleading to not eat any more lunch. Or drink any more fluids. I really didn’t care if he threw up potato chips that time. But we had to wrench him from the chip bag.

Caught in the act on another occasion, this time stealing a raisin bun out of my bedroom stash.

On thru the day, until 10.30pm bedtime when he’s hungry. I’m tired, but I wanted his food done just right so I get up and prepare broccoli, rice, prawns, fish and some noodles in a little bowl with his favorite spoon. He doesn’t take a single bite, putting on the mother of all obstinate faces, which is when I lose it and Kings takes over. In retrospect he was probably canvassing for potato chips.

When it’s time to sleep, Rockstar turns to his father, “Daddy, go outside please.” Which is the signal he’s ready for sleep.  (Daddy likes working late and will only be back in bed way past our bedtime.) He looks at me expectantly. We usually fall asleep together. This time, I want to read quietly. “If you tell Daddy to leave, you’re going to have to fall asleep by yourself because Mummy needs a break tonight.”

Little fingers crawl teasingly up my arm. Then down my side. He’s trying to tickle me to make me smile. I can’t help it, I smile. But I also cry a little. He probably knew exactly what he was doing with the tantrums. “Sorry mummy.” I hug him and give him a kiss, but I’m still drained and upset. “We can call daddy back, or you can sleep by yourself tonight please. Mummy’s not ready yet.” Without another word he turns around a few times, not unlike our Border Collie searching for a comfy spot on the bed, and settles on his side with his back to me.

But then a searching little foot reaches out and rests against my leg.

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Rockstar’s temperature is 39.6 degrees Celsius, according to the thermometer at the Triage section of the HK Sanatorium hospital. At home, he’d registered a 38.5. Unacceptable. What if, like a normal human being, I had relied on that reading and not paged his pediatrician on a Sunday afternoon? Obviously however, I am not a normal human being. I am a mummy.

Please take me home. I don’t need that much walking and feeding.

“I’m not calling because of his temperature,” I say. “I’m calling because he’s so different from his normal self. And he seems to be getting steadily worse.” Rockstar is usually so full of beans an hour giving him your full attention in the morning is downright exhausting. This morning I’ve managed to rearrange my jewelry drawer, find a new home for all my hairclips, watch several brainless E! Entertainment programs and down a power breakfast bar, a banana and several cups of Jasmine green tea all while keeping an eye on him groggily lying on my bed with his bum in the air. Had he not been lucid we would have paged sooner, instead of waiting out the morning.

Dr Leo Chan, our regular crusty pediatrician (who is pretty well-known and popular in HK, bar Rockstar) is off on vacation and his new-ish colleague Dr Theresa Wong says she’ll meet us at Sanatorium’s outpatient in 30 minutes. Thank God, since his fever turns out to be significantly higher in the exam room. All the while we’re standing in the waiting room, we can’t help taking inventory of every cough and phlegmy throat clearing around us. Regular microbes are fine, even good for building a hardy immune system, but I draw the line at flu bugs that can kill. If it’s not SARS, it’s Swine Flu or some other Flu waiting to be discovered. This has me in the constant state of Para in the city of Noia.

We stand as far apart from the other sickies as best we can, all the while carrying our own little germ factory because we’ve forgotten to bring his shoes. Rockstar turns out to have a markedly inflamed throat but no other symptoms beyond a refusal to eat or drink anything in the last 6 hours (he’s been half asleep for most of them).

The ruins of our social life.

Dr Wong says it’s fluids or an IV, so when we get home I break out the more varied of our old cocktail serving glasses from Way Back during our DINK (Dual-Income-No-Kids) days. We ask Rockstar if he thinks milk/ soup/ water/ congee can fit into different-shaped glasses. He says no. I blame the drugs.

We rack our brains. Kingston comes up with Mangosteen, our Malaysian Queen of Fruits (Durian being King – as homage to our roots we actively cultivated a real love for these Southeast Asian fruit despite their more exotic (read expensive) status in North Asia, but even without that it’s just good sense to give Rockstar as varied a diet as possible – 20 years ago, there were what, 6 discovered vitamins? Today that figure is more like 20-30. I bet they discover a few more next decade. How do you manufacture a nutrient you haven’t discovered, even in the best processed foods and vitamin supplements labs?)

All hail the Queen. Rockstar sits unmoving on the kitchen counter avidly watching his father peeling the little deep purple fruit, picking out the smaller, seedless segments which he devours (it’s a lot of work and if you get the purple juice on your clothes it stains like no other, hence its mildly forbidden status in our household.) It’s a good 30 minutes of precious eating before he starts bawling.

So then it’s my turn again – except now he just wants to go to sleep – on me. I lie uncomfortably on the sofa with him for a good 2 hours as he sleeps fitfully. At one point, I call our helper over for a second opinion because I think he’s hallucinating. From full-out hollering, he suddenly grabs the tissue I’m using to wipe his face and vigorously cleans his right foot. “It’s dirty, so dirty. Must clean, must clean! Soooo dirtyyyy!” he cries. We can’t see anything on his foot.

Kings and I text each other, discussing our next plan of assault – he on breaks at his basketball game, I from under a sleeping, drooling, sometimes screaming toddler – we are two souls with a singular purpose – Make. Rockstar. Better. (Btw we gave up force-feeding him a few months ago because he was so determined not to do anything he didn’t want to, he struggled ‘til he threw up. As in, Everything. We switched tactics then because forcing him defeated our ultimate purpose: to get him to eat. Hence Operation Make. Rockstar. Eat/Drink.)

I tell my husband Rockstar has been demanding to see Daddy, so when Kings walks in the door, he theatrically goes “Ah, Rockstar, I was hoping you would join me for dinner and a ladybug video after my basketball game.” Big boys after all get together over dinner and youtube clips of bugs regularly, after a good game. I fade into the background, quickly spooning congee, tomato soup, and his meds with a little chocolate milk, before theatrically serving “The Men.” Yes. I know how that looks. The Men usually help themselves. But today The Men have a very important dinner and bug videos.

Kings succeeds in spooning a satisfactory amount of congee into our son, and then we do milk and meds. Videos. Bath toys. Pyjamas. More Fluids. It’s a triple ballet. Rockstar is extremely determined to get his way (ie not eat) but ultimately he has two parents. We’re a team, Kings and I. Two fire dragons. Two type As. When one tires, the other takes over seamlessly in a continuous dance fueled by love, tempering the impatience inherent in our personalities so it doesn’t affect Rockstar (type A parents after all have to remember they are, well, parents) as we tend to our son and unflaggingly cajole him to eat/drink/get well.

Together, we are type As in most areas of our lives (I even wore full tournament pads and headgear around the house when training for the Penang State Taekwondo Championships simply because it got my game on. When black belt training got in the way of practice for my Grade 8 in piano, I chose the (then much) riskier on-the-spot composition subject in place of the (much preferred but requiring more practice) aural music papers. Kings is worse.) Then we thank God for never encountering anything we can’t handle. Even in a child just like us.

This is how we raise our rockstar.

Ps: Yes, I won the tournament in my weight category that year. And got the black belt. And the Grade 8. Scraped thru by the skin of my teeth, having put in barely half the recommended number of practice hours required to pass. But then there were also public exams and the state debate championships that year.

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The Snail and the Whale

It was the first time I ever heard him say it. “Rockstar is sm-ALL.” All those mummies and mum-in-laws and helpers and strangers loudly exclaiming ”He’s so small!” When I could only mumble a feeble “his dad is a little height challenged” (both his parents are 5ft 7inches and he hasn’t learnt the meaning of “height challenged”), when what I really want to say is “shut the f*** up, does it not occur to you he can hear you?” How come they know not to make the fat kid feel bad, but it never occurs to them the small kid has ears and <newsflash> feelings too?

With more conviction now, “Rockstar is SMALL!” It’s a badge of honor.

We were reading The Snail and the Whale. Mummies of the world, if you have a small kid, get this book.

The snail feels small against the vastness of the world she gets to see while hitching a ride on the tail of a humpback whale. Then one day she saves her friend when he’s beached in a bay – by leaving a trail  “Save the Whale,” that alerts villagers and the fire brigade. I love this book. It’s a smorgasbord of opportunity for Mummy manipulations.

“You can be small but clever. Small saved the day.”

“Knowing your ABC can help you save whales.”

“You can be small but nice.”

“Being nice (like the whale letting the snail hitch a ride on his tail) gets you friends.  Friends can save you when you’re beached in a bay.”

It was like a light bulb went on in his head. You could see it shining out through his little eyeballs. Nerd that I am, I got a little misty-eyed. (Honestly, I’m not in the least bit sappy. Unless it involves my son.)

I might be small but I stand tall

(and you in the background – I heard a rumor smoking might kill you)

Two Smalls weathering the storm, speaking out against smoking along the way

Embrace the Small, I say. Now, if I could just come up with one for the fat kids it would be gold. Except I might get sued like McDonald's..

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