Archive for Motherhood

Starting young

So Rae and I were playing restaurant, where poor Skyler is relegated to the job of dishwasher in her play pen. Not that she cares because most of the time, she's just sitting there, checking her diapers out (wonder if I should go check them instead…), when I, the customer, ran out of 'cash' to pay for my fish and broccoli dinner (yuaachh).

"I've run out of cash, baby," I said.

Looking around, I callously picked the first thing that I didn't mind losing, and didn't look dangerous.

"Can I pay you with tape instead?" I asked. As in Scotch tape.

She stared at the miserable piece of plastic I'd just pulled from an old delivery box, a little disappointed.

And then she spotted her play makeup kit on my desk.

"You can pay me with makeup, mommy."

Sometimes, I wonder if she's really my kid.

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Patience is virtue, and all that jazz

Since coming to the US, I've learned a LOT about being a good parent.

One of the most admirable things I observe everyday about gwailo parents is how much patience and respect they have for their little ones.

If you are a parent, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. The urge to snap. The propensity to scold. The quick fixes of threat and punishment to get your message across so your kids will just stay still for one damn moment.

In Malaysia, you will often see (or hear) mothers either scolding or screaming after their children in public places when they misbehave. If you stay long enough, you might even witness a few tight slaps before said children are being dragged kicking and screaming through a supermarket aisle or out of a park.

I think in the six months I've been here, I've only seen one mother who was more than stern in trying to keep her boy in line, who had a patch over his eye, which may be saying something. Most of the time, even when a lot of tears and whining are involved, American moms tend to keep their tempers in check very well, rationalising, explaining, soothing all unhappiness away without ever raising their voices up an iota – even when it seems that the child deserves a little more than that. At most, a stern warning of a time-out is issued.

How DO they do it? It seems inbred, this much patience and respect for little kids. Well, not inbred, inbred. Maybe it's all the cheese.

Or maybe, it's tricks like these. Isn't the toy time-out just the thing?

I am happy this positive attitude is rubbing off on me.

Look, kids. Mommy's growing!

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Small mercies

For the past week, I have been plagued by sleeping woes, but yesterday, something close to a miracle happened.

Usually, the girls wake up about seven, latest eight, so I have to be up latest by six to make sure I have time to prepare coffee and have some alone time to start the engines, before getting them up and ready for a full day of hard play, messing up the house and the Very Important business of visiting the playground.

I hadn't been able to sleep more than five hours on Sunday and Monday (each), but managed to survive a visit to this huge park Rae loves, a birthday party and several meltdowns from Skyler who has managed to pick up this habit of INSISTING that she does everything by herself, including using the toilet even though she doesn't fully grasp its function yet, prefering to think, rather, that it's a bucket of play water which she dunks her hands into and splashes about with nary a care, despite paranoid momma's screams, which you will be able to hear very soon on a frequency near you.

But.

Yes, thankfully, there's a but.

But, I've been able to sleep until 9am yesterday. Like I said, it's something of a miracle, because the kids slept until 9am with me. Rae crawled into bed with me at what must be 7am, and continued sleeping, cuddled warmly next to me. It was just glorious. Eight hours of undisturbed sleep.

Which is why I shouldn't be losing my head over chocolate milk and cream cheese on the carpet now, should I?

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Dear New Moms

I had this really bitchy post up before this but decided that while it was really satisfying on my part (a girl's gotta be a bitch sometime, you know), it wasn't one of my best. It was also not very constructive.

So then, I decided to write an open letter in my humble blog, to new mothers or mothers-to-be, who may visit it regularly, or may have stumbled upon it.

So you are on one of the most important journeys of your life. You may have just begun. If so, congratulations. You must've heard or read it a million times before, and it does sound cliched, but you are indeed the bearer of a most precious gift. Money may be able to purchase it these days, but it is a gift nonetheless. Even if you're not religious, you must believe in the force of nature which makes possible this miracle that we call a soul, that no amount of science in the world will be able to produce.

If you're halfway through, I have felt your pain. Take pride and comfort in the fact that you're pregnant, eight little letters that can evoke the most extreme of emotions in people. Enjoy your pregnancy – and your life as a wife or a non-'dependee'. And know that no matter how much research you do, stories like this letter you are reading, advice you accept, you will never be prepared enough for motherhood. That's what makes discovery fun.

If you're almost there, take some time to reflect on your life before the Big Day. Go for a stroll with your husband or significant other. Start a blog or a journal to write down all the ideas and memories and opinions you have about the way you see the world. This is to remind yourself, after that Big Day, who you were. And to witness for yourself just how much motherhood will change you six months from now.

Now here's why I came to write this letter.

I have two beautiful daughters. Raeven turned four today, and every year on her birthday because she's my first child, I reflect on the year that was her life. I look at her baby pictures from the day she was born until now. I look at that personal journal I was talking about, about my life before I had her and then after. I cry a little at how much I've changed as a woman. I feel sad and happy about many things. Guilt and relief at some of the choices I've made.

But most of all, I feel blessed.

Same goes with Skyler, my 19-month old. She was born 10 weeks premature and had Patent Ductus Artereosis, confining her to the ICU for 53 days. For 53 days, I went to the hospital once, sometimes twice a day, to see and touch her not only because I was sick with worry, but because the doctors said it would help her develop. For 53 days, I pumped breastmilk and brought it to her (and you know how difficult that is when your baby isn't at home with you, I had to look at her picture to get the juices flowing). In 53 days, I learned to drive my ass through busy traffic to the hospital by myself, which was about 15 minutes away, up the narrow carpark building, and my licence was just one month old then.

For 52 days, I cried everyday, blaming myself for whatever it was I did that made me go into pre-term labour, praying to God to spare Skyler's life for whatever I did wrong. On the 53rd day, I cried tears of joy because the doctors let me take her home – but not without making sure I could care for her on my own (she had apnea).

People say you start to look at the things you take for granted when something bad happens. That is a shame, but it is true. I never appreciated my blessings until Skyler came along, making the 53 days not only the most challenging, but the most contemplated time of my life.

I breastfed Raeven only for two months and blame my confinement lady then for secretly feeding her formula when I could've stayed vigilant about giving my daughter the very best I could give.

I took my in-laws for granted, letting them care for her while I continued to work, thinking that she was better left with them than a maid, when all I was doing was depriving a child of the attention and love only a parent can give. I could've re-evaluated my priorities (I was a freelance writer) given the blessing that my husband was earning enough to keep us moving along. Instead, I chose to work for that extra money which I thought would give us a better life with the expensive vacations and 4X4 car and branded clothes.

I took the easy way out – yes, working hard and earing money IS the easy way out – and never thought that I would be missing out so much on my kids. And more importantly, that they would be missing out on me, especially Rae, who was practically raised by my in-laws until we came to the US.

Giving up your career and opting out and breastfeeding or being a homemaker or stay-at-home mom – these things are not about trying to be a hero. They are not regressive or backward but rather, life-changing, heart-breaking decisions that took a LOT of sacrifice to make, particularly today when anything is possible for a woman.

But being a woman is nothing compared to being a mother.

Parenting will be the most important role you'll ever play as a person. Sure, many working career mothers who never breastfed or coslept with their kids still raised great individuals. But I'm pretty sure it's not because of the designer clothes or expensive holidays or big house your hard-earned money and time away from them bought. And frankly, I would like to meet one of these women whose kids have now become useful individuals and shake their hand, because God, I sure could'nt have done it without sacrificing something essential, like my sanity.

Or my kids.

I'm not advocating that you should give up your career to be mother of the year. But ask yourself one question: of all the sacrifices you are NOT WILLING to make, which is the LEAST painful that you can make, that will benefit your child the most?

The answer is breastfeeding.

After two kids and knowing perhaps close to a hundred other young moms, I find the decision NOT to breastfeed the most selfish one a mother can ever make. I cannot tell you how much I regret not having nursed Raeven (I nursed Skyler until she weaned herself off at nine months) as long as I should've, and all because some people told me I wasn't producing enough and I believed them.

You probably have read and heard about all the benefits of nursing, so I won't reiterate them here. And still, the decision can be so difficult to make, simply because of how it inconveniences one's life. 

The thing is, it's not even inconvenient. 

So mothers-to-be, and new mommies who are on the verge of giving up – heed this. Without my breastmilk, Skyler would've stayed at the hospital with PDA much longer. Think about all the benefits of breastmilk you are depriving your child that no formula in the world in the world can substitute. Think about the fact that your baby has no immune system until he or she is six months and relies on the antibodies your milk contains to protect them.

And if that doesn't work, think about the fact that you won't even need to get up five times each night if you learn to nurse your baby with him/her sleeping next to you. Or the fact that you won't need to lug out warm water and tupperwares of formula and bottles everytime you go out. Just your boobs, diapers, wipes and you're good to go.

Breastfeed, my friends. It's the least you can do.

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Another Awwwww post

While pushing her around on a trolley at Fred Meyer's today (a supermarket, for the benefit of my Malaysian readers), Skyler leaned on me in a loving way and said:

Aami, kiss? (Baby talk translated: Mommy, kiss?)

I was stunned, but not too stunned to do as bidded.

And after I kissed her forehead, she looked me, sleepily, and said:

Aayouuu (love you)

Somewhere in my youth or childhood

I must've done something good. 

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Mother and child: Symbiosis comes lately

I think I've finally found the joy in the company of my kids.

Had to look real hard too.

You might be thinking, wait. Isn't she supposed to be loving every minute of this whole stay-at-home, diaper-changing at five in the morning, blogging everything her kids are doing thing, already?

Well, let's just say I've acquired a taste for some of it, but not all.

Here's how it is: Without Lokes here, I'm pretty much drained. Physically. Emotionally especially. And because I haven't really found the mood (I have quite a bit of free time after the kids sleep, just no spirit) to sit down to read these days, I'm also mentally empty. I have stacks of unopened newspapers and books I bought from Amazon I haven't even unpacked from the boxes they came in. The one book I did open, which is Gone by Jonathan Kelleman? Still in the double digits, and I started it a month ago.

In short, I've just been sucked dry. Those things that good, relaxed sleep, free of worry that one's baby might've managed to slip out of her pants and unlatched her diaper again and pooped all over her cot, and a husband's warm embrace usually offer at the end of the day so one is replenished and is at peace with the world again, to go to war the next day.

"I look terrible," I typed on MSN Messenger to my husband.

"What do you mean baby?" he types back.

"Tired. I'm very tired.
When you get home, I'm going to sleep.
For a week."

"Don't worry k? Come back I sayang." (Malay for love)

Dear, sweet man. And you know what? Reading those words did make me feel slightly better.

But only slightly. I am needier than that.

Anyway, so what did I mean, learning to enjoy the company of my children? You always see me blogging about what cute things my kids did. While they are enjoyable, these moments are rare. Or perhaps sometimes I just miss them.

Most of the time, Raeven makes me want to just open the front door and let her out so she can somehow burn out the energy herself, instead of breaking my furniture with it. Skyler will be crying because she's locked in her pen when all she does outside is break the TV.

Meal times are always a blur, with kids flinging or dropping food on my carpet and me bending over and picking rice or gravy or sticky stuff up so that it won't stick or stain. Sky has just acquired this haughtiness where she wants to eat on her own without help. Most of her grub ends up on the floor and I worry if she is actually full, while loudly persuading Rae to finish hers with promises or threats, whichever works the fastest, all the while trying not to lose it.

The quiet times when Sky naps are when Rae and I get down to the reading and writing part of the day, which is my new project. She is able to read quite a few words now and entire simple Dr Seuss books (which work, by the way) but sometimes, it gets frustrating when I know she either memorised the words or are guessing them, so I'm not really sure if she's really paying attention. And then, I leave her to do her art and colouring while I just check my emails and wonder for the millionth time what I am going to do with all the time left in the day, while resisting with much difficulty the temptation to just switch on the telly and blank out.

These last two weeks have been some of the toughest I've been through all my life (the toughest was when Skyler was born). Somewhere in all the madness, something wonderful happened. I saw Skyler go giddy at the beach and in the water. Saw her learn to put a spoon in her mouth successfully. see her shake her booty to a Wiggles song. See her 'read'. Hear Raeven tell me I am the best mom ever. Saw her sweetness when she offered me her Hello Kitty camera when I misplaced mine (left it at the park but got rescued by her school teacher who'd stayed for the afternoon class, thank God). See her reading Cooking with the Cat all by herself. I was tickled. Happy. Proud.

Fulfilled.

It was like magic.

So my kids and I have achieved symbiosis now. Instead of needing the usual 'replenishing' from just my hubby, I am able to take from those to whom I give. It doesn't come automatically. And it doesn't happen all the time. But with enough insight and work, it comes.

And when it does, you will feel the gratification you need to carry on.

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What moms live for

"Mommy, you're the best mom!"

Just five little words that strike such emotion in one's heart.

Here we were, having breakfast and I was just flying around the kitchen getting juice and bread and cheese and what not, when suddenly, Raeven looks at me, face smudged with peanut butter and she had on that very serious yet soft look that I now associate with whenever she feels glad to have me around.

"Mommy, you're the best mom!"

Being the wreck that I am, my eyes glistened and I stopped for a moment.

"Why, sweetie that's a really nice thing to say. You're the best little girl too, baby."

"You sing with me, and dance with me, and play with me. I love you mommy," she said, without skipping a beat on that peanut butter sandwich.

You can imagine how I felt just for that few seconds. That all the screaming and yelling and worrying has not gone to waste. I am indeed raising a loving, caring individual.

And then, from the far corner of the room, the smell of fresh, morning poop comes wafting. Skyler, mouth twisted in bowel moving concentration, tries to smile but it is lost in the forces of mother nature.

Welp, that was one meaningful moment. Thanks, my sweetpeas.

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