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Tuesday, 29 May 2012

24. Fabulous 40s

I tagged along to a “girls’ night out” a couple of weeks ago.  I say “tagged” because out of a group of 10 girls, I really only knew one of them fairly well.   Plus this was a little bit different to the kind of ‘night out with the girls’ that I was used to.  Translation:  I don’t go out much, not like this! 

To begin, dinner was non-existent and the night kicked off with an all-you-can drink event at a bar, and proceeded to a club.  The significance of the evening however, was the average age of this group.  Without going into details, at 40-something, I was essentially the ‘grandma’ of the group. PLUS the girls were all drop-dead gorgeous, and dressed in a way that accentuated their model-thin bodies and legs that went on forever!  Yup.  I was surrounded by pretty young things and I was feeling dowdy and old.  I REALLY need to start hanging out with people either my own age or older!  Kidding.

At 40-something, its been a LONG time since I embarked on these sort of nights.  You know, where you start late and finished later, surviving on next-to-no-sleep – AND  could dance effortlessly in skyscraper shoes!  Argh!  Talk about feeling my age!

And yet, way back then, some 20 years ago, when my energy knew no bounds and I hardly stayed in, life was just one big party after another – most of my male friends were fabulously gay and I never had to paid door charge or stand in queue!  Looking back, I cannot help but grin and wonder how I managed to not get into more trouble than I did! 

But that was then.  Then, came the flurry of babies and I had to expand my limited cooking skills beyond throwing together a salad or heating up a can of soup! What all my poor ex-boyfriends had to put up with, where the most enthralling meal I could scrape together involved a jar of “Chicken Tonight”!  Ah yes, I can STILL hear that haunting jingle…

But while I LOVED the tempestuousness of my crazed 20s, I welcomed my tangible 30s where, even though late nights out were substituted by unhinged sleep deprivation of a different sort, the hard work from the previous decade had started to pay dividend. 

And then I turned 40.  My eyesight is no longer as good as it used to be and my knees remind me how much I hate stairs.  I no longer bother weighing myself and I can only indulge in a conservative glass or two of champagne because of the bubbles.  Bedtimes past midnight are murderous and I only wear killer heels if no walking is required!

But its not all bad.  I am now much better at saying “no”, have honed my decision-making abilities, befriended my shortcomings and learnt to be more flexible.  Now, my favourite get-togethers almost always entails delicious food, great wine and wonderful company with captivating conversation.

I read somewhere that “forty is the old age of youth, fifty the youth of old age; and that age is a question of mind over matter – if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”.  So here’s to enjoying my fabulous 40s as I work out what to serve up at my next dinner party!


Wednesday, 23 May 2012

23. All part of the adventure

In a former life, with the valour youth afforded me and a head over-brimming with mantras to lend me Dutch courage, I charged through life with total abandonment.  Determined to succeed because failing was not a viable option.  I chartered my strategy, where every waking moment was planned and had a reason – a purpose.   My blueprint was set: work, save; work, save.  Even when I ‘played’, I multi-tasked by working at the same time, never taking time off for a holiday or stopping to ‘smell the roses’.  I simply did not have time.  And I probably would have continued charging through life that way were it not for Matt and the girls.

Being as single-minded as I was, I never understood why people took the indirect ‘route’.  If I wanted to know something, I went directly to the source and asked point blank.  Want to get somewhere?  ALWAYS via the quickest and most direct route.  Yes.  I was like a bull in a china shop.  And then, I met Matt.  Never in a hurry, and though he had a strong a work ethic, to someone as uptight and anal as I was, he seemed just a little too ‘chillaxed’ (ie chilled + relaxed, so yes, REALLY relaxed!).  His ‘style’ made me feel uncomfortable because it challenged my ‘system’. And yet, we ended up together.

While I was painfully direct, Matt was good at keeping his own counsel.  My endless lists and goals often seemed at-odds with Matt’s carefree approach to life.  The difference in our attitudes was especially highlighted in car journeys where (pre-Sat Nat days) we would invariably get lost and as I stressed about running late, Matt’s response was always: “Its all part of the adventure”.  To which I would bite back an irritated response because a microscopic part of me realised I needed to learn to go with the flow. 

Interestingly, a few years later, we were hopelessly lost (again!) and Matt was not in his usual fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants mood.  The downpour that seemed to follow us did not help -- AND he had forgotten his driving glasses.  I tried to cheer him up by saying, “Don’t worry sweetie, its all part of the adventure”.  His response?  “F*&% the adventure!”  I had to bite on my lower lip to not burst out laughing as this was SO unlike Matt!  Anyhow, we eventually found our way relatively unscathed but Matt now no longer offers up that maxim as consolation when I get stressed when things go awry. 

And yet, Matt was right all along.  To borrow a saying: “As you walk down the fairway of life, you must smell the roses because you only get to play one round”.  Especially as the days seem to zoom by so quickly, more than ever with three children, I needed to make time to just stop and ‘be’.  With my daily routine slowing down some since our move and my decision to not start a new business or go back to work in order to be more ‘available’ for Matt and the girls, I feel a ‘lightening’ and am seeing things a little differently. After all, if I don't invest the time now, how else are we to forge traditions that we will all come together for when the girls grow up?

Rushing from meeting to meeting is now a distant memory;  I am no longer driven to fill up my diary with to-do’s or to-see’s.  Time has made me much better at not saying “yes” to every invitation or ‘opportunity’, leading to less rush and stress.  Aware of how lucky we are to be able to have this time due to our current circumstances,  I am also painfully aware that this period of ‘Om’ may not last forever.  And so, I am making the most of it.  Enjoying the quiet and the calm. Savoring the relative tranquility that has come from making Matt and the girls a priority because it has also meant rediscovering things that actually make me happy like writing and playing the piano.

Meanwhile, you’ll find that after 16-something years together, whenever things don’t go exactly to plan, I find myself quoting Matt’s classic expression to our girls: “Don’t worry everyone, its ALL part of the adventure.”  To which my husband, whenever he is within earshot, will turn to me and smile his beautiful smile.


Sunday, 20 May 2012

22. Mirror mirror on the wall

The subject matter du jour pertains to the way we see ourselves and how terribly harsh our self-critique is. The beauty and fashion industry, and the pressures that are placed on women – both by themselves and by society – don’t help.  As a 40-something woman who makes a bona fide effort to not look like the bedraggled ‘homemaker’ I sometimes feel like; I am frustrated at the images I see in the media, and the tsunami of distorted representations of what we (ie women) should look like and aspire to.

Impossibly skinny models (who are pressured to exist on air) parading clothes the average woman could never dream of fitting into, and preciously young girls being offered up as “what we could look like” if we bought a certain anti-ageing face serum.  I find myself thinking, “Of course she looks like that!  She is only 20-something!”  And don’t start me on all the air-brushing and Photoshop editing that takes place!

I was having dinner with girlfriends a couple of nights ago and we talked about why  so few of us are happy with what we see in the mirror?  Why are we so hard on ourselves?  Both these girlfriends are gorgeous and the ‘imperfections’ they talked about overhauling were undetectable to my eye.  “But we’re only 40-something!”  I protested.  “Surely we don’t need to resort to such drastic measures till we are 50-something!”  The problem is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and no matter how much I told them they didn’t need any ‘work’ done, their appearance was defective in their own mind.

But I am no different in my private self critique. Psychologically so screwed up that when I catch my reflection or see myself in pictures, “fat” is the first thought that comes to mind.  Ah, but years of childhood conditioning will do that to you!  So, no surprise there.  But let’s not forget those dark age spots, wrinkles, monster pores, and scars that co-exist alongside my sagging jaw and eyelids!  And yet, I am too filled with cynicism to buy those exorbitant ‘miracle’ face serums, and too scared of pain and fearful of a botched job to resort to surgery.  And so I manage by avoiding mirrors, only gazing at my reflection to ensure nothing is going to scare the living daylights out of some poor soul – AND to make sure I have not ‘saved’ any part of my meal in plain sight of my two front teeth!  But when it simply cannot be avoided, I try to celebrate the parts of my body I do like.  My  lips.  My wrists.  My legs.  Oh, and my collarbones!

But seriously, although I am well aware I am no supermodel and, try as I may, will NEVER regain my pre-pregnancy weight no matter how much I exercise (unlike some of my genetically-blessed friends!), as a mother to three daughters, I HAVE to promote a healthy self-image and self-love – if only for their sake.

So I try my best to lead by example.  Through action and attitude. I talk to my girls about listening to their bodies, about balance, and loving who they are; focusing on the positives and being thankful for all that they are and have.  I educate and illustrate the importance and benefits of nourishing not just the body but also the mind.  And though all this self-love can sometimes feel quite alien, with practise, I may one day believe in my own self the way I fervently believe in my girls.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

21. I.T. and me

Okay.  I confess.  I have a tumultuous relationship with I.T. and the way today’s world is increasingly reliant on machines.  While I know our everyday is made more convenient by technology, and though I email, Google and Facebook (still resisting ‘tweeting’ and getting ‘linked’ into anything!), there are times when the whole thing does my head in! 

Take tonight for example.  My wireless Mac keyboard informed me it was about to disconnect due to low batteries.  Then, without so much as a "goodbye", it just shut down!  I trudged off to dutifully replace the batteries, but when I tried to re-sync the keyboard, my Mac advised: “a keyboard cannot be found”.  Then it found and lost it a few hundred times, each time sending me right to the start of the process AGAIN and again!  It took a few deeeeeep breaths to stop me from throwing the (BLEEP!) thing on the floor!  Aaargh!  Who could I call?  Not the ghost busters!

Now, some of my anti-Apple friends may choose this juncture to encourage me to trade-in my Mac for an alternative operating system.  But as a multi-system household employing both Apple and Windows in our multiple-tablet-and-laptop home, maybe I need to ask the question.  Am I the problem?

Okay, there are things I CAN blame on a remote mainframe halfway across the other side of the world.  You know, when things work one minute and then not the next?  For example, my AMEX card.  Or the sat-nav that conveniently decides to suggest I call the help desk to report “Error 95847” WHEN we are in the middle of nowhere familiar.  And so you call that help desk which is ‘answered’ by a machine that keeps failing to acknowledge your input – and then hangs up on you?!  Stupid *#$^!

The worst part is when things go wrong, and I try to find the solution by Goggle or other search engines, I hit another dead end.  Because although the web throws up a whole gaggle of links to possible solutions, more often than not, its written in IT-speak.  Let’s see, I need to look up the “batch file” and check the “DRAM” and “RTF” for the “Bitmap” and convert the “TIFF” to “JPEG” or the “AIFF” will not “ZIP”.  WHAT?  Why do I need to contact my server regarding the” 404 Error”?  Yup.  Its all just babblegab to me.  And I suspect, even if someone tutored me on the glossary, my eyes would still glaze over – my brain is just NOT built that way!

Maybe the problem is this:  mathematical logic is used for the computer programming which sets things in motion in our everyday world.  From financial transactions for bus or train travel, to paying for your lunch or groceries, to the mechanics behind the workings of your WIFI at home or the mouse for your computer.  And if you, like me, are unable to decipher the complex jungle of tech-speak, you cannot help but feel like a lost cause.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am SO grateful for all the convenience I.T. affords me – when things all work swimmingly well.  SKYPE, Facebook, email; allowing me to keep in touch with friends and family spread across the globe, in a very wallet-friendly way.

But while I wait for the penny to drop and for the ‘stuff’ I learnt at the computer programming elective I took up as part of my undergraduate course work to become of use (SO many years ago, thinking it could come in handy one day!), I will continue keeping all fingers crossed in the hope that someone (ie at the call centre!) will come to my aid – SOON!


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

20. Mind your manners!

Spoiler alert:  I am about to vent.  Ready?  So, to begin.  Compared to the some 500-something sized school the girls attended in London, their new school in Singapore houses 25 per class, 10 classes PER year group.  Give or take.  Yes, the school is much larger than the last.  And as we edge towards the end of the girls’ first year at their now-not-so-new school in Singapore, in the past week, we’ve had to attend a quite a few school events: picnics, sports meets, year group concerts, etcetera.

Scenario one: the school asks the parents to form ‘country representative’ tables filled with ‘local’ goodies for the school community to taste and enjoy.  The premise is for the collective to sample what each country has to offer.  I brought along 5 trays of Rocky Road.  No nuts or cherries I was instructed.  And so, my version had chunks of marshmallows and Mars bars enrobed in chocolate.  Mmmmmm…super sinfully enticing. We were swamped.  But the number of children AND adults who left their manners at home and decided to dispense with “please’s” and “thank you’s” surprised me as I thought they would be more gracious about getting FREE food!  But no, I was wrong.  I found myself transforming into an ‘etiquette Nazi’, prompting people to remember their social graces as I handed out chunks of not-so-healthy grub.  I felt aggrieved.

Scenario two: concerts at a school of this size require serious crowd control and the school has a system that should work – if everyone followed directions.  But no.  No matter how many times the announcer gave directions, a good number of parents behaved like hooligans without conscience, purposely going against the human flow of bodies in their rush to watch their precious darlings.  I couldn’t help my jaw drop as I watched the spectacle of individuals brazenly ignoring and pushing past the poor brave soul holding up a “no entry” sign.  If the parents behaved that appallingly, what hope do their children have with that kind of role models to learn from?

And so, here I sit, wondering if I am being too judgmental.  Who is to say what is correct and incorrect behavior?  Take queue cutting for example.  It some cultures, standing-in-line is plain madness as it means you will most certainly be destined to end up hungry or miss out on what everyone else is clamoring for.  And then, I read somewhere bad manners is pointing out someone else’s bad manners.  Drats!  I am so burning in ‘bad manners hell’ because I am rubbish at just standing by and biting my tongue!!  So, where does it start or end?  Somehow I suspect my query echoes the “which came first, the chicken or the egg” centenarian debate.

In the interests of complete candor, I suspect some of my long-suffering friends scattered around the world probably think me uncultured as I don’t often write notes on paper, preferring to send my sentiments of thanks electronically.  I regularly have foot in mouth disease, and am known to slouch if I am tired.  Christmas cards and birthday wishes are only done via email.  No, I most certainly am not a specimen of ‘correctness’.

But while I may not be the epitome of perfect manners in the traditional sense, I strive to put myself in the other person’s ‘shoes’ and treat them how I would like to be treated.  Sometimes it is unappreciated, but other times, when it makes a difference to someone’s day, its worth it. 

Somebody once told me, “don’t expect others to live by your ideals as you will only leave yourself open to disappointment; and when that happens, you only have yourself to blame.”  Harsh but true.  And so, as I teach my girls the virtue of being mindful and kind to themselves and the people around them; I continue to learn new lessons.  Of the importance of sometimes keeping my own counsel.  Being true to myself but not being so quick to judge others by my own book as its all in the eye of the beholder.


Friday, 11 May 2012

19. Motherhood

Okay.  Before I start.  Quick confession.  “Motherhood” was not on my bucket list when I was growing up. Neither was “marriage”.  But that’s ANOTHER story.  As a child, I never played with dolls, because I didn’t have any.  And I don’t recall myself as being the ‘nurturing’ type.  If I was honest with myself (seeing I am already in confession mode!), I truly did not think it would or could happen for me.  And yet, here I am.  At 40-something.  With not one, but three munchkins, whom I am the primary “responsible adult” for.  And quite frankly, there are times, when the enormity of the responsibility scares the living daylights of me, and I agonize if I am doing good enough a job.

Not a ‘natural’ mother.  That is what I am.  I am rubbish at play because I am too practical and  constantly find myself lost in the day-to-day mechanics of what needs to be done between now and forever.  And there you have it!  Another reason why I am SUPER grateful for Matt and constantly remind the girls how lucky they are to have him as their dad.  I admire how he doesn’t need to have things all planned in advance.  The way he is the ‘funghi’ (ahem.. did you get it?) in the crazy mix of our family of five (six if you count Buddy, our rescued dog AND the ‘son’ we never had!).  Rough and tumble.  Madcap and fearlessly wonderful.  That’s Matt. 

Me?  “Sit up straight!  Stand tall!  Have you done your homework?  Be proud of who you are!  Have conviction!  Stand up for what you believe in!”  Yadda yadda yadda.  You get the drift.  I am waaaaay too serious!  Especially when I press the ‘playback’ button in my head after another ‘discussion’ with the girls.  It doesn’t help knowing friends who, whilst complimenting us on what wonderful girls we have, also confess they are not as strict as me.  But I SO don’t want to win the award of “Most Strict Mom”!  I mean, REALLY!  And yet, if it means keeping them safe or equipping them with the tools they will need in life, then, I guess that is the role I must play.

Such an unexpected business, “Motherhood”.  For those who choose to leap into this condition whereby you are forever linked to the child who spends the best of 9 months in your tummy, forever changing your sense of self and your body (unless you happen to be a supermodel); and when he / she enters the world, your life – forever.  From sleep deprivation to stinky nappies, the constant worry and what goes in and comes out of this little being, the demanding weight of responsibility.  The list is endless and there are days when I’ve looked in the mirror and wondered if I am ‘man’ enough for the job.

I remember when Faith first arrived.  None of the books, nurses or doctors brought me any comfort as I struggled to figure out why she wouldn’t feed or sleep like my friends’ babies.  I felt like a failure.  I went from being a ‘can-doer’ and someone who was such a firm believer in the impossible, to tearfully telling Matt I couldn’t possibly have any more children as I already stunk so badly at being a mother to one.  Luckily, he understood and supported me in every way possible.  Things got better after a year. 

But soon, it was evident to us we needed to give her a sibling, if only to have one friend for life.  Faith didn’t want to play with any of the other children.  Only me.  And nobody was allowed to engage with me as I was her ‘property’.  And so, we tried for baby number two.  And lost the baby.  Again, I was overwhelmed with a sense of failure.  Was it something I ate?  I shouldn’t have gone for that run.  Self-remonstrations abound.  And then, 3 weeks later, I fell pregnant again.  I was nervous.  But for nothing.  Tia was healthy and a different baby to Faith.  And so, a promise for another baby was made.  Our last, Paige followed soon after.

Today, at nearly 9, 10 and nearly 13, life with the girls is busy, sometimes crazy, and full.  Most of the time, our household operates like a well-oiled machine.  Every so often though, I get a crippling sense of doubt and worry if I am doing enough.  I fret over their emotional well being and get heart palpitations over their safety in their journey in life, from the physical to the emotional and the intangible.  And so I pray.  For guidance, for their safety, their peace of mind and heart, and their happiness.

Motherhood may not come naturally to me, but I am very lucky because I have beautiful friends I learn from by observing, a great partner-in-crime, and three wonderful girls who inspire me to want to be a better mother everyday.  If someone had told me how hard 'motherhood' was going to be; how the task involved sleepless nights, huge responsibilities, self doubt with a large dose of never-ending worry, I probably would have run the other way screaming.  BUT having entered this ‘office’, with both eyes wide open, I confess I wouldn’t trade the pockets of joy and love, that lump in my throat when I watch them grow and develop into wonderful people, or even those crazy days when it all falls into place, for anything.


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

18. Mommy dearest..

Mother’s Day is coming up again and it always puts me in a reflective state of mind.  I think of my mother.   Wonder where she is and what she’s doing.  I wonder if she has regrets about her decisions concerning my two brothers and I.  And then I think, what a shame, to go through all that trouble of having not one, but three children; and then display such indifference.  When curious friends enquire, I always feel embarrassed because I cannot provide them with a coherent reason to her nonchalance.  “But she’s a mother..” is a melancholy refrain I hear again and again.

Truth be told, I used to find it really hard to understand.  In the beginning, I made excuses for her.  It was because her mother was terribly cruel to her – she had told me.  Then, it was because my father had cheated on her and broken her heart.  Life had been so frustratingly unkind to her.  Then, as a young adult, I conjured other reasons for her callousness.  If she got moody if any of her friends congratulated her on her beautiful daughter (ie me), it was my fault.  When she played schizophrenic mind games alternating between the wounded ‘bird’ (who called me at all hours in tears, greedily siphoning reassurances of her worthiness) and the spiteful spoilt child who thought nothing of dealing out crushing blows to my own self-esteem, it was also my fault..somehow.  My two brothers thought me a sucker for punishment because they had figured her out a long time ago.  But I was trapped.  In a vicious cycle where I lunged between trying to ‘save’ her and wondering what the hell I had done to deserve the latest onslaught.  “She has nobody else”, I told myself.  “I just have to learn not to be so sensitive.”  And this went on for years.  Until I fell pregnant with Faith.

I still remember the day clearly.  I was sitting on the bed, on a beautiful sunny day in Bondi, staring at my impossibly large belly, when I experienced a flashback.  In it, my mom was tying my hands to the top bunk of a bed.  She then told me to make sure I was a good girl, turned around, and left with my older and younger brother – to go out for the day.  WHAT?!?  I shook my head in disbelief.  Did that really happen?  Actually, it happened many times but I had forgotten.  And then, another came flooding into my already startled memory.  My younger brother, sleeping next to Mom on her bed.  My older brother, sleeping on 5-ply-stacked mattresses next to it.  And me?  I slept on a carpet so thin, I can still feel the hard floor beneath -- across the room.

I caught my breath.  Shocked.  And then shakily picked up the phone.  I held my breath as I waited for her to answer.  “Uhm, hi Mom?  Its me, Michelle.  I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions.  Can you talk now?”  What happened next was like World War Three.  I was searching for answers as to why any mother would single out a child for that sort of hurt.  She was indignant I dared to bring it up after so many years.  I struggled to contain the years of built-up unexpressed hurt that threatened to steamroll all the hard work I had accomplished in convincing myself I was a good (if not “great”!) person who deserved love.  Why did my mother not love me?  What was so fundamentally wrong with me that she consistently banished me from her presence since I was knee-high? 

Did I get any answers or peace of mind in that conversation (or ever)?  No.  But what I did learn (and it took me SO long to learn this!) was this:  even if the reason/s were revealed, it did not necessarily lead to enlightenment or peace of heart.  Sometimes, it just is what it is. 

And so, three beautiful daughters later, I work very hard to make sure they know how loved and worthy they are, but also equip them with tools in life so they can also have the wonderful life I now am blessed with by making nourishing choices (and no, I am not talking about food!) for themselves.

And wherever she is, my mother, I hope she has found peace of mind and heart; and if we ever spoke again, I would tell her I now finally understand the past.  I would say this to her:  “I know you tried your best -- the only way you knew how, with the ‘tools’ you were equipped with to deal with your life.  Its not fine by me, but I understand.”

Of course there are times when I watch my friends and their mothers, wistfully wishing I had that history and relationship with mine.  But that only strengthens my resolve to make sure my daughters will have wonderful childhood memories to look back on when they too are one day living a 40-something life.


Monday, 7 May 2012

17. Its a little TOO quiet..

Those who know me well know this: despite all my complaining and feeble protests, I love a busy household.  I love the excited chatter of my three girls and their friends bouncing off the walls and the tactical scheduling of their increasingly busy diaries. And at the end of the day, I love going into each daughter’s room and saying “good night” and trying to make them laugh or smile one last time, just before they turn in for the night.

But whenever any one of them goes away on a sleepover, our home takes on a different dynamic, and everything is just a little bit more subdued.  Life becomes a little less hectic and crazed.  A little too quiet.  SOB!

I remember the first time Faith went away for a week-long school trip when she was 9 years old.  She was my first to go away for longer than a night and I was so excited for her.  I dutifully attended all the briefings set up by the school to “assure parents” of the wonderful adventure the children were going to embark on and how these first steps towards independence (at 9!) would be beneficial for them in the long run.  We were then sent away with a swaddle of consent and medical forms, indemnity waivers, packing lists to fill-out and study.

And so the weeks flew by quickly, until suddenly, it was time for us to see Faith off on her trip.  Determined not to be teary, I gave her a huge hug and told her to have a fantastic time.  She quickly disappeared into the animated crowd of children and as the buses pulled away, she quickly mouthed “I love you”.  I felt something tug at my heart and found my eyes wet.  That walk back to the car was the longest walk ever.  But I didn’t have time to dwell on it as I had to rush back to my two other little girls who needed me.  When I finally had a moment to myself later that day, I was shocked at myself.  Hang on!  What is that feeling in my chest?  It was an ache!  An actual physical pain that refused to go away.  No, I was not having a heart attack.  I was just missing my child and it manifested into something physical, only going away when she came home. 

The same thing happened when Tia went away, although, this time, it was only for 3 nights. Out of my three monkeys, Tia is my shy, can-be-reticent, and can-get-over-emotional one.  I was beside myself with worry.  Will she like the food?  Will she get scared?  Will there by anyone who would give her a reassuring hug?  I canvassed the nicest teachers I knew who were going on the trip, tearfully asking if they would please keep an especial eye on her in case she became overwrought. 

Well!  I don’t know what I was so worried about!  When I picked Tia after a very long drawn out three days of chest aches, sleepless nights and Matt laughing at me, I asked about her trip.  Tia excitedly raved about how much fun she had and how she LOVED being away!  “LOVE BEING AWAY”?!? What is she talking about?  I MUST be so delusional with happiness I was imagining things but talk about surprise!  “Really?  That’s great!”  Mustering up as much lightheartedness in my voice as I could.  I then asked if she missed anything / anyone from home (HINT! HINT!).  Her response?  "No."   She said.  "Just your cooking."  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!  Here was my middle child who ALWAYS talked about how she was NEVER moving out of home, showing me I had worried unnecessarily!  So she didn’t miss me per se but hey, I’ll take ‘missing my cooking’ any day if it meant she found the courage to find qualities in herself I had been trying to instill.

Sigh.  I have wonderful trailblazing girlfriends with children who are now young adults off exploring the world – without their moms.  All around the globe, I hear too many accounts of ‘adieus’ and wonderful homecomings and each time, emotion overwhelms me and I feel a melodramatic tug at my heart.  I realise the adage “children are only on loan" is so true but I have such wildly conflicting feelings about the day when my three will undoubtedly take off on their own adventures -- with my blessings.

But I have a plan!  To continue building an unbreakable bond where they always will feel the need to come home often, if only to share a meal, a joke or two, and a glass of wine.  Hmmm... what shall I cook tonight...


Thursday, 3 May 2012

16. A late bloomer..

At a party recently, I found myself eyeball-deep in a conversation whereby some of the ladies were waxing lyrical about waxing (haha! No pun intended!).  Before long, terms that had NOTHING to do with the obvious including “landing strip”, “Brazilian” (sometimes known as the “Playboy”), “Hollywood” (aka “The Sphinx”), “Californian” (also known as the “Mohican”) were splashing around in my head.  You would think after having 3 children I would not feel so bashful but after a while, I had to excuse myself as the conversation literally had me squirming.

I quite often find myself the butt of jokes because as much as I would like to think I am a trailblazer, the reality is a remarkable distance from my wistful perception.  In fact, my first eyebrow wax didn’t occur until well into my mid-20s.  First bikini? 22.  Handbags?  Not until I became a mother at the ripe old age of 30 and HAD to carry one – if only to carry all of Faith’s bits and pieces!  Facebook?  Only a few years ago when Faith joined.  Viber and Skype?  Last year.  WhatsApp?  Two months ago.  You get the picture.  Meanwhile, I am yet to ‘tweet’ or get ‘linked’ into anything, and its unlikely the latest craze of ‘pinning’ my interests will find me subscribing.  But never say never!

Which brings me to my girls.  I remember when they were younger, they would make comments like, “Oh!  I can’t wait to turn 10!”  Or “I cannot wait until I’m old enough to…”.  My response?  “Enjoy the age you are at because you only get to be that age once and once only.  Besides, there are so many magical things to experience at 8!” (think it was a conversation between Faith and I that time).   

Now, as they are a little older, the conversations revolve around development milestones, etc.  Without giving too much away (don’t want to embarrass them TOO much!), I tell them not to worry so much about things as being my daughters, the likelihood of ‘stuff’ happening later rather than sooner is very possible (AND not necessarily a bad thing!).   

I want for them to enjoy every minute of their childhood and not to be in such a hurry to experience their first kiss, have their first boyfriend, get married or move away from home.  Of course I know I’m only kidding myself and all these milestones are but a blink away but (sigh), as their mother, I just want to prolong where we are at right now for just a little longer.

And so, I tell them about me.  Sharing my teenage angst, my narrow escape (thrice!) of getting married waaaaaay before I was ready, and my thoughts and worries as a young adult.  I confess my many-many mistakes, all the ‘frogs’ I kissed and how glad I am to have (mostly) learnt from them and grateful to have not married or had children young as I would have done a lousy job.

As for me, I have learnt that its TOTALLY okay to ‘discover’ at my own (snail) pace and though it may take me longer to get to the ‘destination’ of where I am meant to be, I am learning to have fun along the way. 


Tuesday, 1 May 2012

15. If only I..

1.10am.  Just came back from the movies with a girlfriend and after icing some cupcakes for daughter numero dos’ school project tomorrow (they’re doing an exercise revolving around “trading and bartering”), I was too wired to go to sleep.  That’s when I came across a video link from an article (as one does at 1 o’clock in the morning!) about a guy from the Netherlands who filmed his daughter every week for 12 years and then edited the footage and condensed it to show a short time-lapse of her life so far.  I thought to myself, “Wow, what a great idea!  If only I was that clever!”

My admiration has nothing to do with doubting myself.  Nor is it an observation based on envy.  But the list of people who dazzle me is longer than the queues snaking outside an Apple store on launch day -- yes, its long!  Some friends have rolled their eyes at me, scoffing that I am too easily impressed.  But so what, I say!  I like that trait in myself!

For example, I am in awe of Faith, my 12 year-old, who started writing a book last year about a boy’s adventure – set in Viking times.  Where she got her inspiration from, seeing we have no Viking blood, I have no idea (but I am impressed!)!  And what about Matt and everything he does from his recall of facts, to the way he is clever with numbers and people?! Or my numerous girlfriends scattered around the world who run with the corporate wolves without breaking a sweat; doing so with graciousness and class.  Or the girlfriends who are amazing mothers.  And some who do both! I look up to them all.

Truth be said, I sometimes catch myself looking at the achievements of people in and around my life, and wish I had a little of their courage, resourcefulness, fearlessness, intellect, patience, talent, ‘va-va-voom’, etcetera, etcetera.  The list goes on.  Don’t get me wrong.  Its not that I begrudge them their success.  Not in the slightest (unless they are of the really mean and nasty breed, then that’s just another story.. but I digress).  I just sometimes look at their lives and go, “Wow, if only I……” – feel free to fill in the blanks.

And yet, as I write this, wistfully wishing I had a bit of more of whatever-I-wish-I-had-more-talent in, I am also very grateful for all that I DO have.  I celebrate my strengths and embrace my limitations.  And whilst no superwoman, I work hard to be interesting to MYSELF.  After all, if I bore myself silly, what can I ‘bring to the table’ in any of my relationships and what kind of example would I set for my girls? 

About 5 few years ago, a dear friend asked, “Michelle, are you happy?”  Initially I was confused at the question. Did I come across unhappy?  I gave pause, and responded that I was very content. “But are you happy?” she pressed.  I don’t think I ever gave her an answer that truly satisfied her.  If she was to ask me the question again, this time, my answer would be more resolute.

I am happy, content and grateful.  Happy in this life that is mine.  Content in my life choices.  And grateful for all that I have.