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Thursday, 15 November 2012

47. Parenting styles

We just came back from a very restful weekend in Bali but the following day saw me crashing back to ‘reality’ with a giant thump!  Ahhh…..that mountain-load of ‘enticing’ laundry, beckoning at the end of each holiday…but it is what it is. So, by noon, I had powered through two loads of washing, taken Buddy to the groomers, done the food shop and gone on my 10-km run.  As I struggled through the door with the groceries, Matt looked up from his Maths session with Tia and said, “Oh, the groomers called and I think Buddy is ready to be picked up.”   Off I trudged again, then made lunch for the hungry mob, drove Matt to work, came home, more laundry and then prepared dinner.  I think you get the picture..

At some point during dinner, Tia turned to me and cheekily asked if I had done my piano practise.  Unfortunately for her, we weren’t on the same ‘comedy channel’ at that moment as I recounted every-single-task I had ‘slaved’ through that day, asked if anyone accomplished anything beyond lounging around reading or watching TV, and then dared her to re-ask the question.  Of course, in hindsight, that was a little harsh.  After all, I only had to ask and the girls would have pitched in.  But no, I wanted them to help out because they thought of it and not because I asked them to.  I know, I know.  I am beginning to sound like a crazy woman. 

I came across an interview a few weeks ago whereby multi-talented Australian actor-singer-dancer-extraordinaire-all-round-decent-and-wonderful-human-being-and-husband Hugh Jackman, aka Wolfman from the X-men franchise, shared his thoughts on parenting.  What?  Did I just sound like I have a celebrity crush?  Awww, you caught me out.  But I am only human!  Anyhow, Hugh (Haha!  First name basis!  If only!) talked about how he “yells at his kids, they drive him to despair, he worries that his deficiencies as a parent mean he is slowly but surely stuffing them up”.  He also talked about and how children can push your buttons and make you feel such extreme emotions, and the anger or fire they can sometimes incite.  I was like, “Oh my goodness!  That is EXACTLY how I feel!”  So its just as well I’m not married to Hugh Jackman because it just wouldn’t work out with both of us stressing about the same things.  Sorry Hugh.

My beautiful husband Matt, on the other hand, has such a wonderful approach to parenthood.  When I read out an excerpt from that same article about how so-and-so’s mom said, “Relax, you worry too much.  You feed them, you love them, that’s it”, it was his turn to have his that-is-EXACTLY-how-I-feel moment. I sometimes feel envious of Matt and those of my friends who have this wonderful parenting style whereby they are so attuned to seeing the big picture and able to block out the ‘other stuff’ that, in actuality, is just ‘noise’ ...

But I cannot because at least every other day (if not everyday), there are ‘boxes’ that need to be ticked, exploits that need undertaking and ‘fires’ that need putting out.  AND, if we were BOTH laissez-faire and make-it-up-as-we-go-along, would our household still work the way it works (on a good day)?  Or would those ‘little things’ fall through the cracks because non-verbal clues were missed?  Would the girls learn to think beyond themselves, realise the importance of dreaming, or master the tools needed to pick themselves up and try again with a little fine-tuning?  Am I beginning to sound a little hysterical again? Sorry.  Okay, deep breath and stop panicking over all the ‘what-would-happens’.

At the end of the day, I don’t purport to be ‘superwoman’ and do not even try to pretend to have all the answers.  Honest with my girls about my shortcomings, I am not afraid ask for help and try to encourage the girls to go on fact-finding missions when appropriate. And with three such different individuals whose needs demand that my parenting style is constantly refined and modified as per child and situation; sometimes my appeals for us to work together as a team so the day is smoother works, and other times, not so well.  But it’s the life I have chosen and I am at peace with it.  All we can do is try our best to prepare them to stand confidently and successfully on their own two feet by giving them love, inspiring courage and fostering integrity.


Thursday, 8 November 2012

46: Two wrongs..

Whenever I finish writing a piece, I always wonder what I will work on next.  Yes, I have about 10 pieces on-the-go but quite often, these pieces just sit there until an incident 'pops up' and provides some insight, or an ENTIRELY new topic will emerge and take on a life on its own.  This is one of the latter:

Recently, I received an unpleasant call and a few bitchy texts because of  “50 Shades of Green”.  From what I gather, in spite of my efforts to be quite generic in one of the illustrations for foolish behavior, someone decided that out of some THIRTY-SEVEN lines (yes, I counted), two referred to her current situation and was so ‘shocked’ she called around to garner support for a “Mishy hate-fest”.   One particular girl rang to give me a piece of her mind but when the conversation turned thuggish and feral, and after failing to reason with her and explain she got it wrong, I had little choice but to hang up.  Rude, I know.  But I get awfully emotional when someone is yelling at me, being sarcastic about my ‘perfect family’ and trying to dictate what I can and cannot write about.  Sorry, but since when did I proclaim everything in my life was perfect?!  Obviously she has not read my scribblings and lives in La-La Land if she believes in ‘perfection’.  Anyhow, I did follow it up  with a calmer email to try to address the points raised in her accusations:

  1. No, a GENERAL commentary on the state of relationships today does not break-up marriages -- people’s careless behavior within AND outside of a relationship causes break-ups.
  2. I don’t go around telling her or anyone else what to wear or how to behave (don’t start me!), so nobody has a right to tell me what to write about.  And if she (or anyone) doesn’t like the content, don't read it.  Please.

Now, I could continue this piece with a further narration of what happened next and reveal this particular girl’s duplicitous behavior and her on-going charade of ‘sugar-and-spice-and-all-things-nice’.  In fact, when I first wrote this piece, I did.  And then I deleted it all.  Why?  Although all I would have had done was laid bare the truth, it made me feel physically ill that someone else’s venom and spitefulness could manipulate me into an exchange of hateful and sarcastic verbal warfare. Quite simply, as I previously said in “Mean Girls”, two wrongs don’t make a right.

Don’t get me wrong.  Normally, my primal instinct is to fight back and throw ‘mud’ back at my aggressor.  Nearly always.  After years of being put down by bullies and taken advantage of, I spent a good chunk of my late teens and early 20s like a bull in a china shop, under the mistaken belief I was fighting for the truth and HAD to stand up for myself.  And then,  I realized something.  I didn’t like being that person, the one filled with anger and a poisoned tongue, always ready for a fight.  And of course, becoming a mother also made me mindful of what kind of learned behavior I wanted the girls to have – if only for them to have an easier life in the ‘jungle’ of life.  And so, over time, I learnt to choose my ‘battles’.  At times, it has meant biting my tongue, hoping that the truth would come out, only to be disappointed.  But time is a great healer and no matter the end-result, once the initial indignation and disappointment fades, I ALWAYS feel better in myself that I didn’t stoop to the other party’s level.  After all, silence, they say, is golden.

I took the girls to the National Library yesterday to change their books.  As I was attempting a reverse park, a woman used her car to aggressively ‘nudge’ me to ‘speed it up’.  Much to her dismay, and especially fed-up after the drama from a couple of days ago, I stepped out of my car and approached her’s – mid-pivot.  Nervously, she wound her window down.  My “there is no need for that sort of behavior.  Please be patient…” was met with her haughty “just move your car”.  I shot back with a “you have terrible manners!”, finished the park, and headed upstairs to return the girls’ books.  Low and behold, a couple of minutes later, the same woman stood behind us in line.  As my three girls were first in line, I told them to stand aside for the woman as she seemed to be in a hurry.  They did and she said thank you – somewhat grudgingly.   She hurried away looking a little shamefaced.   My little one recognized her and asked why we let her go first even though she was so ‘mean’ before.  I just said, “Sweetie, two wrongs don’t make a right and sometimes doing the right thing is the best action.”  And with that lesson passed on, we continued on our way. 


Monday, 5 November 2012

45: No beauty queen

As a child, and right until I left home at 17, I was force-fed a daily diet of jibes of how ugly, fat and stupid I was.  They left such an imprint that even at 40-something, even though my head now knows different, the wounded child within cringes at every imagined magnified flaw.  When I became a teenager, the insults took on another level where my own father gave me all sorts of hurtful labels (eg slut, whore) – all because boys started showing an interest and calling the house.  I felt embarrassed and dirty.  So I had my hair cut short (to look like a boy), and tried my hardest to blend in with the furniture and not call attention to myself.  Of course, years later, chasing a career in show business was SO at odds with that! But a lifetime of self-loathing followed.  Then again, it took having my own babies to realize the failings did not lie within myself but with the monsters who had branded me... 

Then, some 15 years ago, my older brother asked me to accompany his wife to a cosmetic surgeon’s office in Bangkok because she was anxious about her level of English and apprehensive of the potential end-product from a ‘lost-in-translation’ situation.  Meanwhile, I was more concerned about my lack of proficiency in Cantonese (my sister-in-law’s mother tongue) AND my lack of Thai!  But he insisted.  And so, like a good little sister, I went along on the appointed day.  Long story short, after the doctor finished with her patient, she turned around to me and said, “Now, I could really get to work on your face and make you look MUCH better!”  Ouch!

But the ‘good doctor’ was probably right.  Even now, I don’t do myself any favours.  I struggle to commit to any sort of beauty regime, keep my nearly-always-unpainted nails short; and am known to sport a shiny forehead due to a lack of foundation or powder.  At 40-something, I do try to remember to at least moisturise (sometimes), but even I know its only a half-assed job. My daughters go to the hairdressers more than I do; AND I know at least one girlfriend who would be horrified to know I nearly ALWAYS take the kids to school in my workout gear.  After all, why bother with the hassle if I am just going running straight after?  The problem with that?  I struggle to be useful to my girls when it comes to the whole ‘beautify me’ thingy, often having to call my girlfriends who have a better idea on – for example, how to avoid collecting multiple frequent flyer points in Zits-ville or how to avoid a shiny face!

I kid you not! A couple of months back, when Matt and I got invited to go to some swanky fundraiser, I was petrified!  The crew who invited us are what they would call in Italy “sprezzatura”, in that they look fabulously and effortlessly glamorous – 24/7! Panicked, I promptly booked a facial, called a girlfriend-in-the-know about the whole eyelash thingy (don’t ask!) and spent the best of two weeks trawling the malls trying to find the ‘perfect’ dress and frankly, the WHOLE thing was EXHAUSTING! The time and effort required!  Urgh!  I admit I came away with a new-found respect for these girls from the little I glimpsed of their world.  But I cannot help myself – a ‘glamour-puss’ I am not.  Nada time nor patience.

I know I am not good at teaching the girls the in’s and out’s of ‘prettying-up’ and often find myself extolling a “less is more” mantra with them – whilst calling girlfriends in a panic for advice or researching the Internet for answers I do not possess.  BUT, I AM good at talking to them about being kind and strong; about the importance of ‘feeding’ their soul, heart and mind; of being true and honest; and the paramount necessity of balance and dreaming.  And most importantly, how beautiful and loved they are.  I hope its enough.