Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mothering


What does it take to be a Mother. Fertile womb, some sperm, bit of action, and voila! Correction, that's what it takes to get pregnant. What it takes to be a mother involves a whole other set of skills that NOBODY comes pre-loaded with. Skills that one has to hone, learn from scratch, refine, tune, constantly keep up with the times. What gets me is the blatant lack of courses, manuals, Bibles (as it were) that define what being a mother is. What it takes.

You know what? Today I found out. I hit the jackpot. I, mother of one young child who just lost her own mother and now living with Mother in law, has figured it out. What it takes to be a mother, is all about what you can give. What it takes to be a GOOD mother, is knowing WHEN to TAKE BACK. Exactly how that's going to work, I'm going to have to figure out in the next 50 years or more, but for now, this is my truth.

Mothers are really good at giving. From the moment their babies are born, they give. They give their time, they give their breasts, they give themselvs. When their babies grow, they give more time, they give care to husbands, (notice I didn't say 'take care' of) other friends and careers. At some point, mothers will have to figure out when to TAKE BACK. I truly believe in this. Perhaps that sounds really selfish of me right now, but until mothers learn how to take care of themselves can they then begin to take care of others. Very Oprah I know. But this is SO true. When I read it in O some time back, it rang a bell, my aha moment!

But I only truly understood this statement after my mother passed away. She was a primary school teacher for almost 40 years. 28 years in my own primary school. She was a working Mom like most Mom's of her generation. The Baby Boomers. Of course it's not like she had the luxury of not working, however I do think it was a conscious choice for her because her passion for teaching was almost tangible. Also I've often heard her tell us girls that we should have our own jobs and money and always to rely on ourselves in case our husbands ran away or cheated on us. Even before I had boyfriends, I remember my mother warning me about such things. Which of course at the time I thought was strange or her being paranoid, but now on hindsight, brilliant advice! I wrote in my mother's eulogy that her biggest gift to me besides the gift of life, is the gift of loving life. She didn't teach me this. She lived her own life to the fullest and by doing so taught me that life is what you make of it not what is being dealt to you. She gave her life to us and she gave her life to teaching. Something she always said was for money, but it was clear from the impact she had on her students and her passion for her kids that her love for teaching transcended her need to clothe us. She got it. Without reading Oprah, or self-help books, she got it. A lot of what I learnt from her is not what she taught me but what she didn't. Again, what she took away not give. When my sister and I were already at uni and she realised we were starting our own lives, she began to live hers. She went on holidays with friends, bought the jewellery she wanted, constantly striving to improve herself by taking her degree in arts administration. Never once did I think she was selfish or loving us less. It was fun to see my mom enjoying herself and living life. It was inspiring. Too often mothers worry about what others think and whether or not we have given enough of ourselves. What will my children think if I'm out having a facial and not feeding them dinner. They MUST think I'm a bad mom! Guilt is really debilitating and counter-productive. I'm not saying my mother never felt guilt. Who knows, but the point is when your mother dies, you're not going to remember how many sacrifices she made for you or how many times she cooked you dinner. You are going to remember who she was, what she was about and what was that to you. She lived a full life, had an amazing career not by the amount of money she earned, but by the impact she had on people and generations to come, indulged her fancies when she could, had a great sense of humour and an amazing ability to multi-task. She is my role-model. My mothering Idol.

To other people, the idea of mothering brings to mind freshly baked pies, nicely pressed sheets, folded underwear. The performing of tasks that children are well capable of doing on their own. It's all done out of love. Or habit. But at which point does it become spoiling? It's a tricky balance. An area that I'm slowly getting more insight into as I become closer to my Mother in law who is now living with us. A woman who single-handedly brought up two boys in a foreign country with little emotional support from family and husband, gives of herself and still continues to give to the next willing party, her precious grand-daughter. It has been an interesting juxtaposition for me as I started my journey as a mother knowing I was going to lose my own, and learning to live and love another mother who is wired entirely differently. I've always felt uncomfortable being full-time mom, simply because of the connotations and perhaps I really feel like I can be so much more, give so much more. But these two years of living on and off with my mother in law has also taught me so many things about what else to give as a mother. Stuff that my own mother could never do as a working mom. So without realising it, I guess I've found a comfortable medium between the two extremes! I freelance!! I work part-time! Allows me the flexibility to schedule my time around her and yet get to dabble in the outside world.

But still...the bum is itchy. There are ants in my pants...There's a tooter in my hooter...whatever.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Objects of My Abjection

Oooh yes! I knew that all that Lacan psychobabble that I learnt at Uni was going to come in handy one day. And so it is that the one chapter that I actually enjoyed and remembered was the Theory of Abjection. Ok, quick tutorial for Lacanian Virgins.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines abject as "Brought low, miserable; craven, degraded, despicable, self abasing." It describes abjection as a "state of misery or degradation." However, these definitions are somewhat ambiguous and intangible. Thus, it is useful to consider how abjection is expressed. Religious abhorrence, incest, women's bodies, human sacrifice, bodily waste, death, cannibalism, murder, decay, and perversion are aspects of humanity that society considers abject. Barbara Creed writes:

The place of the abject is where meaning collapses, the place where I am not. The abject threatens life, it must be radically excluded from the place of the living subject, propelled away from the body and deposited on the other side of an imaginary border which separates the self from that which threatens the self.

In Powers Of Horror: An Essay On Abjection Kristeva identifies that we first experience abjection at the point of separation from the mother. This idea is drawn from Lacan's psychoanalytical theory which underpins her theory of abjection. She identifies that abjection represents a revolt against that which gave us our own existence or state of being. At this point the child enters the symbolic realm, or law of the father. Thus, when we as adults confront the abject we simultaneously fear and identify with it. It provokes us into recalling a state of being prior to signification (or the law of the father) where we feel a sense of helplessness. When we are propelled into the world of the abject, our imaginary borders disintegrate and the abject becomes a tangible threat because our identity system and conception of order has been disrupted.

We are both drawn to and repelled by the abject; nausea is a biological recognition of it, and fear and adrenalin also acknowledge its presence. These are the feelings that we recall from prior to separation from the mother. Kristeva describes one aspect of the abject as 'jouissance' which is a sensation akin to joyousness. She says that it is because of this sensation that "One thus understands why so many victims of the abject are its fascinated victims - if not its submissive and willing ones."

WELL, howddyalike that eh? From the moment you were born, you were meant to HATE your mother!! You love her, but you hate her. You were a part of her and now you are not. I could go on forever about the mother, however the OBJECTS of my ABJECTION today are not about the mother. Yup, it is about the other thing which we all enjoy doing, need to do but are simultaneously repulsed and disgusted. NO not masturbation, I'm talking about the poo poos and pee pees. So where am I going with this lengthy preamble about theories of our shit and vomit and being dismembered from your mother?

I took a picture of my daughter's stool yesterday. I wish I could share it with you. It was stunning! Once I figure out how to get the photo from my phone on the computer, rest assured, it'll be posted here. There it was standing in a stool sample cup, stiff and erect, brown and steamy. It was like a well packed sausage, one solid clump of compacted bits of other stuff.
In one graceful scoop, I held this pencil-long stool in my hand rescuing it from the inviting pool below. I placed it into the cup and realised that two thirds of it was sticking out. Using the scoop end of the lid, I sliced the poo in half and capped it. My daughter watches this whole procedure in amusement as she continues the rest of her business. "It's so big right, Mommy?" Obviously chuffed that she could produce such a massive log. "Yes, it's a good poo honey. Good poo." I wanted so much to analyse the sample myself but the smell was becoming seriously offensive. It's not even important why I'm taking her sample. It cost me $150 just to get it sent to the lab, but the experience was priceless.

In my two and a half years of parenting, I thought i'd done it all. Sucked mucus out of her tiny nostrils when she was 3 months old, syringed saline up her nose, stuffed suppositories up her ass, being projectile vomitted on, and now this, slicing poo and holding them in my hand. It's quite heavy and surprisingly warm. I've never even held my own poo.

It's all supposedly natural to do these things, but yet when it does happen to you, there's a cringe, a slight hint of nausea. Yet you are drawn to it, you want to look, to feel, to smell. That which was part of you, yet so repulsive and repugnent. Like a baby...Thank god they don't smell so bad.

Little Miss V on her Throne!

Friday, October 07, 2005

An Interesting Dee-straction

The delectable, dee-va-statingly gorgeous Miss Dee was suitably Dee-stracted today. She came to me today with a rather dee-ficult dee-straction. I must stop this manner of dee-ctating this or it shall be too dee-structive to the whole point of this. Now, I was rather curious why she chose me to dees-cuss (sorry!) this particular conumdrum with me. She always appeared to have many many friends. I never thought I was one of the friends on the top of her list. Or it could be due to the fact that I was somehow involved in her 'problem'. However, from the moment I met Miss Dee, I've somehow always felt some kind of affinity for her. Not hard considering our similar tastes, talents and thoughts. But from all our lovely chats, there was always something that seemed to dee-stract her from really dee-stilling the truth. Stripping it down to the core. Peeling back the layers of an onion.

Well today Miss Dee chose to dee-srobe a little in front of me...metaphorically speaking. A little glimpse into the core.
And she chose today of all days to do this. Of course she had no idea that this 'breakdown' of hers would mean anything special to me, but it did. Call it dee-vine intervention or tenuous link but Miss Dee was part of a special day for me when neither of us knew it would turn out this way, and was right next to me when i received the phonecall that would change my life.

Life is one big Dee-straction. We were put on this earth without a road map, not even knowing how to read, and somehow we are all expected to find our great purpose in Life. Some people never find out what theirs is, or have found it but didn't know they had. We journey through life trying to figure out its meaning, but realise that only when we reach our destination that we get any answers.

Someone said that life is about the journey not the destination. Well that's because all paths lead to death whichever way you look at it. So better enjoy the ride coz we all know where it's gonna end up. But does it all change if your know your destination is now different. That it's not the end of the road. That long after you're gone, the path you've trodden has paved the way for many others. Your footprints leave a mark on someone's life, an inner map for their soul. Your final destination is somehow inextricably linked to the paths you take, the decisions you make, the wrong turns and u-turns and accidents along the way.

So I urge you my dee-rest Miss Dee, to dee-sperately seek your heart's dee-sire. To Dee-light the in the Dee-cisions you've made, and to dee-vour life with all it's interesting Dee-stractions.

My Mother's 60th Birthday



BUTTERFLIES
By Siegfried Sassoon

Frail Travellers, deftly flickering over the flowers;
O living flowers against the heedless blue
Of summer days, what sends them dancing through
This fiery-blossom'd revel of the hours?

Theirs are the musing silences between
The enraptured crying of shrill birds that make
Heaven in the wood while summer dawns awake;
And theirs the faintest winds that hush the green.

And they are as my soul that wings its way
Out of the starlit dimness into morn:
And they are as my tremulous being--born
To know but this, the phantom glare of day.

Of my 29 years on this planet, I guess I can only remember a handful of birthday celebrations. Birthdays in my family were never a grand affair, but neither were they forgotten. A simple cake, some sort of dinner together and sometimes but not always presents. And I guess until you are old enough, and less selfish enough, do you plan and start remembering your parents' birthdays. Well, my Mom would have turned 60 today, a big deal for most people, especially the Chinese. And as children, we would most definitely have planned something. But as it turned out, my mother planned her own celebration this year. And it could not have been more perfect.

Today's events will be etched in my memory forever because this was the first birthday I've had where my mother wasn't there to physically blow out the candles, yet I felt the breath of her life all around me today. It's the first time where there wasn't any planning at all from the rest of the family, but magically we all appeared at the right time. It's the first time that none of us bought presents, but all received the biggest gift from her. It's the first time I had a REAL soul-bearing conversation with my Dad, a connection, a deep understanding of his person and not his role to me.

What are birthdays in celebration of anyway? The fact that you survived yet another year on this earth? That we escaped death by illness, accident, terrorism, random act of stupidity or chocolate?? Do people buy you presents because they feel guilty that they've not been very nice to you for the whole year? And why do we sit around waiting for somebody to 'surprise' us with a cake (woohoo!) a party (woowee!) or a present (no way geddadahere!!) And if nobody did anything for us we sit around wallowing in self-pity because nobody cares.

I learnt today that the best present for yourself on your own birthday is to bring hope to someone. Everybody needs hope. Hope that it's somehow all okay. Giving of yourself on the day when it's supposed to be all about you suddenly makes sense. It's so simple, yet it took a day like today for me to realise this. On my mother's 60th birthday when she is dead.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Picture Perfect



Doesn't this look divine? Mother, child, beautiful innocent yawn. Her first yawn captured on film. In sepia... An inner smile radiating from my lips. Life so fragile, so transient, like a yawn. A little butterfly on your shirt...a symbol of freedom, a sign of connection.

This has to be one of my favourite photos of us. Maybe it's the moment, the memory of our first weeks together. So frought with all sorts of emotions. Happiness, terror, helplessness, joy, confusion, love. Maybe it's because my husband took it with his fancy non-digital camera with black and white film. Maybe it's because it reminds me that motherhood is so transient. Like a yawn. Like a butterfly. Sure, the road does seems long. Years of planning, fretting, upbringing, parenting ahead, but children grow so fast. And we are never sure that we will always be here for them. Losing my own mother at the age of 29 doesn't seem so bad. Old enough to know who she was, understanding her pain since I have already become a parent myself. However, nothing really prepares you for when they go. Parents always seem to be imprenetrable fortresses. Strong, resilient yet when they pass, you go back to being a child again no matter how old you are. You want someone to just clean up the shit when you mess up, not that she's done that for ages, but still you want the option. The prospect of losing my mother at the time when I was going to be one myself meant many things. It made everything I did more meaningful and more precious yet I couldn't help feeling lost and confused. There were so many things I wanted to ask her then, yet I didn't. I couldn't. She couldn't tell me, not because she didn't want to, but because she couldn't. Literally lost her speech. I didn't want to aggravate her condition by asking difficult to articulate questions. Maybe I should have. Because I will never know now.

Looking at this picture, you feel like mother will always be there. Always protecting, always loving, always perfect. But from the moment you were born, this picture was never to be perfect. Mommy has learnt that we can never be around for you all the time. We try our very best to always protect, to always love unconditionally, and to be as perfect as we can. But perhaps the best thing we can do for you is to equip you with the best tools to deal with this inevitability. Exactly how will I do it? Well, I'm still learning honey. And one day when I'm gone, I hope that you'd have learnt enough or have enough courage to keep learning.

Like the little butterfly on your shirt, I hope to give you freedom. Freedom to seek your own path in life, discover your purpose and the freedom to love. Although she is not here, I believe your grandma is always protecting us, always loving, always perfect. Like the little butterfly on your shirt.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Oh How We Laugh!

I think I’m funny. No, seriously I do. When someone asked me what the most important quality my would-be partner must possess, without a doubt, it would be a sense of humour. It’s not about being able to crack jokes and do a Jim Carrey, it is a whole outlook on life. The ability to see the funny bits when there is obviously nothing humorous at all. This is even more relavant and true to being a parent.

I used to crack jokes for a living. I would wake up real early in the morning, sing the national anthem then start entertaining the world with my hilarious antics and witty banter on radio. Well, at least that’s what we tried to do. 3 years later, I still wake up real early in the morning, sing “Wakey wakey, Mr Sun is up’ to my two and half year old, and then start entertaining her with my hilarious antics and witty banter. It’s been one long performance I tell you what. Maybe making every moment with her a chance to fulfill some repressed desire to be a broadway star is the only way to ease my boredom of the humdrum of everyday. However, I sincerely believe that it also helps in easing the tricky bits of parenting. For all the times you feel like a broken record, just sing it! Yes, in my household, we have a song for everything we do. Like going to the toilet, taking a bath and washing our hands. You don’t need to be a bonafide star like me to do this, just make it up as you go along. For instance, my daughter takes a while to summon the stools, so one day, whilst squatting in front of her and feeling very numb in the legs, I began to sing, “Where’s your poo poo, where’s your poo poo, where’s your poo poo right now, is it inside, is it outside, is it hanging off your bum.” (To the tune of Oh My Darling Clementine) Not quite Carly Simon I know, but it did the trick. She giggled, I laughed and it took the boredom out of the situation. Unfortunately, it didn’t take the poo out fast enough, but we let nature take it’s course. Now my other problem is getting her not to sing it so loud in public toilets. Very embarrassing.

The thing is, it all sounds very easy, but it isn’t. I struggle with Devil Mother every day. I am the most accommodating, lovely, funny woman to other people, but somehow to my little girl, I must be the craziest, angriest, loudest woman she knows. Children bring that out in parents. Maybe it’s the high level of expectations we have, or maybe I have anger management issues. But I keep reminding myself in every tricky situation, ‘what is she going to remember from this’. Is it the fact that she isn’t getting in the car seat without a fuss or that Devil Mommy has reared it’s ugly head again, and boy does she look bad! Probably the latter. I shudder to think of all the emotional damage I’ve already caused my poor little girl, but I console myself by thinking that she’s only two, so there’s still room for damage control. There’s a tricky balance between WHAT you’re trying to teach and HOW you teach it. And I believe it’s when children see and understand the HOW is when they finally get the WHAT.

It’s been two and a half years, and I’m still trying to get a grip on my inner Medusa. However, I also feel that Funny Mommy has also made a pretty good impression on her. I know this because that’s what she said the other day, ‘ Mommy, you’re funny!’ and it had nothing to do with the fact that I was wearing a bra on my head. No, it was for all the times I listened to her, sang along with her, re-affirmed her silly notions about who’s a boy and who’s a girl, played along with her logic and most of all loving her the best way I can. At the end of the day, I just want to be Loving Mommy, and humour somehow has a funny way of making things work.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Every Child Has Its Schtick

It's true. Ask any parent and they'll tell you. Every child has something that they do or don't do that completely drives their parents crazy. Maybe he just won't eat broccoli no metter how hard you try, maybe she's just not good with sharing her toys, maybe they have this irritating habit of spitting at everything and anything. But every child will have one thing that completely breaks a parent's tenuous grip on sanity.

My child does not sleep. Just doesn't dig it. Sleeping to her is a complete waste of time. From birth she's always been breastfed to sleep and until finally at 19 and a half months when my nipples were broken and bleeding, I decided that I've had enough. So cold turkey we went and perhaps that was the start to all my problems. Ever since then, she's always had bouts of crazy cries in the night. Either a flat refusal to sleep or that she wakes up crying in a fit without any reason. I spend too much time analysing exactly at which point I screwed up. Was it the cold turkey, was it that I let her watch Elmo AND fed her biscuits to calm her down when instead I should have let her cry it out. Or did I let her cry too long? Then there was a time when all was calm and quiet and bed time was actually not an issue anymore...but nothing lasts forever....

IT TOO SHALL PASS....(one phrase from the bible I've actually memorised and repeat to myself about 5 times a day)
Lately at 2 and half, she just doesn't think sleep is necessary. she's obviously tired but continues to force herself to read more books and play because it's as if sleeping will take away the time she gets with me or whatever...who knows.

It is on one of those I will not sleep nights that I lost it. Committed the proverbial OTS (One Tight Slap) I thought crazy devil mother was bad enough, shouting, screaming, violently handling the child. NOooooo, OTS just creaped out the side and graced her sweet ivory cheek ever so swiftly that my other arm received the down swing of the blow. Ouch! She cried even harder and held her cheek. I raised my hand again and warned her again in serial killer voice, ' If you don't stop crying, I will hit you again and open the window and put you outside in the darkness by yourself.' The sniffles were stifled and the sobbing stopped. 'Ok Mommy, I stop crying already.' 'Thank you, now let's get dressed and go to sleep'. Just like that the angel child appeared and off to dream land she went.

It's amazing that children somehow have an innate ability to forgive. Or at least appear that they still love us despite the horrid things we do to them. maybe one day they'll understand. Maybe they're storing all this up until one day the dam will break and devil child will appear in a form so alien that even devil mother will not know how to handle. In the meantime, I take whatever number of hours of sleep I am allowed, and learn to assuage my guilt by slapping myself hard on the head.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Oh Genesis!

And I don't mean the Phil Collins Variety. It's funny how some things get started. I've been blog-eyed for three weeks now ever since the Devastatingly Divalicious Triple D confessed her obsession with HTML! Now even my husband's caught on, and whilst trying to post a secret message on his, it stated that hs blog does not allow anonymous posts! A little sneaky eh? A little double standardness wouldn't you say? But there you go. I've started it. My very own blog!

So here it is. My guts spilled, my dirty linen airing, my heart perched precariously on a sleeveless tank. I must admit I had trouble with the name. Since I was going to write about the four F's in my life, namely family, friends, food and fashion, I thought the name was quite befitting of me. Too bad yummymummy was taken. But you know, when you add 'ster' to words, you get an immediate sense of intimacy and authority, a supreme sense of cool. Like she's not just a mum, she's a mumster. And not just any mumster, a yummymumster!

So I drink a toast of tepid filtered water to my new blog. Cheers Hunny, may you laster longer than yesterday's chee cheong funster.