Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On mothers and parenting skills

Asians tend to “mother” their children to death. I shan’t argue with that. Mum brought me up to be somewhat of a clone of herself. She used to tell me what to do, how to dress and much more. She loves her perms. So she thinks I should have perms. But I hate perms. Always have. I remember how she used to insist I need to perm my fringe. Why I hate perms I do not know. But I think ever since I had hair, mum wanted them permed!

Every school holiday, mum used to march me to 3rd Aunt’s home-based hair saloon. I was too compliant to resist. I was also too polite to tell 3rd Aunt how I hated perms. So, after every school holiday, I end up looking like one of the Three Stooges. And every time 3rd Aunt finished my perm, I would politely pretend how nice my perm looked and Aunty would look at me as her masterpiece.

But ever since I found freedom as a “young adult”, I never had another perm. And I never allowed any hairdresser to tell me I need a perm to lift my limb hair. I like my hair the way it is, straight, unpermed – thank you.

Turning into mum
One would think that I would have learnt. But why do I insist Princess of the House ties her hair this or that way when she goes to school? Or why do I insist Princess puts on a proper pair of pants or tights when we go for our hospital visits or to the movies? Perhaps I am turning into a mum who "over mothers".

I read once that you can’t raise spiritual children unless you and your husband/partner have the same spiritual qualities you seek in your children. How true. You can’t teach your child to be truthful when you constantly lie. You can’t make a child hardworking if you display an excessive liking for slothfulness. I am mindful I am a living example for my child.

Mum is my living example. We never used to have much money growing up. But mum fed not only our family but kids who came to play with us. Mum made cookies for Chinese New Year, not only for us, but for the entire clan. I haven’t had a single friend of mine who has met mum who doesn’t fall in love with her immediately.

Storehouse of strength
I have been looking at my mum closely lately, mostly as a storehouse of strength and wisdom. A kind of person whose qualities I would like to assimilate. And whose qualities I hope someday, Princess will come to appreciate too.

Today, when I spoke to her on the phone, she tells me she had a spectacular failure making one of our favourite Chinese New Year cookies – Kuih Bangkit. It is a cookie made out of tapioca starch, coconut and eggs. Made properly, it crumbles in your mouth – a perfect blend of coconut sweetness with the scent of the pandan leaf lingering in your mouth, perking your senses. Made badly, it is cookie whose taste you want to easily and quickly forget. Mum tasted my version when she was here last May. She pronounced me fit to make the cookie – an image in her own likeness, I think, I was. She laughed -- about how she, the mother wave has turned into a ripple, and I have become the next wave in the ocean.

Mum potty trained all of us from the time we were born – by potty train, I mean she held up our legs as babies and trained us to do our ablutions early in the morning so our bowels recognised it was time to move. My brothers and I never had problems in that department.

Mum didn’t smack us willy-nilly. She smacked us when she wanted us to learn a real lesson. Mum didn’t compare herself to those who had a better life than hers. She used to tell me in Hokkien “lang bi lang, kah toh pi yian tang” which loosely translated means you can never ever compare yourself, nor a part of your leg to the smoke pipes.” I take it to mean, don’t ever be foolish enough to make unnecessary or non-useful comparisons.

Never hurry a person at a meal
Mum doesn't like to rush people when they are in the middle of a meal. “You can hurry a person when he gets born, or when he is about to leave the word. But never, ever hurry a person when he eats,” she used to tell me.

Mum is extravagant in how she treats everyone but stingy in how she treats herself. She is a maniac when it comes to cleanliness. In this department, I am such an inferior sub-specie compared to her. I like randomness, she likes order. She loves and worships beautiful clothes, I treat them like pieces of material to wrap around myself.

So, today, when we chatted, I am reminded again, of how generous mum has been, and always will be. We said our goodbyes on the telephone when I had to rush off to pick Princess from school. She said “thank you” for my time, and my call, and tells me to take care of myself. And I couldn’t help laugh at the irony. Shouldn't I be the one thanking her, and telling her to take care?


  1. Hi,leavender, I am Din in Kuala Lumpur. I have not heard from you on my blog. As you are in Auckland, try to be in touch with Michelle Yoon who has a blog and writes about Malaysia from afar. She has some insights on happenings in Bolehland.

    I like your piece and I see you are enjoying being Princess's mom. I did not remember being a Dad any more. But I have a 17 year old Thalya who lives with her mom in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She is finishing her A-levels and wants to do Law in the UK. A Great kid and we are especially close both intellectually and emotionally. Take care, Din

  2. hey hey If I may add your mom has got a fantastic pantry that can feed hundreds... it's like a mini market at your own home. She's everyone's favorite person too always with that smile... and she always have good food around too.. :) Come to think of that, did I mentioned that my hubby too thinks your mom is very sincere and full of qualities of being a "model mom" that everyone admire.

    I am too always hopping I might not follow my mom footsteps.... but come to think of it, I feel it's harder to mimic her... as i always think that we live a better life compared to them....

    Will call her immediately ..... and say "Thank You" i always think that we have not said or let them know we appreciate enough....

    "proud to be our mom's daughter" and can't wait to read more from your blog!!

  3. Hey Din, terima kasih for reminding me I should visit your blog...Been a bit slack. Love your new pix! Very broad sweeping! Your daughter's name is lovely. I saw her post on your blog...nice! All princesses are great Din! I was once a Princess, now a Queen! Haha...You take care too..

  4. Hi Kimmy, yes's got her own mini mart alright! Haha...she was just on the phone to me, asking me about this and that...She wants to save her phone card for the next call, so she said bye real quikc.

    Your mom's fantastic too - she has a great sense of humour! My lovely cousey! She and Princess get along fabulously!!

    You will be a model mum someday! I know that!!! You go girl!

  5. Have you tried saying, "I love you mum". We did not until when we moved here and then she had to travel back and forth for a year each time not being able to see her that then we started to be able to hug, peck her on her cheek and said I love you mum - all of course in Hakka. And no regrets now and forever - you know what I mean. We are glad we told her the three sisters of us but not my eldest (you know who) as she could not bring herself to say that as she is the older generation who do not express affection through words or hugs let alone kiss my mum on the cheek but by giving money or presents ... well I suppose thats her way of showing to mum ... I'm not saying she's right or wrong.

    From your blog, I can 'see' her with a very big heart and an amazing lady - you must be so proud of her. Good one Lady Lavender. :D

  6. I have enjoyed reading your blogs, it is unusual to find someone willing to express their respect and love for their parents. Thank your for doing just that. Now I must go and call my mother....
    I hope Princess learns the same principles as were passed on to you. Gives us hope for the next generaion.

  7. Hi Jenny: hm, not sure about saying the "I love you" to mum. It is not her style, also not a Chinese sentiment. But she knows I love her...I think she knows it well...So, I will leave it at that. Otherwise she will think I have gone bonkers, haha!

    Hi Duchess O'Blunt: Expressing emotions is specifically a non-Chinese thing. We have been brought up from the time we are young to not show the world what we feel. Thank goodness I live in this era! Where I have blogsphere to express my inner most secrets :O) And you go girl, go too! Ring your mom!

  8. Hi Lady Lavender

    I must say that I didn't expect Din Merican to be 'promoting' me as he is. =)

    Anyway, I have been reading your blog every once in a while, ever since Rocky's Bru linked you up. But never got around to leaving you a comment.

    Your post sort of reminds me of this Chinese song "Tian xia di ma ma dou shi yi yang di", loosely translated as "All mothers under the sun are the same". My mum used to 'mother' me up to a point when I simply refused to let her. She's now trained her sights and mothering on my younger brother.

    Well, it was great having you on my blog. Take care.


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