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Just a little shy guy

We were out for brunch over the weekend and there was this playground area for the kids to run around so they were having fun at one of those metallic old school swing sets.

Along came this cute little French girl who was probably 4 or 5 years old. I say French but she could have been Austrian or Croatian or from one of those Baltic States – I’m not very good with identifying European accents. She climbed in onto the swing next to Truett and after several minutes, she got up and took his hand, gesturing for him to follow her. Truett, being the shy little Chinese boy, looked completely befuddled and he just sat there not knowing how to react.

The husband, in his typical guy response, leaned in to me and said “Is this a sign of things to come?”

After the girl walked off, I whispered to Tru. “Son, when a pretty girl propositions you, there’s only one appropriate response. You look at her and say “Why certainly, I would like nothing more.” You can’t just ignore her.”

He was like “But I just want to sit here on the swing with mei mei.”

“Ok, how about you and mei mei go make friends with her together? I think she wants to play with you guys.” I suggested.

“Never mind, we can just play here,” he said.

Not long after, the little girl came back, looked at him and said, “You come sit here.” She pointed at a kiddy ride bus nearby and told him to follow her.

Again, he looked overwhelmed and pretty much ignored her until she went away.

I thought that maybe I should come up with ways to help him overcome his shyness but then I realized that it probably runs in the family. When I first met the husband, he was the sort who was all macho in a big group but he’d glance at his feet nervously when he was talking to a girl one on one. But then he still got the girl in the end so maybe being shy is not that bad after all.

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Lessons from a 3rd time mom

When I first had Truett, I was as uptight as a new parent could be. My life was a variation of the following scenarios:

“He was supposed to take his nap 3.17 minutes ago, now his schedule is all ruined it’s a disaster!”

“Why is he not drinking his milk, quick call the PD for a consult!!”

“He fell asleep on the baby swing? ANOTHER DISASTER – WAKE HIM UP NOW!!!”


Thanks to all the expert baby books, I had a lot of rules to follow. No rocking to sleep. No falling asleep while drinking milk. No pacifier. I had a strict 3-hour schedule to abide by, right down to the minute.

Then I had a second kid and decided to break some of the rules. Turns out, the world didn’t come to an end and the baby did just fine. I realized that while some of those rules were good, they’re supposed to help make my life easier, not harder. And having my panties all up in a bunch all the time wasn’t making my life easier.

Now with the third kid, I’ve learnt some lessons that I thought I’d share.

1. Every baby is different. 

Some babies sleep more than others. Some babies need more attention. Some babies love being rocked to sleep, some babies hate it. Some babies thrive on having a fixed routine, some are a little more flexible. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Do what works for you and your baby. 

There isn’t just one right way to parent. Be a helicopter parent or an attachment parent or a sleep-training commando parent or a combination of all of the above. If it works for you, don’t let anyone guilt you into feeling otherwise.

3. Sometimes, it’s ok to break the rules. 

It’s ok if baby misses a nap or stays awake for an extra 27 minutes. Be a badass and break the rules. Or be a badass and don’t.

4. Enjoy the process. 

It’s hard to enjoy the baby when you’re stressed out and frustrated half the time. Take a break if you can afford the time. Watch your favorite drama, take a long shower, have a cup of coffee – do what makes you happy, even if it’s just for a while.

I used to be so hung up over trying to be the perfect mom that I allowed myself no margin for error. But guess what? This whole parenting process is one of trial and error. And I’m fine with the fact that I’ll never be a perfect mom.

As long as my kids think I’m a rockstar, I’m think I’m ok.

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Fly me to the moon

Remember when you were a kid and you felt like you could be anything you wanted? Growing up, I wanted to be a zookeeper, a Disneyland mascot, an emperor, a writer and a judge at different points of my life.

My dad used to tell me that I could do anything I dreamed of doing, and it didn’t matter what I did because if I was passionate about it, the money would follow. Well, one time he did tell me to be an investment banker or a lawyer because those guys earned truckloads of money. I guess it was his way of giving me viable career options after he heard about my mascot gig. But for the most part, he told me to follow my heart, wherever that took me.

Even though I probably wouldn’t have done half the things on my list given the chance, it was nice to know that I *could* have done it.

Now as a parent, I understand how tough it is to offer that kind of unconditional support, especially when we think that we know best for our kids. Our idea of success is very much tied to how much they earn or how famous they get, but mostly the money part. As far as I can help it, I don’t want them to have to spend the better part of their working life struggling to make ends meet. Or stuck in a job they thought was cool at 14, but didn’t turn out quite so cool at 34. To balance the whole heart-following with valuable practical advice without sounding like the kind of annoying pessimistic parent who’s too jaded to believe in dreams.

Just last week, Tru informed me that he was going to be an astronaut when he grew up.

At first, in my head, I was all like “Isn’t that so 1990? Do kids still dream of going to the moon these days? Now they want to wear jeans and invent Facebook and be a billionaire at 25. And astronaut? I mean, Tom Hanks seemed like he was having a pretty rough time in Apollo 13.”

But then his eyes lit up and he followed it up by telling me about how he was going to fly a spaceship to the moon and do a somersault when he got there. Which does sound pretty cool when he put it that way.

So instead of telling him about how dangerous astronaut-ing is, or how tough it was to get into the NASA program, or how he was going to miss his wife and kids (if he has them), or how there’s never even been one Singaporean astronaut probably because of all of the above reasons, I gave him a hi-5 and told him that it would be awesome. And also to bring back a moon-rock as a souvenir.

Did I say it just to make my kid happy? Well, yes and no. On some level, I think anything they’re passionate about deserves my support, even when I don’t necessarily agree. And if he eventually becomes an astronaut, or the guy who designs the spaceship, or the guy who pumps fuel into the spaceship, I think I’d still be awfully proud.

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World’s Deadliest Creatures

Ok so the kids are sweet and filled with sparkly rainbow confetti kind of awesome but if I’m honest with myself, there are times where I just want to gag them and stuff them in my closet for 20 minutes.

You’d think that in the grand scheme of things, like compared to a grizzly bear attack or a shark bite, dealing with a toddler’s tantrum is um, child’s play.

But then you realize that unlike having a cobra death-match where your end is swift and decisive, dealing with a baby requires you to listen to that annoying sing-song nasally whine that can go on and on and on and on and on some more until the thought of ripping off your own arm and feeding it to wolves is monumentally less painful.

With that in mind, I present to you my list of the world’s deadliest creatures.

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Parents ain’t perfect.

Parents are far from being perfect but I’d like to think that being a parent has made me a better person than I would have been if I didn’t have kids, because having kids somehow makes you want to be better.

Not so much that I’m afraid I’d be caught for misbehaving or doing something bad because as The Mom, I’m the boss of everybody else around here.

No, it’s more than that. It’s because I want them to be better than me and the only way that’s going to happen is if I become the best version of me I can be.

And although I’m sure there’s a level 97 Grand Master version of me that always takes the high road and doesn’t rain terrible curses on bad drivers, that version will not be making an appearance anytime soon so for now, I’m content to occasionally take the high road (like only when I know the kids are watching).

Which is already a marked improvement from the pre-kid version of me who has always taken the road that is considerably lower. I’ve always had little time or patience for people whom I felt deserved what they got. Back in the day, I would have made a fully audible, thinly-veiled criticism of the parents of the brattish kids who were disturbing my dinner. Or tsk-tsked the mom whose 2-year-old was melting into the floor dramatically in public. Or looked at the mom struggling with 3 kids and wondered why she wasn’t introduced to the concept of contraceptives.

Now if there’s one thing being a parent has taught me, it’s how to eat a stinking piece of poop-filled humble pie.

Before I had kids, I thought it was all a piece of cake. I would kick ass at being a mom and show them all how it’s done. My kids wouldn’t be caught dead throwing a tantrum or turning up their noses at food. They would be perfect specimens of little angels who smiled, ate their vegetables and did as they were told.

As it turns out, the moment the kids came into my life, there has been no cake and all I’ve been eating is humble pie. And most of my words.

These days, I’ve learnt to be a lot more understanding and less judgey. I see a mom who’s shoving food into her mouth as her kids sit engrossed watching youtube on the iPhone and I stop myself from passing judgement on what an irresponsible, disinterested mom she is. She might have very well spent the last 12 hours running herself ragged being fully engaged in her kids’ mental, emotional and physical development and all the poor woman is asking for is 10 minutes to eat in peace without being judged by random strangers. So I smile, give her a mental hi-5, gather my kids and get a move on.

I see another mom losing her shit at her kid and I remember how I’ve lost count of the number of times I went ballistic on the kids after a particularly bad day. After each episode, I beat myself up over it enough to not need other parents telling me how I messed up.

When I think of all the things I want to teach the kids as they grow, like how to solve differential equations, and the intricacies of foreign policy, and the works of literary geniuses, there is none more important than the crucial life lesson on how not to be a douche canoe.

And that means that I’ve got to not be one myself.

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No clothes, no shame

I can’t say if it’s an Asian thing or a generational thing, but there are these adults who tell kids who undress that they’re “shame shame”.

It infuriates me.

I was at the library with the kids a while back and there was a mom who was reading to her kid. From what I could gather while sitting across the room, it was about a kid who was learning to take a shower. While reading, she would pause and comment on the illustrations. So she got to this portion where the kid got undressed and she pointed at the photo to her child and said, “so shame shame right?”. Her 3-year-old responded with a giggle but after a stern look from his mom, became decidedly subdued and said, “the boy never wear clothes, so shame shame.”

Ok, first of all, where I come from, people get naked when they have a shower. There’s nothing shame shame about it.

And second of all, even though I haven’t actually read the book, I think that’s not really the point the author was trying to make.

The lady was reading loud enough for my kids to hear but since they didn’t really seem to hear it, I decided to leave it alone. Besides, I try not to comment on other parents’ teaching methods because I know how sensitive it is.

Then a couple of days ago, I was showering Kirsten when she turned to me and said, “See, I shame shame.” I was taken aback for a while so I asked her where she learnt it from and she said her teacher in school told her about it.

“Sweetie, listen to me, you’re not shame shame ok. You’re beautiful. If teacher ever tells you that you are shame shame again, you say “I’m beautiful” and then tell mommy when you get home.”

“But teacher said if I never wear clothes, I’m shame shame,” she said.

“That’s not true baby. Remember mommy told you that you’re not allowed to show your vagina to other people? It’s because it’s special and you’re supposed to keep it secret. But you’re not shame shame and if you have to bathe, it’s fine to not wear clothes ok.”

It was hard explaining this to a 2.5-year-old and I was mad at the teacher for making it worse.

Ok seriously, this whole shame shame thing has got to stop. I know why adults do it – to discourage kids from running around stark naked in public but there has got to be a better way to do it than shaming a child. They’re going to have to deal with feelings of inferiority and self-doubt and shame soon enough, they don’t need to feel ashamed about their bodies when they’re 2.

Besides, if there’s anything I’ve learnt from parenting toddlers, it’s that they’re compulsive little people. It’s like they can’t help themselves. If they want to get naked, THEY WILL GET NAKED. We try to contain it and scramble to make them put their clothes back on but they will do it until they’re old enough to control their impulses. And they’re not doing it to be bad or intentionally flashing their penises at you to make you uncomfortable. They’re just compulsive and all we need to do is give them a little time to learn that their private parts should be kept private.

But you know what really gets me? When teachers or adults in positions of power do it, the kids under their care will think that it’s ok to “shame shame” their peers. The kids who are waiting for their turn to shower will see the naked kids and think it’s funny to point and say “eee, shame shame”. And maybe even laugh.

I’m all for being fully clothed in public. I mean, I do it all the time. But there are situations in life which requires us to get naked and showering is one of them. My kids don’t need to feel ashamed when they undress to bathe. And so what if they do a naked streak around the house right after their shower? I doubt they’re going to be doing it when they’re 14, so if this is the way they need to express themselves right now, I’m ok with that.

So now every time I shower the kids, I make it a point to tell them that they’re beautiful the way the are.

Today, when Kirsten got into the shower, she said, “I’m not shame shame, right? I’m beautiful!”

Damn right you are, princess.

photo credit: Lynn Davis

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The mysterious powers of the security blanket

Both my kids have this thing called a security blanket, which is really a misnomer because it doesn’t provide much security at all.

Like if they were suddenly attacked by googly-eyed, baby-eating monsters in their sleep…

It’s not likely that this is going to happen.

If I were to choose a protective device against a monster attack, I’d choose something stronger like an adamantium shield or a force-field bubble. Heck, I’d even go with a large stick. Basically anything other than a piece of flannel.

But I get that the kids’ mental faculties are nowhere near as evolved as mine, so it’s really not their fault. And I’ve come to the conclusion that this whole security blanket is just all in their head. It’s got less to do with actual *security* and more with the mysterious mind-messing power of babysoft fabrics.

The moment you caress a baby’s face with a soft material like supersoft cotton or mink or satin or fleece, they go into the zone. Their eyes glaze over and all they can think about is “I like soft soft…” If they’re thumb-sucker or pacifier-addicts, they will instinctively reach for their sucker of choice. Even if they don’t suck anything, they will go into the stoning mode.

Armed with their security blanket, this is what they look like to us.

But to them, it looks entirely different.

Which works for us because we’re not about to mess with whatever helps them go to sleep. And honestly, we just need them to think that they’re safe because it’s our job to actually make sure they’re safe.

Now I just need to go find me-self an adamantium shield.

*Cute monster drawings by Siew, Child Label. Slightly less cute kid drawings by Daphne, Mother, Inc.