Mummy Resolutions for 2014

Since the beginning of this new year, I have been inundated with self-improvement posts and 2014 resolution lists on my FaceBook and LinkedIn feeds. Rather than being put off, as in years past, this year I’ve decided that I should also create a list of resolutions for me in my Mum role.

It’s hit me that my kids, now 10 and 14, are growing up too quickly, and I have a relatively short window before they fly the coop to find solace in friends instead of mummy. As a closet tiger mum, it’s been my greatest fear that I do not do right by my progeny, i.e. instill the right values and set them up to be mega-achieving, successful but saintly characters.

I shall not be ambitious. I think two resolutions would be reasonable and hopefully achievable. So….here are my resolutions for 2014:

1. Yell less, Chill More

All my friends who are mothers have experienced this curious phenomenon. We are usually the most amiable and accommodating of characters. But once we become mums, especially mums of school going kids, we turn into diabolical, shrieking shrews.

It is an epidemic.  And it is also terribly soul-destroying.

This malaise usually strikes when mothers try to get their children to study, to finish off that extra assessment book on Challenging Maths or Higher Order Problems in Science. Or it’s to get kids off the XBox, PS3, iPad, iPhone, Computer game, TV, YouTube, WatsApp, WeChat, SMS, and to go for their extra curricular activity, tuition, sport, piano, violin, ballet, etc.

Too many kids I know eat their lunch in cars after school as mummies drive like maniacs to get them to their next activity. And this happens.five, six, seven.times.a.week. Every week.

Ergo. What do we get? Grumpy, tired, stressed-out kids. And grumpy, tired, stressed-out mums. Can you blame us if we start yelling at each other?

Husbands usually don’t get it, this phenomena. Unless of course, he’s model dada and is heavily involved in the tuition runs and such too.

Sooo….while the kids will continue to have packed schedules, and the frantic chauffeuring and hustling will continue, I have resolved to be more zen about things. I have noticed in my mellowing years that if I project kan-chiongness, my kids will also become kan-chiong monsters. If I am chill and cool cucumber mother goddess, kids calm down noticeably too. Of course, that means I have to be less stressed from within.

As Prozac is not an option, I’ve begun taking steps to achieving inner peace.  I’ve resolved to engage in releasing more endorphins through gainful exercise. I’ve finally started yoga. Er…even though I’ve not been as regular as I should be to the shala. As a Roman Catholic, I shall spend more time in prayer and meditation.  I’m going to work smart and focus on a more effective schedule that will result in more output and less dependence on checking my in-box and FaceBook every 20 minutes.

So yes, I shall yell less, and chill more. I want the kids to remember me as a source of comfort, happiness and security, and not as a neurotic wailing banshee of years past.

Until, of course, Sean disturbs Megan again. I think that would probably be in the next 15 minutes.

2. Create More Structure for Me and For My Kids, While Laying on a Mantle of Love

If you read as many child-rearing books as I have, the main message is – create a structure for the kids, set up boundaries for them so they know their limits and can operate safely and confidently within the set parameters.

For me, saying it and knowing what needs to be done is one thing. Implementing it is quite another.

My son was born to push any and every boundary that was ever conceived of or created. From the time he was a wee babe, he was hyperactive, mischievous and very, very contrary. He was demanding. He was clingy. He was the master of all my hot buttons. His genius lay in pushing every single one of them, every day, every few hours, 24/7.

People who know me say I have patience written on my face, that I am an oasis of calm. If so, then I am Job, ‘cos God sent me the trial of my life when he gave me Sean.

Until Megan was born four years later, I was working full time in a public relations agency. Note that public relations consistently shows up in the top 10 list of most stressful jobs in any industry, according to human resources magazines. I was stressed at work and then went home to be doubly stressed out by my darling son.

I did not know enough about mothering then and so I bumbled along, tearing my hair and yelling at the top of my voice. Mother and son competed as to how many “No’s” we could say to each other. As I was at work for 10-12 hours a day, mothering was left to my dad, the maid or the husband when he was in town, so it was a mishmash of styles and usually involved giving in to my very loud and persistent babe.

I wondered countless times then if I had possibly created a more coherent structure and enforced it, whether things would have turned out differently. I watched hours and hours of SuperNanny. I marvelled when Nanny Jo managed to turn the worst monsters into docile angels. But now, on hindsight, nothing beats being at home to look after the kids yourself. As mummy, no one knows your kids better than you, and while a having structure works, it’s the giving and taking, the tightening of boundaries and the loosening, the current fine-tuning, all the time, that makes most sense.

I know now that while I had structures, I was a lousy enforcer, as I was just not around. When I took the plunge to stay at home and work part-time, I noticed the difference. Sean calmed down. We are so incredibly close today. Sean’s made it to the top class in his level and is part of the school track and field team. He consistently gets certificates for excellence and for being a model student. Same goes for Megan. She’s a school prefect, places in the top 5 in her class, and has always gotten an Excellent for conduct. 🙂

We had more of a structure, yes, but what was more important, was the mantle of love. My resolution this year is to keep working on that formula.

The next two years will be challenging for both kids as they go into their senior years at Secondary and Primary school respectively. The stress from school will crescendo. What I must keep reminding myself as we go along: Build that structure, enforce it, but cover it with dollops and dollops of love.Image

Family Feasting

With most Asian families, food is the focal point for most gatherings. Christmas and Chinese New Year are the two biggest celebrations for my family, and I cannot imagine either without a table groaning under the weight of a boatload of food.

When I was little, the task of the Christmas dinner fell to my mother. It was a task she hated because it would mean that she’d be cooking all day and preparing the ingredients for the dishes days before that. Mum was an excellent cook, but a domestic goddess she was not. Couple that with the prospect of all the in-laws descending on the table and their inevitable criticisms, though well meant, and it was the ultimate nightmare for her. To this day, mum gets stressed out weeks before Christmas, even though she doesn’t life a finger now to help. It’s my gift to her to sit back and not even think about the thought of cooking.

But I digress. Let’s get back to the food.

In our version of Christmas at our old place in Siglap, forget about turkey and pot roasts. It was beef rendang, paper-wrapped five-spice chicken, stir fried vegetables with sea cucumber and topshell. Steamed pomfret in chinese wine and sour plum, home made char siew. Dessert would invariably be a family favourite, homemade butter cake and almond jelly with longans. Like I said, mum could really cook.

As the only daughter left in Singapore, I took on the task years ago to organise the family feasts. Thankfully, I have the assistance of my long-time, capable Indonesian helper, Suti, who now resides with mum and Fitri, my current helper. Even with three pairs of hands, it is still much work. Hats off to my mum who managed it all alone. To family feasts, past, present and in the future, here’s to you, mum.

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Viva Lah 2014!

New year. New resolutions. 

After eons of dithering, I have finally decided to begin this blog. It’s finally hit me, as I wander into middle age, that I have stories that I could and should share with the people I care about. The little tales my uncles and aunties told me of their days growing up in Singapore. The stories of mum and dad and their families. All these things are precious, but will be lost if they are not told. 

In the last four years, I have lost my Ba Fu (Uncle William), Gu Cheh (Aunty Rosy) and one year ago, Dad.  As a tribute to them, I will try to document the little vignettes of what life was like for them growing up and living in Singapore from the 1920s to the present day. If anything, this will be a legacy for my kids. Well, hopefully, they will read this! 

This blog is going to be eclectic, a “rojak” of things past and present. I have a grand plan to document various things – my mummy life, my professional life and if I can actually get off my expanding behind, my gardening life too. Yes, I have grand plans to begin a vegetable plot in my garden and yes,  I say this as I gaze hopelessly at my overgrown jungle plot. But, my resolutions will prevail! I am putting this down, so that I cannot procrastinate, make up endless excuses, etc.

Yep. Carpe diem I must. So here we go!  Image