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(Self) Examination

(Self) Examination Becks Kao Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

It’s dark.

May 19, 2017

If there’s a Dark Ages to my history of motherhood, this should be it.

It’s now looking like the darkest ever. The toddler and preschooling years were pretty manageable. Exhausting but manageable. There were poopy diapers to change, dirty mouths to clean and lots of bedtime stories to tell but looking back, except the fact that you hit the sack every night bone tired, those years with 3 kids at those milestones were pretty much OK to navigate through.

Now that the kids are older, the challenges that I am facing are mentally and emotionally exhausting. Besides schedules, learning needs, progress follow-ups in between sassy retorts and juvenile arguments, there’s also the middle child and her difficulty to cope with changes and transitions smacking me right in the face.

I wished I could document in detail the pain and heartache and challenges and horrible days I go through managing her but I have decided against that and am learning to emphathise from a child’s perspective – that it can be both embarrassing and difficult, and I should park the details at some recesses of my memory somewhere where it wouldn’t hurt her. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of stuff going on from January till now, from learning needs and anxiety to lack of confidence and disastrous meltdowns. They are all now rolled up into one giant mess ball, coupled with my initial inability to handle her at her point of need (I was harsh, firm, upset, hysterical, critical, judgmental and having my own meltdown with every meltdown she had) and we pretty much have a bad situation right now, bad enough for me to call it the Dark Ages of my gig in motherhood.

I told myself I wouldn’t write.

I would deal. I would learn. I would press on.

And until I have found that little success, that aha-I’ve-overcome! moment, I would not write or rant for fear that it would cause more damage. Because you know, people would tell you ‘It’s ok, you’ll be alright’ and ‘Don’t worry, you’re doing a good job‘, and I know for a fact that IT’S NOT OK and I AM NOT DOING A GOOD JOB.

Because if I truly have any ability to reflect, I really can be better.

I can be better at…

…being consistent – and not swing from extreme to extreme, one moment encouraging and the other moment turning into a monster and screaming at the kid

…empathising – hey look, Mama, she is having a hard time too, and I shouldn’t be the only thinking that I am having it hard

…riding the tantrum /meltdown out – because a tantrum is technically not a tantrum but a “a good, deep work on fear” which can be deep-rooted and needs lots of emotional work.

I’ve been reading a lot and finding comfort in the advice and articles on this website, Hand in Hand Parenting, and taking heart that I am not alone going through this; that probably a thousand has gone before me.

I’ve also learned to ask God boldly for patience, wisdom and peace, every single day, every single moment of having to go through this.

And most of all, I’ve learned that motherhood is about change. Because the person that you’re mothering will never stay the same.

Tis’ true, the saying: that the days are long but the years are short. I so miss those bubbly, happy tods in my brood and wish so much I could baby them over.

But hey, change is needed now, and onward I go – to soldier through the Dark Ages.

One step

(Self) Examination Happy days

Counting my blessings

April 4, 2017

Dear Lord,

What was on your mind when you gave me these?

KaoKids_Reminisce - Copy

These very beautiful little people. And this wonderful person who chose to marry me.

Birthday Lunch_MotherkaoApr2017 - Copy

You must be thinking of how blessed, how loved, and how happy I would be.

With these people in my life.

For 36 years of life. For having these people in it. And for everything You have given.

Birthday Cake_MotherkaoApr2017 - Copy

My heart is full.

And filled with gratitude.

(Self) Examination Family life as we know it Getting all sentimental now Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

New challenges, new resolutions, new year!

January 20, 2017

Twentyseventeen.

It’s a new year – and we’ve made it here. I am grateful.

I’m grateful that this year, I have – in my brood – bigger, older, more sensible children. Children that I can reason with, confide in, talk to.

Children whom I’ve never imagine to be growing this tall and talking this much, and coming this far with me in this motherhood journey.

Children who love me as I am, whom I know can watch me grow old and still hold on to me.

Children whom I love, as they are; and whom I know that I can watch grow up and hold on dear to.

KaoKids_Dec2016

Tis‘ so true the saying; that in parenthood the days are long but the years are short, and I now have a 8-year-old, a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old this year. Instead of diapers to change and tiny hands to hold, I find myself having to do so different things.

Like sitting on the swing at night with my firstborn, talking about his hopes and dreams.

Like reading the little notes my little girl leaves on my desk, filled with hearts and words spelling out, “I love you, Mama.”

Like having my littlest call me over the phone, asking me, “How was your day, Mom?”

These littles have grown up, and this year, I resolve to do three things.

I resolve to disconnect to connect.

I resolve to eat right and live life a little more balanced, so I can be a healthier, mindful mom for them.

I resolve to work a little harder at making their dreams come true – if that would mean being more efficient, more effective and more excellent.

What have you resolved to do this year? How is this year looking like for you?

I hope twentyseventeen would be a great one!

(Self) Examination Holidays! The Kao Kids

December Prologue Twentysixteen

November 30, 2016

I’m fighting a cough that wouldn’t go away for a month already and it’s terribly exhausting. Every night, my mind is filled with so much to write and reflect as the year comes to an end and the children are growing up so quickly before I can take stock of how the year has gone by for us but every night I am hacking, hacking, hacking away for the whole of November.

And so as time whizzes past me and my children are moving up one academic level in their learning milestone – Primary 2, Primary 1, K1 – gulp! OH MY! – I am making myself a promise to give them a little more of me in the December of twentysixteen.

And so away we go, back to where the warmth and love and kindness we’ve received the last time round, this time of the year, to be together.

Goodbye November: the Kao Kids looking out to see where December is taking us

Goodbye November: the Kao Kids looking out to see where December is taking us

This is proving to be a bit challenging though; one of them has a high high fever now and is throwing up and the other is also starting to feel ill.

Appreciate all prayers and love sent our way.

(Self) Examination Thunderstorm days What to Expect... As a Mother

The aftermath of the ‘I-hate-you-Mama’ blow up & the need for a village

July 14, 2016

So I wrote a post about Becks’ telling me she hates me and wished me dead for the haircut gone wrong and I was so surprised to receive encouragement from the blog’s FB page and private messages from readers and friends who told me stories about their own childhood (telling their mums the same thing!) and tantrums their own children threw.

What I learned from our sharing with each other was that motherhood’s a tough business to be in and that however tough it was, I am never meant to soldier this alone.

It subsequently inspired me to write this post for the Trehaus Blog titled ‘It Takes a Village’.

“It takes a village to raise a child and a community to keep parents sane.” It’s a quote I read somewhere recently and that became so true in my life, post the I-hate-you-Mama tantrum. My virtual village rallied around me to provide support so I don’t live with mom guilt and discouragement. We all need to create a village for ourselves as parents so that parenting would never be a depressing and lonely job.

And I am so glad that a community has always been around for me to offer that kind of encouragement and pat on the back because of this blog.

For this I thank you.

It takes a community to keep a mom sane

P/S: I am going to get a new look soon. Becks is holding me hostage to the offer I made her (out of panic, I did) at the hair salon the other day. I asked, “Should I cut my hair too to keep you company?” to which she said a resounding yes.

(Self) Examination Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids

Settled and happy

October 15, 2015

It’s been past a month since we’ve moved, and everyone is settling in our new place quite well. It’s now really cosy (hurhurhur, smaller, that it), and because we’ve spent a bomb on carpentry to stow and tuck things away and created a wooden, earthy feel to the new home, it very much feels more like HOME than ever.

And it’s great – so, so, very great – to be living near amenities again! Oh, the happiness to find a taxi stand 2 minutes away; the MRT station – fully airconditioned – 5 minutes away; cafes, restaurants, coffee joints, ATMs and even an ice creamery in our vicinity just a stone’s throw; and to be living near cheap and good hawker fare where we find good ol’ local folks take pride in the food they make that it’s almost a guarantee to have to queue for my bak chor mee, lor mee, kway chap, lei cha fan and carrot cake at lunch time and breakfast on weekends (which I’m really not complaining to be eating at $2.50 a meal). I now can proudly say that a 24-hour Fairprice is behind me and a 24-hour Cold Storage is in front of me, and that I will never have to rummage the larder for a snack or a cup of ramyeon ever again.

We’ve been spending our weekends exploring the ‘hood and just scooting to places. The Kao kids are all too thrilled to be on their kickscooters and bicycles doing that. I am happiest with good food, having zi char one day, claypot rice the next, and then get thrilled by the thought of Nakhon Thai near me, as well as Gastronomia, Crystal Jade and Baker & Cook, and there’s also Phoon Huat (my favourite Red Man), and being next to a community centre (where in the past I am near nowhere and every where we went we had to drive) where my kids can finally enjoy the good ol’ PA courses at less-than-a-hundred-bucks-a-term and play at an indoor basketball court for free. It gives a whole new meaning to being in the heartlands.

Keep guessing where.

Ben tells me he misses the northeast where we used to live, and to be frank, I miss the prata and teh tahriks at Jalan Kayu and to be able to buy my eggs from the wholesaler at $5.50 for a tray of 30. Not forgetting the ribs at Jerry’s and the bak kut teh and chilling out at Cedele’s at Greenwich V. But then I discovered the gem of the wet market that’s only 50 steps away from me selling eggs cheap too and even baked wares like tarts and pies and steamed baos and I quickly stopped reminiscing the quaintness that’s in Jalan Kayu and started seeing my new neighbourhood with a renewed sense of hope.

House-moving was previously dreaded for the unknown, but I think I am one happy gal post-move.

More importantly, we’ve hit a milestone in this family – sourcing, renovating, packing, relocating – and adjusted to the move as one. No tears. No ‘I wished we were back there’. No regrets. And this new place feels more homely than ever, because the family has become tighter making this move, and that’s all that really matters.

This Family

P/S: One of the best things about this move was that we de-cluttered. Like MAD. It’s like a good detox on a whole new level. We’ve never felt lighter and better.

(Self) Examination

After the radio silence comes the ramblings

September 15, 2015

This has been the longest radio silence the blog has been left to transmit, and now I’m back – which means the transmission of silence officially ends (hopefully).

I blame it on life.

Life has a way of making you reevaluate and reflect. Life has a way to get you busy; busy to the point your world spins out of control. Life has a way of putting up check points for you to check-in and take stock.

So this year, and these past months, I’ve made some bold moves in life. I’ve started the journey to entrepreneurship. If you know me, and have hung around long enough, you would know that I am a person teeming with crazy ideas, big dreams and a heart for social causes and education. I’ve decided not to silence them nor hide them in the guise of motherhood anymore. I am usually not one who would take the first step but I’ve decided to start meeting people, learn from them, ask to be mentored by them and surround myself with like-minded friends. I started meeting people who were willing to incubate ideas with me. We discussed endless possibilities.

As a mother, I embraced life. I decided to give one thing free rein at home. I allowed my kids to play. We stopped homelearning. We stopped doing activity books and worksheets. Inspired by the Reggio-approach, I exposed my children to everything open-ended. We gathered loose parts, Yakult bottles, dried leaves, twigs and toilet rolls. They ran barefoot everywhere, sang plenty of piggy-back songs and role-played. We played games. We drew. A lot. We made up stories.

As a teacher, I returned to school. I attended night classes. I met people who were hungry to learn and made new friends and began my academic pursuit for early years enrichment education.

As a family, we made big changes. We moved neighbourhoods and are now back in the West, where nothing much has changed, except that everyone around us got older. We started our family on a journey of ‘less is more’ as we downsized our space, and it has made us more appreciative – for what we have; and creative – with what we have. Nothing has humbled me more than the fact that living in a mature estate meant seeing old, lonely, sometimes grumpy, but most of the time kind and friendly elderly folks, and that it was always good to be reminded that we can always be a little kinder, a little more considerate of others – walking behind them, holding lift doors, putting on a smile and saying hello.

So like I said, life has a way of keeping you up, spinning you in circles, forcing you to stop at check points and making you reevaluate at pit stops. And that’s what I have been up to.

This blog has morphed more into a space for chronicling personal journeys more than motherhood journeys. Although there’s much to learn as a mother of a 6-year-old-soon-to-be-primary-school-going-child-who-is-sassy-with-retorts-every-waking-hour, a 5-year-old who’s still trying to find herself and blossom like she should, and a 3-year-old who only wrecks your nerve with his wit and mischief on good and bad days, these things have become increasingly private to me – things I wish to privately savour. I worry about the exposure the children have on social media, as the blog has grown and morphed into something quite beyond my control. We’ve come a long way, since 2012, and people are beginning to recognise the kids on the streets because of our public persona. I’m not sure if that’s something they want, now that they are older. I have thoughts like: what if someday my children become fiercely private people, and resent what I did? And I’m thinking perhaps this blog should be more of me than them, for now, unless it’s something that’s worth sharing – like a meaningful event or an engagement that benefitted the whole family.

But one thing remains: this blog is my gift to my children – a gift of my words to them and their growing up years chronicled for them. Because sometimes in life, we tend to forget. And may this space always serve as a reminder of how they have made my life so complete, and that because of them, I chose to pursue a life that was worth something.

One of the better quotes I've read, and always want to remember

One of the better quotes I’ve read, and always want to remember

P/S: Perhaps my co-writer might continue to share his fatherhood journey on the blog. But nope, not gonna be changing blog domain just yet.

(Self) Examination

Sorry for the Silence

July 23, 2015

This blog has been silent for a while ever since my last post on running the Sundown Marathon with my eldest.

While there is so much to unload, reflect, examine and share, like you, I have only 24 hours. Something’s gotta give, and so much gave, this year. One of it is this blog which has been my virtual space for solitude and as a repository of memories. They say business – and to build a successful one – is all about training, discipline and hard work. I couldn’t agree more. Tis’ so true. Plus, I think “hard work” is an understatement here; I’ve never known myself to work harder than now.

And so, before I get to enjoy the fruits of entrepreneurship and find some leisure time to reconnect with the wordsmith that I am and the thoughts in my head, I’m bringing in another writer on the blog.

Yep, you heard me right. Someone else will be writing on this blog.

Well, we’ve made a semi-permanent arrangement here. I want so much as well for this someone else to share about parenting, with its ups and downs, complete with the spills, bills and thrills.

So everyone, wait for it.

Fatherkao will be coming to the blog.

AKAN DATANG.

(Self) Examination Ben Kao Milestones and growing up Mommy guilt

Great expectations

April 19, 2015

Being the firstborn almost always automatically means that there are more expectations of you than your siblings.

You are expected to share.

To be obedient.

To set an example.

To be sensible.

To understand.

At least that’s what I went through as a firstborn. And it’s something I have unconsciously put my firstborn through.

Six seems to be the age of meltdowns, emo-ing and lots of scowls. I get these almost on an hourly basis with my firstborn who turned six earlier this year.

He gets hurt easily by unkind words yet sometimes say the unkindest things without realising it; he polices everyone around with that tremendous sense of right and wrong; he balks at injustice and asks the most existential questions. He’s growing from baby thoughts and talk to being a boy, and is beginning to develop a personality and flair of his own, complete with warts and quirks.

And sometimes this mother is many steps behind in understanding what is happening to the child she first rocked in her arms.

Tonight I received a timely reminder to grow and change as my firstborn grows and changes.

***

It was time for bed. Our bedtime routine usually consists of a bedtime story before tuck in. Ben asked me while I was brushing my teeth if we could have one. I mentioned I was quite tired and joked, “Hey, why don’t YOU read us one?”

Excited at the thought, he went to choose a book – 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle (for the tenth time now, maybe) – and waved it at me. To his disappointment, his sister had fallen asleep and Nat has chosen another story and refused to listen to any more of 10 Little Rubber Ducks again.

I tried to get the brothers to compromise. Look, let me take you all to Paris with Everybody Bonjours and then in the morning, when Becks is awake, Korkor can read ALL OF US his Ten Little Rubber Ducks! Nat was pleased but my eldest was starting to sulk.

By the time I finished reading Everybody Bonjours and declared it was time for bed, I had a full meltdown from a certain somebody. There was a scowl on his face, a high pitched ‘I DON”T WANT TO SLEEP, I WANT TO REAAADDDD, PULEEAASSEE…’, complete with some foot stamping.

That was when I lost it.

This is what happens every day. Things don’t go your way and you throw a tantrum. You don’t get to go somewhere, you whine. You don’t get to buy something, you whine. What happened to my sensible boy, my eldest child, who’s older than everyone else and should be able to understand things more? Why can’t you just try to see what I’m getting you to see? Your sister is left out here and she hasn’t had her story. And it’s 9 and it’s bedtime. Just understand that, say, ‘Yes, Mama’ and go to sleep. Simple, right? We can do a story tomorrow, with all of us, that’s fair, isn’t it? Why can’t you just listen and understand? Why can’t you just behave like a six year old should?  

And then there was the sound of silence and gentle sobbing under the blanket.

Was I being too harsh? Every child would want a gazillion stories at bedtime, but if we can’t, we just can’t, right?

Wrong. I was so wrong.

I asked Ben who was sobbing under his covers to get up and talk to me.

Me: Tell me, why was it so important that YOU had to read the story tonight and not tomorrow that you had to throw a tantrum?

Ben: Nothing.

Me: Don’t tell me nothing. You never say nothing if you feel something. Please think about it and tell me.

– Silence –

Me: Please, tell me. Don’t keep things inside you.

Ben: I wanted to show you love, Mama. I wanted to read to you to show you love.

Me: (I am choking by now) You wanted to show me love by reading me a book?

Ben: (in between sobs) I don’t know what else to do to show you I love you.

***

I held my firstborn close tonight. And after he fell asleep, I cried.

Because I was a fool of a mom to be always correcting behaviour but never tuning in to my child’s heartbeat, never once sensitising myself to his feelings as he grows.

Because I am doing what I’ve always known to do as I’ve been raised, never once stopping to listen to what my son is really telling me, always just expecting him to be the one that understands.

I’m the one that needs to understand tonight. That my firstborn’s heart is searching for ways to love his mother as he realises he is no longer that baby in her arms. That when I do peel away all the layers of tantrums and meltdowns, I see a child growing up because he is beginning to understand that love is no longer taking but giving of himself.

Ben

Post Script: 

Me: I’m sorry that I’m the one not understanding things. I’m really sorry.

Ben: It’s ok, Mama. (kisses me on the cheek)

(Self) Examination Happy days Milestones and growing up The darndest kid quotes and antics The Kao Kids

A lesson on beauty my children taught me

February 20, 2015

When there’s Chinese New Year, there’s always Miss Universe.

On free-to-air TV, that is.

I don’t know if anyone has realised this, but for the longest time, I’ve always caught snippets of this beauty pageant on Chinese New Year, since I was a kid.

Yesterday afternoon, after an exhausting stint of going from northeast to central to northwest and back to northeast of Singapore (also known as Chinese New Year obligations visitations), we went home to rest for the evening and I told the kids that the free-to-air channels sometimes show really hilarious Chinese movies about mahjong and kungfu during Chinese New Year.

We were curious, so we started flipping channels. And that was when we met the five finalists of the Miss Universe pageant.

Miss Universe 2015

Me: Ukraine. Miss Ukraine. She looks so perfect, like a Barbie doll.

Becks: Yucks. She’s not pretty at all.

Me: I don’t think we can even use the word ‘pretty’ to describe these women. They are beautiful. Oh, look! Miss Jamaica! Beautiful?

Ben, Becks and Nat: (in unison) No, not beautiful.

Me: How about Miss USA?

Ben: No lah, not beautiful.

Me: Miss Colombia? Oh my gosh, her teeth are so white. My goodness, such gorgeous curls.

Ben: Eeee…Why this girl doesn’t tie up her hair? So messy.

Me: Oh man, Miss Netherlands. Beautiful, right, Nat?

Nat: No. Not beautiful at all.

Me: Ok, guys, seriously. If you can’t call these women beautiful, I don’t know who you can call beautiful. These are the best in our world, you know. That’s why there’s this thing called beauty pageant. Tell me then, who is beautiful to you?

Ben, Becks and Nat: (in unison) YOU, Mama! YOU are beautiful.

Me: *speechless*

~~~

How pure the worlds of children. We all started grasping our idea of beauty through the people we love, until the media and our society defines what beauty is for us.

Last evening, I wore an invisible crown in the comfort of our home. No pageant, no competition, no gruelling Q and A, no swimsuit parade.

Just a simple declaration from the mouths of babes.

That I am the most beautiful in their universe.

Have an unbleatable Goat year, y'all! From the most beautiful mom to her kids and her three darlings

Have an unbleatable Goat year, y’all! From the most beautiful mom to her kids and her three darlings