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(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

(Self) Examination Getting all sentimental now Milestones and growing up The Kao Kids The real supermom

Memory Lane

February 12, 2015

Recently, a reporter from the papers rang me up to ask if she could do a story about what motherhood is like, having three kids so close in age. She then asked me some routine questions so she could find the interest angle in my story. I don’t know if what I shared would end up as a feature in the papers, but talking to her sure brought back a flood of memories.

Memories – though somewhat a little hazy now – of how I discovered I was pregnant after Ben was barely nine months, and having to deal with a very horrible, terrible, no good first trimester of wretching, wretching and more wretching, always feeling so sorry that I couldn’t last longer breastfeeding Ben (and to think I even wanted to try tandem feeding!) …

Memories of how tough being pregnant in the last trimester was, with a toddling toddler in tow, and being every bit the hands-on mom that I am, doing everything for him (and refusing to let the domestic helper do what a mother should do) …

Ben at Year 1

Memories of how Becks was such a difficult baby refusing to latch, Ben graduating from infantcare to toddler class at daycare, and me breaking down like a wreck seeing how hard he cried at our separation every morning after his sister was born …

Ben with Becks at Year 1

And memories of how the road to having an infant and a toddler was made even tougher when my husband broke his leg and was out of commission for the following half of the year…

And then discovering that I was pregnant again when Becks was transiting to solids well and learning to toddle like a pro…

Becks Toddling

Becks Year 1

To realise that the moment Nat was born it was almost an automatic given that Becks would enter her Terrible Twos, albeit half a year earlier …

And then I suddenly had in my hands – gosh, not enough hands! – two toddlers and one infant …

KaoKids7

And that when they were in childcare and infantcare, and falling sick quite often with germs having a heyday in the house, I had used up all my leave, my savings, and my energy …

Nat 3 Months

Nat 6 Months

Those years were insane years.

And then I was asked the question: if I could do it all over again, would I at least try to space them further apart? Or maybe… stop at two…?

And a deluge of sentimentality hit me so hard it took me quite a while to recover. While I sounded composed and did all my polite laughs, I was choking on the inside.

Those years were hard. Those years were crazy. What was I thinking?

But these faces.

KaoKids1

KaoKids2

KaoKids3

KaoKids4

These children today, at 6, 5 and 3, and the bond that they share being each other’s best friends, is the reason I say makes everything worthwhile.

I would do three kids, 18 months apart, in a heartbeat. My world has never known otherwise, and yet my world has been made complete with the three children I have today.

It has been one hell of a mad, mad ride, but it’s totally worth it.

KaoKids6

KaoKids5

(Self) Examination The real supermom

2015’s first project: De-Auntify Me

January 5, 2015

It’s a new year and a new beginning once again. It’s certainly an exciting thought to be able to rewrite the next 365 pages of our lives with renewed hope and vision.

To kickstart the year, I’ve embarked on a project makeover to deauntify myself. Yep, you heard that right. Since I’m returning to work after staying home for two years, I thought the start of this year would be the best time to dust the dust off those shoes, bags and dresses languishing in the wardrobe, throw out the probably expired make-up and start sorting accessories by colour and clothes type.

It’s time to get brows shaped, hair done and blackheads exterminated. It’s time to get physically fit and more sleep in. It’s time to take the clutter away and out, dump the frumpy frazzled and embrace the sassy chic.

Goodbye, SAHM. For now. Hello, ???-M. I don’t know what to call myself anymore (???)

Aunty at 33 - no more!

Aunty at 33 – no more!

I’ll be working every day but doing full-time mothering duties every day too, so I don’t know what ‘M’ that makes me. But one thing I do know for sure, I am saying goodbye to the aunty aunty gig, the one where the eyebags are black and deep, the hair ends are split and the face is scrubbed with soap in less than a minute. Yes, the one that features only t-shirt and shorts seven days a week. I’ve made enough sacrifices for the kids so now it’s time to bring back ME.

Watch this space for the ‘De-Auntify Me’ Series.

(Self) Examination Getting all sentimental now

Last post of the year

December 31, 2014

In 2014, I embraced the challenge of starting a business on top of juggling the demands of full-time motherhood.

In 2014, I had the privilege of being the mother to a 5-year-old, a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old and being in a marriage of 10 years.

In 2014, the blog turned 2. This post marks the 430th piece of writing I have done on this space. This space has grown to be a place of meaning and purpose – at least for me; a platform in which I could breathe in and reflect – and reconnect with life, living and motherhood.

It was a busy, glorious year.

And part of the glorious busy would not have happened if not for you. Thank you for being a part of this gloriously busy, but fulfilling year, because this blog would not exist if not for you.

Happy New Year!

Last post of the year - Copy

(Self) Examination Getting all sentimental now Nat Kao Parenting 101 What to Expect... As a Mother

The last feed ever

December 20, 2014
Nat_Turning 3

Nat turning three in Feb

Warning: this is a post about boobs and breastfeeding

About a month ago, I stopped nursing Nat. He turns 3 years old in two months, so I guess I breastfed my youngest on demand, water-cooler style, for two years and ten months.

It didn’t happen just like that. I have been struggling to stop. have been hoping to nurse him for a long while more. Yes, you heard that right. I was the one who couldn’t let go.

After he turned two, I have been repeatedly telling him that he’s now a big boy and he should start drinking from the bottle. He’s been extremely dependent on those boobies (mine, of course) to calm him, soothe him and help him fall asleep. I also have been repeatedly chided by the older folks in my life who would give me the biggest scrunch on their faces when they heard he was still nursing. They would warn me to stop and put images of a six-year-old Nat walking up to me demanding to be nursed in my head and instill the fear in me that if I didn’t try to stop him from latching, I never will.

And so I did. Believe me, I tried staying away and not tucking him in, applying essential oils on his milk source and putting a huge bolster in between us. And every time he cried my heart would shatter into a million pieces.

And every time he said “Mama Milk so spicy, GO AWAY MAMA”, I would burst into tears and feel the wrench in my heart that gave me even greater resolve NOT to stop breastfeeding.

He is my last baby, you know. And the miracle of motherhood is that first feeling of exhilaration of being able to produce milk for the child born of your loins. And continue doing so as often as he wants or as much as you can. I liked that feeling very much, and the thought that he’s the last one makes me want to savour every minute of the exhilaration for as long as possible.

So Nat and I. We constantly did the “Ok, you’re a big boy now so no more Mama Milk” thing and the “Mama missed you so bad, come let me feed you some milk”  dance on alternate days for another ten months from the time he turned two, and whilst it was fun, he was going to be turning three.

And the images of a six-year-old Nat walking up to me demanding to be nursed started to frighten me more often than usual, and I thought I’d better have a talk with Nat before he turned three.

So for many nights in November, we started dreaming up his third birthday party and singing songs, and that was how I put him to bed nightly – yes, without the boobs. He would tell me he wants a Ninja Turtle cake one night, and then a triceratops on another, a Diego cake on another, and yak about his favourite things, and then sing himself birthday songs in English and Mandarin.

I guess doing this every night for a while made him realise he was a big boy. He didn’t even noticed he didn’t need to nurse to fall asleep.

And just like that, I didn’t even know when that was, I did my last feed on my last feed.

And just like that, this boy just hugs Mama after his Milo in a bottle, says his prayer and falls asleep.

And just like that, the boobies stopped milk production and there was no more supply.

Last afternoon, feeling a little sentimental, I offered Nat my boobs instead of his bottle.

Me: You want Mama Milk? (he fondly says this when he wants to be nursed)

Nat: Em, nope!

Me: Why? Come la, try!

Nat: Mama has no more milk. Last time I try. No more.

Me: Oh no. Mama has no more milk. Mama’s so sad. Mama has no more baby.

Nat: You lend other people’s baby la, Mama. (He meant borrow people’s baby to drink my milk!)

Me: Other people’s babies drink their own mother’s milk, dear. Where’s my baby?

Nat: No more baby.

Me: Then what are you? You’re Mama’s what?

Nat: I’m a boy.

Yep, my last feed was really my last feed ever. And just like that, this boy is sure he doesn’t want Mama Milk anymore.

Nat and Mama on the Carousel

Nat, my big boy

(Self) Examination Becks Kao Love language Milestones and growing up What to Expect... As a Mother

The day she asked for polished nails: a sober lesson in motherhood

December 12, 2014

When I was expecting a girl, I laid a few rules (for her) I was determined not to break.

She is to wear no makeup before she turns 16; she will not be allowed in high heels until her growth is complete; and there must be no nail polish found on her nails – both toes and fingers – at least before 16 years of age.

Why so strict, you ask.

Because there’s a saying in Chinese 早熟早烂.

In English, loosely translated: soon to ripen, soon to rot.

I’ve always believed that the moment a girl takes her first step towards vanity is that moment she begins to grow up.

I don’t want my little girl to grow up so fast, and I wish to bubble wrap her at least till she’s 12. Can I at least do that? She’s my only girl.

I don’t want my little girl to grow up so fast. I think I did – a little too early, in my opinion – and I lost time. Time to explore in complete childhood innocence the fun to be had and the purity in being totally girl-like. I lived every day as a child wanting to grow up and be like my mom, and now with the bi**h of hindsight, I so wished I had totally enjoyed myself running around barefoot, playing rough with my cousins and learning a sport instead of rummaging my mother’s wardrobe to apply lipstick and blush, wearing her clothes and high heels and hoping for a miracle that I would be a woman tomorrow.

I know it’s a journey for every girl, but as a mother, it is my deepest wish to delay that as much as possible.

I don’t do my fingernails at all (only my toenails when I need help with ingrown) and I don’t put on makeup in front of Becks. Still, my little girl sees her friends going to kindergarten in lipstick (some of them perpetually take out lip gloss to apply) and colourfully varnished nails. And since then, every day, she’s been longing for painted nails.

To the point that she takes my markers and paints them herself, and adds stickers for some good nail art measure.

No matter how I’ve encouraged her to play with her brothers, get involved with learning board games and play pretend to imagine a whole new world, she would naturally gravitate towards the path of vanity. I lost my blusher brush for months and found it hidden in her closet. She wanted to keep long hair and would badger me to buy her hair accessories. She also took my pearl strings and bracelets from my jewellery box and declared them hers. She started wanting to wear dresses and pretty shoes (she hasn’t asked for heels yet, thank God) and braided hair.

And this is the same girl, who at two years of age, refuses to put on anything that’s remotely a dress or skirt.

I have been saying no for many months to nail polish now, but today I decided to make her feel special, and to make her realise that Mama’s not that big an a**. And so I painted her nails, much to her surprise, delight and elation.

Why the sudden change of mind, you ask.

Because I understand that in motherhood I must be flexible. Because it is better me than anyone else to gratify that desire. Because it is more about the relationship I build with my daughter that will withstand the challenges down the road of vanity than the rules that I’ve made.

Because I intend to keep my daughter close to me for as long as I can, and to only let go when she is ready, and I need to do that with her feeling loved and not controlled.

And so she gets purple nails today.

Becks Kao and her purple nails 2

Becks Kao and her purple nails 1

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

Words.

November 22, 2014

To my dearest children,

These days on some mornings, what I see sometimes breaks my heart.

Have I been too harsh? Too unkind? Are you picking up this unkindness from me?

You are all waiting for a chance to pounce on one another.

Go away! Don’t disturb me! Get out! I don’t like you! Why?! What?! I don’t like you! I don’t love you! Ugh! Shut up!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At so young, all of you seem so agitated when things don’t go your way.

I know I have to give all of you room to resolve your conflicts and learn how to navigate your way through friction that’s experienced because you have siblings.

I know I need to give all of you room to grow and understand what one another is like. And to accept one another for who he or she is. Every one is different. How everyone relates to everyone is different. And you have to live everyday learning that the world doesn’t resolve around you, and that there are people around your age here in this family that you would have to live with for a long time.

Kao Kids eating ice cream

The moment you wake up, you’re with a brother or a sister, or two brothers for you, Becks. You’re never alone.

And you start your day everyday just learning to share, negotiate, speak up and get along. Yes, I do also know you don’t have a choice.

May I suggest something, my babies? The world is already harsh, cruel and unkind out there. Let’s speak kindness. Let’s choose to love here, at home.

Don’t be too eager to pour out on your siblings what you hear outside or from the adults in your life – we have not been good examples and always wished we could be better. We have been busy, flustered and tired to the bones.

And deep down, we wished we could always have a kind word for you.

So my dears, love one another with your words always. Because one another is all you’ve got. Play together, learn together, navigate through the course of this life together. And if there are disagreements and when things go your way, choose the way of love.

Don’t ever say you don’t love one another, ok? 

Let’s not break each other’s hearts here in this family.

Kao Kids and Me Huddle

Loving all three of you to the moon and back,

Mama

(Self) Examination All this blog's PR Stuff Happy days

I did 5 km in 50 minutes, and I’ll do it again in a heartbeat

November 10, 2014

You’ll never, ever hear me say this before 9 November 2014.

But today, post Great Eastern Women’s Run, I’ll tell you that I’ll run 5 km all over again.

The day has finally come and the moment I’ve signed myself up for has arrived. Prior to 9 November, I’ve had an awesome time being in the #RunToLiveGreat Programme as an influencer, working out once a month with non-runners like myself to prepare for the big day. For my personal training, I’ve only jogged around my estate when the weather permitted once a month as well, and that usually meant doing 1 km in 20 minutes.

S-L-O-W, I know.

You’re talking about someone who doesn’t like running. This same person would clock 32 minutes for 2.4 km in her NAPFA test in JC and fail that miserably.

But like I shared in a previous post, after much prodding and encouragement, I’ve decided to do something for my health and fitness this year.

So yesterday, in the cool of the morning (after heavy showers that fell upon our land), despite being down with a cold and a bad throat (down after three weeks of overnighters for work), I ran my first ever 5 km at the GEWR 2014.

What a lovely morning it was, yesterday

What a lovely morning it was, yesterday

And what a wonderful feeling it was, and still is.

It was a wonderful feeling to be amidst a sea of red  – amidst a sea of women wearing the red, fiery race tee. Having people around you helps to keep you motivated. Having motivated people who’s charged with adrenaline around you keeps you even more encouraged. You don’t warm up alone; you don’t run alone; you don’t wave your hands up in the air and cheer alone. You are with people. With people like you. And that makes it all together so inspiring.

It was a wonderful feeling to start the race being next to my mother. Who is 62 this year. She is an inspiration, I tell you – being 6 decades old and running the first 3 km, then brisk walking the last 2 km. She finished the race 1 minute later than me. And I am 33.

This is my mother, who is probably fitter than me

This is my mother, who is probably fitter than me

It was a wonderful feeling to experience what it’s like to accomplish something your mind sets out to do. Halfway through the race at the 2-km mark I thought I saw a quote by the kerbside that read, “Your body achieves what your mind sets out to do” and I was pumped. Before the race, I’d told myself I would start walking at the 3-km mark because I was afterall, unwell, but after reading that quote I never could convince myself to give up or start walking. I wanted so badly to focus all my energies to finish the race jogging it – all 5 kilometres of it – and finishing it well.

I proved to myself that the power of focus is powerful indeed. And if I could do this running, I could do this for anything.

That’s why I would do this again in a heartbeat.

To experience this exhilaration all over again.

My #RunToLiveGreat buddy and me - she did 21km, I did 5!

My #RunToLiveGreat buddy and me – she did 21 km, I did 5!

(Self) Examination Family life as we know it The Kao Kids

Loving, small human beings called children

October 22, 2014

Years ago back when I was in secondary school, at a personality profiling workshop, I surprised myself with my own results. While my friends and peers had a mix of different personality traits, mine came from only one dimension, with nary a hint of variety.

I don’t think you need to guess hard whether I was an all D or I or S or C.

Image captured from https://www.discprofile.com/what-is-disc/overview/

Image captured from https://www.discprofile.com/what-is-disc/overview/

Yea, I was one-track mind and one dimensional then back in school. I was a ‘D’, which means I demonstrated my emotions based on the ‘Dominance’ behaviour type. As a ‘D’, I’m task-oriented, opinionated and pushy.  As a ‘D’, my to-do list is more important than anything else in the world.

I am pretty sure I still am all that the profiling assessed me to be, even till this day.

Which makes me a really big a**hole on most days nowadays because my to-do list is almost ten miles long and my natural tendency is to put tasks before relationships and get things done at any cost, and my greatest satisfaction is to have checked something off that ten-mile long to-do list.

Which means I would ignore my kids when they come to me, whether with genuine needs or not, because I.am.so.going.to.finish.up.writing.this.curriculum.unit

AND I.so.need.to.complete.all.the.frigging.administrative.paper.work

AND I.don’t.care.what.just.handle.the.problem.on.your.own.for.crying.out.loud

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On most days, I don’t just only ignore them. I holler at them for disturbing me. I scream at them for making me lose my train of thought. I yell at them from afar to stop fighting/whining/complaining/playing a fool/acting like monkeys. I sometimes shut myself in the room for a long time so I can work.

Someone please tell me how do I make this work-at-home-motherhood gig work?  This is more insane than I thought.

But despite me being the greatest jerk of a mom these days because we’re at the final lap of ironing out the kinks of the business (and there’s just so, so, so much to do), my children – my lovely children – are still making so much room in their hearts for this domineering, dominating, overbearing task-oriented mother.

Every day they send little drawings and notes my way to tell me how much I am loved.

From Ben to Mama

From Ben to Mama

Becks says we should all be happily playing at home

Becks says we should all be happily playing at home

Nat can't write yet but he made sure the helper held his hand to make me this

Nat can’t write yet but he made sure the helper held his hand to make me this

These are beautiful children with so much to give in their hearts.

It’s amazing how a person who’s all ‘D’ married someone who is so balanced (Fatherkao is more ‘I’ but has bits of ‘D’, ‘S’ and ‘C’) and gave birth to children who are so giving and forgiving.

I think God gave us children to teach and remind us that it is in them we find balance in life.

And God gave me these angels from heaven to tell me that I am loved, and that the way to find the balance back in my life is to love them back with all that I have.

My three lovely babies

My three lovely babies