Explaining sadness… And the concept of death

Read “Inside Out” at bedtime to Little Foot and the questions of why sadness as an emotion is necessary and why it is okay to feel sad at appropriate times came up.

I gave her the example of this…

“If a mummy has just lost her baby, and the baby goes to heaven (this is how I simplified death for her to grasp at her age), should you be sad or happy?”

We talked about how odd it would be to be laughing out loud in such situations. And how it is okay to cry when one feels sad.

And then Little Foot asked me to tell her more about the mummy and the baby that went to heaven.

And so it was that I shared with her a little-told story of how my mother lost her toddler (My elder brother) to meningitis.

These are difficult things that as a family we seldom talk about, as I related the story to her, she wanted to know details – how does he look like? What is a virus? Do you have it?

And then the final explanation of why it was extremely heart-breaking to lose a loved one – never being able to hug again, never seeing the face in person again, till we meet again in heaven.

Little Foot is 4.5 years old, but I can tell the idea of the finality of death sank in by her expression.

There are stories that we hold in our memories that sometimes becomes useful teaching material at the most unexpected moments.

And in revisiting this little spoken of memory of our family, I am made to also try to imagine the anguish my mother went through back when it happened. It made me hug my child a little tighter.

And so it was that both Little Foot and I shared a learning moment in somewhat different ways.

Death is a difficult topic to discuss and yet when asked, I felt like we shouldn’t shy away from using it to develop the emotions of our young ones and helping them to manage certain feelings inside.

Let’s hope the next learning lesson will be something a bit less heavy on my heart.

Teachers’ Day Cards & Tags in the making

It’s our second year getting ready for Teachers’ Day in school and still as much a scramble as last year!

By chance, tonight was going back to basics with Brushables markers & watercolour pencils…

Little Foot (32 months old) had done stamping in the evening on normal drawing block paper after picking out her preferred stamps. And she had also tried her tiny hands at using the Brushables markers.

I believe in helping her do these “thank you” gestures rather than simply do a scrapbook mama session and hand nicely handcrafted cards out to her teachers. I mean, to be fair they are her teachers, not mine! Hence I try to get her to be involved in the making process. And she had fun (that is, until the part she wanted to take wet wipes and wipe the drawing block to clean off what she had stamped, and we had to whisk her away).

To make the Teachers’ Day cards meaningful, I didn’t redo the stamping, but simply inked in what she had started.

Also, at this late hour everything else thst wasn’t taken out was in the bedroom where Aunty Lily was sleeping. As a result, it was back to the basic colouring tools I used 7-8 years ago when I first discovered the joys I found from these wooden stamps from Penny Black.

I loved how everything turned out. On hindsight, thankfully I had let her use my Versafine pigment inkpad instead of those washable ones for kids. Otherwise, nothing would have stayed once the ink from the Brushables went in.

All done for now, and to continue tomorrow evening. Just two more days to the celebrations! *gasp!!!* Somehow, I will have to turn these into nice cards (for the main teachers who have been teaching and caring for her) and gift tags for the gifts we will be giving to all the teachers and assistants at the school.

Frankly, I am zonked out but happy to touch my scrapbooking materials again. Especially as it has been really draining at work these days. The inking really is cathartic. Heals the soul.

Alright…time to turn off the lights. Will share the end results when I am done. Stay tuned!

*UPDATE*

Visit A Little Footprint Facebook page to see photos of our finished products. Happy Teachers’ Day!

Closer to Mother Nature

11 to 13 Aug 2017

Post-National Day (and my birthday), I wanted to make the most of our time together this long weekend. I feel a sense of urgency because this baby is growing so fast. And also because of the dreadful feeling knowing that next week, work duty calls again.

So, for three days in a row, we went close to nature. I am hardly a nature lover, because mozzies just love me too much, but since I had decided on a whim to sign myself up for a school field trip with her, I bit the bullet and just went.

Of course I made sure I overpacked my Ju-Ju-Be Be Right Back with every cream and ointment we would need plus other toddler essentials.

Loading up my Ju-Ju-Be Be Right Back for the trip

(This mama really one kiasu mama!)

The field trip to Gardenasia was rather fun. Little Foot had been anticipating the visit to the “plants farm!” since I started mentally preparing her for it a few days ahead.

And so here we are, accomplished plant potters!

❤Little Foot’s first plant! ❤

To many parents, a day out alone with the Little One is nothing. For me, it is still a leap of faith… taking baby steps to overcome my anxieties and irrational fears. I am hardly out alone with her since that near-fainting on the MRT episode when she was 8 months young.

As I consciously worked towards overcoming my anxieties, every little achievement seems like I’ve conquered a mountain.

And so it was that I successfully did this field trip with Little Foot without Papa Long in tow. Celebrate with me!

Then on Saturday, by chance, a trip to Little Foot’s BFF’s place brought us to Seng Kang Riverside Park. A little piece of mangrove and a floating platform…. the two toddlers had fun holding hands and walking around, and then chasing some bubbles.

After her flirt with nature, we had a situation in McDonald’s… sighhh… someone tell me why she always misbehaves when she is with me and Aunty Lily… but that shall be another story for another day.

At night before bedtime, Little Foot talked about feeding fishes. So it was that she went to bed holding that thought. I went to bed wondering if I shouldn’t have threatened to put her in the dustbin for her atrocious behaviour.

On Sunday we woke up and I tried to get us all ready to go somewhere as painlessly as possible. There were of course the usual procrastinations when it came to taking a bath and brushing teeth.

And then we asked ourselves, “Where shall we go?”

Papa Long suggested the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden before we went to feed the fishes at another part of Botanical Gardens.

Our first visit to the place, which would have rivalled all the nature walks we did in Perth, if not for our tropical weather which also meant the place is a home for all kinds od insects including mosquitoes!

Little Foot was distracted by her packet of Jagabee which she has been demanding to rip open while in the car. So Papa made it a game — every house you reached is a checkpoint, and you get one chip when you get there. And so began the exploration of the little garden.

Some of the areas were undergoing construction/upgrading, but there was definitely enough for a kid to be entertained.

1st checkpoint!

Conquering her dislike for sand for awhile because she likes going down the slides more!

Let’s cross some bridges

And find some fishes

And look for some herbs too!

Finally we fed the fishes and had lunch at Food For Thought (incidentally, it was their last day of operation)

And so as the sun starts to set on this week, I do think a little bit more of nature will be good for Little Foot. Even if my legs are now peppered with mozzie bites.

And then we reached 29

Over the weekend, Little Foot turned 29 months.

I had the pleasurable challenge (read daunting situation) of being alone with her till late afternoon on Sunday when Papa went for wedding lunch and Aunty was on off day. Not the easiest kid to be with especially when dealing with a stomach bug (me) but we had some fun … music class as usual,  picking out bread for ourselves (Baby chose a rainbow donut while I chose a Mentaiko covered baguette and a ham&cheese sandwich) then hanging out at my mother’s place where she is very familiar with.

We ate our bread and sandwiches, her seated in the baby chair, me beside her…

We had conversations revolving around the food, the weather, where Papa was, about “Papa Mister Moon, Mama Mister Moon and Baby Mister Moon” (a continuation from the night before when we pointed out the moon to her and she said it was a baby Mister Moon)….

I sang and played with her, at times sat aside and watched her play…

Finally, carried her in the carrier around the estate I grew up in and felt her doze off… went back upstairs, laid her down and watched her nap.

What I would give to watch her grow each day (each day that she isn’t hopefully throwing a tantrum).

And for the first time in a long time, I wondered whether I could ever handle another Little Foot.

Everyday, I am greeted with my floor to ceiling mirror in my living room covered with photos of Little Foot in her first year. Little Foot had happily pasted them all up. And whenever I’m wearing my shoes, working on something on my laptop,  or having my dinner, I get a glimpse of how much she had transformed.

For a mummy who has so much strings attached to her one and only child, it is a bittersweet encounter each day. Some mornings, I kiss one of the photos before I leave the house. I love you, I said. As much as I love the you now, I love and miss the little you too.

Still, such thoughts are fleeting. We have so much to do with Little Foot and already so little time.

Once she wake up from her nap, all fleeting thoughts like this are out of the window. Gone like the wind.

“Come, Mummy! Runaway!!” ~ her cute little voice always rings in my head, even when I am busy at work.

And each time I hear it, I can surely say, I am ready drop my work and run with her, until my back doesn’t allow me to run no more.

And the rest? I will leave it in His Hands… as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be…

For now, one is still enough.

 

A promise of cake

28 months is a lovely age to be…

It is the age when Mummy is your fairy godmother who grants all your wishes  🙂

This morning, we were scrolling through my phone gallery and Little Foot saw a photo of her eating cake (from the previous weekend). 

She agreed to stop being fussy about changing out of her diaper and PJs after I said I will buy her a chocolate cake. 

So, fast forward to evening. Work tied me down (again!), but I was determined to complete my fairy godmother mission!

I walked really fast to the MRT station, got on the train (Aunty Lily texted to say Little Foot is waiting and keeps talking about the cake. She’s singing ‘Happy Birthday’) argh…. prayed for the train to go faster!

Dashed to the Chateraise shop, bought the cakes, walked as fast as I could home. 

On the way, Aunty Lily texted again.- “We go dwn n wait for u dwnstair…  dwnstair wait for u coz she screaming at home”

Extra pressure. Ahhhh….Walk faster! And don’t fall and smash the cakes!
FINALLY! Reached my void deck and there she is! Eyes wide open looking out for me.

“Mummy!!!!!”

“What is it you buy?!!”

“Is it for me?” 

Ohhh my heart melted…. I made it! Phew! Happily carried her to the lift. 

Happy baby got her cake and party…she was do happy to put the candles, sing the birthday song, and ate the cream and fruits.

A promise is a promise. And I’m glad I managed to keep it. Happy times… just thankful I decided to leave the office with a “whatever!”.  

And before she slept,she kissed us, played and got me to read stories to her. Rare and precious mood for books! 

Good day indeed… no working mothers should be deprived of this precious window of time to spend with their child. 

#alittlefootprint 

Of tears, snot, poo and tantrums

Over the past month, Little Foot and I have been falling ill, getting better then falling ill again. 

Worrisome and tiresome times. 

We’ve counted 5 consecutive cases of HFMD thus far in her school, so we have been on tenterhooks, wondering if we were the next victims of the dreaded virus. 

Crossing fingers that we have somehow escaped unscathed somewhat. 

Perhaps all the essential oils we were diffusing and applying helped to shield her from catching it, perhaps we were just that little bit lucky.  

Still, with the cough and flu came crankiness. Dealing with a tired yet resisting sleep toddler, who had skipped her afternoon naps because of vomitting bouts was completely no joke. Much less when I am also flu bugged.  


One of the random tantrums

Being a considerate Doc when I told her “Mummy is sickypoo

But I do remember, of all things, some thing that Pink (the singer) said in and interview long ago -it went something like ” motherhood meant that you had traded tears alcohol and cigarettes with tears, snot and poo”…. a sacrifice she said was worth it. 

For me at this stage, I have to add tantrums to tears, snot and poo…. to what I traded my old life for. 
There are days I think about how I had traded my orchard road trips, Friday date nights, drinking sessions, movies and self-pampering lifestyle for the life of rushing home, anyhow swallowing down my dinner, reading books, singing along to “Wheels on the Bus”, helping Little Foot dress her “baby”, wiping snot, battling terrible twos tantrums and going to work feeling like the bus just ran me over some days. 

All groggy in the morning

And on those days I think I am crazy.  

But yet dig deep, I find that it is a purposeful existence, despite the appearance of it being a dull, mundane, unadventurous life to onlookers. 

Seriously, in fact it is anything but mundane if you live the moment! 

  • I have sang so many kiddy songs nursery rhyme and “Happy Birthdays”, that if I had a dollar for each song I sang, we’d be on the next plane to London! 
  • I have gotten drenched in puke, splattered by poo, and had baby weewee drench the front of my shirt and pants in public places. 
  • I have done 28 months and counting of disrupted sleep since she was born. 
  • I have conjured up countless stories and “drama” antics just to attract/distract Little Foot as mitigation before she swings into full blown meltdowns. 
  • I have carried a 2.65kg tiny tot to the current 12.6kg toddler strapped to my small frame, and still counting. (These days, I tell myself… smell her hair, ignore the weight!!)
  • I have received much unabashed affection from Little Foot… who now asks after me with phrases like “Mummy, you eat full full already?” Who plants kisses on my lips and give me big hugs. 
  • I have also received many a bruise and strained muscles from dealing with a toddler trashing around in tantrums.  

I could write on and on… but my point is, I have traded my old life for this. It isn’t a basket of roses, all the time, yet it never stops to amaze me how, as a parent, I have found courage and strength to keep going and learn to enjoy it along the way. 

Even if on days I lose my temper at the fussing toddler…. even on days I’m so ill or exhausted  I just want to lie down and hide in my wardrobe. 

I keep going. 

There is only one reason. Her. 

And I borrow strength from Papa Long ans Aunty Lily… between the three of us, we somehow will wing it. 

And my only regret these days is not being able to be around the tears, snot, poo and tantrums more. 

Hard to fathom. That’s what parenting is I suppose.  

 For the storms will always pass, and we ride them out anticipating the brightest rainbow that will greet us at the end of it.  Your smile is my rainbow, my little one…  did you know? 

Little Foot noticed !

Got home unexpectedly early this evening. 

As I approached our unit, I called out “Baby, Babyyyyy!!!” as usual and was greeted with the ever-enthusiastic “Mameeeeee!!!!”

She gleefully informed me,  “I cut the cake!! You see? Birthday Cake!!” Referring to the toy birthday cake she was playing with. Then when I walked through the door she stunned me with the next question. 

Little Foot: “You change bag?” 

Me: *floored* ummm yes. I changed my bag. 

Little Foot: Why!!?

Me: because the other bag too small for my laptop. 

Little Foot: Why!!? 

Me: Because I have to bring laptop home.  This bag is bigger, the other one cannot fit the laptop. 

Little Foot: Mummy change bag? Yes!

And then she moved on to the next line of questioning (about my top and my pants).

The thing is…I have a lot of bags and I change them ever so often. Who would have known that my daughter would notice the mustard laptop bag was different from the Jujube bag I carried out? 

W.O.W. Still overwhelmed with amazement. 

Looks like she’s gonna grow up to be a bag addict like me. 

Still learning to be a mother

Motherhood comes naturally to some…

I’ve known people who gave their future kids names and tell about motherhood as their dream career when they grow up.

I’ve seen how some mamas go out alone with 3 kids and look like they have gotten it all sorted out. And their hair is neat and kids are clean.

For me, from day zero, we both knew this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park for me. Obviously! Someone who can’t cook or keep her desk clean, and falls sick so regularly I need someone to look after me most of the time. That’s me. How to be a mother?

So nearly 27 months on, I am still learning.

There are days I feel exasperated – like “What do you want? Quit making sputtering noises like a car engine failing and tell me!!”

There are days when I’m sick and wanna crawl under the bed and hide, but Little Foot finds me and wants me to sing and play “three little monkeys jumping on the bed”.

There are days when I make loud angry remarks at the whole family… because “Aaaahhhh!!!! I just wanna eat my meal in one sitting!!”

There are days when I lie in bed and sob. Because “I. Am. Just. So. Tired… it might be easier if I was dead”.

And then there are days when all the grudges and unfairness gets erased, or at least momentarily forgotten.

Because Little Foot gave me a kiss on my lips. Then again. And again. And again!

Because Little Foot does a “Baby-5!” With me…when we make some little achievement together.

Because Little Foot held my hand and ran with me together after Papa Long shouting “wait for me!!!”

Because Little Foot would have those rare caring moments … like how she suddenly remembered her Papa’s foot was injured, looked over the edge of the bed and asked Papa Long “Are you ok already? Not pain already?”

Because she gives the most brillant grin that is brighter than the sun.

And because I would lay in the dark these days, with my fatigue and constant pain… angry at God for being given thid body that never stopped being in pain, and yet never could hate Little Foot for it, as I would recall how scary the moments after delivering her was…because we were separated and I was left lying in the dark occasionally asking God if my baby is alright.

I still can’t quite cook a decent meal, nor clean up after the Little Hurricane…

But she enjoys bathtimes with me, and being carried like a koala by me, she enjoys singing and running, play pretending and simply just being around me.
And I know these days are getting far and fewer, because of work and because she’s getting more independent.

One day, she will be no longer a baby, no longer a toddler, and perhaps I would still be learning how to be the best a mother can be.

So, if anyone is feeling inadequate, remember you aren’t alone. It is a lifelong class we are taking. Let them teach us to be the best that we can be. Sometimes we fail, but we won’t always be failures unless we stop learning and trying.

And yes, we will get frustrated and pull our hairs or scream our heads off (into pillows I hope). And sometimes we will hide in the cafe opposite our houses, just to get a quiet moment.

It is ok. Because after that is all done. Take a deep breath and go home. I look into her eyes, smell her hair and I tell myself “Anything is possible, because I have you”. Some days are harder than others, but we get through. Somehow.

And yes, because my dearest husband is always there to fill in when I am wanting..and to pick me up when I fall. And remind me through his actions that all can be done…just keep going.

That’s really how I get each day. Tired, in pain, some days dejected, some days delighted.  That’s motherhood as it is. Really. Nothing glamorous at all.

With only 1 child and working full time, some days I find it hard to remember to make sure her teeth are brushed and her probiotics are taken. Sometimes I forget that I haven’t cut my hair for months or stocked up on diapers. Recently I turned up for work without drawing my eyebrows. And today tried to leave my mum’s place without my sling bag containing all my keys and cards and money.

How those with 3 or 4 kids do it and still look like life is good continues to baffle me…but you have my respect for sure.

Thanks Little Foot, for being a tough teacher. It’s really quite a wild ride!

And you know, I always muster my last ounce of strength and go with you when you say “Come, Mummy! Come with me! Runaway!”

Should the State raise my child?

Recently, online chatter, coffeeshop talk, chit-chat with friends were all about cost of living going up – Water prices going up by 30%, Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) increasing. Essentially, money no enough. Some say having children is too expensive, and not enough help being given to families. 

Feeds appearing on my Facebook inevitably steered in this direction. People talked about having to cut down, cutback and lead simpler lives (less visits to hipster cafes, look for the best lobangs for family trips). I guess that’s being responsible adults. If we can’t suddenly hit a windfall, and pay increments only happen annually if at all, we will have to think of how to stretch each dollar more.

This, coming from Little Foot’s Mummy is really quite a feat, considering that Papa Long always nags about how I spend too much on Ju-Ju-Be bags and other Baby/Mummy gear and have not savings to speak of, not after I exhausted the piggybank to stay at home with Little Foot for a period of time.

Being adult sometimes sucks. You have to do adult things, make adult decisions, but that is life. As my brother displayed, he once pressed the calculator over bills (was it for the wedding or for the HDB flat?) until he had a mega-migraine and needed to lie down before he just died from the shocking idea of emptying his savings. Welcome to adulthood. 

Among the vast materials, criticisms and comments online, one interesting article stood out: Budget 2017: Time to break up the Baby Bonus.

In this article, the writer suggested that the Baby Bonus was not working, apparent from the low Total Fertility Rate of this country despite all the carrots dangling, and should perhaps be done away with. The interesting part comes in the suggestion that the Government give each Singaporean child a living wage allowance, say $500 a month, until the child turns 18 years of age. Not an entirely new idea, he said, as some countries do have this in place.

This made me dig deep inside and ask myself the fundamental question “Do I want the State to raise my child (for me)?”

It is tempting, no doubt, that if Little Foot receives $500 a month, that will lighten the milk and diapers cost and means having more leftover to go towards school fees (hefty bill that is, because we chose the better school).

If this is tempting to me, from a family with one child, where we are two graduate working parents with stable incomes (we live in HDB flat and have 1 family car), how much more tempting would this be for those with Single Income families? The idea first strikes me with thoughts like, “Wow, I could really consider maybe working part-time, or freelance, or even be a SAHM!” (ok, maybe not if I only get $500 with one kid). Essentially, it makes me think too, about those who are raising children with less income. An allowance for the kid would mean the child’s school fees and basic needs would be met.

The proponent of this idea knows this as well, a monthly “allowance” is an attractive idea, and could perhaps be a vote winner (if he is even pro any party).

What, however, are the trade offs?

  • Is my child mine if the State raises her with this allowance?
  • Is my child “bonded” because of this allowance?
  • What if, a family with financial issues takes that allowance and do other things with it?
  • What if someone has the child solely to exploit this allowance? I am reminded of families in third world countries that have more children becuase they need the extra pair of hands in fields and farms)
  • Who foots the bill? Taxpayers? The childless gets penalised, when actually not all childless people chose to be without offsprings? (think of those who have tried and failed to conceive, are we doubly penalising them?)

It is a complex thing that, if implemented, would have to have many safeguards in place. Or leave a trail of mess that may not be easily reversed.

Will this policy, if implemented, be like the Baby Bonus, and end up as a never-ending cycle of giving more and more and eventually, the State again come to find a generation of Singaporeans immune/desensitised to having the allowance, yet not being able to take it away without political pressure?

Back to me. Little Foot’s Mummy.

Why do I find this is a tempting yet uncomfortable concept?

Because IMHO, I feel (and I emphasis that this is my personal opinion) that having children is a decision made by the couple. It is between Me and Papa Long. The State should not interfere in any way (or are we veering towards becoming a Socialist state?).

Had Baby Bonuses tempted us? No. Did we appreciate it when it was given to us? Sure… extra moolah for us which went to schoolfees. Who would reject it? If you took that Bonus away, would I still have my child? Yes.

The thing is, whether you have a one-off baby bonus or a monthly handout, would couples feel more inclined to start a family? Or, in my current stage, think of have two or more (yes we are a one-child family) kids because, there is this allowance on the horizon? I doubt so. In fact, if I were to toy with that thinking, my inner guilt would confuse me. Am I having another child because I want the baby for who he/she is to me and my husband, or because it just becomes more “worth it” (Wu Hua in Hokkien)?

Why I don’t want another child (now) boils down to something else more deep and complex, and sometimes hard to explain. I’m happy with one child and I want to give all my love and attention to her. That is a personal choice, and no amount of persuasion (at this point) will work with me. Until I am mentally, emotionally and physically ready, we will not be swayed. 

And I am uncomfortable about the concept of having the State give my child pocket money, maybe for some selfish reason. I want my child to be as free as possible. Will my child be “bonded” to this country because I accepted the pocket money without asking her if she wanted it? And as a result led to her feeling the extra burden of moral obligation to bear the weight of looking after the taxpayers who have fed and clothed her? The “you owe it to us” mentality, would it be entrenched by the larger society? And if Little Foot’s generation do not reciprocate, will they be seen as a generation of “spoilt and ungrateful Singaporeans” who take for granted all these allowances and see it as an entitlement? By no fault of their own surely.

I’d say for now, maybe thanks, but no thanks. Let me raise my child, my way. 

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No Valentine’s for us

Almost every Valentine’s for nearly 10 years we did nothing special. In fact being a bit of a anti-romance snob, we’d go for some good old Hainanese chicken rice. There’s no candlelights, no love songs, and obviously no surcharge. 

And we’d walk along the roads looking with amusement at people who were awkwardly carrying flowers and bears.

Its fun and nice for some, but really we are not that kind of couple. 

Today, as parents, no time no time! Forget romance. It’s a feat some days to remember to say Hi and Goodbye and Thank You. 

Love is doing mundane things for each other and for our child. 

Love is stepping in and filling in when the other fall short. 

Love is congratulating each other for successfully catching the projectile vomit when Little Foot is ill (yup, happened just last night) and having a good laugh while one of us is drenched in vomit. 

Love is letting the other sleep in when unwell.

Love is reminding each other about the day to day things we forgot do. 

All the unspoken things that money can’t buy you (actually okay, Chicken Rice does cost a few bucks). 

My point is, there wasn’t romantic over the top gestures over the years, but in the end, the love that lasts is not that kind of love for us. 

It is this…being around, no matter what. And allowing each other to be ourselves and growing (old) together. 

Happy Valentine’s Day & Advanced Happy 10th Anniversary, Long. 

Thanks for all the years spent together!