8 of March, a day we celebrate women, Happy International Women’s Day to myself, my daughter and all the ladies in this world.
And really, I ask myself, why do we need just a day to celebrate ourselves, rather than celebrate ourselves everyday, but that is a topic for another day.
This year, I haven’t written much, as I tried to refocus on family, and attempt to be more conscious about making what little time I have with Little Foot quality time. Purposeful time. And, even in my absence, I hope she feels my presence and love. And so I slowed down on the various things I like to do in my leisure time, and focused on her.
Yet, some things going on around us, have been setting me thinking about various things. And so, I will try to find some time this month to pen them down.
This is the first part to a series of thought bubbles that have been forming lately in my mind.
The world we live in.
As a nation with one of the lowest crime rates in the world, with capital punishment, with caning, jail and effective policing, it is easy to become a complacent parent in Singapore. Where we are perfectly fine to sit back and watch from a distance while our toddlers are at play, we have primary school children who walk home or take a bus alone after school. A place where adults feel it is okay to leave our children unattended in a food court to “chope” seats during a meal.
Yet it may not be the case at all, that we can always be assured that our children, especially our daughters will be able to avoid the dangers that this world have to offer.
I said this because of late I have been feeling disturbed by disturbing reports published in the media, of middle-aged men being convicted for sexual assaults which involved statutory rapes, and more disturbingly, from the reports, the sexual grooming of young girls.
- In one case, a 52-year-old man raped his neighbour’s daughter some years ago, ran off to Malaysia and was only caught when his wife, spotted him in JB. The girl was only 11 when she was repeatedly raped over a period of time. Here in Singapore, rape carries jail and caning. However, because he had fled and was only caught at 52, he was spared the cane. Understandably, netizens are angry. Had he been caught there and then, surely he would have gotten the caning as deserved for the heinous acts.
- In another case, a 47-year-old man raped his son’s supposed “ex-girlfriend” and then convinced her that he had feelings for her, and the girl was led to believe they were in a relationship. And continued to be sexually involved with the man. The girl was 11.
There are more such cases.
Just reading the headlines are sickening to say the least. My heart cried for the girls and their parents.
11 years old. An age when perhaps puberty has just started, at an age when a child starts to have awkward feelings and wasn’t quite sure if she was an adult or a child. An age we call them “tweens”, not yet a teenager.
11 years old. An age where as parents, we want to baby them just a little bit more. When mummies would sit and watch wistfully as their babies start to sprout and perhaps grow as tall as themselves, and wonder where the diaper-wearing, toothless grin, chubby cheeks baby had gone, and wished time could stand still and they still had their little girl.
And then to have to face a situation where their little girl’s innocence was stolen by disgusting old men. I am not mincing my words. I will not. If they are not disgusting, what are they? These are men with wives, and even children. And they prey on the daughters of others. Imagine the parents’ anguish and pain.
Parenting today is complicated, and yet parents have so little time to navigate the complex terrains because of the demands from work commitments. It is not the easiest reality to grapple with, but we have no choice, we have to try to wing it.
In the past, when our parents took away the house keys, restricted access to the house phones, and set curfews, they could more or less “protect” us from going astray.
Today, the internet, smart phones and social media leaves a door open for the world to come in. Friends and foes alike. In the second case, the girl had foolishly sent naked pictures of herself via Facebook private message to the man’s son (purportedly her boyfriend), and that was how everything went downhill from there, when he saw the photos on the account.
I had so many questions running through my head: Why didn’t they speak up? They did not think they could confide in their parents or an adult? Did they think no one would listen, no one would believe them, or that they would be “punished” or shamed for having been sexually abused?
There are no easy answers.
There are many more of such reports, and with each one, I hug my child tighter. How can I shield my Little Foot from this very complex world, where children seem to mature younger, parents seem to lose tab on them earlier, and with psycho men out there?
And so I pen this now, for my baby girl. For a time not to far away.
Dear Little Foot,
If you ever read this years later, and we have somehow reached a stage where you find it difficult to understand my intentions and hard to have a decent conversation with me, I hope you read what my heart wants to say to you today and everyday.
As a woman, you are empowered. To believe in your own self-worth, to define your own self-worth, to love yourself. In weak moments, it may not seem true or possible, but it is, and I tell you I know. I have been there. Many times, doubting that I can be anything worthwhile. And in the end I am, because I became your mother.
First, don’t let anyone make you feel lesser than you should be; don’t let anyone make you think that you are incomplete or nothing without them. With or without a relationship, you are complete and perfect.
You are and always will be the most perfect in my eyes and your Daddy’ eyes.
We loved you from the day we knew you existed, and we fell even more headlong in love with you the day we first set eyes on you. This love we have grew and grew, so much so that we would not be able to breath well again if you were taken away. And this love will be.
In some places, women are treated like commodities, but this is Singapore, where you are as worthwhile a human as any other person, man or woman, whatever your skin colour or religion.
It is a place where we can dare to be. And I hope you will be.
Next, your body is your own, God gave it to you, we gave it to you. Cherish it, protect it and never think you could or should use it to gain anything, because when a person want you not for the person that you are, but the body that you are in, that is not true love. And it will not last. It hurts when you hurt. Just because we are your parents. We may not say it, but it does. And so, love yourself well.
I will always remember that first nail clipper accident when I ran blocks carrying you to the doctor because my newborn was bleeding from a small cut. The blood had drained from my face, but I hugged you and ran frantically to get help.
I will also remember the day you fell and hit your head on the marble floor, and had the biggest bump on your forehead ever. I didn’t sleep that night, thinking if you would feel sick because of the effects of the bump.
My list can go on… but you get it. It hurts us when you hurt. So take care of yourself.
Third, never feel like you could not approach us to talk about something or ask for help. Within and beyond our capabilities, we will help you or find help. Always. Unless we are no longer in this world. And if that day came, you have my sisters, your Yiyis, to turn to. I would trust them with my life, and you can too.
A nun I knew once told a story of a teenage girl who found out she was pregnant, and the girl told her “My mother will kill me if she found out”. The nun’s reply was simple – “Don’t be dramatic. No mother has ever KILLED their daughter for getting pregnant”. Nothing can be more true. Being furious is one thing, and one ought to face the music if one has gotten into trouble. But yet at the end of the day, we will sit down and sort out whatever mess it is with you. Because you are our child. That is simple. We have a duty to do what we can for you, and we love you.
Dear Little Foot, it is International Women’s Day. 20 years from now, 50 years from now, women may have finally reach an enviable social standing, on par with their male counterparts in all parts of the world, and in all parts of society. Who knows? Yet we will always be just a little different. Because we are daughters, girlfriends/wives and mothers. We love, we listen to our heart, and sometimes we will feel burdened by these roles. And yet we will and must plough on, because we are strong that way. My mother was like that, and I try to be like that too.
May you grow up to be brave, street-smart, and most importantly discerning. See through the superficial, be aware of the dangers this world has to offer. Let your head lead the way, not your body, and I daresay, rein in your heart.
Dare to sing your own tune. Be not afraid.
I am not saying that you should restrict yourself because there is much to fear. I am saying dare to be. And dare to say no. Dare to ride the rainbow, go after that pot of gold at the end of it. Along the way, there will be dangers and harms, you will fall, you will and must pick yourself up. Dare to be. and dare to do some ass-kicking along the way.
Life will be full of potholes and craters, but discern my child, and don’t lose sight of your destination.
And finally, just know that no matter how old you are, you will always be our baby, you can always come home to us.
You are only three now. And I hope that the years we have together will allow me enough time to prepare you for this world. You will never be quite ready, but we will try.
Till then, as your mother, along with other parents, I can continue to trust, support and even advocate the policies that will do its best to keep you and all our children safe. If tough laws will keep Singapore just a tad safer, then let’s work hard to make sure the laws are adequate and effective deterrence, and allow due justice to be served to those who destroy lives and families.
And in the end, it if you could read my mind, you would know I fear too. I fear to let you go, but I know one day I must let you spread your wings.
Dare to be, my little lady, because you can be all you want to be.
I love you. Always.