Embracing royalty

I think I’ve come full circle.

Growing up, I pretended to be princesses, and I pretended to be villians. My favourite was playing Maleficent, waaaay before Angelina Jolie thought to make that fairy tale character all misunderstood and quasi-raped. And because we couldn’t afford a She-ra Princess of Power sword, I decided to get very good at yo-yos, and become Yo-Ra. In my head, I could wield mine like nanchucks, and lasso the baddies in with effortless ease while still wearing a very short white dress and riding a unicorn. I remembered entering the kitchen dramatically and announcing my augmented superhero identity. “I am Yo-Ra!” I cried, and tried — but failed — to Walk the Dog with my blue 20-cents yo-yo. My mum stopped stir-frying, threw her head back, and about died laughing.

Growing up, I don’t think my mother gave a fig about what were politically correct games for little girls to play. She had her own rules about what constituted ladylike behaviour — standing on the ping pong table in the void deck of our apartment building, for instance, was strictly prohibited. It also warranted some pretty unladylike mummy-bellowing from the 9th floor if I were caught doing so. (That happened twice.)

But loving pink? Wearing golden tiaras and swanning around in my magnificent royal robes (read: blanket trailing on the ground, pegged around my neck)? Pretending to be Cinderella, then her stepmother, then Sleeping Beauty? Imagining myself as mother, teacher, bride? I don’t think gender stereotypes bothered my mother. I don’t think she even thought to “save” me from them. And I certainly don’t think she minded my wanting to be a princess.

So why have I been struggling with princesses when it comes to MY daughter? Why do I feel this strange warmth of satisfaction burst within when Arddun chooses green, red or blue over pink? Why do I feel almost exultant when she asks to watch Cars? Play with trains? Become a Robot? Work in an “office”? And why did I feel this weird guilt, like I’m letting down Team Feminista, when she wants to go full Princess?

Notice I said “did”.

Cinderella reading in her room

That’s right, I am (still) making my peace. It is a process. Most days are good, some days I really struggle. Because in the countless articles that harp about how Disney manipulates our daughters and how marketing Princess as a brand has become a multi-billion dollar cash cow, I had gotten anxious and guilty. And then I lost sight of real feminism. The pendulum can swing both ways; in my secret denouncement of the Silly Frilly, I had ironically subjugated girlish behaviour. In scorning the commerce of vanity among the young, I had ironically become proud. Worst of all, I had turned “girly-girl” into a dirty phrase, and prescibed and projected rather “masculine” behaviours on my daughter in the hopes that she’d… what, exactly? Not be such a girl?

Elsa sitting by the door Elsa in black and white

I had also lost sight of the most important things – the focus on the insides. Because beautiful insides are what matter most. I’ve read articles that snort about how some Disney’s Princesses prescribe “meek” behaviours to our daughters. Kindness. Gentleness. Goodness. Servitude. These princesses, they argue, are nothing more than paeans of passivity. These princesses are weak. Simple-minded. Lacking in ambition.

Except it takes courage and character to exhibit kindness, goodness and gentleness. Especially when it concerns loving the enemy — that just takes some kind of special stubbornness woven tight in a loving lion heart. There is nothing humiliating about hands that are willing to serve either. In fact, the only thing I protest along with these pseudo-feminists about the messages Princesses send, is the disservice we do the boys. I think we do our sons no real favours when we emphasise kindness in princesses and inadvertently portray kindness as the sole domain of the woman.

We need more heroics. We therefore need more princesses. And I’m growing one.

Snow-White

Categories: Looking Around and Looking Within | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Getting back on track

They — the ubiquitous, mysterious THEY — claim that it takes 21 days to make a habit, but only a few to break them. I don’t know about the magical 21, but I can certainly vouch for how easily it takes to get out of a habit or five. Some travel, a long bout of fitful coughing, hardware issues surrounding wifi reception, and the recent arrival of Foxtel in our household have completely derailed the following habits:

  • blogging and photo editing
  • a photograph a day
  • daily journaling and reflection on gratitudes
  • daily bible reading (I am now a month behind).
  • Atticus’s monthversaries… missed the poor boy’s third and fourth months. The trials and tribulations of a second child.

The balance between making memories and chronicling them can be such gossamer-delicate work. Especially when the chronicling an often ruin the very moment you’re trying so hard to capture. My sluggish computer has also made blogging a source of frustration rather than a joy. I should probably reformat the darn thing, but who really has the time and energy?

The opportunity cost… Tony and I have had more cuddle time after dinner, and I’ve found myself soaking up Atticus’s babyness more intensively. I’ve done some packing and sorting, mourned the passing of a national titan with my country of origin, and we are in the throes of sleep training Atticus through the nights, (He seems alright in the day now.)

Anyhoo, this is me trying to get back on the wagon. I’m still coughing like I’m got a smoker’s hack, but I don’t feel blah anymore. My laptop is still stuffed, but perhaps that will become a seminar on patience-building.

I have a few half-baked posts that I want to finish off and backdate, so I hope to knock those over in the days and weeks ahead. And if I’m very, very lucky, I’ll have a stable enough wifi connection to upload a decent number of photos.

Talk soon…

Categories: Organisation and Obsessions | Tags: | Leave a comment

Two years today

Between the passing of Lee Kuan Yew on Monday and the anniversary of my mother’s death today, I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about who my heroes are.

Lee Kuan Yew was the man who made a great nation rise like a phoenix from the ashes of separation from Malaysia, and the kthxbai desertion from the Brits. My mother was the woman who rose far, far above her circumstances. And made it her life’s work to build us a deeply loving home.

And while I’m thankful to LKY, I’m indebted to my mother most of all. Because what good are four walls and a roof over one’s head, if there is no love therein?


Very disjointed thoughts, filled with themes that collide on occasion. I thought a little about what I wanted to blog about her today. I thought a lot about what I want my children to know about her. What I want them to remember before I forget.

Like the way her eyes crinkled when she smiled. And how perfect her teeth were. She never wore braces — wouldn’t have been able to afford them even if she had needed them, which she didn’t. I remember visiting a dentist at the National University Hospital and how the dean of the University’s dental faculty – also a brother in Christ – was so impressed by the fact that my mother, about my current age then, didn’t have any fillings in her teeth. He ended up getting photos done of her teeth to frame up, or use as teaching aids. I can’t quite remember. But she had perfect teeth, and a beautiful smile that she gave away generously.

I loved that smile. I yearned for her approval. No matter how hard I rebelled on and off, I know how much I always craved her approval. Even despite my best efforts.

Mothers and daughters.


My mother was still in her twenties when she faced the reality of living the rest of her life as a young, divorced mother. Singapore still isn’t a welfare state, and back then there was definitely nothing in place like Centrelink for young, struggling mothers. So it took a special kind of courage to decide to go it alone. I remember going to the old church building during the weekdays and playing with Pac Man on an Apple computer with the green screen while I waited dutifully. We were there, because my mother was seeking counsel. It was a decision that took years in the making, even while my parents stayed separate. Ultimately, I think she made the decision because it was obvious my father wasn’t serious about his vows, and my safety and security were paramount to her.

It’s why I feel particularly protective of her whenever I hear a sermon or a bible study about divorce. Sometimes, she would wonder aloud if she had made the righteous decision. It was the right decision, perhaps… but was it righteous in the sight of God? That tormented her sometimes. I wish it didn’t. My father walked away from his responsibilities, and then brought trouble back — repeatedly. She protected us. To this day, it makes me furious when I hear anything that could have made her feel guilty about her divorce because it was one of the most heroic actions she took for us.


I know she would have loved to meet Atticus. She would have made him laugh so hard, just as she did with Arddun that age. She just had that way with Arddun. I look at Atticus as I soak in his babyness, and I miss my mother because she can’t. Not in the flesh anyway.


I was just saying to Tony last night how I still can’t believe that my mother was cremated. There is something just so final about burning a body – even more so than burying it, perhaps. And yet, I remember holding her bones and letting them go in the sea. It remains the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do. The heart physically squeezing as it breaks. The finality of it.


I still shop and mentally pick out things she would’ve liked. Bought a bag yesterday that she would have adored, and I would have probably given to her as a present. It was pure leather and had blue in it, of course it did. My children, your Grandma Singapore was almost obsessed with the colour blue. It’s why when she finally renovated her kitchen, it was like walking into Sea World. Blue upon blue. We called it the fishtank and laughed gently at her. But she loved her little kitchen. And then she stuck sea animals on the blue glass cabinet, because she loved us for laughing.

Blue never used to be my favourite colour. But I love it now, because when I carry a bit of blue, I take with me a bit of your grandmother.


It’s been two years. And I still wish fervently that I’d round a corner, only to find you standing there. Arms outstretched for a hug. Grinning.

Categories: Looking Around and Looking Within | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Grappling with age and time

One always hears so much about Children, and How They Say the Darndest Things. Arddun is starting to question space, time, and her relationship to it.

“How old are you?” she asks Tony and I every day now. I’ve never been one to get coy about the years God’s given me, and neither is Tony. “Daddy is going to be 40 years old.” “Mummy is going to be 36 very soon.”

“No,” replies the little one each time, with all the certainty and conviction only youth can bestow. “Mummy, you have no number.”

I’m not sure why she’s happy to accept 40 for her dad, but insists I have no age. I suppose I should be flattered, except she is too young to understand the idea of Timelessness. Or is she? Her answer about me not having a number always elicits a small chuckle from Tony and I. Probably because we can’t think of any other suitable response.

Then yesterday, she replied with, “Yes, that’s right, Mummy. You are going to be 36. And I’m going to be 33.”

Perhaps, little one. But not just yet.

“What do you want to be when you grow up, Arddun?”

“I want to be FREE!”

“You want to be free?”

No, Tony mimes behind her. She wants to be three.

Ah.

And then there’s today’s question.

“Daddy,” I hear her ask in the next room. “How did you grow up”?

How indeed. How did any of us grow up. I’m not sure sometimes that I have. I was bumbling along merrily yesterday when I caught sight of something, and jealousy wrapped its heavy cloak around my shoulders again like I was 13 years old. In a blink, I was insecure, uncertain, ugly, weighed down.

How did I grow up? Will be mulling over that one, along with my NEW New year resolutions. Perhaps more on that later.

Categories: Moments and Milestones | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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