Motherhood – it is always such a balancing act with constantly shifting goal posts. And for Material Mom Joan Leong, it can feel like growing up for her all over again.
Lately, I have been thinking much more of what it means to be a mother. Maybe it is a spillover from Mother’s Day just past; maybe it is because my little girl is about to turn eight in a few months and it has suddenly struck me that the gears of motherhood are shifting for me.
No longer is it about basic abilities like her first word, first step or learning to say “please” and “thank you”. It extends to a much deeper level than that – guiding your child from the early childhood phase to the more independent primary-schooler. Not a toddler, not quite yet a teen. But rather, stuck right in the middle, possessing a curious mix of intrepid independence and childlike innocence.
It is at this stage that I, too, find myself juggling quite a few balancing acts.
To Mollycoddle or To Drop Kick
Whenever my child is being picked up, someone would escort her up and down the lift, door-to-door. I find myself sometimes asking her to make her own way up, or to come down to the carpark on her own after tuition while I am waiting downstairs. It must be an odd transition for all, because her tuition teacher would walk her down when I tried implementing Clare’s state of independence; or her grandpa would ride the lift up with her instead of dropping her off at the driveway. We actually still implement the rule of ringing the dropping off party to let them know that Clare has arrived home safe and sound on the occasion that she does take the lift on her own.
Yes, I have to remind myself that independence is a good thing – and that it is needed in order for her to grow up.
Tiger Mum vs Relax Jack
When Clare was younger, we signed her up for various classes – violin, soccer, ballet, piano – to see which one would stick. She got bored at having to maintain the pose when playing the violin; she deemed running around in a field too hot. So she kept on with ballet and now, picked up piano.
When exam time rolled along for ballet, she wanted to quit. She said it was too hard and the teacher too strict. I struggled with the notion of having passion versus just sticking through it (like how I was raised). We did not want her to be a quitter but at the same time, wondered the value at making her stick it out if she did not enjoy it very much. We later realised that we have given her the run at different courses, and that perhaps teaching her the value of accomplishing something was equally as important as nurturing a prodigy. She was quite pleased that she got her certification in the end, and that itself was a lesson to be learnt for us.
Books or Play
The new millennium came along with a slew of technology that has brought much variety and entertainment to our lives. Used properly, they can be learning tools (e-books, online classrooms, learning apps). Used for leisure, they are an entertainment centre in your hands (a million gaming apps, movies, music).
My daughter inherited my old iPad. Being a dutiful mummy, I put in it educational games which she played with when younger. But with a deeper understanding of the Internet and technology (of course, she learnt some in school), she discovered web surfing, YouTube and and more sophisticated games like building worlds in Minecraft. She even takes it a step further and finds tutorials online and has built magnificent structures that I would never imagine my little girl creating.
I applaud her ingenuity and resourcefulness – pretty darn smart, I tell you. But I worry too that she does not read enough. It is always a battle getting her to open a book and let her imagination run free while absorbing the words. She has such a short attention span that if it does not animate, make some noise and has colour, she is not interested.
I have confiscated her iPad on many occasions. And to support that, I have had to stay off mine too – which was very hard.
To Curb One’s Tongue or To Speak Freely
I grew up in the generation where children are often seen, not heard. I never wanted that for my child; I wanted her to have a mind of her own and to speak up whenever she feels the need to; teaching her the balancing act of knowing when to speak up and when you are better off holding your tongue.
Clare has a strong opinion of her own. But because she is pitted against me, the blueprint of her genetic make-up, I often see right through her reasoning and can easily pick up when she is trying to pull wool over my eyes. I admit, sometimes I run out of patience pretty fast, especially when it comes to doing homework (which happens a lot), and I cut her off to reason with her to let her know that she is heading down the wrong track. Sometimes I know I have to let her speak up, just so she can develop her power of reasoning and have a mind of her own. Sometimes, I wish she would quietly do her homework without having to put up a battle.
To Rule with a Ruler or Honey
Clare was invited to go to the Night Safari with her out-of-town cousins last weekend. It was something she was looking forward to. I was equally supportive – I got to take the night off from a massive week of work and travelling. However, we had one of our showdowns over homework again (as she was showing much more interest in her Barbie dolls), so I had to punish her by grounding her for the night.
Needless to say, I felt rotten, like the Grinch who stole Night Safari. I felt sorry for her cousins, grandma, aunt and dad who were looking forward to her joining them. Part of me felt that I should have made an exception and allowed her to go out on that special outing, but I also felt that if I did that, my word would lose value in her eyes and it would make it even harder to implement discipline in the future (thankfully, I got the support of her dad too).
Joan Leong is a mummy, reality television producer and photographer. She watches an insane amount of dramas and comedies in her spare time. Her idea of taking a break is undisturbed time in the plane where there is no network access. She gets very excited over handbags as well as the next big gadget. Her life and photographs can be found on www.valska.com.