Countdown to Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year!

Being Malaysian Chinese carries along with it so many things that make up who I am. As much of a banana* that I am, so many aspects of the Chinese culture have seeped into my life. For instance, the kind of food we eat, the way we relate to our elders, etc.

Add to that the labels and expectations that are attached to being Malaysian AND Chinese, and then there is a whole added layer to what makes up my personality.

Anyway, the predominant thought over here at this moment is that I am not 100% proud of the heritage that we inherit by being Chinese (although only in part by now, since my ancestors have been on Malaysian soil for a good few generations by now), but this is who I am and I guess there must have been a reason for God to have fashioned this background that I have been born into.

This little video here, in some ways, says a lot. Never mind that it’s not about Malaysian Chinese in particular, it still reflects a lot on how the Chinese culture and mentality affects those of us who are born into this ethnicity. Notably, it speaks a lot about Chinese parenting in general: That emotionally distant, tough kind of love, the emphasis on studying hard, that inclination towards mathematics and numbers and money, that dedication to work, and sense of duty towards providing for the family.

Chinese New Year is mostly a family centred celebration. So all these things come up. All these family traditions, histories, imperfections… It is, to me, happiness tainted with a large dose of reality. The realisation that there will always be some family member that is alienated. Another who is indifferent. Yet another who tries too hard to unite everyone. All these things.

The angpaus. The hierarchy of family positions and titles. That emphasis on money. Those seemingly eternal debts: be they financial, emotional or all sorts of other in-between stuff. The polite small talk to mask the years of stories, sometimes buried out of convenience.

Hope I haven’t dampened the cheeriness of your Chinese New Year. These are just my musings. I love my parents. I like certain aspects of my Chinese heritage.I just hope to break the mould and be that bit different somehow.

Not to be that stingy, uncaring, crude person that the world might expect of me because I am inevitably Chinese. (Let’s leave the Malaysian bit for another post, another story – that too has a long list of things to be said about which is not worth delving into right now).

What’s your CNY reunion like this year? Mine’s alright, but a part of me always feels it could still be way better.

* A local slang which is used to describe a person who is Chinese but yet cannot speak/write in any of the Chinese dialects proficiently.
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A year full

We’re off into 2018 already, but it doesn’t entirely feel like a Happy New Year to me.

Well, I suppose it could be worse, but nevertheless, I feel somewhat reticent about another beginning.

I sometimes wonder why we measure time this way, breaking it up into days, months, years, etc. Why not just keep going as if life is just one continuous story? These time markers sort of give you the false illusion of a fresh start when, in all honesty, you really are just the same person that you were yesterday.

So after all the celebrations of another New Year, what do we really hope to get out of it? Are loftier ambitions really worth the effort? Or is the mere determination to “keep on keeping on” more than enough?

I do not know what this year holds for me, or for us as a family. I’m not entirely sure I want to find out. Perhaps it’s a certain degree of jadedness that comes with having weathered a few decades of living. Whatever the cause might be, that dreadful cloak of melancholy has come to envelope me once more.

The only thing that is maybe pushing me onwards is that I need to be strong for my little boy. That I need to give him an example to follow, a guide to help him on his way in life. That if I do right, point him towards God, implant those precious virtues into his soul, someday he will become someone significant in this world.

If I can live just to see that day, I think I will die happy.

For now, my work is far from done though so I guess there’s nothing to do except soldier on.

Michael W. Smith: A Million Lights

Just heard this song for the first time awhile ago. And I felt I just wanted to post it. However short this post may be. It being 4+am in the morning and all.

Michael W. Smith’s music has been such a big part of my life, all throughout my growing years. So many songs with tons of memories to go with them. I even had a book of piano scores for his The First Decade album which I meticulously learned to play, even memorising quite a few of them.

Even in the not-so-distant past while I was still a journalist, I remember being greatly encouraged by his more recent tunes such as You Won’t Let Go.

I don’t really know much about how he gets the inspiration for his songs or puts together the content, but I can say I have been greatly blessed by his music. This guy who is much older than I am and who lives so far away in another continent from me has made an impact in my life. I can only hope that I can someday have such a great influence on someone else.

Anyway, with regards to this presently new tune, what struck me the most was the lyrics of the second verse:

A million days
In every one I’ve seen Your face
I know I’ll never be alone
Even darkness comes awake

For You
All the stars are singing
With You
Every day I’m feeling
Alive

Even darkness comes awake.

Easy to forget, and yet, it is right there amidst the opening lines of the Bible. And if He can command light from darkness, surely everything else about my life is just a cinch to Him. It’s this assurance that makes all those million days or more of life worth battling through.

I’m not as alive as I used to be, especially in a spiritual, inner being sense. But perhaps the stars ought to remind me of those things that never change: how He holds everything together.

Hope you like the song as much as I do.

Bloopers

Boy with a sunny side up personality.

* Edit: Para 14 – Changed 20.5 to 18.5 years. Yes, it’s true. I cannot count.

We have been blessed with a beautiful little boy. Sometimes I think I take this for granted.

We could have nearly lost him on his day of birth because of his fetal heart rate dropping rapidly midway during labour. I ought to remind myself about this every so often. God was gracious though and here he is.

We’ve just reached the 2.5 year mark of spending life together. It’s been mostly a fabulous time, but some days, like how it was yesterday, I feel horrible about the way I parent him.

I am not very good at handling the clumsiness and apparent fickle nature of toddlers. So sometimes I make a fuss about small things. At other times, I think I may have outright misjudged his actions, interpreting something he did as rebellion when maybe it was just plain ignorance or innocence even.

I realise that there is a difference between punishing him for behaviours which would endanger him or which are bad habits that he should not carry forward into his adult life versus things which he does that cause an inconvenience to me (like playing with his food and dawdling and messing up the dining table and the floor at mealtimes. Or choosing to explore some random object or corner in the house and getting himself dirty in the process, which is not essentially harmful, just that I would have more work to do clearing up after him).

Regrettably, I sometimes respond in the same way for both categories of behaviour.

It’s come to a point where my son automatically responds in the cutest voice ever: “Sorry Mummy. I won’t do it next time.” without properly understanding the extent of the cause and effect of the event at hand. I feel awful now for the flawed reasoning I am teaching him. All he wants to do is literally kiss and make up. He will also say things like “I want to hug Mummy. Make Mummy feel better”.

SIGH.

Some modern day child psychologist will probably tell me that I am ruining his future because of the negative ways I am responding to his inquisitiveness or his inherent nature as a toddler. And that by yelling at him and spanking him for certain behaviours I am wrecking havoc on his social behaviour. Or some other complicated line of reasoning that I might not be able to actually comprehend.

All I can say is that I am still trying to improve, though I do fail a lot. I sincerely do not want to hurt my lovely little boy, but I do not want to spoil him either. At the same time, I also do not want to abuse my authority and dictate how he does things just because it’s to my convenience. He is a unique individual with quirks of his own, and I hope I do not curtail that unwittingly.

Plenty of Mum bloggers out there will give you post after post about how to do things right, tips and tricks, etc. Apparently, they must have got it all worked out. Bless their dear hearts. Well, here I am with a dose of reality for you instead.

Parenting is tough and will test everything you are and what you stand for. It will shake you to the core. It will taunt you for all the things you were so sure of earlier in your life. All those smug solutions you swore you would do when it’s your turn to parent a young one.

At the end of the day, it’s entirely possible to feel awful and disgusted with yourself and how you handled a situation with your kid. It’s discouraging and yet, it’s not something you can just back out of. It’s a commitment you took when you decided to raise a child. It’s not like there is a Return Policy you can negotiate with God or anything like that.

So, ladies and gents, I am stuck with a mountain of problems on how to ensure my wonderful boy turns into a useful, respectable man who is a blessing to society. We’ve still got about 18.5 years to go till I let go of my responsibilities and he gets to choose his own path. It seems like a daunting task that I am not sure I can complete. I guess it’s only possible by the grace of God.

I’ll be sure to stop and pen you a note when I finally figure some of these things out. For now, it’s 5am and all I can do is imagine that today will be a better day. And determine in myself that I will find a better way of managing my household and the behaviour of my son without losing my cool and unnecessarily punishing him.

My son is more forgiving towards me than I am of myself though. He loves me unwaveringly. I wish and hope that God is just as kind (though I know He is, it is still hard to believe often times). I feel like if I fail this parenting thing, it’s literally the end for me. (Okay, so I tend to over-dramatise things a bit. Well, don’t all writers?)

If we ever needed an opportunity in life to prove ourselves and to correct the mistakes we made earlier in life, parenting sure is one of them. Our children are that second chance. We got to make sure we make it count.

The hazards of hyperconnectivity

Staying in sync with what’s going on in the lives of those around you has become far too easy a task. By simply consulting your mobile device and connecting to the Internet, you immediately have at your fingertips access to a whole lot of information about the people in your social circles, perhaps more than your brain can actually absorb and retain at times.

But do you really know the people you are friends with on social media? To what extent do you have a real connection with them beyond the clever comments you leave all over their Facebook wall or Instagram images?

In the weekend that just was, my mother had a second episode of stroke. It happened fast, and was soon over, and she reacted fast enough to get herself medical attention such that there doesn’t seem to be any lasting damaging effects from the incident.

While I am relieved that all turned out well and that God was gracious, this unexpected event brought to the fore once more a very disturbing reality that most of us unfortunately now live in: The fact that, although we are often surrounded by people both in real life and virtually, hardly anyone (or sometimes, even no one at all) is aware of a difficult situation that has befallen us.

In this instance, no one outside of my immediate family knew about what happened to my Mum or that we spent a considerable part of our Saturday at a nearby hospital.

Not a single person from any of those I communicated with online over the past few days. Nor anyone whom I met on Sunday, which was yesterday (and this includes all my fellow church members too).

Of course, you could say that part of the onus rests on me to let others know whenever I am in need of help and all that. And that me sitting it out in a corner and lamenting that nobody cares is just a self indulgent thing, since everybody has their own set of things to deal with in life and it’s sometimes asking a lot that people concern themselves with me in particular.

But what does this say about the superficiality of relationships these days?

If you must know, I do not count you as a close friend if you don’t really understand or know about how I feel or the things I think about. The fact that you had a conversation with me or that we have some things in common isn’t enough for me to feel like we really know each other. However, in case you think I am such a high maintenance individual, I do, in the same vein, hold myself to similar standards when it comes to the way I would like to ideally relate to others.

Is this asking too much?

Maybe.

Yet, every so often , I rethink this entire social setup that we as a society have gotten ourselves into and I feel that we have sadly settled for far too low standards when it comes to who we regard as our friends. Perhaps we should be more specific and call these people — who have no clue about who we are on a personal level — for what they truly are: acquaintances.

And if you’re reading this and you do know me in person, I hope it somehow moves you to reconsider how we relate to each other. Or how you are perhaps overlooking what is actually happening in the lives of the people you are in touch with on a regular basis.

Weekender

The weekend! That wonderful breather from the weekly grind.

It’s the weekend! 

Over here, I love the weekends because that’s when Deric will be around all day and we get to do stuff as a family which we can’t do at other times. 

Jamie is also generally happier when everybody is together, just as I am too. 

This weekend, we haven’t done anything too fancy so far, but a lot of what we did was influenced by a desire to create fun and happy experiences for Jamie. 

Actually, that basically sums up a lot of our motivation whenever we find ourselves with a considerably sized block of free time. 

This time around, it was about taking him on a train ride via the LRT line that runs near our place as well as letting him linger at the car workshop while we sent one of our cars for a routine service. 

Along the way, he had other delightful wishes fulfilled too, like yet another ice cream and a chance to use his new kid sized umbrella. 

It’s interesting to note how our focus changes when we’re a family now. 

Back when Deric and I were just dating, weekends were wide open for whatever we fancied doing. We would often go for dates that lasted all day (and night too, sometimes). Eat lots of nice food. Hang out with friends. Practically anything. 

But now, we need to break our weekend activities into segments to make sure we don’t get our chirpy toddler into a nasty grumpy spell. 

And then there’s the consideration of how crowded a place might be and how unsuitable that might be for him. And limiting dining options to venues where there’s something decent on the menu for a young tummy to ingest. 

These and more. 

But the part that makes our hearts sing the most is when his face lights up while experiencing something that we had planned for him. 

There’s hardly ever enough time on the weekends, and usually not much from my To Do list gets done, but these tiny moments we have, these joy inducing ones, they make it all seem worthwhile somehow. 

Making memories with our son is the little bit of magic that we have been afforded and for which we are grateful.

Shift, twist

I guess the way I blog really needs to change. No more long and windy posts. Mostly because there’s not enough spare time to write them. 

But still thoughts and feelings and stories aplenty. If only I can manage to find the words to describe them adequately… 

This shift in style and approach begins now. Let’s hope for better things appearing here.