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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

Month

January 2012

For crying out loud

Was doing my grocery shopping on Sunday when I heard this sharp, high-pitched rhythmic barking and thought to myself, “Whose obnoxious kid is doing that? KNOCK IT OFF!”

Turns out it was mine.

While I was trying to order two cuts of salmon at the seafood counter, Arddun was sitting in her pram and basically rehearsing for some secret ventriloquism exam I didn’t know about, because she about threw her voice to the other side of the fruit and veggie section. Nothing awful – she wasn’t distressed. If anything, I think they were her new happy sounds. Which were short, sharp, constant, and VERY LOUD.

Yes. It seems our seven-month-old has discovered the joys of vocalisation.

Apparently, it’s all very normal. A quick google (“Help! My 7-month old is shouting!”) brought up a plethora of articles, opinion pieces, and forum threads of mothers freaking out because their babies have turned banshee. They are starting to babble, apparently. Vocalisation is part and parcel of testing out syllables which eventually turn into proper words like “Mama”, “I Want”, and “Now”. Oh goodie.

So yeah. It’s normal. But it’s also embarrassing. And quite distracting.

Recent scenarios include:

1. Ordering seafood from Woollies

“What would you like?”

“I’ll have two salmon pieces, and have them in your – “

“- HAAAAAAA!”

 ” – oven bag (so sorry about that)… and can I please have your marinade?”

“Which one? We have ginger and – “

” – EEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!”

“Just give me lime and chilli please – I’m so sorry, she just discovered her voice – and could I have them both – “

” – HAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaa… ppppppbbbbbbbbbbbbtttttttttt…”

” – sealed in the same oven bag, please? Thankyouverymuchsosorry.”

2. Having lunch in a cafe

(To me) “Your baby is so cute!”

(To Arddun) “Hello, cutie!”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

“How old is – “

“AAAH-blblblblblblblblbl…”

” – she?”

“About seven and a half months.”

“Oh wow!”

“Ha! HAAAAAA. EeeeeaaaaaaAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!”

“Um… is she okay?”

“Yes…”

“She seems upset about something…?”

(Wearily) “No… she’s just discovered – “

“PPPBBBBBBBBBBTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!”

” – her voice.”

 

The only useful thing about having a baby that shouts?

 

“Hello?”

“Hello… My name is… Ranjit, and I’m calling from Microsoft…”

“Hi Ranjit, hang on a second – I’ll put you through my assistant…”

“I am calling you today because our systems tell us that your computer has a virus. Can you please turn on – “

“EEEEEAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!”

 

But otherwise, it’s quite concerning. I don’t want my daughter to become a disturber of the peace, but it’s not like she understands the concept of inside and outside voices. And she’s not upset. She’s not whingy or crying when she calls out like that – she’s just expressing an opinion or testing out the acoustics. But it’s like I’m wheeling around a midget sonar wherever I go now.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to model the way. They say that when giving an instruction to a child, you shouldn’t focus on the negative, but offer the constructive. So instead of “Stop running!”, you’re supposed to say, “Walk slowly.” My brain doesn’t work that fast, so I tend to do it in stages.

Which sounds like this:

“AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHH!”

(While covering her mouth.) “Sweetie, stop yelling. Speak in a whisper, like Mommy is doing right now. See? Quiet. Inside voice. Use your inside voice.”

“EeeggaaAARRRGGGHHH!” (Translation: Speak up. I can’t hear you.)

 

I don’t know. I guess it’s a stage of life, but if anyone can pass on any tips… I’m listening.

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Baby-led hoovering

Arddun’s been getting more dexterous with feeding herself, so I thought I’d test out her pincer grip by giving her two baby fistfuls of plain rice to see what she could do.

After a few attempts at scoffing (couldn’t work out how to open palm fully at the right time), mashing (rice stuck to each other, but became even harder to handle), and just putting it down on the tray table to look at it, I watched as she thought about her dilemma, and then bent down and vacuumed the grains within reach.

Arddun, pondering her rice dilemma
It's a little undignified...
Arddun, eating rice from tray table
... but clearly worth the effort.

Obviously, food is the way to go for baby bribery in our household.

Fancy dress

Oh I love fancy dress parties. I love having a theme to a party, and then going all out. I’m not as good as some at the going-all-out bit. Still, if there’s a party and there’s a theme, I try.

Happily Married
Happily Married and skinnier

Tony? Not so much. Before he met me, he had five work shirts and none of them had stripes. He didn’t do stripes. Or patterns. Or pastels. Thankfully for him, I’m not wild about men wearing pink either (very, VERY few men pull it off with manliness intact, methinks). But yes. I would have to get him pret-ty liquored up for him to walk out of the house as one half of THE best-costumed couple for a fancy dress party, you know what I’m saying?

To be fair, he does make some effort if he likes the crowd. But I usually have to keep it very simple for him. For one church party, he turned up as a baseball player because he’s got the gear sitting in the garage. But he usually doesn’t bother if the party is held at our place, because he’s barbecuing for everyone and he’s the host, so he can call the shots. Still, one Chinese New Year party during the year of the Ox, we got everyone to turn up as an Oxymoron, and both of us turned up as “Happily Married”.

Anyhoo, the GREAT thing about having Arddun is that I now have a compliant fancy dress partner. Tony is both appalled and relieved. It must be nice to get off the hook, but he’s not so sure about Arddun suffering the consequences.

Case in point:

Arddun dressed as a Christmas pudding
Last year's Christmas costume

And let’s face it. Babies, no matter how ridiculous the costume, still look adorable and sane.

BTW, all this ruminating came about because of this picture:

Baby dressed up as salmon sashimi
Photo credit: Sushi King

Which immediately made me run out and want to buy one. Magical Butterfingers Saz was kind enough to point me in the right direction – Etsy, of course. And while I couldn’t find the same costume, my 5-minute research brought up some fabulous other choices.

Poor Arddun.

1. You gotta have soy sauce with that.

Kikkoman soy sauce and salmon sashimi
Photo credit: Not The Kitchen Sink

It is for this reason alone that I wish Arddun were part of a twin. Mostly because these costumes don’t come in adult sizes. But if they did, I think I might choose to be the Kikkoman bottle. Black is more slimming, and Lord knows I need help with optical illusions now, thanks to post-baby padding. Then again, the sashimi does come with waist-cinching seaweed. *Suck in breath* Tough decision.

2. Little-oh-Leia-hee-hoo

Baby princess Leia
Photo credit: The Green Hedgehog

You don’t have to be a Star Wars fan to know a little bit about Princess Leia and her is-it-a-croissant, is-it-giant-headphones hairdo. This costume has the added bonus of being perfect for winter and bald babies. Even the daddies might not be averse to this one.

3. The Very Hungry (Knitted) Caterpillar

Hungry knitted caterpillar
Photo credit: Pink Pumpkin Crochet Studio

Purely for the gosh-awww factor, I had to include this one because it’s the only time a caterpillar could ever look this adorable. I’ve seen lots of Hungry Caterpillar commercial baby clothes in Target, but nothing quite tugs at the heartstrings like babies in knit.

4. Old McDonald had a farm

Chook with pram barn
Photo credit: mapletree2000

Talk about the whole kit and kaboodle. This costume scores extra points with me because it remembers that “pimpin’ the ride” is sometimes just as important. And considering how kids practically live in their prams when they’re >1 year, this costume is very clever indeed.

5. Lobster love

https://i2.wp.com/img0.etsystatic.com/il_570xN.259204248.jpg
Photo credit: The Miniature Knit Shop

Brought to you by the same brilliant and twisted minds that knitted the shark sleeping bag, this lobster outfit is both practical and effective. Just put on a matching chilli-red onesie, grab a steel bucket, and head out the door.

Why a steel bucket, you ask? I’m so glad you did:

Baby lobster in bucket
Photo credit: Hump Day Ha Ha

Baby-led weaning: a 2.5 month review

This is going to be a slightly technical piece, because it assumes that you, kind reader, are already familiar with the concept of Baby-Led Weaning (BLW) and are interested in a testimonial from someone who is kinda sorta practising it.

For everyone else, it’s probably snoresville unless you’re seriously interested in how Arddun takes her food, in which case… read on!

Background

Tony and I had decided for a long time that we’d try some semblance of BLW. We’d seen our friends do it, we’d heard testimonials from Tony’s colleague whose child self-feeds, and I’d read the book and thought it made good sense.

But I was also eager to get Arddun eating Chinese food. And because her pincer grip isn’t developed yet, rice was going to be an issue. Gloppy things that fall apart easily, such as steamed fish, was going to be an issue. So there was a compromise – self-feeding with spoon-feeding. Which meant a mixture of solid foods and mushy purees or congee.

Now, the purists from either camps are probably up in arms and imagining the worst because of our blended approach but in truth, it’s working really well for us. Arddun’s eating very well, her energy levels are higher than ever, she’s had a growth spurt, and she’s used to getting fed by spoon AND feeding herself effectively.

So yes, this review compares both schools of thought – traditional spoon-fed purees and BLW. It also leaves out the milk feeds, which I do before every solid meal anyway.

What did you start with?

A few slices of pear and banana. Mostly pear, really. The idea with BLW is that you give them a variety of foods to choose from. They’re supposed to take the food from your plate, apparently, but I wasn’t eating pear and I wasn’t feeding her during my meal time.

She picked up a slice of pear and it went straight in her mouth almost immediately. She bit it. And then chewed for a full five minutes, while pulling a face. And I think the effort of having to chew for that long before she had room in her mouth to try anything else was what put her off, because she wasn’t interested after that in self-feeding – until she had a taste of apple and pear puree. And then suddenly, she realised that fruits taste yummy.

Then she could not get enough.

So really, the purees sparked her interest in self-feeding. Gave her the impetus to try harder.


What does she eat on her own?

Fruit and bread, mostly. The occasional chunk of chicken. She usually eats a couple slices of fruit while I prepare her cereal, then has her cereal, then sometimes finishes off with more fruit while I have my breakfast – so we get to eat together, and read together. Breakfast is our book-reading time, because her hands have something important to do, and she’s alert and engaged and happy. I’ve given her a whole chicken piece to eat before, as well as avocado – which was a mess, and not either of our favourite. Lately, she’s started to feed herself sandwiches (sanctioned by me or otherwise!) as well as french toast, so that allows me to add more things for her to feed herself.

Does she pick from your plate? Eat what you eat?

Usually, no. And it’s purely my choice for two reasons: my lunches and dinners do not easily allow the picking and choosing of suitable ingredients for Arddun to graze upon, and I don’t trust the sugar and salt levels of cooked foods – including mine. Plus, we’re almost certain now that she has an intolerance to certain foods with salicylates (such as tomatoes and carrots), which makes it hard if we’re eating out.

Sometimes, I have a picnic lunch and she can have every ingredient that will constitute a sandwich. But most times, Chinese cooking requires cutlery.

Is it easier to do BLW or purees?

They’re both slightly fiddly in their own ways. Both require some creativity and preparation in advance – especially if you want to expose your child to as many different foods as possible. I tried for a while to give her what I ate when we were out, and she ended up just eating the same ingredients from my plate over and over, because everything else was a choking hazard. So unless I was planning to eat lots of sandwiches and salads, it actually limited the variety of foods Arddun was exposed to.

On the flip side, because I make my own chicken stock and soups (without added salt) for home cooked meals, it actually takes very little time for me to whip something up for Arddun’s meal. I also use a slow cooker, so rice porridge is bubbling away in the mornings and then voila, lunch and dinner is ready. I’m so used to Chinese cooking and the acrobatic multi-tasking it requires, that adapting it for Arddun’s meals on the fly has become, ironically, the easier option. She’s actually eating (some of) what I’m eating this way… just that it has to be spoon-fed, which BLW believers are loathe to do.

Does she overeat when you spoon-feed her?

This is one of the benefits purported by BLW, in that babies who self-feed know when they’ve had enough, and babies who are spoon-fed usually just eat when the spoon is offered to them. In other words, BLW allegedly prevents overeating and in the long run, reduces the likelihood of obesity.

Except, there hasn’t been studies to prove that explicit claim yet, because Gill Rapley only wrote her book in 2008.

My answer: I don’t know. I think this claim is over-inflated, but that’s my gut feel. In my limited experience thus far, Arddun is perfectly capable of indicating when she’s had enough when either self-feeding or when spoon-fed. And she’s also perfectly capable of scoffing every last bit of bread she can lay her little chubby hands on, until she throws up.

The opposite is also true of self-feeding – Arddun would sometimes get frustrated with self-feeding, because she isn’t efficient yet but she is still hungry for food. Milk doesn’t always satisfy her – she would want to eat food, and she’d want it in her mouth NOW. Enough with the experimentation and the exploration, lady. Crack open the thermos flask. There’d better be chicken and cous cous in there.

Does Arddun instinctively choose foods that are better for her?

No. At the beginning, she ONLY wanted fruits because they’re sugary. I think letting any child be her own dietitian is the most laughable proposition of (the narrowest interpretation of) BLW theory because given the choice, any kid would eat sweet stuff every day EVERY DAY. What we do with Arddun is to give her a limited selection. Spinach or fork-mashed peas? Bread with avocado, or bread with egg yolk? That sort of thing.

Has she choked when self-feeding?

Not exactly. There was an incident with watermelon – she literally bit off more than she could chew, and I think there was a stringy bit because it all came out in a hurry – along with lunch.

And that brings me to another point about self-feeding: sure, the gag reflexes are great in babies. And Arddun came out alright – it was a non-event, really. But did I really want her to lose her lunch? No.

Has spoon-feeding impeded her psycho-motor skills?

Because we’ve used a blended approach, I’d say not. She’s getting more effective at finishing what she has in her hands. (And *accidentally* flinging the stuff she’s had enough of outside the splash zone.) But then again, maybe she’s getting better at it because she’s playing with different toys and just growing. I mean, how does one benchmark these things?

Ultimately, Arddun is an individual. She loves her food, and she’s not a fussy eater. But I can’t bring myself to attribute these traits solely to BLW, because she enjoys feeding herself, and she enjoys being spoon fed. She isn’t too fussed about not having control, and she likes experimenting with food in her hands. Whatever. She’s a sponge at this stage – everything is new and an opportunity for learning. I’d like to think that she enjoys my mushy baby food dishes just as much as she enjoys scoffing food off my plate.

The most important thing is that she’s eating. And she’s thriving. And she’s happy.

The penny that dropped

Now that Arddun’s crawling around the house quite a bit, and attempting to climb anything that looks remotely stable (say, the tablecloth), I find myself repeating the same words over and over during her waking hours.

“No, Arddun.”

“Uh uh! No, Arddun.”

“Arddun, I said ‘No’!”

Thing is, Tony and I haven’t been sure if she actually understands ‘no’. Right now, all things seem fair game right now, and Mommy and Daddy pulling her or her new toy away is just another game to master. You can tell me all about tone of voice and how I should sound firm and use a lower tone etc etc. Yes, yes. Except right now, I’m not sure she’s that good at reading tone of voice. Sometimes she seems to get it. But then I could use the exact same words and tone of voice other times, and I might as well be the wind blowing.

I was reading Momastery a few days ago, and really enjoyed this particular post about The Tantrum. You can read it for yourself (SO well written, so funny!) but the abridged version is this: basically, both her children chucked a huge wobbly at Target. The infamous, legendary kind you might have seen or heard about, where the kid has essentially given up all self-respect and is on the floor, screaming and crying. The stuff that inspires television commercials.

The stuff that terrifies every new and would-be parent.

For a few weeks now, Tony and I have been wondering if it’s too early to discipline Arddun. Let me rephrase – if it’s too early to smack her for being naughty. Shock horror, huh. Let me be very plain here: I don’t advocate smacking as the first, knee-jerk form of discipline. I don’t advocate smacking as the last resort either. But I think smacking a child has its place, if administered wisely and not out of malice, anger or spite. And certainly at this age, when you cannot reason with a baby who only hears, “Arddun… blah blah blah blah!”… how do you train a wilful child that there are boundaries that need to be adhered to, for her safety?

(That was a rhetorical question. The answer that we’ve chosen, kind reader, is that sometimes we’ll need to love her by smacking her.)

Arddun throws the most terrifying tantrums sometimes. Arched back fury, bright red indignation, full throttle screaming – all of it. I wish I caught it on video, but as young as 5 months, she was seen lying on her front in the cot, pounding her fists and legs into the mattress and just howling. She was 5 months going on Terrible Two. It made me want to laugh. It also made me want to run and hide. Because I think I got me a feisty one.

Anyway. This afternoon, while I was feeding her, she decided to bite me. It wasn’t the first time – she used to accidentally nick me with her teeth, and I’d pull away and tell her that it hurt, and not to do it again (firm voice), but it was always accidental.

Today, it was deliberate. And let me tell you, it hurt. Baby teeth are small, jagged, and therefore very sharp.

“No,” I said in my firm voice while pulling her away quickly. “Don’t bite me. It hurts.”

She looked at me. I looked back at her. She quietly went back to feeding. And then with eyes never leaving mine, she stopped… and then I felt her sloooowly – and ever so deliberately – sinking her teeth into me. The little rascal.

I pulled her away. And this time, I tapped her firmly on the cheek with two fingers.

“NO!” I said again, in my very firm voice. “Don’t. Bite. Mommy!”

She stared at me. I stared at her. I made sure my face was set in disapproval, my eyes narrowed and glaring. You could almost see her brain piecing things together.

One thousandtwo thousandthree thousand

Her eyes widened a fraction. She opened her mouth, turned bright red, and burst into tears.

And I knew I’d finally gotten through to her!

It was the weirdest feeling. A mixture of relief, residual annoyance, the slight twinge for making her cry, and the bizarre urge to laugh. She had finally understood “no”! Perhaps for the first time, she’d come to understand that her actions have consequences that Do Not Please Mommy. That all things are NOT permissible. That there is a link between what she’s done, and the words and actions that follow which disapprove.

Breakthrough. I’ve communicated to my baby.

But… now what? Tony and I remember a parenting class that spoke about the need to restore the relationship. But how do you convey forgiveness, without undermining the lesson just taught? Hugging her immediately felt like I was telling her to overlook the scolding, and that I was sorry for calling her to obedience. Yet, sitting there mutely felt callous. There was a distinct sense of needing closure.

And how does a baby seek restitution, anyway? By now, Arddun was frantically feeding for two seconds (“nom nom nom nom!” – exact sounds), then pulling away and yell-crying at me accusingly, then throwing herself back to feeding frantically. And here I was, racking my brains on how to communicate that the lesson has been taught, and that it’s time to move on.

So I sat her on my knee, made eye contact, and told her quietly but firmly that “that’s enough” and we can move on to the next thing. I knew she was still hearing, “Arddun… blah blah blah blah,” but eventually she quietened down enough to look me in the eyes calmly. When we resumed feeding, she didn’t bite me anymore and then we moved on.

Look. Maybe I had imagined the whole thing about breaking through to her. And I’m not convinced that she understood the forgiveness bit, even if she understood that our relationship had been restored once more. And many of you may choose never to smack your own children, and might be completely appalled that Tony and I are even asking the question.

All I’m saying is, it’s one of the many “first steps” we’re now making to teach Arddun that there is right and wrong, good and bad, permissible and out of bounds. And learning what “no” means is the most crucial first step to protecting her from all the Ugly.

TTT: Quiet times, busy times

Oh my word. Four posts in one day. This has got to be some kind of record.

Okay. Today’s Thurday’s Three Thank-yous are…

1. The best day for a picnic – ever

I’ve never been big on picnics, mostly because I’m not huge on nature. It’s always too hot, too cold, too windy, too sunny, too many insects, too much pokey grass, etc.

However, yesterday’s mother’s group picnic at Yerrabi Pond was just gor-geous. Uninterrupted view of lake/pond, overcast sky, gentle breeze… perfection. If it wasn’t so rude, and if Arddun didn’t keep stealing Clare’s cream-and-salmon sandwiches (oh yes she did!), I would have happily fallen asleep on my picnic mat.

2. Neighbourhood watch at 6 o’clock

Lately, 6 o’clock has become this slightly odd hour, where it’s too early for Arddun to sleep but she’s starting to ramp down for the evening. And because summer evenings are nice and warm enough to saunter out to the front courtyard with a singlet on, Arddun and I have been spending about 10 to 15 minutes some evenings, just sitting on the front step and watching cars return home.

Occasionally, she’d tilt her head right back to look at me upside down, as if to say, “I’m really enjoying this quiet time with you, you know?” Because that’s exactly how I feel about those 15 minutes.

3. A clean breast of things

We formed a working bee to scrub the walls in the church building, and about 20 of us showed up on Saturday – which was heaps more than what anyone anticipated! Just blitzed through the task, which meant we could do other things around the building too. Best of all, I got to break the ice with someone whom I haven’t managed to talk normally to in, well, years. It made a difference to my day. I guess feverishly praying in the parking lot before I entered the building must have helped.

I am Singaustralian

We had a lovely Australia Day, on balance. Had a few families over for BBQ and 25% round of Cranium, and Arddun was mostly cheerful until the end when it was a battle of wills regarding bedtime (she won today). Then the skies opened and cooled our part of the world, and the smell of freshly fallen rain is comfort and delight indeed.

About 15 minutes before our first guests arrived this morning, however, I was having a small meltdown.

It’s just this: I haven’t celebrated Chinese New Year. The sadder part is, I don’t know HOW to celebrate Chinese New Year. For the last 6 years since we bought our house, we’ve hosted Chinese New Year at our home. The program usually entailed silly dress ups, a token effort at decor, a potluck which consisted mostly of non-Chinese food anyway, some atrocious lion dance ching-chong music, and the requisite cheesy group photo.

Hard enough in a small house with no baby. But this year, I looked at Arddun’s meal times and nap times, thought about juggling that along with 40+ guests, and chickened out.

So the night before Chinese New Year, we did nothing special. And the first day of Chinese New Year, we did nothing special. Ditto the second. Ditto the third. And then today, I felt I was letting myself down, and I was dooming my girl to a white-only upbringing.

What is it about having a baby that throws your family values and traditions into the spotlight? Suddenly, I want to define everything and I’m starting to panic that I haven’t gotten good habits in order and that I lack enough Chinese customs and tradition. The laughable bit, of course, is that I’m not even ‘typical’ Chinese Singaporean. I barely manage conversational mandarin, and I slip into Singlish out of nostalgia, rather than necessity. My immediate family has never been superstitious, so we’ve never bothered with many customs and practices typical of Chinese New Year preparation, as so many of these traditions stem from the worship of fortune and luck.

I am, as they call me, a kantang. A potato. Brown on the outside, white on the inside. And yet, here I am. Feeling like I’ve completely sold out.

Because I think I have.

In leaving and cleaving, I wonder if I’ve wandered too far off track and embraced too much of my new home and culture. In dutifully integrating into Australian life, I wonder if I’ve been too willing to apologise for my individuality and where I’ve come from. I’ll be straight with you – Australia, for all her multiculturalism, believes in One Australia. One culture. One identity. She is not a plural society. Her people, on the whole, are not interested in where you’ve come from and the God you believe in. Race, for instance, doesn’t usually come up in polite conversation. She is a melting pot of cultures and countries, but believes ultimately that unity is best celebrated in embracing common habits, customs, and a common language.

And I’ll tell you, it works. I’m not knocking the country I’ve come to love and now call home. I love her vast land, her sometimes devastating beauty, her people and their zany sense of humour. If anyone were to put Australia down, I think I love her enough now to feel pretty insulted and rawr about it.

All I’m saying is that there is a part of me that feels largely unacknowledged and neglected. Always. Because I’ve learnt over the 9 years to play down my roots and my past and my experience, and to focus on what is common. What is shared. What is mainstream Australian.

And so here I am, on Australia Day, trying to celebrate my new country’s anniversary while trying not to forget my roots. So that I can continue to be a beacon of light for Arddun, shining on my past and my heritage. (Pretty daunting and lonely responsibility, by the way.)

Except what did I do? I made a cob loaf dip (without the cob loaf), served up two flavours of potato chips, and a platter of sweet chilli Philadelphia cream cheese together with a small block of Camembert. This was to complement the barbeque, which consisted of sausages and rissoles and grilled eggplant, onion, and mushrooms. The only thing remotely Chinese New Yeary were the 6 mandarin oranges that Sean brought. Even then, I didn’t get organised enough to give him an ang pao.

I didn’t even give Arddun an ang pao.

Tony says I’m being too hard on myself. That there’s still lots going on with a baby who needs attention constantly; that she’s not going to remember any of this anyway, and that we have time. But I still feel awful. What kind of Chinese mother am I, who doesn’t even get organised enough to cook a reunion dinner? And yet yesterday, I felt so knackered and unwell, I slept through dinner. All the while with a sick feeling in my stomach because I didn’t get organised enough to bake fortune cookies – my one lame token effort at a Western version of Chinese culture and tradition. (But mine were going to be dipped in dark chocolate and peanuts. DIFFERENT!)

And maybe the answer is hooking up with more chinese Chinese Singaporeans. I look at my friends in Melbourne and almost envy their enclave of Singapore/Malaysian friends because at least they have a home within a home. As much as I love Aussies, sometimes it’s comforting to be with “your own people”. To finally be in your comfort zone and not have to explain yourself, or put your Australia hat on. Because that hat… sometimes, it’s exhausting. Like wearing stilettos a half-size off the whole day, every day. It fits… but not quite. And my bunny slippers are a lot more forgiving, and roomy, and comfortable, and me.

Happy Chinese New Year, my little potato

And maybe the answer is forging new roads, and new traditions. Maybe it’s not trying to emulate some version in my head that I grew up with. I’m here now, and no we don’t get 2 public holidays for Chinese New Year, and no one here exchanges ang paos, or visits each other’s homes with 2 mandarin oranges, or gets excited about new clothes, spring cleaning, and cooking for 8 hours, then eating for 8 hours. And if we can’t find the ambiance here, maybe we need to take a trip – just us three – to Sydney or somewhere, and soak it all in.

Because I want Arddun to grow up understanding that she ISN’T all white. And I want her to be fiercely proud of her blended heritage. I want her to enjoy being a little bit different, and it would break my heart if she were to grow up wishing desperately that she looked more white because she didn’t feel even a little Chinese.

I just don’t quite know how to set things up here so that we can be both Australian and Singaporean.

But I pray I never stop trying.

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