Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places


April 2015

Big fat hairy deal

After 3 years, 10 months and 6 days, I finally relented yesterday and got Arddun’s hair cut.

And only because it had become a real handful to un-knot after every shampoo.

There’s a scene in I Don’t Know How She Does It, when Sarah Jessica Parker’s character finds out that she missed her son’s first haircut because of her busy corporate life. The hot nanny had gone and done it, displaying great initiative but inducing secret muffled Mommy sobs in the process.

It has taken me a long, looong time to come to terms with cutting Arddun’s Rapunzelesque tresses which, at last measurement, hung slightly below her waist. At first, I had been nervous about sharp scissors near an active toddler’s face, but as time passed and her ability to sit still and obey instructions increased, I realised how attached I had gotten to her mane… mostly because I had attached so much sentimentality to it. It had been something we had left alone, intact, since birth and which had since become her trademark. In the early months and after a decent length, her hair signalled to the world that she is a girl in a way that no number of feminine baby clothes did. Her hair texture told the world she came from my body, but its beautiful brown with occasional strands of gold whispered of her uniquely mixed heritage.

Most of all, there had been something so unspoiled about it. Her Original Baby Hair, untouched all this time. To me, anyway.

Arddun three days old
72 hours old with standy-uppy hair
Arddun watching TV
Hair-raising television
Arddun watching for cars
No longer defying gravity: full head of hair by 6 months
Arddun wears grandma's wig
Our rug-rat, test-driving Grandma Singapore’s new wig
Arddun aged 1
Arddun aged 1
Arddun aged 2
Arddun aged 2
Arddun aged 3
Arddun aged 3

So it was a little Coming Of Age moment, when Arddun and I entered the hair salon together yesterday to get her hair shaped and trimmed.

Arddun, a day before her haircut
Arddun, a day before her haircut
Back view of hair before haircut
Back view of hair before haircut
Arddun on hairdresser dress
Even though we role-played the inaugural haircut, it’s still a big moment

We had practised not moving during the haircut, but none of us at the salon had quite expected Arddun to sit so still, nor to look that solemn throughout the affair. We sat next to each other in companionable silence, listening to the snip-snips, obeying gentle instructions.

Arddun during first haircut
Watching intently

And then she was done! I heard a “you can show your Mummy now!”, whereupon I turned to my left and looked at my little girl. Except she had suddenly grown up.

Arddun's first finished haircut
Arddun and Mummy with new haircuts
Sporting our new looks in public. Look out!

But then she goes and does this. Just so we remember that she is still a funny little girl at heart.

Arddun with pegs as hairclips
Pegs. They’re not just for the clothesline.

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.


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…

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