Wednesday, September 24, 2008

She's a preschooler

Perhaps the people around me are just being kind to me. But I believe that if people say it often enough, it will be a prayer and it will come true anyways, so I don't mind.

I have been told by quite a few people that my Little One is the smartest two and half year old they have come across with. She is articulate, she knows exactly what she likes and what she wants and is very observant. She has very good memory and I have learnt my lesson never to tell lies to her and not make any promises unless I fully intent to deliver them.

Of course being her mother, I am naturally biased. I have seen how quickly she takes on to things, how much she loves to be read to and how quickly she learns (especially the stuff I don't want her to pick up. ;))

My challenge as a mother (and I'm sure for other parents too) is to channel her enthusiasm in the direction that could develop her further to maximize her full potential.

And its not even necessarily in term of academic achievement, but rather through socialization and providing her with enriching life experiences that would further widen her mind and her horizon.

Hence I am overjoyed that she is enjoying her new school very much. Just after a mere 2 weeks I see a new sense of independence in her. She declares that "I am a big girl," and does insist on doing a lot of things herself.

Just this morning I had the opportunity to send her to school. We woke her up and asked her if she would like to go to school today and she answered "Yes" with a smile. We asked her if she wanted to use a pull up diaper or just panties and she chose panties, a major step up considering she was still wearing diapers when she started school!

She loves to choose so DH asked her if she wanted a white top or a red top, and if she wants to pair them with trousers or skirt. She quickly made her decision with a smile.

Very reassuring for mum who hasn't been able to send The Little One to school herself.

We got in the van that ferries the children to school and she was happy to sit beside her friend. She started telling me about the basketball hoop that is broken. Smiles all round.

Upon arrival she showed me the way to the front door and promptly reached for the door handle to her clssroom and proceeded to open it herself. Her teacher greeted her with a smile, The Little One hung her hat at the rack, put her water bottle in the designated box and proceeded directly to the table where some colouring sheets have been laid out ready for the children to attempt should that be what they want to do.

I only had time to tell her "Enjoy yourself," and she didn't even look back at me.

I must say that this is an amazing transformation for her. From a child who hung on to me, my jeans and my top refusing to let go, who cried asking for mummy, she has demonstrated to me that she wants to be in the environment, she likes being in the school and looks forward to being there everyday.

And I don't blame her. She is surrounded with a plethora of materials that would interest a child. Just yesterday, she showed me how adept her fingers are at treading some wooden beads through a shoe lace, a new development in her fine motor skills.

And outside there are many different things for a child to further develop their gross motor skills, some tricycles, sand, playhouses, slide, the list seems endless.

All in all, mummy is happy when Little One is happy and Little One is enjoying herself very much so by the looks of things. She even came home with a new song she learned from school and I'm impressed because I thought I knew them all ;)

My dear daughter, I really do hope you enjoy yourself whatever it is in life that you are doing. There is nothing more that I want than for you to be happy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

May Allah always grant your wishes my child!

"Abah, when will you give me a car present?" said The Little One, sounding hopeful.

"Well it may be a bit expensive to buy you a car," replied DH.

Half an hour later, we went off to our favorite stationary shop. I needed to pick up a few things and wanted to hurry home before the crowd come in.

The Little One wanted to have a long good look at the stickers and I tried to tell her that I bought some already.

The owner of the shop saw her, grunted and gestured for her to follow him and then presented her with a box of 5 matchbox size cars and a couple of cute items.

Little One said "Syukran" and smiled all the way to the car.

Did she know that she was about to get the "car present"? Or did Allah grant my Little One's wishes?

She slept clasping one of the cars last night.

My darling daughter, may Allah always grant you your wishes! Always remember to ask for good things and be grateful for what He bestows us.

Murah betul rezeki mu anakku. Semoga rezekimu sentiasa melimpah ruah sepanjang hayat mu hingga ke anak cucu.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Piecing the picture

The day that we mothers have been waiting for finally arrived! The opening of the Montessori preschool which 11 of our children are going to!

Perhaps, I've been too tired myself with work and Ramadhan that I seemed to have taken the laid back attitude of "Lets wait and see." My only fear was that they may not have The Little One's name on the list despite the deposit we paid way back before the summer. Originally there were only 8 children from our compound signed up for the school but 3 more wanted to sign up, so places are really sought after.

In preparation for the school, the mothers had 2 meetings discussing about transportation, cost timings and responsibilities.

I was a little bit sad that I won't be there to send her to school on her first day. I have to confess that I carried a little lump in my heart as I go about with my work that day. But on the other hand I know she will be in good hands. My Dh will send her off in the morning. My good friend Ev@ is working in the school so she could keep half an eye. My neighbors would ensure that she comes home safely.

One mom told me that she could not sleep the night before because she was so excited that her child was going to that school the following day!

Me? I am just thrilled that she will be in a place where she can be socialized, nurtured and stimulated in an enriching environment.

I had a conversation with a colleague, R, about the subject just yesterday. Her son has just been moved up into grade one as he was far too advanced for KG2. She credits their investment, paying a bomb for their son's kindergarten in the States, paying off. R pointed out that technically, the money not spent on kindergarten could be saved for her son's college fund. But at the same time, children, like houses, need good foundation.

Of course they can grow despite not going to school in the early years but good Early Years experience would ease their transition into school later. Especially the socialization part. Even in the States she said, some mothers feel that if a good portion of their salary goes towards daycare, then perhaps it may be better for the mother to stay at home and look after the child.

I have since concluded, no matter where we live, good things (including education) are always rather dear. Should or not a child go to school at that age would be up to her/his parents' choice and discretion.

In my case, I feel that there are benefits to my child learning some independence. She is very attached to me (thanks to Attachment parenting), but at the same time I want her to know that she can function well and enjoy herself without Mummy by her side 24 hours a day. I want her to be able to make good choices and good decisions when she is by herself and I am confident that she is well loved by everyone around her. And I don't want her to live in my shadow all the time. Its healthy to see some sun!

I am very pleased to report that just merely after 3 days she is very happy at the school. She tells me that she likes her teacher and had lots of fun. My DH was pleased with the way her teacher has handled her. She seems to know how to distract her and attract her and looks generally happy and motivated to be with the children.

Next step, toilet training.

Friday, September 05, 2008

First weekend in Ramadhan

The evening was filled with relaxed conversation. The men obviously having a good time themselves because their laughter filled the room, so loud that we ladies could hardly hear ourselves speak. The Little One was out with our hosts' teenager daughter. Its lovely that she offered to babysit.

At that point I could not help but be so grateful. Grateful that I have friends who enjoy my company and whose company I enjoy. Who are willing to share the snippets of their lives with me. Who accept me for who I am and I in turn accept them for who they are.

The food on the counter was just overflowing. Laksa lemak (which I love), bubur lumbuk (which I craved), telur ikan goreng (which I havent had for a while), kolak (which i miss), kuih kosue (which i adore and cannot make myself); just to name a few. Alhamdullilah. ALhamdullilah. Alhamdullilah. How blessed can I be?

I had endevoured to make some of MIL's kuih bakar. But my first batch turn out to be pandan chiffon my mistake. So it turns out 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup eggs + pandan flavouring yields pandan chiffon cake. In my dehydrated stupor I had decided to make the kuih without peeking at the recipe first, only to my dismay found the texture very different until the help pointed out that I had forgotten the coconut milk.

My DH started laughing really loudly and immediately declared that he will call his mum to tell her of my misadventure.

My daughter however was teased by the smell of fresh cake out of the oven requested for a slice. She took two bites and said, "Umi, the cake is very delicious! Thank you for making it for me."

Awww, this one really can really say things to make my heart melt.

So I had to make another batch, almost wiping out the whole tray of eggs I bought. This time I left the help run the show.

In the meantime I decided to make fried popiah from scratch, kari daging and roti jala. Not a good idea when I brought my DD for a nap at 3 pm and I woke up at 4 pm, realizing I lost an hour napping with her when all the other stuff was not done! Thank god for hired helps! So we had a devision of labour. I did the mixing and she did the jala-ing of the roti jala. In the meantime I started with the curry and started rolling the spring rolls and immediately try to fry them.

Of course as we got in the car to leave, I heard the azan call and I rushed back inside again to pick up some cake and dates so we could break our fast and push on.

And we were welcomed with friendly smiles and delicious food.

Conversation after dinner focused on what our holiday plans were. Some will go back to Singapore. Others will stay in Riyadh in anticipation of their ski trip to Chamonix.

I know that I will miss my friends and my friendships most when the time comes for me to leave this city. But that day will be inevitable. In the meantime I am truly grateful for Allah's and their generosity.

So how has your Ramadhan been? I hope your Ramadhan will be as fruitful and joyous as you want it to be.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Chip on shoulder

Swahili forwarded an interesting article by NurDiana Suhaimi about "feeling like the least favourite child." ( see below)

Perhaps her sentiment is echoed by quite a few in Singapore. Throughout my life I have met many such Malay Singaporeans who, in my opinion, have a chip on their shoulder.

It would be quite easy to spot them from afar, because they are very often defensive people. They often feel a need to tell others that " I am the first Malay country manager..." or "I am one of the few Malays in the office..." within the first 15 minutes of you meeting them.

At the back of my mind I always ask myself, "Is that how he sees himself? First as part of the collective Malay race before he/she is an individual?"

They often carry such anger inside them. Perhaps stemming from growing up thinking that the whole world is against them because of their race and/or religion. And again this sentiment would appear quite early in conversation and they are often tense and very serious.

Some feel that the whole world is against them and that the world owe them something else in return.

Perhaps I am one of the lucky few who managed to escape from the bug. I can't really say if I never had the chip or that I had lost it as soon as I left the country at age 21.

My mum never told me that I have to work harder because I am Malay. She merely told me that I just have to be the best no matter what. But she is genetically Chinese of course. (Although it does say that I am a Malay on my Identity card as is my cultural practice.) Perhaps that made the difference?

I suppose, if as a child, you are told that you will be discriminated against, it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and you will feel that you are discriminated.

When I left Singapore to hangout with the other fellow Malaysians/Singaporeans there was never a sense of separation between the races. We all hung out because we had something in common, we were from the Malay Peninsula. They enjoyed similar food. Our memories of home were very similar too. (Especially in the -15oC Calgary winter.)

We were all united of course, all with the same goal, to finish our studies, whatever it may be, the best we can and move on and up in life.

Thing is prejudice exist everywhere. And it is inevitable, at any given place on earth, a minority group would feel itself shortchanged and prejudiced against by the majority.

For me, the truth is the feeling of being prejudiced against is a state of mind. You can and will only feel that way if you give away your sense of worth by what you think others judge of you. If anything, it shows the ignorance of the prejudiced, of how little they know of you, as a person, and chooses to judge you on the basis of race/color/origin etc.

And to that, I'd say "The loss is yours, not mine."

I see no point in carrying this chip on the shoulder; the anger, the feeling of helplessness, injustice and unhappiness. The fault lies on the person who undertakes to shoulder all those emotions when in fact they have the power in their hands to shake themselves off and seize the world.

We cannot change who we are. Our race, our gender, our color is something we are born with and have to live with. But we can change how we think of ourselves. Where do we put ourselves in the big picture? We should not be defined by what other people think of us, but rather what we think of ourselves.

So my daughter, to you, I say this. Be the best person you can be. Be happy with who you are and the wonderful opportunities given to you. Dream big! Everything and anything is possible for you, as long as you work hard and set your mind on what it is that you want.

Here are your wings. Fly my beautiful child!


I now realize that to view the article you'd have to be a subscriber and so here is the article:
he Straits Times, Aug 10, 2008

Feeling like the least favourite child

By Nur Dianah Suhaimi

When I was younger, I always thought of myself as the quintessential Singaporean.

Of my four late grandparents, two were Malay, one was Chinese and one was Indian. This, I concluded, makes me a mix of all the main races in the country. But I later realised that it was not what goes into my blood that matters, but what my identity card says under 'Race'.

Because my paternal grandfather was of Bugis origin, my IC says I'm Malay. I speak the language at home, learnt it in school, eat the food and practise the culture. And because of my being Malay, I've always felt like a lesser Singaporean than those from other racial groups.

I grew up clueless about the concept of national service because my father was never enlisted.

He is Singaporean all right, born and bred here like the rest of the boys born in 1955. He is not handicapped in any way. He did well in school and participated in sports.

Unlike the rest, however, he entered university immediately after his A levels. He often told me that his schoolmates said he was 'lucky' because he was not called up for national service.

'What lucky?' he would tell them. 'Would you feel lucky if your country doesn't trust you?'

So I learnt about the rigours of national service from my male cousins. They would describe in vivid detail their training regimes, the terrible food they were served and the torture inflicted upon them - most of which, I would later realise, were exaggerations.

But one thing these stories had in common was that they all revolved around the Police Academy in Thomson. As I got older, it puzzled me why my Chinese friends constantly referred to NS as 'army'. In my family and among my Malay friends, being enlisted in the army was like hitting the jackpot. The majority served in the police force because, as is known, the Government was not comfortable with Malay Muslims serving in the army. But there are more of them now.

Throughout my life, my father has always told me that as a Malay, I need to work twice as hard to prove my worth. He said people have the misconception that all Malays are inherently lazy.

I was later to get the exact same advice from a Malay minister in office who is a family friend.

When I started work, I realised that the advice rang true, especially because I wear my religion on my head. My professionalism suddenly became an issue. One question I was asked at a job interview was whether I would be willing to enter a nightclub to chase a story. I answered: 'If it's part of the job, why not? And you can rest assured I won't be tempted to have fun.'

When I attend media events, before I can introduce myself, people assume I write for the Malay daily Berita Harian. A male Malay colleague in The Straits Times has the same problem, too.

This makes me wonder if people also assume that all Chinese reporters are from Lianhe Zaobao and Indian reporters from Tamil Murasu.

People also question if I can do stories which require stake-outs in the sleazy lanes of Geylang. They say because of my tudung I will stick out like a sore thumb. So I changed into a baseball cap and a men's sports jacket - all borrowed from my husband - when I covered Geylang.

I do not want to be seen as different from the rest just because I dress differently. I want the same opportunities and the same job challenges.

Beneath the tudung, I, too, have hair and a functioning brain. And if anything, I feel that my tudung has actually helped me secure some difficult interviews.

Newsmakers - of all races - tend to trust me more because I look guai (Hokkien for well-behaved) and thus, they feel, less likely to write critical stuff about them.

Recently, I had a conversation with several colleagues about this essay. I told them I never thought of myself as being particularly patriotic. One Chinese colleague thought this was unfair. 'But you got to enjoy free education,' she said.

Sure, for the entire 365 days I spent in Primary 1 in 1989. But my parents paid for my school and university fees for the next 15 years I was studying.

It seems that many Singaporeans do not know that Malays have stopped getting free education since 1990. If I remember clearly, the news made front-page news at that time.

We went on to talk about the Singapore Government's belief that Malays here would never point a missile at their fellow Muslim neighbours in a war.

I said if not for family ties, I would have no qualms about leaving the country. Someone then remarked that this is why Malays like myself are not trusted. But I answered that this lack of patriotism on my part comes from not being trusted, and for being treated like a potential traitor.

It is not just the NS issue. It is the frustration of explaining to non-Malays that I don't get special privileges from the Government. It is having to deal with those who question my professionalism because of my religion. It is having people assume, day after day, that you are lowly educated, lazy and poor. It is like being the least favourite child in a family. This child will try to win his parents' love only for so long. After a while, he will just be engulfed by disappointment and bitterness.

I also believe that it is this 'least favourite child' mentality which makes most Malays defensive and protective of their own kind.

Why do you think Malay families spent hundreds of dollars voting for two Malay boys in the Singapore Idol singing contest? And do you know that Malays who voted for other competitors were frowned upon by the community?

The same happens to me at work. When I write stories which put Malays in a bad light, I am labelled a traitor. A Malay reader once wrote to me to say: 'I thought a Malay journalist would have more empathy for these unfortunate people than a non-Malay journalist.'

But such is the case when you are a Malay Singaporean. Your life is not just about you, as much as you want it to be. You are made to feel responsible for the rest of the pack and your actions affect them as well. If you trip, the entire community falls with you. But if you triumph, it is considered everyone's success.

When 12-year-old Natasha Nabila hit the headlines last year for her record PSLE aggregate of 294, I was among the thousands of Malays here who celebrated the news. I sent instant messages to my friends on Gmail and chatted excitedly with my Malay colleagues at work.

Suddenly a 12-year-old has become the symbol of hope for the community and a message to the rest that Malays can do it too - and not just in singing competitions.

And just like that, the 'least favourite child' in me feels a lot happier.

Each year, come Aug 9, my father, who never had the opportunity to do national service, dutifully hangs two flags at home - one on the front gate and the other by the side gate.

I wonder if putting up two flags is his way of making himself feel like a better-loved child of Singapore.