WALKING THE LINE

My eight-year-old daughter and her classmates had one of their six summer swimming lessons yesterday at the local pool. I volunteered as a parent helper to assist in the change rooms and to make sure the children were safe on their walk there and back.

I like volunteering as a parent helper for school/kinder excursions, incursions and in the classroom. It allows me to better understand what my children are learning, see how they interact with their peers and teacher and shows them the importance of participating in a larger community.

I’m in a fortunate place where I am able to volunteer my time, and I’m grateful for it. Not all parents are able to do these things for their children.

As the class started their journey towards the local pool, I found myself supervising the children in the middle of the walking line.

One of the boys sidled up to me and asked, “What do you think of being a vegan?”

How do you answer that? You can’t exactly be upfront and honest with young impressionable children who aren’t yours! What if I said something that was contradictory to his parent’s beliefs or opened a can of worms I wasn’t meant to?

So what do you do when you’re like a deer caught in the headlights by a tricky question from a kid? You deflect. “Um, what made you ask that? Do you know what a vegan is?”

“It’s when you don’t eat eggs and meat,” he replied with a shrug of his shoulders. “I just wanted to know.”

“Well, I guess you could give it a go if you’re interested and see?”

Obviously, I need to work on my deflecting and diplomatic skills. I should have told him to ask his parents or given a non-response. They could be meatatarians for all I know, and my flippant comment on trying veganism could really anger them.

I had inadvertently dropped a think bomb. Trying to limit the damage, I moved away and left the boy to ponder his lifestyle choices.

I noticed a couple of girls walking behind me and slowed down to talk to them. “Hello, what are your names?”

The girls were terribly shy. They reminded me of when I was a young girl and would reply with one worded answers and refused to make eye contact. I started to feel bad when one of the girls unconsciously moved further and further away from me and ended off the footpath. I realised I was making them feel uncomfortable with the questions and so I moved away.

I wondered how I would have reacted to an unknown adult giving me attention as a shy child and came to the conclusion that I’d have done the same.

By the end of the journey, I was near my daughter and her buddy at the front of the walking line. Yes, my daughter hadn’t wanted to walk with me. Apparently, I’m embarrassing. Oh, have I mentioned that last week she took a proverbial axe to my heart by declaring she was too old to give me goodbye cuddles at the school gates? Yeah, that happened.

My daughter’s buddy decided a walking line was the perfect place to pounce on an unsuspecting parent.

“Can I have a sleepover at your house? Or maybe Mandy can come to my house?”

“Maybe. We’ll see,” I answered, not wanting to commit to anything because like elephants, children NEVER forget promises.

“Do you work?”
“Can we have a playdate during the school holidays?”
“Could you organise a sleepover?”
“Mandy and I would really like a sleepover.”

My daughter was suspiciously silent throughout the onslaught, letting her buddy steamroll me.

“Mandy wants a lot of things but it doesn’t mean she always gets what she wants,” I replied, hoping her buddy understood nuances. But like most eight-year-olds, they hear what they want to hear and it wasn’t a firm no.

“I’ll get my mum to volunteer next week with you, so you can both talk.” The kid gave me a stern look. The teacher and I made eyes, and I’m pretty sure she was giving me a sympathetic look that said ‘Welcome to my world’.

As I was leaving the school grounds, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was possible to predict a child’s future career using their personality traits and temperament.

The boy asking about veganism seemed inquisitive and thoughtful. Maybe he’ll become a philosopher or an activist. Perhaps he’ll become a scientist.

My daughter’s buddy was assertive to the point of aggressive and possessed debating skills that would make her a great lawyer. God help her parents in the meantime, though.

While it’s easy for us to imagine or predict a child’s future career based on obvious personality traits, it’s not as straightforward when it comes to shy and quieter children. No one pays attention to the shy kids, who are often unseen and unheard, let alone being noticed long enough for someone to predict their futures!

These shy girls might not have much to say now, but I hope that with time they’ll learn to believe in themselves and find their voice. Maybe it’ll happen soon or maybe like me, it’ll happen later in life.

Copyright © 2021, KN J Tales and Snippets. All rights reserved.

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IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS

Mothers. They always think they know better. Why is that? I’m almost forty-years-old, and my mother still thinks she can boss me around. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t visit my parents as often as I should. Every time I see my mother, it inevitably ends in arguments. It doesn’t help that we have a dysfunctional relationship. But I try for the sake of my children. I want them to have a relationship with their grandparents and by extension, have a link to their Vietnamese culture.

So on New Year’s Day, our family drove over to my parent’s place for a barbecue lunch. The plan was for my husband to leave afterwards and for the rest of us to stay overnight. My husband would get a small reprieve, and the children would get some quality time with their grandparents. I would get a headache, but it was a small sacrifice for everyone else.

As my mother over-caters for every occasion and has no reason or rhyme to anything she does, I suggested she organise drinks, bread and chicken wings, while I organised salads and barbecue meats. With only four adults and two children, we didn’t need too much food.

We arrived mid-morning to find a box of squid and a bowl of prawns defrosting on the kitchen counter. Next to them were a bowl of marinated chicken wings and a plate of enoki mushrooms and cabbages. On the stove top, a pot of chicken stock was on the boil as my mother was preparing rice paper rolls.

“I got the kids fried chicken drumsticks so they don’t get hungry waiting for the barbecue,” she said, pointing to a takeaway container filled with chicken from the nearby chicken shop.

There was no point arguing with my mother when her mind was set on something so I let it slide to focus on getting her to put away the excess food into the fridge.

“Uh, you might want to see what your dad’s doing with the barbecue.” My husband nudged me towards the backyard to investigate.

My dad was burning charcoal briquettes on a metal cooling rack on the stove top before dumping them into a miniature Weber Smokey Joe.

“Dad, do you have any fire lighters?” This man was a hoarder. He should have had a box of fire lighters somewhere among the junk in his garage.

“Nah, this will work just fine,” replied my dad, as he grabbed the leaf blower and started airing the briquettes in the barbecue.

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We left him alone to deal with the barbecue and prayed the fire brigade wouldn’t be needed for any wayward fire sparks.

By the time the food was ready, the children were full from all their earlier “snacks”. My mum refused to eat as 1 pm was “too early” for her. It was up to my husband, my dad and I to eat the half kilo of barbecued lamb meat, sausages and salads.

Just as we were about done, my mum brought out the chicken wings, corn and sweet potato to go on the barbecue.

“Everyone is full! Why are you cooking more food?!” I exclaimed in horror. There were already enough leftovers to last for days. I didn’t relish the idea of eating barbecue leftovers for three days straight.

“People might get hungry later. Might as well cook it!”

She was wrong. No one was going to be hungry later. This always happened. In fact, I’d go as far as to say she never learns from her mistakes.

My husband left to avoid witnessing further chaos and my dad sat down with the children to teach them how to play Dominoes.

“You have to strategise. Think about what everyone might have. Think about what you need to play to win! Okay?!”

The children have a hard time understanding my dad’s broken English most of the time, so they look to me for translations. I usually tell them what I think he’s trying to say in a more tactful and children friendly way.

My dad proceeded to lose every single game to my four-year-old son. I’d wager he was actually trying to win too! It was rather embarrassing to watch a grown man lose to a child who had just learnt how to play Dominoes.

That night, my son and I slept in my brother’s old room on his double bed. My daughter didn’t want to be squished between us, so she decided to sleep with my mother. My parents have separate rooms.

At half past three in the morning, my daughter crawled back into bed with us. My mother had sent my daughter off running with her loud snoring, so I ended up sleeping at the bottom of the bed with my body half hanging off. It was a sleepless night for everyone.

At half past six, my children woke and were sent to my dad’s room to watch TV. My dad was already up and preparing them breakfast. I rolled out half an hour later to see them with a bowl of salted air-fried potato fries on their laps.

“Why did you feed the kids fries for breakfast?!” I couldn’t believe my dad thought fries were an appropriate breakfast option for children.

“It’s fine. It’s a sometimes food.”

The deed was done. I couldn’t do anything about it, so I gathered the children to the kitchen to make them something healthier to eat.

As I was making my children a second breakfast, my mother thought it prudent to give me parenting advice on how to “fix” my naughty four-year-old son. She claimed the only reason my eight-year-old daughter was well-behaved and well-mannered was because of her.

My mother suggested my parenting choices and skills were to blame for my son’s unruly behaviour and offered to correct this. I just needed to drop him off for a short stay and she’d get him sorted out in a few weeks.

What really got my goat was her stating in a matter-of-fact way that my son was “naughty” because he was half-White and if I didn’t “reign” him in, he’ll likely become a druggie or a social degenerate.

I cracked the sh!ts. Obviously.

“Why are you so angry? It’s the truth!” reasoned my mother. My dad tried stepping into the argument but got shot down when he sided with my mother.

My parents insisted they “knew better” because they were elders and had the life experience to show for it. They didn’t realise their deep-rooted beliefs were shrouded in racism and bigotry. While I could ignore her criticisms about my parenting style, I refused to accept blatant racism against her own grandchild. It was a hard limit for me.

After schooling my parents on their social prejudices, I took my children and left in a huff. Luckily, the argument was in Vietnamese so while the children could tell we were arguing and I was upset, they didn’t know the reason. I didn’t want them to know that their grandmother was an ignorant racist. I didn’t want to ruin their relationship.

I haven’t spoken or seen my parents since New Year’s Day. While I still love my mother, I simply can’t be around her. I am just too angry. So for now, I’ll avoid her until I feel balanced enough to face her.

I can’t change my mother’s beliefs, only she is capable of doing that. And if she isn’t receptive to having open discussions where her worldview and beliefs are challenged, then that’s on her. BUT, I have control over whether or not I choose to listen to her biases. I can also limit my children’s exposure to that kind of damage.

Not all parents know better, some are ignorant fools that will never change.

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INNOCENT WHITE LIES

When is a lie acceptable? Are there degrees of lying? It is less of a lie if it’s a “white lie”? Or is lying just plain old lying?

What about telling your children that Santa exists? Or the Easter Bunny? Or the Tooth Fairy?

And if you choose to do so, when do you tell them the truth? That you have indeed, lied to them.

My parents didn’t give me fairy tales or half-truths. We were poor. If I got a present, they made damn sure I knew that they had scraped and saved every dollar to get me that ONE present. That one item would be a necessity – no frivolous toy, no gift wrapping, no card. There was no illusion of some old jovial fat dude climbing down a chimney in the middle of the night to place a beautifully wrapped gift under a Christmas tree. No Easter Bunny was pooping chocolate eggs on our lawns. And the Tooth Fairy? I was lucky to see the dentist.

Maybe that’s why I overcompensate as a parent. I want to give them the magic and fun that I didn’t get as a child. I want them to look back fondly at their childhood memories.

I’ll admit that a small part of me wants to conform to society norms. I don’t want my child to blurt out, “It’s a lie! Your parents are lying to you! There’s no such thing as Santa.”

I can ponder away the day trying to find reason and rhyme for my parenting choices. Inevitably, I will have to come clean about my lies.


We placed the baby tooth into a plastic bag and put it under Mandy’s pillow.

“So the Tooth Fairy will come, take my tooth and give me a coin?” Mandy queried.

I couldn’t look her in the eyes. “Yes, so I’m told.”

“What does she look like? How does she get my tooth if I’m lying on the pillow? How much money will I get? What happens with the teeth?”

Oh boy.

My brain scrambled for answers. I hadn’t recalled seeing a “How to lie effectively to your child” section in the parenting manual I received from the maternal health nurse.

“Uh, no-one has seen the Tooth Fairy, so we don’t know the mechanics or logistics,” I replied. “Also, you get ONE gold coin per tooth. That’s all I know.”

Mandy contemplated my answers for a moment.

“Mummy, do you give me presents as well as Santa or are you pretending to be Santa?”

I paused. She was at an age where her friends were probably discussing the rumours. This was the perfect opportunity to come clean, but then she’d likely to ruin it for her little brother.

“No, Mummy and Daddy give you presents as well as Santa,” I reluctantly replied.

“What about the Easter Bunny? Are you putting the eggs in the lawn for us to find?”

I felt the weight of her accusing stare. I shifted uncomfortably. Mandy would become an excellent cross-examiner one day.

“Me?” I exclaimed in feigned shock, “I don’t have time for that!”

“Hmm.” Mandy responded. She was onto me. The jig was probably up.

“If you have any further questions, ask your dad. He’s the expert,” I deflected. “Hey, let’s read a book.”

I was the Master of Deflection and Timely Distractions.

“I think I’ll ask Ally tomorrow if she thinks the Tooth Fairy is real,” Mandy casually stated. “She knows everything.”

I shuddered at the thought of things to come.

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