LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY REPEATING

What makes a parent embarrassing to a child? How do you know when you’ve entered lame territory? Are there signs, like increased rate of facepalms and eye rolls? Or do you just reach an age where you lose your sensibilities and become an ‘at risk’ embarrassing parent? I’d like to know because if my children requests that I walk three metres behind them, I’ll have failed. So far, I’m still in the ‘cool beans’ category, but only barely. I’m hanging on by a thread, but I have hope because I’m nowhere near as embarrassing as my folks. They have set the example for parental embarrassment.

My mother will:
– shamelessly haggle for a dollar discount (every dollar counts!)
– blatantly inspect and tastes unpaid fruit from stands (how else will she know if the fruit is sweet?)
– brazenly elbow and push to get in front of any line (as she waits for no-one)
– pay with a bag full of small coins, taking time to count each one (because all vendors need small change)
– refuse to put cooked rice or food in the fridge (why wouldn’t you want to save on fridge space and what’s Listeria?)
– show up unannounced and leave us a jug of her unwanted tangelos and oranges (there’s irrefutable evidence left, sticky counters and floors)

My dad will:
– forgo a shower for some wet toweling (you don’t ever want to accidentally use his towel!)
– multitask like a pro with eating and talking (just don’t sit directly in front of him)
– double park (because it’s the council’s fault that there aren’t more car parks)
– shout out ‘Hey’ and do an octopus wave to get a waiter’s attention (imagine how much extra flavouring his meals must get!)
– bring out his karaoke machine with any visitor (because everyone needs to hear those vocals!)
– FaceTime or WhatsApp his family members constantly (because obviously they’re interested in an update every half hour)

So you see, I know embarrassing. I understand what it means to have embarrassing parents. I mean, who else has had their dad talk about his penile problems to their future in-laws on the first meeting? Who’s had to make excuses so friends don’t come over because their dad has six fish tanks and sometimes walks around in his boxers that he mistakes as acceptable summer wear? Even the grandkids are saying how embarrassing they are!

***

Gary is attempting to move my mum’s car from our driveway. The deafening wail of car alarm can be heard.

“Oh that’s your dad’s car alarm. Tell Gary to press the car key button twice,” my mum dismisses.

I go outside to tell Gary her instructions. He looks frustrated and furiously punching both buttons. The alarm is so loud that I have to yell in his ear. The neighbours have started to come out to witness the commotion. We can’t get the alarm to stop. My mum shows up, and she starts pressing the buttons in the same way. Nothing. By now, we’re just standing there covering our ears. Eventually, my dad comes out with the kids. My dad smacks the car key against the door a few times and swears a ton before the alarm cuts off.

“Easy. That’s how you do it,” my dad exclaims with triumph. He leans into the car and rummages around.

“It happens every time I try to get in the car. It’s so annoying!” my mum complains.

I can only stare in wide-eyed amazement. Is he for real? He practically had to kick down the door. This aftermarket car alarm is probably going to explode. I take a step back. I peek around to see the neighbours shaking their heads and returning to their abodes.

My dad pulls out a black foam block and passes it over to me. “Here, I got you a foam cushion for your car seat so you can see over the steering wheel.”

“Dad, I do not need a cushion. My seats can be adjusted,” I tell him, rolling my eyes in the process.

“You want the back massager for your seat?” he offers, pointing to the monstrosity attached to his car seat.

“Uh no.” Seriously?! Who gets a back massage while driving?

“How about next time, we’ll come to visit you?” I mutter. “On second thought, how about we always come to visit you from now on.”

***

I wonder if history will repeat itself. Will I be my own brand of embarrassing to the kids when I’m older? Nah, no one can top my parents in the embarrassing department.
 

 

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HOW TO SURVIVE TODDLERHOOD

I love my children. LOTS. But sometimes, I wish I could find a really good hidey hole and not come out for a while. Children, especially toddlers are great at testing your limits. They like to push your buttons, incessantly, until your eye starts twitching, your mouth flattens into a hard grimace, and you explode like a nuclear bomb. Every parent or carer will have their own horror stories and tips for how to survive toddlerhood and/or parenthood. I’m no expert, but I have observed some interesting character traits.

They are fickle pickles.
Henry: “Mummy, close the window!”
Me: (closes the window)
Henry: “NO! NO! I said open the window!”
Me: (deep sigh, opens the window)
Henry: “I want it closed!!”
Me: “Make up your mind!” (closes the window)
Henry: (cue meltdown)

They have the memory of an elephant so don’t make promises unless you are going to deliver.
Henry: (pointing at a car ride-on) “Mummy, can I go on that?”
Me: “Sure, maybe on our way home.”
An hour passes.
Me: (arms overloaded with groceries, veering away from promised ride-on)
Henry: (pulling towards ride-on) “Mummy! Mummy, there is the car!”
Me: “Ugh, do you really want to go? How about we go home and do something fun?”
Henry: “NO! NO! You said so!”

They are the world’s best procrastinators.
Henry: (sitting on the toilet at five a.m.) “I have to take my time. I feel a poo in my bottom.”
Me: (every few minutes) “Are you done?”
Henry: “Not yet, I’m just waiting.”
Me: (frozen like a corpse on the cold hard floors after waiting for thirty minutes).

They become extremely thirsty at bedtime.
Henry: “Mummy, I need water!”
Me: “Here, now go to bed.”
Repeat cycle at least thirty times. EVERY NIGHT.

They like to push boundaries and limits, of the sanity kind.
Henry: “Beep, beep, beep!”
Mandy: “Henry, stop saying that. It’s annoying!”
Henry: “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!”
Mandy: “Stop it!”
Henry: “BEEEEEEP!!!! BEEEEPP!!!! BEEEEPP!!”
Me: “Just ignore him, Mandy. He will get bored and stop himself.”
Henry: (continues for another ten solid minutes)
Mandy: (breaks down crying)
Me: (whispering) “Soon. It will stop soon.”

What have I learnt so far? Toddlers are unpredictable and volatile. They are prone to indecisiveness and stubbornness. Passing strangers will comment on how angelic they look until they see the switch flipped, and the tantrum-throwing, fist-bashing, leg-thrashing devil in disguise rears its screaming self.

Based on my n=2 parenting experiment, I can offer the below suggestions:

  1. Tea is an old acquaintance but coffee is your best friend. Just don’t expect to drink it hot or warm.
  2. Perfect your eye roll. You’ll need it at all stages of parenthood, so better practice now.
  3. Pretend not to hear the screeching and crying. It will morph into whingeing, bartering and begging later on. If you work on your craft, instead of pretending, you’ll eventually just not hear it.
  4. Ignore that inner voice telling you that people witnessing your child’s meltdown are judging you. Of course, they are. Jeez, that inner voice could be more helpful by telling you something you didn’t already know!
  5. Bribe with TV or snacks if you must but make sure it’s on your terms and used sparingly. Like nasal decongestants overuse can lead to loss in effect and the dreaded rebound. You do not want to invite that misery.
  6. Become a counting expert. It’s not hard. You only need to count to three.
  7. Expect tantrums. They WILL have one, at home and in public. It is NOT a reflection on you or your parenting.
  8. Don’t compare your child to other children. They are all different and special in their own way. You might even get a runner, like mine.
  9. Do what works for you and your child. Remember to laugh. Remind yourself it’s short-lived. Accept that the struggle is real and that you are not alone.
  10. Whatever you do, never ever give in to a toddler tantrum. Once you do, they WILL own your ass. Trust me, my bottom can attest to this.

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SLAVING OVER A HOT STOVE

I don’t like eating schedules. I hate meal planning. And I loathe routine. I’m a ‘let’s open the fridge and see what’s for dinner’ type person. I thrive on the challenge of opening the fridge, seeing a handful of ingredients, and having a limited amount of time to dish up a meal. It’s my version of MasterChef’s Mystery Box.

My style of exploratory cooking is definitely not for everyone. In fact, people would probably say I’m making life harder for myself. While meal planning has some benefits of reducing stress and costs, and allows you the ability to plan for healthier and diverse meals, there is just something so uninspiring about knowing ahead of time what you will be eating on any given day. And let’s not even start on the topic of meal prepping in bulk and eating it for several days straight (*shudder).

I like the spontaneity of creating something on a whim. I like discovering new foods. If I have the time, I like to search for interesting recipes and have a crack. For me, cooking and baking food is not only to feed the family but a form of self-expression and art. It feeds my innovative and creative spirit. I love placing a dish in front of someone, seeing their face light up with amazement upon the first bite and demolish my food with gusto. Best feeling ever!

It is very unfortunate that my children and husband are fussy eaters. There is a massive ‘DO NOT EAT’ food list; eggs, seafood, lemongrass, tomatoes to name a few. It really cramps my style.

A few nights ago, I made chicken butter masala from scratch. I’m talking ‘marination with yoghurt and grinding cashew nuts’ scratch. It was a masterpiece. The aroma coming from my kitchen would have made an Indian mother proud. It was THAT authentic. I was pretty chuffed with my efforts.

So when I put the Ah-Maz-Ing curry in front of my family, I was expecting to be lavished with praise. Instead, I got…

“Mummy, how many bites?”

“I don’t want to eat this! It’s not very nice.”

“I just want to eat the rice.”

“I’m full!”

“Can I have ice cream if I eat this?”

I could only stare dumbfounded at these little people. Were they eating the same thing? What was wrong with their palates? Surely, being children, they simply couldn’t appreciate good food. I looked to my husband for confirmation, only to find him quiet and nibbling at the rice. He doesn’t even like eating rice.

“Well?” I asked, giving him a hard stare.

“It’s very nice. Kids, you should eat Mummy’s curry. She spent a long time making us dinner,” he replied.

I felt mollified until he pushed his half-eaten bowl aside and said, “I had a huge lunch.”

You can imagine my annoyance at slaving over this magnificent curry that wasn’t being appreciated or eaten. I gave up trying to force the kids to eat and went to have a restorative bath. As I came out, I heard a kerfuffle and a familiar smell wafting in the air.

“Stop hoarding the chips!”

“That’s mine!”

“Kids, there’s plenty to share!”

“Daddy, you know what the best part of dinner was? These chips!”

Giggles.

Everyone froze mid chips to mouth when I walked in and found them eating KFC.

“Um…this isn’t what it looks like. It’s dessert,” said my husband, looking sheepish.

I felt annoyed at seeing everyone chowing down on chips like seagulls at the beach. Was my curry that bad?

“Mummy, you want a chip?” asked my toddler, offering to share his stash.

Looking at his outstretched hand, holding a hot chip that made my mouth water on sight, I debated what message I would be sending by taking the delicious golden fry. It was short-lived. I let out a sigh of acceptance, pulled up a chair and joined the family. I had no doubt in my mind that there would be many successful meals to come. Just not this one.

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