When I read about writer Jane Ng’s article published on The Sunday Times’ Life Section that “Failure is an option”, I find the phrase astonishingly and incredibly distant and remote from me. In my dictionary or my world of vocabulary, there is no such word called “Failure”. This was what my parents had and have been trying to ingrain and impart to me. When you fail and fall hard, you just have to stand up again by yourself. There were no encouraging or comforting words from my parents.
My tigress mom who is known famously known as Madam Chua by all her counterparts and adversaries, is a lovely and beautiful woman on the outside but she has got the heart of steel when it comes to grooming her children, especially her son. I have heard of stories about her bashing my brother up if he did not get full marks for his spelling or tests. She had also used her nursing shoe to hit my brother’s head because he got something wrong whilst doing his school work or not doing it. Every time Madam Chua got mad, I would quickly run to takeover under my blanket. Well, do you know how hard a pair of nursing shoe was last time? The head trauma that Dr Kevin Lee had suffered, made him a Madam Chua Marine. He was groomed and grilled from young to be a surgeon and the numerous bashing that he got, contributed to making him a brilliant surgeon. I believe that without the cane, the rod and the nursing shoe, Madam Chua would not have a son who is a young and successful orthopedic surgeon. Without Tigress Chua, my brother could have become a major fraudster or a crook or white-collar criminal given his intelligence level.
On the other hand, I was the odd sibling. I dream more than I do. I was and I am flighty and I always pursued my own dreams. I was very much protected from Tigress Chua by my great-grand mother who lived with us and took care of me. When my mother wanted to cane me, my great-grand mother would hold me so tight, that Tigress Chua had to retreat. There was no way she could hit an 80-year old woman who was her husband’s grandmother. I grew up without grooming from Tigress Chua. Most of the time, I played and day-dreamed. I was the exact opposite of the perfect daughter that Madam Chua had wanted. Firstly, I ate too much and was too fat for her liking. She wanted to curb my food intake but I always had the spare change to buy a Cornetto ice-cream.
My test and exam scores were nowhere near the 1st position. Still I was very happy and go-lucky. I believed that I was Barbie and in the future, I would find Ken who would love me very much and take good care of me. I was into Sweet Valley High series of story books and my oldest friend Dawnne had a book collection of them. I scraped through my PSLE to get into a Special-Assistance Planned School whereby I took English and Chinese as a first language. I have only one word to describe my secondary school life and it was “DISASTROUS’. Although I met great friends like Michelle Poh and Junie Lee, I did not like or appreciate the culture. We were like machines driven to churn out all As for the school. It is strangely hard to believe that by doing the 10-year-series tests for 10 times, I could get an A for Mathematics. This is not learning, it was plain memory work and regurgitation. Madam Chua fed us with a lot of fish and Cod Liver Oil so that we would have the grey matter and memory to memorize all our subjects. I didn’t need memorizing because I love history and English literature. I also love to talk and communicate. Naturally when I grew up, I chose a sales and marketing which was suitable for my nature. To the eyes of the beholder and the one who has the roar of the Merlion, I was and am still considered a failure by her high trajectory of expectations.
But I gave up trying to please her. What is the use of pleasing someone who is 68 and still wants to pass her insurance examination? My mother, the Tigress Chua, is overtly competitive. It is in her nature to compete even with the youngest insurance agent. She was so upset about failing her test the first time that she stayed at home every day and night to study to make sure she passed the exam. All I can say is my mom is a perfectionist, an acclaimed kiasu and a go-getter. I am a dreamer, a wanderer and a self-indulgent gentlewoman. Although I passed my university with Honours, so what? I competed with so many junior college kids to get into LSE but I had no monies to go and had to stay back at NUS. And so what I had a 5 year university education (I was on scholarship for a year at the University of The Ryukyus, Japan)? Does it make me a better person? Does is make me a person with good moral standings? Seriously I could not remember a thing of what was taught to me in the university. Some of my lecturers came from Hongkong and China and it was difficult to comprehend their English. They probably had the same problem with our Singlish. After graduation, I just jumped onto the corporate wagon like all my friends, hoping to get to the top and become some female head of department. I did it but was I happy? NO, I was not happy until my 2 sons came along. Motherhood brought me immense happiness and joy.
My 2 sons made me proud and they have encouraged and given me the biggest nudge to be a better person. I am a learning mother and everything I say, do or react to, affects both of them. Caden is a sensitive kid and he cries whenever he cannot get what he wants. This is because Tigress Chua became a lamb with Caden. She hugs me, loves him so much and buys him bicycles and toys which we had to beg so hard to get. It is so strange to see my parents behave in front of my 2 sons. They kiss, hug and cuddle them. My mom has never cuddled me before. My dad has never hugged or kissed me on my cheeks before. All I want to say is that people do change, and they change to become better human beings when they see a new life grow in front of them. Although I know my mom is still very competitive but she no longer use such tactics with her grandchildren. The tigress needs to rest too.
I am adamant not to mimic my mom using her boot-camp methods for educating and caring for us. I am a lax mother, but I will give my children the best educational courses which would allow them to excel but I must know that they are happy doing what they want. To be competitive is a good thing, because it propels you to work hard and move forward conscientiously. Tardiness is a distasteful characteristic and no one should be lazy when it comes to creative and active learning. I want my children to be happy and if they are happy competing with their friends like who reads the most books in a week or who has killed more pigs in The Angry Bird game, I am fine with it. But if you are competing to see how many friends you can befriend on Facebook or Twitter or if you are 6 years old and crying whilst holding your spelling book to study, then I am not fine. You don’t like spelling and you are too young to be a social media strategist. The word here is the word called moderation. Everything should be moderated even for the cyberspace. For me, if I know Caden and Charles have done their best, I am fine. As long as you put in effort, your end result will be good. If you keep trying to compete with others, you lose yourself in the rat race. Compete with yourself. If you got full marks every week, then it goes to show that you are studying the right way or maybe memorizing and regurgitating the right way. But do you know how to swim or play Risk or English Chess? Well, if you don’t, then you might want to finish your spelling and then learn swimming during the weekends to strengthen your mind and your soul.
Adding a final touch to this post, treasure the first 5 years you have with your kids, they just grow up so fast and when you know it, they have their own circle of friends. Sometimes I do pity one of my friends who work so hard for the company and her children. One day her son asked her why was she not as rich as her other friends, staying in bungalows or even private apartments? At the moment when she related this to us, I felt a sharp pierce into my heart. She is one of my good friends and I really don’t think her son should say that to her. He is merely comparing and competing with his friends. This is not healthy. But these days, I have heard of kids who ask their friends, how many cars their parents own and where do they live? I hope Caden and Charles will not come to me and ask me why am I sitting home typing on the computer but not at work. Why am I not the CEO of Singtel and only a silly blogger day-dreaming? I am biting my fingernails and praying that day won’t be here so soon.