18

Yaya turned 18.

There was a long period of time i.e. till I was about 23 I never thought about becoming a mother. Then one evening while laying down in my bed and watching Fresh Prince of Bel Air, a friend phoned me to tell me that she was expecting. Until that moment I was only ever jealous of people who had normal family(practically everyone I knew had normal family and all I ever wanted was a normal family). But that evening I felt extremely jealous when I heard my friend was going to be a mom. Then the journey became one that was full of heartaches and tears. And then Yaya came and made me the happiest  person on earth. When Yaya celebrated her 18th birthday, I celebrated 18 years of motherhood. And it felt so good.

Yaya got

18 gold sovereigns that I collected one/year.

An Amethyst pendant set with diamonds. She loves purple and I wanted her to have something valuable that she could give to her grandkids..

A masala Dabba. This was part of her hope chest and I felt I better give it to her now that she is going to be on her own and is going to cook her own food. I had always wanted a steel masala dubba with all those little lottas inside. I don’t really have any reason why I never bought one. Perhaps it is because I am reluctant to give up the masala containers I have been using until now. I bought Rajah spices that came in little containers when I was in UK and it travelled with me all over the world for the past two decades.

A boss Bluetooth headphones. I did buy her one last birthday with the caveat that if she destroyed it, I will never buy her another one as it is really expensive. Unfortunately for her, Kirra went in to her room while she was away and chewed it up. What was most remarkable was that when this happened, her brother offered her his headphones because he knows how much she loves to listening to music while studying. Since it really wasn’t Yaya’s fault that Kirra ate her headphone, I bought her a new one.

Baby bought Yaya a St Christopher pendant and got it engraved in Latin ‘Sit Vis Nobiscum’ (may the force be with you) Apparently St Christopher is the protector of travellers and Baby felt it was something she wanted Yaya to have. As Yaya is embarking on her life’s journey. She also bought Yaya fluffy socks that Yaya can wear at night when it is cold, a bag to carry her passport etc and a silver nail polish to replace the one she spilled couple of months ago.

My son bought Yaya a Tshirt that said 1998, aged to perfection, a makeup brush set and a Ferrari ride around Brisbane.

Then we went to Hog’s breath restaurant to have lunch. My son was attending a conference and only had 45 minutes to spare. Since this was the last time I have all three kids at home to celebrate Yaya’s birthday, I pre-ordered the food, picked my son up, went to the restaurant and had a quick lunch. We have been going to Hog’s breath for lunch on Yaya’s birthday since we came to Australia and Yaya like me is a creature of habit. We had a good lunch.

Later in the evening, Yaya booked a room at  hotel in the city, organized a slumber party with her friends.. The hotel upgraded her room to a suite on the 67th floor with a view that is worth a million bucks!. She had 10 of her friends over, enough alcohol to feed an army and celebrated. The floor had white carpet and I am really happy that no one spilled any drinks or vomited. (Yaya told me later that the first thing she did when she checked in was to photograph every singe stain on the carpet so she won’t lose her deposit, I must say I was really impressed.)

All in all she had a great birthday.. and as her mother I must say I raised her well.

 

WHO

I got the coveted WHO internship. For the longest time, I dreamt of working for WHO and it felt so good to receive the offer letter.

And now, we are back to the same problem I always faced.

I am posted to Manila and Yaya won’t be home. I can’t leave Toothless and Baby alone home for the duration of my postings.

This is the part of my life I hate the most.. where I can’t just drop everything and do what I really really  want to do.

Anyone want to come and live in Brisbane for couple of months ?

 

So

Here I am, on a beautiful winter day in Brissie, happy as a lark..

Today, I completed my master’s degree.

I went back to Uni at the age of 44, studied with classmates half my age, raised my kids while studying and writing a million assignments and scored a cumulative GPA of 6.5(out of 7)

As I mentioned before, my life is a living example of the quote,  “you can have it all, but not all at the same time”.

I woke up this morning thinking about my life.. all the good, the bad and the ugly.. and I can honestly say, I regret nothing.

Many a times my wings were broken and I thought I would never fly again.. but I do know that somewhere deep in me I have strength that can get me through anything. I learned that the only thing that matters in the end is your resilience. How many ever times the door closes in front of you, keep knocking.. there are plenty more doors out there that are yet to be opened..

My youngest gave me a kiss before she went to school and said,

“You are an extraordinary mom.. living an extraordinary life.. and I am proud to be your child”

She said this while holding her printed resume in hand. Everyday since June, she has been going to my local Kmart and handing in her resume. She says she will do this, until the only resume pile on the manager’s table is hers and that he/she will be compelled to call her for an interview..

I guess, it is true that apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree..

So I march on.. to the next big adventure..

Hunger

Last week when I went to pick up my youngest after her work, I noticed that she looked about to cry. I have learned from experiences that much as I want to hold her and ask her what is wrong, it is better to wait and let her tell me what is wrong.

There was nothing forthcoming from her side, so very casually I asked her

“How was your day?”

A nanosecond later, the dam burst and she told me

“Mom, someone stole my lunch again”

This has been happening lately.. that when she goes for her PE or art class, someone goes through her bag and steal her school lunch. But what made it worst was that this time, her lunch bag contained 2 lunches. One to eat during her usual lunch break and one to eat just before she starts her shift.. She didn’t have anything to eat till I picked her up at 8 pm( She had brekkie at 6 am) so I had to quickly find a Maccas and get her something to eat.

I was so angry..

I get up very early in the morning to cook a decent lunch for my kids and it is not for someone to steal and eat. I though of all possible ways I could wring this perpetrator’s neck..

But as I drove back home, I remembered the little girl in Yaya’s class for whom I sent lunch everyday… My son’s kindergarten was in the afternoon and sometimes we used to go early, so he and Baby could play in the playground. I noticed this girl on the swing., sitting alone every lunch break while everyone was eating their lunch. That was really odd.. and I figured she didn’t bring any lunch. I was broke financially, but I couldn’t bear to see a child hungry and so I packed school lunch for her as well and sent it through Yaya….

Stealing is not right.. and I guess whoever is stealing my child’s lunch is doing it because they have no other choice.  Isn’t it sad that living in Australia with all our social support network, a child has to resort to steal food..

So, I am going to give some money to the tuckshop convener,, if anytime my child’s or someone else’s lunch is stolen, the tuckshop will provide lunch for them..

Economic choices

Couple of days ago I attended my son’s orientation program for the student exchange to Peru. 20 students are going to Peru and of the 20, 12 were Caucasians, 7 Asians and 1 Indian.  His school is one of the top academic schools here and without being racist, you know what I mean when I say majority of the kids who study there are Indians and Asians.

I did expect to meet other Indian parents and was really surprised that I was the only one. Later that day I asked my son how come none of his Indian classmates are going to Peru? He replied ” most parents consider it too expensive”

Which is true. His trip to Peru would cost me 10000$.

This year, I have to spend 10000$ for my son, 9500$ for my youngest for her student exchange to Spain, my flight ticket and accommodation in US to send Yaya to Uni, Her Uni fees(that extra bit her scholarship doesn’t cover) and  return trip back to Aus this Christmas(I don’t want her to be alone for Christmas)

I pay all these not because I am super rich, but because you can’t attach a monetary value for experiences..

Student exchange is brilliant way to teach children independence. It teaches them to get along with others and help them find their own strength and weaknesses.. In order to provide my children this opportunity, I had to cut down a lot of my own expenses. I haven’t bought a single new dress for over three years. All my clothes are second hand. My friends laugh at me when they stay over during winter time.. My winter PJ’s were bought in Canada..10 years ago.. all Christmas themed.. and I wear them in June in Australia.. (our winter here) Actually even the parcel delivery guy had a good laugh when he came to deliver a parcel first thing in the morning and I was still in my brilliantly red flannel PJ with pictures of Santa on a sleigh…

I am very careful with my groceries and try not to waste food. I do check what is on sale at the grocery shop regularly and stock up on soap shampoo etc..

A friend who grew up in Malaysia, who along with her siblings studied in a private school followed by Uni in England told me.. Her father was determined to give them the  best education . even though he was only a documentation controller in a construction company..and he did it by being frugal..

Oru Tiramisu nte Katha..

I know this is a repeat of past events.. However, I can’t stop writing about it, so please bear with me.

Yaya is now a 100% vegan.. even her Doc Marten is vegan!!  I told her that I won’t go the extra mile to make vegan food for her, because that means I have to cook meat for the other two, vegetarian for me( I like dairy products, esp cheese) and vegan for her. I don’t have enough time to make three different types of food.. So all the desserts I make at home especially Tiramisu (Yaya’s favourite) Yaya can’t have.

Last Thursday after dinner, my youngest went to her room and brought a prettily wrapped parcel to the dining table. The parcel was really tiny.. and she gave it to Yaya and said, ” I bought you something to celebrate you getting the driver’s license”

I thought it would be Jewellery..  and I waited anxiously to see what she got for Yaya..

Yaya opened the parcel.. in it was a small slice of vegan tiramisu..

My youngest earns  $10.60/hour and the Tiramisu cost her 10$. One of the reason my youngest works is that she wants to have enough spending money to take with her when she goes to Spain in September.. and still she was willing to spend a large chunk of her day’s wage for her sister..

I know all about nature and nurture…  But I can’t stop asking myself, why? Why the hell did my sisters and I not have a relationship like this.. How could one mother destroy it all? and why did we not rise above all the damages Amma inflicted on us?

Yaya got her driving license. As her mother, I have completed all I set out to do.

First, let me tell you about the road test.

As she has already completed her 100 hours on the road, she was eligible to go for the road test. But she felt she wasn’t ready. And finally got around to booking her test last week. She chose the local redneck area because she felt the testers would be used to multicultural people taking the test. She chose afternoon, during school zone time, so she would be spending most of the 30 minutes on the road test sitting in traffic jam. She didn’t want a female tester because she thought male testers are nicer(not true)

Her test was at 2;50 pm and on the day of the driving, she forced me to take her to the test center at 11 am. She then spent the next three and half hour, driving around the test center, so she is familiar with he roads as well as practicing parallel parking.. In between doing this, every few seconds she would tell me “I don’t want to do this, I am scared etc etc” and I told her “every person you see behind the wheel has gone through exactly what you are going through..it is ok to get worked up, but remember it is just a drivers test, the worst that can happen is you don’t pass.. but you can always do it again”

But I won’t have to do another test before I leave, I don’t want to do this, I want to go home…blah blah she went on.. By the time we went to the test center for her to go for the road test, I was coming down with the mother of all migraine.. It is not east trying to be positive and give your child the moral support she needs.

When the tester came out, I noticed it was a lady.. She sounded so rough and tough when she asked Yaya to turn on the car, the lights etc..

About 10 minutes later, the girl who went for the test before Yaya came back crying.. she failed the test..

I expected the worst.. But then again, I should have known this is Yaya.. the one thing that sets her apart from her friends is her absolute determination..

She passed her drivers test in the first attempt..

When I gave birth to her, I promised myself that I will do my job as her mother well and I had set goals for myself.

I wanted her to have the best possible childhood.. I gave her that.

I wanted her to learn swimming and skating. Yes to both.

I wanted her to play a group sport and a musical instrument.. Yes to both.

I wanted her to be able to shop for her own grocery and cook a meal.  Yup, she can do that.

I wanted her to dress properly.. yup

So, all in all.. here I am.. a very happy mother.. I achieved all the goal… now she is free to follow her dreams and achieve her own goals.

Doom and gloom

I usually do not read emails from my son’s school. If someone sneezed at school, they will send an email about it and I really don’t have the time to go through reading apprx three emails a day from the school. I read this particular email as it was sent to his father and me and his father forwarded it to me for added measure..

And I found this gem, including the italics and underline..

Unfortunately, your son has received a score <75% on one of the maths diagnostic tests held so far which places him at risk of not achieving at a standard of 4 or greater this term.

I have never been this pissed..

The first question that came to my mind was

So what?  My son got less that 75% marks on one of the diagnostic test, but the earth is still revolving around the sun..  The sun is still rising from the east every morning.. I wanted to tell the teacher that the world really hasn’t ended..

So what if he didn’t achieve the standard of 4? In life you win some, you lose some. But life still goes on..

My children are lucky that they have me for a mother.. But imagine, if a typical pushy parent received a mail like this from the school teacher.. imagine the grief the child would have to go through..

In the evening when my son came back home, I asked him what happened with the diagnostic test.. and he told me..

There were 5 questions, the first one with most marks was right after the information for the student part in the first page and my son didn’t see it.. and obviously that affected the score.. He let the teacher know about the mistake as soon as he realized his mistake.

I wish the teachers would stop making education all about perfect score and the highest grade.. In the grand scheme of life, no one really bothers what marks you got a for a test..

Work!

My youngest started working part-time a month ago.

On her way back from school, she noticed a vacancy ad on a shop window. She came home and asked me how to go about applying for the job. I explained to her the process and that the first thing is to get her resume sorted.

When Yaya got back from work that day, there were her favourite cupcakes in the oven, courtesy of her youngest sister.  And I heard the youngest very gently asking Yaya, if she could have a look at Yaya’s resume. Well played, I thought.

She then suggested to her brother that they could take the dog to the dog park and spend some time together.. and they did

At the end of the day, she had both her siblings resume in her email inbox!

Next evening she asked me if I would drive her to the shop where she saw the ad and I asked her “Why didn’t you go there straight after your school?”

“Madre, I need to look presentable” And I noticed that she actually did make an effort to look presentable. Black top, with a matching skirt and leggings.. (as opposed to her normal attire of leggings and a t-shirt sans the skirt!)  Her hair was neatly combed and tied in a ponytail.(as opposed the messy Boho style she prefers everyday)

I agreed to drive her to the shop.

When we were about a block away from the shop, she asked me to pull over.

“Why do I have to stop here?”

“Madre, I don’t want them to know that my mother came with me. I want them to know that I am a confident young woman”

And so she did. She went there, handed in her resume and managed to get a trial the next day and got the job.

At home,there are two chores that all three of my children refuse to do. To take the thrash to the bin and to clean the toilet. And guess what? Her new job involves her cleaning the toilet and taking the thrash to the bin.. and she does it without any complaints. When I asked her how come she is willing to do it at work , but not at home, she replied..” you don’t pay me to do your dirty work!”

I was tempted to tell her that I don’t get paid to do their dirty work either.. but being the smart woman that I am, I kept quiet.. for I know for sure that her reply would be, you chose to have kids.. you made your bed and you better lay on it!

Will

A friend of Yaya passed away recently. (medical reasons) and it has made a huge impact on all three of my kids.

We have regular  conversations about death, afterlife, funeral etc..

Yesterday evening Yaya came to me and asked how to write her will.. and I asked her why she thinks she needs a will.

“Mom, until now, I didn’t really have much to give to my siblings, but right now I have close to 20K in the bank. I want you to divide the money equally between my siblings and it can only be used to pay for their uni.. I want you to give all the things I booked for my gap year to my friend L. (L is from a very poor family and dreams about travelling, but can’t afford a trip around the world and I know that is the reason Yaya chose L. Besides my son and Baby can’t go on a solo trip right now) I want you to give all my baby books, toys etc to your first grandchild., the rest of the books has to be divided equally between my siblings”

I said fine.

When I went to bed, I thought of my siblings.. Why is that my child could think of her siblings and care for them unselfishly, yet  my sisters and I will never see eye to eye?

In a way I am glad, I walked away from my family, or all my children would ever have seen would be how my sisters and I bicker and fight.. for every little thing..