Monday 24 March 2008


Sometimes my niece Ting comes back from school carrying a little bag of goodies from some kid's birthday celebration. On days like this, you would expect her to be happy but no, she starts crying the moment she steps off the school bus because she knows the bag will be taken away from her.

At this age, she's often falling sick. If a small cold goes unchecked, it develops into a bad case of bronchitis. A visit to the pediatrician means more antibiotics, Ventolin and using the nebuliser. So it is no surprise that she's not allowed to eat candies and chocolates on most days. No ice cream, strawberries and cookies too.

It's cruel to deprive a child of her goodie bag but we tell her it's for her own good. What does a 3-year old know about what's for her good? So, she clutches her bag tightly and refuses to give it up. She even cuddles it to sleep and dreams about candy land. She wakes up to find it gone from her grip and bawls her eyes out. When she's finally given a small treat, she looks around with guilty eyes, seeking approval, wondering if it's a forbidden food.

She's in a dilemma. Should she savour it slowly or gobble it up quickly before it's taken away from her?

Poor girl. I don't want her to grow up like me. Always feeling guilty.

For some reason, I always had this nagging feeling of guilt when I was younger. I suspected it was my upbringing. Whenever I went out with my friends, I never truly enjoyed myself. I felt guilty. Maybe I should be at home studying instead, or helping my mom in the garden, or I shouldn't be spending too much or staying out too late. There was always something bothering me.

It got worse after I got married. Come to think of it, I probably married out of guilt too. After I gave birth to YK, all I did was rush home after work to take care of him and finish the housework. Life was too hectic. I stopped going out with my friends. It wasn't until SK was born that we engaged Muji, our domestic helper from Indonesia. She was really good with the kids, really like a gift from heaven. Seeing how harrassed I was, she urged me, "Go out, enjoy yourself. Don't worry, I'll take care of the kids."

Like a spell that was broken, it unleashed me from the feelings of guilt. Suddenly I realised that I was not indispensable afterall. I learned to let go. Those few words were her greatest gift to me.

As I was talking to mom that day, I finally realised why I grew up feeling this way. Mom was a sickly child. As a result, her mom (my maternal grandma) put her on a strict diet. Growing up, she wasn't allowed to eat cakes or sweets because of her allergy and indisgestion problems. She wasn't allowed to play outdoors with her siblings.

Unfortunately, my mom didn't have an angel like Muji to break the spell. Until now, she still deprives herself of special treats. Everything is either too unhealthy, too salty or too rich for her delicate tummy. She doesn't enjoy her food and doesn't allow herself to have fun.

"I really must go home now" is her favourite line when we're out shopping. I ask her why? She doesn't know. She just wants to be home though nobody controls her. My dad gives her ultimate freedom to do whatever she likes and we always encourage her to socialise.

But she doesn't know how to break the spell. I wish I can help her.


The Real Mother Hen said...

This is a tough subject. There's a lot going on in here spanning many delicate topics.

I doubt the spell is breakable though. You see, one can be enlightened and break a particular spell, yet the "dark side" in all of us will quickly go and create another "spell" for our emotion to feed on.

Today the spell is candy, tomorrow the spell is about drinking iced water, another day it is about being sick... oh the list is endless, making it a real challenge for us to say "bye bye" to all these...

Excellent blog Ting :)

Anonymous said...

agreed...with what mother hen said...difficult subject and difficult to break out of..unless you are in a good time and place and/or meet the right person...

Blur Ting said...

MH - You are quite right but we still must start somewhere. I still feel guilty if I eat too much, but I exercise the extra calories off, so I don't feel so bad.

I also feel sorry for the kids if I travel for business, so I make up by bringing them on vacation whenever I can.

Blur Ting said...

JY - I think meeting the right person who can reinforce the right message is important.

Nick Phillips (15/03/1967 - 04/11/2022) said...

Awww, the poor little girl, it must be hard to give up her bag of goodies.

In a strange way, guilt can be a good thing at times cos it keeps us in check a little more ...

Blur Ting said...

Yah, that's true also. A little guilt is good for the conscience.

SOUL said...

motha hit it right on-- but then again so did you.

it is never easy to change the patterns that we grew up with-- it takes a lot of strength within ourselves to realize what was right and wrong-- and how we want or need to raise our own kids to make them happy---or not. sometimes we do go overboard in one direction or another in that--

maybe instead of taking all the goodies away-- tell her moderation is best and let her keep a little??

in my case-- i know i have been too lenient on my girl-- due to my mom being too strict.

i don;t think any parent is ever satisfied with how we do things with our kids-- because when they "fail" or are unhappy-- we "feel it" and we see it as "our fault" that we should have done something diferent or better.

we are human, and can only do what we know. and when we come from a home that had problems such as yours--or mine-- or others worse even still-- how do we know what's right?? we do the best we can...and it can only be good enough. right?

from my standpoint blur-- i see you doing a great job with your kids--- they are sensitive happy loving children...

let the kid have a cookie-- :))

and have a happy tuesday!!! umm.. or wednesday--

Blur Ting said...

You've got many good points Soul.

Don't worry. Ting gets her treats in moderation. It's difficult to turn her down because she will keep negotiating for one more, and one more...

Like you, I admit I'm too indulgent with my own kids. Can't help it. :-)

Good thing my parents never restricted my food but we ate only healthy stuff. There was no junk food at home. I didn't taste coffee until I was 20.

I felt guilty immediately because I thought it would ruin my health :-)

Now I can't live without it!

Mike Minzes said...

Ting, you turned out perfect! So will she.

Amel said...

Based on my friends' experiences, it's REALLY tough to get out of these types of "prisons", esp. if you were brought up so strongly with some "idealisms" or whatever you may call it.

It's even harder to break out of it when you don't even realize that it's there, but even when you're grown up and you realize it's there, on your darkest days you know it's still haunting you.

I agree with Mother Hen that it's hard to break, since it takes discipline and SO MUCH effort and focus to do it.

One friend of mine told me that it was impossible to break (since it was related to her parents)...but I know that another friend managed to break out from one prison and I'm SO HAPPY for her 'coz of that. ;-D

The World According To Me said...


That is sad to hear how ill Ting can be. She'll appreciate the concerns for her diet when she's older!

I agree that a little bit of guilt is a good thing. Otherwise how would we know when to stop?! That's what I think when I know I have to put the cheese / chocolate down!

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