web counter The Madness of MokcikNab: I'll Never Win Mother of the Year
The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Thursday, March 23, 2006
I'll Never Win Mother of the Year

My sister wrote a nice piece about the effects of television, or cartoons, to be specific, on her children. Folks, what she has done with Ilham, Ihsan and Anis is the right thing to do. I'm afraid I hadn't had the same kind of luck with my kids. I confess, when they talk about overweight children getting their brains fried on TV and having eyes like they're on a nicotine fix : they were talking about my kids.

My kids are definitely learning the wrong things, or the right things, if you consider being a funny voice-over artist an illustrious career. For example, they are absolutely nuts about Camp Lazlo : which features the adventures of beanscouts Lazlo, a free-spirited but misguided monkey, Raj, a neurotic elephant, and Clam, a quirky, albino, pygmy rhino (who knew these animals existed?) Over and over again, I'll get to hear my kids enact a scene from Camp Lazlo, the one used as a promo for the series. I can't really remember much of it, but in the end it goes :

"Wata-wata-wata-wata, do you have any waaaaataaa?"
"Sparkling or Non-Carbonated?"
"Uh, sparkling would be fine."

And then all three would be all over the floor, in hysterics.

The week before it is the "I want to buy a hamburger" bit from Pink Panther -- Aiysha gets to be the English instructor, Adam is Inspector Clouseau, and Aliya the laughtrack.

It's funny how they can remember whole chunks of dialogues from cartoons or films but can't seem to recall the difference between a wakil rakyat and a penghulu in Kajian Tempatan. But who'd blame them? The subject matter is terribly boring -- and their exam paper looks like one of those tests you have to sit through if you're a government servant. Now, if only they can make an imaginary blue blob, or a smug octopus, or the Grim Reaper teach Kajian Tempatan. (If you're a parent, you'd recognize each one)

Ten or fifteen years from now, I wonder what kind of adults they would grow up to be, considering the warped sense of humour and distorted worldview they absorb from Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon.

Already, Adam and Aiysha have a pronounced mistrust for grown-ups in authority, especially those who use grown-up powers in ways they perceive are oppressive towards children. It also doesn't help that their father feeds their minds with all sorts of ideals about rights and human dignity, and warnings about the wickedness of government. Adam once likened school to a kind of gulag, where students are slaves who work non-stop in a mine, where teachers are the black-masked slave drivers with whips, and where the headmistress is the supremo evil mastermind, laughing manically while everyone else does her bidding.

Sometimes, I am that evil grown-up, in which case they'd be quick to point it out, but I hardly ever back down from my decisions, and my kids would usually accept them if I have a good rationale. Or give them a good deal. The thing is, back in my time, my mother won't even bother reasoning things out or negotiating -- discipline is discipline, my word is law and that's it. Now, I have to earn that kind of respect. It usually comes from knowing the name of that blue blob, or the difference between Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, or the characters in Madonna's English Roses. Their father, on the other hand, is always treated with deference, because he can assemble mechanical things, has the ability to do Math and has a proper job. Having an abrupt temper, apparently, also helps.

The flip side to all this is my children have developed self-empowerment, although I'm not sure it is entirely the result of those brash characters they see on TV, or the fact that I'm not of drill-master quality. My children are not afraid to voice out their opinions, even when they're contrary to others, especially when they're contrary to mine. If I say something that hurts their feelings or belittles them (and I do this mostly in jest or unintentionally), they have no qualms telling me exactly how they feel. Adam has recently imposed a "no-touchy" injunction against me, because he's sick of getting his cheeks pinched and his butt slapped. (I still do as I please) On one hand, I want to nurture that kind of confidence, on the other, it makes it hard for me to reinforce my role as someone they should listen to. Maybe I should try a spot of abrupt temper.

I envy mothers who are able to shape and mould their children exactly the way they want them to be. I have no one to blame really, I know I haven't put in the requisite time and effort it takes to be a good mother, and I don't possess the iron-handed diligence to pull it off. Faced with the prospect of say, going through multiplication tables, or putting up a mock comedy night, I'd always choose the latter. What can I do? I hate multiplication tables. Discipline? It would seem that I need that medicine more desperately than my children.

And so, the idiot box has been, on many occassions, the de-facto parent. It's worse now that my husband is in Jakarta and not here to provide the balancing factor. This week Adam and Aiysha have exams, and I've limited their TV viewing time. I found that the influence of slapstick and weird humour can transcend even an empty screen.

Last night, for dinner we had steamed broccoli with macaroni, cheese and sausages (saute a little garlic and chopped onions in some butter, add sliced sausages, fry till crisp, then add to pre-cooked mac and cheese). To entertain their youngest sister, Adam and Aiysha decided to hold a farting competition. Broccoli and sausages, by the way, are perfect for the production of good quality flatulence, and the two just went on and on, while making the appropriate faces to accompany the cacophony. I pulled my nightie over my head and dialled my husband in Jakarta.

"Look, I truly think we raised them wrong", I told him. I can't remember what Saiffuddin said, maybe it was don't worry or poor Mommy or something to that effect, but I know he was laughing. No one, I tell you, no one takes me seriously as a mother.

Well, what do I expect? My plan for raising kids is to live on a wing and a prayer : make-it-up-as-we-go-along and lots of faith in doa's.

As well as Marks and Sparks tea-rose room spray.


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