Rekindling familial bond

I grew up in a very traditional Chinese family. “Traditional” by the definition of:

► No talking back or questioning authority
► Whatever I do, always consider what others will perceive or think of my actions first
► If something happens – even if it means getting bullied in school, a failed relationship etc. – it is always my fault
► Money is success

When I was young and gullible, I used to accept these as part of life – that yes, I live to please others and will never be good enough in my parents’ eyes. I strove hard to stick by the rules, and win people’s heart, even if it means not being happy myself. Deep inside, I wondered what was wrong with my own real feelings and views. It’s probably innate that I am different from my siblings in terms of mentality and characteristics but at times, I do feel that I do not belong to this family. Overtime, this feeling matured and grew into the empathy of understanding that I was born into this family for a reason: perhaps to balance out the family’s differences; or maybe as a path to meeting my destiny. For those of you who followed my tales since 2007, you would know that it is by meeting my husband and his family that resurrected the senses in me and brought me to the life I’m happiest and most comfortable in. Through them, I’ve learned to be okay with myself, to give more than to take, appreciate simplicity and be grateful for life’s little mercies.

That being said, without my family, I wouldn’t be where I am today too. I have also learned to love them for who they are regardless. My parents have brought me up well – educating, clothing, feeding and imparting the best values they knew to me. Over the years, life has also taught me to digest the differences and embrace diversity. I still make an effort to stay connected with them and let them know that I truly care.

There’s always a favourite child…
Besides my brothers, my eldest sister has always been the favourite child in the family. It is a fact I have come to accept and live with for years. Who wouldn’t adore a child who constantly buys gifts and holidays, and sweet talk her parents all the time? On the other hand, I express my affection in a matter-of-fact way – helping out with tasks, calling to ensure everything’s fine, buying them meals whenever I can (and gifts whenever I can afford to), giving monthly pocket money etc. If I disagree with my parents’ judgment or think there’s a better way of doing things, I would speak up. No sugar-coated words or whipped cream on top. That’s me.

So it has been hard fighting for my parents’ attention with my eldest sister. Like any ordinary human, I do crave for one-to-one time with my parents. Yes, I’m in the Terrible Thirty phase. This desire intensifies at the thought of my son growing up without a grandma. Also at the fact that I’m pregnant where occasional pampering/attention from my own Mom would ease the discomfort and challenges.

Restoring parent-child connection
So I finally managed to persuade my parents to visit us in KL on Labour Day. The tactic? I tempted Mom with the talk-of-the-town FitFlop sandals and promised to bring her to buy a pair. She immediately got my Dad to make a trip here. On Monday evening after work, I anxiously waited for their arrival. Hubby has vacated our carpark and made the bed for them. They were to spend the night at our place, followed by a shopping trip to One Utama the next day. When I called to check their estimated time of arrival, Mom told me that they have decided to go to my eldest sister’s house instead. I gathered myself and said “okay”.

I was heartbroken. Tears flowed freely as I sat in the kitchen and cried my heart out.

Hubby was sympathetic; E stared at me and said, “Mommy sad sad”. I became even more emotional when E asked me to read him the “Where’s my mommy? Little Lion Cub” book. Where’s my Mommy? She’s off to my sister’s house, of course! I couldn’t bring myself to read and continued sobbing. Odee approached and licked me. Seemingly understanding how I was feeling, E put down the book and gave me the longest, warmest hug ever. Then, he looked at me and said, “Baby also sad sad” – as if telling me that my negative emotions will affect his unborn sibling.

Staying composed
I wanted to text my eldest sister and gave her a piece of my mind – to stop interfering my efforts and manipulating all the attention. I wanted to call my Mom and tell her I’m disappointed. But I know that these moves will only worsen the situation. What good will they bring? Instead, I poured my heart out to my second sister, who understands my predicament as she has been in the same boat before and now chooses to view things in a more positive perspective.

Alas, after all the tears – and probably sensing my disappointment – my parents came and stayed over at my place eventually. I didn’t pick a fight with them that night, or the next day. It won’t do us any good. I took the opportunity to update them about my pregnancy, Hubby’s job promotion, E’s HFMD episode and how things are not really looking up for me at work. Also our future plans. A ray of guilt shone on Mom’s face as she realised how much they have been missing out.

We had a good and fulfilling day. Mom got her first pair of FitFlop (and two other pair of shoes) while my family got the long-delayed, one-to-one attention with my parents. E had fun playing ball with my Dad while I enjoyed the good old times of hunting for good bargains with Mom. We all won.

Before they left KL, I told Mom, “When you care and love someone, you just pick up the phone and call. You need to drop the hierarchy mentality – that because you’re my mom and older than me, I should call you and not vice versa. Life’s too short and unpredictable to indulge in such egoistic, cat and mouse game. Who knows when will be the very last time we will talk to each other? Calling me just to say nothing or talk about the weather doesn’t mean I’m disrespecting you. It just goes to show that we are constantly in each other’s mind.”

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8 thoughts on “Rekindling familial bond

  1. limbq

    True… me too– If something happens – even if it means getting bullied in school, a failed relationship etc. – it is always my fault.

    Well, I’m considered as the most ‘Rebellious’ kid in the family 🙂
    Sometimes, I cant talk back or tell the truth… Where I can only share with my boethers as they ‘re more ‘Open’ to any opinion that I want to shout out…

    I’m wondering, when will my parents come to my house too, especially my mom. As she’s not easily get tempted by any gifts ,ha!

    Well, cheer up… And, Jason and I give you a big big hug! xoxo

    1. joeyllhow

      BQ…rebellious? That’s very surprising to know. You’re one of the most calm and accommodating friends I have ever known, really! It’s so weird that we still crave for our parents’ attention even at such age…it just goes to show that they must have done something right despite all the not-so-right things 🙂

      I can’t wait to meet you and Jason again!

    1. joeyllhow

      Emo post, Nancy 🙂 Part of me thinks it’s also caused by the hormones going haywire…anything can send me crying buckets these days!

  2. Swee Lee

    Hi Joey, yes, i agree with you that life is just too short so the more we should cherish our lives…one of my biggest regret in life was not to give my dad a call a day before he passed away….i used to call him almost every day when he was sick…it just happened that on that particular Thursday i was worried he might cough badly after talking to me over the phone…perhaps i shouldn’t have think too much & just talk to him for the very last time..:(
    Anyway this blog entry of yours has really touched my heart 🙂

    1. joeyllhow

      Same sentiment here, Swee Lee. My husband also told me he regretted not following his instinct to call his mom the morning she passed away. We have learned not to take our loved ones for granted ever since. As the saying goes, life is uncertain but death is…

  3. Fazleen

    I am so touched!
    I guess every family has got its own story
    But that feeling of belonging, is simply a blessing!
    Thank you for sharing Joey
    And Ewan is soooo sweettt….
    I hope you have a smooth journey with the little one inside 😉

    1. joeyllhow

      Yes Fazleen, every family has their ups and downs. Sometimes I wonder if I’m actually weighing down my readers with too many emotional posts…hope you all don’t mind! Writing calms me. Thanks for your well wishes. You keep warm over there!

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