Conference notes

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It never fails to amaze me how weird academic conferences are.

At a conference I attended recently, the first session I went to, one of the presenters mumbled about logistical problems and then proceeded to read from her paper at super high speed. Yeah, people were mostly ‘reading’ not presenting. All the while she was pulling her hair in different directions.

Another panelist in an attempt to be helpful turned out the lights during the presentation so we could see the visuals. But the lights system turned out to be more complex than anticipated and for a while it was a disco in there while hair pulling woman kept on going. Instead of giving up, the guy seemed to be obsessed with getting the perfect lighting, only when he did, it was time to turn the lights back on. Turns out he was this really famous scholar too.

In another sessions, the moderator timed the sessions using a standard watch instead of a digital timer, got into a passive aggressive thing with one of the speakers, and sliced her finger across her throat to indicate that speakers had to stop, now! Then at one point in the discussion, she burst out, “Well, I’ve been clinically depressed” to complete silence.

It struck me how this would be considered totally bizarre in any other setting. But here everyone remains totally poker faces through these shenanigans. Don’t get me wrong, I kind of love it. But it does make me want to laugh out loud sometimes.

As I’ve observed earlier, people seem to come to these things in groups and stick to these groups so while there is an illusion of networking, people are just largely talking to their friends while the monitory of us who didn’t come with a posse stand around FOMOishly. When you do reach out to someone they politely spend about two minutes with you before moving on. Except in this part of the world no one passes out cards.

Nevertheless, there were some really good papers and the discussions were some of the best I’ve witnessed. My own panel attracted a small audience partly due to being scheduled early in the morning but I got a great response from those who were there, so that was lovely (and frankly a first and a welcome change from the blank looks I have sometimes been greeted with).

On the final night, there was a dance party with a full-on brass band contracted to play, and it was great! I dithered over whether to go or not, seeing as I didn’t have anyone to go with, but finally FOMO and wanting to listen to the band got the better of me and I went, and it was fun. There were people from the age of 80 down dancing up a storm. I had lengthy conversations with more people here than I had had the entire conference, and ended up getting sweaty as hell dancing, resulting in me having no clothes to wear to the conference the next day and having to attend in a flannel shirt and slightly torn jeans (which again is perfectly fine at these things. heh.). I also noticed a couple of women dragging guys onto the dance floor and then getting really flirty, while the guys looked uncomfortable. One of these was a woman who had been quite aggressive to a guy during a panel, but then I saw them going to dinner together so they had clearly made up, only then she tried to get more handsy with him and he didn’t look happy and then she left.

Overall, this was one of the best conferences I’ve been to, and I think conference should always open with a dance party.

 

 

 

 

Lexington tales

My primary purpose for the trip was a conference at Lexington, Kentucky, which is famous for its confederate history which I am less interested in, and its horse racing  which I am more interested in. Not so much the racing as the horses. However, this being the South and this being Trump’s America where an Indian man was recently shot dead in a bar, I was apprehensive about whether I should actually venture out and about in Lexington. When I floated the idea by my brother-in-law who is half Black, he immediately said: “Hell no!”

Nevertheless, when I landed in Lexington airport, I noticed people were perfectly friendly. While I was waiting for the hotel shuttle bus, and went in and out of the airport doors, a man from one of the airline counters came and asked me if he could help me. That was my first taste of Southern hospitality, which I had been hitherto unsure extended to non-white people.

During lunchtime on the first day of the conference, I did a short walk down the block, and it was uneventful. I did notice that the white collar people were almost uniformly white, and the working class people were mostly coloured. In the street though people actually made eye contact and greeted you, which to me coming from Hong Kong is a bit of a shock, and I fear I came across as the rude one as I figured out that people were indeed wishing me a good afternoon.

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Downtown Lexington

You know what else threw me? This old school elevator panel that didn’t have a ‘door close’ button. I almost pushed the red alarm button instead, such was my confusion. There was a ‘door open’ button though, but repeatedly I found myself lurching, true Hong Kong style, for the missing door close one. Not that I would have shut it intentionally in anyone’s face, mind you; I’m not that Hong Kong.

So, encouraged by my walk around the block and the fact that downtown Lexington is really very pretty, I forayed out in the evening the next day. I even had a whole bowl of salad only for dinner, a historic first, because I was sick of eating cheesy, fried and sweet things.

I also decided to book a horse farm tour. I was a bit apprehensive about this because I wasn’t sure how many non-white tourists these tours get, but I decided I just had to see some horses. It turned to be more than fine. The tour guide was super nice, and the other ladies on tour were friendly too (except for one grandma who totally blanked me, but I’m putting that down to being hard of hearing. ahem).
We first drove around the downtown and looked at some buildings of historical interest. While I had already strolled past these, hearing their history made them come alive. For example, on at least two occasions, a rich man or woman decided to buy houses side by side for their daughters so they wouldn’t be separated. Or to buy houses with acreages in between so they would be. But what stuck with me was the buying houses for daughters part.


We went by Keeneland racecourse, though just to view the tracks and drive by the barns. it was more interesting than I thought. The guide explained to us about the horse racing business, how horses are bred, how much a prize-winning thoroughbred stallion can earn on adate. Must say the whole thing doesn’t sound like fun for the horse, and I’m not 100% sure I support racing as a sport, but the horses have huge paddocks and generally seem fine.

When stopped by our first horse farm I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. These fillies came running up to us, possibly in anticipation of carrots, and allowed us to pat and take photos of with them. I totally fell in love.

 

We even got to see a mum and her baby. Baby horses have loooong legs, and sometimes have trouble getting up. This one was about six weeks old!

Met a horse named Hong Kong Lane. He was not impressed by my Hong Kong vibe though.

The grave of multiple prizewinner Seattle Slew. While only the head, hooves and heart of horses are usually buried (and I’m wondering who has the job of carving up the dead horse), this guy was buried in his entirety. Behind him is not a house, but a barn for other houses.

Then we proceeded to Old Friends Farm, where retired and rescued horses live. This is Kentucky Derby prizewinner Silver Charm, who I fed carrots to.

The star of Old Friends Farm is Little Silver Charm, who writes his own blog and who I am not friends with on Facebook. Lots of carrots for this one too. He was the first to be rescued by the couple who run the farm. He was bought for $40 en route to the slaughterhouse. Now he has his own paddock, a shed with posters of his derby favourites and footballs to play with. He also goes into the house to watch TV sometimes.

I am so glad I did this tour. Blue Grass Tours were fantastic. When I sent V pictures of me with the horses, “You look so happy. Maybe we can get you one if we move to India.” So there’s that.

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What I’ve been up to

Now that the kids are older, we’ve been doing something new with them every weekend. Over Chinese New Year, One weekend we did a hike in our extended neighbourhood. It was beautiful. Another weekend I took the kids to the India by the Bay family day, which was a series of India-themed activities. Another weekend, we decided to go fly a kite. This is not as simple as it looks because kite flying is not permitted everywhere in Hong Kong. In fact, to avoid disappointment, I identified a country park with a ‘designated kite flying area’. Unfortunately, when we got there, there was little wind. However, the park itself was beautiful, and we hung about, the kids climbing trees, then chasing people with dogs and asking if they could pet them. And finally, the wind picked up and we did fly the kite – V is a veteran in this regard, and I must say I think he enjoyed the activity the most.

***

Recently, I’ve been thinking about what comes after the PhD, seeing as I’m in the final semester. The unfortunate thing in Hong Kong is that a permanent teaching position at the university level seems unlikely the first year, and I’m probably going to have to scramble with part-time positions, and probably earn less than I did when I was a student. Which is patently ridiculous. But it is what it is, so I’ve been scrambling to put together a CV and references and teaching portfolio and what not, when all I want to do is focus on writing my PhD. And of course, writing a CV makes me feel inadequate because I feel like other people have more attractive things on their CV. Hmph.

***

Since Nene graduated from kindergarten, the playdates have eased off and I have to say I’m relieved. Well, towards the end it was helpers and kids going for playdates which suits me, but I did feel guilty about not inviting the moms over. Well, last week, Nene started asking for a playdate with his new friend, and here we go again. Of course, he had to pick a kid who lives in a big house, has a car etc. The kind of kid whose parents think using the MTR is an adventure and not a regular mode of transport, and then arranging it so we can take a car instead. The mums are always nice about it, but I feel poor in comparison. I become conscious of the size of my house, the fact that we have a cupboard in our living room that contains a mix of clothes, toys and even some food. That I do not possess matching sets of tea cups. I struggle to think of what food to serve etc. I cannot seem to present things in the proper twee way. Like buying pre-packaged cups of fruit instead of just chopping up fruit at home and putting it in an extant plastic container. I always feel like I should have done something more gracefully, while being in the end unwilling to drum up the requisite enthusiasm to actually do things gracefully. Right now I’m blaming it on my house not having enough space to be a graceful host. Bah.

***

I have finally come to agree with what V has been saying for a long time. We have way too much stuff (for our house… and thereby income… size). I finally reached my own bottomline, and began a massive clean-up. I realised the collection of books we’ve accumulated for the kids over the years had to be pruned drastically (my own collection I am selfishly hanging on to, but to be fair, I have shipped off some books to my mum, and might send others to my in laws). I sorted through, advertised on our neighbourhood and to my surprise, they were taken eagerly and quickly. Next, I sorted through and ruthlessly culled their collection of arts and crafts from school over the past two to three years. I realised that what looks too precious to dump is much easier to let go off three years down the line when you’ve accumulated a garbage bag of similar stuff. So now we’ve down to a few largish folders each. Finally, I took a critical eye to my own collection of books and found at least 10 I could let go off. Next stop, the toy boxes.

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I am coming to terms with

my paunch.

It first became apparent that it was what it was – a paunch, and not period-related bloating- around November, and I did have a minor panic attack because I had two weddings to attend in December and a dress to fit into. And it also became apparent that mild dieting (i.e. cutting out chocolate after dinner and exercise which is all I’m capable of) was not going undo the excesses of our birthday month plus the adoption of the two-samosas-at-teatime and kebab roll at lunch tradition.

Yes, the above had become a thing since a kebab franchise opened an outlet at the uni, and it was like manna from heaven, because the food on campus sucks . The only tolerable food to be found is way across campus, and so the arrival of a desi food option right at my doorstep was too much to resist and for a good month or so, it was biryani or roll for lunch and quite often if I’m honest, samosas for tea. Until I realized that it was showing quite obviously on my belly. Once period-related bloating was ruled out as an explanation, I briefly considered that I might have ovarian cancer, but seeing as I had been eating a lot of fatty food, I think I figured I needed to just face that it was my own gluttony to blame.

For the  weddings, I briefly considered wearing spanx, and even bought a pair of slimming underwear (unfortunately, I bought a cheapie one from a roadside stall manned by Chinese grannies, don’t ask. And it turned out it was small for me. That’s what you get for being delusional and not buying the large size when in China). However, my brief trial of said underwear in which my girdle actually looked like a sausage or a pair thereof convinced me that having my middle squeezed in the service of fashion was not for me. While I wanted to look nice at the wedding, I also wanted to eat at the wedding, because, well, the buffet.

So instead of investing in more expensive spanx that I would probably not wear, I bought a new dress that while not exactly hiding all the bulges made them look tolerable. My other dress option was A-line and fluid, therefore buffet friendly. I am pleased to report that I got lots of compliments and for photos I had Mimi stand in front of me covering my middle, just to be extra sure.

I was counting on falling sick after India and losing the paunch but unfortunately fortunately that did not happen (the falling sick that is). I’ve been exercising since, and I’ve cut the kebab stuff out of my lunch plan (sob!) but the paunch remains.

I’m now on the verge of making my peace with it. Instead of being constantly conscious of it and trying to suck it in at odd moments, or nitpick through my wardrobe for tops that might hide it, I am just going to let.it.go. And if the odd person in the MTR gives me their seat thinking I am pregnant, I will graciously accept in lieu of those many times when I was indeed pregnant and noone gave me their seat.

ETA: Okay, I started feeling twinges in my back and realised I cannot let the paunch get out of control because I cannot deal with the physiological effects of it. I am actually exercising, so hopefully it will stay at little poochie level.

Dare I say it?

But for the last three months or so, my period has been bearable.

Yeah sure, it’s a bloody mess and I’d rather not skip it altogether. But, with careful management (i.e. vegging in bed for the better part of two days), it is not so bad. I haven’t even needed a painkiller. Heh.

This, after actually trying to get a grip on the thing by exploring contraceptive pills. That was a very shortlived exploration because the pill I took made me lightheaded and nauseous and although I actually bought a different pill to try, I couldn’t find it in me to actually try it and risk the same symptoms plus another period when I stopped. The fact is that I have a sensitive stomach and any oral medication is likely not going to be without side effects.

The fact is that my period just arrived in 23 days and not at the most convenient time, but now that I’ve accepted that it is what it is, plus I do have the option of using a hormone to delay it if really needed, I don’t feel so bad about it.

Also, I’ve noticed that although my body feels crappy on the first/second day, my mood actually clears up. Like the world actually looks/feels better. Hormones are like drugs, yo.

Mythologies

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Although we are not bringing up our kids within a particular religious framework, I do not want to deprive them of the fabulous stories that religious mythologies offer. I think familiarity with these mythologies is a cultural and academic advantage apart from their imaginative possibilities. The danger, I think, is taking these mythologies as dogma, which I hope the lack of religious framework will prevent.

Since I was raised Christian my childhood was steeped in Christian mythology, with other religious stories being deliberately excluded, and I felt this lack later when I was fuzzy on even the basic Hindu stories that are so intertwined in the cultural life of India. On the other hand, at least I was familiar with one mythology.

When it came to my kids, I had no particular preference in terms of the order in which I introduced particular mythologies to them, but I would have assumed that I would have started with the Christian one. Instead, it so happened that we got started on Hindu mythology, following the Amma Tell Me About … series. I think it may have started when I borrowed from our local library, no less, for a presentation on Diwali at the kids’ kindergarten and they really enjoyed the story. I was also reading up on Hindu mythology myself for the PhD so our interests dovetailed nicely. The library had several of the other books in the series, on Krishna, Holi, etc. and we went through these too. Finally, the kids got me to order the whole set of 10 books for them.

While these books do a good job of concisely retelling the myths in terms of covering the major aspects of each story and the illustrations are lovely, I think the author falls into the trap of trying to use rhyme and therefore ends up using some unwieldy words. Using rhyme in children’s books is a fine art – it is hard to use age appropriate language and not seem like one is stretching oneself to fit the sentence into the rhyme scheme. Also, the morals at the end of each book reduce the complexity of the myths. For example. Rama is associated with “goodness and virtue”, Laxman with “loyalty” and Sita with being the “ideal companion and wife”. You can see why I have a problem with this right? Sita is, as is typical for women, reduced to being an adjunct to Rama. Which to be fair she mainly is, but the original myths allow for her to assert herself particularly when she refuses a second agnipariksha, a part of the myth that is omitted in this series. In fact, when Nene was glorifying Rama as the ideal, the best, etc. I just couldn’t resist telling him that even our heroes make mistake and mentioned Rama sending Sita back to the forest and putting her through an agnipariksha. To say he was shocked would be an understatement. I’m happy that he got at once that this was less than ideal behaviour on Rama’s part without me having to explain.

***

Once while having lunch with a friend from Mainland China, she brought up religion. She is being increasingly drawn to religion – something she didn’t have access to on the Mainland – as a panacea for what she terms her ‘political sickness’ (i.e. her sense of disgust, sadness, bewilderment at the social injustices resulting out of the political system in China, which have been worsening over recent years).  We are both moving in opposite directions: She grew up with no religion and now coming to it as an adult; I grew up steeped in religion and have moved away from it as an adult.

She asked me: How do you teach children good values without religion?

My answer: Harry Potter.

When I think about where I got my values, it was, yes, partly religion but also my parents’ role modelling and Enid Blyton books. The latter, I think, played an even stronger role in shaping my value system than Christianity did. I had a very Blytonesque belief in honesty, loyalty, “being plucky” etc. While I’m not entirely comfortable with her British upper class assumptions anymore, I believe Harry Potter provides the ideal substitute for today’s children.

In fact, much of the underlying mythology of Harry Potter is Christian but refined for our times. Harry Potter also is remarkable for evading absolutism and showing that every character has shades of grey (making it more like Hindu mythology in that sense).

A while ago, I rewatched the series and the kids tried to watch with me, but it proved too scary. Recently, though, Nene asked me to read the books to him. And so began a new tradition. Every day for the past few weeks, we’ve been reading a bit of the books. We’ve finished The Philosopher’s Stone and are now on Chamber of Secrets. The kids even watched the first movie and enjoyed it because they knew the storyline. We did fastforward past the scariest Voldemorte part even though Nene begged us not to. I’m more ambivalent about Chamber of Secrets, even the book, because the voice in Harry’s head is kind of scary. I probably might stop at the second book, though Nene is not going to be happy.

Still, I’m happy that we have started on this particular mythology.

***

In between, I found that Mimi was getting a little impatient with the Harry Potter story. It is kind of complex for a five-year-old without tolerance for scary parts. She had been asking me Jesus for a while, so I suggested to her that we could read the Bible instead.

In comparison to the exciting happening in the Hindu myths, the Bible stories seem tame and hadn’t caught  my kids’ fancy. I had tried reading to them from a children’s Bible gifted to us but without much success. Last year, during Easter, when they got curious about the festival, I decided it was high time they knew at least the basics, and read them out the crucifixion party. They enjoyed that story, but I think they were more transfixed by the blood and gore aspect of being nailed to a cross than the edifying moral of personal sacrifice. Which wouldn’t come through unless one knew the whole story. Further attempts to read from the Bible did not bear fruit. Then this December when we were in Goa, we visited a mechanical crib – which is basically a large-size crib set up in a compound with moving elements – and I explained to the kids the story as we walked through and they were very fascinated.

So, last week, I decided to skip the Old Testament and start with the Christmas story. So far, Mia has been pretty interested. Again, I’m not 100 per cent pleased with the Bible I have. The pictures are good and the length of each section ideal, but there are some aspects of the story that I’m not sure about, plus it has a tad too much sacred language (well, okay, it’s a Bible, but kids who are not brought up in the faith might be nonplussed at “the Lord God Almighty” type phrasing).

***

Recommendations for mythology retellings appropriate to six years olds are welcome. I’m looking for stories that stick to the major original tales, not reinterpretations for the moment. Though retellings that focus on the women in Hindu mythology would be welcome. Also Muslim religious stories for kids? I remember reading someone has recently done one, but not sure there’s an illustrated version. Of course, we should do A Thousand and One Nights at some point, but that’s a different genre I think.

 

 

 

Back to the grind

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During the meetup with Nene’s kindergarten friends, I got chatting with the other two mums. One of them has gone back to work outside the home  part-time. The other expressed her desire to and yet she’s not sure whether she can manage it. These are both highly qualified women – one is a PhD, the other is a accountant who worked for a Big Four firm – before they chose to put their careers on hold to dedicate themselves to raising their children. I am the odd-one-out, both in terms of age but also because I never seriously considered staying at home full time to raise the kids.

Among the reasons, we discussed for going back to work was the satisfaction of doing something unrelated to the kids and the home and also the professional validation that is lacking no matter how well one does one’s job as a homemaker. The money does not seem to be a major consideration for these two women, but I think being paid something, even if it’s not a big amount is important too.

I said that I never considered staying at home because anyway I’m terrible at domestic duties. One of the mums dismissed that saying that if I had to do it, I’d do it well. Her theory is that people who are not doing a good job are just not trying. I’m not so sure. I think people have talents and some things are harder for some people, not to mention some things just don’t interest some people. Being able to have a choice is of course a privilege but even among those that don’t have a choice, there are some people that possibly just can’t do some things to satisfy high standards. For example, my helper E always told us she’s not a good cook, and although she cooks for us, and has got some recipes down well, time has proved that indeed cooking is not her forte, not for lack of trying.

However, if I’m honest, my decision to keep working through pregnancy and after maternity leave was because:

  1. I like going to work. The job I was doing before I had kids didn’t make me want to eat my own hand at the thought of going in on Monday. The job I have now is my dream. So.
  2. I don’t think I could domestic and/or child-related things 24/7. It is just not my interest.
  3. I like earning enough money to say I can support myself, even if right now my income significantly falls short of what would be needed to run a household.

Not doing these three things would mess with my sense of security and mental stability. So.  In our case, we need the money too (as do most families with kids in Hong Kong.). Going back to work is not something I feel guilty about, and I’m pretty sure I’d feel this way regardless of whether our financial situation required me to work outside the home or not. I’m fortunate to have great help with the kids and right now enough flexibility to participate in their stuff and this is not everyone’s situation. But it’s mine and for that I am grateful.

 

 

Chinese New Year

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Chinese New Year is the biggest local festival, and it took having kids for me to really get into it. Before that, like most expats, we’d plan a trip overseas for the long holiday. One year, even before the kids, we stayed home and realized it was actually quite nice.

This year, V booked his company holiday home on Lantau island for a two day staycation. Lantau is my favourite Hong Kong getaway, but I was a little miffed because I wasn’t sure winter was the right time to go to a place famous for its beach. Well, okay, hiking trails too but given that our kids are young, how much of that were we going to do?

Turns out, quite a lot.

We ended up getting the longer, slow ferry out, but the advantage of this is that the deck is open and the kids spent the entire ride gazing out to sea, the wind blowing through their hair.


 

Landing in Mui Wo, we fortified ourself with some McDonald’s before shopping for provisions to take with us to the flat. Seeing as it was going to be the CNY weekend, we weren’t sure what would be available the next couple of days.

The next morning, we went for a little hike, following a buffalow trail and landing down near a rocky beach.

 

Then, we did a little BBQ. I’m not a great fan of BBQs in general mainly because of the effort it takes to start the fire and then the varied to substandard quality of the food actually produced as a result of the effort. This time was a case in point because we purchased meat from the little shop at the holiday home and it was not stellar, not to mention that the fire took ages to start. So much so that V who had insisted on buying two days worth of provisions ended up giving up on the idea of doing another BBQ (thank God!).

After that, I drummed up the energy to take the kids to the beach. I thought it would be warm being post-noon by then, but it was actually overcast and quite cold. Nene ended up being completely disobedient and racing into the freezing water, as a result of which they really couldn’t spend much time on the beach since once he got out he found it too cold.

That evening we went to Mui Wo and the kids had a really good time in the local park. We then wandered around in search of a restaurant. The local Chinese joint was packed, so we landed up in Kitchen, and I highly recommend it. The Ceasar salad was one of the best we’ve had ever, the pizza was great though the burger was a little on the dry side.

 

The next morning, we did another hike and meandered into a little village. I could see V’s eyes lighting up because it’s exactly the life he would like to lead and he can never believe it’s possible in Hong Kong.


Then I proved my supermum capabilities by taking the kids to the beach. This time, they stuck to the sand, though they did get wet in the end. It was super pleasant sitting near a group of buffaloes and just watching the ocean as the kids played. I’m definitively an ocean person, I’ve decided.

And then it was time to go home. As usual, the kids fell asleep just as it was time to leave a transport option – Mimi in the ferry just as it was about to dock in Central forcing us to take  a cab and then nene in the cab just as we reached home. En route, we discovered that neither V nor I had taken a key and we had no idea how we were going to get into our house since our helpers were off for CNY. Turns out they are smarter than us and left the door unlocked (which is not such a big scandal in an apartment complex like ours). But in the confusion, we ended up leaving Nene’s schoolbag somewhere… turns out it had been left in the lift lobby itself and not the taxi, so we were able to get it back.


The highlight of Monday was watching the lion dance at our apartment. I can never get over the excitement of that. It’s my favourite part of the festival.

On Tuesday, I had planned a playdate with Nene’s besties from kindergarten. They had not seen each other since they went into primary school so I wasn’t sure how they would get one, but they really enjoyed themselves, so much so that we got them together again in the week.

And that was our CNY weekend. The four days flew by quite nicely and productive and I have to say I actually feel like a new year has started on 1 February.

 

 

 

Gratitude

A couple of years ago, I started doing a gratitude challenge on Instagram. In addition to helping me focus on the good parts of each day, when I analysed what I had been grateful for over the month, there were some surprising results.

This year, I decided to do it again. This time, I must admit, I didn’t reflect on my day as much. Because the challenge overlapped with my India holiday, I lost track. I also tended to focus on the prompt and to take pictures to reflect the prompt, because it’s not necessary to stick to the order of the prompts. I think the whole thing was more haphazard this year, but also one thing was evident to me.

I am most grateful for my children. They are a huge source of happiness in my life. Their presence, the charming things they say, the way they enable me to see the world with fresh eyes and push me out of my comfort zone, getting me to do stuff I end up enjoying but that I would otherwise not have tried or been too lazy to actually do.

As a person who was never into kids, this is a huge and unexpected change in my personality and life. It is why I encourage people to have at least one kid, one’s situation allowing for this of course. By this, I don’t mean that I go about evangelizing the need for people to have children, but if someone who is ambivalent asks my opinion on the subject, my answer is usually positive. I agree that I am fortunate to have great help in raising my children, but had that not been the case, I would still advocate having one child, again if one’s general life situation allows for it.

I am sure there are people out there that regret their decision to have kids, and that these narratives need to be told and heard too.

In my case, though, despite the stresses that children put on my body, my finances, my marriage, my lifestyle, my emotional and mental wellbeing, overall, when I do a cost-benefit analysis, the sheer joy, breath of learning and general fun they bring to my life trumps the negatives.

PS: The second thing that I seem most grateful for is my job, the opportunity to do the PhD. The third is probably living in Hong Kong. This is just my overall impression.

Mine 

[To Mimi, on her fifth birthday]

Mine. That’s what I named you. 

You were the baby girl I always wanted. Even though I really did not expect to be expecting five months after your brother was born. I did not know then you were the baby girl I always wanted. 

You were mine, and then I became yours. You claimed me, loudly  intensely, entirely. You would brook no argument. Mine, you said, my mummy, only mine, always mine. 

Okay darling. 

I surrender. 

***

Our resident diva, nothing about you was expected. Your arrival, the way you stubbornly sat in my stomach and refused to turn, the way you decided for me when and how you would arrive, your stubbornness as a baby, how you would refuse to be distracted when you wanted something. Your curls, your temper, the tempest of your emotions, the thunderstorm of your love, your intense concentration, your determination to be pretty and to dash my theories with your pursuit of the feminine. 

In so many ways we are similar. Our tastes – we can only eat those particular fish, we only like chocolate and not much else sweet, we prefer salt. Our passion for animals – how you can spend ours lavishing attention on one particular puppy. Our love of fashion. Our touch-me-notness.

And possibly our drama. I was never so dramatic, I like to think. But lately I see your storms mirror mine, at least in their vocabulary. 
It took French feminism for me to understand you, to understand us. Dare I say it, I understand you best. I can see the emotions battle on your face and these days I know where they come from. 

You test me every other day, and if I can conquer my emotions around you, I will be well on the road to sainthood. I’m not there yet, but I am trying, always trying.

Always yours.