When I was a little girl, I was really skinny. And because I loved swimming and used to stay in the pool for hours on end (this was, clearly, before I found out about harmful UV rays!), I was also terribly tanned. In fact, I once went to a kopitiam to buy a drink and was told by the stall owner that she had wanted to speak Malay to me because she didn’t think I was Chinese.
So picture this: a tiny girl, with sticks for limbs and brown as a monkey.
Needless to say, I grew up with a lot of unnecessary comments coming to me from all quarters. People would tease me for being thin, ask if I was eating, wonder if I were suffering from an illness, and call me a “malnourished African refugee”. Suffice to say, I hated it. It was mean and sometimes cruel. But of course, they never realised just how hurtful it was to say such things to a child.
My mother, too, had to endure similar comments, except hers was in the region of “are you starving your child?”. It was strange, too, because I was so different from my normal-sized sister. She brought me to see several doctors in hopes of finding out what was wrong with me, only to be told: “As long as she is healthy and happy, she is fine. Leave her alone.”
And just like that, she decided she would ignore the naysayers and get on with our lives.
Now that I am a mother, I have come to realise that we are so easily swayed by others’ words. Of course, that is only because we love and care for our child so deeply. When Aidan was in the phase of only taking short naps, I was constantly fretting, because everyone around me was telling me that I was doing it wrong. I know there were those who blamed breastfeeding (he wasn’t full!) and me (I don’t know how to raise a child!). We went to see THREE pediatricians who told me three different things: that he was HUNGRY, that he was OVERFEEDING and therefore had REFLUX, and that it was my fault because I didn’t set a routine for him.
In the end, we just have to go with the flow and trust our instincts. It’s hard to block out rude and intrusive comments, especially when they come from family, but we just have to remind ourselves that the child is ours, not theirs.
And ultimately, EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT.
I still worry, of course. Even though A has now grown to take longer naps, there are other things to obsess over. His lack of interest in self-feeding, his poo (too often or too watery or too hard or too few times…you get the drift), his multiple night wakings, his delay in hitting the physical milestones, his lack of teeth. We are always hit by comments on why he is/isn’t doing something.
But we have come to realise that it is futile to worry. Simply because babies evolve and things change. If we were to fret over every single little detail and listen to every piece of advice, we would go mad.
So we just do.
We roll up our sleeves and get on with the programme.
We just do the best we can.
And as long as my little man is growing and thriving and clearly a happy little chappy, we are doing it right.