#EndMommyWars: My rambling, somewhat disorganised, confession

What is it about being a mum that makes us so judgmental of other mums? I think it’s a lot of things: personal history, upbringing, culture, pride and, most of all, insecurity. We judge others to “defend” our different positions, because heaven forbid we are not the perfect mum and I don’t remember who said there can only be one kind of perfect parent but I just know it to be true.

Ha.

I’m pathologically non-confrontational, so you will never see me roll my eyes at someone else (unless I’m really, really pissed) or argue my position with another mum. No, pretty much all my judging takes place inside my head, which is probably worse because then I’m like some kind of hypocrite or something.

There are a lot of things I don’t believe in “arguing” about, and parenting is definitely one of them. Because people get so violently defensive that it’s really not a conversation; it’s an endurance race and the first person to recognise the futility of it and back off is the loser.

A lot of people can’t agree to disagree. They feel like they really need to convince you of the validity and rightness of their position, and some of them can be so damn persistent about it. One of the most important things I learned studying Arts in university is that people can have different opinions and that’s okay.

Seriously, why can’t people agree to disagree?!

And I end up (silently) judging the other person, not so much for their differing parenting methods or whatever it is, but for their “lack of open-mindedness”.

Which, in case it wasn’t obvious, isn’t any better.

Maybe I’m also judging myself – for backing down, for giving in, for walking away from a fight because I just cannot be bothered. (I’ve been judged by my friends for that too, by the way.)

Also not okay.

So much of it is unconscious and completely arbitrary – I judge other mums based on how they look, my past experiences, what my mood is on the day, the choices that I’ve made and the insecurities that I have, my likes and dislikes, whether the sun is shining or not. Okay not that last one but my point is, (most) mothers can be such temperamental, emotional and insecure beings when it comes to their kids. Did I mention insecure?

The good news is, as you can see from the video, all it takes is awareness and getting to know / understanding the other person to make us realise what we’re doing and how silly we’re being. To borrow a line from High School Musical, we’re all in this together.

Also, here’s the other thing about judging in silence that I’ve realised – it’s always so much better because then I’m always right and there’s no one to tell me otherwise. So who’s not being accepting of other people’s opinions now?


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Then and now: Taylor Swift sure has come a long way

I’m just going to say it: I really like Taylor Swift’s music. I’ve always thought she’s an amazing songwriter, and she’s come such a long way as a performer too. The girl’s worked her butt off – and it shows. This was her six years ago, when she did the Hope for Haiti Now Telethon in 2010.

It wasn’t great. She was pretty famous by then, so I was surprised by how not great the performance was. I was probably still delusional enough at the time to think famous pop stars all became successful because they were actually really good singers.

And then…

Fast forward a bunch of years, and this was Taylor in September last year, going acoustic for her performance of ‘Wildest Dreams’ at the Grammy Museum.

Is it just me or was that pretty damn good?!

And because I’ve always been a sucker for stripped down, acoustic and acappella tracks, here’s ‘Blank Space’ from the same show.

 


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The family secret

I don’t remember what prompted my desire for a family motto – perhaps I read something somewhere, or it might have been from a talk I heard. But coming up with a family motto had been on my mind for several weeks when the 5yo produced this one day:

Kung Fu Panda may or may not have had something to do with this, but I thank Po and his friends all the same because it’s perfect. It really is.

Last year was my Year of Kindness, and being kind is something that’s been very much on my mind. I’ve been working with the kid to encourage kindness and awareness of it, and even though I think the message is sinking in, I’ve also given her a heads-up: this is probably something I’ll keep reminding her of for the next 15 years.

Courage is a word we don’t hear very often these days, and it always reminds me of two things: the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, and this from the Bible.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

For me, that has always been about braving new adventures, starting new chapters, trying new things. It’s something that really strikes close to home (heart), particularly in the last couple of years, and I guess it’s also stuck with me because I’ve always found the prospect of it exciting.

Have courage.

Be kind.

If we can learn what and how it is to live out these things, then we won’t have done too badly at all.


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TV Column: Stephen Colbert’s trump card

The Late Show

Not since Gwen Stefani destroyed the pronunciation of his last name at the 2014 Emmy Awards has Stephen Colbert (pronounced “cole-bear”) found himself standing in the glare of so many spotlights. Along with a curiosity to see how the new chap settles into his role as host of the The Late Show (the throne room of David Letterman for almost 22 years) came a level of scrutiny that wasn’t without its sceptics. But unlike some of his peers that make up the new guard of late-night television, including Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, Seth Meyers on Late Night, James Corden on The Late Late Show, John Oliver on Last Week Tonight and Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, not to mention the not-so-new guard of Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel, Colbert has a trump card up his sleeve.

As the host of The Colbert Report, he was a brilliantly over-the-top caricature of a conservative political pundit. One of the first questions people asked when it was announced that he would replace Letterman was whether he would be doing the show as himself. It was the logical choice, of course, but in stripping off the veneer of irony and sarcasm, the 51-year-old also has found a golden opportunity to remake himself for the next chapter and show television audiences who he really is. The result has been a series of profiles and interviews that not only have introduced Colbert to a far wider audience than his Comedy Central platform could have afforded him, but that also set him up as the most fascinating man on late-night TV.

Colbert has no qualms about discussing his devout Catholic beliefs in interviews, proving himself remarkably well-versed in Catholicism. The Sunday school teacher even did what can only be described as a “religious” interview with Father Thomas Rosica, media attaché to the Vatican press office. In the strictly secular world of mainstream television, Colbert’s willingness to discuss his faith makes him an anomaly. And, in an industry where ratings are everything and the competition gladiatorial – kill your rivals or be killed by your bosses – being different just might be the key to survival.

For now, it’s too early to call in a verdict on the Late Show. Talk shows evolve, and whether or not Colbert will be able to turn his current gig into a long-term paycheck remains to be seen. Nevertheless, he has earned enough viewer credit to keep people interested while he finds his stride, or at least, to keep audiences checking in once in a while to see how he’s faring. There’s been a lot of talk recently about how late-night talk show hosts are pretty much all white males; thus putting networks under some pressure to at least pretend to be interested in diversity moving forward. To that end, Colbert might seem like just another white, male late-night talk show host, but I wouldn’t discount his ability to bring perhaps a different kind of diversity to the table.

This piece appeared in the November 2015 issue of Esquire Malaysia.


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Why do I blog?

Even as I attempt to (s)crawl my way back to a more regular writing schedule, the question that has been bugging me since, well, early this year continues to nibble away at the edge of my thoughts, like an annoying rabbit that’s found an extra crunchy lettuce leaf there and won’t leave me alone. Why do I blog? Or tweet or Instagram or put myself out there in any form, really?

Hardly anyone visits my website, and I have the numbers to prove it. I don’t know if anyone reads my tweets, and the dozen friends who regularly “like” my Instagram pics probably don’t justify my diligence – no offence, guys. The one place I am guaranteed a fairly captive audience is Facebook – simply because those people are my friends and family – and I rarely share anything there.

Early this year, I briefly considered closing down my website, Twitter account and Instagram. The only thing that stopped me was the assumption that I would probably want to go back to them at some stage. Today, I can honestly say, I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL I WAS THINKING.

So why do I blog? Or tweet or Instagram or put myself out there in any form? I finally found my answer one morning, and it was so simple I’m stunned that I didn’t figure it out myself. Screenwriter Max Landis, in a reply to /Film, said:

(To understand what they were discussing, read this.)

I’m a writer, pure and simple. And unlike Landis, who gets to derive pleasure from having people read his work because he’s a successful Hollywood screenwriter, I get my kicks from penning coherent sentences that hopefully mean something, and putting them out into the big unknown.

It doesn’t matter if one person reads it or one hundred, I have to hit “publish” because I don’t get the same satisfaction from amassing a private folder full of Word documents. I suppose there’s a narcissistic element to it as well – I always think all writers are at least a little bit narcissistic when it comes to their work.

For so long I’d been trying to figure out what I’m doing here. Am I trying to accomplish something? What’s the point of all this? No one would blame me for shutting it all down to focus on the stuff that I actually get paid for. But something in me always goes, STOP. And I understand that there will come moments when I need this space, these outlets. It won’t be all the time, but when I do, that’s when it’ll really matter.


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These powerful lyrics from Will Smith’s ‘Tell Me Why’ is kind of relevant right now

Read THR’s Actor Roundtable over breakfast this morning and something Will Smith said about Paris reminded me about his song from way back, ‘Tell Me Why’. Responding to a question about the movie Django Unchained, he said:

We can’t look at what happens in Paris [the terrorist attacks] and want to f— somebody up for that. Violence begets violence. So I just couldn’t connect to violence being the answer. Love had to be the answer.

To this day, the first verse of ‘Tell Me Why’ is one of the saddest and most powerful that I’ve ever heard:

September 11th, I woke up about 7am, West Coast time, French toast and my
Turkey bacon, taking my time, awakin’, turning my TV on
To my surprise, saw what everybody in the world saw
Me and my children, images were chillin’
My son said, “Daddy were there people in that building?”
A cold sweat, frozen with a lump in my chest
I heard his question, couldn’t bring my lips to say “Yes” to him
That night at my son’s side, he cried and prayed
For the ones who died in the World Trade
His palms to God, seeds and qualms with God
He just kept on pressin’ me, wanna know why
Then one week later our bombs were dropped
We seein’ them on CNN, they just won’t stop
The infrared images of brutal attack
He said, “Daddy now we killin’ em back”

The first time I heard it, I wasn’t a mum yet and even then I thought that loss of innocence was so heartbreaking. Now that I have a 5yo, I feel not just for what the kid represents in the song, but also for all the kids who were/are being “killed back” in response to what happened.


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Can Justin Bieber make it cool for young people to talk about Jesus?

Justin Bieber is not the first celebrity to talk about Jesus, but he is one of the younger ones, and – like him or hate him – certainly one of the most influential. While the cynic in me did wonder how much of his interview with Complex magazine was coached, it was a stroke of PR genius nonetheless. You have to respect the guy for what he’s doing, even after everything else we’ve seen and heard from him. If this was “Mission: Rehabilitate Justin’s image”, they’ve hit the ball right out of the park.

As a Christian, I know it’s not easy to talk about your faith. I personally prefer the “show, not tell” approach, but sometimes, like in an interview, you’ve just got to come right out and say it I guess. Which is what Bieber did:

I just wanna honestly live like Jesus. Not be Jesus—I could never—I don’t want that to come across weird. He created a pretty awesome template of how to love people and how to be gracious and kind. If you believe it, he died for our sins. Sometimes when I don’t feel like doing something, but I know it’s right, I remember, I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross and dying so that we don’t have to feel what we should have to feel. What Jesus did when he came to the cross was basically say, “You don’t have to feel any of that stuff.” We could take out all of our insecurities, we could take away all of the hurt, all the pain, all the fear, all the trauma. That doesn’t need to be there. So all this healing that you’re trying to do, it’s unnecessary. We have the greatest healer of all and his name is Jesus Christ. And he really heals. This is it. It’s time that we all share our voice. Whatever you believe. Share it. I’m at a point where I’m not going to hold this in. – Justin Bieber

For his interview with Billboard, he went to church. Stephen Colbert talked a lot about his Catholic faith when he first took over The Late Show, which was fascinating to watch and read about. I even wrote about it for my TV column. But as much as I like the guy, he’s probably not the barometer of cool the Gen Z-ers, or even the Millennials, are looking for. Which brings me to my question: can Justin Bieber make it cool for young people to talk about Jesus?

The church gets a bad rap – and many times for good reason. I believe in God and even I don’t like Christians sometimes. To speak up about your faith takes guts when you’re standing in front of the world. Not for those who already wear a “Christian” label like pastors or those in Christian music because then you’re expected to talk about God. But for people like Colbert and Bono from U2 (who I think is amazing) and now Bieber, theirs is a completely different sphere of influence, which makes it so interesting to observe.

People shouldn’t be put off by the discussion of religion or faith – and this goes for all religions. Dialogue, not ignorance, is the way forward. If there’s one thing the world needs right now, it’s a better understanding of one another, not fear of those who are different from us. I’ll be the first to admit that the Christian church has gotten pretty good at playing the “us vs. them” card, which does no one any favours.

But I digress. While I’m definitely more of a Colbert, U2 kind of person, I have to admit that there are some things even Bono cannot do. Maybe, just maybe Bieber is the tipping point the entertainment industry needs so others too will find that it’s really okay to talk about Jesus. We’ll see.


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When I heard about the terrorist attacks in Paris, my first instinct was fear

DSC03771

I’ll admit: when I heard about the terrorist attacks in Paris, my first instinct was fear. Shut down, close ranks, put up (imaginary) walls around me and my loved ones, and do everything in my power to protect them. As if by doing all those things in my head, I would be able to.

Of course that was the whole point of the attacks. Mass murder, yes, but even more effective than that, it aimed to strike fear into the hearts of people all around the world. This is psychological warfare, designed to cause panic, incite distrust and paranoia, and turn people against one another.

As the news sank in, I realised that what we need to do isn’t just #prayforParis, but also for Lebanon, Syria and all the other countries that experience terrorism on a regular, oft unreported basis. Rather than close in on ourselves, we need to be more open and generous than ever, especially towards those with whom we are unfamiliar. Instead of hate, we need to show love, and not just to those who share the same cultural values, religion or skin colour. It sounds cliched, but it really is the best way forward. Love is our only hope if we’re going to stand together against evil – and win.

I have been encouraged by the strength of the Parisians and the solidarity that the world has shown in standing with them. I have also been encouraged by articles reminding us that Paris is hardly the only victim of terrorism, and it’s time we open our eyes to the magnitude of what’s been going on. I do think the world in general has a double standard when it comes to white people dying and non-white people dying, and I agree that the media has been incredibly biased in this respect, but it’s great that we’re talking about it, because that’s how awareness starts and (hopefully) ignorance ends.

If you’re praying for Paris, will you also pray for Beirut, who is still reeling from a series of coordinated suicide bombings? If you’re flying the French flag on your Facebook profile picture, will you also extend that same generosity of thought and compassion to Syrian refugees who are fleeing the very atrocities we are so vocal in condemning? Will you remember the millions of innocents, not just in the Middle East but in countries in Africa and Asia as well, who live our greatest fears every single day?

We cannot stop what has already happened, but we can choose how we react in the aftermath. Whether or not the ripples of hate continue to spread is not up to those terrorists, it is up to us. To allow fear to dictate our prejudices and bigotry is to let the terrorists win, and if there’s one thing we all agree on, it’s that we cannot let that happen.


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Must watch: Misty Copeland gives Jimmy Kimmel and Guillermo a ballet lesson

I’ve been following Misty Copeland‘s story for a while, even though I’m no ballerina and don’t plan to send the kid for ballet lessons. Her truth has transcended the (often) elite and closed-off world of ballet, and she inspires me in ways perhaps I’m not even completely sure of yet. Any story about breaking boundaries, changing perceptions and smashing stereotypes is a tale worth telling. Also, this YouTube video is the funniest and best thing I’ve seen all week.


• • •

About sleep

Of course the kid would rise at 630am on a Saturday, despite having complained every single morning this week that she was too tired to get up for school.

I should have known I was tempting fate when I told a school mum yesterday that I really hope my daughter doesn’t get up at 7am on the weekend.

How dare you voice your hopes and dreams of a sleep-in! I’ll show you worse.

There come many points in every parent’s life when they have to choose between trudging through a day on little sleep or embracing a sleep-deprived day and making the most of it nonetheless.

This morning, I chose the latter. Because it’s the weekend and I’ll be damned if I let the kid ruin it. I’m not saying I’m not on speaking terms with my 5yo, but let’s just say I would like to say very little.

At least until I’ve got more coffee in me.


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