day 671 | december 5, 2012 | Kidzania Mania

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" That's a question I was always asked as a little girl, and I suspect, most little kids nowadays still get asked on a regular basis. It's a simple question that's loaded with expectation, and packed with plenty of push.

Answers like doctor, lawyer, or accountant always received proud smiles. Astronaut, teacher, musician, or painter get patronizing smiles. Responding to the question with "monkey" or "happy" will likely categorize you as a lost case. So I learned to give the answers that gave me the proudest smiles, kept my "unconventional" thoughts to myself, and tried to get closer to "monkey" in my spare time. With the help of my kids, I might have succeeded on the "happy" bit. :)

Encashing their 50Kidzos check at the bank
We keep a crazy schedule whenever we're in KL. Back-to-back shoots, with back-to-back meet-ups with friends, and to make up for my distracted-mothering, I dragged an exhausted Roo to something she had not completely bought in. My ethos of "work hard, play harder" didn't go well with Roo's "free play" philosophy. I was all about KPIs and metrics that quantified success even in an endeavor as mundane as Kidzania. She was just happy to spend time with friends, regardless of the place. I swear sometimes, that little girl is more grown-up than me.
So there we were, our first time in Kidzania -- and we were lining up for cookie making at the Oreo Factory. I was giddy excited, and was targeting to try at least 5-6 of the activities for that day. The long lines and slow turnaround irked me, and made me restless. I wanted Roo to try being a pilot, and a CSI, and a super secret agent, among other things. Didn't they know I had a schedule to keep, and boxes to tick?

We waited over an hour to get our turn at the cookie factory, and throughout the wait, Roo made it clear that she wasn't interested. She didn't want to go, but I was just as insistent as she was. By the time it was her turn, I was semi-screaming in frustration and Roo had tears in her eyes. I'd blindly pressured her into something that should have been fun, all because I wanted to keep to a certain ideal target. I'd turned play into work, instead of the other way around.
Thankfully, I was in the company of a cool mommy who reminded me to let go of expectations, and allow the little ones discover what they like. It's hard to shake off the "No, I'm right!" feeling, but somehow I did cool down.

Once I let Roo be herself, and asked instead of commanded, we were both so much happier. She went off to model, make jewelry, and rolled her own sushi for lunch. These are not what I would have chosen to "maximize" the trip, but these are what she's happy to do out of her own volition, and without any pushing from me. And she was fabulous in all of them.
The whole incident just reminded me how easily I could turn into a well-intentioned monster. If I am not mindful, soon, I'll be questioning other choices she makes, and wondering why she doesn't choose the things I would have wanted if I were in her position. Soon, I'll be manipulating the situation to steer her towards the life I want for her, and undermine the choices she should be making for herself.

This is just one avenue where I have overshadowed my own daughter's light, for the sake of an 'ideal' image of success. It's a tiny slip, but it is a very slippery slope. It is a trap that all mothers fall into. This Monster-Me thinks that I know better because I've been around for much longer. "Mother knows best," as they say. But this is not always true. There are many moments when my daughters have taught me fundamentals of life and happiness in the most surprising ways.
This Monster-Me also insists on a limited profile of success, and forgets that being happy is a success on it's own. It's the same monster I struggled with when I became a housewife and constantly felt that I had fallen very far from where I wanted to be in life. But once I managed to tame those limiting thoughts, a world of opportunity opened up, and it was like I was 5 years old again, bright-eyed in wonderment over the many interesting things I could be.

Whether unemployed, entrepreneur, or working professional, I learned a job is not all that I am, and that there is plenty of meaning to be found if you open your mind to your heart. Happiness resides in making everyday a choice. The most happy I've been are consequences of choosing to do what I love, no matter how difficult or strange, and in doing it well.
So, when I ask Roo what she wants to be when she grows up, whichever road she picks, I'll be the open-minded mom who smiles with unconditional acceptance and says "Be good and be happy; you always have my support." If she wants to sticker the town with witticisms and go to jail for it, I would most likely be supportive too.  
That said, Roo and her friend had a super fun time in jail. :)

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