I spent most of yesterday chatting on and off with my sis#3 (and later on #4) over WhatsApp.
It started with her asking how I was doing and we just kept "talking". 😀
One topic led to another, and we started talking about our childhood.
There are 5 of us, all girls, and the age difference between the eldest and youngest is 19 years.
I'm the second daughter.
My eldest sister is 2 years (and 4 months) older than I am.
Sis#3 is 3 years (and 2 months) younger.
Sis#4, 9 years younger.
Sis#5, 17 years.
Hahaha I was already in my first year of junior college when Sis#5 was born.
The reason for having so many girls was because, well, cannot choose the gender. 😂
My parents never quite stopped trying for a boy.
My mum claims, until today, it was because my dad wanted a boy very badly.
But I think she wants it equally if not more badly, judging from how she wants me to have 2 more kids, BOYS, to be exact.
In fact I remember she was super hopeful about my sis#5 being a boy. She was going around telling people this Hokkien saying, something about 4 legs and a table top. And the "table top" would be the boy. 😂
But I guess my dad's factory could only produce one kind of product.🙊
It's nice growing up with so many siblings.
I don't know if it'd be different should there be a boy amongst us, but I suspect so because he'd probably be spoilt rotten.
With five girls there was obviously some biases but I'd say none of us are overly favoured or spoilt.
It was also a very different era and mindset as compared to now.
In the past, people gave birth to many kids to help with the family, the more the merrier.
Now, people give birth to 1-2 kids to nurture and dote on.
I know it's quite exaggerated, perhaps even convoluted, to put it this way.
But my point is, we live in very different times now. Standard of living is high, expenses are high, while trust is relatively lower.
My parents had no reservations about leaving us with different nannies, and picking us up only on Friday evenings, since they were both working.
We struggled with Clarissa's day care arrangements. And I felt bad about putting her in full day school/childcare.
This is not to imply that my parents cared less about us, but that we have very different mindsets when it comes to bringing up our children.
And I guess that's the reason why families in the past have more kids, because they have more trust and belief that 1) nannies are good and 2) kids will grow up anyway as long as you feed them.
Which is true, because my sisters and I really grew up anyway to be *quite OK* human beings. 😅
What sparked this thought was the chat I had with my sis.
I told her my concerns about leaving the baby with my helper when I eventually return to work.
Apart from the adjustment my helper has to make, because she has so much free time now with Clarissa coming home only after 430pm, my main concern is that she'd only be taking care of the baby's basic needs and when there is a chance to escape to the kitchen, she would.
She wouldn't be teaching the baby any tricks or be voluntarily playing with her, as evident from the way she interacts with Clarissa.
She would probably feed the baby very well, because she enjoys cooking.
So yeah I feel bad thinking about how bored the baby would be, playing with her own toes (my sis' words lol), and not having much stimulation until maybe after her Jiejie comes home from school.
It is not fair to expect the helper to teach the baby things or nurture her because I think it's the parents' job.
If the helper wants to do that, it's a bonus.
Which is why despite how crazy our previous helper was, I appreciate her for taking the initiative to teach Clarissa so many things since she was a baby. Body parts, picture recognition, story telling. She did them all without me asking her to.
We thought about ourselves since we were young.. and my sis didn't remember anyone teaching her anything anyway. 😂
For the record my mum didn't believe in sending us to nursery.
So all five of us only went to school when we were five years old, straight into K1.
Even after she stopped working to take care of my grandma, and brought all of us home, she didn't really spend time teaching us or playing with us.
But that's ok, because we played with one another and I guess we learned through play. 😂
One of my earliest memories, when I was all of 3 years and 2 months old, was the day my parents brought sis#3 home.
My mom put her into the baby cot and both my Dajie and I climbed into the cot.
We were not really doing anything, just touching her because, so cute. 😂
I also remember my Dajie turning possessive and telling me I cannot touch the baby so much. 😂😂
This is the only picture of me and sis#3 in baby form I can find at home.
I only took one album of my childhood photos with me when I moved out.
(I know there are nicer ones lah but this would do for now.)
I also have pictures of myself post a DIY haircut. It was one of the stories my mum had on repeat mode.
They were all busy with the baby, and I cut my own hair.
And I remember it clearly!
I was talking to myself in the mirror (I did that a lot) and trying to tie a ponytail.
But my hair was too short for a proper ponytail so there were many strands of hair falling off to both sides.
I couldn't find a hair clip, so I thought the smartest way was to cut away the loose strands of hair which could not be held together in the ponytail.
So brilliant fml. 😂
Hahahahaha pretty? 😂
I remember how my mum went livid seeing my hair and the mess I made.
I had tried to cut neatly and throw the hair into the dustbin but obviously I didn't do a good job.
I remember thinking "oops" but I don't recall feeling sorry or sad about my hair. 😂🤣
Looking at the photo I think I probably cut my fringe too? 😅
My elder sis and I played with sis #3 a lot.
We'd usually be pretending to cook and eat.
We'd bring her out to the garden in front of our house, and make dumplings out of sand, twigs and leaves.
Sometimes we'd make food with plasticine.
And I remember how sis#3 put a ball of plasticine into her mouth and started chewing like it was very delicious.
It was far from delicious please. I still remember the color of the plasticine. It was all mixed up, and very, very dirty.
I remember trying to make her spit it out before she swallowed it. 😂
I think I said something like "这个不可以吃的!" and hoped my mom wouldn't find out. 🤣
Hehe very fond memories with sis#3.
It's a slightly different story with my Dajie, with whom I obviously have a longer history with.
My mum told me she was very, very jealous of me when I was a baby.
She would not allow anyone to carry or even touch me.
I would drink milk on my own, with the milk bottle propped up on a small pillow placed on my chest.
My mum said she left me in the sarong most of the time, because it was the only way to stop my Dajie from trying to hit or kick me. 😂
I don't remember any of these obviously (But is that why my back is so bad now? 😂), but I do remember lying down on a thin mattress once, and my head was on a pillow.
She pulled the pillow out very quickly and angrily from my head, and I knocked my head on the floor from the impact.
All because, that was her pillow, not mine.
(Perhaps that was why I'd rather look at the sky rather than at the camera while taking this photo with her? 😂
I was 3 and she was 5.)
We used to go to different babysitters, but after a bad accident at her babysitter's, my mum decided to bring my Dajie to my babysitter too.
This was us sitting outside my babysitter's flat.
The one-sided sibling rivalry was still going on strong.
I remember my Dajie dropping my shoes down from the void deck to the ground floor, through the rectangular holes along the walls of the railings, and forbidding my babysitter from retrieving them. 😅
I remember my exasperated babysitter shaking her head and telling my mum about it when she came to pick us up, and she said, "Jit geh jin pai." (This one very naughty. 😂)
I started fighting back when I was older.
We used to get into really bad cat fights which involved us trying to kick each other off the bed, until we were blue in the face. 😨
Most of the time she'd start crying and I'd be the one who got scolded, even though she was the one who started it.
It didn't help that I looked bigger than her.
She had a nasty fall at her babysitter, and it was made worse by the babysitter who was too scared to inform my mum. She only realised it was bad when my sister started throwing up nonstop and had to be sent to the hospital.
Since then my Dajie became very skinny and often fell sick.
But I didn't understand that much as a kid.
All I felt was injustice.
How come I'm younger but I have to give in all the time? 😂
There was once a relative came by with presents for us.
I don't quite remember what they were, maybe pencil cases?
I got to choose first and I was happy with my selection.
My Dajie saw what I had, and the other options.
She started crying, went to my mum and said I'd already picked away what she wanted. She wanted mine instead.
And guess what?
My mum told me to give my present to Dajie and to choose another one instead!
I was probably 6 or 7 years old by then and my heart broke. 💔
That was probably my first taste of injustice in this cold, cruel, cut-throat world. 😂😂😂
We also recalled how my mom used to cook the same thing everyday and force us to eat.
It was always either fish porridge or pork porridge. 😂
Meal times were always stressful.
(And for a long time even after we grew up, sis#3 and I hated eating porridge. 😅)
My mum would buy 鱼肝油 (fish liver oil) for my Dajie and make her take it every day.
She'd tell me I don't need it because I'm fat enough. 😅
As I grow up, I understand why my parents were more protective of my Dajie, on top of whoever was the youngest at any point in time.
It's probably human nature and instinct to protect the more vulnerable child or give in to the more demanding one.
Unfortunately it was never me. 😂
So I got the harsh words, and the harsh cane strokes (story for another day).
I don't bear any grudges now, but it's really true when they say that the things you do or say can be forgiven, but never forgotten.
I'd like to think it has made me stronger as a person. 😂
And my Dajie is far from being a bully now lol.
Just last night she dropped by to spend time with Clarissa, and they had fun playing with the stickers she bought for her.
My memory of Sis#4 and Sis#5 should have been clearer, but I was already in school by the time they were born so we spent less time together.
I remember making milk and changing diapers for them.
I love taking photos of Sis#4, with the camera my dad gave me.
I would dress her up like a doll, make her hold flowers or other props, and then pose for pictures.
Will try to find those pictures! Lol very precious memories.
Sis#3 on the other hand remembered Sis#4 to be quite fierce and naughty. 😂
I wonder what Sis#4 remembers about herself or her childhood.
Last night we were talking about her attending the wedding of a boy she hit before in K1. They actually grew up and became friends! How sweet is that. 😆
With sis#5 I remember having my friends over to play with her, picking her up from school, having Christmas Day sisters outings and bringing her out with the hubs (then boyfriend).
She was a whiz at remembering names of species of birds, dogs, flowers.
She would see a dog and go, "This is a Welsh Springer Spaniel!" (erm I googled 😂) and I would say "Huh sorry I only know chihuahua" while the hubs would go, "It's a dog, it's just a DOG!" Lol. 😂😂
Those were the days. 😊
While I certainly don't agree with my mum's parenting methods especially when it comes to dealing with sibling rivalry, I'm thankful to have my siblings.
My childhood and my sisters, and all the bittersweet and sweet memories alike, are a big part of me and who I am today.
And this special bond between sisters is what I wish for Clarissa and her little sister to hold and cherish. :)