Puasa takyah drama
By Sheril A. Bustaman
Over the past 3 years, Athena Azlee has attempted to fast full days every Ramadhan with no success. In the first year she was only seven years old, and always broke her fast before she went to school. Last year, she made it through one day before she and her best friend simultaneously had stomach aches, threw up and had to eat (conveniently during recess). This year pre-Ramadhan, much like everybody else in the MCO, she was eating every two hours, snacking incessantly and always groaning that she was hungry. So when she decided that she was going to attempt the full day fasts yet again, I mentally braced myself for gastric attacks and a lot of complaining.
On the first day of Ramadhan, she woke up at 5am chirpy and ready to devour her sahur. Then we all went back to bed, and the next time I saw her was a while before lunch for Alethea. My strategy when dealing with my children is simple – the less you entertain the drama, the less drama there will be. So when Athena came up to me whining about how she was having visions of steamed soya sauce fish, I shut it down pretty quickly by telling her she just didn’t have to think about it.
It has been much to my surprise almost two weeks into Ramadhan that she has succeeded and done quite well. She set an alarm for 5am every morning to wake up for sahur, and apart from the usual morning grogginess has not complained once. Throughout the day, she does all of her required work, takes care of her brother, indulges her sister with as much patience as she can summon, and then helps set the table and put out the kuih for buka puasa. She has even managed to convince Alethea to attempt half-day fasts, and encouraged her by striking a sisterly deal (for every half-day Alethea fasts, she gets to pick out what Athena wears. I don’t know why this is of any significance, but it seems to be great motivation for Alethea).
I have a very low tolerance for micro-dramas. Being raised by my mother, a hard Hakka woman, I am missing within me the gene that enables and entertains unnecessary dramatics like whining or crying. As a child, I was never allowed to throw tantrums or cause much of a scene myself for fear of my mother’s heavily eyelined side-eye. In fact, my mother didn’t entertain any kind of emoting, which made a big gap in my childhood development. I had to actively learn how to process feelings and allow myself to feel things as opposed to just get over it and move on. While this is not something I want for my own children, I also don’t want them to think that whining and crying is normal, which means having to strike a fine balance between the two.
Athena is very dramatic. She’s big on the water works, especially if she’s done something wrong, and kicks and wails whenever she is having a tantrum. She has a hard time taking responsibility for her actions and doesn’t respond well to immediate consequences (like standing in a corner or going to her room). But over the years, we’ve both developed means and methods of communicating our feelings to each other. In summary, it basically requires a lot of talking. Athena requires a lot of processing of emotions, and she needs a step-by-step play through of the incident that has transpired in order to come to an understanding as to what she might or might not have done. On my part, I have learnt to give her the opportunity to understand why what she did was wrong, and to also put myself in her perspective as to why she did what she did. Together, we usually come to an understanding and a consequence that we can both agree on (no iPad time for a week or an earlier bedtime for a week, that sort of thing).
Because of this, I am very proud of how she’s conducted herself over the past two weeks in her fast. She has shown maturity beyond her nine years of age, and while she does slip up once in a while, they are forgivable small mistakes that are inevitable and understandable given the circumstances. Fasting on a regular basis is already a challenge, made greater by the restraints of the MCO. Her self-restraint has been extremely commendable to the extent that she can make baked goods by herself without lamenting the fact that she cannot eat the batter or lick the spoon. I love her so much more for the quiet resilience she has shown, and continue to be amazed by her grace. In this Ramadan, her co-operative demeanour and affection to everyone is the biggest blessing of all.
Sheril A. Bustaman is a freelance producer & writer whose full-time job is mothering three children of ages varying from 7 months to 9 years old. While there are no financial benefits to the job, it comes with an ample amount of cuddles, teaching moments and some gratification.
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