Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Widow Of A Sports Photographer


The Widow of a Sports Photographer

Most weekends when major sports events were happening in Singapore or around Asia, almost always, you would find David unleashing his sports photography magic as Singaporemaven.  Yes, I often felt like a widow during these weekends.  So, I thought it was time for me to recognize the talent and dedication behind the lens within my blog.




Camera First Wife Second

When David found his passion in photography, I was resigned to playing second fiddle to his massive collection of photography equipment and paraphernalia at home.

When the delivery men carted a few “wine fridges” home one day, I was jumping up and down with glee, ecstatic that my man had such a big heart enough to acknowledge my love for red wine and wanted to turn a little corner at home into my personal wine haven by stocking these “wine fridges” with crates of Amarone and Barolo.  I was horrified when he carefully placed all his camera lenses in my wine fridges and learnt then that these boxes were not wine fridges after all.  They were in fact, Dry Cabinets to keep moisture out of his gear.

When we went out for long walks exploring secluded trails and heritage buildings, he would ask me to pose for photos, sometimes against the wall, sometimes under a tree, sometimes by the river.  My heart would swell with pride thinking that my man just wanted to take lots of photos of his beautiful bride, only to feel deflated when he said, “Just testing the light.”

When we traveled on our vacations, he would brandish a few extra bags. That seemed quite thoughtful of him as I often needed extra baggage space to store all that shopping.  However, these extra bags were instead used for different type of camera equipment which he claimed he needed for different type of shots he wanted to capture during our vacation.

It took me years to accept that his love for photography would always come first.  Secretly, I was even proud of him for honing his skills throughout the years to be one of the best in sports photography.  I could not argue with a man with a mission to make the most ordinary looking scenario, like a woman on a running track, into a most extraordinary picture of an athlete’s grit and passion as she crossed the finishing line.





Behind The Photography Work

David had often been jokingly described as the busiest photographer in Asia. Most weekends would be spent covering sports events like MMA events, Track competitions, Swimming meets, Soccer tournaments, and Rugby matches. He enjoyed rubbing shoulders with world class athletes and inspiring men and women who dedicated their lives to sports.  Sometimes, I wished they would rub off their commitment to a life of fitness, on him, so that he would visit the gym more regularly. 

He loved capturing unique shots at these events.  He told me he was not interested in just shooting the athlete performing at the event.  He said, “Anyone with a mobile phone could do that.”  He wanted to capture their emotions. Through his lens, he wanted to interpret their pain, their joy of winning, their sorrow of losing, their anxiety as they waited for the moment they had to “win or die fighting”.   I often looked forward to him coming home to edit his photos so that I could get first glimpse of wonderful shots he had captured.





As his wife, I was proud of him.  It took years of lonely weekends, but I finally understood why he was completely finicky about angles, composition, lighting and anything I would not give a toss about when I used my IPhone to take a photo of a favorite rugby player waving a V sign as he posed for a photo for me.

While many people might have spotted him walking pitch side during various games, what they might not realize was the work that went on after the hours spent on that pitch under the blazing sun or pouring rain. 

Beyond the photography work, he often spent hours at home combing through the thousands of photos taken and editing them.  His editing work might take an entire night, and he would sometimes only get to bed at 5am upon completing the edits.



I remembered how he was the only photographer who waited for hours, for a rugby team to arrive at a hotel as they were preparing for a big match in Singapore that weekend.  I wondered then, if it was because of the lack of patience that the younger or less experienced photographers were not there waiting alongside with him that night.  The rugby team did finally arrive at 1am. After covering that meet and greet session, he then hopped back home and went straight into his photo-editing work till wee hours of the morning.



Maybe, it was not patience. Perhaps it was grit and endurance. I remembered how he covered an MMA event in Bangkok till late Saturday night last week, completed the editing work at 2 am in the morning, slept for 2 hours, showered and prepared to leave for the airport at 5am so that he could catch the 7am flight to arrive back in Singapore at 11am on Sunday.  From the airport, he went straight to  the OCBC Arena to cover a Swimming competition. 



 I was in awe with that energy.  This energy could only be driven by one who had an immense passion for his craft.

As his wife, I was often anxious about whether he was getting enough rest although he told me he was not tired.  However, I finally understood what kept him going, pushing through his exhaustion was his love and pride for his photography work.



There was once, he came back to Singapore with bruises and a swollen knee after covering an MMA event over that weekend.  Apparently, before the stage was lit up in preparation for the fighters to walk out, the entire event venue was pitch black.  In order to get to his position to prepare to capture great shots of the fighters, he missed a step and fell.  When I questioned him about his bruises and swollen knee, he just brushed it away and told me it was nothing.


However, as his wife, I felt the pain, but I knew that that was his style.  His photography work came first.  Nothing else mattered. 




I also remembered him ranting one day about losing a contract for a weekend of sports photography work.  He mentioned that someone in an organization had decided to not hire professional photographers like him, and instead, had made the decision to invite a group of young amateur photographers to take photos for free. He had no issues with that as he too was once an amateur photographer hungry for the opportunity to better his skills and garner experience. 

What annoyed him was the decision of these officials and event organizers to use those photos taken by amateur photographers in subsequent marketing promotions, effectively getting free content to sell multi-million dollar events a few months later.  I was actually flabbergasted by that decision, not because I was his wife.



As a PR professional, I would never allow my team to submit to the press, lesser quality photographic work that had not been professionally taken as it would have been disastrous to my efforts in telling my company’s brand story.   For David, the principle was simple.  That decision, did so much injustice to the sports and the sportsmen and women in that game.

Another pet peeve that made me raving mad as I fiercely guarded the integrity of my husband's photography work was when I might come across social media posts, and press clippings featuring his photos without according him a credit.  

As his wife, I found myself gnashing my teeth and clenching my fists as I  sat behind my PC screen after every sports event, scanning through the web and social media platforms like a hawk, looking for those  who might creatively crop out David's watermark off his photos and post them on their social media feeds or publish them in the press without crediting him.

The wife, PR professional and Team Ash’s unofficial Intellectual Property lawyer and policewoman in me would gamely send messages to these people to take down the photos or face an angry wife’s wrath.





The Photographer’s Wife

I am proud to be a photographer’s wife.  To me, my husband is an artist and a writer too.  He does not just take a photograph of a sportsperson.  With his camera, the Singaporemaven paints a picture and writes his or her story in a way that inspires the rest of us to live our lives to be the best that we can be, the way these sportspeople do.

So when you do meet David with his camera in his hands, do ask for a shot by the Singaporemaven.  That photo of you, would be taken by not just the busiest photographer in Asia, but to me, also the best.

*The sports photography work featured in this blog post have been provided by Singaporemaven Photography.  For more details on his work, please visit singaporemaven.com and follow him on Singaporemaven’s Facebook page and Instagram @singaporemaven

 

About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media when time permits.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from 
singaporemaven.com.  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Home Is Where The Heart Is


Coming Home To Family

 

In 2016, I made a conscious effort to stick to my resolution of putting more time aside for family.  That meant that I learnt to prioritize my time, cut down on the number of social engagements and dedicated my weekends and spare time to the family.  It was a year where I spent hours deliberating over conflicting appointments, cancelling and filling entries in my diary just so I could be there for the family

 

Time For Mom

 

I spent a lot of time with Mom, and this was so because Dad had passed on only barely a year ago then.  I shared the pain of her bereavement and wanted to help her create an independent and active life particularly when all she had ever known was a life dedicated to taking care of Dad, my brother and I.  Every phone call we had, and time spent with her at our weekly visit to Mom’s were precious moments worth celebrating.  This culminated in a vacation with her in November when we went for a week-long cruise together, followed by a trip to Hanoi where we spent our time gallivanting along the small alleys looking for good bargains and street food.  We both had fun. 

 


Mom, throughout the year, had made an effort to keep herself busy and moved on with her life without Dad.   I enjoyed watching Mom as she kept herself busy with the things she loved to do.  She loved cooking.  So whenever we went out for a meal, she would come home to experiment in the kitchen, then whip up her own version of it.  My brother, sister-in-law, David, Joel and I became unwitting guinea pigs of her version of the Korean Army Pot, and Vietnamese Banh Mi and Vietnamese Pho.  I made a mental note to not take her to anywhere exotic for the year end vacation in case she whipped up Fish Balls Stewed In Yak’s Milk or something similar. 

 

I also noticed that she made it a point to not revolve her life around my brother and I.  Often, I found myself calling her at home, only to discover that she had been traipsing across town with friends, transporting containers of food that she had cooked to Granny’s, working her magic hands across the mahjong table and generally making friends and influencing people across Singapore.  I was glad because I realized that quality time, and being present had very little to do with being physically there beside her.  She certainly could hold her own.  What was most important was that she knew that I always had her in my heart and mind and would do anything to make her happy.  Even a 2 minute phone call to ask if she had eaten her lunch was enough to fill her with joy.  

 

I only see Mom for lunch every Sunday afternoon and I used to feel guilty about that very little time we had together.  However, coming home, for me, was remembering that the both of us as mother and daughter, had ridden the good times and bad enough to know that we had each other’s back no matter what happened.

 


Time For Joel

 

I also spent a lot of time with Joel, trying to rebuild a mother-son relationship that had been lost to 3 years of misunderstandings, miscommunication, my initial non-acceptance of his girlfriend and all the rough patches that came with a generational divide. In our separate ways, we both grew up together, learning to accept our differences and converging when and where we could to bring back peace and harmony into our home.  At this time, we have never been closer than we are now.

 

In the past year, Joel has been enjoying his national service stint.  I enjoyed listening to the stories he brandished about his time spent outfield and often annoyed him with the question, “So how many plasters and panadols have you dished out this week, medic?” He took his duties in the army very seriously and would get really annoyed when I poked fun at his efforts.  Just barely a year before, we would not even have a proper conversation because Joel would spend his time out of the house just to avoid having a conversation with me.  In the past, any mention of his girlfriend would have erupted into a huge quarrel. In the last 6 months, we even had meaningful discussions about his relationship.  This opened the doors to more opened communication between us.  And whether or not he was home, out on dates, or back in his army camp, it did not matter to me because I knew I was always in his heart. Our whatsapp messages which were once peppered with caustic remarks were now filled with messages from him like, “Have you had dinner?”, “Where is Pops, is he with you?”, and “What are you doing this weekend?”

 

I only see Joel for a few hours over the weekends and I used to feel guilty about using those few hours to nag him about his army fatigues left on the floor around the laundry basket, the unequal amount of time spent between our home and his girlfriend’s home, and his awful diet of biscuits and crisps.  However, coming home, for me, was the knowledge that Joel knew what family values meant, his proactive attempts to bring laughter and harmony into our home, and his awareness that this bond between mother and son was unbreakable.

 

Time For David

 

I spent a lot of time with David too, traveling with him whenever I could when he had a photography assignment overseas.  When we were not traveling, we took to spending our weekends on activities we found a lot of enjoyment doing together, instead of leading our separate lives like we had done before.

 

This was our version of separate lives – he would crash out on the sofa on weekends with the TV blasting and remote control gripped tightly in his hand, while he snored, and I would be playing with my Tarot cards in the room.   Recently, we found a lot of fun in painting together. They called it art-jamming, but the only jamming we were familiar with was either Robertson’s Lemon Curd or plucking the life out of his old guitar with his ex-band mates. This version of jamming did not involve calories, or noise, and was filled with so much more fun and laughter between us.  It was hilarious when I thought about how I used to fail at Art during my school days.  One of my paintings now sit proudly at Mom’s home while David prepares to make a case for a potential lawsuit against him from Kellogg’s for  stealing their brand image of a white chicken.

 


Making time for each other was a huge effort, given his travels, and my multiple commitments.  However, coming home, for me, was knowing that every now and then, when we had time to connect, David and I could always find fun and passion between us, no matter how busy we were and how different our interests could be.  We really need not be in each other’s faces every day.

 

Coming Home To Scotland

 

My 2016 resolution propelled my decision to make a trip back to the UK to visit with David’s family last November too.   We had not been back for almost 10 years, often citing the lack of time.  How could we have let 10 years pass by without setting foot in David’s hometown?  How could we have not found time to connect with his family?  Our conversations were reduced to Facebook comments, an annual phone call and a Christmas card. 

 

So, together with the family, we set out to create memorable moments with each other within the very short time we had together.

 

One of his sisters put together a collage of old family photos during dinner and it drew much laughter and banter as stories of days past were exchanged.  Time seemed to have stood still then. That collage of photos closed the gap of 10 years and that geographical barrier between Singapore and Scotland because the entire family had so much to share about the good old days.   These were memorable moments that David and I cherished.  They were more important than attempting to squeeze time for a quick phone call and a trip to visit the family.

 


On a Sunday morning, I took a walk with his sister around her estate in Dundee before having brunch with the family. We attempted to look for squirrels, and slid across the frosty pathways to much laughter between us.  About 17 years ago, before David and I got married, this was the sister I had a fight with over something silly and unimportant.  Over the years, I have not had time to talk to her apart from the day we got married, and during the couple of  times when David and I visited Scotland after.   That Sunday morning, I felt that my sister-in-law and I had closed that gap once and for all.  We had so much to chat about, and we had fun in each other’s company. It was special for me because we made an effort to make that morning a memorable moment for us as a family.

 

Also, David had the opportunity to rekindle childhood memories as we walked through the town park and attempted to climb Falkland Hill in -2 degrees temperature.  While I felt the wintry cold, my heart was warmed by the many stories that David had shared about his Mom and Dad, his school days, and his sisters. 

 


Another thing that made this trip to Scotland so special was because David secretly arranged for a Minister to preside over the renewal of our marriage vows at the Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh.  When the effort came from someone who could not even match his socks each morning, it was truly special.  Coming home for me, was the realization that my husband made efforts throughout our marriage to create memorable moments with me.  The much talked about “together time” which most people insisted, made a solid marriage, was really overrated. 

 


Throughout our 2-weeks spent in UK, we did not want to just play tourist and create photographs.  We wanted to create special moments that would be etched in our memories for a very long time, and we did.

 

Home Is Where The Heart Is

 

So yes, in 2016, I did make time for my family. I learnt to prioritize and was adept at juggling my commitments, feverishly filling in or cancelling appointments in my calendar so that I could “be present” to my loved ones.

 

As the year 2017 crept by furiously, and a month had already come and gone, I was reminded that coming home, was not about my physical presence at home with the family.  It was the commitment of knowing who and what mattered most. When I know who and what mattered most, my relationship with them would not be defined by my time or physical presence. 

 

My relationship with those who mattered most to me would be defined by :

 

·      My conscious effort to be kind to them instead of brushing their grief, anger, sadness, angst or frustrations off as their “having one of those moments”.

 

·      My needing to listen more with empathy, instead of with the intent to respond.

 

·      The energy I put into having meaningful conversations with them, instead of scrolling my Facebook feeds whilst chatting with them.

 

·      My attempts to strike a compromise and have opened discussions when we have conflicting opinions.

 

·      My effort to not just be present but to create memorable moments with my loved ones

 

This would be a great example to illustrate my point.  This Lunar New Year, my Uncle and Aunt as well as my cousin returned from Canada and Australia respectively to spend some time with Granny.  It was really not about the sacrifice of time and money made to make this trip home happen.  They did not inform anyone of their impending visit.  Instead, they delighted the entire family when they turned up at the annual reunion dinner at Mom’s, and took us by surprise.  Mom was literally in tears and Granny was extremely happy. 

 

Now, that was a memorable moment and definitely, the best way to Come Home.

 


About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from 
www.singaporemaven.com.  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Cruising To A New Sunrise


A Vacation With The Extended Family

 
When Mom broached the subject of an extended family vacation on the Royal Caribbean – Mariner of the Seas for 5 days, I spent 2 weeks mulling about spending my precious leave days from work stuck in a cruise ship.  My thoughts on the first week was focused on the possibility and ease at which I could jump overboard and swim back to shore should the need arise.  The second week was dedicated to research about the facilities and activities on the ship which could allow me to have adequate me time away from the claustrophobia I might feel from being restricted to the space within the ship as well as  the disdain I felt about being immersed in a crowd of tourists queuing at the dining room entrance an hour before meal times, reserving deck chairs with their towels at 5am in the morning,  and stacking their plates with dessert, appetizer and main course all at once.

 
It did not help Mom’s case about this vacation when she sold it in this manner, “I booked you and I on a cruise with the family because if you come along, I get 50% discount on the price as I am a ‘senior citizen’.  So you must come ah!”
 

Obediently, I applied for leave from work and assured my men at home that the only reason I was leaving them behind was that they were not senior citizens.

 


Determined To Enjoy The Cruise

 
I was determined to enjoy my first experience on the cruise.  The friendly crew from the State Room attendant right through to the waiting staff at the restaurants went above and beyond to delight the guests, so it was not difficult to relax into a daily routine of enjoying the copious amount of food served 24 hours a day, and the professionally produced staged shows each night.  Several bars were dotted conveniently at each deck of the ship, in case I was driven to drink while managing conversations as civilly as possible with an uncle who had an EQ of 0. 

 
I was also cognizant of the fact that with an 86 year old grandmother in tow, I had the responsibility of ensuring that she enjoyed every minute of that vacation time with the family.  Mom often whispered to me as she kept me in check when I felt annoyed enough to want to hit that 0-EQ Uncle on the head with my shoe, “How much more time does Granny have with us? Please think twice before you say anything stupid.”

  


Family Time

 As we sailed across the Malacca Straits into the Andaman Sea, I woke up each morning at 5am to capture the Sunrise, and left our dinner table abruptly each evening at 6pm to capture the Sunset. I spent most of the mornings perfecting a selfie against the backdrop of the emerald-green waters of the ocean.  I wheeled Granny into the Casino to watch her operate the jackpot machine like a rabid Pilot on the computer dashboard of the Starship Enterprise.  I strolled with Mom along the jogging path on the deck whilst listening to a lengthy lecture on sun-damaged skin and ageing. I shared jokes with my other 2 favorite uncles who were gifted with higher EQ than the eldest one.
 

I did not have a chance to embark on my daily gym routine although the ship had a huge gym filled with state-of-the-art equipment because I did not fancy spending an hour working out, only to spend another 3 hours trying to hunt down the rest of the family throughout the ship after. I was all kitted up and ready for my sunset rock-wall-climbing experience but Mom was more interested in lining up for a chicken roll and a slice of pizza at the 24-hour cafĂ©.  So I decided that spending time with Mom having a good chat over a cup of tea while she polished several chicken rolls and slices of pizza was more important.   I registered for yoga classes early in the morning but decided  that sitting out on our balcony with Mom to discuss the important topic of what shapes the clouds made, was more fun.  I was prepared to spend my day enjoying a half-empty ship as the rest of the guests disembark for their shore excursion in Phuket one day. As my son aptly put it across Facebook one day, “For Mom, a HAPPY CRUISE IS AN EMPTY CRUISE.”  However, I decided to disembark the ship in the afternoon to take my Mom out for a little shopping trip in Patong Beach, Phuket, and we enjoyed the ubiquitous Thai fare of Pad Thai and Boat Noodles before returning to the ship.

 
Throughout the cruise, I hardly had any Me Time as I tried to “stick with the program” to spend more quality time with my extended family. So when I returned from the cruise, a friend said in surprise, “What? You packed for a vacation with the intention to spend more time in the gym each day to get fitter, do your sprints around the track, attend yoga and pilates classes and get in some massage time but you did none of these! What exactly were you doing for 5 days?”

 




Chasing A New Sunrise

 
I reflected on my experience during the cruise and realized that the reason I had initial doubts and skepticism about this vacation was because I had been chasing my sunrise and sunsets in a wrong way. 

 
I was focused on the superficial aspects of special moments that I was expecting to enjoy, like waking up at 5am to wait for the sunrise. However, I forgot about the miracle behind a sunrise and the fact that the sunrise each day, actually looked very different from each other, beckoning me to see each day as a gift and an opportunity to start anew.
 

This vacation was not about spending more time with an 86 year old Granny who might have so little time left with us.  It was about reconnecting with the grand dame of the family who had planted the roots of piety, familial love, and resilience in the ground for my mother’s generation, my generation and the generation after.  That was an invaluable lesson in committing to celebrate our family’s past, present and future.

 
It was not about having to manage verbal altercations with my eldest Uncle who had very little social aptitude.  It was about the fun and jokes my other uncles and I shared across the dinner table, having a hearty laugh at my eldest uncle’s callous retorts that he had often dished out irrationally.  That was an invaluable lesson in diffusing tension and managing the dynamics of interpersonal relationships.
 

It was not about how much time I spent with Mom throughout the vacation.  It was all about the quality time spent having meaningful conversations with her during the cruise, sharing our thoughts, fears and memories.  This was an invaluable lesson in the need for me to make the effort to continue having more meaningful conversations with her even after the vacation.  Acknowledging that I spent little time with her every week, I was committed to ensure that each moment I spent with her would be one where I was fully present.

 


Coming Home To New Perspectives

 
On the last day of the cruise, as my ship pulled into Singapore waters and the skyline of the central business district came into full view, adorned with a spectacular sunrise, I began to see this wonderfully quirky extended family in a new light. We all came together, whatever differences we had as a family, and whatever expectations we had about the cruise.  What pulled us together was the fact that we celebrated a priceless moment together as a family.  We might sometimes fight, and we might sometimes not speak to each other, or we might each hold stubbornly strong to our respective opinions.  However, nothing could change the fact that we were a closely-knitted family. 

 
How could I ask for anyone within the family to change, including my uncle with 0 EQ? I will always love them for who they are.  Every day, I celebrate a new sunrise, and like a new sunrise, I am grateful for the opportunity to feel the warmth and love within this family.




About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from 
www.singaporemaven.com.  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.  

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Extending An Olive Branch To My Son


Let’s Talk About It

 

I have  always stood by my belief that if I wanted to invest my time writing a blog post, the content had to stem from a place of brutal honesty and I would never hold back on expressing how I truly felt about issues that were impacting me directly or indirectly. I thought long and hard about writing this post though.  This topic was a sensitive one.  It was a topic that I could discuss at length quite openly, peppering it with a few belly laughs coupled with exaggerated expressions of disappointment that included rolling my eyes and "palming" my face in despair.  Generally, I would be masking my true feelings with humor, brushing my despondency away in the hope that this issue was just a temporary irritation to my otherwise peaceful family life.

 
In reality, this issue had ripped my heart apart into a million pieces in the past, making me question my role as a mother every time the subject got raised.  This was a topic about my son’s romance. It was a subject of much grief at home.  It was the cause of numerous mother-son fights for years.  It was the cause of my depression in the past.  It created a divide between my Mom and I because of our different approaches to parenting.  It contributed to the rows David and I had when we discussed the issue of Joel’s allowance, Joel’s free-spending habits, acceptance of his girlfriend and his lack of time spent with us.

 

A Pressing Issue

 
Having experienced the negativity of past broken relationships and a divorce, I had always advised Joel to keep his options open when it came to relationships. I told him that he had many more years ahead of him to meet many girls and eventually settle on the perfect one later who would be sharing a life with him.

 
When he was navigating his studies at school and now serving his national service duties, I had always felt that he had to be more focused on his priorities.  Falling head over heels at an age where most things in life were transient, could be a complete waste of time.

 
Joel, like his mother, was never good at taking sound advice.  He threw himself into this relationship when he met this girl at school. When we were introduced years ago as he brought her home for infrequent visits, my disdain for her was quite obvious.  My list of reasons why I disliked her, was as long as my bill spent on cosmetics in my lifetime.  I will list just a fraction of them here:

 
1)   I had no patience for one who could not hold a proper, intellectual conversation. Every time I asked her a question, she turned to Joel for an answer.
 
2)   As our family centered our daily lives with fitness, sports, photography and other exciting interests, we felt that she was uninspiring as she did not seem to have any interests outside of combing malls, dining at cafes and catching pokemon.  How then could she inspire Joel to lead a better and more fulfilling life in future?

 
3)   I abhorred clinginess.  When she started work and Joel was waiting for enlistment into the army, she demanded a lot of Joel’s time, to the point that he used to wake up at the crack of dawn, take a bus to her home, and hopped onto the bus with her to accompany her to work.  Sometimes, he would wait around at Starbucks till it was time for her lunch-break, so that he could have lunch with her.  And when she knocked off from work in the evening, he would accompany her back on the bus. There was nothing productive about this daily regime at all.

 
4)   I was disappointed that Joel had even let down his best friends who had come all the way from Thailand to Singapore for a visit and he had no time to spend with them because he would rather be “glue-gummed” to his girlfriend.

 
5)   Having been brought up in a traditional Peranakan Chinese household that valued respect, manners and decent behavior, I was unhappy that while she greeted David and I during her visits, she ignored our helper Evelyn, as if she was a piece of furniture.  When Evelyn cooked dinner for Joel and his girlfriend, she had not thanked her after, nor had she offered to help wash the dishes. 

 
6)   It did not help my already sullied opinion of her, when Joel spent a lot of money on presents for her, from a camera, to a pair of Chanel earrings, as well as frequent cab rides, all paid out of his small allowance.

 
7)   I was unhappy with the fact that while my birthday past me by without a word and a gift from him, he spent time and energy planning a birthday celebration for her.  I mean, for goodness sakes.  I spent my birthday eating at home and watching re-runs of Game of Thrones, while he celebrated her birthday at a high-end restaurant!

 
These were just random examples of situations that led to my disappointment with his relationship with her. I could go on.

 
These issues had escalated to a point where Joel and I would burst into regular heated arguments on an almost weekly basis.  My disdain for her increased as time went by.  For everything that Joel did which hurt or disappointed me, I would blame her as the cause of it. He avoided having a direct conversation with me about the topic.  And he even took to lying to me about the most basic stuff like where he was, whom he was with, what he was doing.  It came to a point, where I could no longer welcome her in my home. 

 
When Joel told me that he wished his national service duties kept him in camp even throughout the weekends so that he need not have to juggle between his girlfriend and I, I felt utterly depressed.  I felt like I truly had failed as a mother if my son was not looking forward to coming home to a happy family, loving parents and hot food on the table.

 

Finding Peace

 
Months and years flew by, and true to Joel’s tenacious nature, this relationship had lasted almost 4 years. However I thought of the relationship, I realized that what I could not change, was that Joel really loved her.

 
So I set out to re-evaluate the whole situation from a more objective point of view – something I found very difficult to do for most things in my life. While I was my father’s daughter, highly opinionated, unbending, tenacious and strong-willed, Joel was his mother’s son.
 

Yes.  He was exactly like me.  Through his relationship challenges, between his girlfriend, him and I, he held strong to the belief that one day I would change my attitude about her and that I would come to accept them as a couple.

 
I looked back at my own experiences with my relationships.  Often, I defined my response to these relationships with a fear of lack of control.  My divorce from my first husband was a result of that.  He had a high-flying career which would see me taking a back seat for the rest of my life.  I was then looking at a future where my life and destiny was “controlled” and dictated by his career progression.  As I did not want to fit into his plans, and would have preferred that he fit into mine instead, I chose to walk out of that relationship.

 
With Joel and his girlfriend, the same theme got played back to me and I suddenly felt that I had lost control of my son.  I thought I was on that right track of creating that perfect scenario of that perfect home, with that perfect family, spending quality time together, having a great time, sharing happy moments.  However when Joel met his girlfriend, it felt like someone threw a pebble into that pool to cause a ripple in that otherwise perfect reflection.

  

Positive Changes

 
A few months ago, Joel’s best friends had a heart to heart talk with him. It was a tipping point when Joel realized that he had been managing his relationship with his girlfriend and us, in a wrong way.

 
One night, while having a conversation with me, he apologized for the years of grief he had caused and explained that all he wanted to do was to present a perfect embodiment of a girlfriend to me.  So if she was deemed not perfect by my standards, he then put a wedge between us by trying to avoid any opportunity for prolonged interaction between her and us.

 
I assured him that I was not looking for perfection.  All I was looking for, was someone with good values, who understood the importance of filial piety, familial loyalty, respect, and integrity.
 

Interestingly, this conversation opened my mind to the root cause of the issue – the issue of fear of lack of control.  I spent my entire lifetime trying to take control of everything.  I was a control freak.  I controlled even the way my son thought, behave, spoke, and forgot that he was one day going to grow up to develop his own identity, formed his own opinions, made his own decisions and shaped his own future.  It made sense now why he would think I demanded perfection from the girlfriend that he was to have.  I had imposed that notion in his mind that any tiny flaw, anything that I could not manipulate, mold and control, was imperfect.

 
Taking on a more objective perspective, I also began to reassess my judgment of his girlfriend.  These were some of my thoughts:

 
1)   When I asked a question and she looked at Joel for a response, was she deferring to Joel’s need to take control the way I normally did, so that he could manipulate her response back to me? 

 
2)   As I had a strong and imposing personality, did her mousey attempts to address David and I, and her whimpers during our conversations reflect her fear of me?
 

3)   Did Joel, on his own accord, instruct her to just leave the dishes in the kitchen sink “so that the helper could wash it” because he was brought up accustomed to the practice of having the helper pick up after him?

 
4)   When Joel bought all the expensive presents to impress her, could it be his immature attempts to keep her sweet when they were going through issues in their relationship although it was not the right thing to do? 

 
5)   As men were generally not as sensitive and…er…intelligent as women, could it be that he took my instructions to not plan or buy me anything for my birthday at face value and literally allowed my birthday to pass  without saying a word?

 


Healing

 
Over the last few weeks, Joel and I went through a period of healing.  We were focused on the goal of reconciliation.  Whatever rift there was that had existed between us, was a result of our different expectations about his management of his relationship. In the wider scheme of things, we realized that we both were still very present in each other’s lives, and just wanted peace and happiness within the family. 

 
In the past, conversations with him tested our patience because he would respond with monosyllables.  Today, we would have open conversations about his life in the army, where he went with his girlfriend, and his general thoughts on most things.  He was more open with what he was spending on as he knew that his free-spending ways in the past was one of my bugbears. 
  

In the past, his life at home was behind his closed room door and in front of his computer. He even had his meal at his desk in his room.  Today, he would try to sit with us in the living room and have a decent conversation with us over dinner.

 
The home no longer felt like his hotel room.  He would let us know when he was coming home for dinner and he would even make arrangements to meet us for dinner after he booked out of his army camp on some Friday evenings. On his day off, he would accompany me to work, and have a cup of coffee with me at Starbucks to help me ease into my day.

 
He made time for us or for things that were important to us, for example, the weekly mass at Church and our weekly visits to Mom for lunch on Sundays.

 
He had also attempted to bring us together by asking me out to lunch with the both of them one Saturday afternoon, when David was out of town.  He was aware that I was going to spend the weekend alone otherwise.  I turned the invitation down politely as I wanted some “me time” spent on boxing training. There was no drama.  He just accepted it and went on his way.

 
The following week, he attempted to ask David and I to spend a Saturday evening out with them at the annual Halloween Horror Nights.  Again I turned the invitation down politely as “two old crusties were averse to the crowd who might knock our walking sticks off our hands.” Again, there was no drama as he had just accepted it and went on his way.

 
Before he left the house to head back to camp last Sunday afternoon, he walked into my room as I was taking a nap.  He planted a loud, wet kiss on my forehead and said, “I love you Mom.  I am going back to camp.  See you soon.” 

 
Deep down in my heart then, I knew that he has indeed evolved from a boy to a man. Whomever he dated, and whatever choices he made, nothing could ever change the bond between a mother and son. 

 
So I extended the olive branch on my end, and bought the both of them a night out to Halloween Horror Nights this coming weekend while the two crusties at home can polish each other’s false teeth.

 


Acceptance

 
As the healing continues, I began to embrace the notion that what I could not change, I had to change the way I thought about it.  His girlfriend is very present in his life, as I am in his.  I had to start accepting the fact that the moments they shared together, would make him happy.

 
I love my son.  All I ever wanted was for him to be happy. If she was going to be one of the contributors to his happiness, I had to start accepting her in his life.
 

My stance against their relationship had thawed somewhat over the past weeks.  While there was still some residual reluctance to letting go of my son who would always be my baby, I knew it was time to do so.

I no longer need to control him and how he leads his life because, as a grown man, he would be ultimately accountable for his own choices.  By letting go, I felt that instead of losing him, I would be gaining his trust and his respect. Beyond love, the bond between a mother and son can never be broken when there is trust and respect. 



 


About The Writer

The writer of this blog post is a Marketing and PR professional for over 20 years.  Due to her love for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), she is also a freelance sports writer on the side, contributing MMA-related articles to several sports media.  She works in partnership with her husband, David Ash, who is an avid sports photographer from 
www.singaporemaven.com.  She is passionate about Boxing and nurtures a dream to fight competitively one day when her coach stops making fun of her.  She is also a psychic intuitive by birth and runs a consultancy that does tarot and numerology readings under her brand, Sun Goddess Tarot.  This blog is affectionately called "The Crazy AngMo" as she is married to one, although she has not yet explained to THE Ang Mo that when translated, he has been labeled  “the bloke with ginger hair”.