The Tome of Ethereal Knowledge

When we buy a new gadget, we were given a User Manual. Nobody really reads it. And when you can’t do some of its function, you refer to it. That’s provided you haven’t lost that book yet. Most of the time you have lost it before you even read it.

When Evangeline was born, we were given a health booklet from KK Hospital. It contains many useful information like schedule of immunisation (many many many abbreviations there BCG HepB DTaP IPV PCV MMR ASL PLS LOL ROFL WTFBBQ). It also contains the charts where we can foresee the growth of our baby in term of weight and height. And to compare the baby among its peers based on local statistics and get rough estimate at which percentile the baby is. Competition since early days, being Asian at its finest.

So every now and then we will refer to this sacred Tome of Ethereal Knowledge. Either for the immunisation schedule, or to check whether the weight and height of our daughter is considered “normal”. Her height is usually in 50th percentile and weight is generally in 95th percentile. She’s not fat. She’s chubby. She’s not shortie, she’s normal but she grows horizontally faster than she is vertically. Takes after her father.

But the one thing that I always find in the Tome is the developmental checklist. So they have this several checklists containing few statements in each list. Every list came with the age of the baby in the title. So let’s say for example in the checklist for 6 months old, they will have a statement like “Your child is able to roll over from stomach to back or
back to stomach”. If your baby can do it, you tick the box next to it. If your baby can’t do it, pfffftttt my baby can. I win you lose.

The book is given for free by Health Promotion Board to the parents of the kids born in Singapore. So everyone here has it. But for the benefit of readers who does not reside here, this is the link to the softcopy.

I would say the Singapore government does a fine job in providing this to the clueless first time parent. The questions that always linger like “Is this normal?” can be easily answered by reading it. On top of the checklist for you to keep track of your baby’s development, the Tome gave you an indication on how many months 90% of the babies can tick off that statement. Using the same example above, the Tome said 90% of the babies can tick off the rolling stomach-back-stomach at the age of 5 months old.


So in case your baby malfunctions, please refer to the manual. Or bring to the nearest pediatrician or clinics or hospital if you think it’s serious and urgent. They might be able to repair your baby. Strictly no return policy. No one to one replacement, too.


Poem of the Kids Kingdom

from the distance I saw nothingness
yet I heard cry of a child
is this a gift or is this a curse
to be freed into the wild

sorrow indescribable by word
a deep grief through day and night
peril my life just to walk forward
brave the battle turn the tide

masticate flesh of the innocent
bite of the venomless snake
how could someone be so impudent
what is mine you shall not take

mortify desire to linger
I sigh with a broken heart
to be separated from mother
why life have to be this hard


So recently I have this friend, Januar, posting haiku on facebook. His struggle with his thesis makes him turn to literature to elaborate his meaningless worldly achievement in Engineering. I guess writing the haiku is a spiritual experience for him. So I googled and read a Haiku article in wikipedia. I am amazed by the limitation of the syllables pattern, 5-7-5 for haiku.

In Bahasa Indonesia literature, we have pantun. The distinguished pattern is on the rhyme ending each line. While each pantun verse contain four lines with a-b-a-b rhyme pattern, pantun does not have restriction on number of syllables pattern.

Above is my humble attempt on contemporary form of poetry, i tried to keep the syllables in 9-7-9-7 pattern while conforming to pantun a-b-a-b rhyme. Generally this is what I imagine going through inside Evangeline’s head every morning we drop her in school. This is what the poem written by a literature prodigy whose mind trapped inside the body of languageless toddler.

Verse 1 tells the story of Angel in front of the Childcare door. Normally we can’t see what’s inside because of the building layout. But we can vaguely hear the kids screaming, playing, and some music from inside sometime. While Angel generally love to play with Papa and Mama, sometime she prefer to go to school and ask us to leave quickly, dragging her own school bag to go in. Till to date, we are still unaware of the parameter that decide whether we should go and let her go, or, we should stay longer and console her. So far it’s random with 80%+ chance she will go in without crying. Angel cries in front of the childcare door 99% of the Monday. She hates Monday. Like we do.

Verse 2 imagines the conflict within her heart. While the teachers and laoshis will try to keep up, sometime the toddlers are too fast. And for this age (1 to 2 year old) they don’t really have ways to communicate effectively with language. So they do it with action. What I mean is, when kids don’t like you, they just bitch slap you right in your face without thinking the consequences. My daughter is not the angelic forgiving type, she will hold her ground for what she believes is right. No matter whether she is actually right. Any classmate slaps her, better get prepared to meet your demise. We had an event where the teacher told us that Angel’s classmate bit and scratched her face and leave a nasty marks. Before we could enquire which kid does that, the laoshi told us that Angel retaliate out of proportion, pouncing and sucker punching the poor fella to the wall, grappling and tumbling to perform a chokehold pinning the classmate to the floor and sitting on the almost motionless body. The laoshi called us to ask what we’ve been teaching her at home. Ninjitsu, of course. I’m not sure what I’m feeling. Am I supposed to be worry, proud, or confused?

Verse 3 is related to verse 2. After the scratching versus pouncing incident we told her that she’s not supposed to wrestle her classmate to oblivion like that. It’s dangerous for both party because kids this age still can’t control their power. It might be harmless intention, but could result in severe effect. The teacher feedback to us Angel is behaving well. Never start a fight and generally a good kid in sharing with friends and playing in a team. Until one day the teacher tell us someone bit her wrist, and she just said “no!” and avoid this kid. But this kid continue to follow Angel and bit her again before the teacher manage to stop him. So Angel cried standing for very long, and there were two bite marks, left my daughter’s wrist swollen and  suffered laceration. I remembered I almost cried when I saw the bite marks. She didn’t retaliate, and she told the teacher because Papa said it’s wrong to hit your friend. If only we don’t teach Angel this, she could have change the perpetrator status to victim shortly after the first bite.

Verse 4 is the standard procedure before Mama leaving. Angel will ask Mama to squat down. She will hug her for as long as she wants. And said “Mama go.” to signal that the Mother could leave. It could be few seconds or as long as two minutes hugging. But this is ritual. All the teacher and laoshi knows it. Except one. One day this new teacher, who knows nothing about this ritual, peeled of the hugging Angel, startled the Mother, and face the wrath of both. I wish her best of luck taming the awakened dragon.

And for the concerned readers, I do not teach my daughter to brawl. In Kids Kingdom, it’s survival skill.

Communication Skills of (almost) 2 year old Evangeline

Everyone (Papa, Mama, Angel) is ready for monthly family outing, and suddenly

“Let’s go!”
“Wait Papa!”
“Yes why?”
“Angel poo.”

My daughter is learning to tell us what’s happening to her.

When we reached the Kopitiam (local Food Courts chain in Singapore), the Mother goes to buy the food first while I supervise Angel playing around. Among all of the patrons in the makan place, and suddenly

“Oh no please don’t.”

My daughter is learning to tell the whole world what’s happening to her. At impeccable moment.

The Guardian Angels

Greetings, mortal!

The name is Evangeline. Let me introduce you to two of my guardians. Among those who are sworn to be my protectors, these two are the ones bestowed upon with the task of fulfilling my every needs. They go by the name of Papa and Mama.

Papa takes the form of an adult man. During the night he takes form of motionless meat. He has a wide-chested build. This obedient warden has the unprecedented strength to suspend my chariot mid air for a prolonged time, with me inside the chariot, whenever our journey is hindered by the obstruction of staircase. He is undeterred by the distraction panicking Mama makes and always makes me land on my feet on my every leap of faith. Every failure leaps. Every morning this tireless laborer disappear out of the dwelling before I rise and shine. Only to leave me to defend this house with Mama.

And Mama. She is the lady with the obsidian eyes. This Goddess always brings prosperity and warmth. She is the deity with untapped depth of skills. Maintaining the cauldron, spotless dwelling, fresh garments, and you name it, basically everything around the household aided with my constant supersonic scream to cheer her up. She also defeats me numerous of times, seizing the advantage of greater size while forcing me to go through the ordeal of changing diapers, sometime with her swiftness, some other time with her sheer endurance.

Her wardrobe is unusual with a lot of different cloaks with weird places for openings, a passage for me to sneak into. Furrowing between the clothes incision, I find my source of  life. The fountain with the eternal flow of the magic potion. The opalescent, watery substance, that is murky white in colour. It smells like me, but tastes like sugar. Upon shoving this elixir to me, my vision often blurs into abyss. At times when my willpower to struggle outlive her supply of this fluid, she will read the incantation to send me to the nether world. Bottomless abyss. Total darkness. Twinkle twinkle little hoahm …


I do have other custodians whom I met every so often. They had the opportunity to meet me in person, but most of my interactions with them are in the form of astral projection from The Mesmerizer. They called The Mesmerizer a handphone. Hand phone. What a weird name. This does not look like a hand nor a phone.

They always screamed “Evangeline! Don’t play with the handphone!”. Do you think I want to be enthralled in the hypnotizing rays it emits? I tried very hard to look away. I just can’t. And when I manage to glance away and let go of the grip, Papa is always angry “Why do you throw the handphone? I will not let you play with the handphone anymore.”

Good! Keep it! Do you think I want this?

Often I prove my prowess as a scientist, inventing some pattern in the mystery of life. Like, for example, yesterday I noticed that the water in my bath tub, will change its shape when I put it inside another vessel. The water will take the form of the container. Like the bath tub, the pail, the bottle, my hand, my mouth. And before I could tell Mama about this, he already screamed “Evangeline! That’s not for drinking!”

How would you know that this is not for drinking, Mama? How would you. It does taste a bit horrible. And whenever I speak now a little bubble come out from my nose. But it does not mean it is not for drinking.

Everytime Papa and Mama tell me what not to do, I always try to tell them.

“Let it be. The fabric of fate weaves an endless interconnected pattern, in which we all are just threads. Let it be.”

But the words coming out from my mouth is only “pap-pap-pap-pa … ik-ik .. belek.blek. hihihihi.” They just won’t understand. I’m a prodigy whose mind trapped inside the body of languageless toddler.

I laid the matters before these two. Showed them that water can change shape. That The Mesmerizer can travel as a parabolic function if used as a projectile. That with enough willpower papers can be split into two.

But they won’t listen.


Last night my wife asked our daughter.

“Where’s pipi?”

My daughter pointed to her cheek (pipi in our language).

“Papa’s pipi?”

My daughter pointed to my cheek. It continued to nose, teeth, hair, mouth, ears, hands, and toes. She would pointed to hers, then to mine. It might sounds ridiculously simple. But suddenly the problems in office during the day vanished during the night, as my daughter pressing her little fingers on my face.

I remembered several years ago when I was still single, I asked my colleague

“How did you manage full time job and three kids? Isn’t it stressful?”

He replied

“I don’t know. I just did. Somehow.”

When I think I begin to understand more as I ravel deeper into the parenthood conundrum, this morning my colleague asked me “It must be tiring taking care of your active daughter, especially during this office busy period. How did you do it?”

“I don’t know. I just did. Somehow.”