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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Of motivation & rewards

Some intrinsic, some extrinsic.

So, are we less worthy of a human being if what propelled us to elevate to greater heights tend to be motivated by extrinsic material rewards?

Cannot be la, hoh? At least not in all circumstances.

For example - how can you say your child is less worthy of a child if what motivates him to study hard and obtain good grades in his exam is a Sony Ericsson handphone, with a camera & web access function in it?

To cut the long intro short, that was what Abang Idin had been eyeing for. And eyeing so for one good year, he had.

Of course I had a part to play in it. Being the not so generous Ibu that I am, no way would I just senang lenang buy a handphone for a 12 year old who most of the time cannot even remember where he last placed his wallet (which, in the first place, should have been easier kept in his pocket, shouldn't it?!!) So I said, if you want it, you go get your 5As for UPSR.

So, yeah... my Abang Idin was deprived of a handphone. And we kept dangling it as an invisible carrot. Handphone? UPSR! Handphone? 5As! Muahahaha....

Come to think of it, I'm sure he must have been wanting it since umpteenth years ago.

When he was barely 6 months old, we registered him for a baby crawling contest (at Jusco Wangsa Maju that time). It started off as just for fun. When we saw the other babies & their kiasu parents, Ayah & I looked at each other and thought...opps! Would we be exposing our child to the concept of failure & frustration too fast too soon? But then we thought ... hehh... he was just a baby lah! He wouldn't understand. So we thought. When the race was about to start, we noticed the other parents were all geared up, ready with teddy bears, teethers, pacifiers and other toys to be used as motivation for their babies to crawl forward! Alamak... we brought nothing at all (other than his milk bottle!). And sure enough, when the whistle was blown, all the other parents started to motivate their not-as-cute-as- ours babies(hehehe) and most of the babies started to crawl towards their toys instantly. Abang Idin? He just woke up from his afternoon slumber and he just sat there at the starting point, heavenly sucking his thumb, oblivious to the fuss of the cheering crowd around. Alamak anak aku nih, tengah mamai lagi la agaknya? Thinking on his feet, Ayah reached into his pockets and pulled out his wallet from one pocket and one heavy as a sepatu Nokia handphone from another pocket (imagine macam hero cowboy pulling out his guns ready for a showdown... hehehe...). He started to dangle the wallet & handphone in front of Abang Idin's eyes and voila!! Abang Idin instantly moved his diapered butt, got down on his knees and started crawling. Ayah moved one step faster. Abang Idin followed. A few more steps even faster. And ... you wouldn't believe this, Abang Idin lifted his knees and started crawling like a bear! Two arms, two feet, no knees at all and yeah!! He was fast!! He started to catch up with the other babies and even got to the leading top three crawlers in no time at all. The crowd was cheering loud. I thought... Oh yes! He could be winning this. Oh yes... Oh dunia! Lihat lah.. That's my boy!

But then suddenly, he stopped midway. Eh? Apasal?! Oh dear! He stopped midway sebab 'dok' looking at a cute chinese baby girl trailing slightly behind in the next lane. We tried calling him a few times, yet he ignored us and just kept looking (drooling?) at the girl. Oh my, what a sight! Aiyaya.... kecik2 dah pandai distracted by a girl? The crowd actually laughed at the scene. I'm sure at that minute it was ayah's turn to be cheeky; claiming 'That's my boy!'

Apalah Abang Idin!!

After a few good laughs, I nudged Ayah and he came right back on to his senses and started to dangle his wallet and phone in front of Abang Idin again. Thank goodness Abang Idin came back to his senses too. He dashed forward with his bearish style crawl and managed to catch up again. As soon as he reached the finishing line, Ayah rewarded him by letting him 'play' with his handphone. Hmmpphh!! Habis dia gobbled up the phone! (Would you use a hand phone covered all over with a 6 months old baby's saliva? Euwwwwww..... exactly!) But oh well! He deserved it. He finished off as a runner up, the only 'boy' winning. Not bad at all, considering his late start. Won himself RM200 Jusco vouchers and a big hamper (jimat sikit poket Ayah masa tu, no need to buy diaper for 2 weeks or so). I think we have a photo of it. I'll try dig his baby years album and post the photo later (tahun depan boley?).

Much later when he started primary school, he wanted a hand phone still. By then, he could come with some creative reasons for the need of it, I tell ya.

Once, he said he's too short to reach the public phone at school. So he argued we should buy him a handphone so that he could easily call us in case there was an emergency at school. Yeaaahhhh right!

Our rebuttals: Who ask you to skip your lunch & dinner too often and be too choosy of your food? You eat a lot more laaaaa so that you grow taller faster! Besides, if there was an emergency at school, just run to the teacher, pakcik canteen, makcik cleaner, gardener, jaga or bus driver and shout for HELP - whether they have teeth or not, it should not matter! That's what you called emergency. (Mean parents, no? hehehe)

But what about if it's emergency outside school? He tried still.

Our rebuttals: What outside school? After school, you come right back home, straight home, in Mrs Jaya's van, you hear?!! (Mean still, yes? yes, yes, yes....)

Another time, after coming home from a school trip, he related the incident of his friend who lost his handphone during that trip. His friend called his parent using another friend's phone and then related to Abang Idin, "Mak aku kata tak per lah... nak buat cam mana? Nanti dia ganti lain." And so Abang Idin questioned, why was it that other parents could easily provide their children with handphone and his parents could not?

Our answers: Oh! If you want parents that could easily provide you with a handphone, you could easily change your parents! Just go la try ask if they want to easily adopt you. Then maybe you can easily move to their house and after that easily ask if they could easily buy you a handphone. (Meaner? definitely, hehehe)

Not so generous maybe. But mean? Actually, no, I don't think so.

To Abang Idin,

It's not that we could not afford one. I'm sure there are plenty of 'under water' handphones somewhere kat Pekan Rawang tu. We know but we don't care if others can easily provide their children with material rewards without demanding some kind of efforts & achievement. And even if they do, we don't want to and we choose not to understand why the bar is not raised as high as what we've set for you. One thing you can't change - you are our son. Tough luck! And as our son, you've got to start learning from now on, boy;

No pain, No gain!

And we want you to learn this, not because both your parents were not born into this world with silver spoons. Our childhood is our childhood. Yours is yours. Eating roti canai outside once in a blue moon was already a great childhood reward for us . You? You got to eat McDonald's every so often without much Q&A. Be thankful. We've come a long way.

But one thing you've got to learn early, the world out there is not one holy charitable organisation. And since you may not be sheltering under our roof forever & ever, you've got to knock this into your head, heart & mind: You want something? Work hard for it, dear! Earn it with your own sweat & tears. Your own stripes & strides. You will then truly appreciate the reward. It tastes much sweeter that way, you'll savour the after taste.

The intrinsic part of it would come naturally indeed, I would think. That you would challenge yourself to proof that you can do it, that you have what it takes, that you are not easily susceptible to negative influence and distraction for short term gratification. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, provided you move towards the end of the tunnel!

Having said that, the ends does not justify the means.

Don't go cracking your head overtime strategising to rob a bank to get the money to buy a handphone!!! Duhhh....

If the ends is a much longed Sony Ericsson handphone with camera & web access function, and the means is by way of you scoring 5As in UPSR - then I must say, you've earned it very well my boy!

Congratulations on a job well done! You deserve the reward. We're proud of you, Abang Idin.

Don't forget to say Alhamdulillah, thank you Allah.

Let me say one thing; THIS is just the beginning!


p/s I heard next is Manchester University? So that you can watch live Man U football match every so often? ( Hmmm... that's not that far from my wanting to study in US so that I could go to Disneyland? hehehe....mana la nak tumpah nya kuah kalau tak ke nasi? ) So I would say, GO FOR IT, BOY! You've got 5 years to prepare. Muahaha....

p/s If you haven't, you should thank Ayah ok? I invoked the motivation & dangled the invisible reward. He's the one paying for the tangible one. hehehe... pandai Ibu kan?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Another live show tonite....

But this time, teater bangsawan "Batu Belah Batu Bertangkup".

Nak ikut? Jom beramai-ramai ke Panggung Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur.

Malam ni, malam esok, malam lusa.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Of blonde bombshells, dish washing & waiting

"Is office attire ok?"
Ayah's email message was as short & straight to the point as his verbal conversation.

I had to match - coz I was in a hurry :), so I replied,
"Dress code: lounge suit, so office attire's ok. Grab your blazer".

That was last Thursday, when he relented to accompany me to the british musical commedy playing in town. He said he's not much into this kind of thing, opposite moi - who just love stage shows, both performing and watching others perform. Especially if the tickets are complimentary. hehehh...

Besides, we missed to catch one when we had abundance of such opportunities just last month. I left the 'city' drooling over the posters, adverts & pamphlets of all sorts. Sigh....

So indeed that evening, we finally went to watch the Blonde Bombshells of 1943, the musical play by Alan Plater.

It was scheduled to start at 7pm. But a 'higher calling' tasked me to text the host as a sign of courtesy, who graciously indulged my excuse to join the party slightly later. I was least worried about joining the pre-dinner cocktail late actually. I don't fancy lingering around people sipping reds or whites (with me sipping coke or orange juice) for the sake of small talks. It's not the reds or whites that bothers me really - I'm just not genuinely interested to put up fake smiles while engaging in skin deep small talks with people I barely know. I would lose terribly if I were to stand for any political election I know. hehehhh....


Anyway... I met Ayah at the lobby after Maghrib. With his blazer on and his unmistakable silver highlights , I thought he was quite a sight for sore eyes. I hope only my eyes lah kan? We marched up to the ballroom foyer and was saved by the bell (they were really ringing the bell as a signal for guests to make their entrance & be seated), which means we skipped the entire lingering around, much to my relief... hehehe.... (I am soooo not suitable for a PR job, I could read your mind!)

I requested to be directed to our designated table which happened to be right in front of the stage. Wahhh!! Above expectation. And thankfully, the other fellow guests around the table were a bunch of easy going & friendly lot too - which made us settled in pretty fast actually, exchanging topics ranging from serious but still skin deep corporate updates to what we did last summer.

And what we shared about what we did last summer prompted me to write this entry.

When I said 'summer' - it was not about last week's hot scorching sun on our local soil, rather really about the hot & sunny season, except that the 'last' was referring to the good old college days.

It turned out one of the guests also went to the same college in the godforsaken midwest redneck county GMT minus 5 away from here (had it not been for the college town itself, we Asians would've probably succumbed to the bullies and ended up as their shooting practice targets!) The mere mentioning of the "home away from home" was enough to stir an instant bond amongst us.

We were relating those crazy things we did during summer breaks. My definition of crazy things to do during summer was about taking additional credit hours for 300 & 400 level Psychology courses (so that I could secure a minor in Psychology) and at the same time working my butts out waiting tables to pay for the additional text books for the courses. Fun & crazy indeed, no? But hey... I had my fair share of some adventurous trips made using whatever left overs saved from the same job of waiting tables.

Ayah shared his experience of the minimum wage dish washing job he secured on campus.

Waitress at fine dining restaurant on campus VS dish washer at the college cafetaria. So NOT the same class, I tell you! hahaha.....

The host and another couple also started to join & chip in their college days working experiences too. From as manual as waiting tables, washing dishes and delivering newspaper, to the more decent ones like book keeping assistance and researching books & articles for PhD students.

One of them asked if we met on campus. I said yes, but Ayah said not quite. He said we sort of knew one another before. I rebutted that technically we never met before, so it has to be 'on campus'.

By this time dinner has arrived. Our companies happily carved their steaks away while continuing to enjoy the acts of the two of us trying to defend each others' stand. I thought it was more of my verbal sparring against Ayah's merely raising of his eyebrow and shaking his head in disagreement.

Then suddenly Ayah blurted, "I even had to survive just on washing dishes, waiting for her!"

I could instantly hear the "Ahhhh....", "Ohhhhh...." & "How sweeeeeeeet...." in response to that.

Oh wow myself! That was quite a statement my darling! One hell of a curve ball I must say. And one bomb in its own form.

In a nano of a second, all those memories came flashing back to me in fragments. Him washing dishes on minimum wage at the college cafetaria, and me waiting tables at the on-campus Marriot Hotel's Tudor Room fine dining restaurant (read: lots of tips!)

That was when it suddenly hit me hard like a ricochet of a bomb shell. After 20 years of knowing him, it suddenly dawned upon me that I may have inadvertently taken Ayah's perseverance of me a bit too lightly - I think.

You see, Ayah is a feeler and a natural introvert. Put those two personalities together, you get one silent lover.

So how do you suppose I could read his mind why he stayed on surviving on minimum wage washing dishes while I happily scurried away to Washington DC as the first (ever) international college intern, rubbing shoulders with other interns at the White House two decades ago?

A mild extrovert thinker - I could not bring myself to 'feeeeeeeel' it was JUST to wait for a girl. I had to rationalise and it was around him buying time - waiting for arising opportunity as IT Lab consultant, to start building his fresh grad experience. After all, he made quite some earnings doing part time IT work before - finishing Masters & PhD students' project at very reasonable fees. hehehhhh... enterprising indeed.

People said (then) either I was in denial or simply a heart breaker. Some were diplomatic enough, acknowledging the possibility of not ready to commit and that I have the rights to still browse through the options on the menu. I must have just laughed & brushed them all off. That was a not a problem of the world that was worth me putting on my serious thinking cap. That was 20 years ago.

Now? With 3 kids, we are more than attached to our hips, I think.

The images of him "waiting for me" started to swirl in my mind though. Him washing dishes on campus waiting for me to return from my internship. Then when we were back in Msia? Him dozing off in his Proton Saga in front of my office waiting for me to finish my never ending work so that he could send me home safely right to my aunt's front door (thus marking his territory and cordoned off others away from me). After we got engaged? Him waiting for me to conclude the definite period of engagement. After we got married? Him waiting for me to be ready to start a family. After we got our first child? Him patiently reminding me to consider wearing the hijab and be willing to don it on my own accord. After the hijab? Him patiently inspiring me to perform our hajj early while we were still able bodied.

Today? He still have to wait for me to come home from my never ending work almost every night, so that we can have our dinner at the kitchen or dining table together with our kids (okay lah... sometimes he ate first). He still have to wait for me to choose at least 2 or 3 pair of blouses and pants, and then decide on matching scarve before we leave the house to go anywhere (used to be for fashion & color coordination, now more of which ones I can fit into comfortably...aiyaaaa!!). He still have to wait for me at a bench or game shop somewhere while I go berserk over the items on sales. Pendek cerita, he's still waiting for me on a lot of things lah.

I thought I was the one who was the "waitress". Looks like he's the real "waiter" after all. Except that when lovingly voiced out, it sounds like this, "Abaaaaang.....WAIT ARRR! Sikit lagi nak siap... tunggu ......"

Yes. He had to wait for me then. He still have to wait for me now. And a bit more waiting still in the foreseable future. He's doing it ever so patiently too, I must say. Sesuai dengan nama dia.

So what do I know really?

An evening to watch the blondies, but it's the silver haired that dropped the bomb on me - after almost 20 years!

Still loving him though.

And oh! The musical? Quite a swing indeed.