Shen-Tel Lee Shares Her Letter To Her Two Boys, Benjamin & Kingston

Dear Benjamin and Kingston,

Gosh, you both are such a good time. The days are tediously long, but you grow up so fast! Don’t be disheartened when, at times, our opinions inadvertently clash; it’s only because Mummy wishes to instil impeccable manners so you both grow up to be law-abiding citizens. I want everyone who gets to know either of you to say, “Gosh, I want to meet the remarkable parents who raised such a charming and caring gentleman.

The minute each of you were born, I cried tears of joy. Motherhood made me realise the sacrifices and struggles my parents went through to raise me. I not only became a more respectful and appreciative daughter, but a much better human being at multitasking. I pray that both of you will experience the delight of fatherhood, as only then will you fully appreciate the depth of my insane and unconditional, militant love.

Prior to your arrivals, I had no idea how much my life was going to change. Suddenly the definition of hard work included wrangling you both off to school with the much dreaded ‘strict government-regulated’ packed lunches that do not contain nuts or eggs, lest you endanger the wellbeing of one of your anaphylactic schoolmates. Modern parenthood sure comes with an ever-changing list of weird and strange demands.

The List so far:
Keep out of jail.
Don’t kill your classmates with food!

I know it was a traumatic time when we moved you away from your comfortable lives in Borneo and relocated to Sydney. There were months of readjustments when you both missed the opulence of the home you grew up in – one with drivers, bodyguards and nannies. We wanted to provide you both with the skills and tools to be able to fend for yourselves, to be your own person, and not live your life bathing in the glory of your high-profile family name back in Asia.

For us, your independence is the most important gift we can give you, and that the move to Sydney, while both of you were very young, would give you both the best start in life. As your parents, we could not be more pleased to have made the transition, as we truly believe this is for your own good. Your Kuching home will always be there – a place you can always return to when you’re older, if you choose to.

Remember when you both asked me where babies come from? I looked at your dad and laughed. I have never shared with you the book that my parents read to me, Where did I Come From?. That’s because it doesn’t actually cover your conception.

Back in the early 1980s, IVF technology was still in its infancy. Today, this kind of expertise is prevalent. Yes, both of you are IVF babies; scientific miracles that took me on a rather extraordinary journey to motherhood. An odyssey that both your dad and I happily chose to take, because we wanted you so much. It wasn’t easy at times, and the struggle to fall pregnant had emotional and disruptive ramifications, not only on me but on your father and grandparents, as well. Life lessons taught me that we are not dealt the same cards and that, when things get difficult, it is the love and support of caring family members and loyal friends that pull us through trying times.

Never take them for granted.

“ Yes, both of you are IVF babies; scientific miracles that took me on a rather extraordinary journey to motherhood. An odyssey that both your dad and I happily chose to take, because we wanted you so much ”

The List so far:
Keep out of jail.
Don’t kill your classmates with food!
Keep your family close.

It seems like it is so much harder to be parents nowadays. Back when I was growing up, it was acceptable to be smacked when we did something wrong. We actually feared our parents, because it was a generation who subscribed to the notion of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’. My mum just had to flash me the ‘look’ and I knew instantly I was in trouble. In fact, we were told that if our parents didn’t smack us it meant they didn’t care about us. Such parental ‘privilege’ is no longer legally or socially acceptable, but I can tell you that my generation all listened and obeyed our parents unquestioningly. It’s so laughable how times have changed: your punishments now consist of the ‘naughty corner’ and disconnecting your WiFi.

Let’s talk about the time when I completely lost it. When I first moved to Kuching from Sydney after I married your father, I lost my identity; I was only ever known as the daughter-in-law of a prominent family. It disturbed me, because I knew I was much more than that. It fuelled a fire in me to re-establish myself and prove that I was still the same happy, liberated and independent individual.

I chose to maintain my maiden name because I wanted you both to know that being married and being a mum doesn’t define me. Always remember, you never need to change who you are for someone else. You must always know your own worth and never compromise your principles.

It’s these qualities that can best define you. Benjamin, you know how you constantly get upset because Kingston has a habit of intuitively annoying the crap out of you? I know this feeling of uncontrollable rage. There was a time when I was so angry and sad; it lasted for weeks. I didn’t know it then, but I was suffering from post-natal depression. Again, my sense of identity had been compromised, or so I thought. In actual fact, I had just added a few more hurdles to the track.

For you, I liken it to the feeling you got when I didn’t buy you that Kinder Surprise egg at the supermarket. There were tears, anger and rage. It was not fun and no one really likes to talk about it, because being sad is, well, really wretchedly miserable. Thankfully, now I know there is always a reason for sadness and it’s best to talk about it to someone rather than bottling it up inside. I will always be here for you, no matter how old you are or how old I am. Please pick up the phone and call me. I love a chat.

One crucial piece of advice is to think twice before you contemplate doing anything reckless. The digital world can be most unforgiving, and retributions are swift, brutal and merciless. I wish I could erase certain objectionable articles from the internet, but sadly, I can’t. I’m afraid the day will come when you are both old enough to Google the chronological history of your forefathers’ past, which was often unjustly portrayed. I hope both of you take pride in their accomplishments, and please be gentle with their shortcomings. There are lessons to be learnt from their hindsight.

Both sets of grandparents love both of you very much and are almost too generous to a fault. You must remember that we would not be here without them. Maybe it’s time to read Where Did I Come From?…

All I want for you both is to find your true calling in life. I knew from a young age that I was a creative person. However, it took me years of hard and confronting challenges to realise that my place in this world is to design. I was pleased that I remain true to my passion because nothing beats being happy doing something I enjoy.

I want you to keep trying new things, no matter how difficult they are – the only way to know what you love is to get up and do it. When you figure it out, my only advice is to keep running in that direction (jump the hurdles); don’t listen to the naysayers. Follow your gut and you both will go far. Be what you wish to be and live your own dream. I am so lucky to have you.

The List
Keep out of jail.
Don’t kill your classmates with food!
Keep your family close.
Live your own dream.
… and don’t forget to brush your teeth. Oral hygiene is most important.

Lovingly yours forever, Mum

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