When I was in school, our motto was Daughters of a Better Age, and we were constantly encouraged to be vocal leaders and game-changers.
To that end, at the tender age of 13, I had already resolved to become an enlightened mother, to raise my girl as a Wolf and dress her in blue (not that wolves are blue, of course, unless they happen to be a canine variety of wild Smurfs, but you get the general idea).
She would not be meek; she would be a vocal leader. I was so determined to be different that I fell into the same pattern so many generations of mothers had sewn themselves into, the tight weave of preconceived notions.
Some two decades later, when I actually gave birth to a daughter, M5, it occurred to me that I had got my Chinese Zodiac animals all mixed up, for she was no Wolf but a Dragon.
At that point, what colours she wore was the least of my concerns, as I was so exhausted from my efforts to feed her; run after M4 who was a speedy toddling Tiger; and coach M2 (also a Dragon) through a most taxing primary school leaving examination.
The task fell to my maids to dress her, so she would be either be in sweet pink princess outfits gifted by elegant girlfriends or peculiar Hello Kitty prints inexplicably favoured by my own dear mother.
Most of the time though, she would just wear whatever M4 had worn the year before, which meant that she was paraded around in red Manchester United football jerseys with MARK printed behind or outfits announcing that ‘Captain Mark Is The Best’, complete with matching hat and bib, all echoing the same refrain in bright orange.
The first year went by and I still couldn’t get my act together to dress this Dragon with just the right amount of careless elegance, in a handsome shade of blue.
The thing was, I was mostly distracted by the fact that she wouldn’t talk much. This was very vexing. How was she going to be a vocal leader or a game-changer if she could not articulate the issues in her community? As it was, she could barely say ‘mama’, although, perhaps just to vex me further, she appeared to have no problem saying ‘papa’.
I frantically checked her hearing, understanding of simple instructions and ability to communicate her needs through gestures; these pathways appeared intact. I fretted that perhaps because Ms 1,2 & 3 had left for boarding school and I was working full time, there was nobody around who spoke clearly enough for her to mimic.
I felt guilty and considered leaving my full-time position, although the husband assured me I just had to be patient, which only frustrated me further.
Then one day, when my maid was asking her, painfully slowly, if she might like a cup of chocolate milk, she replied curtly: “Yes, please put it on the table.” I was overjoyed.
Shortly after, I managed to snap a photograph of her wearing grey and riding a little Ducati tricycle with what I perceived to be careless elegance. Things were looking up for my game-changer.
That fashion nugget was, however, never repeated as she soon started to insist on dressing herself. For all her feisty ways, she had an odd penchant for wearing feminine pink ballerina tutus paired with cute pink rain boots, even if it was just for a stroll to the market on a very hot and dry day.
So maybe I never got to dress her in blue; in fact, I never get to dress her at all as she is her own stylist. There is nothing careless about her elegance; she enjoys carefully layering her accessories, her mantra being that more is more. But the most wonderful thing of all is that she is healthy.
In that respect, I am just like every other daughter that became a mother, evolving along the way to have a better grasp of multi-tasking and being prepared to be flexible when the game changes.
This story is a part of a series of columns by Dr Jade Kua (left), documenting her life with her legendary six Ms. The paediatric emergency specialist is also the programme director of DARE which stands for Dispatcher Assisted first REsponder. It is a community project that aims to educate the general public on how to save the lives of cardiac arrest victims by teaching them basic resuscitation. Follow her on Instagram @drjadekua.
To read Dr Jade’s previous column, Jade + 6: Husband Works Vacation Wonders, click here.