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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Dear Thelma: She doesn't 'friend' me anymore

Posted: 10 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

A teenager feels that she is being ignored by a good friend.

I got to know A two years ago. I became really close with her last year as we were in the same school and class. We shared a lot of secrets and I trusted her a lot. We used to go everywhere together and was really happy with each other's company.

But, everything changed when another guy in my class, B, approached her. He's madly in love with A. They became really close and eventually A now ignores me most of the time. She only comes to me whenever there's something up with her. She had lots of problems with B before they got together and I was always there for her when she needed a shoulder to cry on. I've helped her in so many ways.

Towards the end of last year, they became a couple and the whole school was talking about them. Now that A is together with B, I feel like I'm not important anymore. She ignores me all the time and rarely spends time with me. I suspect that she might have leaked my secrets to B as they always hang out together.

It hurts me but all I can do is keep quiet because this is my last year at school, and I wouldn't want to have conflicts with her. We still continue to talk as usual but I feel like she's reluctant to talk to me. I'm not asking her to spend a lot of time with me, but at least, don't ignore me. I feel so lonely now as she was the one I always looked up whenever I had problems. She even said to another friend once that she would choose B over me and I don't know why.

I feel like B is taking advantage of her as he copies her work during exams and he scored higher marks than me. And he loves boasting to everyone. I feel so dumb even though I passed the exams on my own. I feel so helpless and I'm not sure what should I do. I think about this all the time and it's distracting me from my studies.  Missing My Friend

Thelma says: 

Your problem is not uncommon. You are not the first person, nor will you be the last, to experience losing a friendship once a significant other enters the picture.

As painful as it is, you will have to accept that you will be experiencing this or similar situations for the rest of your life. It is called change. And, it is the only thing that is permanent in life.

Nothing lasts or stays the same forever. Your friendship with A is no longer what it used to be but it doesn't mean that it has come to an end.

Unfortunately, you are not as important to A as her boyfriend B now is. Your relationship with her means something different now.

You are grieving for the loss of the old relationship you had with A. It is common to experience feelings and thoughts of being cheated, hence, your suspicion of A having exposed your secrets to B. Think about it a bit. What evidence do you have of this? Has B said anything to you to imply that he has knowledge that only A is privy to? Or, has anyone behaved differently with you? Your anxiety may be unfounded and you should stop expending unnecessary energy on thinking about this.

You may also go through a period of depression. Your feeling lonely and sad is symptomatic of that. Right now, it would seem that everyone and the world is full of negativity. If you are honest with yourself, though, you would find that the opposite is true. You would have other friends in your social circle and a family who are still there for you for love and support.

Aside from this, you may even feel anger and resentment. Don't be afraid of these feelings but just understand that you are experiencing them because of what is happening. You may feel like confronting A about it. But you should wait until your anger subsides. Don't react to your anger but tell her clearly how you feel. 

Be honest. Tell her that you miss your friendship. Also, be clear and realistic about what you want. You can't expect her to break it off with B and go back to how it was with you. Just tell her that you would like her to stop ignoring you.

As for your perception that B is using A, well, that is for her to figure out in her own time. If you tell her, A is only going to think that you are jealous and will dismiss you. And, if B wants to boast about scoring more than you in an exam, so what? You may "feel" stupid, but it doesn't mean that you are. Don't mistake feelings for thought.

You just need to accept that change is inevitable, mourn the situation that was, and forge ahead into the future. If all this is affecting your studies, it is all the more reason to put it away from your mind and pay attention to what means more to you.

Heart & Soul: A prayer for Ma

Posted: 10 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Mothers will go all out to care for their children. 

I am her firstborn and the only one with a skin disorder. Red, itchy, weepy and crusty areas covered parts of my body. There were numerous visits to government clinics to seek treatment, where she was reprimanded and once even rapped on the knuckles by a female doctor for being a "bad" mother. I remembered the tears of shame that welled up in her eyes.

Temple mediums told her that I had "dirty blood" and needed to drink turtle soup to cleanse it in order to heal.

And today, if I listen closely to the echoes of my past, I can still hear the hapless animals desperately struggling to claw their way out from a pot of boiling water. No words can describe how I felt when I was old enough to understand.

Suffice to say, they died in vain, and the ghosts of guilt and remorse will haunt me forever.

Like most children during the Japanese Occupation, she had no formal education though she learnt to read some simple words and write her name. Together with her sisters, they used to get up at the crack of dawn to tap rubber. Fair of face with a cute mole at the side of her nose, she left the village eventually and ventured into town to learn a trade.

Before long, she earned enough as a seamstress to cap her four front teeth in gold as was the fashion then. With this flashy smile, she met a handsome man and soon they got married.

To supplement his income, she worked from home and together they toiled hard to raise a hungry brood of four.

Forty years on, life became easier for her. She no longer had to work and could even afford to travel to different countries for holidays.

During her spare time, she tended to her orchids and for company, she had her dogs. During the weekends, both husband and wife went to the market together to buy ingredients to make nutritious soup to feed her returning children, grandchildren and their dogs. Our all time favourite was her fried chicken wings which were out of this world.

At this stage, I wish I could write how this simple and ordinary woman is living out her sunset years in relative contentment; but this was not to be as her ageing heart weakened. She couldn't be persuaded to have a pacemaker inserted as she had this erroneous fear that it would keep her heart beating even when she was dead.

Then, she complained of numbness and spasmodic pain shooting down her legs. An MRI confirmed the degeneration of her spine – constantly in severe discomfort, she could neither sit nor stand for long.

Her mobility became greatly compromised. Physiotherapy, pain medication, CT guided adhesiolysis and epidural injections, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture – she went through them all, save for surgery (which she was deemed unfit for). We tried everything but her relief was often short lived. Her appetite suffered, her weight dropped and she began to age rapidly.

There was no longer much quality to her life and to add insult to injury, her mole began to mutate into an ugly "in your face" tumour. Plastic surgeons recommended for it to be removed lest the cancer cells caused further harm.

This was excised a few days ago and a portion of skin from her cheek was harvested to reconstruct her nose. Now she has fine stitches criss-crossing her wrinkly face ala Frankenstein.

My poor mother. Daily, she prays for God to end her misery. What hurts more is the insensitive talk among a relatives who alluded that her sufferings were retribution for what she did to the creatures in the past. I'm so sorry that she is stricken by guilt and, as the sole consumer of the soups, I'm remorseful too.

Are we to believe that the spirits of the turtles are back for their pound of flesh?

Ma, please know that I wasn't unaware of the things you did, how you tried to get rid of my chronic skin problem. I know you tried your best and I'm grateful. Dear Lord, please bless my mother and give her the courage to fight on. Be her hope and strength.

Ma, I love you for all you are to me. Happy Mother's Day!

Quiet force of dignity: It's family first for Tun Rahah Mohammad Noah

Posted: 10 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Whether as our late second Prime Minister's wife or our current Prime Minister's mother, this Johorean beauty's most important portfolio was her family. Tun Rahah Mohammad Noah's youngest son Nazir gives her top marks this Mother's Day.

Second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein's widow was only 43 when he passed away, but Tun Rahah Mohammad Noah rose to the challenge of bringing up her five sons. Tun Rahah grounded her sons in values she believes are important and kept the brothers close-knit. 

Whether as the wife of the then Prime Minister, and now the mother of our current Prime Minister, Tun Rahah has stayed largely out of the limelight. On Mother's Day today, her youngest son, CIMB Group chief executive Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, pays tribute to his 81-year-old mother and how her pivotal role influenced their family. 

He also writes of how her unconditional love remains his source of strength.

So much is known about your father but not so much about your mother. Tell us about Tun Rahah.

Tun Rahah or "Mummy" as I call her, was born in Muar, Johor in 1933 to a relatively well-off family. Her late father, Haji Noah (Tan Sri Haji Mohammad Noah bin Omar), was one of the founders of Umno and went on to become the first speaker of Dewan Rakyat. 

The strict and domineering Haji Noah set his mind on his youngest of four (surviving) children, Rahah, marrying well and soonest. It was maybe because she was very good looking – tales of her beauty reached as far as Pahang where my father, Abdul Razak, was a rising star in the colonial government. He went all the way to Johor Baru to "spy" on her at school and then asked Haji Noah's blessings to court her soon after.

My parents married in 1952 when Mummy was a tender 19 years of age. She did not get the chance to pursue higher education, and instead turned from schoolgirl to wife of a prominent government official overnight, and then became a mother as well within a year.

She went on to have five children over a span of 12 years. Her biggest lifetime disappointment is that she only had sons. In fact, she was so sure that her fifth (me) would finally be a daughter that I only had girls clothes to wear for the first few months of my life!

From independence in 1957 until Dad died in 1976, Mummy was the young and glamorous wife of the deputy Prime Minister and then Prime Minister. She was 10 years younger than her husband and became a widow when she was only 43. 

When I look at old photos of them, Mummy always looks perfectly poised, radiant and beautiful by Dad's side. Despite her limited education I am told that she held her own on whatever stage she was thrust upon – from visiting kampungs to attending a banquet at Buckingham Palace.

Despite the demands of public life and looking after Dad, Mummy was a wonderful mother to us. She had a lot of domestic helpers, of course, but she was always our primary caregiver.

When Dad died, she was a young widow with five young sons to bring up; the eldest, Najib, was only 23 while I was nine.

Once again, she was thrust into dramatically new circumstances. She adapted quickly, and became very focused on two things – her boys and religion.

The five of us owe her so much; in fact, sometimes I feel guilty that she had to be so consumed by our needs that she was not able to pursue much else.

She is a reluctant socialite; she attends the obligatory functions but is always happier with her family – she now has 15 grandchildren to dote on – and close friends, or at prayer.

Her favourite pastime, though, is shopping; thankfully she is also a typically frugal Johorean so she is quite careful with her spending.

She is wonderfully particular about seemingly small things that touch others – she has only forgotten one of my 47 birthdays, and the one that got away traumatised her for a long time! Even today she is meticulous about keeping a diary of birthdays and anniversaries of everyone close to her.

Family portrait...the late Tun Razak Hussein with his young family in 1974.

Family portrait: The late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein with his young family in 1974. Back row from left to right: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Datuk Johari Razak (with glasses); Front row from left to right: Datuk Nizam Razak, Tun Abdul Razak, Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, Tun Rahah and Datuk Nazim Razak.


Your father was busy with public life, and your mother was the primary parent. What was your childhood like with your mother?

For me, she was the primary parent for the first nine years, then the only parent.

Her style was laissez faire but grounded on values which she subtly instilled in her children. She did not set many rules but expected us to know right, wrong, too little and too much.

Her support for us was unconditional and she always put our needs before her own, and that has always been an enormous source of strength for me when facing life's challenges.

When I was 13, she sent me to Britain for boarding school. She wanted me to have the education I needed, it mattered not that it meant she would be lonely at home. At school, I would always look forward to her weekly letters and whatever advice she would volunteer. So, even while we were far apart she continued to influence me.

What were the challenges your mother faced raising a house full of boys, especially after the passing of your dad? Could you share some of your family memories/anecdotes?

It is to her credit that we remain a close-knit band of brothers. Maybe we all just feel we owe her so much that in the end we always want to please her, and her number one priority is that we remain close. Or maybe she has just subtly instilled a strong bond between her sons.

My most enduring memories of my childhood were of many evenings when my brothers and I would all lie on her king-sized bed together while she sat on the sofa, and we would banter about everything and nothing, and laugh so much.

Fond childhood memories... Datuk Seri Nazir with his mother Tun Rahah on the eve of Hari Raya.

We would tease each other about all sorts of things; for Mummy though it's always about her shopping. The standard jokes were around holiday trips where she would shop for days, yet buy nothing for herself. She was always obsessed with getting presents for everyone else; family, friends and staff first, so the final few hours of the holiday were invariably a frantic scramble to buy her own things.

Being the youngest in the family, did you receive special treatment from your mother? Were you someone who would get away with mischief easily?

She has always been very determined to treat her sons equally. She had her rules about when we each would get what, like a first overseas trip or the right to buy a car. Due to inflation, by definition I got the worst financial deal!

Of course, because Dad passed away when he did, I had more time with her while growing up, but I don't think any of my brothers ever thought I got special treatment. But you'll have to ask them to be sure!

How has your mother influenced you as a parent?

I try to provide my kids the same sense of unconditional love and support. But these days the environment is very different: there is a much higher risk of negative and dangerous influences on kids, whether via the Internet or society at large. So, Azlina (Datin Seri Azlina Aziz) and I are a lot more hands on with our kids because we have to be.

How has your mother shaped your attitude towards women?

Like most women of her generation, Mummy is traditional in her views about the role of women. Growing up in a family of five boys and attending an all-boys boarding school kept me quite traditional too, or at least until I met my wife. 

Azlina and I married at a fairly young age and went through young adulthood together, and I daresay her strong and progressive views on gender equality have tempered my attitude too. With a wife who studied feminist theory at Oxford, it is pretty difficult to be a chauvinist!

We have two children, a twin son and daughter, whom we are careful to treat absolutely equally.

At work, too, I am proud to say that CIMB is a Malaysian company at the forefront of promoting gender diversity.

What are the important life lessons you have learnt from your mother?

She is the most selfless person I know, to her family and to others. She has maintained a group of very close friends through the years, so now despite her sons being busy with work and their own families, she is never short of good company.

She has taught me the importance of personal honesty and integrity and service to the community by always being concerned about our reputation and the family name.

Without ever using the words themselves, she taught me that "perception is reality" so do the right thing and make sure people know that you are doing right.

What do you value most about your relationship with your mother?

Her unconditional love and support. Even when she is displeased with something I have done, I still know that she is there for me. I value this so much; it makes me a much stronger person knowing that I always have a safe emotional haven.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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