What a Butterfly Boasts In

It is now midnight, I am watching an Autumn Leaf caterpillar in the midst of pupating itself as I write this in my notebook. Maybe it’s the coffee. My husband and kids were already sound asleep and I left my phone in the bedroom. I do not have any picture or video taken of the process so attached here is a video I took from the YouTube.

As I watch the caterpillar attaching itself to a stem; twitching, squeezing and shrinking itself into almost one third its original size some four hours ago, I cannot help but to contemplate on the meaning of its life.

What is the purpose of this little creature’s life? To be a beautiful butterfly. And then what? Be a bird’s prey, or die some 30 days after?

Ah, if only it could talk, the caterpillar would have protested! Why the hassle, why the painful process? For such a pathetic purpose, that cannot be!

But thanks be to GOD, as one watches the caterpillar’s journey from one ugly, creepy thing; molting itself into a pupa, and to finally emerging as a splendid butterfly, one cannot only learn about the life cycle of a biology subject, or contemplate on life’s meaning, without also raising to his lips praises to the magnificent GOD, the Creator of this little caterpillar, and of all living beings.

In fact, it is impossible for one to observe the Nature, and not be awed by its beauty, order and wisdom. And as one stands in awe of the wonder of all these, it is impossible not to acknowledge its Creator and lift up proper praises due Him.

No, I say so not because of an overly religious sentiment. Instead, it is the most making sense response. Just as one should naturally credit the artist behind a masterpiece, and applaud the composer behind a moving music, acknowledging the existence of a brilliant Mastermind behind the very existence of this caterpillar, and give Him glory for the awe-inspiring handiwork that the final beautiful butterfly is, is only the most natural, honest and logical thing to do.

The glorifying of GOD, and His enjoyment – which He graciously shares with man. This, is the purpose of the butterfly-caterpillar’s life. This, is what its gorgeous wings boast of.

Let man observe and take heed, in all their splendor let they give glory to their Maker, to whom all honor, praise and adoration are due. Lest they boast in their foolish arrogance, and end up a prey to worldly vanity and die after a meaningless life of 70 or 80 years.

The caterpillar is still twitching and contracting, but I am done with my notes. So I am turning in, both of us have our own lives to fulfill tomorrow.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Little Nonas’ Nature Finds: Rearing Autumn Leaf Caterpillars

Our little nonas are very much fascinated with butterflies; their beautiful wings, in amazing array of patterns and colors. But we have never been able to get close enough to admire the detail of arts they carry on their wings.

Yesterday morning, as we were chasing butterflies around, we thought why not try rearing caterpillar, that way we could have a chance to get up-close with the butterfly once it emerges. So we got ourselves some Autumn Leaf caterpillars as pets from the garden behind.

We have since been watching these creepy crawlies with amazement; their colors, their movement, the way and the speed with which they chomp down leaves, and how quickly these creatures excrete their frass too. We hope we’ll get the chance to see them metamorphe into the beautiful butterflies they are meant to be. (Just please don’t die on us.)

I am probably more excited than the nonas. It’s the first time I get this close with caterpillars, and while I still freak out a bit inside, I find it very exciting and I delight in observing them. I guess not only is it preschool with mommy but also preschool for mommy. Never mind I am in my late twenties, because learning never ends.

Singapore, 19 May 2017

 

Little Nonas’ Nature Finds: Mating Snails


While the Big Nona was chasing a Changeable Lizard this morning, she fatefully jumped over another creature. The lucky thing turned out to be a pair of garden snails (Cornu aspersum), and they are in the busy process of mating!

It’s the first time we saw copulation process of snails, and it’s so unlike that of vertebrates. We had initially thought that it was just two snails lying dead before noticing that they were actually connected by what we supposed were their reproduction organs (see the white tentacle-like organs near their heads).

Not long after, we met a pair of dragonflies, yes you guess right, in the process of mating too. No picture as they kept flying away whenever I approached them (“What a rude human being!” they probably thought ).

Love is in the garden. May could be the month of love for them.

As to the 4 year oldĀ I could only say “The snails and the dragonflies are both getting married.”

Singapore, 11 May 2017

Little Nonas’ Nature Finds: Gliding Lizard

We spotted a gliding lizard (possibly a Draco boschmai) during our morning walk last week. With body color that very much resembled the tree on which it was perching, the lizard was well hidden. It took some time for the nonas to be able to spot it, with Mommy busily pointing “Look! Over there! There! Can you spot it?” all the while.

The lizard had a yellow triangular gular flag under its neck, which I initially thought was a piece of leaf. (Wait, do lizards even eat leaves?? Haha ) Only when I spotted its folded patagium (wing membrane) between the limbs did I suppose it to be a type of flying lizard. And true enough, Big Nona caught it gliding to another tree nearby soon afterwards.

We tried to take a picture of the lizard but it was no good, the lizard was way too far and we were facing the bright sun. I guess we should just leave such phototaking to the professionals and make do with hand sketches.

This was the first time we spotted a different lizard. The ones we usually meet are the Changeable Lizards (Calotes versicolor). But to Young Nona, they all probably look the same, because she always points to every one of them and says “MUSHU!”

glidinglizard

Sketch reference from:
www.ecologyasia.com/verts/lizards/boschma’s-gliding-lizard.htm

Singapore, 08 May 2017

Ibu Full-time atau Ibu Karir?

Zaman sekarang yang namanya ibu itu tidak cukup disebut sekedar ibu, banyak embel-embel tambahan yang melekat pada peranan mereka. Dua yang paling sering saya dengar, Ibu Rumah Tangga (sering juga disebut Ibu full time) dan Ibu Karir. Kalau boleh saya definisikan sejauh pengertian saya,

Ibu Rumah Tangga atau Ibu full time adalah istilah untuk seorang ibu yang sehari-harinya mengurus anak dan rumah tangga, dan biasanya tidak melakukan pekerjaan berbayar di luar rumahnya.

Ibu Karir adalah istilah untuk seorang ibu yang sehari-harinya melakukan pekerjaan yang menghasilkan upah, biasanya di luar rumah.

Jujur saya masih gagal paham bagaimana maksudnya Ibu Rumah Tangga dianggap tidak bekerja dan Ibu Karir dianggap bukan ibu secara full time, tapi ya sudahlah, memang istilah sering kurang sempurna dalam membawakan maknanya masing-masing.

Dalam pencarian saya pribadi, saya belum menemukan model ibu yang sempurna. Tidak ada satu modelpun yang cukup sempurna untuk memenuhi besar dan dalamnya panggilan menjadi seorang ibu. Bukan label ataupun model yang mendikte arti seorang ibu. Karena sejatinya arti seorang ibu terletak di dalam cinta dan pengorbanannya dalam memenuhi kebutuhan mereka yang dipercayakan dalam perawatannya.

Almarhumah nenek saya dari pihak ayah, ibu dari delapan bersaudara, beliau mengusahakan toko roti untuk menafkahi keluarga setelah kakek saya almarhum ketika anak mereka yang paling kecil belum genap berusia sebulan. Seorang wanita yang gigih, beliau berhasil membesarkan kedelapan anaknya seorang diri, beliau seorang wanita inspirasional yang dicintai dan dikagumi para cucunya.

Ambil sebagai contoh, berdasarkan pengamatan saya dalam kelompok masyarakat sekitar (umumnya kelompok masyarakat menengah di Singapura dan Indonesia), peran dan tugas utama para ibu adalah sebagai berikut:

1.  Memenuhi kebutuhan anak-anaknya
Urusan pangan, sandang dan pendidikan anak sehari-hari biasanya menjadi prioritas dan hal yang ditangani langsung oleh ibu. Ibu yang merawat, mengurus dan mendidik sebagai pribadi yang lembut dan mengayomi. Bukan tanpa alasan seorang ibu adalah orang pertama yang dicari anaknya kala kesusahan.

2. Memenuhi kebutuhan suaminya
Seorang ibu adalah terlebih dahulu seorang istri. Sebagai mitra terbaik dan pilar dukungan utama bagi suaminya, ia memastikan suaminya terawat aspek fisik dan psikologisnya, baik itu dalam hal makanan, pakaian hingga persahabatan dan keintiman. Ia mengambil alih urusan rumah sehingga suaminya bisa maksimal di dalam urusan pekerjaan. Ini tentu bukan berarti seorang suami tidak perlu membantu dalam urusan rumah, justru istri yang baik melakukan tugasnya dengan tujuan membantu suaminya sebisa mungkin tanpa menghitung-hitung seberapa adil pembagian tugas rumah antara mereka berdua, dan sebaliknya suami yang tahu diri menunjukkan kepeduliannya dengan membantu istrinya dalam urusan pekerjaan rumah dan mengurus anak secara sukarela.

3. Memenuhi kebutuhan orangtuanya
Dalam masyarakat tanpa fasilitas negara yang memberikan bantuan sosial memadai bagi penduduk lansia, juga dimana asuransi belum memadai ataupun terjangkau, para orangtua bergantung banyak kepada anak untuk jaminan hari tua. Khususnya di Indonesia saat ini, jaminan pensiun orangtua sering adalah anak-anaknya sendiri. Seorang ibu juga adalah seorang anak bagi orangtuanya sendiri. Ia menanggung hutang bakti kepada orangtuanya, yang sering diekspresikan dalam bentuk dukungan finansial bagi mereka di masa tua. Berbeda dengan negara-negara Barat, adalah hal yang lumrah bagi para orangtua di Indonesia untuk menyekolahkan anak sampai ke jenjang perguruan tinggi dengan uang mereka sendiri, banyak yang bahkan sampai menjual lahan. Sehingga lumrah juga bila setelah lulus, anak-anak mereka ingin mencapai karir yang sukses sebagai bentuk bakti yang memberikan rasa bangga bagi orangtua dan sebagai upah jerih payah orangtua.

4. Mengatur rumah
Sebagai nyonya rumah, ibulah yang bertanggung jawab untuk menjadikan rumahnya tempat yang aman dan nyaman bagi keluarganya, yang juga boleh dirasakan oleh tamu yang berkunjung. Juga berbeda dengan negara-negara Barat dimana jasa asisten rumah tangga ataupun suster anak sangatlah mahal, para ibu di Indonesia dan Singapura bisa dibantu oleh jasa asisten rumah tangga dengan harga yang relatif terjangkau dalam menjalankan tugasnya yang satu ini.

Almarhumah nenek saya dari pihak ibu, ibu dari tujuh bersaudara. Beliau seorang ibu rumah tangga yang turut membantu penghasilan keluarga yang saat itu miskin dengan cara menjahit. Beliau seorang wanita yang mendedikasikan seluruh hidup untuk keluarga, anak-anak dan bahkan cucu-cucunya.

Tugas-tugas di atas tentu tidak mudah dan tidak sederhana. Agar para ibu bisa menjalankan fungsinya secara efisien dan efektif, mereka perlu diberikan kebebasan yang luas baik dalam memilih peran maupun dalam pemanfaatan kesempatan. Mereka harus bebas menentukan bahwa adalah yang terbaik untuk tinggal di rumah sepanjang hari mengurus anak hari ini, tapi juga tidak dihakimi ketika mereka perlu turut mencari nafkah di luar rumah di hari lainnya. Ketika semua itu menjadi pilihan yang perlu untuk kelangsungan rumah dan keluarganya, maka semua dilakukan dengan mempertimbangkan kepentingan terbaik bagi keluarganya.

Banyak yang bertanya, masak melulu untuk keluarga sih? Emangnya wanita tidak berhak hidup untuk dirinya sendiri, mengejar mimpi dan ambisinya sendiri?

Tentu saja berhak. Tapi saya lebih percaya cara terbaik untuk menghidupi hidup itu bukan dengan cara hidup demi diri, tapi hidup memberikan arti dan manfaat bagi hidup orang lain, seringkali dengan merelakan hidup kita sendiri. Dan bahwa ambisi yang memberi kepuasan tertinggi adalah dengan memaksimalkan potensi diri demi pemberdayaan dan kebaikan orang lain, dimulai dari orang terdekat kita, keluarga kita sendiri. Saya rasa ini yang sudah para ibu lakukan sejak mereka menahan mual-mual trimester pertama, demi hidup baru yang mereka bawa.

Ibu saya, seorang wanita hebat yang selalu bekerja keras bersama ayah untuk membesarkan dan mencukupkan kebutuhan kami bertiga. Kami ada seperti hari ini berkat kerja keras dan pengorbanan beliau.

Ibu mertua saya, beliau seorang wanita yang piawai mengatur rumah tangganya dan yang mendedikasikan hidupnya untuk suami dan kedua putranya.

Banyak cara pandang dunia yang berusaha mengadu domba para ibu dan mendatangkan rasa bersalah yang palsu kepada ibu rumah tangga maupun ibu karir. Kalau kita termakan, lantas mencari kebanggaan sebagai ibu yang satu dengan cara mencela pilihan ibu yang lain, maka ujung-ujungnya yang terbengkalai juga adalah kebahagiaan keluarga, yang akhirnya akan berimbas jelek ke pembangunan masyarakat yang sehat.

Sesungguhnya semua yang berhak menerima sebutan “Ibu” adalah mereka yang memiliki hati yang sama, hati yang penuh dengan cinta dan kesiapan untuk berkorban bagi mereka yang ditempatkan dalam pelukannya. Baik ia berseragam kantor, ataupun berdaster.

Di akhir tulisan ini, untuk menghargai jasa mulia semua ibu, saya sertakan lirik lagu anak-anak Indonesia “Kasih Ibu Sepanjang Masa” karangan SM Mochtar, yang dengan tepat sekali menggambarkan mulianya arti seorang ibu;

Kasih Ibu kepada beta
Tak terhingga sepanjang masa
Hanya memberi
Tak harap kembali
Bagai Sang Surya
Menyinari dunia

Selamat Hari Ibu!

In Defense of Mothers

In regards to their role in motherhood, mothers of our time seem to have labels other than a mere “Mother” attached to them. Among many, the two most heard, I guess, are the Stay-at-home Mother (also known as the Full-time Mother) and the Working Mother. From what I understand,

A Stay-at-home Mother or a Full-time Mother is a mother who is stationed primarily at home, and she usually has no paid works outside of home.

A Working Mother is a mother who is working, usually a paid job, primarily in the workforce outside of home.

I have to admit that I fail to see how a Stay-at-home Mother is not a “working mother” and how a Working Mother is not a “full time mother”, but well, sometimes we just have to come to term that every term comes with their own inadequacy.

In my personal search for the ideal model of motherhood, I have unfortunately found none. There is no one ideal model that is adequate enough to contain the breadth and the depth of what motherhood calls for. It is not the model or the label that defines a mother. For the heart of motherhood lies in the love and sacrifice, in meeting the needs of others placed in her care.

My late paternal grandmother, a mother of eight, she ran a bread shop at their shop-house to provide for her children after my grandfather passed on when their youngest son was less than one month old. A strong woman who single-handedly raised her children up, and an inspirational woman still, whom her grandchildren love and admire.

Take for example, in the society groups that I have the chance to observe (mainly the middle-class and working-class, of Asian culture, in Indonesia and Singapore), the principal duties a mother holds are as follow:

1. In meeting the needs of her children
A mother is in charge of the welfare of her children. Their food, clothing, instruction and education are of her utmost priority. She is their primary care taker and is to them the embodiment of nurture and tenderness. It is not without reason that the mother is a child’s first sought refuge in any distress.

2. In meeting the needs of her husband
A mother is first a wife. As her husband’s best partner and support, she sees to it that he is well cared for physically (food, clothing) and emotionally (friendship, intimacy), and that he may be free to give his best in his vocation by taking upon herself the management of domestic affairs. This is not to say that husbands are not to share in the workload of house chores and child care, but it is a wife’s love to her husband to desire to serve her husband in the best way she can instead of keeping a fair score of who’s doing more than who. Likewise, when husbands do help around, it in turn shows their wives their genuine care and love. This is definitely much healthier for marriages than when a husband’s help is seen as a mandatory ‘do-your-part’. So be quick to chip in, husbands! It means a world to your wife.

3. In meeting the needs of her parents
In a non welfare state and in a society where insurance coverage is not yet popular nor adequate, parents are relying heavily on their children for their old day care. This is especially true in countries like the present Indonesia, where one’s retirement plan is literally one’s own children. As mothers are daughters themselves, they bear a filial responsibility towards their own parents, often translated into providing for them financially. And since it is also common for parents to pay for their children’s education into the tertiary level, with some parents go so far as to sell their land, a sense of pride in their children’s successful career is, in return, the expected reward for their toiling.

4. In managing her home
As the mistress of the house, she is the one in charge for making her home a safe and warm shelter for her family and a place where hospitality may be extended to others. With affordable domestic help and service (especially in Indonesia), mothers have the option of employing domestic helpers in managing their house.

My late maternal grandmother, a mother of seven. She stayed at home and took tailoring work orders to supplement her family’s income as money was scarce. A selfless woman who dedicated her whole life for her family, children and grandchildren.

Such tasks are definitely not simple. In order for her to be efficient and effective in carrying out all her duties, a mother must have at her disposal a flexible and vast range of roles and unhindered opportunities. She has to be given room to work at her home all the day one day, and to go out earning real money another day. All being the necessary extension of her “being busy at home”, all done with her family’s best interest in heart.

What about dreams and ambitions, don’t women have their rights to pursue their OWN lives, one may ask. Of course they do. But I am persuaded that the best way to pursue life is never by living it for one’s own self but to leave a meaningful impact on others’, often times by laying our own down. And the most rewarding dream/ambition one may achieve is in the full utilization of one’s potentials for the betterment of humanity, starting with one’s own family. This, in essence, is what mothers have been doing from the moment their first morning sickness strikes.

My mother, who has always worked hard alongside my father at our shop to provide for and make us what we are today.

 

My mother-in-law, an excellent homemaker who has dedicated her life to care for her family.

There may be many noises that attempt to pit mothers against each other and inflict false guilts on mothers from both sides of the door. If we buy into it and define our motherhood by divisive labels; if we find our motherhood pride in the shaming of others, we will eventually self defeat. At the end of this dangerous path is the impediment of family flourishing, and eventually the society itself.

All who are rightly called “Mother” are the ones who posses the same kind of hearts, the kind that swells with love and readiness to sacrifice for those placed in her care. Be it in her office wear, or her sweat pants.

And lastly, as a tribute to all mothers, here is the lyric of a beautiful Indonesian nursery song aptly acknowledging the noble love of a mother. (I have taken the liberty to loosely translate it into English.)

Kasih Ibu kepada beta
Tak terhingga sepanjang masa
Hanya memberi
Tak harap kembali
Bagai Sang Surya
Menyinari dunia

“The love of a Mother
To each child given her
Is without measure
And eternal in nature,

A love forever giving
It never knows taking
As the Sun self-burning
Unto Earth, life it may bring”

Happy Mother’s Day!