King Kong hates Kang Kong

Two evenings ago at dinnertime, my grandma shook her walking frame angrily and said, “I don’t want to eat the kang kong, because D [our new helper] didn’t wash it three times! It’s toxic and I’d rather eat rice with soy sauce than eat unclean vegetables.”

“Grandma, but D really washed three times already to make sure there were no pesticide residues. She soaked them in the tub for 2 hours.”

“Too bad, I did not see her pour that vege-washing water into the pail in the toilet. That means she did not wash as I’d instructed, “ she boomed.

I’m sorry for making it sound like a really ridiculous episode of really awful TV comedy. But trust me, apart from the fact that none of us were actually acting and that we did not find it at all funny, this was really the conversation we had at the dining table on Sunday evening.

So we had the kang kong to ourselves while Grandma put on the dramatic act of pouring soy sauce all over her rice, and crinkled her nose as we tucked into the vegetables noisily.

“Ma, since now we all eat this ‘dirty’ vegetable, I’m sure we will all die. You will be all alone in the house, take care.” my Mum said.

Oh man, talk about bad TV dialogue.

Grandma didn’t seem to care about us dying. All she wanted to do was to rant about the new helper and how ineffective she was. I guess dying daughters were not so important.

While we tried to shake some sense into Grandma, D hid in the kitchen and cried. Later, I went in to comfort her.

“I…. I … already… washed … three times, “ she sobbed.

This just sounds so sick. Is there something wrong with my family? Who would have an argument about how many times you wash your vegetables?

“Don’t worry, I know you washed three times, “ I replied. “We all get it from her when she’s in a bad mood, not just you. We are on your side.”

The next day, D telephoned the maid agency to say she wanted a change of employer. And yet another episode of “Oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-you-overlook-that-tiny-tiny-detail” broke out while we were all at work.

Grandma didn’t realise it was so serious till we told her D had been crying and wants to work for somebody else. It had never crossed her mind that her ridiculous and unreasonable behaviour is the reason why D wants to go.

But just to “help us make her stay”, Grandma talks to her nicely today and encourages her to eat. D quietly acknowledges her and stays out of her path, not knowing what to make of this new found kindness.

Conflicting behaviours are so hard to understand and manage as they create fear and destroy trust.

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