At a recent interview with the media I was asked “how was your childhood?”

“It was normal”, I lied.

Thinking back, the only word that can describe my childhood would be complicated.

From a very young age, I always felt that I never measured up. I was the third daughter out of five girls and my parents made it known, most of all my mother, that they would really love to have a son. Adults in general said it too, although not quite with words but you could see it on their faces, “Five girls? No boys?” and the look that said it all “what a pity” though no words came out of their mouths.

Now that I am a parent myself, I think I understand. I really didn’t care whether my children were boys or girls. What I did care was that they were healthy and would live the life they chose to live, pick and dream their own dreams.

I’m sure my upbringing has influenced me to become the feminist that I am.

I also hated sharing my name with my two sisters, Mazlyn Mona and Mazlyn Mena. In primary and secondary school, I felt like I was always in someone else’s shadow. Teachers and students would come up to me and say “Are you Mona’s sister? Are you Mena’s sister?” I had no identity until I went to boarding school at age 16, I was the only one in my family to do so, and though it was difficult, the first 6 months I cried myself to sleep almost every night because I was home sick and life was hard, when I eventually got used to it I loved being the only Mazlyn in the school for a change and being known for just being me and not someone else’s sister.

Sibling rivalry was rife. We were all girls vying for attention. Growing up, I always felt that Mona and Alyna had the most advantage being the eldest and the youngest. The eldest was the most responsible, the one everyone remembered and gave gifts to and was also Daddy’s pet. The youngest was the cutest and could get away with murder and was Mummy’s pet. The three middle child were less special.

Academically I always did very well. However, I was painfully shy and bad at sports.

Most of the fond memories of my childhood are when we went for holidays as a family. Mona would take picture of the hotel rooms before they were messed up and I remember most playing at beaches and swimming pools.

I also loved to play with Lego. We had several collections and I could play all day long.

Once when I was eight or nine years old I remember I wanted to visit Grandma’s house which was about 150 meters away from my parents home but the last 50 meters were after a junction. As I was walking that morning and had turned the junction, suddenly a car stopped and a man swung open the car door and asked me to come inside. I wasn’t sure what to do, it was rather hot but I could see my Grandma’s house very nearby. The man was very nice and said it was hot so he was offering to send me. Thankfully I declined and he just drove away.

Scary isn’t it?