Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fatherhood - When a Boy becomes a Man...

Yesterday was one of the (rare) days which I practically like all my friends' FB posts. Most (if not all) of those I liked were posts on appreciating their partners and/or fathers for being fathers. But I realized with each "like" I clicked, I was more so congratulating their wives on a successful marriage and partnership.

When D and I were dating, we talked about the future of us having a family (like who doesn't) but our discussion surrounded more around how to provide for them and how many kids (somehow, for this, we never really settled on a number…) It was only when we had kids, did we see the side of each other that we won't see when we are dating.

Like how D talks to the children, is totally different from how he talks to me.
To me, he can be (and is) comfortable, to them, he is protective and smitten (rolls eyes). 

Or what we will do for our kids...
Like recently, Audrey woke up at 2a.m with bad tummy ache. She was having constipation (she actually didn't poo for 3 days and we left it as that). She had to go to the toilet but she thought it was too painful to poo it out (trust me it was like watching your daughter go into labour). Despite having medical training, he wasn't sure how to help her… and he felt quite awkward seeing her like that. So I sat with her and gave her water, massage her back and made her poo. After 1 hour, whatever was stuck finally came out. After bathing her, D was very grateful and actually thanked me for it (like really?) He confessed he won't know what to do if it was just him. (In case you are wondering, Audrey now poos once a day)
But when the children were babies and had problem discharging their mucus from their nose, D would suck it out with his mouth (and of course he spits it out) BUT I don't think I can ever do that…. Like… ever. (To be fair… I know many dads who have done so.. and mothers who are grateful that the dads have done so)

Or what we worry for our kids…
Like how I would worry they won't be able to cope in school and if they are being a menace in school… and how D will… not worry. (Should I be worried??) Contrary to me, he would be damn proud if his kid was a bully rather than being bullied (Should i really be worried???) BUT the mister can worry about which boy will be taking his daughter out while I'm like… she's only 6?

But both of us play a very different role in our children's lives. I personally learnt that growing up… 
My dad was an air steward when I was a child and possibly because of that (and other reasons), I didn't really have much of a memory of him being around. Most of the time, my mum was the one who tried to play both roles of mum and dad. I know she was trying very hard and I know she loves me real lot, to be fair both my parents do, but I suppose a father's role isn't one that can be replaced by the other parent, and vice-versa.
Growing up, my most intimate times of heartaches (like when I broke up with my ex), my highlights of success (like when I aced my exams/interviews) or even the problems I faced when working was always straight to mummy. But I have to say, games I played growing up (like how dad and I played hide and seek when mummy cooked), magic tricks I learnt (I reckon every father has that silly hiding a coin game which will suddenly appear behind your ear or elbow), sitting on thrill rides in a theme park (mummy thinks that life's too short to scare yourself for nothing), early morning rides from home to school (because mummy thinks if the sun is not out, it's nature's way to tell people to continue sleeping) and many more were enriched because of dad. 

I don't think I could ever raise my kids without D… I mean, unless he dies, I would reckon it would be really tough… But it would be different. A father and a mother aren't just gender roles that society deems suitable and appropriate to bring up a family. And many a time, because of women's rights and gender equality we tend to forget these two compliments each other more than anything. 

I'm grateful to D for teaching the boys how to love, protect and treat with respect the woman he married, and yet teach Audrey, that she is worthy to be treated like a lady from the man she will love in future. 
I'm grateful to D for being able to handle the pressure and stress of providing for the family so that I can concentrate on just looking after the family's meals, disciplining the kids and schoolwork and even sneak in things I would want to do at times.
I'm grateful to D for making parenthood enjoyable. For being my support and my anchor when I have doubts on motherhood. 

Maybe because of their limited daily vocab usage, dads hardly teach their children how to live their lives, but their decisions and actions in life show their kids how to do so. 
So to the fathers out there… May you always be blessed with a Father's day moment of appreciation, to know that what you do makes a lot of difference to your kids and more importantly your wife. :)

Monday, June 15, 2015

When Education Begins at Home…

Occasionally we hear of our friends telling us that they are thinking of relocating to another country for retirement or just for a change of environment.

Is the grass really greener on the
other end? 
However, of all the pull reasons why people go overseas, one of the things that came out was because of the education system. Those who have spent quite some time overseas observed that the children growing up in an overseas education system are in general happier, nicer and more appreciative. In other words, Singapore kids, besides becoming rigid, fixated in being exam smart, have become more competitive, nastier, and less humane. 

Yes the problems of parenting just got magnified. How do I teach my children to be kind and appreciative, be contented and grateful, and yet to practice the virtues of striving for excellence or even to encourage taking risks and even maybe being shrewd?

I didn't think the singapore's education system is the sole reasoning for the upbringing of our kids… but the mister doesn't agree. His point is that with such a system, one looks only at the results. In general, parents slog day in day out to make sure their children don't lose out. Chances are any free time the kids have would be taken up by an enrichment class (sports or educational) or by tuition. In fact, to them, they may not even know or care if their parents had to work that extra hard for them. Hence, in order not to fall victim into such a system, is to leave this system to go to somewhere which you know you won't be tempted to go through the same cycle.

However, overseas education system would also mean a greater exposure to premarital sex, drugs and violence… (Which means… I may have a kind-hearted and happy druggie as a kid?) Though interestingly, there are studies which support the idea that Asians tend to actually hold on more to their asian values should they go overseas. Unfortunately, for now, it doesn't provide me any form of consolation.

I asked D whether the size of a family makes a difference to how a child may turn out. He did agree that he noticed that kids coming from a bigger family are generally nicer. However, it's not because of the size, he mentioned that it's the mother's influence that made a difference. He pointed out that most of these families have mummies that spend a substantial amount of time at home too. These mothers don't necessarily spend a lot of one-to-one time with their children. In fact, with more children, they would definitely be busier. While they may not necessarily spend time sending and fetching their children all over singapore for classes, their children are with them most times to observe how they communicate and talk to other people. Even if it just means a simple conversation with the neighbors or the fishmonger (Okay… maybe we can modify the latter to the NTUC auntie).

Basically, D and I concluded, that the things kids pick up by seeing how we as parents communicate would make a difference to whether our kids will turn out nice or not. With that in mind, it becomes a daily challenge for me. Given the nature of my job, my time is relatively flexible and I stay quite a substantial amount of time at home. While it allows me to assess their work better, the kids also will tend to assess how mummy behaves to different people. 
Like how mummy reacts when the helper doesn't understand what is needed to be done or when something is done wrongly. (Lord, help me) Like how mummy behaves when her mummy nags at her and all. (Lord, Help Me) Or like how mummy responds when her husband's mummy insists on doing something that is opposite of what she has intended to do. (LORD, HELP ME)

They say love makes you want to be a better person. I don't know if "want" is really the right word to be used here… But because I love my kids, and I want them to be better people… everyday now becomes a reminder that for this period when they still think their parents are the world's best…. I need to realize that how appreciative, how nice, how humble or how loving they will be in future, depends on how appreciative, how nice, how humble and how loving I am now. 

And I have been trying… I just hope this is the best education system I can offer my kids. :)

Image taken from

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

If we live like our kids...

The society we live in today seems to be filled with a lot of negativity, hopelessness and cruelty (not just through actions but words) and the irony is most people are okay with it… 
It's amazing how God always (tries and) speaks to us through someone innocent and less intimidating than us - Children. 

1) Look into the mirror and love what you see
Recently, a friend of mine posted a video of her child checking himself out in the mirror. His first reaction was to smile and kiss the mirror. 
If you google baby in the mirror, you will realize he is not the only one. Babies in general love what they see in the mirror. To them, they are perfect… as what God had in mind when He made us.
I am guilty of that. I look at the mirror and I only see the bad things - my eye bags, my wrinkles, my uneven tone, my fats whatever. I don't mean one should have no pride in looking good and I don't mean one should be vain and go the other extreme. But what I need to learn is I need to love myself and be kind. Something which I had forgotten like many years ago.. thanks to the influence of not Barbie but woman's magazines…. 

2) Forgive ever so readily
Yes my kids do fight and argue with each other. They do get reprimanded and punished for being naughty, but even after a bad shelling, it always amazes me how they will readily come to me to hug and kiss me, like nothing had happened. Of course they know why they were scolded but the fact that they were scolded didn't change how they still want to hug or kiss me. 
Some may argue that it's nature's way to ensure that they are loved, but to me, to even want to empty their pride (which trust me… they have a lot of it as well) to come and readily offer the hugs and kisses speaks volume of their ability to forgive.  
I'm not sure if I can do that as readily as them… even if it means to my loved ones. Maybe it's pride, maybe it's arrogance, but this is something I know I am severely lacking. It's a constant reminder that by emptying my pride, I may not have anything to lose…

3) Believing ever so faithfully
I don't know if you ever played this game with your kids before. After a haircut or maybe getting a "new" look by putting on your spectacles, your child gives you a discerning look and you tell them that you are Auntie XYZ. But they know immediately that that's utter rubbish and you are still… Mummy/Daddy.
OR like how when we celebrated Julian's birthday recently and we teased him at dinner, telling him that it was not his birthday since there's no birthday cake in sight. He just smiled and said it will come after dinner. 
I have experienced God's presence in my life many times and I appreciate that. Yet, my faith isn't as strong as it should. If only i believed as much as them… :)

If I live like how a child would be, would life be easier? I doubt it. But at least I would appreciate life. :) 

Friday, June 5, 2015

If I stop being that competitive mother…

Audrey just finished term 2 and we met the teachers… In general, Audrey has been progressing well in class, in short she's not teacher's pet but the teachers don't worry or have complains of her. Audrey did an average of 80+ for all her subjects..

But here's the confession.. she actually did slightly below average amongst her peers… And one of her friends, whose mother and I are good friends, did WAYYYY better than her...
Knowing that didn't make me feel good. Don't get me wrong, I didn't set her out to compete with every and any p1 girl. Ironically, if she comes home telling me that she's always trying to be better than her friends, I would be quite concerned and tell her to just focus on her own race with herself. So why am I uncomfortable?

The truth of the matter is, I am competitive (Okay.. I'm not that crazy to compete on whether my kids' poo smell nicer than others). It's like how my kids perform in school was an indication of whether I was a good parent or not. So to put it bluntly, it was really just my pride/ego being hurt. (Or in asian context, loss of face)

I took this week to actually revise with Audrey all the weak areas in math. I'm not sure if it's universal, but if your child is in p1, chances are she/he will have quite a bit of difficulty doing questions like these:
John has 5 apples. Mary has 4 more apples than John. How many apples do they have in all?

Somehow, Audrey sees "in all" and she just adds the two numbers. She sees it as a one step question since prior to this, she's been just doing one-step questions. If you are having problems with this type of question w your child, maybe you can try rewording the question to this… as a start to introducing to them that such questions are 2 step questions..

John has 5 apples. Mary has 4 more apples than John.
A) how many apples does Mary have?
B) how many apples do they have in all?

We tried solving the question with manipulative and it did seem to work for a while, but somehow without it, Audrey still hasn't managed to get the concept.
Egg carton with colored ping pong balls….

She managed to answer the questions correctly when she used the manipulative
But come the next day, when I tried again (without the manipulative), she got it wrong again. It went on for 2 days… it wasn't working. My patience was getting shorter. I couldn't understand why she couldn't understand it. It was painful for both her and me.
Fortunately, in comes the mister. He broke the question down for her… and in his own way (because he wasn't competing with anyone but focusing on her) he managed to get her to see it within 30 minutes (Darns! I lost to the mister too!

The mister got her to break the question down step by step… To be fair, I did it too…
But he made her write it out… I didn't
I suppose D and I knew it was a two step problem. Here's when NS did some good. Even if he knows she is smart, he is treating her as a fool. I know she is smart and I thought I could be lazy with the minor details like getting her to write it out step by step.
And because he managed to do it right…. He got A+ for review.
Seeing that she now is able to do the questions, made me feel proud of her but ashamed of myself. I was too eager to make her get a concept that I got impatient waiting for that "A-ha" moment. I wanted to achieve something (through her) and she wasn't enjoying the process… neither did i (trust me).

Truth be told, now upon reflection, I don't know why I was even competitive or who was I competing with. It's a thin line that I wanted the best for her, yet I was actually trying to mould her to make me look good. So my question to parents is… when you decide to send your child to enrichment classes… was it really for the kids' benefit… or yours? Think about it… 

A little treat for the little lady...
Of course every entry normally has a "happy" ending… I recognize that Audrey is a sweetheart who persevered and sat through another hour with me clearing her math concepts… and I brought her out for a surprise - Her favorite foot massage. (Guess a little bribery won't hurt.. :P)

What's my point? My point is this… I didn't achieve anything by being competitive. I didn't get any result by being over anxious or over zealous, in fact it went the other way. She's a child and I should go at her pace rather than she follow mine.

Trust me, it's easy to say (when your kids are younger or doing well) that you won't be such a parent… But… chances are 8 out of 10 of you will be… :) I hope after reading this… you will be the 2 though.