This entry is inspired by a conversation with the girls’ music teachers after class this morning.
We have been attending music sessions with Nurture With Love for more than a year now. The programme is structured upon Suzuki’s philosophy of ‘talent education’.
I know, I know, it sounds all very ‘tiger mum’ but I promise that it’s not (I’d make one lousy tiger mum anyway.) You can read more about my take on talent education in my recent post on Maybebaby and why I’m inspired by it.
This morning, the teachers handed each parent a little slip of paper, on which was written:
“Each of us enjoys receiving a pat on the back or hearing ‘Well done!’ from someone of influence. Our children are no different. Encouragement is Essential.“
It serves as a timely reminder that as parents, we are not only our children’s main caregivers for their basic needs, but also their key source of inspiration, motivation and guidance. Often, especially with young children, our daily interactions and conversations with them harbour on the instructional.
“Go take a shower now!”
“Come eat your dinner!”
“Let’s get ready for school now!”
“Don’t touch that, it’s dirty! Remember to wash your hands.”
“Do you need to pee? Tell mummy when you need to pee okay?”
“Are you a big girl now? Big girls pick up their own toys. Can you show me that you are a big girl?”
“It’s late now! Go to sleep. No more talking.”
Don’t do this. Do that. Be careful. Come here. Not now. Eat up. Wash up. Clean up. Pick up. Hurry up. Quickly now. Wait for me. Hold my hand. Don’t run. Walk.
It is oft said that one of the joys of being with children is being able to rediscover childhood through new eyes.
Ever since we became parents, we’ve had the privilege of reliving our childhood every day. It almost feels like we’re adults by day, and when the clock strikes 7pm and we step through the front door of our house, we magically turn into children. On the weekend, we’re children almost 24/7 (and what torture it can be on our old bones sometimes!)
Simple childhood pleasures abound in old school snacks, Enid Blyton storybooks, and perennial favourites like a Macca’s ice-cream cone and Mickey Mouse cartoons. Then there are the more extravagant luxuries like beach vacations and trips to Disneyland.
But by far, my Top 5 childhood rediscoveries are…
(1) Making Music
Well, revisiting ‘The Wheels On The Bus’ was fun initially but the song tends to lose its shine after what is probably THE 12TH MILLIONTH TIME THAT YOU’RE ASKED TO PERFORM IT?!?!?!
Before we started on music classes for the girls, the ol’ piano had been collecting dust by the front door. Occasionally, my siblings and I would tinkle a tune or two from our old school days but that was it. Inspired by the Suzuki adage that “If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart”, I picked up playing again – and boy, am I enjoying the time at the piano churning out familiar folk tunes and simple classical pieces (because while the Yamaha piano strings haven’t rusted, my ill-practiced fingers sure have!)
It brings me joy to hear Coco pipe up song requests, and to see the girls run over at the sound of the keys and raise their little arms to be lifted and seated next to me because “I want to play a song with mummy!” I love that they enjoy my music – Coco waltzes in circles, while Claire bops on the spot. One especially precious memory was when Coco was seated quietly listening to me play ‘My Bonnie’ and she started silently tearing – literally moved to tears by the beauty of song.
Musical training also has many benefits, which do a lot of good for eagerly developing brains. So play on!
We weren’t that crazy as to buy our kids a drum set – their grandparents were. That’s why it remains at THEIR house.
Shortly after Mr A turned 20 months, we entered the realm of epic meltdowns.
Oh, he used to throw tantrums previously when he didn’t get his way. But back then, it was easy to distract him and get him to move on to something else. The tantrums were rather painless. Mostly.
But these days, gosh, the meltdowns can only be classified as epic.
Don’t want to go home. CRY.
Don’t want to leave the carpark. CRY.
Don’t want to sit on high chair and have dinner. THROW SELF ON FLOOR AND CRY.
Don’t want to walk into the bathroom. THROW SELF ON FLOOR AND CRY.
Don’t want to read Book A. CRY.
Don’t want to wear this pair of sandals. YELL.
Don’t want to let go of the mobile phone. THROW SELF ON BED AND CRY.
You get the drift.
Parenthood is such an interesting contrast.
There are beautiful moments which make you go “aww” and think about making another one. And then, there are times when you look at your co-parent and go, WHAT WAS I SAYING ABOUT A SECOND CHILD OH MY GOD AM COMPLETELY NUTS.
See, the little man turns 19 months in a couple of days. He is no longer a baby but a full-fledged toddler.
No, strike that. He is a full-fledged toddler with a (stubborn) mind of his own. When he tells you “no”, he means NONONONONO, even if the rejection was said in that utterly sweet and lovable baby voice of his. And that can be extremely frustrating when this is with regards to dinner, bath, diaper change and that electrical outlet teeming with plugs in that little corner between the bed and the bedside table that he somehow enjoys wriggling into. (Woah, that was a mouthful of words.)
Coupled with the crazy lack of sleep (up every hour last night, mmmkay), it means that mama here can lose her plot very quickly.
And then I wonder, can I handle two? Worse, what if number two is just as stubborn (and sleeps like crap) like older brother here?
But when I saw this video for the first time during a little session among other parents (many of whom had 3!! kids), it reminded me that all the hardship we had gone through was more than worth it.
I’ll be completely honest here and confess that I sometimes do wish that we were raising our son in another country, away from our own families. It’s a selfish thought but one that I am sure is shared by many young parents. Yes, it takes a village to raise a child but at the same time, it’s painful when the village decides to intrude in your parenting style and methods.
But many of us, myself included, also fail to see that there are many advantages to bringing up our children in the same country as our families. We probably take this for granted. And so, I have asked my dear friend Pooja (she who helms notabilia), to share with us her thoughts on raising her daughter halfway around the globe from family.
My Singaporean friends have often sparred with their families over
their children’s sleep routines or screen time or discipline. They’ve
had to listen to old wives’ tales about breastfeeding, packaged as
“parenting wisdom”. They’ve contended with family members’ unannounced
visits, unnecessary meddling, and unsolicited advice.
My husband and my child-rearing experience has included none of the
above. Our parenting decisions are reflective of our, and only our,
needs, beliefs, and personalities, and, of course, the needs and
personality of our daughter. We appreciate not having to answer the
usual barrage of mundane questions, from “Did she eat a banana for
breakfast?” to “Did she say her prayers today?” (though my mother does
sneak these queries into our Skype conversations every now and then).
I empathize with my friends’ frustrations, I do. Still, I occasionally
feel – dare I say it? – a pang of jealousy when they gripe about their
families on social media or in person. “My father-in-law wants to play
with my daughter past her bedtime!” or “My mother made porridge for my
son…again!” they say. Is that really so bad? I think to myself.
Many people assume that the challenges of parenting far away from home
only include a lack of trusted caregivers or a second or third or
fourth pair of hands when one parent is sick or traveling. Half way
around the world, we can only share with her family histories which we
can recall and only pass down cultural traditions that we can, on our
own, replicate. Only we two carry an intimate knowledge of A: only we
know her vaccination schedule, only we know her favorite lovey, only
we know how to decipher her “vocabulary”. And she is – we are – not
physically present for births, marriages, and, yes, deaths. Is A
missing out on building wonderful and important relationships?
This all weighs heavily on our minds the longer we choose to live away
from our home country. Do we – can we – raise a child so far from the
people we love? Our parents will say, “Yes, of course.” Didn’t they
move West in search of the American Dream just a generation ago? They
will remind us that it is relatively easier now than it was for them,
given modern-day communication and transportation.
For now, we Skype nearly daily. We visit the States once a year. We
continue build our little “village.” Our dear friends, especially
those with young children, are as supportive as they can be, given
their own family obligations. A will begin play school in a few weeks
and her school community will serve as more members of our surrogate
We exchange oranges and red envelopes with colleagues during Chinese
New Year. We feast with our neighbors on Hari Raya. We celebrate
Diwali with aplomb.
And, on Sundays, while our friends are likely breaking bread with
their families, we cook together, we sing together, we play together,
our little family of three.