Dear Little Foot,
Today is Children’s Day, and coincidentally, today you turn 34 months old.
As we inch closer towards your Terrific Three, which I am sure will be more amazing and full of mountains and molehills that we can conquer together, I wanted to write you a letter about our experience today, and a lesson that your 36-year-old mother learnt on this day.
Today, Daddy and I brought you to the Mindchamps “I’m Proud of You” Day. Almost everyone in your class attended as well.
What we were told when we paid for tickets (nearly $80) to this Family Festival to celebrate you and your little friends was this – that this was a day for us to share fun challenges, activities, and events that bonds the family… and it will immerse you and your little friends, in Confidence, Gratitude, Compassion, Seeing the Beauty in Others and Embracing Setbacks as Setups. These are values that I feel strongly for.
What I did NOT know, as most of the other parents did (because Mummy has been so engrossed in work that I sometimes do not pay attention), was that the Daddies and Mummies were told that attendance was compulsory.
We went today because Mummy felt that an event to celebrate you and celebrate family, and an event filled with promises of fun challenges, pony rides and bouncy castles sounds like a treat for Children’s Day. Yes we went on our own accord.
However, it turned out to be an event that made us wait and wait.
- Little kids like yourself, and some even younger than you sat through a long wait for the event to start, a long spiel on why we are doing “I’m proud of you” from the founder of Mindchamps, while Mummy had to disappoint you for countless times telling you that you have to wait and not go on the bouncy castles which were in set up all over the hall. I saw many mummies and daddies telling your little friends the same thing too. I suppose this taught us Patience and Delayed Gratification.
- Once the boring part was over, we were greeted with long queues for all the activities. Don’t get Mummy wrong. It is okay to wait, as we did at Disneyland, and many places we have visited since you were barely half a year old. In fact, it is only right that take our place in a queue properly. That is courtesy. However, Mummy and Daddy couldn’t help but wonder why there was only one Pony when there were hundreds of little ones like you attending the event. And there were only two bouncy castles for younger ones like you.
It also turned out to be a series of disappointments for us…
- When we queued for the pony ride (there seemed to be only one pony for riding), and were told to come back later. And when we did come back, the queue had ended. We had talked about the pony rides for days, and it was a shame that Mummy and Daddy were so lost in the chaos that we did not go back in time. I couldn’t help but wonder why there was only one pony.
- When we were turned away at the door of the pottery workshop although Mummy had bothered to do the pre-registration some days earlier and told to return at 1pm which is the universal naptime for all little kids in this preschool programme. So we never got to see how a pottery session looked like, nor got to feel how the clay for pottery making felt to our fingers.
And in the end, was it for you or for us? We wonder…
With the numerous sponsored booths – the filled up one side of the hall, conducting activities from the golfing station to bubble performance, to pottery classes, to mini tennis and skate scooting, even the Pororo booth right in the middle of the hall, and the AIA station dangling walk-the-dog balloons, we got confused.
And we wondered if this was really an event to celebrate you, or an event for them to get exposure to this captive audience, because we had paid for tickets, we were not going to leave.
A silver lining of sorts however was our insistence that we should not have the day wasted, and so we did go around trying to enjoy whatever that was available, and so you did have little pockets of enjoyment, such as the pleasure of putting coins into a vending machine for your favourite Green Tea, successfully putting two golf balls, and trying out some new age block toys, where you spent quite some time at.
What I want to say is this…
- I want to tell you never to make this mistake of thinking that little children could stretch their patience and attention span like rubber bands. God did not make little children this way, nature can only be trained to a certain extent.
- I want to also tell you that in whatever you set out to do in future, if it was anything that took up others people’s time, effort (whether or not it costs money), learn to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. The people who planned this had not thought much about how disappointing it was for you and your little friends to queue very, very long and only get less than 10 minutes on the bouncy castle, to have waited in anticipation for weeks to try a pony ride, only to have walked away with nothing except a coupon to visit the stables another day, they had also not thought about the mummies and daddies who had to deal with the fidgets, which is not your fault because you are very young, and to deal with the disappointed faces and meltdowns – which we have to do anyway every day because we are daddies and mummies, but any extra episode, especially at an outing meant to make you happy makes us upset in more ways than one. And in the face of this, Mummy and Daddy still felt we had to set good examples to you, and so we did not lose our tempers, take it out on any of the people manning the queues, or try to shove others out of our way as some did to us just to get a little ahead of the queues.
More importantly, I wanted to tell you this – sometimes, it is alright to say “No” to rules.
You may think it is shocking that as your mother, I say this, but I say it as it is.
In life, there will be people who set rules, and there will be some people who follow rules, and some people who do not.
Of the people who do not, we have to sort them into two groups – those who break rules for the sake of being anti-establishment (without reason), and those who break rules because the rules did not make sense, and they feel strongly that they should have the rule changed rather than blindly comply.
I say this because today is the first instance that you have encountered (although you would not remember) of a situation where we were told it is “compulsory” and therefore we have to go, whether we like it or not. And then on hindsight felt that there are compelling reasons to challenge this rule.
And so I say it is okay to be in the latter group.
There will be rules in place that may not make sense for one reason or another. Sometimes they are rules that have become obsolete over time. We see that with our laws. That is why we regularly see amendment bills passed in Parliament. The rules must befit the times.
Sometimes there are rules that are put in place by people who may have other underlying motivations for putting that rule in place. They may have a hidden agenda. And so it is for us to uncover the truth, and challenge the rule. Fix things.
Sometimes there are rules put in place by people who do not know any better, or based on superstitions. Ancient history has many of such lessons. Rules such as having people buried together with the Emperor who passed away is one such rule. If you lived in that era and did not fight that rule. You may be one of those buried. Would you not challenge the rule if your life is on the line?
So, even as we have felt disappointed today, I wanted to walk away with a strong message to you when you are older and understand what I am saying.
Yes, some rules are meant to be challenged and if need be, break them.
In this instance, if the “rule” applies again next year, you know I will ask questions and not readily accept it as a rule to comply with.
I have lived my 36 years of life with conviction, believing in work that will make this place we call home a better place. In helping to lay good foundations for a better future for you.
Your Daddy and I work very hard each day to do work of value, and work that befits our conscience. Sometimes we feel our contributions may be so little, we do not know if there is indeed any impact to the future that you will see. Yet we keep at it. And we never give up. It is fortunate that while we hold on to our conviction, we make enough to pay for things that we feel matter to you and us, such as your education and our holidays. Not everyone who work for their beliefs can be so lucky. Some sacrifice their freedom and their lives for conviction.
As your parents, we want to raise you this way – have a strong moral compass, have compassion, have faith, and enjoy what you do. And when you see something that is not quite right, never fear to stand up and say so. Moral courage is a value that is underrated in today’s society, but still a value that one must desire.
And so I hope I leave with you this legacy for years to come. That if the rules are wrong, dare to stand up, speak up, and if need be, break it. As Nelson Mandela once said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears”.
Love Deeply as Always,