A Letter to my Little Foot – Sometimes, it is okay to challenge rules

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,

Mummy Joyc

Deriving my own meaning in life

The past two days, I’ve been thinking very much about what is important to me in life. What is it I want my Little Foot to learn to value and treasure over other things in life.

Maybe because the story of that KiasuParents Founder (her side of the story vs the TODAY article) set me thinking…

Maybe because we have been hearing not so good news about the health of those around us….

Maybe because I have been reading/hearing discussions about the pursuit of a “better life”…

Maybe just maybe, it’s the flu that is making me just a little fuzzy-headed.

 

The Typical Route of an 80s Singaporean Kid

I spent my early years in a clueless paper chase. My parents set goals which consisted of “Don’t fail and I don’t want to be called to see the teacher/principal”. Basically, the line used to scare us was “If you don’t study hard and go to University, you will end up as a road sweeper”.

Hahahhaa… looking back, it’s hilarious. I mean, if I did sign up for roadsweeping now, no one would employ me you know? That job has mostly gone to strong and able-bodied foreign workers who operate machines to do the sweeping.

And so we didn’t dream, because we didn’t know how to. We just tried to avoid the scary black hole of “failing”, as prescribed by our parents.

 

Finding meaning

I then spent my 20s thinking about what I wanted to do with my life, and always drew a blank.

It is in my 30s that I kind of found my footing. I wanted to find meaning in my work. It is not about having the capability to be a mover and shaker, but in my own way, what I do must contribute to the betterment of others.

At the very least, don’t cheat, lie or do something that will make me ashamed to face my Lord when the time comes. Which explains why I couldn’t reconcile with my short stint in the advertising agency and swore never to go there again.

The idealist in me.

And so, I don’t really think I’m going to get rich with this philosophy. Does it matter?

It does on some days. When I see swanky cars on the roads and wonder how it would be like to drive that (hey, our current ride is really good, but it’s Papa Long who is paying for it and we will never afford the GTR ), or see so many nice bags and shoes and want them all. in those instances, I do wonder,could I have been in a “better” situation?

Maybe yes, but maybe I would also feel empty inside every night, even if I could say, a job is a means to an end. Because, even the means to that end matters to me.

 

Going in Circles

I keep going in circles asking myself, what is it I treasure most?

Strip it all away, get to the very core.

My health.

I feel it so acutely, because my health fails me consistently. I need to fix it for My Family.

I want to be here to root for my child as she finds her footing in life.

I want to be here to watch my parents as they too grow older, and hold them when they fall, just as they have done for me when I was small.

I want to be here to hold wrinkly hands with my husband as we walk into the sunset.

And in the end, I want to close my eyes and say “I have done it my way”.

 

 

The World is Your Oyster

I hate this term. I hated it the day  it appeared in the GP paper as an exam question and I haven’t heard it before. Obviously, I chose another question to tackle.
The world isn’t my oyster, it is everyone’s oyster, but to think the world owes me anything would be completely crazy. I’m just one of the many bodies (nobodies) walking this earth. And I want my child to understand that, and not misread this term. The world is filled with opportunities for everyone. No one is more entitled than the other.

It is up to ourselves to find meaning and what works for us. Even if you eventually derive that meaning from road-sweeping, there is nothing intrinsically wrong, because that is your meaning and it is an honest day’s work.

I want my child to face failures, to find her own self-worth, to derive what makes her happy (or at least not sad and empty inside), and to find her own psychological strength to bounce back from failures and disappointments. Because the world isn’t just your oyster.

I want to teach my child that it is okay to fall down and cry out loud, because hard work is required to fight for what we believe in, but if we give up, then we will never see fruition, so cry and then carry on the fight.

I want my child to know that it is okay to yearn for what others have that we don’t, but to walk away and say it is okay, because we already have more than others. And with that knowledge, know that even with what little we have, we can make someone else’s day, make things better for someone else.

And eventually, I want my child to understand, come what may, at the end of it all, what matters the most is usually nothing physical.

(The thrill of chasing the physical makes me happy for a moment. And then? It give me nothing more, except a full wardrobe and an empty heart. I have yet to reconcile with this fully because I still shop and buy a lot, but then we all have our Achilles’ heel).

 

I realise over the years that it takes time, and requires going round and round in circles, sometimes repeatedly, to realise what is truly important in our lives.

I think we need to give our children that space and time to go round and round in circles too, because, the process is important… when the time comes, may I not be the one who tries to stop Little Foot from going through the process, but to let her find herself while giving her all the support she needs to get there.

 

P.S. Maybe listening to Descendants of the Sun’s OST is making me feel acutely emotional too

Not just a helper

[Saturday, 19 Dec 2015]

“Dear Aunty lily,
I wanted to buy you a gift for Christmas this year. Now, I just wish I could buy you a bucket full of good health.”

I don’t know how to articulate how I feel at this point. The above is probably the rawest thought. Might as well pen it down.

I’m home now with Little Foot who has some rashes and spots that look like chicken pox. Probably from her vaccination. Our Aunty Lily is at the patient bay in TTSH A&E. We sent her there last night. Papa Long had to carry her to the car and we zoomed to the hospital.

Aunty hasn’t been feeling well since yesterday. She said the room was spinning.. it got so bad she almost fainted in the toilet (luckily my aunt and uncle were in our house when it happened) and kept throwing up. It didn’t get any better even after I brought her to see a GP and got a jab. We decided to go to the hospital at night when she didn’t feel better and continued throwing up. So there we were, a sleeping baby strapped to me, and Papa Long carrying Aunty to the car. We managed to get to the hospital somehow. I couldn’t think straight.

Thankfully my sister Pris came down to join us… Little Foot was awakened by the hustle and bustle at the A&E, and it was no place for a baby.. so Pris stayed with Aunty through the night. I didn’t get much sleep, but Little Foot conked out.

Before I left the hospital, a medical officer had already attended to her.. we both cried together there in the emergency ward. I felt helpless. How to make the room stop spinning around for her?

I am thrown back to the fear that gripped me when we brought Pico to the vet the final time. “Don’t do this to me again…”I silently prayed to Him.

I stopped writing halfway on Saturday.

********
[Tuesday, 22 Dec 2015]
So Aunty Lily stayed 2.5 days in the hospital, 1 night spent in A&E, 1 night spent in the corridor of the ward, and 1 night in the ward itself. The wait for a bed in C class in Tan Tock Seng Hospital is 37 hours (no kidding!)
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Finally able to visit …along the corridor.

Yesterday we were all relieved that the spinning and vomiting stopped after the medicine took effect. And more so because the MRI, ECG, blood tests, urine tests etc showed nothing. Doctors told us it’s vertigo, and to be managed by medication.

Maybe God wanted to shake me awake from my faith sabbatical. I carried Little Foot and prayed the first night… “When two or more gather, I am among you”. I asked Him to help his faithful child.

Maybe because she is not my kin, some people started asking me about the bills. Singaporeans can be very practical.

Perhaps because I’m a big spender, I didn’t think that bill was so bad. And we are going to claim from the domestic helper insurance, see if that can cover some, if not all, of the bill.

My take is this… if we are willing to donate money in tin cans, make donations through phone calls while artistes perform on TV for those organisations, or do Internet transfer to Red Cross when Tsunami hit a neighbouring country, all the more we should be willing to extend this sense of generosity to someone we know.

And this is someone who has done all the stuff I have no clue how to do for 15 years for my family (Yes, I can’t remove stains on clothes or iron a dress nicely, and I can’t cook a decent meal). She was the only “family ” I had during my Baptism in 2010. She was here helping me to unwrap all the baby stuff the day before Little Foot arrived. She was here when Little Foot came home, making sure the place was stocked with whatever confinement required. And she jumped in and took over when our confinement lady left us abruptly when Little Foot was 3 weeks old. She loves our Little Foot as much as we as parents do. And because of that, I can happily go to work and concentrate on dealing with work because I know Little Foot is in good hands.
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The beautiful arrangements that 3 of us did the day before delivering Little Foot

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Little Foot was a regular at BabySpa on weekdays, because we would bring her to NEX together

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Action speaker louder than words
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At Little Foot’s 1st birthday party

So I thank God she ok, and hope the vertigo goes far far away forever.

Really, I hope everyone can find it in them this season of giving to love those whom they assume are of lesser social standing than them. For in His eyes, we are all equal.

Yes I am the employer of a domestic helper, but I am her friend and family here in Singapore too.

And to end on a good note, last night, Little Foot wanted to play with the Rosary beads that Aunty Lily returned to me. (I had asked Aunty Lily to hold on to them while we panicked the first hours of the giddiness.) And for the first time, I carried Little Foot and did one decade of the Rosary. I felt at peace. I know Jesus is with us.
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May the rest of the days leading up to Xmas be peaceful.

And may we all have good health.

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