There are many ways to play…

On Monday, just before the school’s National Day celebration started, Little Foot’s teacher asked me whether she has interaction with other children at home. I said yes and we had a chat about why this question popped up. Turned out that our Little Foot doesn’t really mix around with the other toddlers in class. Notwithstanding that she spends most of the morning part crying, whenever she has calmed down, she would stay on the sidelines and observe the others, refusing to participate.

I described her usual playtime routines with the kids in the neighbourhood to the teacher, so we both felt, that perhaps she’s still adjusting to the environment, let’s give her a little bit of time.

Still it bothered me a little inside…

That morning, she did however put up a semblance of participation in the Playgroup performance item, waving a flag and marching, albeit while insisting on being in physical contact with Papa.

Papa Long and I chatted about it in the car on the way home one evening. Should we be concerned? It’s normal right? Eventually we brushed it off and reminded ourselves that Little Foot has always been an observer, even at a very young age. AND Papa is also by nature the same way – not a social butterfly, preferring to be a wallflower.

I also mentally reminded myself about the article I read about the different forms of play that children engage in as they grow older – from solitary play to parallel play to group play. She’s not fully at the group play stage yet, preferring to swing between the three different stages, depending on her mood

(Actually don’t we all have the same kind of day too? When we just want to be left alone with our coffee and book?)  

Over the public holiday, I continued to observe how she interacted with the cousins. She’d play, walking around with Baby K, passing toys, grabbing toys…randomly approaching the older cousins, but when all the kids started jumping on the bed, racing around, Little Foot would recede to the sidelines again. I get the sense that she’s watching, observing, probably many things are probably running though her head, but she’s not in there jumping.

Brought to mind the Chinese idiom “按宾不动 ” — observe first, don’t deploy the soldiers yet until you get your strategy out.

Then this morning, I saw photos posted by our helper, Little Foot playing with older kids at the playground yesterday afternoon.

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It made me so happy to see her playing with other kids. Felt like I needed to knock my own head for getting overly worried over a harmless remark by the teacher.That’s a first-time parent for you alright!

And so, on a happier note, it’s Friday!  Don’t sweat the small stuff!

 

Breaking the free spirit…

No photos today.

Day 5 of school; Day 3 of leaving her with the teachers.

Dropping Little Foot off is becoming more tricky, obviously the baby knew what was coming — Mummy was going to pass her to someone and walk out. She insisted on carrying her backpack (bear bear!) and her toy dog (Ah-Ah!) around the class, refused to lose bodily contact with me. In a last ditch attempt to reject this arrangement, she packed her items, held my hand and walked to the shoe cubbyhole, took out her shoes sat down and attempted to wear them.

A clear signal to Mummy to “lets get outta here”.

Heartbroken to see her in this state. I stayed with her as we waited for familiar faces to arrive (Gong 老师 has taken ill, and the other two teachers were not in so early). By 9am, it was clear I was going to have to really move off. So I did. Poor Little Foot cried big tears. Seriously distressed.

As I crossed the road and walked up the hill to my office, I reflected on her old weekday routine:

  • Breakfast/Milk
  • Morning visit to the market/playground with Aunty
  • Playtime
  • Bath time (bubbles time!)
  • More playtime, Barney, books, anything she wanted to do, she was free to roam around the house.
  • lunch
  • Nap
  • Milk
  • Playtime
  • Visit to the playground again with Aunty
  • Dinner
  • Playtime/reading time with mummy and papa
  • 2nd dinner with mummy and papa & Korean Drama time
  • Bath time
  • Playtime in the corridor (sometimes before bath time)
  • Get ready for bed.

Breaking her free spirit, breaking this old routine is heart-wrenching for me.

My 19-month-old doesn’t quite understand why there needs to be this change, and she certainly didn’t see anything wrong with the old routine, where she made all the little decisions – what clothes to wear, what shoes to wear, which toys she will pick from the boxes and cupboards, when it is a good time to have some biscuits or bread… which room she will explore in the house.

My 10 minute walk ended.

I needed to shake the sinking feeling that was creeping into my soul, lift up my chin and console myself that it will get better, she will like her new friends and new routine soon, and hey, it’s only 3 hours more to go before I go pick her up again during my lunch time.

Back to work, back to emails. Little Foot’s sad face still imprinted in my memory. Juxtaposed with the funny situation last night when she decided to climb out of bed to go on a night adventure to the playground – she’d chose a dress, packed her little bag, wore her shoes, opened the gate and walked out.

Sad. Surreal. 无奈.

Mummy feels like a broken person.

Today you cried, and I cried with you

Day 3 of school… Little Foot was all dressed for Hari Raya celebrations. And she decided that Ah-Ah the dog will be her companion for the day.

As agreed with Papa Long,  today would be the day we exited from class and really let her adjust. 

We left shortly after she has breakfast and was settled down on the rug with the Chinese teacher.  I had to walk out fast, more so that I wouldn’t crumble and decide to stay (that’s what happened yesterday).

My heart was pounding… I know my Little Foot was a brave one, but leaving my 19-month-old firstborn with people she still didn’t quite knew. I know it would be just too much for her.

I had breakfast with Papa and my friend (her son goes to the same school too)… and we waited.

1020am.  I can’t take it anymore!  Dragged Papa back to the school to peep.

“Mamamamama…”
“Mamamamama…”
*sniffles*
“Mama………”

My heart broke into a million pieces as I stood outside the door. I didn’t need to peep… I recognised my baby pie’s voice straightaway. 

She’s not a loud bawler….there was another new toddler crying and tearing the house down. In between I heard Little Foot’s cries and whimpers. 

Nothing, no amount of prep talks, no amount of moral support from everyone around me can prepare me for this moment.

Baby, you were crying in there and mummy’s tears were flowing inside my heart. Mummy was desperately trying to look brave and normal.

Papa was firm.  No, she has to get used to it.

I know… I know…. the theories are easy. Doing it was hard. The same baby I have carried so close to my heart day after day is crying for me. 

Finally we were reunited after diaper change time and it was meals time.

I held back my tears and gave her my biggest smile. She leaped into my arms. At that moment I wanted to carry her and run to a corner and hug her, nurse her and say “It’s ok, I’m sorry, let’s forget this whole rubbish idea of school.”

Instead I carried her back into the classroom.

I wanted to feed her, she wanted to latch. So afraid mama will disappear again. So in need of comfort. So we gave up after 3 spoons of porridge and said goodbye to everyone.

Still holding back my tears, still having to sound positive and encourage her that school wasn’t so bad, still telling her “no no…” not allowed to nurse her. 

Finally in the car. Yay! We survived! She finally got to the milk source. I finally dropped my plastic face.

And I silently broke down as I held her and stared at the skies.

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And this is how it is to really say goodbye to babyhood.

I remind myself, for my Dec baby, I have to grit my teeth and do this now, or her learning curve at N1 would be even more uphill if she has to also deal with the adjustments to being in the system.

Nobody said it was easy. Nobody told me it would be this hard either.

First day in school… a new chapter begins

Today Little Foot formally walked through the doors of Singapore’s education system for the first time.

I half expected tears, meltdowns and panic attacks from her, but I have to say she gave us a real easy time today.

So we did a half – day today at the school. Observed the teachers and the class. Papa Long and I tried our best not to intervene or go to Little Foot’s rescue too much. She did well mostly, even for the part when I decided that Papa and I  should exit the room. It was fruits time, and she was pacified by the rock melon treat.

I also braced myself for my personal meltdown (like maybe tear or cry secretly on Papa Long’s shoulder).

Haha, didn’t happen! I am quite relieved that she seemed to like the place, especially the indoor gym the the school has, and the teachers are quite kind, helping her along, teaching her the “rules” patiently.

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NOW as I sit in a cafe alone winding down for awhile (she’s at home napping) I look back and think of the little baby girl who made me so worried during her early days, yet she had always been a brave one, not a namby pampy whiny kind of child.

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I hope you adjust well my Little Foot. Sending you to school is because we love you and want to pave a smoother road ahead for you… not because we have grown tired of you and want to offload you. And we hope you will have fun in the process.

Thanks for being brave and fearless. Thanks for making it easy for Mummy today. I promise that as you enter the education system, I will refrain from caving into the pressures around us. Grow and learn well, my baby, and most of all, learn good values, positivism and be kind to others.

Happy first day of school my baby pie 🙂

XOXO,
Mummy