I’m always struck by how much we delegate our personal lives to other people. The other day coming home on the Bintan Resorts Ferry, a family sat in the rows ahead of us. There were the parents, the two children and two foreign domestic workers.
The younger of the two children was probably under two and cute as a button, playing and drooling while he was fed a snack. The older child was around six and a real brat – making faces at and speaking to the helpers in a completely disrespectful manner.
I think she had asked to have a ferry hotdog and the helper had said something to the effect that she’d be too full for dinner, and she’d sulked and asked her father who assented and went to get the hotdog for her instead.
Last month I wrote lyrics to a silly song that included the line, “Need tuition to make the grade; child is stupid blame the maid” and it couldn’t be truer. We seem to have completely abdicated our responsibility for our children’s upbringing to other people.
I’ve sometimes been guilty of forgetting to check on Kai (ok he’s only 4) and his reading homework, and last week even forgot he had a pre-school presentation (a mini-concert lasting 20 minutes, but if you miss it you have to face lasting consequences) and was only reminded early on the morning of his presentation when he told me to be early.
We leave Kai to our helper’s care for several hours a day some weeks when I’m really busy, or when Naomi’s not well. Then we find we have to correct Kai’s grammar and speech because our helper’s Burmese tinted English sometime nosso good.
That’s when we realise we have to take charge if we want our kids to grow up the way we want them to. Every person we engage to care for Kai has to be able to work with us to ensure he gets the right kind of care and guidance. We have been taking some time to talk to Kai’s teachers and ask about his progress in school regarding his social skills (our priority), and it’s been reaping a ton of benefits.
There’s been some chat about whether NTUC First Campus has addressed the issues attendant to the part-time caregiver’s sacking from their preschool, but I have to say again that parents, especially in Singapore, need to be more active in their kids’ upbringing, and help the childcare/preschool sector improve.
There is no excuse for the type of behaviour exhibited by the part-time staff at that particular pre-school, but I would like to highlight that NTUC First Campus, like many of the other NTUC affiliates, are co-operatives, which means that their aim is to get out there to do good.
First Campus itself works with governmental agencies and NGOs to reach out to less privileged families – there are childcare places reserved for low-income families. There was a case several years ago of a 16 month old boy who was lagging developmentally because of malnourishment and a home environment you’d recognise as not ideal – his only parent, his mother, was serving a prison sentence, and his sole caregiver had been his grandmother, who had to leave the house to work daily.
First Campus made two exceptional decisions – the child was accepted into a My First Skool Centre even though he was two months under the minimum age; the child was accepted without a fee. The staff at that Centre also reached out to the child’s grandmother with tips on how to contribute to the boy’s development.
The boy at issue is now almost ten and doing well in primary school.
There are no leaked YouTube videos to show, by making the decisions they did for this boy, how shockingly good the caregivers at that centre have been. And this is quite unfortunate.