A Word On The My First Skool Incident

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.

Screening Pre-School Staff

There isn’t much worse than having your preschooler be mistreated and injured at the hands of the people you trust to look after your child while you’re at work – whether it’s your foreign domestic helper, nanny, or pre-school staff.

I thought about whether it was right to post on FB the CCTV footage given by the preschool, and I think I would have done the same thing. I’d have been very angry and would have wanted to warn other parents of the same. I wouldn’t have waited for the police or the press to do that for me.

While there’ll be questions to be answered on how the centre screens its staff, including employees who don’t necessarily have contact with the kids, it’s a good reminder to parents to really get to know the people you delegate your child caring to.

How Did You Spend Father’s Day?

This is the second consecutive Father’s Day we’ve been abroad with family, and I think it’s a good way to spend it. We’re gonna make this a tradition.

To all Dads – Happy Father’s Day – it’s a day to be thankful for family, and for the time you get to spend with them. A big shout out to every man who’s traded in a fast car for an MPV, a coupe for a wagon, and spent way more than you’ve dreamed of on a stroller.

Papa & Kai
Papa & Kai

There’s A Book For Dealing With Whiny Kids

We have an arrangement at home with Kai where if he’s been really good he gets to exercise an option of half an hour of (apple) tv time in place of a bedtime storybook and a 5 minute chat about his day, but only if it isn’t already past bedtime (8pm).

Two nights ago, he opted for tv time, watched his rationed half hour of a kid’s programme about words, then started to bargain for another episode and/or/and a storybook and/or/and chat. Cajoling, wheedling, needling and most importantly, whining to get his way, even though he knows the chances of him getting it are slim. Unless of course Mama and Papa are so tired from their day as to give in.

So I carry him to bed and he struggles, still whining, and slides off to his bookshelves, grabs a book and returns to the bed in the dark and slaps the book on my stomach and whines that he wantstorytimenotstraighttobed.

I look at the cover of the book and ask him whether he’s sure he wants me to read that particular book, because it’s called “Monsters Eat Whiny Children“.

The look of quiet frustration, confusion and creeping fear is something I will cherish for awhile. Not often our four year old snooks himself like that.

Happy Mother’s Day

To every son and daughter’s mother, a happy Mother’s Day. You’ve made your children what they are, whether or not you’ve intended to.

To Naomi – on behalf of Kai and myself, thank you for being everything he needs.

To Naomi’s Mom, thank you for being family.

And I remember my mother today, for making us panic every Mother’s Day not knowing what to plan for lunch and what gifts to get, forgetting that you only ever wanted us to be at our best in everything we did. I remember you would back us to the hilt if we did our best, defending us as only a mother would.

Motherhood is all love. It’s a good day to show we appreciate that by sharing the love around.