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.

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.

Explaining Boston To A Four Year Old

Yesterday morning on waking up, I checked my phone for messages, and read about the Boston Marathon bombing. As Naomi and I headed to our kitchen for breakfast with Kai, I decided to turn on the television for updates.

Kai started to ask what we were watching on tv. As has been our policy, we attempted to explain in as age appropriate a manner as possible what had happened, and why it was a very bad thing that happened, caused by a very bad person, nobody knows who yet, and why it was a very sad day.

It didn’t quite sink in – partly because Kai was taken in by the novelty of us turning on the tv at breakfast, and partly because the event was a race, and there was a bomb.

We’re still struggling to wean him off his little boy’s diet of pretend cars crashing, guns shooting (especially in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy) and bombs exploding, and he doesn’t completely grasp why we ban toy gun play at home when he sees other kids playing with toy guns and replicas.

On the way home yesterday evening, he asked if he could have some tv time after dinner – he wanted to watch the one about the race and the bomb. We explained again why it wasn’t a happy thing to watch. Thankfully he was quite exhausted and settled for another episode of Dinosaur Train instead.

(I found this last night: What to tell your kids about the Boston Marathon Bombing).

Papa made up this song

I felt strangely proud this morning when I drove Kai to preschool. The car stereo had yesterday switched to The Hossan Leong Show CD (in the CD changer since 2009). When I started the car after strapping him into his kiddie seat, this song started playing, and Kai was mesmerized, and when it ended, asked what song it was, who sang it, and whether I could play it again.

Later at home, he recalled and sang the chorus, some bits of verses, and asked if he could listen to it again.

It’s called “No Outside Food”, Uncle Hossan sang it and Papa made up the words.

I forgot to tell him music arranger extraordinaire Elaine Chan made the music and decided it should be a reggae piece (there’s a Cantopop ballad version).

I’m just not sure if he should sing it to his friends in preschool though.

Long days, wide nights

It’s been a long week at work and home.
Let’s start with home – Kai was struck by some stomach bug that Hossan says has been going around, because people in Mediacorp in their fortress on Caldecott Hill have been falling over, throwing up and all that.
We’re usually quite relaxed when Kai gets a cold or has the runs, but this week was the first time he’s actually not wanted to play.
(Last year when he had dengue fever, he actually put on weight in hospital where he was warded for a week to receive blood platelet transfusions).
So it was with much relief and joy that he got his appetite for food and play back today. And it was so good to have him run at me to give me a hug after work today.
Don’t get me wrong, I really really enjoy work and the people I get to work with. But things happen.
You know what? Let’s not get into work. I’ll just leave it at the hug my son gave me this evening.

Banker!

We’ve been very lucky to have a baby boy who’s so easy to look after. He eats well, is able to play by himself, and sleeps mostly to a schedule, and when we’re eating out, he’s able to sit at the table for up to an hour – enough for us to finish our meal without fuss.

Because Naomi is the one that does the details, we have a log of Kai’s daily doings like waking and sleeping times, eating and excreting times – although I’m sure there are other parents like us, with computerised logs that offer an instant audit if so required.

We also have a live-feed list of Kai’s vocablurry, which currently includes such food related words as “eat”, “pasta”, “chicken”, “bread”, “apple” and “hot” and “cold”. That’s about the same as an SQ stewardess’ operating vocabulary at cruising altitude – because at take-offs and landings they have to learn to read other complicated things from a card.

A friend tells us to be very careful what we say in front of Kai from now on, as they’re at the “storage of information” stage. Her 18 month old daughter shocked her last month by parroting a rude word she heard her father say.

So we are now at the next stage of parenting where we have to start spelling things out. Or pretend we said something else.

“Banker! Papa said Banker!”

More than half of toys tested unsafe

The Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE) tested a basket of 50 toys sold in Singapore, and more than half were found to be unsafe. Naomi and I are not surprised.

But what I’d like to know is, what kind of crap toy is this?

The pictorial list of toys is here, and I kinda agree with the toy gun / cuff set being unsafe. A friend of mine handcuffed himself to the fence when he was five years old, and was only released by his laughing parents when they got home several hours later.

A few days later, he shot himself in both nostrils with the dart gun. Actually, he was the sort of kid who’d manage to injure himself even if you put him in a straitjacket in a padded room.

All’s well in the world because our son can say “chicken”

He said it loudly and clearly – possibly the clearest he’s every pronounced any (English) word. The rest are approximations which we accept because he’s a baby and we’re his parents.

“Chicken”, he said. And then Mama took out her iPhone and tried to make him repeat the word. As you’d expect, it wasn’t going to happen. Nope, Nada, Nando’s.

All he did was point at the bowl of chicken strips that we made for him for dinner, and signed for more. But cute lah, our son.

A year and a week

Not good toys when you're trying to have a quiet day

It’s been a rough week since Kai’s birthday – with both Naomi and I under the weather with bouts of food poisoning, flu, and in Naomi’s case, a crook back that is a bit worrying, especially considering she’s had her spine surgerised before.

And of course, a one-year old never lets up.

Kai isn’t quite walking yet, but he’s learned to: pick his nose; climb the side of the playpen; point at objects (mostly food) he wants; drink (more like gulp) from a cup; drink cow’s milk; eat ramen; eat la mian; make a new noise-word every day (like Rararararara – even though he hasn’t heard any Lady Gaga); and more importantly, hug his Papa tightly every morning once he’s been picked up from his cot.