Talking Point About Parenting

Kai and I pretending to have a boys' day out at a cafe, which is actually an event space on the 2nd floor of the Grand Hyatt.
Kai and I pretending to have a boys’ day out at a cafe, which is actually an event space on the 2nd floor of the Grand Hyatt.

Tonight, Kai and I appear on Talking Point with four other fathers and their children. The topic is fatherhood, the role of fathers in the family. It was meant to be a relaxed, shoot the breeze shoot, together with some attempt at cooking.

Naomi and I are very fortunate to have a wonderful boy who is a joy every waking hour of the day. We are hardly experts in parenting, and as I said to Steven Chia, the host of Talking Point, I’m just having the most fun being a Dad, and what Naomi does with Kai and I makes it all possible.

There’s a lot of time involved, but there’s no magic formula other than wanting Kai to be healthy, informed, compassionate and conscientious.

I have spoken with other parents about how we go about parenting, but this was the first time I’ve been presented with the question, specifically, of how fathers go about doing things. For us, gender has never been a factor in what roles are supposed to be played by whom – excepting of course the obviously biological – and I was slightly taken aback by the questions posed, and some of the answers given.

I would’ve enjoyed a longer chat on how my family feels about families, but watch if you can tonight, and leave your comments here.

TALKING POINT9.30PM Channel 5.

Watch a teaser here.

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).