Category Archives: Thoughts

A letter to 8-year old C

<This started as letter to C for her 8th birthday, and for some reason, it was not posted.> 

Dear C,

Time flies, and in a blink of an eye you’ve turned 8. Ever since you’ve started primary school, the clock hands seemed to turn even faster. It’s a mad rush everyday… 5am mornings, homework, music practice, bedtime. With all the activities going on, it’s easy to miss how quickly my little girl has grown.

The change was gradual… then one day, you complained that your uniform was getting too short and you couldn’t fit in most of your pants(!) It was then that I realized that it had been quite a while since I had restocked your wardrobe. I guess that subconsciously, to me, you always remained that little girl who fit into the smallest sized uniform. 

Then, there was the day when you came up to me, proudly showing off your neatly tied ponytail (you had practiced for days by yourself).

I teared. My little girl had grown up. 

You still believe in magic, but I’m starting to sense some skepticism about the existence of a tooth fairy (“Why does she have the same handwriting as you, mummy?”). You used to say that everyone is your friend, but now in our daily chats about school and friends, the word “enemy” has popped up. You ask about world affairs, and have found that google is a way to learn new things. You’ve started the habit of keeping a diary (“a real diary, mummy, no one else is supposed to read it.”) We discuss my work at the office.

I’m trying to cope with the changes. On some days, it certainly feels like you are eight-turning-eighteen.

Yet, with all these changes, you remain a pure-hearted, generous, kind-hearted soul. Your tenacity and perseverance never fails to amaze me. I hope these qualities will remain constants as you continue to bloom.

I’ll always be proud of you, my dear daughter.

With lots of love,

Mummy

8-year old C

 

 

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Happy 4th birthday, G!

Dearest G,

In a blink of an eye, you’ve turned 4!

I must say that the journey the past year has been a roller-coaster ride.

Truth be told, I had never really experienced the “terrible-threes” with your sister, so when other mums spoke of it, I could only nod in sympathy. Now, I can proudly say that I am a survivor of full-blown tantrums, one that only a toddler going through the terrible-three phase is capable of.

I’ve sat with you for an entire hour outside the classroom, because you decided that you didn’t want to go in (you were excited about the class, until the moment you stepped through the door). I have held you when you had major crying fits, because things didn’t go the way you wanted (the zip wouldn’t work, the blue crayon did not colour red, the teacher looked at you in class). Yes, we survived that together, my strong-willed little boy.

Thankfully, the tantrums tapered off as you grew in eloquence and maturity. You are no longer the shy little boy who hides behind my legs when you meet strangers. Now, you proudly announce your name, age and “this is my mummy” to complete strangers. You are no longer hesitant to belt out bthe entire, extended version of  “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” at the top of your voice in public.

Your ability to express yourself has improved by leaps and bounds over the past year. I’m already starting to miss your “I so much to see you!” (This has been replaced with a grammatically correct “I miss you so much, Mummy”) I’m always amused to see you narrate your own stories – where the 3 little pigs ride off in a car leaving big bad wolf in the dust, or where Dora is helped by the Paw Patrol in the forest when she falls down, or where Jack climbs the beanstalk at Old MacDonald’s Farm. Your creativity never ceases to amaze me.

Yet, you still remain the sensitive and loving little boy who showers hugs and kisses to all near and dear. I love it when you picked up my hand and started kissing it during our class at Heguru (much to the amusement of the teachers), when you give great big hugs when I return from work, and when you say “I love you, Mummy” at random moments. You’re the one who asks if I’m tired, or upset, and tries to cheer me up by offering your toys or a sweet.

You are such a happy little boy, who never fails to make me smile with your cheeky grin, even when you are up to mischief. Your beautiful soul is reflected in your colourful doodles… and this latest self portrait is one of my favourites because it reflects exactly who you are, complete with a big, wide smile on his face.

Self-portrait by G (29May2015)

Self-portrait by G (29May2015)

I pray that you will always keep this rainbow inside your heart. Happy birthday my little boy. I love you lots!

Love,
Mummy

Cheeky G

Cheeky G

Dear Sir, thank you and goodbye

“The Prime Minister is deeply grieved to announce the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the founding Prime Minister of Singapore. Mr Lee passed away peacefully at the Singapore General Hospital today at 3.18am. He was 91.”

23rd March 2015. 5am. I woke up to read this announcement on the Prime Minister’s facebook page. The news should have come as no surprise. Mr Lee’s condition had taken a turn for the worse in the recent days. Yet, the feeling of shock was unmistakeable. Somehow, deep inside, I had expected this giant of a man to make a miraculous recovery to celebrate the nation’s 50th birthday, like he always did. 

The shock was eventually replaced by a wave of great sadness. Mr Lee Kuan Yew had passed away. This time, it was not a hoax. It was real. 

A week of national mourning was declared for our founding Prime Minister. Tributes poured in on the media. His speeches were aired on national TV. Documentaries on his achievements were broadcasted. 

I am born and bred in Singapore, but I had never fully appreciated the magnitude of his contributions and sacrifices. Sure, I knew that he played a leading role in the period of separation between Malaya and Singapore, that he initiated various policies that brought Singapore to what we are today. But to me, he was just a Prime Minister, doing what he should do. 

As the stories continued rolling in, I felt new-found respect and awe for him. I saw him in a new light, and understood why the pioneer generation held him in the highest regards. He had brought Singapore from a third-world country to a first-world country within a short span of 50 years. My mum recalls the early days of Singapore, when riots were common, when they had to queue at the public taps for water, when it was common for a family of 11 to squeeze into a tiny room. Not everyone had the option of attending school then. 

Without Mr Lee’s remarkable foresight and leadership, many of the things that I take for granted today would probably not exist. Clean drinking water straight from the tap. Being able to walk alone in the streets at night without fear. Bilingual education for all. Affordable public housing. The list goes on. 

There is no doubt that he was a great leader and a great politician. Above all that, he was also a loving husband, father and grandfather. The love story of Mr Lee and his wife brought tears to my eyes. I saw photos of his home for the first time. Suddenly, he was so human. 

Little snippets of recollections by people close to him revealed a man who dedicated his life to Singapore. A man who continued to work till his recent hospitalization, who breathed and lived Singapore. Indeed, Singapore is what she is today because of him. 

I’m sure that I wasn’t one of the minority that felt this way, because I joined hundreds of thousands of people queuing to pay our last respects to Mr Lee at the Parliament House. Singaporeans, young and old, queued for up to 10 hours for the few seconds to see him, to express our gratitude. For once, I felt the solidarity of Singaporeans, united in our grief. 

Today is the final day of the week of national mourning. The day that we say our final farewells to Mr Lee Kuan Yew. It’s hard to describe my feelings as I watch the funeral cortège passing through the streets of Singapore, showing Mr Lee the successful little red dot that he spent his life building. 

Good bye sir. Thank you for all that you’ve done for Singapore. 一路好走.

Happy 7th birthday C!

C turned 7 on the 14th of July.

Dear C,

You’ve been looking forward to your birthday celebrations since the beginning of the year, counting down first by the number of months, then weeks, and finally by the number of days. Not because of the presents or party, but because you’ve been waiting to take that teeny-tiny step towards adulthood.

The day has arrived, and you are now officially a 7-year old. “Almost an adult,” you declare, proudly showing off the gaps in your teeth where two adult teeth have started to show. You can’t wait to grow up, but I wish for time to slow down, just a little.

You’ve grown so much over the past year. Sometimes, I forget that you are only 7.

There were the times when I was impressed by the maturity of your speech and actions. Did I tell you that I was extremely proud to hear that you stood up to the bully to protect your friend? Or how comforted I felt when you offered to keep your brother busy when you saw that I was tired so that I could rest?

Then there were the times when I’m reminded that you are still a little girl, one who still believes that the tooth fairy and book fairy is real. I try my best to keep that belief alive, by staying up late to write that note on behalf of the fairies, so that you are not disappointed when you wake. That sparkle in your eye when you see the letter is worth it. I hope that you will always believe that magic exists, in one form or other.

It was not so long ago that I woke up at 5am for your morning feeds. Just the two of us awake, you suckling quietly at my breast. You were a tiny baby then, dependent on me for your every need.

Now, 5am mornings are part of our daily routine again. Just the two of us awake, getting ready for school. But now, you do not need me to brush your teeth, or get changed – you can do that yourself. Then you sit quietly, sleepy and blurry-eyed, while I tie your hair.

You’ve been asking me to teach you how to bundle your hair in a ponytail. I’ve seen you standing in front of the mirror, trying to figure out how to do it properly. I will teach you, and you will keep on practicing till you get it right, just like how you learnt to button your own shirt and how you learnt to feed yourself.

Have patience, my dear daughter. I know that you can’t wait to grow up, to be fully independent. But before you get there, there are so many things that I hope you will learn. Not only to tie your own hair, but to learn from mistakes, to act with grace and humility, to be a person with integrity.

In the meantime, I will put off teaching you how to tie your hair for a little longer. I know that I will miss doing this little task for you, just like I miss the times when I helped you put on your socks, or when I fed you your rice cereal. So, I’m holding back, I want to keep tying my little girl’s hair for a little while longer.

Happy birthday, C!

Love,
Mummy

C-bday1

Happy 3rd Birthday G!

G turned 3 on 31st May, so this post is almost 2 months late (gasp! Where did the time go??)

Dear G,
Last year flew by in a blur. You’ve grown so much over the past year. Your verbal skills have improved by leaps and bounds, and you’re able to express yourself well, be it narrating your own story, recounting your day in preschool, or complaining about your sis :p 

You love to sing, and I would hear you humming to yourself while playing. Your favourite songs? Eensy-Weensy Spider, Alphabet song, and of course, “Let It Go” from Frozen. You’ve also started to learn to play the piano, and your best (and only piece) is Hot Cross Buns. I hope that you will always enjoy music, and be able to sing your heart out whenever you feel like it (like you do when you start belting out Let It Go at midnight in the dark)

You show an affinity for the written word. I would catch you pointing out words in books and street signs, and you love learning how to spell (magnetic letters are one of your favourite toys now). You’ve learnt to spell your name, and simple words like milk, toy, dog. I would often catch you “reading” to your toys at bedtime 😉

G reading

G reading

You’ve progressed from a little boy who was afraid of going up the trampoline, hesitant to jump into a ball-pit or even try the balance-beam, to a little daredevil who leaps off into the ball-pit (or off the bed) if given half a chance. Although mummy is so proud that you’ve come so far, try not to give me too many heart-attacks, ok?

G-leaping

Leaping in with wild abandon

You’re such an affectionate little boy, giving us warm hugs when you sense that we are upset. I love it when I get home from work every evening, to see you running to me shouting “Mummy, you’re home! I miss you!” I miss you too, everyday at work.

You really look up to your elder sis, parroting her words and imitating all her actions. I’m so glad that you are such a loving little brother, missing your sister when she is not around, giving her hugs when she is upset, offering to share your sweets with her whenever you get some. Always, always remember this bond that the two of you share.

Sharing a special bond

Sharing a special bond

Of course, there are the tantrums. Terrible twos and threes were not named by chance. You have a stubborn streak in you that drives me up the wall sometimes, yet I can’t stay upset for long. All it takes is “I’m sorry, mummy. Are you still angry?” and a big hug from you. And who could resist that cheeky grin? Please grow out of this phase soon, though. It’s really no fun. I have the proof on video, and I promise to show it to you when you are older.

I know that it’s not easy being the second child, and you have limited time alone with mummy because she has to work and spend time with your older sis for her school work. As a result, you’ve grown up to be more independent, playing quietly by yourself when everyone else is busy. Sorry my dear G, I will try to spend more time with you. And take lots more photos and videos.

Happy birthday my dear G, mummy loves you lots. Stay happy and healthy. Laugh lots, and I hope you never lose that twinkle in your eyes 🙂

Happy birthday G!

Happy birthday G!

Love,

Mummy

Learning Chinese – the journey

20140509-102413.jpg

Chinese? Difficult!

Chinese has always been a tough subject for C. When she was much younger, around 2 or 3, she used to ignore anyone who spoke to her in her mother tongue.

Who could blame her? To her, it was a totally foreign language.

Although we are ethnic Chinese, 99% of our conversations with her were held in English. We read English books, she watched cartoons and DVDs in English, even the punishments were meted out in English.

Our initial attempts at introducing Chinese were half-hearted at most. Truth be told, I had assumed (or maybe, hoped) that she would be able to pick up the language sooner or later. After all, she was Chinese, wasn’t she? Her grandmother watched Chinese shows, and she was exposed to the language at school. We had also enrolled her in a weekly 2-hour Chinese enrichment class. I never remembered any difficulty picking up the language myself, so I thought it would be the same for her.

How wrong (and deluded) I was. At 5 years old, she was barely able to conduct a conversation in Chinese. She could read some Chinese sentences, but understood little.

Alarm bells started ringing for us when we attended the Primary One Preparation Seminar conducted by the enrichment centre in May last year. In the seminar, the speaker covered the syllabus for primary school Chinese, in which the oral component played a major part (gasp!). We were shown sample test papers, and I found myself shaking my head… C had a loooong way to go, and it was all uphill.

We set to work trying to get her interested in Chinese. In a previous post, I posted about doing a lapbook on China. I had a reward chart marking each day that we managed a short conversation in Chinese. It was difficult to stay consistent, and I lapsed back to speaking in English from time to time. I started reading more Chinese books to her.

Fast forward one year later. I’m pleased to report that some progress has been made, and in her first term show and tell, she scored 19 out of 20 points. She is now able to conduct a fairly decent conversation, and picking up more vocabulary from reading Chinese books.

Although the push to start picking up Chinese was academic, I hope that in time, she will be able to appreciate the beauty of the language, and not treat it as another subject to study for.

The journey has just begun.

Do you face difficulties introducing a second language to your child?

p/s: I’ll be introducing some books and tools that helped C learn Chinese. Do stay tuned!

We survived Term 1!

keep-calm-we-survived-term-one

Yay! We made it through term 1 of school, and it’s time to take a break. I’ve been looking forward to this week, when I can finally wake up at 7am, instead of the usual 5am routine.

I’m happy to report that all is going well in school, despite my initial worries. From waking up every morning at 5.30am, to completing her school work, to making new friends, C has coped marvellously well so far. In class, each of the students are given responsibilities, and she was proud to report that she was made the English rep of her class. I was amused to see her eyes shining as she told me how she helped to collect and carry the books during English class, and she wore the English rep badge with pride (I’m reminded that she has to wear the badge everyday and it must be in the correct place just above her name tag).

Of course, not everything was perfect. C had to learn how to stand-up for herself against bullies, taking responsibility when she forgot to hand in her work, handling disputes among friends. It was part of growing up, when she learnt that mummy will not always be around to handle unpleasant events.

To be truthful, I was very concerned about bullying, and was shocked to hear her saying that “someone was mean to her in school and threatened to throw her water-bottle away”. It took me a lot of self-restraint not to overreact, and to stay calm while we talked the incident through. It ended happily though, and she was able to resolve it by herself (the girls are best friends now!). That first incident gave her the courage to stand up against bullies on the school bus, to defend herself and a friend against the older girl (proud mum moment :)) It was certainly a reminder to myself to step aside and let her learn, instead of taking matters into my own hands.

Now that we’ve survived term one, it’s time to celebrate 😉 We will be bringing the kids out to have some fun. Have a great week ahead everyone!