0

What A Difference A Mom Makes

Recently I have read two books by Dr Kevin Leman, the one mentioned in the title and The Birth Order Book. I was hoping to gain some insight into Didi’s whining and misbehaviours, perhaps due to him being the middle child. But while The Birth Order Book was an entertaining read, it was not meant to be a parenting book. There were some interesting hypotheses, such as the first son would exhibit firstborn characteristics even though he might have a few sisters above him. An easy read, quite worth the time if you are keen on birth order.

As expected, it was the parenting book that really caught my heart. First of all, the author asserts that it is the parent of the opposite gender who has the most influence on the child. Just like The Birth Order Book, it was very easy to read. (I am waiting for two more of Dr Leman’s books – Have A New Kid By Friday and Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours.)

Parts of the book are devoted to more generic parenting issues, such as what influenced our parenting style (i.e. how our parents parented us), whether we are authoritarian or permissive, birth order, effective discipline. The chapter that got my attention was… drum roll please… Planning Your Toddler’s Wedding!

This is really very close to my heart. I think my main gauge for my own success as a mother is whether my future daughters-in-law will be happy with my sons.

According to the book, the son will tend to marry a woman like the mother. Because he’s used to the way the mother treats him!

Equally importantly, when the mother insists on respect in the house and models being a strong, smart woman, the son will treat his wife with respect as well. So, don’t give in to your son too easily!

For all mothers, please remember:

“How you treat yourself and how you allow the men in your life to treat you will help form his views of who he is as a man, who women are, and how women should be treated. So treat yourself right and don’t put up with any crap. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for your son.”

2

Sharing Responsibilities

Not long after I wrote the post on Self Care, I came across this in the Simplicity Parenting book:

“Of the many parenting tasks that must happen every day, dads need to move some to their side of the ‘full responsibility’ list… Exclusive provinces (or nearly exclusive) need to become Dad’s, so his efforts are part of ‘doing,’ not ‘helping.’ So that, in the child’s eyes, Dad is the ‘go-to’ person for that slice of daily life, not the occasional ‘substitute.’ So that, for Mom, trust and ease make inroads into every day…
And for one person to really get a break, to really let go of a task mentally and physically, the other must do it consistently, with no need for requests or reminders.”

Quite often, I felt quite frantic and rushed as I went through the bedtime routine for the kids. While they drank their milk, I tried to do as much housework as I could. There are some chores which could only be done at the end of the day, such as mopping the floor, taking in the dry laundry and folding the clothes, and washing their water bottles.
But usually by the time I should be reading bedtime stories, I still had not finished the housework. And I really wish to sit and relax like my husband when the kids finally go in to bed (and not still be doing housework like a mad auntie while Hubby watches television with his legs up). True, Hubby had always been willing to help when I asked for help. But I didn’t feel happy about always having to ask. So sometimes, I asked and felt unhappy, and sometimes I just did the stories myself then continued with the housework… and felt unhappy.
One day, I decided enough was enough. So I requested Hubby to be the one reading the bedtime stories if he is at home then and if I have not finished the housework. I will still continue to be the one to bathe the kids every weekday, and I will complete the entire routine on my own if he hasn’t reached home.
Actually, truthfully speaking, it’s not that I can’t cope. My main gripe is seeing him resting and relaxing while I am perspiring and slaving like a maid. There, I have said it. I also work the whole day, don’t I? I don’t even have a proper lunch since the boys are always eyeing my food (if it’s yummy) or leaving me with the not-so-yummy food.
From what my friends shared, I guess it’s quite common for the husbands to help only when requested, instead of being proactive to help out. And it’s tiring and frustrating for the wife to have to ask every time. So why not just ask once and apply to all future situations?
For those of you who are fortunate enough to be have a proactive hands-on husband, congratulations! For the rest of us, perhaps the first person you need to convince is yourself, to ask so that your husband has the chance to help you.
Ultimately, I am blessed to have a husband who is willing to help whenever I do ask. Asking is definitely more effective than sulking :p

2

Progress on Baby Led Weaning

It has been more than one month since my previous post about Meimei’s food journey, and I am happy to update that she has been doing very well! When she turned nine months old at the beginning of January, she started to eat a lot A LOT! Like one big banana and half a slice of bread with tuna! I am a happy mummy! 😀

5

Resisting the Academic Pressure

The thing is, regardless of how my children eventually perform academically, I am quite certain that they will not be among the top of their class at Primary 1. Because I am determined to let them enjoy their childhood, to let them play and play and play. As it is, I have made the decision not to send them to kindergarten. Which means they might have a ‘culture shock’ in primary school. Or because they might simply be late bloomers. (Quite high chance of this for my sons, simply because they are boys.)

(But totally homeschooling from P1 onwards is not something I want. Because I love our education system too much :P)

So, how do we deal with the not-so-good results in P1? Other than mummy having to take many deep breaths and setting aside her competitive streak, that is…..

I really really hope my children will grow up to be resilient and adaptable. In this context about primary school, I hope they will be able to adapt to the new environment in school, and be able to withstand the peer pressure, the possible negativism from teachers, the definite negativism on their test papers & report books, the demoralization they might feel from the class ranking. I hope they will not be disheartened, and will take it in their stride. I hope you will be STRONG, my dear children. Be strong, and mummy is confident you will do just fine : )

My take on academic teaching in the preschool years is that the kids will either bloom sooner or later, or they will not bloom at all. The kids who bloom early, great, they are in time for P1 and will do well regardless of external ‘help’ (or hindrance :p) The kids who won’t bloom, tuition or any academic hothousing will not improve matters, will only make these kids stressed and unhappy. The kids who bloom later, perhaps as late as P5 after streaming, or even only in secondary school, I believe the most important thing is to protect their natural curiosity and desire to learn in their early years, so that they can still bloom when they are ready. If the bud is not ready to become a flower, it is futile to pluck open the petals to ‘help’ it bloom…..

Now, my children are still young and I feel the need to protect them from outside attempts to kill their natural learning tendencies. Hopefully by the time they are 6-7 years old, they can go to primary school and protect themselves with their resilience. It is not always a kind world out there, the best I can do is to protect them, nurture them when they are impressionable and weak, and to set them free as they grow stronger.

By the way, yes, I am competitive. So it’s quite killing me to be laidback about the boys’ academic learning. But I believe this will produce the best results for them, academic or otherwise. Hope I am not sabotaging them!

To summarize for my babies who might be reading this in future:
Don’t be stressed when you go to primary school. Don’t worry about results.
Behave yourself, obey the teachers, always be respectful. (If there’s a need to disagree with your teachers, mummy will do it. But you won’t know about it.)
Do your homework and submit on time.
Make friends, play with friends, enjoy yourselves, have fun!
Pay attention in class, or at least be quiet during lessons.
Be happy, and wait to bloom!

If mummy becomes a crazy kiasu parent over the next few years, you can use this to back yourselves up :p

Linking up with

Mother Nurture
0

Simple Cooking 3

Today I shall specialise in steaming! Healthy and easy, and no oily stuff to clean up : )

Recipe 7 Steamed Fish

Ingredients: Fish (I usually use threadfin), spring onion, ginger (sliced or shredded)

Method: Place spring onion on a dish, put fish on top then scatter ginger on the fish. Steam for about ten minutes.

Tip: MUST wait for the water to boil before putting the fish in the steamer! This will ensure the fish remain supple and tender. I used to put the fish in before the water boiled, and the result was very yucky fish, even when I used fresh expensive fish like threadfin.

Tip: Pour away the liquid in the fish as the liquid is usually quite fishy after the steaming.

Recipe 8 Steamed Chicken

Ingredients: Chicken (I only use thigh), spring onion (shredded), ginger (sliced or shredded), 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp wine

Method: Marinate chicken with the salt, wine, spring onion and ginger (rub onto the meat) for at least 20 minutes. Steam chicken over high heat for about 12 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave chicken in the steamer for a further five minutes.

Recipe 9 Steamed Egg

Ingredients: 3 eggs, 1/2 cup chicken stock

Method: My confinement nanny taught me this for a fuss-free steamed egg dish. Mix the eggs with the chicken stock. Place in a dish and steam over high heat for about three minutes. Then lower the heat and steam for about 15 minutes.

Remember to wait for the water to boil first before steaming anything!

2

Simplicity Parenting

I think I am really a very lucky person. Managed to get my hands on so many good books lately! I wonder where all these books were hiding the past few years… But maybe, I wasn’t ready then to be a peaceful parent… or to stop yelling… or to be a simple parent…

“Based on Payne’s twenty years’ experience successfully counselling busy families, Simplicity Parenting teaches parents how to worry and hover less – and how to enjoy more. For those who want to slow their children’s lives down but don’t know how to start, Payne offers both inspiration and a blueprint for change.”

The author, Kim John Payne, is a family consultant who advocates “less is more”. He postulates that too much stuff, too many choices, and too little time cause anxiety and behavioural problems in children.

Even at the Introduction, I was already ooh-ing and ah-ing and nodding my head vigorously in agreement. (And smiling to myself too, actually. Shucks, does that make me sound like a nutcase??) So what did the author say?

That children look at our tasks and busyness and see what the parents deem important. They see that with our time and presence we give love.

True!

That children are so clearly happiest when they have the time and space to explore their worlds, at play.

Yes!

Why Simplify?

“The primary reason is that it will provide your child with greater ease and well-being. Islands of being, in the mad torrent of constant doing. With fewer distractions their attention expands, their focus can deepen, and they have more mental and physical space to explore the world in the manner their destiny demands.”

An analogy was given – ‘nothing much’ seems to be happening while we sleep, yet mental and emotional clarification and improvement of motor skills take place as we sleep. We know that we fall sick more easily without sleep, and that lack of sleep impairs speech, memory, and innovative, flexible thinking. We might not know exactly what the purpose of sleep is, but we see what happens when we are deprived of it.  Similarly, we might not fully understand the mysterious process of childhood, but it surely has its purpose.

The author came up with a formula: quirk + stress = disorder. That is, most children have some idiosyncrasies, which quickly slide along the spectrum to disorder when they experience high levels of stress.  Examples given: dreamy child + stress = inattentive, ADHD; active in physical play + stress = hyperactive; feisty + stress = oppositional defiance disorder; child with a favourite stamp collection + stress = obsessive compulsive disorder.

Makes sense to me. I can imagine Kor Kor being slapped with all sorts of labels if he’s going to school. *shivers*

Four areas of simplification are recommended: Environment, Rhythm, Schedules, and Filtering out the Adult World.

Environment

Too. Much. Stuff. Including toys, books, clothes, and other things in the house, e.g. a cluttered dining table (Anyone went ‘oops’?)

“As you decrease the quantity of your child’s toys and clutter, you increase their attention and their capacity for deep play.”

I confess, my kids have a lot a lot of toys and books. And the main contributor is me. I like to buy educational toys and puzzles and games and whatnot. Mummy friends have suggested I rent out some toys, but I want my kids to have access to the toys WHEN they want. Toy rotation sounded like a better idea, but I thought I would be too lazy or would forget to take out new toys. I thought that my house was big enough anyway (145 square meters, which is considered very big for a flat in Singapore), and the toys were quite neatly arranged – mostly on shelves, not dumped in toy boxes.

So, I wasn’t really motivated to do anything about the kids’ environment. But one day while we were hanging out in the boys’ room, I saw two storage boxes of toys. I was using the boxes more as ‘tabletops’ and there was an easel on one of the box. (That’s all, just one easel.) The boxes contained ‘baby toys’ which I had kept aside for Meimei. As I looked at the toys, I thought, why not clear them out since the boys were not playing with them? Even Didi hardly played with those toys when he was younger, because he preferred to play with whatever Kor Kor was playing with anyway. Similarly, I doubt Meimei would be attracted to her brothers’ ‘rejects’.

So, I removed the two boxes. In their place, I put a playmat instead. Then I dunno what got into me – maybe the book, maybe springcleaning mood due to Chinese New Year coming soon – I started tidying and dusting the rest of the toys and shelves in the boys’ room. And ended up keeping away quite a few of the toys from the shelves and toy rack. (Now I have three big boxes of toys for rotation.)

I thought the room didn’t look that much different. But I noticed Kor Kor spending significantly more time in his room since then! Didi started playing more with the magnetic wooden blocks which have been on the toy rack forever. (There used to be urmm, at least five types of blocks in the toy rack :P)

Happy!

The book also mentioned that because of children’s ‘well-developed sense of fairness’, the simplified child’s room would not last if the rest of the house is cluttered.

Inspired, I looked critically at the rest of the house. Was glad to see that there weren’t actually that many toys. Other than some baby toys in Meimei’s playyard (which I am looking forward to removing once she is older), there are only Lego Duplo, a few emergency vehicles, and wooden trains and tracks. Kor Kor loves Thomas and Friends and spends a lot of time in his Sodor Island (our balcony). Actually, I am quite selective of the kids’ toys. Almost none of the toys they received for birthdays and Christmas made it… I kept them back in the storeroom after a few days’ play… or they never made it out of the storeroom.. Sorry, Uncles and Aunties!

But I am still not convinced there’s a need to declutter books. I want the kids to have a ready library at home. I know children like repetition and they tend to ask to be read the same few books over and over again. And I am ok with that. Ideally, they should have just a few books on hand, in the reading nooks around the house, while the remaining books are displayed on a large shelf, readily accessible should they have an interest in a particular topic. (Many of our books are non-fiction.)

Unfortunately, I do not have such a space for their books. We do have a large bookshelf, but it’s currently occupied by my books. No point switching my and their books around, right? Since they will be surrounded by books anyway, might as well surround them with their books.

Can’t be perfect…

The author provided a checklist of toys to discard:

  1. Broken toys
  2. Developmentally inappropriate toys
  3. Conceptually “fixed” toys
  4. Toys that “do too much” and break too easily
  5. Very high-stimulation toys
  6. Annoying or offensive toys
  7. Toys that claim to give your child a developmental edge
  8. Toys you are pressured to buy
  9. Toys that inspire corrosive play
  10. Toys multiples

Rhythm

Rhythm builds islands of consistency and security throughout the day, functioning like pressure valves. It provides consistency and predictability to the children, which they need. Seems much like what I call ‘routine’, something which I have mentioned many times in this blog (and something which I love very much!).

While it might not be possible to provide a rhythmic home life (perhaps the parents’ jobs require them to keep all sorts of hours or to travel frequently), it is necessary to at least provide predictability and transparency. This means to ‘preview’ the next day with the child, so that he know what to expect.

Schedules

“Too many scheduled activities may limit a child’s ability to motivate and direct themselves.”

I like the author’s analogy of crop rotation. Sustainable farming involves rotating crops, balancing crop fields with fields that are completely fallow, and those with a legume cover crop.

“Rest nurtures creativity, which nurtures activity. Activity nurtures rest, which sustains creativity.”

The fallow field is downtime, leisure and rest, hanging out. (In Singlish, I think the best description is Zuo Bo. Can’t explain this to non-Singlish speakers though :P)

The legume is deep play, when the child is focused and in control. It is something which parents can make space for and honor, but we can’t control it.

Activity – school, classes, sports, chores, socializing (play dates? Family events?) – Is represented in the crop field. This involves normal ‘daily life’ busyness.

An interesting point – an overscheduled life can sow unexpected seeds. It can establish patterns of behaviour and expectation that become ingrained. So much activity can create a reliance on outer stimulation, a culture of compulsion and instant gratification. Compare this to the definition of addiction:

“an increasing and compulsive tendency to avoid pain or boredom and replace inner development with outer stimulation”

!!! Wow, so serious!

I think we are doing OK for Rhythm and Schedule. If anything, I wonder if we are underscheduled 😛 We have five full days from Monday to Friday of Nothing Planned. And I have recently resolved to minimize outings and any other ‘schedules’. Even on weekends, we arrange our outings around the boys’ naptimes – if they go out in the mornings, they come home for their naps before going out in the late afternoon.

Filtering out The Adult World

According to the author, parental anxiety affects the atmosphere in which the child lives. He suggested reducing our exposure to media which contribute to our fears about the child’s safety, and to minimize the child’s exposure to media, including advertisements and violent television shows and news programs.

In addition, parents need to be careful about what we say to our children. Children need to see our self-restraint, our confidence in meeting our world, NOT to hear our adult concerns (financial difficulties, reluctance to visit the in-laws, etc).

The author also suggested something which I have mentioned in an earlier post – to not speak unless I have something good to say. Of course, he puts it in nicer terms – before you say something, ask yourself whether it is true, whether it is kind, and whether it is necessary. The wise use of words!

Another interesting point – While parents have good intentions in asking our children to describe how they feel, this emotional monitoring has an unexpected effect of rushing kids along into a premature adolescence.

“Children under nine certainly have feelings, but much of the time those feelings are unconscious, undifferentiated… emotional intelligence can’t be bought or rushed. It develops with the slow emergence of identity, and the gradual accumulation of life experiences. When we push a young child toward an awareness they don’t yet have, we transpose our own emotions, and our own voice, on theirs.”

Not that this is a problem for us. But I had thought it would be good to do this ‘emotional monitoring’! Just that I wasn’t diligent or conscientious enough to remember to do it 😛 Hmm, I shall try to read up more on emotional intelligence.

Gosh, what a long post! I spent more than three hours on this, hope it’s useful to you!