Tag Archives: thoughts

Kids’ parties and consumerism

Every time I threw a birthday party for Z (and coming soon for X), I would suffer bouts of consumerism as an aftermath.

After 3 years of experience, I realized a lot of dilemma lies within the gift.  The gift was an expression of thought and bore significance of the bearer’s good intentions.  However, some gifts could be impractical or oversubscribed and I would not really know what to do with them.  In the past, I could still bring the gift back to some departmental stores and seek an exchange for something else.  There was one year where I was able to pool enough toys for a credit note to ‘redeem’ a Combi booster car seat for Z (which he had been using for the past one year!).

However, of late, most of the merchants did not accept goods exchanges unless it is accompanied with a gift exchange receipt.

Generally, I would not bother to exchange unless Z has the same toy or too many toys of that category.  Z loves cars.  Last year, he received at least 10 car sets.  Hence, that explained why he still has brand new toy car sets unopened.  Two weeks ago, he actually asked, “Mummy, can I open my new car toy?  You know, the present from my 3 year old birthday?”  He had been elated when he opened the toy last year.  We staggered all opening and playing of toys so that he can enjoy each and every toy.  This was also mainly why I have so many bargaining chips at home.

Having a party was important to Z (we had spoilt him, our fault entirely).  He was excited at the prospect of being the limelight of the party, to have so many children playing with him, to blow candles off his cakes and to receive presents.  For that reason, I would not ask my friends NOT TO BUY toys because he relished in receiving.  Hence, the practical side of us, despite know that (parties = resource wastage), we would still organize one for him.  Besides, personally, I also enjoyed shopping for presents because I also enjoyed the buying experience.   I would usually overstocked on ‘potential’ gifts when we went overseas too.

Hence, whenever people asked me what to buy for him, I could not answer.  That was always why I decided that for this year, I would only bring him to buy his birthday present AFTER he had received all the presents on his birthday.  Well, most friends would know what a shopaholic I also was.  I was afraid of overbuying too.

Even for Baby X whose first year old birthday would be coming up soon, I had opted not to buy him anything till his birthday was over.

In any case, at this instance, I thought the best gift for Z could be Toysrus vouchers.  That would teach him quite a fair bit of math as well as resource and financial management.  Some of my friends had been very creative though… they would be gifting him with a crafts subscription.  I reckoned he would be very excited to receive something in the mail!

Givers at work

I really liked this article shared by a friend on Facebook.

It reminded me when I first started work and all the hard knocks accumulated along the way. How many of us would work with people who knew but did not want to share information? Well, I was not one to pay such service forward and I would rather change the equation by being a giver. It did not matter that the credit did not come back to me, as long as we progressed as a team.

Perhaps for a better corporate culture, be a giver, be a team player, help others and help yourself.

What was yours would be yours, no one could take that brilliance from you, no matter how they tried to take.

First day of the last month of the year

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Baby X – all warm and sweaty from his morning screams

In a jiffy, the year was coming to an end.  This time last year, I was so heavily pregnant with X that it was not really enjoyable.  December had always been my favorite month of the year.  When I was studying, it represented spells of holidays.  When I got to working, it represented festive mood and happier atmosphere.

In 25 days’ time, we would celebrate Z’s birthday with his little friends and their not-so-little parents.  In 48 days’ time, X would turn one year old.

I always said this and I truly never got tired of saying it.  Having children were such literal age markers that it was scary.  I stopped tracking my own age because it was so depressing that I was turning old so fast.

Last year, I was clearing bulk of my annual leave and was spending a lot of time with Z before X came along.  We were at Polliwogs Robertson Walk half the month, so much so that the staff remembered Z’s name.  Last year, I was hobbling around like a penguin and having enormous difficulty moving about.  This year, the dynamics of the equation had changed so drastically.

Nonetheless, Christmas was a beautiful season to make merry and rejoice.

Happy Christmas Shopping, if you had not embarked on it.  I was lucky that Mr H had completed the list for me!

Education myth or a paper chase

For the last few years, my train of thoughts had changed drastically.  I used to think that I would be a kiasu parent and I would send my child to all kinds of enrichment programmes so that I could train him to be a prodigy.  I had even gone up to the Shichida office, took a look at the programme and was ready to place a deposit to secure a place.  Midway, I took a step back.

I took a step back to review the whole situation.

I decided that was not the way to go.

I knew that by exposing my child to such programmes, I would meet more like-minded parents and I would become more and more anxious about my child’s progress or lack of progress.  I was a very competitive person and I had to conscientiously moderate this competitiveness.  I knew that I could not force my child to study and if Z were to fall short of my expectations, it would be a difficult parent-child relationship.  I could be very driven and motivated but that did not mean that my children would take after me.  His learning curve, his mental development and his attitude were external factors which I could not control or would be very aggrieved trying to do so.

Besides, taking a step back had made me see and observe other societal problems in developed countries such as Korea, Japan and Europe where graduates were aplenty.

Last week, I had shared this NY Times article(http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/11/15/world/europe/voices-of-the-young.html?_r=0) on Facebook.  This quote tugged my heartstrings the most.  “I grew up being told that I could become anything I wanted, as long as I worked hard and educated myself. I did all of these things, but even after receiving my master’s degree two years ago, it is still hard to find a job that really suits my interest.”

Would I want to give this white lie to Z & X?  Given my wide perspective, my experiences and my social circle, I knew that quote ring a bell.  It was true that no matter what you studied, it would be hard to find a job that really suited a person’s interest due to the job market, the rapid shifts in economy and trends and even the person’s preferences.

Since I knew it was a white lie, would I really want to dive into the academic rat race?  Had anyone played the cash flow game?  It imparted a very good concept and I knew how to beat the rules of the game.  As long as luck was not a factor, I could win most board games.  My children’s advantage would not be about attending enrichment classes or excelling in academics.

Their advantage would be to have both Mr H and I to teach them the ways of life, to think, to analyze and to have an interest in everything around them.  Their advantage was to have a mother so driven and motivated to gather information and to pass it down to them in the manner that they could comprehend.  Their advantage was to be able to talk and discuss with us, and received a well-thought reply.

It might be bold to say this but parents should snap out of the education myth and focus on how to help their children to survive for the future challenges.  What worked in the past would not work today or for the future.  The paper chase and qualification would not shield them from recession or other challenges ahead.

To clarify, I did not mean that education was unnecessary but education was only meaningful if the person valued and maximized the benefits.  I had opted in to do my MBA by virtue of interest and strong self-motivation.  I was glad that I took it up because it changed the way I analyzed and taught me to view everything on a broader perspective.  I valued the MBA because I chose to do it and had invested time, money and effort.  Would I have valued it if I was simply told to walk into it and had it fully paid for by my parents?  I reckoned we all knew the answer.  That was the same principle and consistency which I applied at work too.  For record’s sake, I actually had to get a pretty decent GMAT score and cleared rounds of interviews before getting into the program.

If anyone wanted the paper chase, it had to be the child himself or herself, not the parent to push or drag the child through the chase.  Nor should the parent fill the child’s head with promises of a better life with paper qualifications in hand.  Remember, the world was flattened with the introduction of internet.  We were no longer limited by missing puzzles of information.  If you asked me, bilingualism was important.  We would be doing ourselves and our children a favour by expressing interest in our mother tongues.

Whenever I read in the papers that parents had written in to ask for reduction in the importance or syllabus for Chinese language, it was actually a disservice to our children.  I only recognized the importance lately and I believed it was up to me to reiterate the importance to my children and show them that I embraced the language proudly too.  A lot of good information was available in Chinese on baidu.com.  If your child was poor in Chinese, how would they be able to mine through tons of information on baidu?

Could you see the contradiction in our society – the lack of balance on enrichment classes versus interests versus examinations?  We could blame the government for all we want but we could think for ourselves and decide on the best route.  The government could only provide the best of what it could and the rest was up to us.

Every parent wanted the best for their child but following a template formula was not the best solution.  Lastly, if a child was meant to be a prodigy, he or she would be.  If your child was not a prodigy, welcome to the club!  Most of us were not anyway.

A well-behaved child

We often had people telling us that Z was a very well-behaved child.

He could sit through meals without much fidgeting.  He would listen to what we have to say.

Well, it was not an innate talent for him to obey.  We earned this, through acts of communications, extensive involvement, love and discipline.

How was it that Z could sit at long hours at the table?  From the time that he was a few months’ old, we would lug him to Dempsey to chill out for wine with our friends every weekend.

How was it that Z could sit through a 10+ hours’ flight with no complaints?  He had clocked 3 trips to Europe.  He had started travelling from 5 months’ old and understood the procedures of air travel.  He also knew that he could choose to complain and we could simply made travel plans without him.  He was also accustomed to red-eye flights and could sleep anywhere anytime.

How was it that Z would listen to us?  We showed him how to reason, how to prioritize and let him know how we think.  It might be opening a can of worms to explain so much to him, but hey… he could learn to appreciate and in due time, he became more accepting because he knew we made decisions backed by valid reasons.  Of course, being a talkative parent meant I could outtalk (and outlast) Z too.

There was no magic.

My philosophy was not to bend over backwards and we should map our lifestyles as closely as possible.  A child would not have any expectations or prior knowledge.  What we showed and exposed them to would become the default mode that they would learn to accustom to.  It might not be easy in the beginning but things would only get better in the long run.  As per starting any new business venture, it would be difficult to start up but once you got the basics sorted out, it would be easier to operate the business in the long run.

What many parents had done wrong were to set the standards and expectations wrongly by giving in, and tried to teach the children the right way over time.  If you had taken shortcuts to build up a business venture, the shortcuts would come back to haunt your business operations in future.

Incorporate the child into a sustainable lifestyle that both parents and children would be happy with.  I would say not to bend over backwards but work with compromising to the right extent.

Lastly, Z seemed like a well behaved child but trust me, we had had very trying days with him too.  It might not be as trying as what other parents had, but for every trying experience we had with him, I would try to find the joy in tackling the conflict.

Christmas shopping

I am terrible at coming up with Christmas gift ideas.

The sheer thought of wrapping is daunting as well.

In any case, this comes in handy.

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Very lovely gifts from Crabtree too

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Another 40 days to Christmas!

To Z’s 4th birthday too!

I hope my children would be…

Have I ever thought of what kind of child I hope to bring up?

As though I was listing down my requirements for an ideal spouse, I did vaguely pray that my children would grow up to be loving, kind, disciplined, hardworking, honest (and the list went go) people who would be respected by family members and peers.

Actually, to put it simply, as long as they would not turn out to be monsters.  They would not harm other people, they would not seek personal gains at the expense of other people, they would not be unscrupulous, they would not be wanted by law, they would not be self-centered… and the list was actually pretty long too.

All I could do was to lead by example, describe situations where my children could opt to be more considerate and think for others.  It could be something as simple as holding the lift door, moving to the corner of lift so that more people could enter the lift, not messing up, not to litter and hoped that such values would become habits and hopefully formed the basis of their characters.

I regarded this as an all new portfolio, module or on-the-job training.  I would have many years ahead to learn, to read up and hopefully to master this aspect of parenting.

At the very least, I knew what my current requirements were for now.  I knew I wanted Z to be respectful because that was the basic.  He also had to learn how to respect the unsung heroes like the servers and cleaning staff we had met.  We taught him to not make a mess whilst dining at home and outside because there was no need to create a mess.

Z had to be loving towards family members, young children and friends.  He had done this exceptionally well.  He was apparently Mr Popular in school by virtue of the fact that he always looked after newcomers or sobbing children in school.  At home, he exhibited the same traits towards looking after X and other young babies.  He could be a bit rough, boys being boys, but he knew he was to be gentle to the younger ones and to his mommy too.

I wanted Z to learn how to fail, to be willing to try and to fail.  Well, this had been challenging.  Perhaps a staging was needed.

More complex requirements would definitely develop along the way and I would keep my fingers crossed.  As long as he was a receptive child, a reasonable child, an unspoiled child, I guessed we should be able to clear any roadblocks along the way.

Even if all else failed, there would be Google.