When I was expecting our first son, I dived into motherhood like a true blue Singaporean – arming myself with every available parenting website and bestselling mothering manual I could find. I took notes, bookmarked pages and read out what I felt were deeply insightful passages to my increasingly irate husband (he was watching soccer at the time). But now, four years and two babies later, I realize that my best parenting moments have come from simply being with my boys, and rolling with the teachable moments as they present themselves. In the case of my eldest, some of these have been in the music appreciation class that we’ve recently started attending.
We’re always reminding our boys about The Importance of Being Helpful. Always. I got a great chance to reinforce this recently with my firstborn – when one of Micah’s classmates peed in class. Of course, I realized it only when my hand landed smack in the middle of a pee puddle. Micah watched nervously as I’ve been known to be a cleanliness freak. Swallowing my initial reaction to scream, I gave him an ‘It’s ok!’ grin, and checked on his classmate to let her mom know that she needed a nappy change. Then I went out to get a mop to clean up. I hope the incident registered with him, and he remembers to help someone out the next time he gets a chance – even when it’s none of his business and he could potentially look the other way without anyone thinking the worse of him for it.
After an hour of music class, Micah is usually eager to get out and run about. But we’ve started asking him to thank his teacher first before he bolts for the door. The routine is working well! And of course, he had to up the ante last week by offering her a hug and a kiss too. To my amusement, it inspired the rest of his classmates to do the same, and so his lovely teacher got a hug and kiss from every kid as they left the class. I hope it made her day, it sure made mine.
But perhaps the most important lesson has been one that I’ve learned rather than taught. We’ve always encouraged our kids to march to the beat of their own drum. Independence, creativity and self-leadership are definitely values that the husband and I treasure and want to pass on. However this is easier said than done, as I’ve always felt the pressure to conform when we find ourselves in a public setting – and music class has been no different. While the other kids in the class are doing the actions as instructed, Micah usually adds his own twist on things by including his own dance moves which vary from the slightly odd foot stomping to incredibly bizarre gongfu type moves. I’ve learned to bite my tongue and let him experiment, even though there is an instinctive desire to wrestle him into doing the same thing as everyone else. Perhaps it’s a protective instinct – I don’t like other parents staring at his odd prancing about, but more likely, I see his lack of total compliance as a reflection of my parenting skills. I’m learning to let go, and ‘chill’ as my husband laughingly says. Slowly, but surely, I’m learning to embrace my son’s unique style and personality.
Tomorrow is our next lesson, and I’m looking forward to it, as much as Micah is. If he decides to jump about like a Bruce Lee wannabe, who knows? I just might join him.
Judith Xavier is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys writing about Family-Life issues. Together with her husband of 6 years, she spends her down-time exploring new playgrounds with her two young sons, Micah and Ezra.