Tag Archives: parents

5 Things I Wished I Learnt from the Baby Manual

One can only read that many books, talk to that many people or attend that many classes to prepare for that very special day, where your first child graduates from kicking around in the Mother’s womb out in to the whole new world.

jean and joy

Photo credit: Jason W.

Well perhaps I could do with reading more books and talking to more people, but alas when the time came, there was no looking back. I guess 9 months is a long time to anticipate something, a substantial amount of time for preparation and reflection.

I remember vividly the first cry I heard when my daughter was born and then reality really hit. I remember my wife coaxing me to carry her during the first few moments and in my head I was going, “I’m so going to crush her… her head may flop over wrongly… she looks slippery…argh! Where’s the manual?!”

But of course on the outside I had to put on a brave front, even more so right after witnessing what my wife went through in delivering my baby. So there I was, holding my daughter for the first time, looking at her, and for the first time I really understood what unconditional love meant. I had no idea I can love someone whom I just met so much! It was one of the most amazing moments of my life. Of course that awesome moment was suddenly rudely disrupted when my daughter belted out her version of “Let [Me] Go… let me go, don’t hold me up anymore…” right next to my ear.

Well, that pretty much summed up the start of this journey of parenthood for me. Great moments of love and responsibility and then a cruel dose of irritation and sacrifice, somewhat similar to the emotions of the contestant on those cooking shows where the judges praise you and then tell your best is not good enough and then tells you that fortunately there is someone else in the room who is worse.

I have now survived 9 months of fatherhood and looking back, if there was to be a manual for fathers, these would be the 5 things I personally wished I had read.

1. It is normal to be worried

I remember jumping out of bed just to check to see if my baby had flipped over and suffocated or if the swaddling cloth had covered her face during the first week she came home to us. On checking with other couples, this phenomenon is actually quite usual.

2. Poop is character building

It seems that babies have an innate ability to sense when it would be the perfect time to pee or poop. The times where we become collateral damage during diaper change has happened so often, it cannot be by chance. This character building levels up when your baby starts to flip, climb and crawl. The test is to remain calm and still talk nicely to your child.

3. Every child is different

I was quite confused upon hearing different advice and reading different articles with respect to being a first-time dad. I even tried to reason against reading all these books, especially when the author had a disclaimer in the beginning saying, “every baby is different”. But after all the OJT (on job training), I must say that having the different information helps in some way. At least sometimes it presented some form of hope when the baby acts up or behaves outside the “textbook”. We had options to try out at different situations and in the end choose which suits our baby best… or rather best suits us all.

4. Parenting is not a zero sum game

Growing up in a family with 2 other siblings, it was often a game of “I did the dishes last time round, who’s next?” I had foolishly tried to bring that game into the parenting sphere. The first time I mentioned that it was my wife’s turn to change her diaper because I last did it… and then I was kindly reminded of all the other things I did not do. Well now I just volunteer to change the diapers. It really is a job for 2, and some may say it takes a village but what I have learnt is this: raising a child is a team game and good teamwork will benefit everyone.

5. Appreciate your wife

This is a sobering reflection when I see how my wife suddenly becomes the baby whisperer. She can differentiate the cries of the baby while I sit there still wondering what went wrong. Before leaving the house, she would have made a list of what needs to be done. For example, while she’s putting on her make-up and I’m just sitting there wondering when she will be done, she tells me that the diaper bag needs a top up of diapers and rash cream. The baby needs lunch and possibly dinner so you need two sets of bibs and cereal. Her water was from yesterday and needs changing. Her toys are still dirty and needs a wash.

And there I was, clueless about what to prepare before leaving the house.

These 9 months have taught me how to think beyond myself – even when it’s something as simple as leaving the house for a meal. I have a newfound respect and appreciation for my wife and I would do well never to forget this.

So there, the 5 things I wished I had learnt if a manual came along with my daughter. I’m sure others would have many more to add and this list is not all there is to it, but I guess that is what makes this parenting journey such an adventure.

This guest post comes courtesy of Jason, a happily married father of one. His baby, Little J, was born in March, and life has never been the same since then.

Recognizing and Celebrating Each Child

October saw different ones sharing ways to love your children; to round up the series, I’ve been asked to share the principle Cheryl and I live by when it comes to loving our daughters and parenting in general:

Recognizing and celebrating each child’s uniqueness.

We believe that children are a gift from God, and recognize that each child is different. Therefore we purpose to appreciate, enjoy, and celebrate each child’s differences… and I would encourage you to do the same too.

How to recognize your child’s uniqueness (or differences) 
As you spend time with your children, communicating and observing them – you’ll be able to see the differences between them. Once we recognize that each child is unique, it’ll lead to us wanting to treat each child differently.

As a case in point, both my eldest and youngest daughter share the same primary love language (Words of Affirmation). Yet when it comes to displaying the language, what we say differs; I look for different traits and characteristics to praise.

My eldest daughter is hard worker, and has achieved many things, so Cheryl and I affirm her for her effort, and for living to her fullest potential. As for my youngest daughter, she is enthusiastic, and loves helping people, so we encourage and affirm her positive attitude. We celebrate her love and compassionate heart for others, and appreciate her for helping those around her.

We tell our daughters that their uniqueness is a gift, and we make it a point to celebrate their uniqueness and individuality.

Why celebrate each child’s uniqueness?
Some of my friends feel that if you have two children, where one is book smart and the other not so, you try to make the one who is not as book-smart less discouraged by not celebrating the result. In my view, it’s better to recognize each of their strong points rather than downplaying it.

This goes back to the first point where each child is different. Perhaps your child who is not as book-smart may be gifted in sports. Or perhaps your child enjoys baking, or writing new music. I am certain that there will certainly be an area for you to celebrate and take delight in, regardless of what it is.

For example, my younger daughter enjoys sports, and when she does well, we bring the whole family out to celebrate. One is better at arts, another is better in studying … I tell each of my daughters that it’s okay to excel in different areas, and we celebrate them all.

In essence, it’s about celebrating each child, not toning down celebrations for one. As you affirm and appreciate their differences, you’ll see them blossom and grow in confidence and stature.

A family that celebrates together stays together
When we celebrate one of my daughters, we do so as a family. Recently when one of my daughters came in 19th at a national sports meet, we had a nice dinner at home and commemorated the occasion with a cake. To us, it’s not about having a lavish celebration, but rather, a simple and meaningful affair.

That said, celebrations need not be confined to achievements; it should also be about the person and character. For example, if your child spends time volunteering at orphanage to read stories to the children you can celebrate and praise his/her compassionate nature.

In due course we noticed that it helped to tamper down the need for comparison and actually strengthened the sisterly bond between them. They are able to rejoice together with their sisters wholeheartedly and are proud of them.

As for Cheryl and I, we are proud of the young ladies our daughters are becoming, and would not have wanted it any other way.

Editor’s note: This post concludes our Loving our Children series. You can view the other posts in the series here. For inspiration on effective ways to love your children, visit our website and/or download a free activity pack!

Today’s post comes courtesy of Andy Sim, an IT professional by training. He is happily married and has 4 daughters.

Learning From My Parents: Deborah’s perspective

When I think of Mum, I think of kindness. I think of the chocolates she buys back from the numerous trips she and Dad made to overseas; half of what she buys is typically gifts for other people. Back home, whenever she finds seasonal rarely-found fruits like peaches or cherries, she always brings some to share with her siblings and her mother. The fruit-lover in me protests… Obviously I have some work to do in the generosity department.

Mum is really healthy and disciplined. In fact, Mum is the one who started our family on jogging, and can run faster than I. She remembers (and laughs at) the one time I stomped my way to the end of the track because I was tired. The point of jogging is to jog – not sure how much clearer I can get about that – and my loud steps must have given it away, but I’m thankful that Mum continued to be loving and patient with me.Lees [1]

Mum never complains about making Dad a honey drink whenever he eats too much sambal belachan. She never gets tired of buying a meal back for him, and I have also never heard her complain about Dad or say something bad about him. Think about that! A woman who doesn’t gossip? I think my Dad picked a great woman. I hope I get more than just her genes.

In consolation, I have been told that I am like my mother. Mum has even said that some things I do mirror her. Not her style, but her. Really.

I get really pleased when I hear that! While I am still some ways from that, I think I’m going to be a great woman. Talk about confidence…! Seriously though, I get my outgoing-ness more from someone else. Speaking of confidence, enter Dad.

Dad, to me, is the epitome of selflessness, the opposite of self-centeredness. I think of the times when Dad would do the laundry all by himself when Daniel (my twin brother) and I were studying for the ‘O’ Levels. I think of how he drives our family around 99% of the time. I think about how he circles the parking lot again and again waiting for a parking lot while Mum, my brother and I head to the restaurant and sit comfortably.

Back to confident Dad. He is really outgoing. Two years ago our family went to my mother’s invite-your-family-to-dinner company dinner. It was held in a Japanese restaurant, and each family was separated by the tall seat back rests. Most families were busy enjoying the food and talking among themselves. Dad looked over our back rest and started talking to the family sitting behind us. It’s hard to describe, but if you think about it, it’s something rather unusual for a Singaporean to do.

family pic in sepAnother incident that would prove my point would be the fact that he – together with another neighbor – organized a barbecue for the neighbors living on our floor. How often do neighbors get together to know each other a little better? Rarely. I liked that barbecue, and am thankful for Dad’s communal ways.

I also like that my Dad is honest with me. He thinks I could lose 1% of my body weight and says it as such. It’s not a toned-down version of “Deb, I think you’re fat”; he just thinks I could trim down the love-handles by a bit. Yes, I feel the “Ouch but I’m happy to hear him speak honestly. Dad is funny too.

He doesn’t eat almonds so when he eats a bag of mixed nuts he asks my brother and I to finish the remaining nuts… all of which happen to be almonds. He is also known in the office to be a joker, someone who lifts the atmosphere and makes everyone feel a little more cheery.

I’ve heard people say of how much they wish their parents – Dads in particular – would hug or kiss them. Me, I think I get a little too much. I’m out of secondary school and Dad still likes holding my hand. He likes telling people that they can find parts of his heart outside the my former secondary school, the consequence of my letting go of his hand one day as the both of us were approaching the school. I feel bad whenever I hear that.

However, the feeling doesn’t last long when I think I’ve experienced hug-overkill: my older cousin remembers my brother and I bargaining with Dad in her house when we were in primary school. Us kids went “Dad, five hugs a day maximum!” But as I say from time to time, I appreciate Dad’s gestures of love and affection.

I am grateful and proud of my selfless, loving, affectionate and community-minded Dad. My future husband is going to be a great man (refer to my brother’s post), and I can’t wait. (Wait… Dad are you reading this? Uh, your princess can wait. Anyhow, I love you Dad.)

daniel and deborah with chipsWhat do my parents model together? My genius brother wrote a post, and you can tell our styles are pretty different. That’s because we are pretty different. But we make an amazing duo, and I believe our reflections paint a more complete picture of our parents.

I hope you enjoyed reading our different perspectives on what our parents model, and what we learn from them.

Editor’s note: This post is written in conjunction with our Loving our Children series. We thought it’d be great to hear the impact parents have on their kids from young adults like Deborah and Abraham. For inspiration on effective ways to love your children, visit our website and/or download a free activity pack!

Deborah, our guest writer, is a second-year polytechnic student. Her brother, Daniel, shared his thoughts in an earlier post on how their parents have been his role models and inspiration.

Learning From My Parents: Daniel’s Perspective

My dad used to joke that we have two models in my immediate family: him and mom, because they are our role models. It’s true, though, because they truly are role models for Deborah (my twin sister) and I.

It is said that as a male, you will marry someone like your mother. And if you are female, you will marry someone like your father. As such, the role of parents in providing healthy role models for their children and its importance is obvious.The Lees

I remember that when they disagreed, they would quickly make up and apologize to each other. Longer, drawn-out arguments were a rarity, and the rarity of ‘serious’ arguments between Mom and Dad was seen when Deborah recently recounted that in Primary School, one of us said “please don’t get divorced!” after they fought.

Mom and Dad taught us to do the same (make up and apologize) when Deborah and I fought. They taught us different skills when it came to conflict management, and always tell me that my fights with Deborah are good ‘practice’ for when we get married.

One thing Dad taught us by example was the importance of family. I remember that when he travelled overseas, we would always plan a time to call each other via Skype. That would require deliberate planning as Singapore and the countries he visited were often in vastly different time zones. The intentionality of these scheduled calls was evident, and we saw that if we didn’t plan, there was virtually no way it was going to happen.

Putting it into place meant that the specified time was meant for family, and just because we were not in the same place (and time zone) did not mean that we were not going to talk to each other. Mom and Dad made it clear that family was a top priority; relating to one another was not a matter of convenience. Of course, Dad could have used the time to rewind or catch up on work, but the importance of family time, albeit virtual, was important.

Also related to travel, Mom demonstrated sacrifice for us. Often times Mom and Dad were supposed to travel together for work trips. However, considering that it would entail leaving their then-pre-adolescent (and eventually adolescent) children alone at home, Dad would often travel alone while Mom stayed home to hold down the fort.

Even though she could have entrusted us with someone else, she explicitly chose to stay on for our sake (and probably for hers as well, so she would not be so worried about us). Though it would obviously be refreshing to go to another country and not having to worry about childminding, Mom chose to give it up on many occasions.

Of course, doing it all the time would be unrealistic, and she did go with Dad a couple of times. People might say it is not always possible or preferred, but again, it is down to priorities: what you value you will show through your actions. What Mom and Dad have done over the years have certainly showed Deborah and I that they value our family.

When I have kids, I hope I will be a great role model for them; just as I learnt from my parents in order to pass those lessons on to my kids, I am sure they will pass it on to their kids. The impact of a parent goes beyond the immediate second generation.

Mom and Dad, thank you for being my inspirations, role models and parents. I Love you both!

Editor’s note: This post is written in conjunction with our Loving our Children series. We thought it’d be great to hear the impact parents have on their kids from young adults like Daniel and Abraham. For inspiration on effective ways to love your children, visit our website and/or download a free activity pack!

Daniel, our guest writer, is a second-year polytechnic student. His sister, Deborah, will be sharing her thoughts this Saturday on what’s she’s learnt from her parents. Be sure to keep a look out for it!

My Dear, Loving Parents…

As I embark on the 25th year of my life, I look back at how your love for me, expressed in words and deeds, has shaped the person I’ve become.

It has been a couple of hours since I wrote that first sentence, and I have only got this far because so many memories flood into my mind and I do not even know where to begin. To be honest though, it is only on hindsight that I realise the depth of love both of you have showered on me from a young age.

When I was much younger and gullible enough to believe that I knew what was best for myself, I did not always appreciate the things that you did. I recalled being angry and frustrated whenever you punished me, limited the amount of time I spent on the computer, and forced me to study. I know I was far from an easy child to handle, trying to work around the rules all the time. While it would have been easier to leave me to my own devices and let me deal with the consequences, your love meant investing the time, energy and emotion to persevere and effect change in my life. Thank you for this sacrificial love which required the giving of yourself in order to bring out the best in me.

Thank you also for loving me and my siblings equally, for this is the surest indication that your love is unconditional. There were times when I did think that perhaps you did love my other siblings more than me, but this was solely down to my feelings that my siblings were better than I. However, nothing in your words or actions ever portrayed favouritism of any sort, and I soon dispelled the idea. Being such a strong introvert, there are many times when I just feel like not engaging in conversations. The fact that I am loved for who I am, and not what I do, gives me the freedom to truly be myself without having to worry about being thought of as less at home.

I know that the foundation of your unconditional, sacrificial love is God’s love. However, I believe that it is also enabled by your love for each other. It is the collective love from the both of you which has really made me feel so loved over the years. There is a certain complementariness about your love that enhances and adds value to the individual love. The few times that the two of you have had differences, I could feel the changes in your relation with me. This made it evident to me that your love for each other is a source of strength out of which you are able to love me to the extent that you do.

You used to joke that I put up my hand when God asked who wants to join this family. If it were true though, it would be my best decision to date. I cannot even begin to imagine life without the love that you have showered upon me. I hope my future wife and I will be just like you; whoever puts up their hands in heaven to join my family will be able to experience the full extent of love that I have received from you.

With much love.

Your son,
Abraham

Editor’s note: In conjunction with our Loving our Children series, we thought it’d be great to hear from young adults. Abraham is the first, with more to come. If you are inspired to love your children, you can discover effective ways to love them on our website and download a free activity pack!

Abraham is an undergraduate who dreamed of playing professional football when he was 5 (and actually still does). While his love for football occupies a large part of his heart, the remaining portion is shared between his passion for photographing the wonders of God’s creation and love for his family.

Loving our Children: Dealing with Differences

Communicating love to our children can be challenging – and even more so in the face of differences and difficulties. Noelle kindly agreed to share her parenting journey and some practical advice.

Hi Noelle! Could you introduce yourself and your family please?

The Ow Family (2012)I have 3 sons aged 8, 10 and 12. After delivering my second, with my husband’s blessings, I decided to quit my job and be a stay home mother. I want to be there during my children’s formative years to impart the right values into their lives.

My second son has dyslexia, and this affects him academically and socially. Being home allows me to support him better during some of these challenging moments. There are good days and not-so-good days staying home with 3 boys. However, it has been rewarding watching my children’s “firsts” first-hand, and being able to be there for them during both the good and bad times.

I hope you don’t mind me asking – since J2 has dyslexia, does the way you communicate love to him differ from the other two boys?

J1’s primary love language is Quality Time. J2 has a mix of two: Words of Affirmation, and Quality Time, while J3’s primary love language is Physical Touch. That itself shows that the way we communicate love to him is different. For example, we will thank him for setting up the table for meals, and this makes him happy.

Dyslexia is a learning disability, which means that J2 doesn’t do well compared to his peers in school. The low scores invite teasing and name-calling from his classmates sometimes, and it affects his self-esteem.

At times, even though he may know the answers to questions he will be uncertain and need reassurance from us that he is on the right track. We have to constantly encourage him not to give up and believe in himself.

When it comes to tests and exams, even though he may not have passed the papers, as long as he did better than the previous round we will affirm him for his effort and progress rather than focusing on why he didn’t pass.

It looks like being intentional in showing your love plays a key role…

Yes! With 3 sons, half my time spent with them involves mediating their squabbles when they are playing with each other. The remaining half of the time is supervising their school work … Not exactly the most easy situation to express love per se.

When it comes to loving my 3 boys, I have to intentionally pull myself out of the ‘supervisory’ role and express my love for them. I also make it a point to have some time for reflection towards the end of each day; if I remember that I have not expressed love to them, I will do so during the time of prayer we have together at night.

Speaking to my children in their preferred language does not come easily or instinctively. Honestly, even though J3 and I share the same primary love language (Physical Touch), there were moments when I was supervising or disciplining him and found it challenging to express his love language.

In the beginning it took a lot more effort and intentionality, but with time, it gets better. I also realised that when I put in more effort to express my love for my sons, they are more open in relating to me in the many areas of their lives.

So how do the boys relate to you?

It helps that my sons talk to me about almost anything, every day.

J1 will sometimes come up to me personally and talk about school, such as the things he found funny. He also enjoys art like I do, so we have a common topic that we can always fall back on. My time talking with him is enjoyable to the point that I sometimes ask him which pair of shoes goes well with an outfit – which is something that you would expect mother-daughter pairs and not mother-son pairs to do!

J2 attends dyslexia classes twice a week. During the times when I send him to and from classes, we have our “alone time” with each other. We talk about school and things he is curious about. I like how he always remember (and does not mind) saying, ‘I love you’, in person and over the phone. It reminds me to affirm him of my love too.

J3 is the youngest and also the smallest in built. It is natural that we protect him instinctively by carrying and holding his hands. Even his brothers enjoy piggy-backing him around in the name of play. He also often holds my arm and slips it around his shoulder. It is his way of telling me he needs love, his way.

With three boys, I have to intentionally make time for one-on-one moments with them. It is something I always tell myself not to neglect. They grow up so fast…

Time passes fast indeed. Any suggestions on effectively communicating love to our kids?

As parents, we have to know both our personal love language and our children’s. Having this awareness is the first step to remind ourselves to speak each other’s preferred love language. It might be awkward the first few times as it could be unnatural for most of us, but with practice, it becomes a little easier.

Also, it helps if we show our love for our spouse openly. My husband and I will hug and kiss in front of our sons. Sometimes they will join in the hug, or we will pull them into our embrace. When such little actions become daily affairs, it becomes easier for us to convey our love to one another.

For the record, it didn’t start that way for me. I was raised in a traditional Asian family where my parents didn’t display love for one another and to us children openly. Thus it was awkward when I first started displaying affection for my husband in front of our sons, but it got more enjoyable as time went by.

Before we end, do you have any advice for parents of kids with dyslexia (or any other condition) on loving their child?

I believe that recognizing and acknowledging that our child has a learning disability is the first step to discovering how to love them. In Singapore we parents seem to celebrate our children’s achievements more than who they are as person.

At the end of the day, it is not just about the academic results, but about their progress and their character. We learn to celebrate our children’s little successes in all their milestones – and this has to go beyond their studies.

I’d sum it up like this: it’s about moving forward together with them, one step at a time.

Do you have any stories to share on showing love to sons? Share with us by leaving a comment below!

Confiding in Parents – What Drives It? [Part 1]

I recall watching this Cosby Show episode; Bill and his wife Claire wondered if their children were willing to share their problem. They sit down with their children to discuss the issue, and their son admits that if he were encountering a situation that made him scared, he would go to a friend first. It perplexed Bill as to why his son would go to a friend ahead of him when in trouble.

It might just be a show, but considering the number of times my parents have assured me that I can talk to them about anything, I am pretty sure that many parents are concerned about how open their children are to them and wonder how they can get their children to confide in them especially when in trouble.

I am under 25 years old and have no children, and hence no experience in attempting to get children to confide in me. However, what I do have is the memory of what my own parents did, as well as some of the things that I, as a child, believe that parents could do to encourage their children to confide in them.

Creating a safe environment

It might go without saying, but a safe environment does not come without building. For as long as I can remember, home has always been the place I’ve felt safest at. I may not always have known why, but reflecting now, I think it boiled down to a few vital things.

Invest the time

A big contributor to feelings of safety is familiarity. Personally, I will always be grateful for my mother’s decision to stop working which allowed her to spend plenty of time with me. It might be more difficult for working parents to make the time, but it is not impossible. My father has a ‘heavy’ job, but has always been intentional about making time to spend with me. Every birthday, we have a one-on-one dinner, and every school holidays we used to take a family holiday together, where he left all work at home, making sure that the time spent was quality time.

One practical thing that can be done is to set aside a time for children to share with parents. I know of one family that makes sure that once a week the family gathers to share one thing that they tried but failed at over the preceding week. It is important for parents to take the lead in such activities as children will feel safer sharing if they see their parents doing the same. Such practices should be built into routines which will breed familiarity and hence a safe environment, paving the way for children to share other things on their own accord.

Trust can be earned, love must be a constant

I still remember my dad telling me after I disobeyed him once that I must earn back his trust. At the same time, and in many other situations, he affirmed his love for me. My parents’ consistent reminders of their love for me decoupled their love for me from my own actions. This gave me the confidence to share problems with my parents with the knowledge that though I may lose trust, I will never lose their love. Unfortunately, many times children perceive that the love they receive is tied to their actions or achievements. This link is formed not only by parents not reminding them of their love when the child has done something wrong, but also by parents only expressing their love for their child exclusively when they so something good. While this might promote good behaviour, it will also cause the child to hide from their parents the things that would displease them.

Editor’s note: Keep a lookout for Part 2 where he shares the process of listening and the potential pitfalls from his perspective as a son! If you want to know when it has been released, join us on Facebook or follow our blog. See you then 🙂

Abraham is an undergraduate who dreamed of playing professional football when he was 5 (and actually still does). While his love for football occupies a large part of his heart, the remaining portion is shared between his passion for photographing the wonders of God’s creation and love for his family.