My elder boy turned 11 recently and I am getting all jittery about having to parent a teenage boy. The raging hormones, the rebellions, the mood swings. It’s scary and exciting and whoever said that it’ll only get easier?!
Now that I have more than a decade of parenting experience under my belt, which makes me confident enough to write this
Yet the truth is, I still feel like a first time mom fumbling and feeling my way at each new stage my boy goes through
Parenting remains the most underrated profession. Why doesn’t anyone admit how hard it is.
With a preschooler and a preteen, gone were the days where my worries revolved round leaky diapers, breast or formula, co sleep or not, attachment parenting or cry it out. It has since progressed to structured learning or free play, tuition or not and how much ipad time they should get on a daily basis ?!
For every parenting books and advice you get from one camp, you can find an equal number of books from another camp. Bottom line, even with all the advice out there, we are still pretty much left on our own to decide what works for us and our children.
Now that definitely sounds less daunting, since we don’t have to follow any books, manual or require a phD in order to do our job as parents, yet it is exactly because there is no clear guidelines and instructions that makes it so tough. Sounds oxymoronic huh.
While I was writing the 5 Parenting Lessons From Mr Lee, I was tempted to add ‘Doing the right thing’. Mr Lee implemented many unpopular policies during the time he was in power because he believed that it was the right thing to do at that point in time. From defence to family planning to building a MRT. Some may not agree with his policies but the point is he believed that it was the best for Singapore and he did it.
Now can we do the same for parenting?
Doing the right thing when it comes to parenting would naturally mean doing what we think is in the best interest of our children. It sounds pretty absurd that a parent would choose to do otherwise, something that would be detrimental to her children. But what is best and what is right? Like many parents, we struggled with knowing what’s best for our children.
My husband and I had came to the conclusion that imparting the right values is about the only ‘right’ thing we know for sure. We believe that with the right values, everything else would fall in place. These values would eventually guide them in making decision and seeing them through hurdles and obstacles in life.
We had chosen to take a more relaxed approach to learning. I have to admit that it is not easy when most of their friends are attending 2 or 3 or 4 extra lessons every week. My boys, apart from doing their school homework, spent most of their time doing their ‘own’ things. Now that sounds pretty scary isn’t it? Am I starving them of new experiences? Are they missing out on things? I feel myself consumed by self doubt.
The boys attended soccer lesson when we were in the States but had stopped since we moved back to Singapore. A couple of months ago, we tried putting the boys in a Chinese language learning centre as they had totally missed out on the language during the entire year when we were in the States. After 1 semester, we decided to pull them out. We realised that it isn’t easy to find a suitable school and even tougher to find a good teacher or good coach.
Strangely, if you ask my boys now, their current favourite subject is Chinese. My 5 year old enjoys it because Chinese characters look like funny picture and he gained great confident and satisfaction learning how to write them. As for my elder one, he likes the subject because he likes his current Chinese teacher. As simple as that. He was so convinced by his teacher that he didn’t mind rewriting his whole page of Chinese essay. That is pretty unusual, coming from someone who rejects the conventional way of learning tingxie, that is, to write the words repeatedly.
They enjoy swimming, cycling and rollerblading. We had spent enough time in the pool and on our wheels to let them figure out these sports themselves and had saved quite a bit on coaching lessons. Weekends these days are spent exploring different parts of the island on our bikes.
We had chosen a more child directed approach to learning. Apart from school work, the boys more or less decide for themselves what they want to learn and how much they want to learn. As parents, we are there to facilitate and guide them.
Apart from being naturally fascinated with numbers and Sciences, my 11 year old enjoys reading and is currently hooked on computer programming. Recently my 5 year old is into the reproduction parts of a flower. He was surprised to find out that a flower is both female and male and is eager to explain (illustrate with drawing) to anyone who is interested, how bees help plants make babies!
I guess as parents, it’s natural for us to be constantly worrying about our children. We worry whether we have done enough, whether we had done our best or whether we have done the right thing. I believe a lot of these answers can be found in our children, through conversation with them and through their behaviour. Unfortunately, very often their voices got drowned by the noises around us, mostly peer pressure and societal expectations.
Hopefully by spending enough time and being super attentive to them, we will continue to hear those voices. I am sure the close bond we built during the early years would eventually help us ride through their turbulence adolescence years.