Archive for December, 2015

Thinking About my Roles as a Parent

December 18, 2015

I’ve been reading a lot about overparenting (How to Raise an Adult, Growth Mindset, Magic Trees of the mind, Excellent Sheep) and its perils. It got me thinking about how I really want to teach my dear little son. He is now at the cusp of formal schooling and I have to think about how to balance my desire for him to have time to explore his interests and to prepare him academically for the rat race ahead.

I was wrong actually, the blog is as much a place for me to privately express my thoughts so I can organize them as it is a documentation of little man’s life. When my mind is teeming with ideas, I have difficulty finding the thread of logic that will join them up in a sensible manner. I need to spew them out onto paper or print and reorganize them like I put together a jigsaw.

Instead of being mired in the day to day battles, I think it is important to think about what your long term goals are as a parent. Is it to “ace” parenting by having a child who follows the path to “success” (defined as going to an elite school,  securing a high paying job, being highly respected,  progressing in their career etc?) Is it to make sure they are happy?

For the former,  I didn’t truly care about that definition of success.  Many times, I do have to fight back the need to be “successful” and have a career, the feeling of having wasted my education and hard work etc. I was fortunate to have met an extraordinary mom with three kids and a PhD and she chose to stay at home for her kids or for herself for the past 10 years. J hit it right on the nail when he asked me why should I work, if I didn’t need to? I thought about it and realized  I have not been happier than I am right now. I felt like I did when I was in upper secondary school/ JC, I felt like the world is full of wonderful things to learn and explore. I had the time to read and pick up new ideas, philosophize….  I may not have found my calling, my passion, my lifework but I am really enjoying growing myself in many ways.

While I wish that Calvin would be a happy person, I would much rather he learn to be contented with who he is. Life is full of things that make you angry, sad, disappointed, excited, happy…. we cannot protect him from all the negatives in life forever. What we can do as parents is to teach him to deal with them and be able to move on.

So what then do I think successful parenting will look like? What do I hope to see in Calvin when he reaches adulthood?

  • I wish to teach him the value of hard work,

that you have to learn not only to do what you love but also to embrace what you have to do (to love what you do would sound a lot more “quote-y” but not everyone has the ability to brainwash themselves to enjoy everything…)

  • to be resourceful in problem solving

He know when and how to get help, or to find the information/ resources he needs to work on a problem.

  • to be resilient during difficult times

I guess this is more like emotional strength.

  • to be respectful of others needs
  • to do what is right even under pressure

Of course, now that my goals are clear, I have to think about what it means in our day to day life.

Our Calvin Right Now

December 14, 2015

The whole point of the blog was to remember Calvin as we see him now, which of course I have not been doing a good job of.

The Good

  • He is still the sweet sensitive boy that I’ve mentioned before.

When we went back to Singapore two summers ago, my MIL got out J’s old Transformers and gave it to Calvin. He was overjoyed of course. When his dad mentioned that maybe he might be able to give his toys away to his own child next time, he started tearing up at the thought of having to part with his beloved robots.

When I mentioned that his favorite soft toy, a little cow we got from Cornell, is pretty. His eyes started misting up. He said he was sad to think about Baby Cow being all tattered and torn.

At least he has stopped talking about being afraid of dying.

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Spinjitzu at SFO airport on Thanksgiving Day 2015

  • Good-Natured

He’s an easy-going boy who tends to go along with his friends suggestions. I don’t think he is forcing himself to succumb to others’ will but he genuinely doesn’t mind following their plans to preserve harmony. Or maybe we have not been modelling conflict resolution effectively at home. Most of the time, he ends up being the loser is the conflict with us. Reading a book now called Parent Effectiveness Training which will hopefully help me deal with conflict with him a lot better.

  • Listens to us and follow our advice

He really tries hard to follow our advice on how to get things done. A few days or even weeks later, I will be surprised to find him regurgitating the same methodology/ rationale I told him before.

  • Good social skills?

He can accommodate our request to play ball and throw in his own assertion that we can play that and also his game too. He played really well with both his cousins when we visited.

  • Able to delay gratification

I’ve started giving him an allowance every month since his birthday. I’ve also told him that I will match his savings every month 1 for 1. I’ve asked him if he would like to go to the dollar store or thrift store to see if there are things he wants since that is what he can afford. He asked me how much does a Ninjago set cost. The one he asked about was about $50. So far he has decided to save up both his birthday money and December’s share for it. It’ll take a little while more to get there but bravo, my little man! (On a side note, I’ve also persuaded him to sell off one of the more valuable minifigs on Ebay and raised another $8)

Things to Work on

  • Fear of Failure

He is reluctant to work on skills that he is not good at like in his homework, there were some things like dribbling for 1 minute or tying his shoe laces or hopping 5 times on one foot that he would actively avoid. We are hoping to impress upon him that he can only get better by practicing and that it is ok to make mistakes. I’ve been telling him my own mistakes in real life and how I deal with it so he doesn’t think mum is infallible. I bought a scooter so I could practice on it and show him how I clumsily learns a new skill. I am still pretty terrible at it but much better than before. He has been trying it out too, so definitely more worthwhile than the multiple bikes and trikes I’ve bought 🙂

I’ve also been practicing backward scaffolding to break down the skills to manageable portions. E.g. Calvin was worried about climbing down the rock wall. I advised him to try going up one step, then climb down; climb up two steps, climb down and repeat etc until he got up to the top. After practicing that, he feels more confident about climbing down. The past summer, I’ve managed to persuade him to master almost all the parts of the playground outside our house (except for the fireman pole). He can climb up the ladder all the way to the tallest slide, climb down the rock wall and slide down the tunnel slide.

He knows how to tie a knot but still need to learn to make the ribbon so I’ve been doing the “rabbit ears” and leave him to pull the “rabbit” through the “burrow” and then tighten.  He has been practicing his monkey bars and can do it all the way round with me supporting his legs. After I gave him a pointer recently about balancing before hopping, he seems eager to practice it. I think we’ve made some good progress. He still has a lot to do to catch up with the other kids but I’m so proud of what he has been learning.

It’s a long term work in progress though. The other day, when I asked him if there was anything not so great at school, he said he didn’t really want to tell me right now. Then when pressed, he suddenly decided that he forget what had happened in school.  It had something to do with it being embarrassing for him, though I find that he gets embarrassed when the teachers correct his behavior.  Like one time, he said there was something very embarrassing and I found out later that he tried to climb up the boat from the sides and one of the teachers told him not to.

  • Inflexible

When things don’t go the way he planned, he gets very emotional and upset. Like he will insist on turning off the lights himself and will huff about if we downplay it as not very important. Recently, he even started hitting his head like really hard when his plans fall apart i.e. when he tried to pretend to be asleep but we didn’t play along. After some discussion, I’ve suggested he hit his hand on his fist instead to protect his steely but still fragile head.

  • Doesn’t stop talking…..ever.

It’s fun to listen to him talk….except when you have to listen to it the whole day. His made up stories about Ninjago or super heroes can go on and on and on and on, even when you are trying to read/ cook or in a different room, while he is pooping etc. It kinda wears on me because I find myself trying to pay attention.