Sunday, September 4, 2011

Surprise – your kids might teach you something back

Today On Sunday, Sunday, September 4, 2011, Page 12, Parenttoparent, Column

Source Website:
By Christopher Toh,, 04:45 AM Sep 04, 2011

PHOTO: Surprise – your kids might teach you something back
Art by Yen Yok, Copyright © MediaCorp Press Ltd

Parents will find themselves faced with issues on raising kids.

There's the obvious financial planning that's needed, which starts from even before the baby is born until death do you part. And trust me, it doesn't get any easier unless you win the next S$10-million Toto draw - every year for the next 10 years.

But once baby pops out, you immediately need to figure out the less tangible aspects of parenthood.

Such as: How do you want to raise your kids - go with "Tiger Mum" Amy Chua's "tough love" stance or adopt a more free-and-easy "all you need is love" philosophy?

PHOTO: Tiger Mum

Whatever it is, though, I think I can safely say we want them to learn the best values in life - no matter what creed, language, race or religious background we come from.

That's why we want to send our kids to the best schools. That's why we enrol them in enrichment classes. That's why we give them handy hints on life and how to live it, such as "always say something nice to your mother", "there can be no band greater than The Beatles" and "don't you ever eat the yellow snow".

We want to teach our children well. We give them life lessons and, hopefully, they'll learn from them and live happily ever after.

But what surprised me was how much we parents actually can learn from our kids, even
as we're teaching them life lessons. And it's not just rediscovering the joys of playing with toy cars or paper aeroplanes or the like. There are some quite tangible aspects too.

For instance, I have since learnt that my wife and I need to be proficient in mathematics. No, it's not because we need to help our son do his homework. It's because when you're dealing with two sons like mine who have no concept of time, you find yourself doing a lot of calculations.

PHOTO: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Here's a problem sum we regularly encounter: The children's matinee show for The Very Hungry Caterpillar starts at 3pm. The venue is 15km from your home. If the MRT is moving 1.5 times faster than the bus, which in turn is 60 per cent more frequent than a taxi, what time must you wake up to make breakfast? (Go to the bottom of the page for the answer*.)

And since my sons have been playing the "mathematics CD", I now know how to sing the multiplication table
in the key of D.

And, of course, there's the key lesson every parent eventually learns: Patience. That isn't only a word bandied about by Jedi Masters when admonishing their reckless Padawans. It's necessary to stop yourself from murdering your kid.

"Go clean up your room," I'd say to my eldest, who would immediately look at me as if I just spoke to him in Swahili.


"Go and clean up your room."

"But I'm reading," he'd say, and plonk his attention back to whatever adventure Frank and Joe Hardy were up to this time.

"You can read after you clean up."

"What?" Eyes still glued to the page.

"Stop reading now and go clean up!"

"Why are you shouting?"

But of course, even as my mind would reel with thinking up new and ingenious ways to whip my kids into shape without flouting any human rights, they'll suddenly disarm me by coming up to me and saying things like: "Daddy, I will wear the Beatles T-shirt because I know they are your favourite band and I love you."

And magically, all my previous frustrations would dissipate.

So I guess they do learn something after all.
By Christopher Toh,, 04:45 AM Sep 04, 2011

PHOTO: There's the key lesson every parent eventually learns: Patience.

(*Answer: 6.15am - because they wake up at 6am, muck about in their room for 10 minutes, then walk to where you're sleeping and pummel you until you wake up, whereupon they'll say: "Daddy, I'm hungry, make breakfast.")

Christopher Toh, Today's deputy features editor, is a beleaguered father of a three- and a five-year-old.