What I love (and hate) about having 3 kids

Life as a parent of three kids living in Singapore is busy, funny, and a little mad. To keep myself sane, I drink lots of coffee and try to look on the bright side.

There are pros and cons, ups and downs. I start off this post with 8 things I love most about having three, and end off with the downsides…Here goes.

love and hate about having 3 kids

#1 Entertainment becomes cheap (Three is company)

Jumping on the bed, dancing to the track of Can’t Stop The Feeling, playing dressing up and acting to someone’s jumbled-up screen play. You name it, they’ve done it. They play with anything and everything, as long as they’ve got a companion (usually each other.)

There are some days when the messiness gets to me but you know, it’s also on those days I get to hide in the room (in peace) to finish off some writing work, so messes aside, I am actually thankful.

play dressing up

#2 We get to experience different stages of childhood (all at once)

While I’m coaching my eldest on her studies, and helping her to learn skills like priorities and planning, I also get to do silly things with my boys, and watch Josh make his little discoveries about how our world works. His sense of wonder never fails to make me smile. (I guess that’s the precious-ness of having a bonus kid!)

#3 We get to savour different strengths and specialities

Vera is into drawing and music. She loves doodling in her free time, and has started writing silly short stories around her illustrations. It’s something she does to relax and I marvel at seeing all her works.

child's artwork of a horse
JJ is a sports and dancing boy. He can’t stop moving at times, and his favourite past-time is jumping and dancing on our bed. As for Josh, well he’s currently top at…eating. He is a true blue foodie. I mean, which toddler actually enjoys tucking in a plate of salad?

toddler eating salad

#4 Multiple goodnight hugs before bed

Vera goes to bed first as she’s up the earliest. So we try to pray together and have goodnight hugs. Then come the boys who are always boisterous even at bedtime. Tucking them in can be tedious but eventually they’re out, and I get to smell their hair and kiss their cheeks. Bedtime is the sweetest moment for me, it’s when I can reset the day and give thanks all over again.

READ: Top 10 things kids need from their dads

#5 We can leave the house for date-nights knowing they’ll never have a dull moment

Yes they may squabble and fight over little things, but at least we know they’ll never be alone, bored or hooked to gadgets. And most times, they actually seem to get on quite well once mum and dad are out of the house. Weird but true.

kids playing ping pong

#6 They look out for each other

This applies mostly to Vera at this stage but I’ve seen some glimpses here and there in the boys. Whenever we’re at the pool Vera will be quite willing to care for Josh, especially when I explain that I need to do a lap or two. And the best part, when I go out with the threesome, Vera helps to chaperone the boys, one on each hand.

siblings walking hand in hand

#7 They pass on knowledge and ‘wisdom’

The beauty of having kids of differing ages is that the eldest will always share the stuff she’s learnt in school or through books. Although she’s only eight, her brothers look up to her and listen earnestly whenever she’s teaching them something. I can already see her playing the role of part-time tutor to her brothers in future. (Hopefully she doesn’t teach them the cheeky/naughty stuff too… :P)

#8 There are more hands to clean up

Who you gonna call when a huge mess has been made? Not just the one who made the mess of course, we teach the kids to help one another, and more hands just make the work lighter.

PS. Do you know that when children help out in the family, they feel a greater sense of belonging and ownership? *wink*

~~~~~

There are of course also some downsides to having 3 kids.

– You’re always outnumbered. There’s always a war you need to mediate.

If you’re at the mall, and one needs to go to the bathroom, another needs a drink, and yet another needs to go on the swings (right at this instant), you’ll never win. Every day we are at the negotiating table, teaching them what it means to compromise, have patience and wait.

– It’s so noisy you can’t hear yourself think

For an introverted mum like me, quietness is something I’ve always relished and actually quite need. Now that the kids are at school in the mornings, I get to enjoy some peace and quiet. And I consider it a huge win on those days when I get to take a nap, and the kids don’t start a fight the minute I fall asleep.

– It’s hard to go out in a normal sedan

We don’t drive as it’s expensive and we live in a central location. So we usually Grab or Uber our way around town. Now with 5 (albeit still a baby-ish looking 5th person), it’s tricky. Since the rule for child booster seats were made stricter, some Grab drivers also refuse to take us after seeing so many kids. (Thankfully they’ve launched Grab Family now.)

– It’s expensive to eat at restaurants

Step into a normal looking Jap place and the average bill is $60-70. And we’re not even talking about ordering mains for kids – thankfully they’re content with rice and miso soup bowl, along with chawanmushi (and some additional meat from our mains) on top.

READ: 20 ways to be a frugal family

– It’s expensive to travel too

We’re planning a trip to Melbourne this year and oh boy tickets alone costs about $2.5-3K. It’s also tricky to squeeze all of us into one hotel room. We always need to make room for our littlest on our bed.

– The bugs can make their rounds

With kids in kindy/school, when one brings home a bug, it inevitably “travels.” Some bad months, we’re so busy taking care of one sick kid after another, it gets a bit insane and we lose track of what happened when. (Tell me I’m not alone??)

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Life with three means there’s never a dull moment. I’m also aware that it won’t be too long before they’re all teenagers and the only noise in the home will be the squabbling between the hubby and I.

So bring on the mess, the noise, the fights – I’ll take the whole package. I know I’m going to miss all these things when the house gets too quiet 10 years down the road.

Mums and dads, what are your joys and pains about having 1, 2, 3 (or even more) kids?

Children learn what they live – a beautiful lesson in parenting

I chanced upon a poem at a doctor’s clinic one day, and was quite struck by it. I googled and found it was written by a lady called Dorothy Law Nolte, an American writer and family counsellor.

Living in a very academic-driven society and time, children of all ages are busy attending one tuition/enrichment class after another. Our children learn all sorts of things. They are knowledgeable in many areas. But this beautiful poem reminds me that some of the most important things in life are learnt through daily living, the most mundane things that show our attitudes to our children in our daily interactions. How much we affirm them versus how much we express our disdain or criticism of them.

Values and virtues cannot be taught in a class. They can only be observed and followed, and we are our children’s primary role models. If we want our children to make a positive difference in this world, they need to be seeing us walk the talk first.

Enjoy the poem, and remember to pin it or share this post!

PS. You can read the full poem (and excerpt of the book that was developed from it) here.

Children learn what they live

How to talk to nurture your child’s self esteem

As a writer, words mean the world to me, and I try to be aware of the kind of words I use with my children.

Recently, I’ve picked up some communication skills through the workshops I’ve been organising, as well as through this book How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk (affiliate link). Here are 6 tips I’d like to share with you.

self-esteem

1. Watch out for subtle blaming words

Instead of “what did you do,” which already insinuates that the child has done something bad, try “what happened,” which is neutral and expresses concern, and allows the child the space and time to give his side of the story.

2. Don’t say “You’ll never learn!”

First of all this statement cannot be true – humans were born and created to learn, and yes some things are learnt the hard way, but still at least we do learn at some point. When a child hears this phrase frequently used on him, it will harm his sense of self worth, and hinder him from developing a growth mindset.

3. Watch your tone of voice when you’re coaching.

Are you getting agitated and losing your patience by the minute? Take a break and switch to a different activity – come back to it when you feel you’re ready to tackle it with your child.

Here I’d like to share my experience learning piano with my son. We enrolled in MYC a year ago and I found it’s been quite a fun way for younger kids to learn music. It’s parent-accompanied and the parent who accompanies the child is also expected to practise with him at home. There were a few sessions where I got upset with him, and it showed in the way I was impatient with him (both in class and at home) while practising. During that period, his interest in attending classes started to wane. And I too, felt like throwing in the towel.

Thankfully, I gradually learnt to keep my cool during practice, reminding myself that he’s still a child, and that improvement sometimes takes longer to show up. Since this change happened within me, he’s started playing the piano better, and enjoying it a whole lot more, too. 🙂

4. Don’t say “This is easy.”

It puts pressure on a child and when the child does it, he’s able to do something easy. And when he doesn’t, he can’t even do something so simple. It’s lose-lose.

We used to think that when we told a child something was “easy,” we were encouraging him. We realize now that by saying, “Try it, it’s easy” we do him no favor. If he succeeds in doing something “easy,” he feels he hasn’t accomplished much. If he fails, then he’s failed to do something simple.

If on the other hand we say, “It’s not easy” or “That can be hard,” he gives himself another set of messages. If he succeeds, he can experience the pride of having done something difficult. If he fails, he can at least have the satisfaction of knowing that his task was a tough one. – Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

5. Describe what you see he has done.

“You managed to fix the tiles into a dinosaur structure – and all by yourself too!” Notice I did not use the word “good job” or “amazing” or “you’re so clever” anywhere. (Now I know it’s hard to erase these words completely from our vocabulary because it’s quite entrenched in our culture to say such things. My guess is that most of us grew up hearing these words! It won’t be an overnight thing but change begins from awareness. Catch yourself saying the wrong things, tweak it intentionally, and celebrate small steps.)

6. Acknowledge effort

If he got a spelling word wrong, try not to focus on the lost mark. You can, however, acknowledge the mistake and make sure he knows where he went wrong. But also affirm him for mastering the other nine words, and for making an effort. Say something like “You managed to get 9 out of 10 words correct! I can see that it’s because you put in the effort to learn and practise.

But what if the child got nine words wrong? Allow him to learn at his pace and work together to understand what went wrong. Maybe it’s a particular letter / word type he struggles with. Whatever it is, don’t condemn him to a life of doom – “If you don’t get full marks next time, you’re going to end up sweeping the streets!!”

Acknowledge his feelings and give him a chance to problem-solve. A simple “I see that you’re feeling disappointed at the spelling test. How do you think we can help you improve?” Allow him to come up with his own ideas and don’t throw or reject any of them. After you have a list, decide together which idea is most workable and focus on doing that.

Even as adults, we need room to grow and we thrive when we are entrusted with responsibilities and are trusted to do the job well. Do you agree?

 

Raising children is messy business

Raising children is messy business.

The house is messy.

My thoughts are messy.

Getting everyone organised and dressed and out of the house can be a tall order on some days.

Resolving sibling fights gives me a headache (and sometimes a sore throat because I have to yell louder than they do.)

Trying to keep track of what I hope to accomplish and teach each one of them (at their varying stages of development) can induce a terrible migraine.

Parenthood is messy business, almost like running a farm. Amidst the poop, the spills, and the drools, there is also a little boy running amok and trying to clobber his brother with a plastic hammer.

It can be tiring, and madly frustrating.

But it can also be unpredictably fun, in a side-splitting kind of way.

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much as I do now. I don’t think I’ve ever thought to myself “how incredibly blessed I am” as often as I do now too. Granted, this happens only after the kids are in bed and are unable to argue with me or drive me up the wall. (Which is also why I like to gaze at them sleeping – it’s a healing process for my tired soul.)

My life is filled to overflowing, if only I would pause long enough to see it.

In the bible there is a proverb that goes, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” In context, it’s saying that you can enjoy a clean and tidy farm if you have no oxen or animals inside. But without animals to plough and work the field, it will be hard to enjoy a good harvest.

Any worthy pursuit in life requires hard work and sacrifice. And you can be sure that raising the next generation is a worthy pursuit.

It may look like just one big mayhem at the moment, but I choose to believe there is a purpose to the mess.

With each messy fight, they are learning about how to use and curb their strength. How to socialise with another human being.

With each messy fall, they learn how to pick themselves up, and how to receive comfort, only to be able to give that same comfort to others who fall too.

With each messy meltdown, they learn how much it means to be accepted and loved even when they lose control.

I often wonder wistfully at that career I’ve left behind. At all my ex colleagues who have progressed up the ladder. At the possibilities that could have been. But I realise that only distracts me from loving and serving my family at this very moment. That only subtracts from my already limited energy. Thinking about all those what could have beens disheartens me.

So I switch gears.

I think about the time I have on my hands now. I think about every new day as a gift. I think about the possibilities and ways to invest in building the right foundation in my kids. And hopefully, by some grace that is larger than mine, I’ll be able to wake up to brighter and more peaceful mornings in the years to come.

Parenting is like working the field. Without the messiness of falls, tears, failures, and difficulties, there can be no beauty, strength, and resilience in later life. Without the sowing of today, there can be no fruit tomorrow.

Even on a teary and messy today, may we stop and give thanks for our little ones. And see them for who they really are – little blessings from God given to us to hug, cherish, and be stewards over for a time.

In spite of the mess they bring to our lives. Or perhaps because of it.

parenting

PS. A Pancake Princess just wrote about how we can’t put a price tag on motherhood, and how our sacrifices can look so small in the larger scheme of things. Hop over to be reminded to count our joys.

For days when you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle

It was a horrible Sunday, one of those where everything just seems to fall apart. We thought Sunday school was starting for Josh, but it turned out to be the following Sunday. He turned out to be ultra-sticky (thankfully to the father, who erm… looked desperately like he needed extra-strong coffee by the end of the 2-hour service.)

He had to be carried out kicking and crying, mostly because he was hungry and cranky. This boy is hungry ALL the time, and we only brought out 1 snack, which he polished up within 10 minutes of entering the door. (Blame it on the blur of the morning for not anticipating this and packing more.)

Then, when we picked up JJ from Sunday school, he threw a fit and suddenly wanted to go into the cry-room (where we had just escaped from.)

Going back into the cry-room, from Sunday school, would mean 50 steps back in the wrong direction. And also a new precedent which I wasn’t going to start. So no, I’m sorry, young man, we are calling a car and getting us all back home for lunch.

We all finally managed to have lunch, and Josh naturally wolfed his down, and then clamoured for more.

Then, he napped, and I felt like I needed to lie down too. (The hubby had already KO-ed by then.)

In the afternoon, there was another incident, this time with Vera.

The hubby and I had planned to bring the kids out cycling / scooting followed by dinner at the hawker centre. But Vera promptly turned down our proposal, saying that it was hot and she didn’t want to sweat. (Lately she’s morphed into a home-body who prefers to snuggle on the sofa with one of her books.)

On a normal day, we’d be fine to let her have her way. But on this particular afternoon, there wasn’t anyone else at home and we couldn’t just leave her alone. So I explained the whole situation and gave her a couple of options to choose from (she could scoot / cycle / walk / jog), hoping to change her mind. We were all dressed, and the two boys were rearing to go. So…FOR THE SAKE OF THE WHOLE FAMILY, PLEASEEEE.

She refused to budge. And I nearly blew my top. I couldn’t believe that she couldn’t see our need as a family, to do something together. What happened to the Vera I knew? The Vera who’s compliant and considerate to others?

Breathe, I said to myself. Walk around, do something else, change tact.

I came back to the negotiating table and asked her what was her reason for not wanting to go. She finally said in a whisper that she didn’t want to eat at the hawker centre, because it’s too hot after cycling there.

When I finally understood her need, I told her we’d find an air-conditioned place to have dinner, and that she would feel comfortable there. With that, she finally went to get ready.

Once we were out in the park, the air changed. Our moods were all tons lighter. We started to smile and joke again.

It was just a small thing…

Yes, our family had a shared need – to go out and get our bodies moving, something she wasn’t so keen on in the first instance.

But she also had her own need. Which was waiting to be voiced out and heard.

At that moment, I felt like flaring. I felt like throwing in the towel. I’m glad I didn’t. The problem had a ready solution, that could be win-win. If I had flared and fought, it would have been lose-lose.

bigstock-Parent-and-Child-Conflict--6176696

Sometimes, we need to take a step back.

Sometimes, we need to give the child the benefit of the doubt. She wasn’t being ‘the problem’. She just had a need that was waiting to be understood.

(Of course I hope that one day, she’ll be able to set aside her needs and consider the greater need. But that’s work-in-progress…)

For now, we’re just interested in solving the problem, and crossing the hurdle together.

It’s amazing what open space and fresh air can do for the soul.

The next time you feel like you’re engaged in a battle of wills, try any of these instead:

1. Remind yourself that you don’t have to engage in a battle. You can be firm on what needs to be done, but leave some room for the child to decide how to do it.

2. Walk away and do something else for a minute. Drink a sip of water, anything to calm things down in your system.

3. Change tact. Soften your tone. Approach things like a problem that is waiting to be solved.

4. Ask how she really feels, seek to understand things from her perspective (in other words, in her shoes).

5. Describe the problem you’re facing. Ask if she has any ideas or solutions to propose. Try to come up with a viable solution together.

I read this from ‘How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk‘, and it helped to put things in a fresh perspective.

It requires a great act of faith to believe that if we take the time to sit down and share our real feelings with a young person, and listen to his feelings, together we’ll come up with solutions that will be right for both of us.

There is an important message built into this approach. It says, “When there is conflict between us, we no longer have to mobilize our forces against each other and worry about who will emerge victorious and who will go down in defeat. Instead, we can put our energy into searching for the kinds of solutions that respect both our needs as individuals.”

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