Little Lessons from learning to ride a bicycle

Vera took off on her own two-wheeled bicycle last week.

It had taken a couple of lessons with daddy, who was helping her to get the hang of balancing and pedalling by placing his hand on the seat while she cycles.

She started off very cautiously, and was a bit fearful when the two support wheels were removed (which we did right after bringing the new bike home).

Since then, there’s been no turning back. She says she loves cycling and simply just can’t stop!

She’s learnt to break by back pedalling. (We were told by the bike guys that at this age, using the feet to back pedal /break is more effective than using the hand break.)

She’s learnt to make right angle turns too.

There’s still some way to go before she becomes a safe and responsible cyclist. But we’re just so glad that she’s come this far. She even credited her dad for her learning, saying he gave her right instructions. I asked what exactly he said to her, and this is what she had to say:

Daddy told me to look straight ahead and find my own balance.

Daddy, who was obviously bursting with pride, then told her that it will be hard and scary every time we learn something new, but with practice, she will be able to learn and master anything as long as she doesn’t give up.

It kinda made me recall my own journey as a parent.

I will be able to master it, and find my balance. As long as I keep looking ahead.

There is no turning back. Just lots of looking forward and oh yes, letting go too. I’m sure at some point, daddy had to let go of her bicycle seat, right?

This little girl is growing up…

The bicycle lesson

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You are my sunshine

Dear JJ,

You are 2 years and 8 months old. You started school this year without much fuss. It helps that you’ve been looking forward to being in the same school as Vera.

You are still headstrong and sometimes downright unreasonable. You want your way all the time, except for those times when jie-jie is able to win you over with her funny logic of hers. Or those times when we’ve had to scold or spank you to teach you how to obey authority.

Sometimes, you try to distract us (and get yourself out of trouble) by singing or saying silly things. Such as this song that you guys have mauled:

You are my sunshine
My only shame shame (Pause for crazy laughter. Erm the song usually ends here…)
You make me happy
When skies are grey

You are eating well and growing fast. Most of your pants now reach your mid-calf instead of ankles.

You are the silent observer when there are many kids at the playground. You turn suddenly cautious and quiet, preferring to play by yourself in the corner, or to scooter skate.

Speaking of the wheels, you took to the scooter skate like fish to water. You were able to zip about in glee and confidence within just minutes of trying.

Talk about speed. Your tantrums are like flash storms. They come and go as quickly as lightning. We try to catch you by the horns before you turn full force, but sometimes you are too quick. Other times, we get mad and have a meltdown along with you. I can’t wait till this phase dissipates into a more cooperative one because the tension doesn’t help especially when we now have baby Joshua to care for too.

But I know we have to sit it out, pray it out, and learn to work better with you. To teach you how to control your emotions. To love you even when it’s not easy to love.

Despite the tantrums.
Despite the rainy days.
Despite the way you like to barge in my room at the exact moment that I’m trying to put Joshua to bed…

I still love you. And you will still be my sunshine, my dearest little boy.

my sunshine boy

Growing up with a nanny in Singapore

I was brought up by my nanny when I was a wee little baby. She was introduced to my mum by a close friend and plop into her arms I went.

As a few other babies were also in her care, I picked up social skills (you know, jealousy, toy-grabbing and self-defence), and apparently got so good at it that in the end she gave up the other babies and only continued to take care of me. All the way through the middle primary years.

You can tell I said that with a hint of pride.

So as the months and years passed, my nanny – originally envisaged to be a temporary carer – became my grand-godmother (“grand” simply because she was already advanced in age and her daughter had took on the position of godmother in my life).

I was sticky-tape close to the family, perhaps more so than my own in those carefree growing up years.

They never pressurised me through school. I just cruised by somehow. At that time, school was a breeze also, right?

I grew up in sunday school singing kiddy songs about Jesus, colouring worksheets, acting in plays, and learning about the world. Although I disliked waking up early, I was pretty much made to do it. No excuses. I reserved the right to be grumpy and dislikeable the whole morning though.

I don’t know how I would have turned out if I had not come under their care. At that time, my family was a little dysfunctional and my parents were caught up in their own lives. I felt sad every weekend when it was time to go home. I was that attached to my nanny as a little girl.

It’s funny how as a child, the time and love invested by my nanny and godmother could have such a profound impact on me. I remember even as a kid, I could still love with a kind of fierce love. When my nanny was old and her bones grew weak, I can distinctly remember the feeling of helplessness and wanting to do all I can to protect and to help her.

She influenced me in ways I can’t fully express. I saw how she lived her life with two children, without her husband beside her. I saw how she endured difficult moments with family members, and how she persevered. She embodied strength to me, even when I was still too young to understand it.

Even though she’s long gone to a better place, she’s left an enduring legacy in my life.

My godmother now is heavily involved in my kids’ lives. Despite being close to 70, she’s also my friend on facebook, and continues to be my most ardent blog reader (I suspect).

The reason why I’m sharing this story is because some of you may have gone through similar situations. But there was that one kind soul, a family friend perhaps, who brought you out of that dark stubborn world you were in, and into the light. We may have struggled with the issues of feeling unloved or even unwanted, but you ARE deeply loved, by a God who knows you by name.

The other reason why I’m sharing this is because I’m struck by the different ways in which we leave imprints on our children’s lives by the things we do or don’t do, say or don’t say. Whether we are conscious or not, we are influencing and guiding our children by the way we live our lives.

May is the month we celebrate our mums. This mother’s day, I want to honour my godmother, and my nanny. I also want to thank my mum, who’s become the most essential grandparent and care-giver to my kids. (She often jokes that she’s repaying her debt now by taking care of my dynamic duo.)

Without these three special women, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Thank you for living out what this quote can only describe:

“But your role in your family will never end. You will never be replaced. Your influence and the need for your influence never ends. Even after you are gone, your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will still look to you as their parent or grandparent. Family is one of the few permanent roles in life, perhaps the only truly permanent role.”

– Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families



What were your growing up years like? Who had the biggest influence in your life?

Thoughts of a 4-year-old mama-ya

Vera recently celebrated her fourth birthday. As she was blowing out her candles on the princess cake we got her for her celebration at school, it hit me. I’ve also just turned 4 years old.

“I” as in the mummy-me.

Now I don’t know about you but I think that calls for some devil’s chocolate cake topped with brandied cherries and butterscotch ice-cream.

4 years may seem short, but it feels like I’ve scaled the Himalayas during the period. Okay, I exaggerate, maybe Mount Kinabalu, but throw in some white water rafting and sky-diving along the way. Sounds like an adventure? Indeed. 4 years ago, my identity was changed. I earned a new name – “mama-ya” (which is a hybrid between mama and papaya, coined by Vera who loves the fruit) and along with that, new responsibilities and new challenges.

Plus some new discoveries along the way.

Parenthood is such a paradox.

Just a few days ago, JJ was turning on the waterworks and throwing a nasty tantrum. Needless to say, I got worked up as well. Everything I tried was thrown back at me and so I entered fight-or-flight mode. I felt like running away from this mucus-mashed tomato-faced little boy, whose screams were ringing in my ears. He wanted this and that, and in a feeble attempt to gain world peace, we tried that and this.

Finally, we trooped down to the playground and tried to calm him down, with promises of playground time if he would just do so.

(This is a whooping reminder that the les terribles deux has begun, and we’re in the thick of it already it seems. Nightmares of what we went through with Vera pounds at my head. I can see a sign that says “More tears ahead.”)

I clambered up the little slide and sat atop, with JJ glued to my lap, tears and mucus streaming down his face. After some 10 minutes of cooling down and muffled sobs, he finally got up, ready to take on the playground. A smile even escaped his lips when daddy did the peek-a-boo.

After another 5 minutes, daddy asked him to say “sorry” to mama. He turned to me, and said “shaw-ree.” Complete with sad albeit still-cheeky eyes.

That little word uttered by my one-point-something boy. Everything in me, every horrid thought and additional cortisol was rounded up and dissolved into the air. What power he wields in his currently limited but growing vocabulary. I suppose this is the power of love.

By some grace bigger than my own, my heart has found space to accommodate our two crazy funny kids. Perhaps, love means moving ourselves aside, so that the ones we love have room to grow and thrive.

Love has never felt so delicious and yet so painful. Sometimes, I wonder how love can possibly be so difficult, and how it can bring out the ugliest in me. Their “little-people” antics that either drive me up the wall or to seventh heaven never fail to make me smile or tear or do both.

Sometimes, hubs and I will recount funny moments and spend half our date-nights laughing away at them, even after swearing that we will NOT talk about the kids on date night.

I guess the fact that we still laugh means that there’s a pot of honey waiting at the end of the rainbow.

I haven’t arrived there yet, but I’m thankful for the little glimpses of gold that I catch each day.

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed and experienced such delight before becoming a mother. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such wretched hair-tearing frustration too.

While friends may tease me about having a third one, I somehow feel like life is complete where I am now. There’s so much I wanna explore with them, that I can’t quite bear the thought of having to go through the cycle again, baby bonus or no baby bonus. (I know parents of three or more kids would frown at that statement…but still, it’s how I really feel.)

On the flipside, I fear that they’re growing up too fast. Just look at this portrait of the little lady, taken when she was just past three, trying to look all grown up. And now she’s four, and loves playing with pink plastic make-up toys that the grandparents bought for her. Soon it’ll be primary school. And then teenagehood and boys. (Shudder.)

Some days I wish they would just grow up already. And then there are days I wish time would just wait a moment so I just can take in all their babyness, child-beauty-ness, and let the day’s stresses past me by.

I’m so glad that God gave us our children.

To have and to hold
To enjoy and to cherish
To teach and to learn from
Till death do us part.

Four years down the road, and I still have much to learn, much to explore, much to muse. My simple wish is that we will keep depending on God for the love, wisdom, patience, and grace that’s so needed to run this parenting journey, and to leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.

How many years have you had in your parenting journey? How do you feel right where you are now?

Thoughts of a 15-month-old baby boy

Dear mumma,

I turned 15 months yesterday! Whoopee!

I know you always complain that I’m growing up too quickly, but you should be happy that I’m a big boy now! Soon, I’ll be able to yak and question everything that you do (like jie-jie), and eat everything you eat, and climb a tree and throw spiders at little girls, and erm, I just can’t wait!

My favourite words are “yah-weh” (when I’m looking for something), “mulk” and “mum mum”. I know you would like me to call you “mama” more often, but it depends on whether I’m in the mood, y’know what I mean? 😉

I love the outdoors and digging in the dirt or sand or anything yucky that I can get my hands on without you stopping me. I love to play with leaves and twigs too; they make funny crunchy noises when I step on them. Oh, I love splashing in the water too. Oh, can we go swimming today? I promise not to do a poop in my swimsuit again…(It was an act-ci-dent!)

I’m a toughie on the outside, and I struggle with you quite a bit when I’m cranky. But don’t get too mad at me okay, it’s just part and parcel of my growing up. There are some really big changes going on inside of me, and I’m also trying to cope! Whenever you’re calm and patient with me, you help me grow stronger each day. I know some days it can be really frustrating (by the way I think you look quite funny when your face turns red and smoke comes out of your ears), but after a meltdown, I forgive and forget pretty quickly. I’m sure you do too right?

Thanks for giving me mama’s milk for so long. It must be quite a pain to do your milk-presso in the office. Well, I think I’m big enough now. I’ve started to reject your breastmilk but don’t take it personally okay? It’s just that I prefer the bottle now. I still love you very much, you know that right?

Since we’re talking about milk, why must I change from the bottle to a sippy cup? I don’t get it! I still want my bottle! I’m not comfortable when you ask me to change something just overnight! I need some time. Try again next month or something…don’t give up on me okay?

I love you, papa, and jie-jie very much, especially when you whip up yummy stuff for me to eat! (Mmm, speaking of which, I’m hungry. What’s for lunch, mama?)

Love, JJ

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