A tender heart

There’s a song I love which begins with these words:

Make my heart tender and pure,
Make me strong, help me endure.

Recently I’ve been thinking about that – the cultivation of a tender heart.

You know, so many parenting articles these days focus on building grit and resilience in our kids – hey, even I have blogged about that in the past! We want our children to be able to stand strong amidst the storms of life that will come their way; we want them to learn the value of hard work and never giving up, on getting up from failure and trying again.

I want that for my boys too. But how do we do it?

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Growing pains

The other day, I was walking behind the boys as they trotted hand in hand down the corridor to the lift, and it dawned on me that they have grown quite a fair bit this year. To be sure, they are both still on the (very) small side, but I distinctly remember those too-long school shorts reaching below David’s knees on that first day of Primary 1 that now seems like such a distant memory. Those same shorts are a clear 2 cm above his knee now. And I marvel at Daryl’s newfound swagger and style of walking that he only picked up sometime this year too. How my heart ached in that moment of realisation that my boys are growing up right before my eyes…

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It begins now

During a recent conversation with a mummy friend, we were sharing our thoughts on how the world today is a pretty scary place to bring up our kids in. Stories of kidnapping, child abuse, pedophilia and school bullying abound, not to mention the very real threat of terrorism that is always closer to home than we think. And on a more personal level, the fact that our kids are now at the age when they spend close to half of their waking hours in school, and that is a huge chunk of time when we parents have no control whatsoever over who they will meet, what they will talk about, what they will see and how they will choose.

“It feels like he isn’t just growing up – he’s growing away,” I said to my friend. And it’s true – he makes so many little decisions on his own now – what to eat at recess, for example, and whether to play ball with A or watch fishes with B – and sometimes, just sometimes, he pulls his hand out of mine when we are reaching the school gate.

“I can walk by myself, mummy,” he says. Cue mummy heart break.

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To my newly-minted F I V E year old

Dear Daryl,

Today, you celebrate reaching the ripe old age of F I V E. Where on earth did all the time go?! Mummy wishes there was a stop button I could press, to freeze and hold on to precious moments – too many of them to count – but there just isn’t one. All I can do is to be thankful for every single moment that we have spent laughing, crying, fighting and hugging each other.

Last night, I crept into your room to watch you sleep. I find myself doing that more and more these days, when the problems and struggles of little-boys-growing-up are no longer issues to be glossed over in a single heart-to-heart talk. So many little and big things weigh on my heart, for you and your kor kor, and it is only in the quiet of night that I can look at your sweet sleeping profile, sit by your bed and pray for you. Praying, too, that your daddy and I will have the wisdom and insight to know how to parent you and your brother, two completely different personalities, whom He has brought into our lives to cherish and cheer on.

Your teacher told me today that you are a “lovely” boy. You exasperate them endlessly with your running around and short attention span, then you charm them with your sweet hugs and smiles. You can be a tad too rough at play (thanks to the kind of antics you and your kor kor get up to at home I suppose), yet you cry when your friends are fighting or hurt each other. You are equal parts feisty and affectionate, a beautiful bundle of contradictions.

How can someone so lovable and cuddly be so… strong? But you are. You are so, so strong. Some days I feel like I am fighting battle after battle, and too many times I lose my cool and scream at you. This normally doesn’t happen in public, which is why so many friends say that I am such a patient mum. Uh, no, I am not. You know it well. ūüėČ

All those parenting articles on raising a strong-willed child – they offer much needed perspective and practical help, and yet they are SO hard to practice. I’m still learning, as are you. To choose my battles wisely, to look for common ground instead of taking a stand, to listen before I react, to hug and hold instead of pushing you away, to give you choices instead of making them for you, to understand your needs before I demand that you meet mine. And yet, to be firm when it is necessary, to set clear boundaries and rules, and to teach you to respect authority.

I often look at this quote that hangs on your bedroom wall. It’s just something I printed off the web when I was expecting your brother, and it’s been hanging on your wall ever since. It challenges me, it inspires me, it reminds me that I am not just parenting a little boy, but a man-in-the-making. That’s you.

He has mud on his nose
And stars in his eyes
A good man
In a little boy’s body

Happy fifth birthday, my little Spuddie/Pup. Looking forward to more exciting missions and adventures with you in the year to come!

love, Mummy

 

Taipei Travels: On separation anxiety

A couple of years ago, the hubs proposed the idea that we would take an us-only trip for a change and leave the boys behind. Back then, the boys were both quite young, and the mere thought of leaving them on their own – granted with loving grandparents to care for them – made me tearful. The idea was swiftly passed on by… but earlier this year, as we reconsidered the option, we both felt that perhaps it was time to try, with the boys a bit older and our parents willing and¬†able¬†to help us look after them. This year, we celebrate 10 years of marriage too, so we thought it would be a fitting milestone trip to make as a couple – kind of like a “second honeymoon”!

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One Terrific Sister Act

Queen of Angels Choir

Sister Act, the five-time Tony-nominated smash hit is in town! Crime, faith and a whole lot of dancing nuns – there was something for everyone, and as David commented at the end “So much glitter! I like the glitter best, mummy.”¬†While Daryl declared, “I like the pretty one, mummy. The pretty lady with the big curly hair.”¬† Read more

How we chose a primary school for our boys

I’m sorry, that’s not a very creative title, is it? But really, it’s a post that I’ve been sitting on for a long time, and just didn’t feel confident enough to share. Now that we are almost halfway through the year (GASP!), I do feel like we have gained a little experience with primary school life – enough for me to share – and it’s also a good time to talk about this, as many K1 parents are probably losing sleep over this issue as 1 July¬†draws nearer…

Two years ago, I was you.

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A grandparent’s heart

There are moments when it feels like life has come full circle, even though I know (well, I hope!) that I still have a lot more life to live.

Like this afternoon, when we celebrated my dad’s birthday with a very satisfying lunch¬†at¬†Baba Chews Bar and Eatery. The¬†two¬†monkeys were fascinated with the bar counter, but I told them not to climb the stools in case they fell off. So grandpa gamely went with them, supposedly to take a look at the counter too, but actually¬†to make sure they didn’t fall off the stools and break their little heads. And there he stood, supporting one with each hand, and then later carrying them to the ground¬†safely.

And I flashbacked to my own childhood, and the many outings I had with my grandpa, and remembered the feeling of him hoisting me onto his shoulders although all my uncles and aunties and grandma were all “Put her down, you’ll break your back!” How I loved that feeling of being on grandpa’s shoulders, and I knew he was indulging me back then, and it mattered to me.

I’m sure it matters to my boys too, now.

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Progress, not perfection

Last week, I attended the first of five watercolour classes conducted by local watercolour artist Tam Kwan Yuen. This week, we had¬†our second class. We started off with a (according to him,¬†“quite simple”) bunny, and I was quite happy with the finished result.

This week’s challenge – a mountain-valley landscape piece – was significantly harder for us, and I was somewhat not satisfied with my end product. But I think it’s a good kind of dissatisfaction that spurs me on to want to keep trying¬†to¬†get better at my craft.

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Rediscovering beauty

Growing up, I wasn’t the typical girly girl who wore frilly dresses and puffed sleeves and played lovingly with her Barbie dolls. Actually I was quite the tomboy, preferring comfort over ribbons and lace, and I chopped off my Barbies’ hair when I was about 6, then couldn’t deal with their hair loss, and promptly decapitated them and cast them down the chute – true, sad story.

But even as a little girl, I gravitated towards¬†order and perfection, such as making sure my textbook covers were properly wrapped and uncreased, and using a ruler to draw lines on any paper before writing so that my words would always be straight. Looking back, I think those were my benchmarks of “beauty” back then. I wouldn’t say much has changed, although these days I am definitely very much in love with all things floral and sparkly.

In short, I had come to think of myself as a person who appreciates beautiful things. The glory¬†of a golden sunset, of my child’s innocent smile, of the promise of crisp, new things and of¬†words that touch the soul.¬†Thus it came as quite a shock to me when I was recently challenged to examine my perspectives on beauty.

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