|The columnist thinks writing and music are important. - Reuters
I SPEAK KID
By ELAINE DONG
Someone once called me an Asian mother on Facebook, making references to Amy Chua who wrote Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, after reading one of my columns. Though I was flattered, I am sure if I ever met Chua, for sure I would turn into a stuttering idiot and possibly have an anxiety attack just from being in the same room as her. In case that wasn’t clear, I love Chua as a writer and mother.
But I am nowhere near her league when it comes to tiger-mothering. That’s right, you heard the phrase here first. I am not even close to Tiger Mother material. In fact, in some instances, I am a complete wuss when it comes to my kids.
Last week, Lauren, my three-year-old daughter, reduced me to tears, because she refused to go to music class, no matter how I cajoled, bribed and threatened her. She then proceeded to tell me she didn’t want me to be her mummy anymore. I was devastated, and my husband didn’t help by telling me she got this incredibly stubborn streak from me.
It’s been a week, and she still refuses to budge about the class. She is made of steel, that one. But at least she has started calling me mummy again.
I don’t have a big list of achievements for my kids to tick off, but there are two things that I would like them to have – writing and music. I think both of these gifts would bode them well in life. I have visions of them turning to the piano and tinkling out a tune when things get them down, and being uplifted by the music.
I see them putting thoughts to paper, and one day writing the Great Malaysian Story. While I have this idyllic picture in my head, reality has a nasty habit of intruding on it. I see other kids whose lives are scheduled around this tuition and that, and I begin to wonder if I am under-preparing my kids for real life.
What would Amy Chua do? I really have no idea. She struggled like any mother to provide what she thought was best for her girls. Self-doubt was her constant bedfellow.
I think it is for this that I idolise her, and not for all of that stereotypical Asian mother nonsense. If you really read her book, and not just the hype surrounding it, you’ll see that she was plagued with uncertainties and questions about motherhood, too. Just like all of us are.
There isn’t a set formula for bringing up baby; it’s mostly a hit-or-miss kinda thing.
In my household, setting up an area for the kids to make a complete mess with paint is a hit, but trying to get Angelica to do 10 pages of Olympiad Maths a day (this is a Singapore school thing, and we all know what great over-achievers our neighbours are) is a complete miss.
Finding the girls the best piano teacher in the world, one who makes them think of and see music differently, is a super hit, but not being able to manipulate a three-year-old to go to class is an epic fail.
The Olympiad book is now tucked away, together with the book of 100 science experiments to do before your kid starts preschool, the flashcards promising to teach your baby to read at eight months, and many other such contraptions designed to cheat parents out of their hard-earned money.
My next project is to get my kids to pick up as many languages as they can. Their father wants them to learn Mandarin, and I want them to speak French. Good luck to my kids ! I hope the little pictorial French dictionary and the scores of Mandarin workbooks I bought won’t end up in the cheated money pile.
I have to admit, it’s not easy for kids these days. They’re expected to be everything – smart, funny, musically-talented, well-behaved (although this is a loose term for some parents), tech-savvy. There are all kinds of enrichment classes that promise to bring out the best in them. But the benchmark always moves.
What’s best during my time was scoring 5As in SPM, and now kids can get up to 13As. That’s insane. Now kids not only have to excel academically, there’s a whole spectrum of skills they have to conquer outside of books, like music, drama, leadership abilities, even entrepreneurship.
Wait a minute, who is the one who’s going to have to nurture all these “talents?” The suckers known as parents, of course. So I take it back. If you think it’s tough for kids these days, try being a parent.
Elaine blogs at angelolli.com.