Naming Convention

When I was a kid, people called me shy. To this day, I have this subconscious thought that I am shy. Contrary to this image that I have in my head, my wife refuses to accept this fact. When I think about it though, I am not that shy. At least not anymore.

And this is what I wanted to discuss. I was “labelled”, for lack of a better word, as being a shy child. And I grew up believing that I was. I may have grown up a little differently if I had believed otherwise.

So why was I told that I was shy in the first place? To be quite honest, I could really have been shy and timid when I was young. I imagine that most kids would be. I do remember being told stop being shy at certain times in my childhood. But it wasn’t an encouragement type of being told, it was more like a stern command to stop being shy. Mind you, this was the norm in the time and place that I grew up in. And so I grew up thinking I was normal and I don’t really have anything against my upbringing. Even with the guidance of our parents, we still grow into our own adult selves. And this is where I am now.

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Matthew has also been called a lot of things. We were building him up ever since he was much smaller. We always told him that he would be great. We always told him how good looking he was. We always told him how we loved his thoughtfulness, his kindness, his wittiness, his being a good son. It had always been praise. And then, we changed. The three of us changed.

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Over the years, the frustration over Matthew’s performance in his academics seems to have piled up. He has his own frustrations and we have our own. And it has really rocked the boat.

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Obviously, as parents, we try not to focus on the negatives. It is unsurprisingly difficult. It isn’t impossible but it is difficult. Humans, by nature, only look at things that are obviously in front of them without taking the time to understand why. Some won’t even bother asking the question. And this is where the bad labelling comes in. Words hurt. And you won’t know how much you have hurt that person until that person comes up to you to say it. And at one point, Matthew did. And I felt horrible. It felt like someone had thrust a hand into my chest and yanked my guts out. For a father that had been doing his best to be a good dad, hearing your child say that you had hurt him with your words, that is just devastating. And we’re not even talking about harsh words here, this is just about me pushing him to study harder.

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And so I woke up. I had been lost in thought for a long time about what to do with Matthew. Because I had been thinking on my own. I really don’t want to be blamed for anything because I was thinking of how Matthew’s future would be like. But those were my thoughts. His thoughts are different. His thoughts are of the present. His thoughts do not look forward enough that we see eye to eye. And that’s where I need to take a step back. I am thinking of his future, but I had not been walking him there. I was four steps in front of him and he just couldn’t grasp it. It took a while to learn that. But I am hopeful that it is the way for all of us to move forward. Maybe not in the same direction, but at least all at the same time.

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Getting Back Up By Letting Them Work

I was planning on going on a sabbatical. But I didn’t really know what that meant, so I decided to just wing it. I’d like to think that I’m better now at what I do, but I don’t really want to think about it anymore. So, I’m just going to move forward.

I’ve changed. Not a lot. But I think I have changed enough after moping about for what felt like an eternity. I think I’m doing good. Or at least, better.

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The June holidays left us with a math project that involves shapes. Lots of shapes. And it has something to do with surface areas and volumes of cuboids and cylinders. And then some. It would have been an easy project to do since I’ve had experience building things out of scrap before. Cuboids and cylinders from recycled cardboard would be a cinch. But there was a catch. The math project required group work. Group work where Matthew had been chosen as the leader. And the members aren’t the most eager bunch to do any work. Obviously, being group work means that they would have to do the work. And that’s difficult for me because I don’t know their style of work, unlike how I know how Matthew works. This proved to be true as work wasn’t done until the 11th hour of the project.

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We managed to finish it somehow. There were definitely setbacks. There were lots of arguing. There were lots of pushing and finger-pointing. And that was to be expected I guess. This bunch are not the most reliable when given a task. They are more than capable of doing the task, there is no doubt about that. But doing the task on time is not one of their strong points. These are still kids. All they want to do is have fun. I believe that is what they should be doing, having fun. But the school system says otherwise. And unfortunately, they are governed by the school system. And that means they have to do what the system says until they are confident enough to walk away and live a life all their own.

Being Emergency Prepared

One of the things I like about Matthew’s school is the good wealth of activities that are offered to parents and their children. Most of these activities foster better bonding between parent and child and they offer these activities all throughout the year. This year-end, we enrolled in the Emergency Preparedness Program that the school offered with the help of the Singapore Civil Defense Force.

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This is not the first time that we attended such an activity. We had our certification two years ago through the town’s Community Center when the program had been offered there as well. Of course, this certification needs to be renewed, but that would be when we can schedule the certification again.

The program started out with some light breakfast and then the fun began. Our SCDF speaker was very good at speaking out the details of what we were to expect. It was not so serious that it made it interesting for the teens (and their parents). The first part of the Emergency Preparedness is our introduction to the government-sponsored mobile phone applications such as the SGSecure and myResponder app. Both can be downloaded from the Apple Appstore and Google Play Store. I would recommend downloading them.

The full course is to help the attendees become Response Ready. Participants learn the basic Emergency Preparedness knowledge. The main focus being practical hands-on training on three vital EP skills known as the Triangle of Life. The essential parts of the course were basic First Aid, CPR-AED training and Fire Fighting.

The basic First Aid taught us the basics of a First Aid kit and what to actually do with them. We were taught how to treat wounds of varying degrees including bleeding. We were also taught about what to do with burns. We learned how to treat sprains and even how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

We were then taught how to perform CPR and how to use an AED machine. These are all hands-on and everyone was encouraged to participate. As such, everyone took home a little bit of experience and a little bit of knowledge on how to save a life. While the exercise itself can be easy to understand, another important part of the training is actually knowing when to use this skill. CPR is only performed when a person’s heart has completely stopped and that they are no longer breathing.

The last part of the course was firefighting. The small kind of fire of course. As stated by our instructor, it is always best to contact the SCDF or the emergency numbers where you are. Know where the fire exits are and where the fire extinguishers are in a building. It would also be good to know the different types of extinguishers if there is more than one so that you know which type to use for the type of fire. It all ended in a high note and a mental high when we were all taught how to hold and use a fire extinguisher properly.

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Matthew was having so much fun that I hope he actually learned something from the course. I’m pretty sure that the most memorable lesson was finding out that it is safe to spray CO2 type fire extinguisher on your face.

Crashing Exams

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It is the end of year exam week for Matthew. Honestly, he has not been doing so good. Math, in particular, had been a thorn on our side since P4 and it seems to have been haunting us ever since. At first, we thought that us (mum and dad) teaching him mathematics would be enough to keep his grades up, or at least level with the mean of the class. It didn’t pan out the way that we had hoped, so we got him a math tutor. We have gone through several private tutors and even some tuition centers as well. This was on top of us nagging him about math. It has been a rough journey for sure, and one that has been ending up in frustration most of the time. And while we are not really after stratospherically high marks, we would at least want Matthew to stay on his current stream.

He has been doing okay in his other subjects so far. But we really have a lot of catching up to do with mathematics. Of course, we still need to do well on the other subjects as well which will eat up more of his brain in the coming days. We are praying that he would be able to cope with the stress, something which he isn’t particularly good at. In his primary school days, he was able to slide through year after year probably only using remnants of what he has learned in school. That may have worked for primary school, but secondary school is a different matter. Also, the educational system in Singapore comes off as a bit strange for us. It is far from what I was used to when I was in school. And that streaming system in Singapore is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you are pushing students to be at the top of their game in school. On the other hand, you are segregating performers based only on academic performance. Quoting Albert Einstein, If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

Luckily, there are now schools that look at education in a different light. Matthew’s school seems to be one of those schools. Here we wave educators that are genuinely concerned with their students. His form teacher has been very helpful in filling us in on what is happening with Matthew in school. We are informed of behavioral concerns aside from the academics. The school evens out the spread of the examination instead of cramming them all in one short week. There are parent-children activities all throughout the school year with participation from the faculty and parent volunteers. There is involvement and exchange between the teachers, the students, and the parents. Something that was sorely lacking when we were going through Matthew’s primary school days.

Of course, getting good grades is only one of the hurdles that Matthew would be facing. We are all hoping for the best, and we are all doing our best. Together. How things stack up at the end of the year is still something for us to look forward to, tomorrow.

So far, so good.

It’s been a month now since we started in secondary school. And it has already been a ride. Back when I was in secondary school, all I had to do was pass primary 6 with decent enough marks and that was it. My school then had both primary and secondary so there was no additional criteria to get into secondary school. Well, all that calm was thrown out the window when we brought Matthew in for school in Singapore.

The PSLE is behind us now and it was a memorable journey that one would like to forget sooner rather than later. But no sooner than it had been forgotten that we were now thrown into a new learning journey. Apparently, just getting into the school of your child’s choice was just the beginning.

We managed to get Matthew into one of the schools that he chose after getting his PSLE results. His first choice. Choosing the school was one thing, choosing to be in one stream or the other was a different thing. We were one of those that had the option of choosing to go on the express stream or the normal stream. The main difference (for us at least) is choosing to complete secondary school in four years or five. That was our deciding factor, although the technicalities are far more complicated than that.

When school started, we were informed about having to choose our son’s Co-Curricular Activity. Another one of those technicalities that he would have to live with throughout his years in secondary school. One thing that I appreciated was the open house that gave us parents (and our kids) an opportunity to make an informed decision when choosing the CCA. Getting in to your CCA of choice though, is once again a different matter. That would mostly depend on the child’s willingness to be a part of that CCA. That meant tryouts and interviews. With time and choices limited, Matthew only had a chance to go to 2 tryouts. He could have gotten 3 if he was not so sick that week but health is the choice we took. After another week of waiting, it was finally revealed that he would be attending Military Band. So yes, we were like – speechless.

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We have had a great many weeks so far. Matthew has adjusted well to his new friends and new school. He has also gotten along well with his teachers and his studies. He and math still don’t get along quite as we would like, but he is getting there. This improvement in his school-life balance thus far, is being achieved by a little bit of work from him, us – parents and thankfully, the school itself. Honestly, we are very happy with how the school is looking after these rascals -err- pre-teens. After all, kids would be spending more time in school these days than at home. And for the school to reach out and work hand in hand with the parents is a good sign that they are after the well being of the child.

Intelligence, after all, can be taught and learned. It is the foundation of a child’s mental and emotional well being that would allow them to make decisions that would help them grow to be the person that they want to be. We can only hold their hands so far to guide them. They would be starting their own journey sooner than any of us realize.

But so far, so good.