I was playing the piano while my five-year-old son was playing with his tennis balls right behind me. It was the June holidays and he didn’t have to go to school.
Out of nowhere, I turned and used my hand to intercept the ball that he threw and it went bouncing back at him. He paused infinitesimally before his eyes lit up since he probably didn’t see that coming. My little one flashed the trademark smile that spelt mischief and threw another ball my way.
After humouring him for a minute or so, I got up from the piano bench and said,
“Ok, so remember your tennis coach wants you to practice catching the balls. I’m going to…”
He interrupted me with a deep sigh. He looked crestfallen. My kids play “schedule” was just interrupted by an impromptu school lesson.
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“Oh mummy, can you please just play with me for a while?” He asked. I could almost hear the desperation in his voice and realised that he wasn’t asking, he was pleading with me to play with him. Even if reluctantly, I gave in.
That night, as I tucked him into bed and watched him drift off to sleep, I ran my fingers through his hair and felt guilty.
You see, just like you, and many other mums where we come from, I always use how much my kids get done in a day as a yardstick of my parenting success. It’s always about spending time productively.
And if time permits and I allow my children to play freely, I don’t usually join them. I am there watching my kids play but doing something of my own. I’m essentially just keeping an eye on them.
When I do things with them, it’s always with an end in mind. An end that suits what I believe is best for them. An end that complements my grand plans for what I want them to achieve.
To read better, to spell better, to play tennis better, to swim better, to play the piano better, to be the best version of themselves that is never the best because the best can only get better.
We spend so much time getting them to become something that sometimes we forget to allow them to just be kids. | Image source: iStock
Not that it’s a bad thing because that’s the very core of Singaporean parenting isn’t it? To raise successful children. And how do we define success? Good at everything la! Ace examinations, win medals, get awards, be polite, respectful and well mannered. Successful child. Successful parenting. Everyone’s happy.
And this has extended to us conditioning their happiness. Knowingly for some and subconsciously for others, we have manipulated our children into defining their happiness by how many boxes in our checklist they tick every night.
Play, Paint, Make Mistakes
We all know that life in Singapore is pretty much a rat race. You can’t help but get caught up in the rat race and want to push your children to always be two steps ahead. We all have our eyes on that ivy-league school admission, those medals and awards. And when you see your hard work in raising them coming to fruition, the happiness is beyond what I can describe.
But let me also remind you, that the fondest memories that remain etched in your children’s hearts are not of the times that you fought to keep your eyelids open while teaching them how to spell or how many times you made your kids play that piece until they perfected it.
When they remember painting with you, they won’t necessarily remember the day you helped them to carefully craft that masterpiece painting that now adorns your living room wall. Instead, they will remember all the times that they messed up and you laughed with them, at the mess.
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They will instead remember laughing with you at the lady yawning in the car next to yours or singing at the top of your voices to that Justin Timberlake song on the radio.
So I urge you, mama, to do what you must to groom your kids for the future. But do also be present in the moments that they are just being kids. Roll with them on the floor, pretend play, kick that ball, jump into that pool. Be involved in your kids play dates. Enjoy those moments to the fullest.
Seize The Moments
Sometimes you just have to seize the moment and live that moment fully. With all that you’ve got.
Because one day you’re going to walk into a home that’s pristine and silent. And trust me, you’re going to miss that priceless feeling of a Nerf gun bullet flying your way and your child bursting into peals of laughter. You’re going to wish with all your heart to bring back the moment in time when your children would beg you to play with them.
But it will be too late then. Once they grow up, there’s no way that you can go back in time.
So don’t feel guilty about those two hours you spent playing with your kids and got nothing in particular done. Don’t feel guilty about that one night your kids slept a little later because you were all up pretending to be pirates.
In fact, you are getting a lot done and are building precious memories that you will smile at in the last hour of your life. These are the pages of your life’s novel that you will leave behind for your children long after you are gone.
Life is about moments, not milestones. Do what you must to make your children reach those milestones. But never forget that all those little moments that exist between getting from one milestone to another are the most precious bits of life. Participating in kids play activities and conditioning them for a happy life over just ticking the boxes is the most important life lesson any parent can give their child.
Those moments make life worth living.
Balancing Work & Kids Play During The Pandemic
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As much as we’d like to spend quality time with our children, the work-from-home regime has made lives all the more difficult with the overlap between work and personal life. However, this means that you need to put in a little more effort than usual to dedicate enough time to your family and child, as much as you would for your work.
This is extremely important during the pandemic wherein you are spending a lot of time at home with your family, but are you really spending time with your family? When was the last time you lazed around and watched your kids play? Or join them for a game? As much as we understand that the work-life balance isn’t easy, here are some tips to smooth things over to help you bond with your kids.
Create A Designated Space
Working in the presence of your child can be a daunting task with them constantly fiddling around you. That’s why it’s necessary to designate play and work areas to get the work done in peace. If you have a study or a playroom, use it only for either of those things. Kids shouldn’t be disturbing you in the study, nor should you bother them in the playroom unless you are keeping an eye.
It’s all the more important that you invest in setting up a home office in a corner of your home that allows you to focus on work and stay productive. Also remember, fewer distractions mean that you will get done with work faster on a day-to-day basis and have more time to spend with your family.
It’s hard to ignore if your child walks into your office area abruptly for something while you are on a con call or trying to finish a task. In order to avoid the same, schedule a playtime every day when your kids can play without any interruptions while you finish work sans any distractions. Ideally, use your busiest time of the day for your kids to play freely. You can also arrange for play dates with other working parents and can send your kid over to the other parent’s house and vice versa.
Use Screen Time Wisely
For the better or worse, your kid is well aware of how to use a smartphone, tablet or operating a gaming console. It’ll be easier to just let them have a freehand in using these devices but that’s not yielding positive results. Instead, use their screen time productively to balance it out with personal and professional commitments throughout the day. That way, your child won’t be interrupting you and you can get work done without any hassles.
Spending Quality Time With Your Kids During The Pandemic
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Now that we have eight hours of your professional schedule sorted through the 24-hour cycle, it’s time to use the remaining ones for yourself and the family.
Go Old School
There’s nothing like the good ol’ board game that brings a family closer. Board games have been around for ages and can actually help your children with skills like strategising, analytics, math and reasoning. It will also make them competitive and they will learn to handle victory and failure sportingly. But the more interesting bit is when they win or lose against you. That’s when the game really gets fun and you will be making a lot of memories.
Involve Your Kid In Household Chores
It’s not necessary that you will have time every day to earmark for work and personal chores. We get it. The pandemic has stretched work hours to well over 12 hours, putting your work-life balance for a toss. So, while you may not be able to take out time to play with your kid, you can always involve them in doing the household chores.
Whether you are dusting the house or just folding washed clothes, ask them to help you out. You can ask them about their activities throughout the day if they spoke to other family members or friends or what they plan to do for the rest of the week. It’s not about the amount of time you spend with your child, but ensuring it is qualitative time.
Have One Meal Together As A Family
It’s not just you who has tight deadlines or timetables to follow. With online classes, games and videos, as well as homework, your little one is equally busy through the day. This leaves both of you with little time to spend with each other. However, this means that you and your kid will have to dedicate some time of your busy schedule to the family. And nothing better than a table of food bringing everyone together.
Ideally, spend having at least one meal of the day as a family. Preferably you should choose either breakfast or dinner to catch up on what each member of the household has been doing.
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