Monday, January 4, 2010

Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em

It's the start of the new school year and I think I hear the collective sigh of relief from parents across Singapore.

Every opening of the academic year, I feel a sudden release of freedom, especially if the kids have been bouncing off walls due to an accumulation of festive starch and sugars in their metabolism-enhanced, hyper little bodies. By the last week of the school holidays, I'll usually be counting down the number of days until they're out of my hair again.

But you know, even before I can enjoy the peace, I'll notice something else... the silence. No sounds of bickering, of toys crashing against hard floors, of tears and childish giggles. And in a perverse way, I actually miss it all.

Therein lies the contradiction - I can't wait to get the kids out of the house and the minute they do, I find myself waiting for them to come home. Especially this year since Lesley-Anne is starting secondary school, I have been warned by other more experienced parents:

"I have to make an appointment with my son if I want to talk to him!"
"Her school hours will be worse than that of a work day."
"I think I've forgotten what my kid looks like, I never see him in daylight anymore."

I've long realised that my child will come to spend an increasing proportion of her precious growing years in school, out of my reach. My selfish desire to monopolise her time is nowhere as important as the fact that her teachers, peers and friends will have a far greater influence on her from now than me, simply due to frequency of contact.

It is no coincidence that the teenage years are often the ones where many parents complain of being distanced from their kids or despair over their kids going astray. An iron fist may be tough but it's no use if the child is far away. We may spout words of wisdom but they will have limited effectiveness against the constant chatter of friends, ten hours a day.

What's a parent to do? For me, I feel that the panacea is to ensure that the foundation is built during the primary school years. I've often shared this view with my friends that steadfast character traits need to be constructed and fortified during the tween ages, to form the basic building block that will hold the child steady and guide her steps in the future.

This is not to say that the child can't still wander off the straight and narrow later on - it's free will afterall - but the chances of this happening are less. It's risky to wait until the child is a teenager to try and instil values, when parental influence is greatly reduced (not to mention the distasteful condition characterised by teenage angst and anti-establishment tendencies *shudder*).

We've always been rather strict when it comes to ethical lessons for our kids, sometimes to the point of being naggy, as our kids will testify ("Yeeeeeess mummeeeeee"). With Lesley-Anne hitting secondary school, I recognise that these opportunities will taper off.

But it's ok because that's the way it should be. As she matures, she should be allowed to chart her own path and make more decisions on her own. She knows I will always be there if she needs me, but it's too much to hope that she will share every detail with me. In such instances, I can only hope and trust that her moral compass will direct her steps, and help her back onto the path when she takes a misstep.

The quiet beckons. Maybe it's not so bad afterall. I'll just have that cup of coffee and finish some work... only a few more hours till they're let out from school.


Lilian said...

Enjoy your cuppa, you deserve it!

Someone said the ages of 12-15 are the riskiest, the time when kids start going astray. The good thing about the super busy schedule in secondary school is kids will have less time to get up to nonsense. So busy with CCA and homework and travelling to school, they'll be too exhausted to get into BGR problems or to hang out at the malls (remember the Centrepoint kids and Far East kids...).

So I say keep them busy! hehe...

monlim said...

Lilian: Andre's badminton coach says that 14-15 is the riskiest age for boys. So like you say, make the real busy with CCA or sports or homework, then less likely to get into mischief!

Anonymous said...

Hi Monica,

You are so right! I did all that you did, hoping that the kids get back to school quickly to allow me some space, counting down during the last week, then worrying about them going back to school and wishing holidays would be longer. I began having Monday blues during the last week and was already missing them!

My elder boy is in Sec One this year and it didnt help that he will be away for four full days (till 5pm daily). Missed waking up late, having breakfast with him, lazing around, discussing about our "mousehunt catches", etc.
Its hard to move on sometimes!

monlim said...

Bwahahaha, it's so nice to know there are other mums experiencing the same thing as me, even down to the MH catches! Hope your son is enjoying sec 1 :)

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