The Rigours of Parenting

Saturday’s papers reported that Singapore needs 30,000 immigrants every year just to sustain productivity. This is because we are not giving birth to enough children, at a total fertility rate of 1.24, we are barely replacing ourselves. And even with the influx of immigrants, we will not be able to reverse the demographic trend. By 2050, every 1.7 working adult will support 1 retiree. And we haven’t even started talking about the effects of having so many people on our resource deficient tiny island nation.

If the world still exists by year 2050 and I would be 69 years old, what kind of a country would my children and grandchildren have to live in? Where resources and jobs are taken up by foreigners who will not retire here? Where cost of living is priced out of their reach because demand is more than supply? Thank God for an escape.

Whenever I think of the inevitable, I feel so bitter. I gave birth to 3 beautiful children, more than my replacement rate and yet it seems that life here will continue to be worse off despite my ‘national service’. I didn’t start with the intention of having 3 kids but since God gave them to us, we’d do our best as parents for them.

The sacrifice of being such young parents of so many is not easy and neither is it easy to work out the financial commitments, balancing between the children needs as well as that of our retirement. But whenever I think about the amount of tenacity both Theo and I put in for it to work, I wonder why can’t more Singaporeans exhibit the same kind of gung ho. But then it would take an entire generation of gung ho-ness to make a difference.

So what else can we do as parents to help our children work out their future here? For my eldest who is in primary one, the focus would be on his academics. I wanted to give him a childhood so unlike many other parents, he had zilch enrichment programmes outside of kindergarden. I figured that when he started formal education, he could catch up.

Alas it seems that while this was my mindset, it wasn’t so for the parents of his classmates. His classmates were probably a grade ahead of him by the time they started school and now Joel has to desperately catch up, much to my frustration. Don’t you go to school to learn things you didn’t know instead of showing off how much you already know?

It started with his hanyu pinyin which was totally alien to him. He could not understand the concept of these phonetics sounds when chinese had been about drawing the chinese characters all along. I wasn’t particularly good at this either and had to learn together with him. After 4 months of drilling home the sounds together, Joel is now aceing his HYPY and his teacher commented that he has improved alot.

The next bomb dropped when I got his maths test paper of 21/50. I don’t recall ever flunking anything when I was in P1 and was devastated that my boy had done so within the first term of school. Joel understood all the mathematical concepts, he just couldn’t understand the questions.

So I bought a book on English comprehension from the pre
-school series and started honing his reading and comprehension skills. It is kinda funny that you have to teach English to comprehend Maths.

His lastest term test results was 31/40, I should have been delighted with his improvement until he told me that most of his friends scored 40/40. Where did those kids come from? My father-in-law commented that if they already score full marks, there’s no more room for improvement. It is an important reminder that we shouldn’t compare ourselves with others but only to better our own scores.

Joel also has a friend in class called Ryan, who seems like he has seen the world. He aces his tests and reads novels and he keeps calling my son stupid. I know Joel is not stupid, you don’t measure one’s ability through tests and books they can read but Joel doesn’t know that and it affects his morale.

Just last week I visited Joel in school and was pleasantly surprised that many people outside of Joel’s class knows him and they all run up to him excitedly to say hello. I don’t know what kind of charm he has but then I remember that in society, there are many ways to succeed and academics isn’t the only way.

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