Positive reinforcements 

It was probably something which I tried not to use and this lovely read spelled the reasons why. 

I had used a mix of incentives, disincentives and pep talks with the kids throughout their growing up years. With time, I also developed my parenting skills, alongside with people management skills. Two years’ ago, I attended a training which prescribed reasons why we should avoid using the “carrot” approach, simply because the mules would not move without incentives eventually. It was also then as a middle manager that I realized I was always preoccupied with incentives instead of appealing to a person’s inner motivation to do well.

That was why I never rewarded Z for coming home with perfect scores for spellings and tests. He received little rewards from his gramps but always wondered why his own parents did not prepare gifts.

As I had told him long ago, he did not have to do well in academics for us to buy him something. Likewise, if he had done badly, what would he expect from us? How we treated him had very low correlation to what we would buy for him. 

Occasionally, he would still ask us if there was a surprise at the end of the road. There were times we told him that there was a surprise and all we gave were hugs. It got to a point where he actually went, “Chey, it’s just a hug.” 

Mean parents we were, since it was so hilarious that we nearly laughed out loud. 

At the end of the day, love was not measured by the amount of things we bought for him, but by what we could do with him. Our dear boys had yet to appreciate our opportunity costs in spending time with them. Maybe they would never appreciate, but it was something we valued and appreciated for ourselves. 

Things the boys talked about 

I guessed I was coming to an end of the “Z says” and “X says” series.

Both boys talked so much and so quickly these days that I could not register what they were saying. I always opted “living for the moment”, so if I chose to laugh over their multiple jokes, it pretty much meant that I forgot what to record next. 

At 4 years 3 months and 2 weeks’ old, X was speaking almost as well as Z. He asked good questions, thought about the situation before talking about things. Like how he said “The night was too short” to indicate that he felt the night was too young to send him off to bed. We seldom or never used such phrases so it was very cute to hear that from him. 

Z tickled us with jokes. He had been reading up on jokes so he had been plying us with cold jokes like “What was Liverpool when it was cold?” 

Shiverpool. 

I was amused that he could remember all these jokes from a soccer joke book. It reminded me of the times when I used to read joke books when I was young too.

Working through stereotyping

Inconsistent performances typically led to stereotyping, even for the worse. That was something that even helicopter parents could not help with. 

When Z did well, he did well. When he could not focus, he did bad. This caused misconception and usually led to other parties forming a poor impression of him. 

One day, someone scored an own goal. Z got pretty upset that people thought that he was the one who made the mistake because he was the less skilled player. I explained to Z the concept of stereotyping and how he caused the problems himself. He had to either prove other people wrong by improving or just learned how to brush it aside. 

Maybe it was too early to expose him to the cynical side of life. He had to learn that stereotyping would happen everywhere and anywhere, even in class. If he was always a good boy in class, the teacher would have more favourable opinion of him and less likely to think that he was causing trouble, even if he was. This worked both ways.

It was a lot to sink in.

The beauty of being a boy was to forget everything by the next day. So much for stereotyping! 

Birthday parties in schools

It was a tad hilarious reading a news report on how some primary schools disallowed the celebrating of birthdays in school. 

Firstly, it wasn’t a piece of new news. The mentioned schools weren’t the only ones which implemented such measures. I would know because Z’s school advocated the same last year. Hence, I believed there were other schools which did the same. In line with how many sweeping statements the local press had made with regarded to education, you got a sense of how poor research had been done.

Secondly, the reactions of some parents were odd. I was unsure how they wanted to be portrayed on the national papers. It might be TNP but they shared the same news which meant it could go out through other titles. Why would anyone say that it was unnecessary to shelter children from comparison of material wealth? I actually wondered if those quotes were real or plucked out of context. 

To be honest, I would love a good party, birthday or not. Birthday parties were amongst the best and most legit reasons for getting people whom you liked together. Hence, a party at school lent very little partying time for both parents and kids. I was very glad to do without the school party. Better to have the school disallow than to have our kids asking why we never prepare, on top of the 18626384 things we had to do. 

Eating in 

I seldom post about what I cooked because I was a very functional cook, unless I bothered with plating for Valentine’s Day or the recent Seafood Noodles.

Having no live-in helper meant we were pretty much on our own for cleaning up. As such, I minimized the amount of mess created during cooking.

That also meant I refrained from using many cultery. The irony was we had a dishwasher machine but we had not used it for the last 6 years. I wondered if it was still working.

Eating in was a lot of hassle. In order to cook at home, we had to plan, buy and allocate time for grocery shopping. There was also the packing and storing of bags of food after every grocery trip. The children were part of the shopping because they got to handle bits of procurement and logistics. 

Sometimes, the kids also helped with simple cooking like stirring or watching something being baked in the kitchen. The most gratifying feeling of all was when the kids immersed themselves in the aroma of cooking and ate up well. 

Admittedly, cooking was a messy, hot and possibly oily affair. However, to be able to produce healthy and delicious meals from fresh and good quality ingredients for the family and to be conscientious about eating out less, I felt quite proud of the efforts both Mr H and I put in. Of course, it helped that the kids were always appreciative. 

General attachment 

I was usually the unpopular parent because of my mean style, so I was really unfazed by the kids’ attachment to Mr H. Though Mr H had his ferocious side, he showed his claws less and he was as flexible (Chin Chye) as I was inflexible (minimum quality or standard).

The family conversation turned hilarious when we talked about Mr H’s first possible business trip. He had always been too worried to go off, no matter how I reassured him. 

Anyway, the kids were pretty upset, for all the funny reasons. Z had said, “It’s still so far away, we worry later.” I supposed he felt safer if Mr H was around and would be less likely to incur my wrath.

X said he would cry when Mr H wasn’t around because there was no one to carry him or his bag. 

All for very practical reasons!

Sweet flowers 

When I got into the car in the evening, I was greeted with an artificial stalk of blue flower. Mr H explained that Z had bought it for me.

My first instinct was that Z had spent his money frivolously as it came a week after buying modelling clay in school. He said he had so much fun in school that he bought the biggest pack for X. It was $1.90.

I remembered the day when I had saved so hard to buy my mom a wallet, which she swiftly reprimanded me over. Since I vowed not to do that ever, I took an appreciative stance.

I thanked Z when we picked him up from his swimming. He was beaming from ear to ear. I joked about what the occasion was because Mother’s Day was still so far away.

He told me that when he saw it, he knew he had to get for me. He dug from his bag and whipped out a purple stalk for me. He had gotten 2!

“Don’t worry. They are not real so you can keep them for a long time. When Mother’s Day come, I will buy you more!” gushed the proud boy. 

Well, it seemed like it was ingrained in boys that girls like flowers. Look, here was my son’s first flower purchase(s) and all for me. 

So lucky and blessed to be loved and to have such a sweet son.