This post has more questions than answers. More struggles than successes. It lists some challenges we face in the past 3 years parenting a Primary School kid. But it is not exhaustive. While every child and every family is different, we welcome your views and experiences.
Years are short…
“She’s Primary 4 now? It seemed like yesterday that you shared about prepping her for Primary 1!” A friend recently exclaimed. We too, were caught by surprise how quickly time has flown by.
Days are long…
Though the years seemed to have zipped by, the days passed like a slow motion picture with climaxes and resolutions. I share some challenges we face in the past 3 years parenting a primary school-going child.
As our child grows, we want to give her the liberty to make some choices of her own. These decisions go beyond routines to decisions, which are more values-based. E.g. choice of friends, choice of words, choice of her actions etc. Increasingly, the choices her parents make are now no longer de rigueur for her. She would be thinking, making judgment and making decisions on her own. Some right, some not so right.
However, giving our child the space and bandwidth to make her own decisions (and to allow her to face the consequences for wrong decisions made) are definitely easier said than done. From experience, primary school-age children are generally:
– Less immature, hence unable to fully appreciate parents’ and teachers’ point of views yet
– Less able to wait for delayed gratification
– Susceptible to peer pressure, tend to want to follow what their friends do
We often ask ourselves:
– How much should we override the choices she makes?
– Will it hinder our child’s ability to learn the values behind these choices?
– Are we limiting her thought process when we assert our own values on her?
This started as early as even week 1 in her Primary 1 year – selecting CCAs. While we hold on to the maxim that we should encourage our children to discover their interests and talents, the dilemma arose when our daughter is interested in so many things. From choir to handbells to tennis, gymnastics and roller-blading, she likes them all and is game to try everything! She was even shortlisted for two competitive sports groups in a year.
In deciding her CCA, we used these practical issues to guide her decision-making:
– Time for homework (yes…you can run but you can’t hide)
– Logistical constraints (arranging for transport etc.)
– Time for rest, time for some free play
Tackling these is by no means easy especially when our daughter’s preferred CCAs do not match ours. Loads of questions raced through our mind:
– ““How much time will this CCA take up?”
– “Will she be able to represent the school in this CCA?”
– “What leadership opportunities will she be given, if any?”
3. Cell Phones:
Giving a smart phone to a child is akin to opening a Pandora box for our child. So much has been said about the ills of screen time that we have been trying to delay giving our daughter as mobile phone. But truth is that we need to remain in close contact with her especially since we are working parents. Apart from touching base with her on her location etc., it was helpful to hear first hand from her on her experiences in school that day. Hearing her account at the end of a tiring day is not the same. Really. Though there are child-friendly apps which we can use to restrict phone abuse, these are not completely foolproof. This coupled with influences from friends and cyber bullying continues to be a concern for us.
4. Car, Commute and Cab:
This gets worse during school holidays – logistical arrangements!
As working parents, we struggle with the logistical arrangements a lot, especially during the school holidays when we need to arrange for holiday camps or holiday enrichment activities for our child. Our struggle has always been between leaving them alone for some ‘unstructured’ free time (which is also beneficial) and giving them constructive exposure (such as enrolling them for coding camps etc.). This is compounded by having to arrange for transport and having an adult chaperone her to and from these activities.
How did we cope with these challenges so far?
1. Contact Time:
We fiercely protect the amount of contact time we have with our daughter. Though school and holiday activities are legitimate, we are aware that sending her out for activities does not equate to meaningful contact time. Hence, we try to involve her in activities, which we ourselves can be a part of. E.g. Tennis, where I can play with her; Choir, where we can sing along in car rides or The Safari Zoo Run where the entire family can run and get fit together. Going on annual family vacations helps us to connect too.
2. Communicating Intent:
As our child grows, it is important to communicate the rationale behind the decisions we make so we don’t appear too authoritarian. However, sometimes we have to exercise our moral authority to make executive decisions’ on our child’s behalf while continuing to assure our child that we love her and will only act with her best intentions in mind.
To address the issue of mobile phones, we subscribe to a prepaid card and top up a fixed amount monthly that is sufficient for the daily phone calls to us. Data roaming on the phone is disabled (hence no whatsapp). There were times which she used to text her friends freely without permission and we had to remind her sternly that the phone is primarily for communication with her parents. I try to make phone conversations interesting and not so ‘reporting’ in nature. Asking her about her feelings for the day etc…as I sense her tone of voice helps. We also tell her that this is the family’s phone and so Daddy and Mummy have the right to check on the text messages sporadically etc. This is essential to establish that line of authority and ownership of the phone.
4. Cab, Grab or Stay Home:
During holidays, we occasionally take time off our respective work commitments to send our daughter for her classes. On some days, the helper helps to chaperone. Once in a blue moon, we would have to book a Grab car for her to travel alone to her enrichment venue but we monitor her journey closely from the app. If we can, we try to get a female Grab driver but it is not always possible. Ideally, we should be sending and picking her up but sometimes circumstances do not permit that.
In fact, it is this tension – the ideal versus the practical world of parenting that continues to be the source of most of our struggles. With the daughter being in Upper Primary this year, the road ahead will be tougher, more challenges will surface but by God’s grace, we will overcome each challenge as they come.
Ultimately we have to remind ourselves that in terms of learning, we want to cultivate in her a joy of learning and a deep sense of curiosity rather than just passing exams and to be person with a good heart and character rather than just being a good student.
No one said being a parent was easy. The journey continues.
P.S. Kids are lovingly clothed by Chateau de Sable.