The blog has been quite quiet. Chiefly because of the Pandemic but also because we have been facing setbacks, one after another. In fact, I am half-hearted if I should even publish this post. After all, many shared about how they successfully overcome this difficult pandemic year, but ours was riddled with endless fire-fighting.
When it rained, it poured.
For a family who thrives on discovering new places and forging memories through new experiences, curfewed at home and not being able to travel anywhere made the home environment tense and suffocating. Many days, we feel like walking time-bombs, waiting for the kids (or each other) to make that one slip in action or that snide remark to tip the scale. Before we know it, all ‘hell’ is unleashed at home.
Widely accepted as one of life’s most stressful events (after weddings), renovating our new home made us revisit this reality. The joy and anticipation of finally getting our new home was quickly replaced by frustration, anxiety, and sheer ‘bewilderment’ when we had to resolve miscommunication, delivery errors, shoddy workmanships, defective products and more. The list kept increasing with more contingencies and delays. In short, we hope we never have to go through this again.
The Maid Woes:
We ‘lost’ 2 maids in a matter of 6 months. Our trusty maid of 4 years fell victim to a loan shark scam on FB which has become quite prevalent. She responded to one of those ‘friendly’ texts that offer fast loans on whatsApp and ignorantly sent across our phone numbers and photos of her work permit (which included our names and home address). This led to hellish loan shark harassments. We made police reports, made the painful decision to terminate her contract and sent her home.
We were ‘fortunate’ to get a very good transfer maid replacement from the agent but just as we were packing for our big move, she developed complications from diabetes (just our luck!). At the request of her family, she flew home to seek medical treatment in her home country. This was barely 1 week before our big move.
Is it wrong for parents to have some aspirations for our kids? We would be living in a romanticised world of perfect parenting if we say we didn’t feel anxious about our eldest taking her first major exams (the PSLE) which will determine her secondary school. Much as social media try to underplay it, we all know that grades do matter.
So while we were managing all the major distressful situations, we were also trying to help Dana navigate her PSLE journey while she juggled with issues of friendship, puberty and stress.
How We Managed:
So it was a year of struggles and setbacks. Relentless and unending. Often, we felt alone. We knew everyone was also trying to cope wit the pandemic. Somehow when the going gets tough, the toughness in us needs to get going.
As we look back at the year, these are what helped our family survive the craziness of it all:
- They are watching – Being a role model vs being real
Just as values are caught and not taught, our kids learn from how we handle setbacks, conflicts and contingencies. So for David and I, we have decided to be real and authentic when we try to resolve these issues with contractors, vendors, maids etc. but to be keenly aware that what we do or say, our every reaction is being watched (and picked up) by our kids.
2. They are listening – Speak to them about it
Initially, we thought we could shield them from these but as it turns out the issues became too regular and some, like the maid woes, were too obvious to hide from them.
We decided to speak to our kids but we chose a time when we were more emotionally stable. We spoke to them of the problems as well as what we intend to do to resolve them. Surprisingly, they were not only able to patiently hear us out, they immediately tried to propose solutions as well!
We felt a strange sense of relief after we spoke to our kids about the problems we were facing. It felt like we were now all in it together, as a family. The burden is now shared.
3. They are part of it – Involve them
Truth be told, we were surprised that our kids, who have had the help of a live-in maid all their lives, took onto household chores readily. Though not perfect, they were obliging, helpful and even chose different chores to ‘specialise’ in: Buddy would help to hang the laundry, while the sister does the daily vacuuming and mopping.
Aside from household chores, getting them to be part of the solution-finding process gave the kids a greater sense of ownership, particularly with issues regarding the new home. We were pleasantly surprised that the kids did try their level-best to help us manage in their own ways.
Let kids can be involved, just draw out the tasks and responsibilities that are calibrated to their age and ability and they are good to go!
4. We are learning – Forgive. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Sometimes we forget that our kids are still kids. One hardly an adolescent, the other just completing preschool. Quite honestly, it is too easy to rant our frustrations at them and forget that they are going through the stresses as much as us. In fact, we feel like lousy parents for putting them through it, after all, many of these are ‘adult problems.’
We have really to remind ourselves to cut them and ourselves some slack. Do what we can, with what we have, from what we are and move forward with each day and each moment.
Instead of being overly overbearing, we remind one another to be thankful and to be prayerful, involving the kids and affirming them with words and deeds be it a “ Wow, well done!” or getting them the occasional ice cream or bubble tea treat to make their day. When there are times when we ourselves cross that line and hurt our kids’ feelings, it is only right that we do the right thing to apologise and seek their forgiveness.
5. They are remembering – They will grow up to manage their own lives
We are advocates of active parenting. While we often source out meaningful experiences for our kids, some of the more important experiences in life cannot be curated or planned.
Real life contingencies are golden opportunities to seize teachable moments. We cannot shield nor shelter them but, like everything else we do as parents, we can show them through how we ourselves manage these with the hope that they will handle their own life’s contingencies better than their parents in the future.
The Year in Review – Less is More:
To borrow a very apt quote we heard from our Pastor on watch night service (on Zoom), 2020 has not been a year where we got whatever we wanted but it was a year we learnt to appreciate what we have. In our family’s case, it was having each other to weather through, not only the storm of the pandemic, but the contingencies we had had to ‘fight fire’ with, right in our home.
Though it had forced us to be grounded and attend much fewer events, it has drawn us closer and deeper in relationship as a family. In a sense, less was more and this will be something we cherish about 2020.