2021. A year wrought with sweat, tears and prayers to make family life work. Before it ended, the Husb shared with me his reflections for the year. I asked for him to pen it down and here it is:
The ‘Multi-Tasking Working Parents Task Force’
At this point of writing, I’m not too sure if ‘Happy New Year’ is a phrase I’d like to wish others especially since we will enter the 3rd year of this long drawn global pandemic.
Truth be told, there were other major ‘shifts’ on the home front that we had to manage. Unlike the pandemic, there’s no ‘Multi-Ministry Task Force’ to help us navigate the changes, it’s just down to Angie and me – the ‘Multi-Tasking Working Parents Task Force’ and what a year it has been – managing a teen at home, helping the youngest with his transition to mainstream school and taking the bold step to go for a VTL trip. So here it is, mirroring familiar local terms, here’s the ‘Multi-Tasking Working Parents Task Force’s take on parenting in a pandemic world 2021.
Tightening and Loosening of Restrictions
Mention the word ‘teenager’ to any parents and you are sure to hear a barrage of opinions. Most would point towards an experience that is a mix of frustration, relief, elation and then frustration again. So, very much like the pandemic, it warranted the ‘Multi-Tasking Working Parents Task Force’ to loosen and tighten restrictions and privileges, sometimes even on a daily basis!
Teenagerhood. We have all been there (but some chose to forget!). A time where we become more aware of our own identities, exert our own rights, and stand up for our opinions (aka ‘argue’). With the eldest turning 13, gone is that sweet little girl who would come skipping and smiling when we reached home. Instead, there’s that ‘emo’ ‘Hi’ or ‘Hello’ or sometimes none.
But unlike our time, we need to help her navigate the world of social media content, handphones and changing societal norms and values. The accessibility of streaming TV and music, and noncurated media posts makes media influence, good, bad, or controversial, even more prevalent. While she is older and more independent, she may not necessarily be wiser. As first-time parents of teens, we find ourselves constantly ‘tango-ing’ between control and freedom.
We discovered that as much as we want our teen to discover herself, we need to revisit our parenting styles anew. We are mindful that we need to give our teen the time and space to adapt and grow, but we still must uphold some key values and principles. These include transparency in communication, creating opportunities to connect, and have meaningful conversations.
The Transition Phase
The youngest faced his own set of challenges too.
We had thought that getting his early diagnosis for ADHD and ASD prior to him entering Primary 1 could alleviate some of the unpredictability. Well, it did to some extent as it took out some guesswork on understanding his condition, but then came the reality of him settling into school. While we are thankful that Singapore’s education system offers some support for special needs children, the resources are in fact, very stretched. The pandemic doesn’t help either as all the intervention appointments face long backlog and personnel seem to be facing burnt-out.
In addition to helping him transit to Primary 1, the ‘Multi-Tasking Working Parents Taskforce’ had to pro-actively do our part to work with his school to advocate for him, and to seek out our own resources, listen and learn from other experienced parents to better help our son.
Through it all, we are very thankful for his early diagnosis and starting him off on intervention early. For us parents, we learnt to work with him and with the people who support him. On this note, we would like to give a shout out to the good folks at Unlocking ADHD (https://www.unlockingadhd.com/), a non-profit grounds-up initiative started by a mother seeking to empower fellow parents with ADHD children to live life to the fullest. It addresses the gap in information and resources in Singapore. I have learned so much from their panel discussions and forums, and I don’t feel so isolated in this ADHD parenting journey.
VTL – Vaccinated Travel Lane
With these changes and transitions, 2021 was also the year that we realized we must pay closer attention to our well-being. Specifically, to purposefully invest time in our marriage.
Relationships are not tasks and it’s not something that can be part of multitasking. While parenting forges marriages in some ways, all that instruction-giving, schedule-planning, errand-running can be very draining. Not to mention the disciplining, playing judge and jury 24/7. We gave so much of our time to parenting that we neglected ‘couple-care’. We have forgotten what it’s like to just be spontaneous, hold each other’s hands, and relive the joys of the ‘dating years’. It dawned upon me that it’s hard to have a loving family when love is running low in the marriage.
When the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) was announced, I made a commitment to bring Angie go our first couple trip abroad. Since Buddy was not vaccinated, we decided to go to Spain sans kids. This was a major decision as we have always travelled with the kids since they were tiny, throughout our 22 years of marriage. While we have been on our fair share of staycations and excursions to discover and rediscover Singapore, the discovering of new places and new experiences through travel rejuvenates us like none other.
Going into 2022, we may look at more deliberate moments away from being parents, to be husband and wife to reinvest the time in sustaining a strong marriage, which after all, is the bedrock for a strong family.
”Without our magic, we risk losing ourselves!” Quote from Disney’s Encanto
While 2021 started with humanity hoping for a vaccine to end the pandemic, alas it has been another challenging year with 2 worrying variants (Delta and Omicron) fronting both ends of the year.
The restrictions brought on by the pandemic has brought the importance of family and relationships to the fore. Mirroring the pandemic, the animation Disney movie, ‘Encanto’, one of the most meaningful animation movies in 2021, highlights what we go through when we are ‘forced’ by circumstances to confront our relationships with those we love.
And indeed, it is relationships – the nurturing of new ones, reconnecting with existing ones and reconciling with past ones – that are the booster that keeps us going. For that, we will always have hope as we look forward towards a brand-new year.
Happy New Year!