In 2015, I sat down and started typing some random thoughts about motherhood in my Evernote, like a kind of “letter to my younger self” or “what I would say to a younger mom” thing. I thought about publishing it as a post here but hesitated. I really only wrote it for myself and not for sharing.
I did not look at it again although I still remember such a thing existed among my notes.
Fast forward 3 years. I dug it up, read through it and decided it is time I publish it as a post. I decided not to do any editing, leaving it in the point form that I wrote it in as random thoughts entered my mind, not changing the tone to make it more suitable for a blog post either. So, the order of the thoughts are purely random. The tone could sound blunt (I was lecturing myself, you know). I realised that I somewhat reiterated some points, such as the ones about loving our kids, which goes to show how important that was to me.
As I read through the points again now, I felt like I could elaborate on so many of them. There is so much more to say. All these thoughts are still valid. However, I have also learn more in the 3 years since I wrote them. So there are more in my heart now than before but I will take my time to share.
So here are the things I wanted to tell my younger self or a younger mom 3 years ago:
1. Hug and carry your little ones as much as you can, as long as you can. They grow up so fast. Before you know it, you cannot hug or carry them anymore. This will come sooner than you think. By the time they are about 7 or 8, you probably cannot carry them anymore. So you actually don’t have many years to do it.
2. Keep the Long Term Goal in mind. Don’t miss the big picture for the sake of short term solutions. If you want your child to grow up to be respectful, diligent, generally well brought up and can make you proud, then everything you do now must work towards that goal. You don’t want to deal with a whiny 10 year old? Then teach your 3 year old not to whine, starting NOW. Too tired to fight battles with your little ones all the time? There will be more to fight if some things are not nipped in the bud in time. If you want your kid to be independent and able to take care of things on his own, then refrain from doing everything for him all the time just because it is easier this way right now. Teach him to do it on his own, a little at a time.
3. Don’t make excuses for your kids. Don’t think that they are ‘just kids’ and ‘kids don’t understand’, and let them get away with bad behaviour. Little kids who do not know better will grow up to become Big Kids Who Do Not Know Better if they are not taught to know better from young. And Big Kids Who Do Not Know Better will become Adults Who SHOULD Know Better later on.
4. You really cannot love your children too much. Loving them will not spoil them.
5. We need a great deal of wisdom to raise our kids. First of all, recognise that we all do not have that kind of wisdom in ourselves. Second of all, recognise that the only way to have that kind of wisdom is to ask God for it. He is the only one who can give you the wisdom to raise each and every one of your children just the right way.
6. Let Go and Let God take over the raising of your children. Don’t try too hard to achieve results by your own strength. For parenting is really ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit’ (Zech 4:6). I cannot stress too much the importance of resting in His grace for His grace is sufficient for you. You want peaceful parenting? “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isa 26:3).
7. Be careful who you are listening to. I learned to avoid parenting groups, even Parent Support Groups in schools. There are too many parents in those groups who thrive on gossips and kiasuism* that will bring fear into your heart and make you look to your SELF rather than to God. If someone, some group, or some organisation do not encourage you and minister to you but instead instil fear and stress in your, leave.
8. Knowledge is not necessarily power. I used to believe that knowledge is power as it gives you the option to make “informed choice”. I have since learned that this is not so. Knowledge can just as well cause you confusion and brings fear and stress. It is human arrogance to think that as long as we know enough, we can make an ‘informed’ or ‘intelligent’ choice. If not knowledge, then what? Again, seek God’s wisdom. He will lead you to the ‘right knowledge’ that you need for your situation.
9. Never stop telling your children that you love them, and that you love them regardless of whether they do good or they do bad. Your children need to know that they are loved unconditionally. Very often, because of the necessity of discipline, our children wrongly think that they are only loved if they do good (even if we discipline them in the most loving manner). Therefore, keep on telling them that they are loved regardless of their behaviour. Never use words and threats like ‘I won’t love you anymore if you do this’ or ‘I don’t want you anymore because you are so naughty’. This is utter foolishness.
10. Don’t believe in ‘Learning must be fun”. It is 10% truth and 90% cr*p. If you believe that a child cannot learn if something is not fun, you can count on your child stop being interested in learning anything once he is out of the preschool stage. “Fun” is a very subjective term. Quantum physics may be fun to me but a torture to you. When something is not easy to learn, it does not necessarily mean that it is no longer fun. A 5000-piece puzzle is really hard to me but I am sure jigsaw puzzle fans will find the challenge fun. So it is more important that our kids have a positive attitude towards learning and facing difficulty than for us to try and make things ‘fun’ and ‘palatable’ to them. Real life is not Disneyland.
11. Values, character and creativity vs achieving excellence in studies – they are not a zero-sum game.
12. God is in your life so do not be like the world, complaining about the same thing they complain about, believing the same thing they believe in. While the whole world around you complain about the education system, about exams, about society, we have God and He gives us the wisdom to thrive in the same education system, to excel in exams and learning and to succeed despite what state the society may be in. If we complain about ‘the system’, in a sense, we are subjecting ourselves to it.
13. Our value as a parent is not measured by how guilty we feel or how worried or stressed we are over our children. Worry and mommy/daddy-guilt are not signs of a good parent. So quit worrying and stop wallowing in guilt.
14. Discipline is not just knowing when to punish or how to punish. There is no glory in proclaiming yourself to be a ‘disciplinarian’. Discipline is first and foremost TEACHING you child the right way to behave. Think of yourself as a master teacher imparting a skill. It takes multiple instructions in many shapes and forms and learning through various different situations in order for the ‘apprentice’ to perfect the skill.
*To non-Singaporean readers : This is a Singlish term. To be Kiasu literally means to be afraid to lose. In the context of parenting in Singapore, it is often used to describe parents who put out-of-proportion emphasis on their kids not losing out in school. Typical behaviour include signing up their kids for all kinds of after school tuition classes even when their children are already scoring well in school exams, quibbling with teachers over loss of 1 or 2 marks, and moving house just so that they can get their kids into certain top schools.