I recently had a round of drinks with a friend who was whining about the upcoming June school holidays.
The father of a 10-year-old boy, this friend was complaining about how much of a headache it is to ensure his son has a productive holiday. His plan? To send the kid to an array of holiday camps and enrichment classes because he and his wife both have to work.
I shook my head in disagreement.
“I think you’re sending the kid to these camps because you just want to keep him occupied so that you can focus on work. Have you even asked if he wants to participate in these activities?” I said.
“What are you talking about? He loves football just like I do!”
“Lies. I’ve seen him play football on your Instagram stories.”
“And he has as much enthusiasm for the game as an NSF has for weekend guard duty.”
To all parents out there, please, don’t force your child to do a sport that you love. I’m speaking from personal experience. I still remember the time my parents signed me up for swimming classes even though I hated swimming.
Their reason? It’s a must-have life skill. You know, I’m not entirely sure swimming can be considered an important life skill. I mean, that would certainly be true if I were born into a family of otters. But as you can see, I’m not an otter.
Looking back, I reckon it was more due to the fact that Ang Peng Siong was a national hero and everyone wanted their kids to become like him.
“Why do I need to learn how to swim when I can just use the float?” I argued.
“Nonsense! Only little kids use floats! You must learn to be a man!” said my dad as he threw my Superman float down the rubbish chute.
Starting from that day, I learned to despise my peers who used floats. I saw them as unworthy. I was excited at being able to become a man through my beautiful breast strokes.
Anyways, look, the holidays are meant to be fun. Having one’s holiday itinerary stuffed with things he or she does not enjoy isn’t fun. Just put yourself in the child’s shoes. Can you imagine making grand plans to laze in bed till noon on a public holiday, only to be forced to wake up at 7am to do a conference call with your colleagues from another continent?
Or just recall your NSF days when you were hoping to meet your girlfriend for lunch after booking out early on Saturday, only for the platoon sergeant to utter those three dreaded words: lunch is indented.
I think some people still have the wrong perception of parenting – this task isn’t about molding a kid into what you think he or she should be. Rather, parents need to help their children identify their interests. It’s fine to encourage the kids to try new things, but by no means should you force them to pick up hobbies you think they need to have.
So, give the kids some time to do whatever they want to do this holiday. Don’t bury them in incessant enrichment classes. Make learning fun and holistic. Not arbitrary.
And please, don’t justify the need for enrichment classes with the “if you don’t study hard now you will end up as a road sweeper when you grow up” line.
We’re living in the 21st century. Be a little more woke. Here’s what you should do instead. Teach the kids about the importance of respecting our essential workers. Educate them about the value of professions such as road sweepers.
And then, for the practical part of this lesson, get them to sweep the floors and take out the trash.
By the way, I must admit that being able to swim did come in handy when I was sent to attend the SAF lifeguard course many years ago. No, I wasn’t a lifeguard posted to the beaches of Sentosa. No, there were no bikini-clad women involved. I was a lifeguard for Armour formation training exercises where the Bionix had to perform amphibious operations.
I still recall the second day of training when I was selected to be the first to demonstrate a new rescue technique we learned the day before. Just as I was about to dive into the water, the warrant officer in charge stopped me in my tracks.
“What are you trying to do?” he asked.
“Encik, didn’t you tell me to save the drowning person?” I replied.
“Yes. But what are you doing?”
“Erm, jumping into the water?”
“Don’t bodoh, lah. Just use the float!”
LOL Mondays is an ongoing series of slice-of-life stories from freelance writer and NSman Alywin Chew. Look out for the humorous tales which will be posted every first Monday of the month, to help you drive away your Monday blues!
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