Having one or two children is pretty much the norm in Singapore these days. But having more than three kids is still considered rare in our society. With a grand total of four kids under his roof, TNAP writer Dorothea Chow spoke to Andy Lee of SengkangBabies on how he has bucked the trend of having a small family, and has no regrets whatsoever! “The more the merrier,” he says.
The stars of the Lee family are Boon Wee (11), Boon Kang (9), Boon Yee (7) and Boon Xin (5).
Andy holds a job in the IT industry, while his wife, Meng Choo, is a full-time homemaker. The couple are in their early forties. We spoke to Andy to introduce us to his lovely family.
No. 1: Firstborn Boon Wee is very sociable. He enjoys sports and reading, and is growing into a confident teen. When it comes to chores around the house, he is reliable and responsible to complete the task well.
No. 2: Boon Kang is the cheeky and creative one, always full of ideas. He likes to do things differently and is curious about everything and anything.
No. 3: Boon Yee is the sunshine in their home. Always smiling, he has a heart of gold, and does not hesitate to share his toys and food.
No. 4: The baby of the family is Boon Xin, who loves bossing her older brothers around! Her teachers always mention that she likes to be the big sister in class. Don’t be fooled by her charm – this little princess can sweet-talk her way out of trouble in a jiffy!
Where Do You Find The Energy?
Friends and family who follow their family’s adventures through the SengkangBabies blog often remark that the Lee kids always look joyful, and have very “happening” lives. All four kids are very active, and the home is never quiet with them around. Naturally, then, Andy and his wife have been asked many times: “Where do you find the energy?”
Managing a family of six is no mean feat, and Andy and his wife have often been asked just how they manage to hold it all together.
There is no “secret”, the couple maintain. Just Do It – deal with whatever happens along the way, and keep moving.
Over the years, their growing parenting experiences definitely help them to control situations that arise, or even to anticipate issues before they happen. Looking back, the most difficult transition for them was from life as a newly married couple to becoming parents.
A simple meal outside became a complicated affair. One of them would entertain the toddler while the other gobbled down the meal. They had to take turns to eat. Diaper changes were anywhere and everywhere, and in the fastest possible time.
They had to say goodbye to spontaneous holidays, romantic candlelight dinners, and sleep. With more mouths to feed now, they have had to be prudent with their savings, take fewer holidays, dine out less often, and spend less on toys for their children. Making so many lifestyle changes has not been easy.
With four kids in tow now, you can imagine the amount of logistics that is involved in a simple trip out to the mall or zoo. And on regular days, there’s the routine of bringing the kids to and from school, CCA and enrichment classes, getting the groceries, and still ensuring that they have time for proper meals and homework.
Growing up… Sibling Fights and Sweet Moments
However, as his children have grown in maturity and independence, Andy shares that they do delegate more of the house chores to their kids these days, impressing upon them the need to share the responsibility of keeping the house clean. For example, the older ones can help with ironing the clothes, preparing meals, and cleaning the floor. This also frees up his wife to have some personal space to enjoy her favourite Korean drama.
With all four children spaced two years apart, there’s no avoiding the day-to-day sibling rivalry that emerges. According to Andy, his little princess is skilled in all manner of combats, thanks to her brothers’ “grooming”. They typically leave them to sort out their disagreements independently, stepping in just before the hair-pulling or wrestling begins.
Andy and his wife often remind their kids that siblings are for life, and that they must always take care of each other. And on those occasions when they see their children looking out for each other, it makes everything worth it.
There are many heartwarming moments, every time they see their children run to each other for help when they need assistance, instead of to Daddy or Mummy. When their family goes to the supermarket, someone will push trolley, another will hold the shopping list, and others will be the human GPS. And the older boys are tasked with bringing the smaller ones to school, or assisting them with their homework.
You might think that the couple looks forward to catching up on rest over the weekends, but guess what? Weekends are always busier than weekdays! But more than that, weekends are the only time when the kids have their full attention.
Andy shares, “There are only 154 weekends before our child grows into a teenager. He has only one childhood, and we want to be present when he goes through the milestones.” Kudos to this Dad for whom family is a top priority. Indeed, the days are long, but the years are short.
Andy shares four tips for couples who have or are planning to have a larger family.
1. Let it Go!
We cannot afford to be overly picky when it comes to cleanliness or keeping to schedules with a larger brood, or we will end up overwhelmed and stressed. Learn to relax, take a step back, and take a deep breath. We sometimes forget that our kids are still small and try to impose unrealistic expectations on them.
2. Be patient with yourself
Nobody is a natural Mummy and Daddy, but we will learn on the job, and we will survive. Enjoy the learning journey, make mistakes and learn from your experiences.
3. Don’t neglect your marriage
As parents, we need to constantly adapt and learn, but a strong marriage sets the foundation for the long-term cohesiveness of our family. Even after marriage, spend time regularly with your spouse. Take time off from worrying about your kids, and go out on couple dates sans kids! Here’s how Andy and his Mrs keep their marriage going strong!
There are only 24 hours in a day, and all of us have limited amounts of energy. Choose how you want to spend your time and effort wisely.
5. Listen to each child
Make it a point to let your children tell you all about their day, the school activities they did, their new friends or their favourite cartoons – even if it sounds like a broken record every day. Your children need your undivided individual attention, and to know that you will always make time for them.
Andy blogs at SengkangBabies.com, where he seeks to document his children’s childhood and memories, and share about fun places and activities for families to explore. The Lee family has previously been featured on Mediacorp’s Channel 8 and Channel U. Thank you, Andy, for sharing with us!
Text: Dorothea Chow | Photos: SengkangBabies
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