There are some things that only a true-blue Singaporean will understand, like the use of a packet of tissue paper to “chope” one’s table in the food court, or the need to line up in single file in the public loos instead of forming individual queues in front of the cubicles.
Likewise, there are also some things that only a Singaporean parent would understand.
1. Planning (way ahead) is the key to success
Nothing is left to chance with us. From the choice of preschool, primary school, secondary school etc, many Singaporean parents have their children’s early years mapped out for them well-before their school-going age. We even have online forums to monitor school registration statistics and investigate our school of choice!
That’s not all – as forward-thinking parents, we are always thinking about what it will take for our children to succeed in life, and that includes possible enrichment, tuition, and other extra-curricular activities, through which we seek to expose our child to maximum opportunities for learning and self-discovery.
2. Take a queue number
Here in Singapore, a queue is akin to shining a light in the darkness, drawing everyone around to its flame. Being in a queue is part and parcel of any Singaporean parents’ life – definitely much more so than for Singaporeans who are not parents.
There are the Happy Meal toy queues at MacDonald’s (Hello Kitty, anyone?) and long snaking lines in shopping centre atriums whenever there’s a toy fair to be had. There are queues at the clinic and pediatrician whenever our child is sick, and of course, there are the queues to register our child for this school or that course, and so on.
Remind yourself that good things are worth the wait!
3. Always keep important documents
Never underestimate the importance of examination certificates and certificates of participation or achievement! Besides keeping our personal documents intact, we also try our best to archive our child’s certificates, because we never know when it might come in handy one day!
4. Waiting outside school
On the first day of preschool, we hover around outside the door after the teacher has gently but firmly untangled our wailing child from our arms and politely closed the door. Many of us have spent many mornings crying our own eyes out in the car or the public toilet after dropping our children off at school. Thankfully, this phase doesn’t last long for most of us.
When our children go to primary school, we hover around the school gates during recess time. Sometimes we get allowed in to peek into the canteen, and we heave a huge sigh of relief when we see our child socializing with his peers and putting something edible into his mouth!
5. To learn for “fun” is a luxury few enjoy
With terms like Direct School Admission (DSA) and Music Elective Program (MEP) floating around these days, it’s hard for us parents to let our kids take up a hobby just “for fun”. Not when there are piles of homework for them to finish, a mandatory extra-curricular activity to clock in time for, tuition classes and the like… and only 24 hours in a day.
The outcome of living in a fast-paced and performance-oriented society like ours is that it is sometimes a huge struggle for us to allow our kids to spend time and energy on something that seems irrelevant or unimportant, for the sake of enjoyment.
Outsiders might say we are stifling our children’s creativity or stealing their joy. But as Singaporean parents, we know that we aren’t trying to steal their childhood – we’re just grappling with the realities of a child’s life in Singapore.
6. That dilemma about whether or not to give up / take your seat
We’ve all been there. Our child is sitting in the crowded MRT train or bus, her heavy school bag on her lap when an elderly person comes onboard. Do we ask our child to give up her seat or wait for the person in the priority seat to volunteer his place?
Sometimes the opposite happens. We come on board a crowded bus or train, and someone offers our child a seat. Do we graciously accept the offered seat, or do we feel embarrassed, because our child is perfectly healthy, really, and fully capable of standing up with the rest? It’s always a dilemma, isn’t it?
7. Fast food is underrated
Sure, we’ve heard all the facts about organic food being best for our families, and the need to avoid greasy, mass-produced, MSG-laden fast-food at all costs. But hey, fellow parents, let’s admit that we could all do with our MacDonald’s or KFC meals once in a while.
Why? Well, (1) the kids love it (2) it’s readily available everywhere and (3) it saves us the time and energy of preparing a meal from scratch. So as much as we might enjoy eating healthy most of the time, we are deeply thankful for the many fast-food brands that abound on our little island. Twister fries and hot fudge sundae, anyone?
8. Our children are light years ahead of us in harnessing technology
Most of our kids are exposed to social media by the time they hit primary school, and many have their own handphone by the time they reach the upper primary levels. It’s no wonder then that many Singaporean parents feel the pressure to “keep up with the times” and jump on the social media bandwagon, at least to be in touch with the latest trends, so that our kids won’t think we’re total recluses in this area.
And, let’s face it, we’re all pretty worried about the kind of danger our kids can run into online, which is why we’re always running to catch up on the latest trends.
9. The Parent Network is pretty amazing
We parents need to stick together, and we know it! From as early as preschool and up, we tend to gravitate towards our fellow parents and form communities of support. There are Whatsapp groups and online forums for us to join, and these networks can prove to be pretty useful when we need to know if the Spelling Test for tomorrow has been changed to next week, or if the holiday assignment really needs to be 500 words long…
10. It takes a village to raise a child
We are blessed, many of us, to have family close by. Here in Singapore, living on our little red dot means that we are never more than an hour away from our loved ones, and that has often meant that we get the help we need in the daunting task of bringing up baby.
Indeed, many of us can testify to the importance of family and friends, as well as colleagues and neighbours, all of who play a vital role in the parenting journey.
From baby-sitting so that we have some me-time or a couple date and whipping up home-cooked meals with much love, to letting us work from home to care for a sick child or helping us watch out for our fearless child who dashes into the elevator before we’ve locked our front door – our community is indispensable.
By Dorothea Chow
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