Category: Family

In memorium – 赖玉梅 (1930-2021), 冯全 (1913-83)

My paternal grandparents were immigrants from China to Singapore even before WWII & the Japanese Occupation, my grandpa was from Hainan Island, & my grandma from Guangdong (Canton), she spent some time in Malaysia before moving over. They married young, my grandma had the first of 8 children at age 18, my dad was number 2 at age 20. They took care of me much of my early childhood, as my parents were both working (dual-income families were a push by the government), & we stayed in the same HDB block in Marsiling, overlooking the old Causeway (before the days of sky/traffic cams).

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It’s been more than half a year since the Covid-19 pandemic has forced schools to move to remote learning, both here in the States as well as in Singapore around mid-March to April. Two articles I came across gives us only a small glimpse of how great a challenge and impact social inequality and disparity has on society and the implications for Christians and the church. In a Straits Times (ST) article (18 April 2020, Venessa Lee & Stephanie Yeo), titled “How home-based learning shows up inequality in Singapore,” three families were interviewed and featured, discussing the struggles of children face with home-based learning (HBL), especially those coming from low-income families with multiple siblings.

How home-based learning shows up inequality in Singapore (Credit: ST Alphonsus Chern)
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In the span of 2 weeks, we celebrated Father’s Day, my son’s 9th birthday, & the Fourth of July (America’s Independence Day). As we were preparing for the birthday celebrations, my wife noted that we’ve been parents for 9 years. As I was reflecting on Ps. 78, it seemed to be rather appropriate for these 2 weeks of events.

Psalm 78 is significant in the Bible and to me for various reasons. It is the basis for this blog’s title and focus, the concept of “skillful shepherds,” found in the last verse 72,

So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart,
And guided them with his skillful hands.

You can read more here.
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In these challenging times of the global Covid-19 pandemic, children and students can get too little or too much exposure to news and anxiety. As parents and leaders, we need to figure out a balance between the two and avoid too little or too much.

Tim Elmore wrote an interesting post “How often should we talk about the pandemic with our kids?” where he draws from personal experience and also discusses an upcoming book “The Pandemic Population,” where he interviews Great Depression kids and shares their responses. Here’s a summary.

Guidelines when talking about crises with kids:

  • Give them only as much as their minds can handle
  • Start the conversation over a meal; wait for them to ask a question
  • Let the news reports spark the conversation
  • When an overload is observed or building, stop
  • Move on to age-appropriate topics; let kids be kids

Great Depression kids’ responses:

  • The majority of them were not aware they were living in the Great Depression
  • Everyone felt they were all the same and we’re in this thing together
  • People maintained simplicity, gratitude, and contentment
  • Adults raised kids collectively and worked to build morals and work ethic
  • Good attitudes and virtues seemed to be paramount

Read the full article here.

Reflections on Kobe Bryant

I was never really a Kobe Bryant or LA Lakers fan, maybe in some parts due to my own affinity (growing up as a teen in the ’90s) towards the earlier Michael Jordan era and the Chicago Bulls. Like the rest of the world, I woke up last Sunday morning to the shocking news of the helicopter crash that took 9 lives, including Kobe and his 13 year old daughter, Gianna.

Looking back at Bryant’s basketball career and post-NBA life, of the many accolades and accomplishments, these are a few (amidst many) lessons that I have learnt from him.

1. He stayed and played for the same basketball team for 20 years.
2. He and his wife persevered (through many ups and downs) in their marriage of almost 19 years).
3. He had a tenacious fighting spirit and disciplined work ethic (aka Mamba mentality).
4. He continued in life with purpose (NBA, film, coaching, family)

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As we reflect on the topic of raising the next generation, it is worth to consider this verse in Deut. 4.9:

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

What does passing the faith on to future generations encompass? God reminds us in His Word that firstly, it begins with ourselves. We are to be careful, or to give heed to ourselves, and to watch ourselves closely, or to keep our souls diligently. Why is this important? Our life is our best witness to the generations after us, not our achievements, not our words or teachings, but the way we live our lives.

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This is love

As we commemorate Father’s Day today, and as we give thanks and remember our earthly fathers, at the same time I pray that we would reflect on our relationship with our Heavenly Father, particularly His great love for us. 1 John 4:10 tells us,

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

As much as we might know of God’s love in His Word, at times our own positive or negative experiences of love from or with our earthly fathers could possibly affect our view or experience of God’s love. Jesus exhorts us, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35).
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Managing screen time

Dr Sears posted a great article entitled “8 Ways to Manage Screen Time for Kids and Teens“.

Here’s a summary.

  1. No phones in the car (unless trip goes over 20 min)
  2. Movies & shows are watched on the big screens, not the phone or tablet
  3. Mealtime is a No Phone Zone
  4. Phones go away one hour before bedtime
  5. Grades drop = phone is gone
  6. When phones are ON, we use them to promote family togetherness
  7. Phone safety
  8. Have an occasional unplugged weekend

You can read the full article here.

Beginning of school

I spent the first day of the new year with my son, doing last minute shopping in preparation for him starting primary school the next day. After 2 hours of braving crowds and queues, we settled on his school bag (on sale at an outlet) and school shoes (good ol’ Bata). We slept early after dinner and prayers and woke bright and early the next morning to catch the half-hour train to his new school for the next 6 years. Parents also had a halfday orientation programme whilst the children had theirs in their classrooms.

This first week has been challenging as not only is our son adjusting to school and his new routine, but also the whole family having to adjust e.g. having everyone fed and quiet so that he can sleep early. The babies for some reason knew this, and have been waking up in the middle of the night as they nap earlier. After 5 days, both me and my wife were depleted, exhausted and falling sick. I woke with a splitting migraine on Friday morning and it has not dissipated since, mostly due to lack of sleep (most extreme was 1 night sleeping only 1.5 hours).

Emotionally and mentally, it has been mixed feelings graduating to becoming a primary school parent – a mixture of stress, fatigue, nostalgia, joy and pride. As I send my son to school everyday now, I am immediately transported back some 30+ years ago when my mother would do the same, sending me to school for the 1st 3 years of my primary school life. We used to stay near the old checkpoint, woke up 5am, on the old conductor non-aircon bus by 5.30am for a slow, long 1hr 45min busride through small roads, reaching school nicely at 7.15am. This was before the days of the MRT and newer expressways, and when it rained, an infamous canal would flood and we would be excused for being late for school. Compared to those days in the early ’80s, travelling to school or around Singapore these days are a breeze, despite the occasional breakdowns, train faults, and crowds.

Looking back, those first 3 years were really tough, but it also inculcated deep values of discipline and sacrifice on my part as a young boy. Although we now have a 2nd-hand car, and our son has been used to being fetched around during preschool, it was a conscious choice for me to brave the MRT crowds each morning with him, in the hope that this would start to develop discipline, resilience and self-sacrifice as he matures into a young boy and man. Children seem to be made from different stuff these days, just walking 10 minutes from the aircon train and station to his school, would render frequent complaints of, “I’m tired, I’m sweaty.”

I bumped into an old primary school friend during parent orientation, and after comparing notes, realised we were classmates in P3, and now both our boys were in the same P1 class. Over the past few weeks, I have been meeting and reconnecting with more and more old friends, all having sons now in the school. And to top it all off, one of our teachers, who came in when we were P4, is still teaching in the school up to today, some 30+ years already!

Watching my son walk up the stairs to his class and assembly everyday after reaching school, and hearing him get excited about visiting the library, making new friends, enjoying fun games at PE, learning new things, having his own travel card, library card, buying food at the canteen, makes me beam with pride and thankfulness. Proud that we have such a mature and good young boy, growing up, beginning his schooling journey; thankful to God for watching and nurturing him over the past 6 years, and for the opportunity to study in a good school in a safe and stable environment here in Singapore. Not every child has that privilege or chance, and I pray that our son will cherish and enjoy his schooling days, despite the gradual stresses and pressures.

Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22.6

Replacing our parental tendencies

Tim Elmore wrote an excellent post on FB on common parental behaviours we must replace. Here is a summary.

  1. Motivation – Replace FEAR with WISDOM
  2. Evaluation – Replace focus on GRADES with a focus on GROWTH
  3. Schedules – Replace CLUTTER with SIMPLICITY
  5. Feedback – Replace emphasizing BEHAVIOUR with emphasizing BELIEF

Read the full article here.

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