learning to parent

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Sometimes when you look back, you are amazed at how much you change.

I remembered when I first came back to Singapore from Canada back in mid-2019, I was in a shock of being a stay-at-home dad. There are, of course, other factors that caused me to be stressed out. Being in Singapore and learning to survive as an infant and a toddler was no easy feat. Where in Canada, where I grew up, I know how the system works. Here in Singapore, though I lived here for a few years prior, I still have to learn to adjust.

I guess part of the adjustment is the expectation that as a husband and a father in the Asian context, you are the one working hard to bring in the bacon (money).

Here in Singapore, in other Asian countries, it is not uncommon to have a ‘helper.’ Someone you hired from other countries like Indonesia or the Philippines to come and clean your home and take care of your kids.

Others assume that we will be sending our girls to daycare.

Many, in good intention, suggested their helpers can be our babysitter or offer a school for us to consider.

While we navigate this journey of parenting, I learn that our ‘solution’ may not be what anyone else expected or suggest. And many will offer ‘sound suggestions,’ and you don’t have to take it because it doesn’t work for you.

I can tell you, back then, sending my girls to daycare or have a helper is very tempting. I joked with Wai Jia before we returned to Singapore that I wanted a dishwasher in Singapore. In Canada and the USA, the dishwasher is part of the house. It is common, and it saves time.

In Singapore, a dishwasher is a luxury. After all, why spend on a machine when you can hire a helper who can clean your house and do all the chores. Also, space is limited in Singapore. A dishwasher takes up a lot of space.

We’ve checked our daycare and other solutions, but none of them worked out.

Divinely, God led us to homeschool our children, at least with our older one and me being a full-time stay-at-home dad.

As I mentioned before, I did not enjoy being a stay-at-home dad. But along the way, God is shaping and changing my heart to enjoy being a father to my girls. Not just a father but enjoy this season of being at ‘home.’

I can’t recall the exact period, but I remembered a time when I got excited when I saw that our older child was picking up what we were teaching her. I don’t even remember what we taught her. Maybe something simple like getting on and off the escalator by herself or learning to drink a bottle of water without spilling.

But that excited me. I was beginning to see the fruits of our labor.

I understand that parenting is not easy. There are ups, and there are downs. Sometimes the downs feel endless. But when I feel I am in a rut, we will tell ourselves that it is only a phase. It is because our children will grow and change as well. Nothing is ever static forever.

Right now, I am teaching my older child how to do add and subtract. Simple math, but not so for a four-year-old. Whenever my younger one takes a nap in the car, we will take out the math book and do one question after another.

I am also learning my own method of teaching my children. My four-year-old may not understand what 4+3 is. But she can draw 4 circles and 3 circles and add them up. Some days I do feel like giving up when she doesn’t know how many circles to draw. Some days I feel like let’s not taught her because I am tired.

I am learning to parent is a day in and day out. It is like a slow drip. It ain’t instant, and it will never be. That’s how life should live out. That’s how parenting should be—one day at a time. There is no need to rush. Relationship, even parent and child, is not forged by being the fastest. Rather, it is taking the slow, winding journey. Celebrating the wins and mourning the losses together.

Technically it is true that you become a parent when your child is born. But for me, I’ve learned in the past few years that it took me time to grow into parenthood. What’s more true is that I’ve grown into learning to love to be a parent even in the midst of all the ups and downs.

In a way, isn’t that the same way how life with Christ should be? This is the desire of God, our Heavenly Father, that we journey with Him in this life that He has given us. I know we often desire God to answer our prayers or make our problems go away quickly. But we will realize that as we journey with Christ, He is very patient, especially with our sinful nature.

And so here I long for two things….fellowship with Christ the rest of my life in all its ups and downs….and love, joy, and peace with my wife and my children.

Sometimes we think more academic or more things or more wealth can make us happier. I slowly realize that relationships with God and others are the most important matters in this short life.

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By Cliff

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