Wai Jia, my wife, has been away from us for almost a month now. She is now in Africa helping out with UNICEF. This has been one of the most intense periods of my life because I am looking after the kiddies 24/7.
Before I go on, I will say that I can only do this by the grace of God. I never imagine I can look after my kids alone 24/7. But I can see that God has been shaping me for this role in the past few years.
When Wai Jia was studying at John Hopkins and Sarah-Faith, my older daughter, was only a few months old, I had to look after her instead of putting her to daycare. When we came back from Canada to Singapore 2.5 years ago, I watched over the kids whenever Wai Jia worked.
I can see the gradual change process and me progressing as a father. When this opportunity to serve in Africa popped up at the end of last year, I knew it was from God. I told Wai Jia that God did not send her to study for Masters of Public Health at John Hopkins University to stay comfortable in Singapore. Granted, I do enjoy comfort. But we desire to pursue Jesus and His Kingdom by helping the poor.
One of the biggest struggles I have with looking after the kiddies is what am I going to do with them. Originally I worried I will have too much time. So we started to schedule many jie jies (young ladies) to help babysit my kids so I could have a break. We also arranged playdates and to fill our schedule.
About two weeks into it, I ran into an issue. I realized I was not spending enough good quality time with my kids. I know it sounds ironic, given I am looking after them all the time. What I mean by good quality time is a time where I can pay full attention to them without doing chores or looking on my phone. Because my older one started half-day school a few days after Wai Jia left, I have even less time with her.
As we rushed from one appointment to another, I became impatient and yelled at my kids to get into the car. I realized I am not displaying or developing any fruits of the Spirit to them. The schedule took control of our lives. And for what? After all, the point of the schedule is to help the kids and me. I realized the key is to have a good time with each other.
One way of fixing this is try to cram and fit everything together so it runs smoothly. But with two toddlers, that ain’t going to happen. My younger one now learned how to clean in the car herself and she can spend up to 5 minutes just exploring the car before sit on her own seat. When I am not rush i don’t mind because that’s how she learns. But when I have to rush to meet someone, then I get stress. I started to yell and ask my child to hurry up.
So what do I do? Screw the timetable. Instead of trying to jam everything in and make it work, I started to scrap out our appointments. I cancelled one after another. I am thankful for many friends who try to help look after my kiddies.
I learned this back when I was training for Ironman. I remembered I had to keep clearing my calendar so I coul train. I stopped meeting up with friends on Friday night to get up early to ride on Saturday morning. As someone in their 20s, hanging out on Friday night is a big deal.
I do more by doing less.
We can go to the library on a whim and read books for hours. Or we can do this when it is cloudy…
There is a particular belief in our culture that you can achieve everything you want as long as you can multi-task. I believe that is not true. My kids don’t care how much I can multi-task when they want me to play with them. They know when I am not paying attention to them when staring at my phone.
And more importantly, I want to build that deep connection with them. I am easily distracted by WhatsApp, Instagram, or Facebook. Those things don’t fulfill my role as a father to my children. What fulfills my role as a father is when I spend good quality time with my daughters to feel love. This is how I am discipling my children to our Heavenly Father’s love.
I am not always good at this. There are times when I am so tired I want to glue to my phone while my kids are begging me to play with them. But I remind myself that good quality time spent with my children is limited. I will be lucky to spend an hour a day with them where I am not interrupted or busy doing other things. And this is probably the most worthwhile investment in their lives and the generations that will flow through them.