Happiness is... seeing what truly matters

Posted by ~Summer~ on March 15, 2019

It's easy to say that we want to see the big picture in life and learn to enjoy the things that really matter. It's hard to do it when we get caught in the mayhem of everyday life and are always rushing to and fro, always busy with errands and chores, always picking up after somebody, always can't seem to stop nagging, always having to raise our voices because no one seems to listen, and always feeling like we screwed up today but console ourselves that there's always tomorrow to make up for it.

In the month of February, it's about reminding myself that "Happiness is..." about seeing what truly matters and learning to close an eye to what ultimately doesn't.


Delaying the kids' nap time a little, being under the hot sun and getting mosquito bites. Don't matter.

Spending some time in the afternoon to take a walk and do things that the kids like to do. Matter.

I've been telling that to myself for a while now, stop being so frustrated when they sleep a little past their nap time or bedtime. It doesn't kill anyone. Yup, it's not hard to tell I am one of those mums who fail terribly at getting the kids to sleep early. I've no idea how some kids can be in bed by 7pm every day but the fact is we are happy with our routine and as long as it works for your family, just do it because there ain't no right or wrong way.

Getting lost in a run and not being able to complete a race route that you've been looking forward to. Don't matter.

Staying together as a family, cheering each other on and being the last but happiest family to cross the finishing line. Matter. 

So we took part in the Safari Zoo Run 2019 and I shared about our unique experience previously here. It would have been easy to get annoyed and start pushing the blame to each other - in fact, we almost did - but the harder thing is to look beyond all that and remind ourselves that as long as we stayed together, it wouldn't have mattered that we had no sense of direction and were not sure where to go. It wasn't about being the first few to finish the run or making sure we got our medals; it was about letting ourselves enjoy the experience and have a good family day out. And that, we did.

Wearing old clothes during CNY, getting fat on goodies and losing money during mahjong or card games. Don't matter.

Celebrating CNY with loved ones and letting them know how much you treasure them. Matter.

CNY remains as my favourite festive season of all and it was the highlight for us in February where we had numerous gatherings with family and friends. For some of the friends, we only catch up with them once a year so we always look forward to these meetups where we will talk about the good old times and be amazed by how our kids are growing up so fast.

This year, we also made our way to River Hongbao for the first time and I have to say that the fireworks were so spectacular - one of the longest we had ever seen! We also watched Jack Neo and Jackie Chan's new movies, feasted on a lot of new year goodies, lao yu sheng many times and had yummy steamboats too. It was definitely a good new year celebration!

Seeing the kids squabble much too often which drives you up the wall. Don't matter.

Letting them learn to resolve their own conflicts and avoid stepping in to mediate, or worse, dictate. Matter.

I concluded that no matter how much they promise me that they will be 相亲相爱, get along well and not pick a fight, the truth is there will always be something to quarrel about. If not between A and B, it will be between A and C, if not then A and B, or worse, all three together. The last scenario doesn't usually happen but there will always be two parties who find fault with each other and start to complain, scream or fight. It's my destiny to live with it. Haha.

Sometimes, I get weary and short fused and my first reaction would be to ask them to stop and if that doesn't happen, it escalates to yell, command or punish. Yup, mean mum appears and even that has no effect on them sometimes. I remember a friend telling me once he lets his kids resolve their own issues most of the time so I try to remind myself that and take a step back if I can. It might sound irresponsible when I utter the words 自己想办法解决 to them and ask them to solve their own problems, but it does work from time to time, especially for the older ones and they have surprised me at times by how they learnt to give in or take turns with each other.

For instance, we played with this new bubble toy that allows you to catch the bubbles if you put on the glove. Yup, apparently this magic bubble is thicker due to the more saturated soap solution and lasts better than normal bubbles so you can hold it. There were only two gloves in the set and as they say, three is a crowd and we happen to have three kids. So they had to learn to take turns to be the catchers and the blower.

Taking insta-worthy pictures of the kids at every outing you go. Doesn't matter.

Seeing what makes your child special and taking time to appreciate the things he/she does. Matter.

Being a blogger and a mum who is active on social media means I am constantly thinking of what pictures to post on these platforms, what angles to write for my next post and what experiences I can share that will benefit others. It's like this virus that is inside me and I find it hard to shake it off. The hubby has commented on more than one occasion that I should stop taking so many pictures/videos and immerse myself in those moments more. Yup, the wise man speaks. I still find it very tough, especially when I do up all those growing up video compilations and everyone feels thankful that I captured those fleeting moments and we have something to remind us of the precious years.

We were at a chalet getaway and every time we go there, hitting the beach is a must! These kids love to pick seashells, feel the sand under their feet, touch the waves and most of all, hunt for living creatures like crabs, shrimps, mudskippers, sea stars and more. We always release them to the sea but it's the process of finding them that thrills them.

Once, I asked them to let me take some shots of them and subsequently I tried to keep my phone so I could build more sandcastles and be present with them more. Well, I did whip it out to take a couple more shots after but let's just say it was quite controlled already. Then, when I was busy with the little one, I noticed that the big girl had wandered off further and had be alone for some time. When I walked over to her, what she did brought a big smile on my face.

Yup, she's usually the one who loves the sea creatures the most but this time, she took time to do something more meaningful. She gathered all the rubbish she could find and wrote a message on the sand to remind others not to pollute the ocean. It was her own initiative and her own effort, and I absolutely loved seeing this nature-loving, kind-hearted part of her.

Our house is constantly in a mess - there are always toys strewn all over, we always have clothes on the sofa and the floor is never clean. Don't matter.

Seeing how the kids make a mess in order to grow their imagination, seeing how they play pretend and come up with creative stories, seeing them having a good time with each other. Matter.

I've kind of acknowledged the fact that if we choose not to have a helper, we will seldom have a clean house. Yup, I was never the OCD type and I'm very good at turning a blind eye to messes. Thankfully, the hubby doesn't complain about that because we are similar in that sense.

Yes, I do make the kids do chores and learn to clean up after themselves but it doesn't always happen and with the three-year-old around, it's like he's a whirlwind who makes a mess within three seconds of me clearing up any part of the house. So, 算了咯,不重要吧. Messes have become a part of our lives. These kids love to play pretend a lot and they come up with their own characters, own script and own storyline. It's quite cute to see, actually.

Trying out new recipes, making the food presentable or taking nice pictures before every meal. Don't matter.

Making sure the kids get homecooked food cooked with love by Mama, no matter how simple they may be, and that we have a hearty meal together. Matter.

Okay, we do take pictures but not during every meal and we usually do so just to let the hubby know what we cooked tonight and ask him if he's returning home to eat later. Yup, he seldom gets to eat with us on weekdays. If you've seen my IG stories, you will know how simple my homecooked food is and how it's nothing to boast about.

But you know what? These kids love it! Yup, I did try one or two new recipes and they were like "Mama, can you just cook those things that we like?" These would be dishes like soup (any kind of Chinese soup), stir-fried vegetables, fried fish, sesame oil chicken, steamed egg (they super love my steamed egg, haha) and other very basic stuff. So nice of them to be so easily contented, right? Haha.

Mealtimes are for us to bond, talk and share about things that happened in the day and I always make sure that we are free of distraction from electronic devices. Yup, no phones and TV for sure. Seeing their happy faces makes everything so worthwhile!

Seeing that the boy suffered bad cuts on his face when he went scooting with Daddy. Doesn't matter (after I made sure he was feeling okay and that the injuries were not serious).

Letting him have a good time and carrying on with plans that you know would cheer him up, as well as showering him with love and assurance. Matter.

It was so hard to hold my tongue and I did nag at the husband for letting the boy get injured when they were out. I tasked him to bring him to scoot to buy breakfast back but he brought out his adult scooter to scoot together and I was adamant that the accident wouldn't have happened if he didn't do that. But, how are we to know what will happen in the next minute? How can accidents be totally unavoidable?

With the elder two having suffered stitches when they were young, I think we have learnt to be more calm in dealing with such situations. It's not that our hearts don't ache - they do - but we don't panic as much as we did the first time. In any case, this boy suffered deep cuts with one near his eye but he was still laughing and singing so we brought him out for a fun day at Wild Wild Wet where we stayed for over six hours and everyone got sunburnt. Haha.

Not having fanciful dinners, romantic cards, luxurious roses or exquisite jewellery for Valentine's Day. Don't matter.

Knowing that your other half loves and values you, as well as spending this day with the gems of your lives. Matter.

Our Valentine's Day was spent with the kids where we had a nice Japanese dinner together. The hubby gave me a surprise gift he bought on the spur of the moment (because they were on sale lar) - matching Liverpool jerseys. Haha. Very practical. I'm not the type of girly girl who likes to pamper herself or who loves flowers/makeup/jewellery (I will tell him it's a waste of money), so this was actually a very apt gift for me since I like to wear comfy clothes.

Eating out on some days and having fast food, fried food or not-so-healthy food. Don't matter. Don't beat yourself up about it.

Eating out because it preserves your sanity. Matter.

We eat out at least twice a week because of their classes or because I'm just too tired or lazy to cook. I really don't see anything bad about it and in fact, I think it's quite a feat and I have become an expert in dining out in food courts and kopitiams with three young kids.

I do allow them to have fast food on some days which makes them totally excited every time. Come on, I admit it, I love McDonalds' breakfast and I love KFC chicken since I was a kid too. Not depriving them, and myself, means we all end up a little happier at the end of the meal, which also motivates me to get myself to the supermarket so I can cook for the next day.

Having stretch marks, bulging tummy and battle scars from giving birth. Don't matter. In fact, be proud of them because you went through the most amazing miracle on earth.

Keeping fit, staying healthy and being able to keep up with the energetic kids. Matter.

I've been dedicating half an hour or so of me-time to working out nearly every day in the hope of becoming more fit, toned and healthy. It's not about being able to wear a bikini confidently or fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans (that is not impossible because... the hips!) but more of trying to stay fit at this age and be able to maintain a healthy living lifestyle. Yup, so nowadays, I remind myself that it's more important and worthwhile to get myself up and moving instead of sitting on the couch scrolling through feeds. I found a workout that I like after trying out a few, for instance I don't like running, swimming or HIIT workouts as much but Latin dance, I am loving it! So if you haven't found something that keeps you motivated, just keep trying till you do, okay?

This last photo was captured by the boy who loves taking my camera or phone to take pictures nowadays. I am always so scared that he drops them and destroys my livelihood, but then again, these devices can always be replaced but him knowing that I am here to guide him, teach him and let him try - that is priceless.

Remember what truly matters.

We barely made it! - Safari Zoo Run 2019

Posted by ~Summer~ on March 01, 2019

The Safari Zoo Run is one of our all-time favourite runs and we've always looked forward to it year after year with no exception. That is mainly because the kids adore animals and cherish every chance they have to get up close with them. Moreover, we enjoy family walks and see it as a great way to bond, and it adds so much more meaning knowing that we are doing it for a good cause and helping to conserve wildlife.

The run took place last Sunday and I have to say that it didn't start off too smoothly as we had to deal with a tantrumy kid who was still feeling the after effects from having been out in the sun the day before, as well as being concerned for one who just suffered two bad falls and had wounds on his face and legs. Nonetheless, we made it in good timing and arrived at the venue before 9:30am, which was supposedly the flag off timing for our 4km leisure walk. It didn't take too long for the hubby to find a parking lot and we swiftly made our way to the main event venue.

As compared to last year's 5.5km walk, this was going to be significantly shorter but we were still pretty excited as we heard that the course would include River Safari for the first time ever. Actually, we just visited River Safari last month since we have the 4-park annual passes - which by the way are totally worthwhile to buy if your kids love to visit the parks - but it's not the same as when you go through it with dozens of other families as part of a meaningful walk, right?

We were feeling thankful for the bright sun and good weather as we made our way to the starting point, only to realise that the queue was far away because it was sooooo long! There were over hundreds of families who were joining us in the same event and it was initially a heartening sight as I appreciated seeing fellow Singaporeans coming together to walk for a good cause and enjoy a family weekend. I heard from the organisers that this was a record breaking year with over 6,000 participants who joined, woohoo!

By this time, everyone of us was in a good mood and we were all feeling ready to go! Except that the queue was not moving much. Nope. Not even after we took dozens of photos and wefies. It turned out that for the first time, we had to wait over half an hour just for the flag off to happen and after such a long time under the hot sun, it was understandable that many of the kids in the queue were starting to whine, grumble and feel tired even before the run began. We had to keep assuring ours that it was going to start soon and we would be on our way before we knew it.

When the horn sounded for our wave - we were in the third - we were only to happy to move off and start our leisure walk! See the route below? By right, we would be walking through the Zoo, then the Night Safari and finally River Safari which was where the finishing point would be. For me, the thought of running through Night Safari in the day was the highlight because come on, who gets to do that, right? I still remember how we came up close with Chawang, Sri Nandong and their calf Neha last year and spent a good amount of them watching them frolicking in the mud. It was such a vivid memory that stayed with me ever since.

As always, the best part of the Safari Zoo Run is in being able to admire the animals and stop whenever you want in order to take a closer look, take a famfie or just take a quick break to catch your breath. That's the point about not participating in competitive runs but instead in this leisure run so we could walk at our own pace and take things a little slower.

We have always been in one of the last couple of waves in the previous years - yup, we are not early birds - but based on our experience, we were still able to let the kids stop to look at the animals they like and learn a thing or two about them along the way. So, we had presumed that this would be the same too. Why not, right?

I guess it was a mistake on our part to stop too many times in the front part of the journey because we likely ended up being one of the last few families in the walk. I was looking through our pictures and videos from last year and it seemed that the route was much clearer at that time due to the placement of traffic cones (to prevent participants from detouring and going into the small paths) and help of marshals. This year, we were free to roam into the various animal exhibitions and could easily count how many marshals we passed by too.

At our first water stop, we made sure to fill up all our green water bottles which we had received in the race packs. I find it such a great initiative that they are doing away with the disposable cups because we have seen hundreds, even thousands, of them being thrown away after the run. It might be a little more troublesome for competitive runners to bring their own bottles but since ours was a leisure walk, we made sure we brought along one bottle each to keep everyone hydrated. I like how the staff allowed our kids to fill up their own water bottles too, it helped to make them feel important and responsible in a way.

We were thrilled when we finally saw the 1km signboard which meant that we had fulfilled one quarter of the run already! Next up, we would be moving onto the Night Safari, right right?

Alas, at this moment, we came face to face with a lady marshal and she directed the hubby to lead us to the River Safari. We were feeling confused as we made our way to the Zoo entrance and I was bewildered by why we would skip the Night Safari entirely. So we debated for a few minutes and made our way back to the Zoo again in search of another marshal (there were almost none of them in sight). When we finally found a guy in that bright red shirt, he then frankly told us that he was not sure of the course and couldn't be of much help. So many question marks appeared in my mind and as I tried to contact our friends and the organiser to ask for help, precious time flew past again and it was at this moment that I had to accept dismally that we were officially 'lost' and were not going to complete the run. For the first time ever.

In not wanting to deprive the kids of their medals, we decided to skip straight to the finishing line and it was there that we bumped into some of my friends who also gave feedback about the route being cut short or that they were told to skip one of the parks too. I guess it all boiled down to the timing issues and they had to wrap up everything by a certain time. Still, I didn't understand why we could complete a 5.5km walk last year at a similar pace but be unable to finish a 4km one this year and it somehow made the kids and I feel a tad disappointed. Well, at least we made it to the photo backdrop for this family shot with our medals! Haha.

The good thing about joining a Safari Zoo Run is that you gain entry to the parks - in this case, the Zoo and River Safari - for the entire day after the walk. It wouldn't matter much to us as we are annual pass holders, but since we were there, how could we pass up the chance to explore more, right? At this point, I just wanted to make the kids happy so we made our way back to Ah Meng restaurant for a chicken rice lunch and we subsequently explored more of the Zoo and visited the Dragons and Beasts exhibit.

This time round, we were truly able to take our own sweet time in interacting and admire the wildlife. Haha. Yup, perhaps we could have made it in a better timing if we had rushed the kids earlier on during the run and not stop to stare. But if that had happened, how would the Safari Zoo Run be unlike any other run then?

By the afternoon, it was plain to see that the kids were feeling a little tired already but when asked if they would like to go and check out the River Safari, the answer was a big "Yes!". It wasn't without hiccups though because we had to mediate conflicts and handle a big meltdown in the middle of it all, but that's just like any other day in parenthood, right?

Thankfully, our River Safari is mostly sheltered so that allowed us to escape from the scorching heat and everyone felt better shortly. The littlest, despite feeling the fatigue, skipped his nap so that he could see more fishes, monkeys and reptiles. I would have wanted to visit Kai Kai and Jia Jia again - we just saw them last month - but the queue was so long that we decided to give it a miss this time. Still, we made time to take some shots in front of the giant tanks because it's always a joy just sitting there and watching the fishes swim past.

At 4:00pm, we had a tea break and sat down to enjoy a cuppa, fruits and the famous Panda Pau from Mama Panda kitchen. While most of the kids from the run were already home by this time, ours were still running on high levels of energy and they wanted to watch the new animal show "Once Upon A River" which we did previously and deemed it as one of our favourites. So, we stayed on!

The show was jam packed with visitors but thankfully, we managed to find a spot at the side where we sat down to enjoy the show, whose performers included an iguana, a prairie dog, an otter, pelicans, a hornbill and our favourites were the capybaras! We even got to feed the capybaras, stroked them and take a wefie with them. Awww, cute!

Soon, it was 5:30pm and we were with the manatees trying to let the kids say "Hi" to their team mascot, Canola. She is one of the four mascots for Safari Zoo Run alongside Ah Meng, Chawang and Sunny. The hubby even tried googling to find out which one of them is Canola, okay.

Anyway, it so happened that this was the time for the manatee feeding session so we decided to hang around and watch them devour the plants. Yup, they are primarily herbivores and together with dugongs, the only plant-eating marine mammals. I have to say that the baby manatee was really adorable to watch! This was a highlight for the kids and a great way to end off our day too.

Was it a great day? Yes, I will definitely say so, judging from the big smiles they had at the end of everything. Despite everything, we still enjoyed ourselves, had an awesome time and will definitely love to come back for future Safari Zoo Runs. Come next year, we will learn our lesson, focus on our path more and get distracted less.

When the parks were closed, guess what we finally did? Cross that FINISH line. Yup, gotta do it the right way so that we can finally say that we earned our medals, right? I bet we were the last family to cross it that day and that has to be a fond memory in some way too. So, hip hip hooray!

Disclosure: We received a media invite to be part of Safari Zoo Run 2019. All pictures and opinions are my own.

My Superhero - Asher is two and a half

Posted by ~Summer~ on February 27, 2019

Last night, the kids and I sat down excitedly on the sofa so we could watch this latest video together. Yup, every time I release a video, it's like a blockbuster movie to them and they will anticipate and look forward to it with the kind of enthusiasm that is endearing and infectious.

It's amazing how much they love looking through these clips and remember all those fond times we've been through as a family. The girls laughed so hard at so many parts of it that I had to ask them "Very funny meh?" and the hubby had to tell the little sister to stop chortling so much in case she threw up. Thanks for the show of support, you kiddos are the best and you are my strongest motivation to keep going.

Yup, it took me a few months to finish this growing up video of the boy, including going through many sleepless nights and giddy spells, but I'm still glad I did it. Try going through many months of photos and video clips and compiling them into one, and you will know what I mean. I still have years and years of memories to catch up on for the girls, but let's tackle one at a time and I'm thankful that the kids are very patient in waiting for the next release date.

These videos might not mean much to you but they are priceless to me and they are the one thing that I do not for anyone, but purely for my kids. So I'm hoping to find the energy and time to keep going! Enjoy these fond memories of you as you turn 30 months old, my dear boy!

Dear Asher,

It still seems like yesterday when you turned two and a half and we were just returning from our family trip to Bangkok. Yup, we went to Thailand for vacation and you did so much there, including going on your first ATV ride, riding your first ferries wheel, feeding giraffes, getting up close with tigers, going on a glass bottomed boat ride, being the youngest construction worker in KidZania, visiting the crowded Chatuchak market and more. I love how you are able to join us in many activities and you try your best to never let your young age hinder you in doing what your sisters do too. It's expensive for us to go on family holidays now that we have three of you, so I hope we will continue to cherish and make full use of every little opportunity we get, okay?

You love going outdoors and while everybody comments on you being fair and doesn't seem to get much sun, the opposite is true because you do get a lot of sun! I suppose you just don't get tanned easily, unlike your 二姐 so it's a subtle reminder that life is unfair. Haha. That said, the good thing is you love putting on sunblock on yourself so it makes it easier for me whenever we go for outdoor play.

Talking about being independent, you've also improved in self-feeding and helping out in chores, although at times you still tend to give up halfway and take the easier way out by asking Mama to help. Still, I love seeing how you like to help me cook and can do simple tasks like peeling eggs and plucking vegetables, and you even help me with the laundry by pegging all our socks too. So kudos to you and keep up the good job!

We visited Universal Studios with Popo and Ah Gong and this time round, you were not scared of the boat ride but instead enjoyed it thoroughly with us. Awwww, my timid little boy is growing up real fast, right? You even went on the Magic Potion Spin with your sisters - your first ever ride without Mama by your side - and while your grandparents were skeptical if you could sit through and not kick up a fuss during the ride, I jolly well knew you would and that your Jiejies would take good care of you too. See how you were waving to me in the video? That moment was one that made me emotional seeing how all my three kids were getting bigger by the day and might not need me around soon. I gave you a big, tight hug after that because I was just so proud of you, you know that?

One of our favourite places to go is LEGOLAND and we went there not once, but twice within this period. It was so fun having friends to hang out with in the apartment, play in the arcade and go on rides together, right? You achieved so many of your milestones there, including going on your first 'horse' ride in Royal Joust, conquering your fear of heights by going on your first Beetle Bounce, and driving solo for the first time in Junior Driving School too. *clap clap* You were so afraid when we went on the bounce ride and kept wanting to sit on my lap, which is prohibited, so I took a long time to persuade you before you were willing to sit beside me and hold my hand tightly. See how you cried out loud when it started? I assured you that all would be okay and that I would be beside you all the time. As it progressed, you started to enjoy the ride and even let out a smile too. Yup, you did it, my dear! It was also quite hilarious to see how Papa and I cheered for you so loudly when you were going on your first solo car ride, we kept reminding you to step on the accelerator and turn the wheel when you had to but actually, you nailed it and was such a terrific driver that we were all so impressed and amazed! 你真行! I love how you would keep looking or waving at us when you go on such theme park rides too, it's like you might be exploring on your own but you never forget that you have us there to support you and will return us the love too. Awww.

As for horse rides, you also went on your first real one too at UK Farm in Kluang and that was a moment to remember. While you initially didn't want to, you did it eventually under the promise that one of us will hold your hand for the entire time. My darling boy, you just need assurance and encouragement every time from Papa and Mama, right? I'm glad we can give it to you. You also enjoyed feeding all the farm animals, you loved the goat yoghurt drink and ice cream and you totally didn't mind sleeping in a run-down room with squeaky beds and no air-condition. Because we were all together and that's what matters most, right?

It's nice having two sisters to grow up with and I hope you will always remember and treasure their love for you. Even though you tend to bully them and be unreasonable at times, they will give in to you (most of the time) because you are the baby in the family. I don't want you to grow up into a 小霸王 yet it's nice to see how they dote on you and love you with their hearts too. They piggyback you, carry you when you complain of being tired, play pretend with you and let you be what you want to, let you sit on them and be your kiddy ride, leave you the best food and give the candy they earned in school to you too. When you are older, your roles will be reversed and I hope you will be the one to protect them and make sure no one bullies them, okay?

Last but not least, I'm glad that you're becoming a chatterbox nowadays though I kind of hope that your screaming can be a little softer. Haha. It's nice having someone to converse with, especially when Jiejies are in school and you and I are all alone. We start the day together, go for breakfast together and just do everything together for those few hours and it's something that bonds you and I so close, something which I treasure very much. While most people might not understand what you say, I get it most of the time because you are a very much a part of me, you know that? Even though you say gibberish self-invented words like "Ba Tu Hei" and repeat it a thousand times, it's still very cute and heartening to see how much you love talking and how outgoing you are, even with strangers on the streets or people that you seldom see. I hope you will always stay friendly, kind, bubbly and happy, okay?

Never lose that twinkle in your eyes or let anyone dull your sparkle, okay? Don't be afraid to dream big and have courage to pursue your dreams. You are my little superhero and you can achieve more than you can imagine. You know we'll always be here to cheer you on and support you, just like how we did when you went on your first ride. And we'll always love you with every beat of our hearts too. So, fly high, my little one and go save the world if you can.


Don't let social media steal their childhood

Posted by ~Summer~ on February 20, 2019
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You probably know by now that I am quite against the idea of kids using electronic devices at a young age. Well, I even went on national television to voice my views as a mum because I truly felt so strongly about kids getting addicted to smartphones nowadays.

We don't own an iPad yet and none of the kids have their own phones yet. They also don't really get to play with our phones and they don't play any video games too. The eldest uses my laptop only when she has to surf the internet or visit one of the school portals to complete her home-based e-homework. Wait, but do we watch TV? Yes, we do and we watch plenty of it, especially on weekends. It's usually a family movie, documentary, cartoons or YouTube videos that are kid-friendly. We also go to the cinema and arcade so I can't really say that my kids are totally free of screens in their lives. The important thing is, for now, we watch and do everything together.

Does it sound like my kids are deprived? I don't think so and on the contrary, I think they are very blessed. Does it mean they don't know what is happening in the world? No, we talk about current affairs often and we share interesting news with each other too. Does it imply that they don't know what is social media and are not well-connected with their friends? Well, they do know what is social media but I hardly think that should be a determinant how popular they are or how many good friends they have.

At the start of the year, my eldest came home and told me about this conversation she had with her friends in school.

Friends: "Are you on social media? Instagram? Facebook?"

Angel: "No, I don't have a phone. And our family doesn't own an iPad too."

Friends: "Wow, your life is so sad."

Yup, that came from a bunch of 9-year-olds, mind you. When I first heard about it, I was a little shocked because I didn't expect that kind of comment from kids of this age and of course, I didn't think that they would be discussing about this in school either. It turned out that a good handful of her friends were already active on social media as early as lower primary and have accounts to boast about, some even with a considerable following and number of posts.

At her birthday party last year, some of her friends - who came from different schools and didn't know each other - were exchanging accounts so that they could follow each other. They also took wefies and posted them up promptly too. It did make me wonder if I was depriving my child of an opportunity to get closer with her friends and if I was taking a step in the right direction to be so firm about the usage of electronic gadgets in our home. I mean, I don't even try to use my phone too much in front of the kids. Why should I? At mealtimes, the strict rule in our house is no phones are allowed unless in the case of emergencies, even for the busy navy hubby. We do get the we-time and me-time after they go to bed but when we are together with them, shouldn't we really be together?

So I did a little digging and it shocked me to see how rampant it is for kids of her age to be active on social media these days. I saw how some of them were spitting vulgar language in their photo captions, I saw how it makes them compare to see who is the prettier one or which is a better filter, I saw how they uploaded selfie after selfie, I saw how some of them were just totally glued to their phones when we were at gatherings and the moment they had any free time, they whipped out their phones and started scrolling aimlessly or playing games.

Is this how our kids will bond with their friends next time,
over apps, wefies and games? Will outdoor trips,
playing catching or just getting off the seat
to run around be a thing of the past?

Maybe you can say that I'm over-protecting my kids and sooner or later, they will be exposed to all the vices in the world. Maybe I'm depriving them of what could be a good source of not just entertainment but knowledge too for them. Maybe I'm being too unyielding and when the day comes when they can burst of of my bubble, they will be hungry to make up for what they've missed. Maybe, just maybe.

My hope is that when the day comes, I have taught them well enough for them to know what is right and wrong, good and bad. That they will have the autonomy to discipline themselves and be able to put away those beeping devices to have a good meal with their family. That they will remember that a trip to the beach where we look for crabs, mudskippers and fishes is more colourful and enjoyable than a game of Candy Crush (or whatever game is trending then). That they will always love going to the library and picking up a book to flip the pages and read rather than depend on ebooks. That it's more fun to step into the kitchen to help me prepare lunch than play a round of Cooking Mama. That playing board games - where you get to roll a dice and move your token - with their siblings beats playing any video game on their own. That they will still love going for strolls in the park rather than stay in their rooms to surf and scroll. That they will have understood the importance of honesty and be able to share things openly with me and not hide under the covers. That they will realise while social media is fun, interesting and even liberating when used appropriately, it doesn't impact the quality of life and will never be able to replace being together with family and friends.

So I cautiously asked the big girl what her reply and thoughts were after that conversation with her friends. Did she think she was sad, or at least affected by the trend? Did she feel hurt? Did she feel the temptation? Did she concur with what her friends said?

She looked earnestly at me and said "No, I don't think I have a sad life, Mama. I told my friends I have Meimei and Didi to play with me after school and that my Papa and Mama take me out every weekend to play. I come home and you are home. I have a lot of things in my house to play with."

It was like a phew moment for me.

Intrigued, I asked further on how the conversation went after that and what she said made me feel very emotional and affected.

"Many of my friends said they have no one to play with them. Their parents are working and are not home. And a lot of them said that their siblings are either too grown up and don't want to play with them, or too little and can't play with them. I am lucky to have my brother and sister. And you and Papa."

*tears in eyes* How thankful I was to hear that, how privileged I am to be a stay-at-home mum and how glad I am to know that despite all the squabbles and fights these three have incessantly, they do love each other dearly. We are not deprived and we don't lead sad lives, thank you very much. On the contrary, we are thankful to be so fortunate and we try our best to make each day a happy one.

Dear Angel,

You are an awesome big sister and it's nice to see how you love your siblings and dote on them. They look up to you so much and follow you in everything you do, which explains why it's so important for me to instill the right discipline in you. 

I love seeing how you love to read all kinds of books, how you aspire to be an entomologist, how you love nature and wild life, how you get excited every time we go to the beach and always go hunting for animals and insects, how you love to get outdoors, soak in the sun, explore the world and go on adventures every now and then. I hope this passion of yours will never change.

Thank you for being a responsible, independent and mature girl. It's heartening for Mama to see how you are wise for your age and instead of being envious of your friends, you are contented with what you have. You are the one who rejected my offer of giving you extra money to go to the bookshop to get something you like. You are the one who would give up your savings and ang pow money for me and Papa. You are the one who's been coming home on your own after school since lower primary and this year, you've started bringing your little sister home safely too.

I want you to know that social media won't determine who you are as a person. It doesn't matter how many followers you have or how many likes you get, all this will not affect how kind, how nice or how good your heart is. You gain popularity not through nicely posed selfies or half-true captions, but through your disposition as a person. Be there for your friends when they need you, help those who are in need, comfort those who are in tears, share the joy with those who achieved victory, be a listening ear, be sincere and faithful, be what it takes to be a true friend, be the real you. And I promise, you will find a social circle that you belong in and over time, you will forge strong friendship and create ties that will last you for life.

Life is about experiencing the moments with the people we love, not broadcasting those moments to the people we know.

I hope you will remember that. Social media is a trap too easy to fall into, and even Papa and I will do so at times. That is why it is so important for us to give each other a nudge, to remind each other, to be here for each other. Thank you for always being the one who tells Papa "No phones, please" when he takes his phone out while eating. Thank you for not demanding or even asking for a phone even when some of your friends already have one. Thank you for reminding me of the pure innocence and happy moments of growing up, something which I hope will stay around you for a little while longer. 

Childhood is fleeting and only happens once, let's not allow the joy, fun and simplicity of it to be stolen away.

Whatever you do and however it gets, remember that we are always here for you. Together, remember? We gave you wings so that you can fly. One day, you will soar high up in the sky and even then, we will always be here watching you, rooting for you and believing in you.


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