The Diaperbag family.

We are the Diaperbag family. There are Jordan, Evan and Dylan (also known as Muffin) and they are fondly known as JED. We are their parents. Ondine and Packrat.

This is JED

Always playing or planning and plotting to take over the world. Always up to shenanigans.

This is Jordan, our first born

Actually she's part of a twin set. She was known as Twin 1 in-utero. She loves to draw what she dreams, dances what she draws.

This is Evan, reluctantly the younger twin

He's Twin 2 by two minutes because it took the doctor that long to find him. We don't think he'll ever forgive the doctor!

This is our youngest, Dylan (also known as Muffin)

He fancies himself the Lion King. His favourite activities are to climb, jump, pounce and roar at the world. The world is his Pride Rock.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

To the parent of a first time camper

Dear Parent of child going off to camp for the first time,

I recently went through the first of my children going to camp. It was a somewhat surreal experience that I feel I ought to share. In a grand scheme of things, it is in preparation for the mother of all camps, 8 years from now for my eldest boy child.

We knew that it was coming but we didn't think it would be all that bad. After all, she has had sleepovers before.

But everyone did miss her and everyone felt her absence. She's home now though and we're back to regular programming.

There was a sobby (I am assured they were tears of joy) reunion but all is good in my world now and I can now objectively think back to the last three days.

So here's what I've learnt.

1. You will want your child to call home. Don't.
Packrat went to the briefing and reported that teachers were inundated with questions about whether their children could bring air-mattresses, sleeping bags, portable diffusers. They faced disgruntled parents when they informed them that the children would not have access to their mobile phones and that no, they could not queue up to use the coin phone either.

This caused much distress and I think this was where the camp experience differed from a sleepover. A sleepover would have involved the constant exchange between the parents on what funny things the kids were up to and this sometimes included photographs and videos. This time however, there was a complete cut off from our children.

But, now that she's home and she's told me what went on at camp, I think the teachers were indeed wise. After all, they have done this year in, year out.

She told me that she went to the sick bay on the first day. It was a bad headache, despite drinking gallons of water. And she stayed there for 3 hours, napping before she felt better and more human. It was at that point, that I realised that, had she been able to call home or get in touch with me, she would have told me about being in the sick bay, possibly been weepy about it and I would have immediately asked if she needed to come home. There would have been a possibility that she would have said yes and then, the camp would have been a slightly extended version of a day camp.

Because I didn't know, because she had no idea that coming home would have been an option, she got  over herself and her headache and went back out to play.

So, the radio silence was great. It prevented homesick children from indulging in their homesickness and anxious parents from finding reasons to bring said child home early. I suppose if she really were unwell, they would have called me. And headaches, in their book, weren't serious enough to warrant a potentially heart dropping phone call for me to receive.

2. You will want to spy on your child. (See Above)

With 240 ten year olds away from their parents for the first time, there were bound to be anxious parents. And because Singapore is small enough and the camp location was made known to the parents, some showed up, testing their prowess at stealth hunting and paparazzi level stalking. There were also parents who worried that their children needed creature comforts and attempted to show up under the guise of delivering them or simply delivering pizza. Whatever was necessary to gain access to the child. 

I asked her if she saw parents hiding in the bushes or pretending to be trees. After she finished laughing, she looked at me in all seriousness and asked if I had been one of those nosy parents. I said no. She said good. I asked her why. She said it would have been an interference on the part of the parents. She said it would have been embarrassing (She tried to soften the blow by saying she would have been happy to see me but even then...). And she said it was only for 3 days and if she could miss me and didn't beg her teachers to send her home and didn't run away from camp to come find me, I didn't need to stalk and spy on them. 

Basically, she was telling me, in her 10 year old way that she needed this space to grow up. 

Wise one, my first born. 

3. You will underestimate your child. (Ditto the previous point)

Admittedly, I worried. I worried that she wouldn't be able to sleep in a sleeping bag. When I found out that someone snuck in a pillow (I didn't even think of getting her to pack beyond her packing list), I found myself wondering if she could sleep without a pillow. I found many other little things to wonder and worry about. Above all, I worried that she would not have a good time and she would be miserable.

Much as I hate to admit it, Packrat and the teachers were right. She had been fine and she came home brimming with excitement of all her achievements. She told me she abseiled down 7 storeys. She told me that she rolled her jacket into bundle and used it as a pillow. She slept like a baby. She, whose extent of cooking at home was to make a grilled cheese sandwich, was able to cook up her own meals on an open flame. She managed to also successfully put drops into her eyes like we taught her to at home. 

In short, not only did she survive camp, she thrived. 

So, my advice? Cede control, trust the school and child. 

And you'll get all the good bits. You'll get to hear the stories through triumphant rose-tinted glasses, you get to stand anxiously at the school gates waiting for that first glimpse of her and you get to get all the air squeezed out of you when she throws her arms around you and gives you a hug big enough to make up for all the time she was away.

I promise you. It'll be hard to do all these things. But it'll be worth it.

From a parent who survived her child being away at camp.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Where have the Mogwais gone?

I didn't believe it when other parents told me that ten was the magic number. That it heralded a new stage of parenting. Where a switch gets flipped and cute, obedient young 'uns turn into surly, smart mouth, sassing tweens. It's like in the Gremlins. The Mogwais are cute and adorable and you want them as pets. But heed the warning.

Do not expose the Mogwai to bright lights or sunlight which will kill it, do not let it get wet, and never feed it after midnight. Feeding them after midnight makes the Mogwai turn into a Gremlin. Getting them wet causes them to multiply.

A tween is what you get when you feed the Mogwai after midnight. I think that happened the day the twins turned 10. We must have accidentally fed them at midnight.

Because my formerly sweet-natured twins turned Gremlin-like.

1. Language:
Where did they learn to be rhetorical?
When asked a question, the choice answers are "Obviously", "What do you think?", "Good luck with that."

Fighting words
"You're always cheating!" "I hate him/ her!", "I wish I were dead!"

2. Physical Aggression:
Shoving, hitting, spitting, anything at their disposal. When warned that the sibling might one day hit back, they ignore me. I'm told that they need to feel the physical pain of the sibling turning on them and socking them back as hard as they gave it.

3. The eyes.
Oh the eyes. The eye- rolling. The eye rolling that communicate "Are you kidding me?" "How stupid are you?" "How stupid is that?" "Who died and made you God?" all in a split second of ophthalmic calisthenics. I know it is necessary for tweens to be able to do that and I know JED  have it encoded in them to roll their eyes since I do it so effectively but it's still riling and it's too easy to say "Don't roll your eyes at me, young lady/man" But I run the risk of sounding like my dad.

4. The moods
The moods are getting dark and twisty and thunderous for now apparent reason. It could be all bright and shiny and all of a sudden, thunder clouds gather and we're all at the risk of being stuck and fried by lightning. Mercurial is a nice word to describe the climate in the house. Not quite global warming yet but definitely, climate change big time.

I know it'll get worse when the hormones catch up with the motor-mouths and the poor hapless 7 year old bears the brunt of it. Us adults, we understand treading on egg shells but it's a minefield for Muffin and he's getting a crash course on how one thing that works today won't work tomorrow.

He retaliates the only way he knows how. He matches their tempers and angers with tears but his physical size and 7 year old vocabulary puts him at a disadvantage.

We can only ride it out, shower them with affection when their moods are right, attempt to express understanding and empathy even when they are being difficult and explain why their behaviour isn't what we expect of them.

On days, there is still the sweetness and consideration they showed to each other as siblings.

On other days, the tween-ness is reflected in hilarious ways with illustrations that give us an insight about how they are processing information. Even the illustrations are filled with eye rolls.

On other days, I want to dig a hole in the ground and hide from the strafing and indulge in looking at cute baby pictures of them.

 But no such luck. It's about wearing the kevlar and hitting right out into the minefield and hope for the best.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

History hungry

We've always talked about how Jordan is Mini-Me because she's athletic, competitive and high strung. A girl after my own heart.

Evan has always been Packrat's doppelganger. The geek interests, the introvert and the mild endearing disposition.

A few months ago, I received confirmation of my genetic contribution to Evan. Our regular pick up ritual is the boys get into the car and mutter salutations before requesting for their audio book of the day to be put on. One day, this routine deviated. Evan got into the car and asked to talk rather than listen to the audio book.

He went on to tell me about Social Studies in school and Singapore during World War II. My mind flashed to me, having these conversations with my parents, when I did Social Studies in primary school. I was exactly the same age as Evan. I learnt from my mother how their house got requisitioned by the Japanese High Command. That they all ducked under the dining table when there were air raids; the same dining table I used for studying and now sits in my brother's house. I learnt then that my grandfather would set traps in the drains that had water flow in from the sea at high tide and how he caught fish and crab for the family that way. I learnt about the gory sight of heads put up on spikes as a warning of disobeying the Japanese.

I also remembered having discussions with my dad about the war, on the way to uni, where I spent a semester reading Singapore history.

In an instant, all this seemed relevant as my 10 year old fired a million questions about Singapore during the war. And I told him all the stories that my dad and mum as well as my grandmother told me about their lives during the war. I answered his questions about the European Theatre with what I could remember from days in freezing cold lecture halls 20 years ago. Perhaps, a primitive instinct 20 years ago pushed me to do all those course in preparation of a son not yet even a thought.

And the boy lapped it all up. He asked for books, more books and has started reading obsessively about war. War literature (it's amazing how much good juvenile war literature there is out there), fact books, a whole bunch of "I survived..." books and an old abandoned copy of a secondary school history text book. He literally paced the house waiting for the Amazon order to arrive with more history books in there. When it did, quiet descended upon the house. I let homework slide because I saw how he was devouring the books. There was always tomorrow for homework.

I didn't understand the obsession when it was Pokemon where he inhaled facts about Pokemon and could spit them out with such precision I wondered why he didn't put that much effort into his school work. But it's just how an obsession works. He's doing the same thing now for WWII history though because human nature and cruelty are involved, he doesn't get all of it himself and has questions that bother him somewhat. So we sit and chat about it. He asks questions, I try my best to answer it. I pull on things that he remembers, like visiting the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbour when he was little. And it makes more sense to him now. The attack, why it was surprising, why the Japanese did it. How that coincided with the attack on Singapore. Bit by bit, he's figuring it out.

He draws the line, though, at media. He'll read, he'll listen to stories about it but he won't watch it. Pity, I thought. I would have loved to have taken him to see Dunkirk.

But it is true. When there is interest, passion lies and the curiosity to know.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I Wanna Grow Up...

There's been a lot of talk about puberty lately.

For Jordan at least.

It came about because they had a talk in school recently about when it was necessary for girls to wear undergarments. The bits of information she came home with were hilarious and sometimes bordering on misinformation rather than information.

She read the Judy Blume books that deal with it; her favourite being Margaret who wants and NEEDS a bra and talks about getting periods. After the talks in school, she's gone back to reading them again. And I re-read it too because all I remembered from it was the chant, "I must, I must, I must increase my bust!" The charming thing about the book is that even though it's more than 40 years old, the anxieties mirror so clearly what goes on in the mind of a tween today.

Last week, Jordan got into the car and was very, very giggly. Her teacher had passed around a bra for the girls to look at and fiddle with. She went into great detail. One would have thought she had never seen one before!

Two days after, a growth spurt miraculously occurred in class and spread like wildfire across all 40 girls. All of a sudden, she was reporting that every other person in class had started wearing a bra too. I think it had to do very little to do with hormones and very much to do with all the discussion in class. Words are indeed powerful. So naturally, Jordan asked if she could have one too.
                                   Image result for are you there god, it's me margaret

I gave her the same spiel my mother gave me. She'd have her whole life ahead of her to wear a bra. It would be hot to wear one under two layers of uniform as is. She didn't need to be in such a hurry. But there was no stopping her.

I guess if I thought hard enough about it, it was like that for me too, dying to be all growed up and wanting to have all the trappings of being a grown up. Envious of those taller and more mature than I was at that age. And like Jordan, I didn't listen to my mother when she tried to caution haste.

So, here we are. I have a Margaret at home now and I'm pretty sure she's asking God the same questions that Margaret did and promising to be good in exchange for some growth in that area.

And to counter all the misinformation she seems to be getting at school, I have ordered her some books to set the facts straight. The American Girl series for puberty is aptly titled The Care and Keeping of You which I really like because it really does normalise the entire process and answers questions in ways that make sense to these tweens.

While we wait for the books to arrive, I shall just sit back and watch this unfold, quietly lamenting the loss of my baby girl and the appearance of a full-fledged tween. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Note leaving

The whole family has taken to leaving notes for each other.

There are various functions for the note-leaving.

For me, it's a case of expediency.

It's convenient, it stops me from nagging till I turn blue in the face and the little reminders do in fact act as little triggers for them to do things. Sometimes we  do it because it's funny and it gets a rise out of them.

Sometimes, it's purely to remind me to do something. Regardless of how much we remind them to pass us stuff to sign the minute they get it, they often only remember just as they are going to bed or when I'm not home. I take comfort in the fact that Evan is very responsible and will remember things told to him so occasionally, I take advantage of it and ask him to leave a note to remind me to for instance, "pick his sister at 3 pm".

Tangentially, Evan needs better handwriting because he wouldn't really know if I 'sighed' on the form.

Other times, they do it because they've done something wrong and it's easier to confess it on paper than to face the music. Muffin has recently discovered the joys of procrastinating. So he'll read and sit and play even if he has work to do. A few days ago, despite the fact that he didn't do anything else and spent a good 4 hours just sitting at his desk (only to get up for the bathroom and have dinner) he hadn't finished his Chinese homework which included a five pages of exercises and two pages of writing. His siblings, having more experience with the wrath of mom 'orrhhed' at him to the point that he trembled with fear and then ominously warned him of imminent punishment i.e. (Mummy is going to kiiiiiilll you). In an attempt to pre-emptively placate a potentially angry mummy and avoid sudden 'death', he left a note on his board with multiple "very"s to highlight his recalcitrant behaviour. 

Procrastination at work

Unlike her brothers who leave notes for purely functional reasons, Jordan leaves me notes for everything. To tell me what happened in the day, to recount something bad that had happened, prayer requests, to apologise to me for sassing me, everything.

Funny how they don't leave Packrat notes.