Image credit: KC Wong
In Dad Talk, our guest contributor KC Wong muses on parenthood and being a father to his two children.
My elder daughter is celebrating her 12th birthday this month. Since my children were born, we have kept birthday celebrations within the family. As we have a big extended family, there is no lack of fun, games and presents. Birthdays occur annually and there is no need to go to great lengths to throw a big party and involve lots of people (it’s paradoxical because my job depends on clients who throw big parties).
However, we decided to host a mini-birthday party for her this year because it is the final year of her primary school journey. She has formed deep and meaningful friendships and there is no telling whether she will see her good friends in future.
It is going to be a cookie baking party, and my daughter is inviting three girls whom she has been close to since Primary One. However, we did not anticipate how hard it is to fix a date and a time when everyone is free. We underestimate the busy schedules of today’s kids. Our effort to keep our children’s weekends free has blinded us to other children’s crammed weekend schedules.
Working adults slog from Monday to Friday and most of us look forward to the weekend when we can take a break to spend time with our families. But when I think about these busy kids who spend the best part of their weekdays in school, attend enrichment classes after school hours, and pack their weekends with yet more classes, I wonder when their breaks actually are.
Why are kids working seven days a week? To prepare for the first important examination of their lives? To get into the best schools in Singapore? Whether private tuition classes are useful and effective for every student is debatable. What is clear is that when a rubber band is stretched too taut, it will inevitably snap. If it holds true for adults, it holds true for children.
Whenever I see families cycling, or when I am working on location and see children hiking in nature reserves with their parents, fishing at the jetty, or simply having a picnic in the shade, my heart fills with admiration for these families. They know what taking a break means, and value true quality time, as opposed to giving a treat to a child in between classes on a typical weekend. In fact, I know some parents who arrange weekend classes for their children so that they can take a break from their children!
The number of quality weekends we have with our children are finite. If it is not cut short by our possible early demise, it will be when they grow up and refuse to go out with us despite our pleas. Before we know it, there will be no more football kickabouts, no playing catch at playgrounds, and admiring the sunset together. Because we don’t spend enough time with them in their younger days, they might grow up not missing any weekend dates with us. I have friends who complain that their children shun their company.
Before my daughter flies the coop, it is apt that we throw her this party. The good news is we have managed to settle on a date, after two of her friends convinced their parents to let them skip their tuition classes. There is always another class the following week, but my daughter's 12th birthday only happens once in her lifetime.
KC Wong is a photographer and a father of two. He has a daughter aged 11 and a son aged nine.