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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Budget 2013: Should the young Singaporean family celebrate?

Everyone seems to have something to cheer about in the Budget that was delivered by Tharman Shanmugaratnam (DPM and Minister of Finance) on 25 February 2013, from the low income to the middle to the high to the obscene income.

Shiny head usually means plenty of goodies!

At first glance, Christmas seems to have been extended till February, with gifts being showered upon the population which just staged one of the biggest protests in the history of Singapore.  The low income could get excited over the Workfare Income Supplement, higher CPF contribution rates, S&CC rebates and GST vouchers.  The middle income could cheer about the property tax rebates, Wage Credit Scheme, reduction in Foreign Domestic Worker levy and more pre-schools.  The high and obscene income would be most happy about the personal tax rebates and possible reduction in car prices due to COE prices which are expected to come down by quite a bit.

Something for everyone.

But for the young dual income couple, which would likely fall in the middle income category, the financial and social odds of having a baby could now be further stacked against them:


While property tax rebates sound good, it will only help when you have a property to begin with.  As it is, property prices remain high for young couples starting out in their careers. While salaries have increased, the property prices have increased much more, resulting in longer and and substantial loan repayments.  Young couples would continue to think twice about the number of kids to bring into this world.


While more and better quality pre-schools are promised, nothing was mentioned about making it cheaper.  Even with the (on paper) very generous government subsidies for pre-school education/care, it is still a big drain on a young couple's resources.  For those who wish to build close bonds with their kids by home schooling them, having more pre-schools would not help these single income families one bit.  It might be worse since there is only one income chasing after inflation.


While COE prices are expected to go south, the only people who are popping the champagne are well, the rich people who are more likely to be drinking them.  Sorry to uncles gulping their beer in a neighbourhood kopitiam.  With the 50%/60% loan limits and 5 year max loan tenure, the cash rich would be rejoicing as they are not affected by it.  The additional ARF that would apply on luxury cars should be lower than the expected drop in COE prices.  So for young couples with stable jobs hoping to buy a car to prepare for parenthood, it would mean that many of them will now find themselves out of cash to downpay that dream car. It is a very clear message that having a car in Singapore is for the rich, not the needy.

Work-life balance

Last month, I blogged about work-life balance being an important factor in encouraging Singaporeans to have babies.  The Budget did not address this.  In fact, I think it has gone the other direction all together.  The message seems to be:
"Get to work (i.e. Workfare, Wage Credit, CPF contribution) and increase your productivity (i.e. enhancements to Productivity and Innovation Credit, increases in foreign worker levy) and we will make it easier for you to manage the household (i.e. more childcare centres, reduction in maid levy, reduction in personal taxes, S&CC rebates and GST vouchers)!"
So on second thought, it's not Christmas season but the Chinese New Year instead.  The problem is, we are already nearing March and the Chinese New Year goodies that we enjoyed have all but expired.

Good, but for limited time only.
Saturday, February 23, 2013

Surviving (Pre) School

What is the ideal age to send your kid to pre school? We decided to start Aiden when he is 23 months, mainly for him to gain experience interacting with kids his age, and to be exposed to classroom style teaching/ learning.

It's over a month Aiden started school and he has not stopped crying in the mornings when we send him to school. It is heartbreaking to see him so sad to part with us, yet we got to learn to toughen up and walk away. It's especially saddening as he was mostly a happy kid, and with school, he cried so many more buckets of tears. He was also little mr bump in school, falling and tripping thus the many ulcers he got on his lips and a rather serious cut in his ear (we were told he fell from a chair when getting out of his seat) within the first month in school that worried us. And recently, he came home with scratch marks on his arms and leg some of which looks like pinch marks to me.

Needless to say, he is happiest at the end of school. This really sets me thinking if kids are sent to school too early these days.

Nowadays, Aiden speaks up more, starts counting aloud and say things when we least expect him to, even linking a few words, 'Daddy park car', 'Mummy feed Aiden', 'Man sit car'. I was really tempted to pull him out from school after he expressed anger and extreme sadness towards Darren and me when we see him after school. It got so bad he cried and screamed uncontrollably, even chasing the both of us out of my parents place when we went over after work. But seeing him progress and being more independent now, I think it is mostly beneficial for him.

He also made some handicrafts in school and this is one of his first works. Let's hope he gets used to going to school soon, and remain the happy boy he is.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

PSLE Maths question?

Saw this on Facebook and the closet math geek in me was bursting out from within to attempt to solve it as I sat on my toilet trying to take a dump. Er hmm...

Anyway, after 10 minutes of pushing (my brain to the limit), it was out. My answer that is. 1/9/1970. Let me know if I'm wrong. The thing is, how is that a math question? The only way I knew how to solve it was through logic and plenty of talking out loud to myself. The E-Maths, A-Maths, JC Math and Bachelor of Accountancy didn't help one bit.

If this was really a PSLE question (never mind the bad English/grammar), I worry for poor Aiden.  What happened to the good old "Ah Seng has 10 apples more than Ah Lian who has twice as many apples as Ah Huay who has 5 apples" type of question?

I think this is either proof of the evolution of human intelligence or a very good marketing campaign for PSLE tuition centers.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lilke mummy, like daddy

Nowadays, it is not just what celebrity wears that are making headlines - the spotlight is now on what their babies and toddlers are wearing too. Many mums and dads enjoy styling their kids like themselves - creating mini mes. It is fun for both parent and child to choose outfits that are 'like mummy, like daughter', 'like daddy, like son' and creates a whole new trend in kids wear.

Just look at Brad Pitt and daughter, Shiloh & Katie Holmes and daughter, Suri.

These mini stylish fashionistas are inspiring designers to produce clothing, shoes (and even heels!) and bags for kids and babies so that both parent and child can wear the same styles.

Some mums even hand down their handbags to their daughters so that both of them can strut out in the same style. Some young girls are already wearing heels when they are under 7. Will these young fashionistas be too spoilt when they grow up? Where do we draw the line?

It is funny how I hear tales from friends that you should enjoy it when your kid does not make decisions on what they wear yet. As they will choose clothes with their favorite cartoon characters or styles that you hate when they grow up! So enjoy this while it lasts :)

Aiden at 24 months
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Easy Peasy Transitions

They say kids are highly adaptable, and I couldn't agree more from the 2 transitions I have been through with Aiden: (1) Weaning off breastfeeding & (2) Moving from co-sleeping in our bed to sleeping independently.  

I was really unsure when to make these two transition and worry about change. Aiden's adaptability and transition for both really surprised and impressed me. There was no lead time at all. No resistance. No hesitation (oh well, the hesitation and worrying comes mainly from me and me alone).

I recall when Aiden was approaching 12 months old, and I returned to work for about 8 months, breastfeeding frequency has dipped, as well as milk supply with hectic work schedule & rising stress level. I was worried that he wouldn't cope well with the transition to formula milk. After months of worrying and increased effort in stocking up (worrying contributes to the dip in milk supply unfortunately), finally I decided to slowly wean Aiden off when he was 12 months old. It's as though we were telepathic. As soon as I decided to wean Aiden off breastfeeding, he decided that he was no longer interested, and turned to bottle feeding & formula milk with ease the next day. He never turned back. To date, he still enjoys his daily doses of formula.

Aiden at 17 months
I ended up being the one experiencing withdrawal symptoms, and felt lost when I no longer get to bond with him. I still miss the feeling now, and felt it was really essential in bonding with your baby.

Co-sleeping in our bed was brought about by breastfeeding as well. I wanted the ease to feed Aiden on demand, and being able to respond to his needs conveniently. This led to him sleeping in between Darren & I for 2 years. Recently, Aiden turned two and just yesterday, he decided he will sleep in his own cot bed on his own in his room. This is a really big step. And it surprised me as it happened just like that. Without hesitation. Without any smaller transition steps.

I have contemplated several times since he was 18 months to move him to his own room, but worry that he may be afraid to sleep alone, he may not be used to the other bed, he may need attention in the middle of the night... Then come yesterday when we were playing in his room, and he laid on the cot bed. I spoke to him about him being a big boy now and suggested he sleeps on his own bed from today. He nodded. Through various events in the day, I've forgotten about this at bedtime. Strangely, Aiden keeps pointing to his room and wanted to sleep in his cot bed. He fell asleep shortly after, and instead of having a good night sleep with the bed to ourselves, I became sleep deprived through waking more than 6 times throughout the night, and checking on him! I am still pro co-sleeping, just that the transition could have been earlier - but as long as we are all happy & comfortable with the arrangement at that point in time.

Aiden at 11 months
Through these transitions, I realized how kids are really adaptable and tough, sometimes even more so than adults are. They embrace change better than us too. There's so much to learn, experience and discover with them as they grow, and I am really looking forward to the days ahead with Aiden.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Happy 2nd Birthday Aiden!

And so, Aiden turned 2 last Wednesday.  Our little Valentino was privileged enough to have not one but two birthday celebrations this year!  The first was on his actual birthday in school and the second was three days later at Long Beach East Coast Parkway with close relatives.

We joined Aiden in school in the afternoon after picking up the cake from Tampines.  After arranging the tables and chairs and treats for the kids, the teacher brought Aiden and the other children to the eating area.
Aiden chose this cake.
Goodie bags with toys, stationery and snacks.

How pampered are kids nowadays!  Goodie bags were mandatory (says the Principal) and the teacher was slightly surprised that we took no time at all to set up the party.  Do other kids usually have elaborate (read: expensive) set ups for their birthdays?  I was told some even specially print backdrops so that pictures would look nicer.  太夸张了吧?In the end Aiden and the kids seemed to enjoy themselves so I think it was money well (un)spent. :D

Their expressions are priceless!
Drinking his favourite Yakult.
Not easy to get cheeky Aiden to smile this way.
Playgroup and Nursery celebrating together.
Happy and excited to distribute goodie bags to everyone.
Smiled like this because he knew I would buy him presents later.

With the heavy rain still unrelenting these few days, we were lucky that it stopped briefly when we arrived at Long Beach for seafood dinner.  We (i.e. Cheryl and me) have been craving for seafood for some time and Aiden's birthday was the perfect occasion excuse to do so!

The happiest person at the table (and rightly so) was Aiden, with big balloons, candles to blow out, cake to cut, presents to unwrap and people to bully (he loves beating Jasmine, one of his favourite aunts).

The rest of us were thoroughly entertained by Aiden's antics, although the food was not as good as Jumbo (where we usually go to).  Kids really give as much as they take.

I'm glad Aiden is growing well and is a happy kid.  Happy Birthday my dear son!
Thursday, February 14, 2013

Flashback: Valentines' Day 2011

I admit... that I am not a fan of paying marked up prices for Valentines' Day roses, chocolates, presents and restaurant set menus.  It just sounds too ridiculous to pay that kind of money to buy a little bit of commercialised happiness on the fourteenth day of February.  I might not even remember the details by the time the next Valentine's Day comes again!

On the 2011 edition of Valentines' Day, fate intervened and gave us a staycation that we would never forget.

No. Not Capella Singapore, the ultra swanky hotel in Sentosa.

 No no no! Not the spectacular Marina Bay Sands hotel either.

Hotel de TMC, Premier Single Room.
That's me, enjoying the luxurious faux leather sofa bed and trying to catch a wink during our short stay at the Thomson Medical Centre over Valentines' Day.

A day before, on 13 February, we did an early 4am check-in at the hospital after Cheryl's water bag decided to burst at 35 weeks.  Still feeling groggy from the lack of sleep having just fallen into deep slumber after watching a late night soccer game, I rushed Cheryl down to the hospital under the advice of our gynae Dr Adrian Woodworth.

After a harrowing 12 hour experience - from trying to go all natural to getting the epidural done to watching the baby heartbeat disappear off the machine readings every few minutes for hours to having to feed Cheryl with pure oxygen to worrying about losing our baby to trying to hide the grave situation from Cheryl to the gynae deciding that it is too risky for a normal birth to waiting for the emergency caesarian to begin to waiting for the appropriate moment for me to go into the operating theater to watching the doctors pushing hard and pulling our baby out safely among the entangled umbilical cord, Aiden was finally born (slightly premature and at the birth weight of 2.74kg) into this world!

So embarrassing.
Did I mention that I also had enough time to make a fool of myself to a nurse when I wore the surgical cap meant for my shoes on my head instead as I waited outside the operating theater?  While praying for the safety of mummy and baby outside, I was wondering why the hell did they make those caps so impossibly small for my head and why they gave me an extra one.  Is there going to be alot of blood splattering around to warrant an extra surgical cap?!?!?  As the nurse did not break into uncontrollable laughter when she told me about the right way to use the surgical caps, I assumed that I am not the only man who made this mistake in the history of the hospital/mankind.  Do let me know if you know anyone in the same boat.  It will make me feel better.

And so, with limited energy and time (By day, I was spending time with Cheryl/Aiden or running errands.  By night, I sneaked into office to work on urgent stuff that needed my immediate attention.) we celebrated our 8th Valentines' Day together simply with some (not very tasty) macaroons bought from the Delifrance outlet in the hospital and with a third party between us - this little man called Aiden.  No expensive roses, chocolates, presents and restaurant set menus.


It's the best Valentines' Day yet. :)
Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Welcoming the year of the water snake


I don't remember a Chinese New Year that was this wet!  It really is the year of the water snake.  With rain pouring down everyday without fail (more predictable than the next arriving MRT train?) over the super long weekend, it has definitely, pun intended, dampened the high spirits that we had as we left work last Friday.  Flash floods (or ponding according to a not very popular alternative definition) were a daily sight.  We even saw a Citycab taxi ending up in a ditch at the entrance to PIE on Saturday.  Luckily no one was injured.

I'm just glad that I was too busy/tired/lazy to wash and wax my car for the Chinese New Year.  It would have been a tremendous waste of time, although it would have negated the effects of eating one too many pineapple tarts (slightly).  As I drove the car out of the carpark and into the perfect storm, I sniggered at the impeccably maintained paintwork of my neighbors' cars (but soon to be looking like mine).

Aiden on the way to my brother's place to 拜年.
Ahhh, our first world problems.  We are a privileged bunch of people.

So how did Aiden deal with the gloomy weather?  With a pair of boots of course!  It's the perfect way to look different and quickly glam up a simple looking outfit.  And, during the year of the water snake, it's the most functional piece to have in your kid's wardrobe.  Get a pair today and keep those happy feet dry!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Population White Paper - Being one in 6.9 million

And so, today in Parliament, the Population White Paper was endorsed by a vote of 77 to 13.  The result was inevitable, and the way the White Paper was shoved down our throats, regrettable.  Political views aside, the targets/projections/worst case scenarios that were revealed during the past week provided me with quite a bit of food for thought.

Singapore in 2030, as the ruling party sees it, would be a place with more immigrants and more foreign workers.  It will be more of the same of what we have seen in the last 10 years - sudden influx of immigrants and foreign workers who fail to integrate into our society, causing social problems and hampering the strengthening of the Singaporean core.

Aiden is not happy about the Population White Paper.
I wonder how Aiden would cope in 2030.  He would be 19 years old by then, perhaps serving National Service after doing his A Levels.

Would he be serving his nation with pride?  Would he be glad that he is living in a vibrant and cosmopolitan city state enjoying a high standard of living?  Would he be a patriotic young man willing to defend his country with his life?

Or would he be wondering why he has to waste 2 years of his life while half of his male JC classmates get a headstart in university?  Would he be trying to get by solely on his meager NS allowance because his parents are already struggling with the cost of living that has spiraled out of control?  Would he be wondering who exactly he is protecting should there be a war - his fellow Singaporeans or people who are treating Singapore as a stepping stone/money making opportunity with no real intention to stay and integrate?

With things coincidentally going not very well at work, I did think about the possibility of migrating in the future.  Afterall, statistics show that this is on the uptrend over the years.  I also have some (older) friends who have taken the leap of faith and swore never to return.  Label them 'leavers' or 'quitters'?  I don't know, but they look like they have 'happy' engraved on their foreheads, permanently.

For now, the thought of leaving behind our loved ones/friends to begin a new life in a foreign land is too daunting.  It might be a regrettable way to deal with a bleak future.  Or would it also be inevitable?

How are you preparing for 2030?
Sunday, February 3, 2013

How protective should parents be?

The tragic news of the two brothers who were killed in a horrific accident in Tampines (at the junction of Tampines Avenue 9 and Tampines Street 45) last week gripped the nation.  Even if you have not seen the very graphic and disturbing accident photos, it doesn't take much imagination to know what the result will be when a young cyclist and his pillion rider goes under a cement mixer truck.  Just thinking about it makes my eyes watery.  It is a cruel way to lose two young lives.  My condolences to the family of the two brothers.

I will not jump to conclusions about the accident as there are too many unknowns.  It would be very unfair to put the blame on the truck driver without a thorough investigation.

The other question that arises from this incident has to be whether we should be protective parents, in what degree and until what age?

I firmly believe that life's lessons are best learnt not through teaching but through experience.  That is why I allow Aiden to fall repeatedly, to experiment with things, to get hurt a little.  It has made it easier for him to understand why he shouldn't play with the fan, why he should keep his toys after use, why he cannot jump from a high point.  It has also made him more resilient.  Developing a child's Adversity Quotient is as important as his Intelligence Quotient and the Emotional Quotient.

But with news like this, I wonder whether I should be more protective over him, to avoid putting him in harm's way unnecessarily.  It really is difficult.

Remember to give your kids a tight hug today.
Saturday, February 2, 2013

No more beating

Since Aiden started school, we have heard of incidents of him beating and kicking. I started reflecting if it was my own doing as I occasionally spank him when he misbehaves.

I never thought thrice about beating. Everytime he does something really naughty, like spilling water from a cup on purpose, jumping on the bed despite warnings - I have the urge to discipline him through beating. This is after I tried to explain to him the consequence and not to repeat the act. If he doesn't listen once, I will try explaining to him again and when he repeats the act, I will ask for his hands or spank his thigh/ butt. I made sure I told him why I am doing this. I regret it almost everytime I do so.

So I looked online on why hitting your child is bad, and how to stop your child from hitting. These top 5 reasons against hitting, is sufficient to make me swear off beating him ever again.

Reason 1: Your child models your action
A very classic story about a mum who believed that spanking is a necessary part of disciplining her child. One day, she observed her 3 year old hitting her 1 year old son. When confronted, her daughter told her 'I was just playing mummy.' That's really shocking and this mum never spanked another child. As children love to imitate especially people they love, they perceive that it is okay for them to do whatever you do. After 2 weeks of attending school, Aiden expressed great resentment towards school, and us. It was really hurting. He chased us out of my parent's place and started to hit us as well.

Reason 2: Hitting solves all problems
Spanking demonstrates that it is alright for people to hit people, especially for bigger people to hit smaller people and for stronger people to hit weaker people. Children learn that they can solve problems through beating. I feel that Aiden's beating could be due to a lack of words as he is unable to communicate what he wants. Hopefully he will be encouraged to speak more.

Reason 3:  Hit-hug ratio
Most people think that 'But so many of us are brought up this way (through spanking)', 'I don't spank my child that much or hard, most of the time I shower him with love. The occasional spank on the butt will not bother him.' It's frightening to learn that this rationalization does not hold true for all children. Despite us thinking that our hit-hug ratio is 1:100, there's still risk of your child remembering that 1 hit than all the 100 hugs you gave him - especially when the hit was delivered in anger or unjustly which is most often the case. This is so true, it scares me.

Reason 4: Hand slapping = delayed exploratory development
It is indeed tempting to slap those little hands. I have often asked Aiden for his hands to slap when he repeatedly committed naughty acts. I read that children's hands are tools for exploring, an extension of their curiosity. Slapping them sends a powerful negative message. Research by psychologists showed that children who were punished with a slap on the hand when they did something forbidden, were found less skilled at exploring their environment. So it is definitely better to separate the child from the forbidden object or supervise his exploration and leave little hands unhurt.

Reason 5: Hitting brings back bad memories
It is amazing how unpleasant memories from your childhood can block out all the positive loving memories and this is one big reason I am swearing off beating.

There's so much more reasons against hitting and hundreds of studies all come to the same conclusions:
1. The more physical punishment a child receives, the more aggressive he or she will become & he/she will be abusive towards their own children.

2.  Spanking plants seeds for violent behavior later in life.

3. Spanking doesn't work. 

It is quite a realization for me. Understanding how spanking doesn't work and only serves to create distance between the child and parent and contributes to a violent society. I will learn to be more patient and try to talk to Aiden calmly when he pulls his next stunt. In the long run, I believe this will contribute to him being more well behaved & a home with less violence and hatred.
So breathe in, stay calm and smile!

Aiden's many funny expressions after school (23 months)
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