Month: August 2016

The Unseen Struggle of a Child

I am currently reading Erika Christakis’ book entitled ‘The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups’. I still have a few more chapters left, and while I have a lot to say on how the book is organised (it’s really hard to pinpoint the proofs put forward and follow the arguments) I am struck by a number of anecdotes, examples and snippets written.

One particular passage I couldn’t help but sharing here is this, a description of how a child may struggle to put on her coat (or perhaps, any other item of clothing) all by herself, in a kindergarten setting:

Occupational therapists use a concept called motor planning to describe the steps required to plan and carry out a series of movement. Putting a coat involves more than just sticking your arms through two sleeves. From the moment a young child is instructed to put on her coat, she has to think about how to move her body from one place to another, without bumping into her peers or knocking over their block tower. Then she has to position her body so she can grab the coat without pulling her backpack off the hook or pushing her boots to the floor. Then she has to find a big enough space to put her coat on without taking up other people’s space and think about  how she can get her right arm into what only appears to be the left sleeve and the left arm into what appears to be the right sleeve. This of course assumes she can see which part of the coat is the front and which is the back and transpose that visual image to her own body. And forget about zippers and buttons and snow pants and wet gloves that have turned inside out. There are probably dozens of motor planning steps required just to get outside.

If you are still not overwhelmed by that description, imagine instead having to fumble in a spacesuit in zero gravity with a wrench the size of a pair of tweezers and being asked to repair a two-hundred-million-dollar telescope on the international space station before being blown off -structure by satellite debris, like Sandra Bullock in the movie Gravity.

Just yesterday we were arguing over his refusal to take shower. I told him showering is easy and simple: take of your pants and shirt, step into the shower, pee, brush your teeth, use the shower gel, rinse, dry your body, put on your fresh clothes, and voila, you are ready to play again. To that he screamed: No, showering is difficult and a long process!

After reading the above passage, I could not help but feeling a little more emphatic.

Sure, if I list it down like that the process seems trivial to me, we adults can do these mindlessly with our eyes close. But to a 4-year-old child who has just mastered putting on and taking off clothes by himself in less than a few months, it indeed involves hard work, if from a child’s eyes the steps to take are as challenging as the author described.

Luckily, my husband has a little more empathy than I do – and seems to understand well how the brain of a child works: you will see how he lists down all the moves needed for my son to pee and clean himself, how to jump, how to turn an inside-out shirt to its right side. I could see how this approach eases the process for our son, but pheww, the waiting you have to endure for the process to finish, when you have a lot of other things to do will make any trace of empathy fly out the window. That methodic approach of the husband gives birth to another methodical person in my household (it is not something I truly dislike, but I am more carefree and now I have two persons commenting on how I do works).

But then again, that’s what a parent does. We do what is right, which is to be patient, and not what is convenient for us.

And surely, the saying ‘practice makes perfect’ is now applicable to both of us.

It is obvious that…

It is obvious that…

  1. …staying in love requires work. A lot of works. There is nothing called ‘going with the flow’, because there are other forces trying to separate you and your partner.
  2. …children imitate. This is a precaution to be aware of what you are doing as a parent, and also as a reminder that whatever a child does or says, it may not be a good judge of their actual capability or intelligence or maturity. He or she may just, for instance, imitate and replicate what you say to them.
  3. …regardless of how much you learn and gain in knowledge (in religion for example) it doesn’t matter and perhaps useless if the most basic and fundamental things e.g. being kind to your spouse, parents, children and establishing solah are still so-so.
  4. …people change, so there’s no point in lamenting or wondering about that. New experiences, challenges, life situation and stress can change even the most rock-solid thing about that person. Take yourself: who you are half a year ago may not be the same with who you are now. Something that happened along the way might have change, and consequently change some parts of your view of the world and hence your resulting actions.
  5. … with a technology comes the inevitable change of culture. Life without (internet) connectivity and social media specifically is nearly forgotten: I myself could not remember how my day went about without these things, and it was only less than 12 years ago that Friendster became an in thing. How was life without consistently telling people where we go, what we eat, what we wear, what we just bought, which toilet we take selfie in, or in general, just what do we do on a daily basis?
  6. …each phase of life throws different challenges to you. In responding to that, you should either understand that for certain things, you just have to start now – no postponing or it just won’t happen, OR you just have to take things easy. I think in general for my observation, when it comes to performing religious duty of spiritual improvement, the first one is applicable, while the latter suits worldly affairs better.

Some random thoughts these are, in response to today’s prompt 🙂

Thoughts about Learning

Yesterday I came across a photo made viral on the Facebook (in Malaysia),  of an elderly lady working with a laptop.  The caption told me that the photo was posted by her grandson,  and the photo was of his grandmother working on her master’s thesis.

Although the phrase ‘inspiration’  is overused and overrated these days,  I have to say the sight is indeed inspirational. Just as inspirational as reading the story of a 82-year-old grandmother finishing her memorisation of Quran.

My heart warms to these tales of courage and insatiable thirst for knowledge, more than to those instagram photos of branded handbags or pretty dresses or exotic holiday destinations. It is the stories of the lifelong pursuit of self-improvement with the end of seeking His pleasure that often make me look at myself and introspect and get me to move.

In my days as a corporate slave years ago, I have come across people who, after a dealing or two, were obviously stuck in their ways. Refusing to progress, and worse, refusing to learn and have little drive whatsoever to know other things apart from what they do. I’ve worked with a colleague whose language skills were so bad even our boss asked him to take English classes because his inability and refusal to work to improve have caused much pain to us his team members. I’ve once asked an intern to take the minute of our departmental meeting, with me- not an uberly important meeting hence a good opportunity to learn – only to listen to her whining about not knowing what to write or how to do it.

It is fair to say that I’ve seen my ideals and have also seen the opposite. And now that I am a mother, I intend to cultivate and nurture such love for learning in my children. Fortunately, I came to know that children are just hardwired to learn, I don’t have to do anything but cautiously watch myself to see if any of my actions will kill such the inborn curiosity and thirst.

That is a task that sounds so easy, yet it doesn’t come easy without deliberate actions. How many times have we stopped children from exploring just because we don’t want them to get messy? How many times have we refused to entertain their endless daydreaming just because suddenly as an adult we become too much of a realist or have so many other ‘important’ things to attend to?

Hence, for the sake of their learning, I am learning too.

I think that’s a good deal.

*This post is written in response to the daily prompt here.

Fifty Words I Live By

Be thankful, and you will receive more. Please God, not human. Love means commitment. Slow down, enjoy the moment. Today might be my last day. Keep calm and ignore. Every second counts. Kids will be kids. Keep learning. Just do it. Be kind or stay silent. Take a deep breath.

There, my first attempt to use the WordPress daily prompt to get back to writing consistently. A short and sweet post for a start 🙂

 

“Nak main dengan mommy!”

Ignore the mess in the background, the children were having fun!

Ignore the mess in the background, the children were having fun!

Soalan pertama aku kepada Isa setiap kali dia terjaga dari tidur adalah “Abang Long nak buat apa hari ni?” dan jawapannya selalu konsisten : “ Abang Long nak main dengan mommy.”

‘Main dengan mommy’ bermaksud aku berada di sampingnya, berinteraksi dengannya (Isa rajin bercerita, lebih-lebih lagi sejak imaginative play sudah berkembang) walaupun kadang-kadang Isa tak kisah jika aku cuma duduk di sofa dan minum kopi sambil melayannya bermain dan bercerita.

But I have to tell you a secret: after a year and half being at home, I concede that I couldn’t stay focused at playing with him for more than 15 minutes. 15 minit. It’s a shame. Sometimes I feel terribly sleepy, sometimes I have to fight the urge to pick up my phone, or I just need to get up and do some chores. Their dad i.e. my husband has always been the fun one, not me.

Aku selalu terfikir: kalaulah ini yang didefinisikan sebagai meluangkan masa berkualiti, then I am really suck at it.

Aku rasa bersalah. Aku rasa bersalah sehinggalah akumendapat jawapan kenapa sukar sungguh untuk akududuk diam dan menemankan anak bermain tanpa multi-tasking, apabila membaca buku ‘You are Your Child’s First Teacher: Encouraging  Your Child’s Natural Development from Birth to Age Six’ tulisan Rahima Baldwin Dancy.

Kata Baldwin-Dancy dalam bab kedua bukunya di bawah subtopik  ‘Why Is It So Difficult to Be Home with Children Today?’ beliau menyedari ramai ibu bapa tidak menyangka bahawa kehidupan stay-at-home bersama anak-anak di rumah rupanya sangat mencabar.

Beliau percaya salah-satu faktor yang menyebabkan hal ini berlaku adalah struktur masyarakat dan gaya hidup yang berubah, di mana keluarga nuklear (dan subnuklear) hidup dalam berjauhan daripada keluarga besar masing-masing. Berdasarkan pengalaman Baldwin-Dancy, ibu (dan bapa) berpendidikan tinggi (university-educated) memang tidak mungkin boleh hidup terpencil dengan anak kecil tanpa interaksi dan bantuan daripada ahli keluarga besar. Ini ditambah lagi dengan kurangnya pengiktirafan dan penghargaan daripada masyarakat sekeliling secara umumnya tentang peranan ibu atau bapa stay-at-home.

It takes a village to raise a child – sebab itulah cadang Baldwin-Dancy kepada ibu bapa: carilah keluarga lain dan juga generasi yang lebih tua sebagai pengganti keluarga kembangan (extended family) jika tiada, yang sebenarnya turut berkongsi peranan membesarkan anak-anak.

Baldwin-Dancy turut menceritakan bagaimana sahabatnya, ketika berada di sebuah kampung di Mexico. Sahabatnya ini pengamal kaedah attachment parenting yang menggalakkan bayi dikendong i.e. babywearing. Selama Sembilan bulan sahabatnya itu mengamalkan babywearing, yang akhirnya menyaksikan dia hampir terbang semangat dek kepenatan hilir mudik dengan bayinya. Memang bayi di kampung itu semuanya dikendong sepanjang masa tetapi bukan semestinya oleh ibunya! Kadang-kadang bayi itu ada bersama neneknya, kadang-kala dikendong oleh kakaknya, dan ada ketikanya dengan makciknya. Pokoknya, seorang bayi di kampung itu tidak diasuh secara bersendirian oleh ibu bapanya sahaja.

Faktor kedua, kata Baldwin-Dancy, yang menyebabkan tinggal di rumah bersama anak-anak begitu sukar adalah kefahaman ibu bapa bahawa mereka harus fokus 100% kepada anak-anak i.e. anak-anak adalah prioriti utama. Kata penulis lagi, kefahaman ini tidak tepat  kerana membiarkan anak-anak memerhatikan ibu bapa melakukan kerja-kerja harian di rumah i.e. merupakan satu keperluan. Senang cerita, ada nilainya apabila mereka melihat pergerakan kita melipat baju, mambancuh teh, mengemop lantai dan sebagainya. Oleh sebab keperluan ini tidak dipenuhilah, kata Baldwin-Dancy, anak-anak mula menunjukkan tantrum, yang sering disalah tafsirkan oleh ibu bapa sebagai kesan kekurangan perhatian.

Malangnya, kehidupan moden yang sudah diringkaskan dan dipermudah oleh sekian banyak gajet dan makanan segera menyebabkan kerja-kerja seharian seperti memasak, menyapu lantai, dan lain-lain kerja fizikal berkurangan. Sudahnya, tiada apa lagi yang menarik untuk diperhatikan oleh anak-anak sedangkan itulah yang membantu mereka belajar dan membesar. Kata Jean Liedloff (pengasas konsep attachment parenting), kanak-kanak perlu menjadi pemerhati kerja-kerja seharian kita, bukan menjadi fokus utama ibu bapa sepanjang masa. Kita yang dewasa ini pun, kalau diperhatikan 24 jam sehari boleh jadi ‘sakit jiwa’.

Aku turunkan petikan daripada buku tersebut yang kufikir menarik:

“In her book she recommends keeping babies in physical contact all day night until they crawl, as is done in the Yequana culture, where the parent or caregiver may occasionally play with the child, but most of the time pays attentiton to something else, not the baby. Sge says in her article, “Being played with, talked to, or admired all day deprives the babe of this in-arms spectator phase that would feel right to him. Unable to say what he needs, he will act out his discontentment. This is the attention-getting behaviour parents interpret as needing more attention when in reality, the child just wants parent to take charge of adult life, because the child needs to see a life in order to imitate it!”

***

Aku boleh menerima penjelasan penulis buku ini bukan kerana ia membebaskan aku daripada rasa bersalah. Bukan juga kerana sekarang aku ada alasan lebih kukuh untuk membiarkan anak bermain sendiri (bermain sendiri pun ada cabarannya sekarang, lebih-lebih lagi dengan wujudnya gajet yang bagi-terus-diam sebagai alternatif). Tetapi penjelasan ini membolehkan aku untuk lebih fokus dan memahami prioriti dalam memenuhi keperluan anak-anak, bukan escapisme.

Isa dan Khadijah masih perlukan aku untuk bermain di samping mereka pada masa-masa tertentu. Kajian menunjukkan permainan anak-anak menjadi lebih sofistikated dan kompleks bila ada sedikit ‘bantuan’ daripada orang dewasa, dan itu bagus untuk mereka. Tetapi lebih penting daripada itu aku mengajar diri aku untuk slow down. Perlu vakum lantai? Tak perlu cepat-cepat. Ambil masa, dan jika mereka mahu menolong, berikan peluang. They need movement, and here’s a chance. Tak payah tergesa-gesa mahu siapkan semua kerja dalam to-do list. Perlu jemur baju? Biarkan mereka ikut serta, bukan halang mereka dengan alasan ‘Mommy nak cepat ni, ada banyak kerja lain!’. Memang susah nak amalkan, tapi kalau aku boleh  tinggalkan banyak perkara lain untuk berada di rumah 24/7 dengan mereka, maka ini perkara wajib aku lakukan dan dahulukan.

Contact times, pada aku, perlu bukan sahaja untuk hal-hal sedemikian. Lebih lama contact time, lebih banyak teachable moments  yang merupakan peluang untuk kita mendemonstrasikan nilai-nilai penting dalam kehidupan. Kalau tak duduk lama dengan anak, macam mana mereka nak Nampak cara-cara melayan tetamu? Cara selesaikan masalah e.g. bila air tumpah? Cara mengawal emosi bila marah? Anak-anak mengambil contoh tauladan daripada orang yang paling rapat dengan mereka i.e. ibu bapa. We are their universe and they look up to us, so take some responsibilities and start behaving yourselves.

Lebih daripada itu, aku kena belajar untuk menerima dan meminta bantuan. Belajar untuk percaya bahawa anak-anak akan belajar banyak perkara daripada ahli keluarga selain aku dan ayahnya. It helps me to keep myself sane too, and learn to trust others. Anak-anak memerlukan aku, but I’m not going to be at their disposal all the time – and that’s okay. It’s still healthy and maybe even crucial for their development.

Bi iznillah.