This week, I learnt that the Asian stereotype of Tiger Mums is not unjustified, and that a Tiger Mum is a very scary mum indeed.
We went for dinner with one of C’s friends who lives in Melbourne, and he brought us to Laksa Bar, for some, wait for it, Laksa. Because I don’t take spicy food (yes, I’m a true-blue Singaporean), I ordered the Wat Tan Hor Fun, which was pretty authentic, and C had the Nasi Lemak. Our three other dinner companions ordered the Laksa, and said it was good too. But that’s not the point of this post.
Noah started fussing after being forced to sit in the high chair for some time, so I decided to pick him up for a short walk, to give the men a bit of time to chat. The Chinese auntie behind the cashier beckoned us over, and I went over for a little chat. I found out that she’s originally from JB, which explains why the dishes were more authentic than the other ‘Asian/Malaysian/Singaporean’ food we had come across. (Like many other Singaporeans, I am truly baffled by the Singaporean noodles sold here, since I have never had them back in Singapore.)
This was the conversation we had, minus some bits, because they’re irrelevant, and erm, my memory isn’t very good.
Me: We had a great meal! Are you from Singapore?
Chinese Auntie (CA): JB. Nice, right? Did you try my Nasi Lemak? It’s good!
Me: Oh my husband had it. I had the Wat Tan Hor Fun, which was very nice!
CA: *pointing at Noah* How old?
Me: 14 months.
CA: Oh, too late already!
Me: Huh? What?
CA: You go online, and you look for ‘my baby can read’. Go and buy the materials, because it’s cheaper here than in Singapore. I did my Masters in Early Childhood Education, and this programme is very similar to what I studied. It’s very good. But must start from three months old. Never mind, he’s 14 months now, you should have started much earlier, but start now also can.
Me: Oh is it similar to the Glenn Doman programme?
CA: No, this one is better. I started with my daughter, even when I was pregnant. By three months old, she knew all the body parts, and names of things. She could point to them. You ask her, where are your eyes? She can point.
Me: Wah. (Noah at 14 months, still gets confused when I ask him where his eyes are.)
CA: Yes, she read ALL the Ladybird series books by the time she was two and a half. At three, she was reading Enid Blyton.
Me: Wah. (What else could I say?)
CA: That’s why, this programme is very good. She’s an ASEAN scholar, you know.
Me: *feeling the need to say something* Oh, my husband was also an ASEAN scholar.
CA: What do you do at home with your baby? First one, right? Don’t be lazy! Must do more with him.
Me: Erm, I read to him.
CA: How many words are there on each page of the books you read? No more than three words a page, okay?
CA: Really, this ‘My baby can read’ programme is very good.
Me: Oh, actually, I want him to do more Chinese.
CA: You can translate the materials into Chinese! You tell him, ‘eyes’, then ‘yan3 jing1’, then point to his eyes, your eyes, daddy’s eyes, everyone’s eyes. He will learn! A child’s brain peaks at two years old, and then by five, the learning goes down already. You must start now!
Me: Ohhh, okay…
I’ve received various forms of this advice, and each time, I worry about whether I’m shortchanging Noah by NOT doing so many things with him. People ask me what I do with him daily, since I’m a SAHM, and I’m like, erm… I try to let him play with his toys. I read, and I do flash cards with him. I spend more than an hour at each meal-time trying to get him to eat. I try to get him to nap. I bring him out when I meet my friends for lunch/tea. I tickle him. I play peekaboo twenty thousand times with him. I hug and kiss him.
It’s very easy to get sucked into the whole ‘enrichment classes are the way to go’ thing, and I admit that I am often tempted to sign Noah up for more classes. Right now, he goes for Gymnademics once a week, and I think it’s good enough. (You can click on the link to find out more about why we started attending Gymnademics, and why we like it so much.) Each time I go into a ‘should we be sending him for more classes’ panic, C will be the rational one, and tell me that we need to remember what we want Noah to learn. We want him to have compassion for others (which is the meaning of his Chinese name), to have key life skills that will enable him to survive in this ever-changing world, and above all, to have good and sound values.
I think it’s scary that the lady thinks it’s “too late” for Noah to learn at 14 months old. Yes, I am fully aware that he isn’t reaching his developmental milestones on time, and in fact, is pretty behind schedule. I am worried about it, trust me, but I also don’t want to spend all our time together trying to push him so hard. I read to him, because I want him to love reading, not because I want him to be some genius who can read at two years old. I take photos and videos of him doing all sorts of things, because I want to be able to show them to him when he’s older, so that he knows how much fun we had together, even though he can’t remember doing those things.
I hope we’re doing the right thing for him, and that he won’t think that I was being too ‘lazy’ to start him on some programme when he was three months old.
PS. I have not done any research of any kind to justify my opinion in this post. Please do not get offended if you do use this particular programme with your children.
PPS. If you’re in Melbourne and feel like having some pretty authentic Malaysian / Singaporean food, do check this place out. The lady was actually quite nice, and I think she had the best of intentions when she shared her opinion with me.
UPDATE: A friend of mine shared this interesting article by Mayim Bialik (Amy Farrah Fowler from ‘The Big Bang Theory’), entitled ‘Why I don’t force my kids to say ‘please’… or walk on schedule’, and I thought I’d share it with all of you too.
Linking up with: