theaikidad

Aikido, Parenting and Everything in Between

Our Neighbour- The Kwoks

Mr and Mrs Kwok

Dear Boys,

People often say that ‘Friends are the family we choose.’ There’s nothing much said about the neigbours living next door to us.

While we have many good neighbours, which is another topic that’s too long to write about, I just want to tell you both about the ‘Kwoks’ well, that’s what we call them.

Hit off at first sight

I remembered when we first got our house keys, we were of course excited about it, and from what I can recalled, The Kwoks was here first, they moved in slightly earlier than us, and has pretty much settled down.

It was quite an occasion, and we did made some noise, and left our front door open, which is typical, then The Kwoks, kind of peeped in, when they got home and we welcomed them in, that’s where we hit off.

They were genuinely very nice and we could click, just like that. It was really a rare thing that both of our families got off so well. They brought a kind of comfort and warmth into our new home that very day and both your mum and I liked them, for their down to earth, unpretentious personality. They weren’t proud or trying to act like they were superior in anyway.

Both Mrs

As both were stay at home mum, your mum and Mrs Kwok hit off. Although Mrs Kwok was a good many years older, she could communicate with your mum, and there is no generation gap whatsoever. Over the decades, both families has shared many things, and none of us kept a score. It was pure goodwill where we lend each other stuffs, cooked and shared food, and even shared purchases in this age of online shopping.

We got so close that your mum even taught Esther, their eldest daughter tuition during her primary school days and right now as I typed she has completed her ‘O’ levels, how time flies!

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Mr Kwok and Esther during Wayne’s 5th birthday

Looking out for each other

It was kind of unspoken, we were neighbours and we shared things. We even share the shoe rack outside our house. The shoe rack’s ours but we straddled it between our door and theirs so they also put their shoes on our rack. It wasn’t overbearing on both side thankfully. They didn’t hoard the rack, and they knew not to put too many shoes on it.

When we go for our respective family holidays, we will lookout for each other and help to clear any flyers stuck to our doors. Sometimes, they’d tell us when they will be away and even if they didn’t, we would know they are gone for a short trip and just clear their flyers.

When you boys were younger and your mum needed to rush off to get somethings done, and leave the both of you at home, Mrs Kwok would gladly babysit the both of you until your mum is back, and sometimes, we would tell her that you both are at home and she’d keep her door open in case you boys needed to shout out to her for help.

And of course, we do, trust her with our house keys, when we need to.

Shared values

It helps we bind at first sight and it is pure goodwill on both sides. Like everything in life, there are good and bad stuffs, even with neighbors, we are thankful there is more good stuff to share with them than the bad. We are both constantly and unconditionally helping each other, and looking out for each other, which is more than we can look for in a neighbour as awesome as The Kwoks

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Window for Everything

Window for Everything

Dear Wayne,

I remembered vividly, you were the runt in the family, and as your parents, we were always so concerned about getting enough food into you. But you ate so little when you were a baby.

So one of the afternoon, we were giving you milk, and half expecting you to not finish the bottle. But to our surprise, you managed to finished the whole bottle! That was a moment of celebration.

Well, our happiness was short-lived.

 The next moment, you gave it all back to us, milk vomit.

I never forget that cheeky look you have on you face, almost like telling us, “Hey dad, I finished the entire bottle, and then I didn’t!”

That was an epiphany, I used till this day as a parenting story.

You cannot force things.

Now that you boys are old enough, you are developing the maturity to choose you actions, and hopefully the favorable consequences that follows. It is not always the case, as some things can’t be forced.

Just as much as we tried the best we could to make Wayne drink his milk, when he is not ready to take the full bottle, he will not be able to take a full bottle, period. No amount of forcing can help us better the situation, we can either try our darnest, and just get upset over the failure of the reality to meet our expectations, or we can release ourselves from expectations and let the reality show us how things really are.

This is pretty much the story of the Human Race, sum up in a Dad’s attempt to feed his child one full bottle of milk when the child isn’t ready for it. We are always trying to push our luck, and despite of our best effort, it often don’t go our way. Sometimes is does, more often than not, it doesn’t.

Letting go.

So learn to let go, do what you can, and sometimes, when you are not ready, you simply cannot do it. You can try, put in effort, learn and explain it, it will not happen the way you wanted it to happen.

It is a judgment call, I guess, and there is really no correct answer to it, sometimes, you might be over-doing it, trying too hard; sometimes, you are not trying hard enough. Whatever it is, use your experience and see for yourself, if too much is just nice, and too little is overbearing.

Never Bring Your Work Home

MjAxMy1mY2ZkZDg5ZWY4NDY4MDdkDear boys,

You will hear a lot of work-life advise in your life. Some say this and some will say that. It all depends on what works for you and what kind of a person you grow up to be.

You can either learn to take stress well, and be a tough guy, and be a Type A personality, that’s fine.

If you both gets married and have kids, you must make sure that you have a spouse you can talk to. Whether you choose to talk to your spouse or not, that is entirely a different matter.

Well, actually it is not that entirely different, becoming husband and wife and being in a marriage is building new habits, and the old ones evolve.

What I’m trying to say here is, at this stage of my marriage to your mum, I’ve learned to open up a lot more and tell her a lot of things. It didn’t used to be like that; in the past, I hate being on the phone, as part of my job requires me to be on the phone 6-8 hours a day. Enough of phone conversations!

These couple of years has evolved and I’ve taken to calling your mum ever-so-often, and you boys would have heard me calling home during lunch time and have a quick chat with your mum.

So what do we talk about?

Mostly work stuff, for me and also some work stuff for her and maybe somethings about you boys.

There will be people out there telling you not to bring work home, and when you leave the office, leave the work in the office. It means that you need to sort of compartmentalize some parts of your life and when you go home, you take off your ‘office manager’ hat and put on a ‘husband’ or ‘dad’ hat. Well I wish life is as simple as that!

Psychologically, it is quite impossible to draw a clear line as where your work ends and your family begins. sometimes, you get so heated up with a home argument, you are still carrying that anger into the office, and vice versa. And sometimes, our work and colleagues become our bona fide ‘relatives’, and we start to treat them as such.

What I’m saying is you need some skills to de-personalise your work and profession to be able to not bring work back.

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That’s not my practice. I have full transparency with your mum, and she does the same with me.  

It helps in our relationship as she knows what I am doing in my work. Its not so much about trust, but having someone to share your stories and also your woes. We are married and there are times where we have to fight the battles alone. For me, I sometimes fight those battles, with the full blessings from your mum.

Bringing work home also helps the “You don’t understand me!” department. While this will still sometimes occur, it is mitigated because there is a lot of banter. It’s not really a conversational technique, as it is something unique within a marriage and it differs from couple to couple. It is such casual banter that allows us to weave context into our relationships and when we misunderstood each other, we can pull out past banters ‘records’ and cross reference to help us work between the confusion and ambiguity.

That’s said, I don’t usually bring my family to work, despite of the fact that my wife and you boys are a very big part of my life. It is again a judgement call dependent on the kind of people I am working with. There are colleagues who are family oriented, because they are parents, husbands, wives who can relate to me. If such a connection can be explored, then I’ll sometimes share a bit more. But more often than not, I’d like to keep my personal, family life away from work. After all work is work, you can always find another work, but you cannot find another family.

Drunk? Never, ever

Drunk? Never, ever

Dear Boys,

It is not a matter of bragging, it is a matter of fact, for the records.

Your dad has never gotten drunk. Ever.

High, yes; Drunk, no.

What a Karate Master said

There was a book I read, by this Karate master, Gichin Funakoshi, he wrote in his book and one subject delved a little about drinking and that mantra stayed with me till today.

“When you drink with 20 friends, you will be drinking with 20 enemies, when they are drunk.”

Something to that effect.

It is not the enemies I am afraid of, it is me, becoming my own enemy, that keeps me sober. Given that I am trained in a specific martial arts discipline, it is important that I remain sober and aware of my senses and surroundings, so that I can remain effective. Being drunk clouds your senses, you can’t think straight, say stupid things, do stupid things and get into trouble you can easily avoid, just by staying sober.

There is also no excuse for me, since there are plenty of excuses for people, getting drunk and doing stupid things.

I want to be lucid, and in full control of my existence.

When I was high.

Being high, is another thing altogether. I know my alcohol limit, and when I reach a sensation of tipsy, I stop. Being high has a nice, light sensation, where you feel very relaxed, slightly happy and kind of like…fluid. Such a state is a wonderful tool for sleeping. I always have a good sense to know when to stop, and not cross that imaginary line. The brain just say stop, and that’s that.

So there has never been any period of my life where I am not ‘me’. Since I have never been drunk, I never knew what it feels like, or feels curious to try.

Solitary drinker

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Perhaps it is how I take my alcohol. I don’t have drinking buddies, and going to bars and pubs to drink is, such an exorbitant waste of money, and time. Besides, it is my stereotype that incidents of fights are highest in those places. Well, you don’t call a ‘bar fight’ in a school right?

Trouble brews in such places, and the best way to get out of a bar fight is not to be there in the first place.

So I usually take my beer at home, probably once a month, a can or so, at dinner with you and mum. That is what ‘drinking’ is to me, a relaxed place, alone. And just a can for flavour.

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There is also a short period of time I was exploring lazing in a hammock, a beer by the beach. It was a nice, chillax idea, but the problem is, you are still consuming liquid, and not long after that you will need to leave your cozy spot to look for a loo!

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As much as I like my Cabernet Sauvignon, I always struggle to finish a full bottle, and it is quite pricey to get just a small one, so I end up stick with a can of beer or two.

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You dad is boring as hell

So while you boys become older and perhaps taking my lifestyle as staid, just remember, alcohol like everything else, is best taken in moderation. Getting drunk and then doing stupid things after that is not the best way to live your life.

There are other ways to get a high, like going for an intense workout, mountain biking,and other activities. Sitting in a dark noisy place, with a bunch of drinking people, waiting for trouble to start, isn’t the best way to live a life.

While I am sure, there will be people who disagree with me, just remember one thing, I am entitled to my opinion, and you, when you are older. Most regrets happens when a person sobers up after a bout of drunkenness, so to take away having regrets, don’t get drunk in the first place.

Closing windows

Closing windows

‘It’s hard being the elder brother’, you cried.

I had to punish the both of you since both of you cannot close all the house Windows before we leave, for Sentosa, for fun. Yes, I did tell Wayne to do it, yes, he skived, he went to the toilet to poop. You didn’t want to do it because it was ‘his job’. You both ended up quarreling. I gave the both of you a 45min delay, that means we will leave the house later, that means we will have ‘less fun’.

You didn’t see it as fair so you sulked. I told the both of you, use this 45 mins to sort your shit out, change your attitude, and make peace. You didn’t like the idea.
Wayne ended up on the Lofty watching TV. You sulked in the room, sobbing, about how unfair things has been.
You told me you’re always helping and clearing things for Wayne and he is always accusing you of this and that.
I told you, as the elder brother you will be clearing a lot of his shit. That is the job of an elder brother. Clear younger sibling shit.
You’re 13, secondary one, who is below you?
Your little brother, who is nine.
Another kid who is eleven.
Your cousins who are four and two. All these younger kids will all look up to you to clear shit.
More importantly, you get a 45 minute sentence, that is a lot of time to get a lot of shit done, instead you choose to cry and sulk, instead of being positive and constructive, you could have gotten one homework done, you could have helped us closed all the windows, then we can leave house before the 45 minutes is up.
But you took the sentence with spite and angst.
There are people out there wrongfully incarcerated, and they spent their time in jail doing the most positive things, Nelson Mandela is one fine example. They didn’t let ‘jail time’ stop them from doing the most positive things in their lives.
And now you took it to crying and your brother took it to watching TV. Obviously this affected you more than him, and he probably didn’t even know what is happening, or how unhappy he made you.
All he learned from his elder brother is ‘tit for tat’. You could have shown him that despite of what he did, you still clear his shit, and you do it because you both are brothers, and brothers are supposed to look out for each other, he will get that eventually, and he will clear your shit the next time you needed help. That’s what brothers do, cover for each other.
And you are 13, he is 9. You obviously knows more than he does, and can I talk to him the way I talked to you? Will he understand all this things?
No.
Which is why you need to step up, your the older one, you have to do this, and do more. Because you can and you must.
You have to focus on the outcome again
The outcome is to get the house ready, so that we can all go out, if the windows’ not closed, and the rain comes, who is going to clean up the mess, when the rain splashes in?
We have to clean up.
It is our house.
And those windows don’t have a name on it, like Wayne’s window, Ian’s window, papa’s window. Someone has to close these windows, if not everyone will suffer.
So focus on the outcome, lets quickly get things done, irrespective of who does it, so that we can all leave the house and have fun.
And you guys are going to be brothers long after your parents are dead, lean on each other, count on each other, continue to clear each other’s shit. And you as the elder brother, don’t end up like my elder brother.

In the year 2065

Dear boys,

Our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong talked about the next 50 years of Singapore lately. And I sat that afternoon at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre having my packed lunch, and I wondered how much will remain 50 years from now.

Singapore as a country that is constantly changing. The Singapore in the 90s will be very different from the Singapore, now, and it will be different again 10 years from now. We, as a country is the best example of the evolutionary principle. We got strong, remain strong through constant self imposed change. Long before things need to be replaced, we’ve already replaced them.

Anyway, while I sat down to have my lunch, I looked at the Esplanade Bridge, it was build in 1997. That means the bridge is 18 years old. And will it still stands 50 years from now? Will the building, One Raffles Place still stands? Will the CBD still looks like the CBD 50 years down the road?

I will be 89 then, your mum 87, Ian will be 60? And Wayne, a ripe young, 57! So many things will happen that has yet to happen.

During my time, my generation of Singaporeans grow up listening to rather staid stories about how we were founded by Sir Stamford Raffles, and the fable of how a prince lost his way in a storm and saw a Lion (there was never a record of that magnificent beast in Singapore!) and named our island ‘Singapura’, we also hear a lot of our pioneering generations’ struggles, racial riots, world war 2, and other stories that will probably become tales and fables 50 years from now.

More importantly, boys, tell stories of your own, there will be many more challenges ahead, many more social events, there might be another world war, there might be other calamities, there may be other social political unrest, revolutions, and other events, these are stories that will make up your life. Tell these stories to your kiddos, tell them like how I tell you, because our heritage will be passed on from mouth to mouth, stories we tell our kids are the stories of our nation.

First Published on: Jul 16, 2015

Mistakes and falling

Mistakes and falling

Dear Boys,

You both have very different ways of learning.

This is very evident as I watch the both of you get the hang of in-line skating or rollerblading. Your mum took the both of you to a very quick course and over the holidays, your grand-parents bought a pair for you both.

I’d wish we had more time to skate, we only managed to squeeze in some blade time here and there. and from the last one, I can see a different approach you boys use to learn something.

Wayne: Fall, break, smash, fail until you get it. Fall, get up. Fall, get up. Fall, get up.

Ian: Try to get the technique right, fall and fail less, it matters when you fall less, never mind, you clock less in mileage.

We went to the playground downstairs; the one we call ‘Aunty Genevieve Playground’, no she don’t own the playground, it’s just that her apartment, faces the playground.

So there was a small running track, 260m in all, and it was just nice for the both of you to skate, or get the hang of skating.

By and large, the both of you already got it, it is just getting more road time, mileage, more practice.

Wayne, you clocked more road time, and he felled a lot more as well, sometimes, in an overly dramatic manner.

Ian, you on the other hand, felled less, focused on getting it right, and in the process, you skated slower, lesser distance covered.

Fortune favours the bold

There are always some smart quotes about everything and boys, don’t get caught up by it. Like what I told you, Ian, there is nothing wrong either way, it is just the way you boys learn, different.

Compliment or Clash

You both decide, if such differing style will tear the both of you or stitch you closer, there is no right or wrong answer to that, if you focus on the small stuff. The bigger stuff is your brotherhood, there will be clashes if you allow your own personality and how you do things to get the between the both of you. Don’t let that happen.

Cover for each other, know who is the more meticulous one, and who is the daredevil. Some situations favours the bold, others, could be a time for prudence, always consult each other, and have a healthy respect for the way you brothers do things. Talk through things, and always remember that being brother supersedes everything.