Dear Ian,

We were having a meal at McDonald’s today, and you started to write something on a piece of paper. Your 弟弟 naturally wanted to know what you wrote and you decided not to share it with him. That, of course created a knee jerk response from your 弟弟 and he also retorted by not wanting to share a hypothetical secret with you.

It was a time for a discussion.

This family works on a transparent basis, we don’t keep secrets from one another. Sometimes we do, that is usually to surprise our loved ones. Between your mum and I, we mostly tell each other what is going on, you see this in our family day to day. There is a lot of things we don’t know in life and we learn by sharing our experiences with each other.

Growing up, personal spaces.

While I am aware that you are growing up and you need your own space and identity, I am still interested in your secrets. you can have every right to keep you secrets, secret. But by you writing them in front of us, and saying it is a secrets, simply don’t work well for our social setting. It is like telling the whole world you have a secret, and this, invites people to pry you open like a can of sardines.

Well, we all have our secrets, people don’t just go around telling people they have them, that is the irony of life.

So you can have your space to keep secrets, but don’t do it in front of a bunch of people, your family and then say that we are not privy to it. It is not a very nice thing to do, as secrets can hurt people, and secrets can hurt you.

Inner circle

Honestly, your little brother is very bad at keeping secrets; from us. We are very bad in keeping secrets from you boys too, this is because we are a very close knitted family and we are very transparent in our feelings. When you tell you 弟弟 a ‘secret, you can be sure that your mum and dad will learn about it, this is because for your 弟弟, we are part of his inner circle and we can be trusted with your secrets. He won’t be so kind and so open with his friends. You can be sure about that. Your 弟弟 loves and respects you, for you to tell him it is a secret, he will keep it with his life, but he will not keep your secret from us, this is because we have a high level of trust in this family. This might change in future, dependent on the ebb and flow of your brotherhood, but as of now, you are his big brother, and for a little brother, keeping secrets for a big brother is a big deal.

Your secrets reflects your confidence

The conversations and probing leads me to discover that you have a certain apprehension towards people’s reaction towards your ‘secret’ once they know about it. that tells me that you are not prepared for the eventual consequences of people coming to know about your secret.  There is a lack of confidences in dealing with the response, once people found out your secret.

I always tells people I am an ‘open’ book, and I behave like one. My friends knows me as a very transparent fellow, and I harbour no secrets. I do, in fact, keep secrets; we all do. I just do it in a manner like I don’t, so that I don’t invite curiosity, I hide my secrets, other people’s secrets in plain sight. That is the best way to hide secrets. that is the way you instill confidence in people to decide that you are trustworthy. The worst kept secrets are some of the best place to keep secrets, since your secrets are no secret.

Secret hurts

And the most important thing is, at your age, you still lack that maturity to decide what is ‘secret’ and what is not. You might be compelled by other stronger opinion leaders to keep secrets on their behalf, and those secrets can be criminal and illegal. You might want to impress upon others that you are trustworthy and helped these people keep their secrets, which will eventually hurts you and land you in trouble.

Right now as your Dad,, it is my job to discern those secrets with you. It can be quite a burden to hold custody to secrets, other people’s secrets. So I have to know them, help you carry them, and also give you resources to help you.

I cannot allow a secret to hurt you, and until I can see a maturity in you learning to keep the ‘right secrets’, please let us in and be there to know you and the secrets you keep.

Writing carefully, writing slowly


Dear boys,

I hope you pick up your dad’s interest in writing. Long before there is such convenience as iPads, and other forms of ‘writing’, it is a pen and paper world, for your dad, it still is, no this is not about penmanship, this is about writing, and writing carefully.

This is important because when we say something, wrong, we can quickly say another thing to correct the error, and in a conversation, which is usually fluid, and interactive, micro corrections and errors are made all the time, perceptions and opinions tested, exchanged and argued. White lies and jokes and shared, which is the staple of an open, casual, cordial banter.

Whereas for words, written, is another story altogether. When written down, what a person say can last a long time, and used over and over again, for different context and for different agenda. Sometimes the original reason for what was written, is no longer applicable, the written phrase has long outlived its purpose, it will still be used for other context and conversation.

I’m not so concerned with what is written ‘right’, I’m more concerned with what is written wrongly, it can be costly, it can come back and bite you in the near future.
I think I picked up this habit of writing carefully when I was working in the banking side. Inter-department feud happens all the time and emails are basically e-missiles you send to your fellow colleagues from the offending department to defend your stand. So you have to write your emails carefully and word it in such a manner that you don’t get the blame, and your butt is covered.

Sometimes is can be a complain case from customers and the relevant department would want to find out what went wrong, more often than not, they could be trying to find an un-noticing victim to shift the blame to. Well, that’s some of the realities of your dad’ s work. It is a chair-borne commando’s life.

So the gist of it is, I sometimes will drop whatever I’m doing to write an email, taking up to the entire morning, word them carefully, cover all grounds, all possible arguments, loop holes are covered. At the same time shifting the problem back, making sure that my department gets out of any potential melee relatively unscathed. There are things in the email conversations that are not consistent and that is where your dad zoom in bite that poor bloke and pin him/her to the fault. It is a bureaucratic minefield and while you lay your mines and others lay theirs, the last thing you want is to be killed by your own mines!

It perhaps trained me to think and write, in a responsible manner, a readable manner, avoiding blind side bias, and sometimes plain sighted ones! Things that I’m not so sure about, I’ll try to avoid putting them in word, things that I have a certain authority in, I’ll still have my disclaimer, simply because you can never know enough to know everything. And everyone’s perspective and experience is unique and different, so we can never be so sure.

In a conversation, that’s pretty much fine, in a friendly banter, our mutually unique experiences rubs off one another, be very careful, writing things down, it may seem innocent now, but may turn out to hurt other very much later.
Remember, what is written is recorded, you may write a secret dirty little journal that you think may never see the light of day, and think that others may never know about, can be leaked. When it does, you better be prepared for the consequences!

this is about writing, and writing carefully.

Going to school, Primary One and PSLE

Going to school, Primary One and PSLE

Dear boys,

I don’t know what the fuss is all about. On hindsight, I think we were ‘lucky’ in a way, because when we enrolled your 大哥 into Horizon Primary School, the school was new and there were slots. We choose Horizon Primary School, not because it is well know, in fact it is a new school, it is unknown. There are ‘better known’ schools in the neighbourhood and they are all over subscribed, people are fighting tooth and nail just to get in. We chose Horizon, simply because it is nearer, in fact, nearest. 

Primary One

It was no frills affair for us, since the school is under subscribed, we do not have to ballot for anything. When it is time for the little brother to go to Primary One, he just have to follow the elder brother. Wayne, please thank your brother for getting you into a school without having to ballot. That’s the beauty of having siblings, okay? So stop, getting on your elder brother’s nerve!

Anyway, I’ve been telling you boys from day one; in any school work, test, whatever, you boys write? Your own name. You don’t write my name. Well our Indian friends do often have names like “ABC s/o CDF” the s/o typically means ‘Son of’ even that the Indian child still puts his name, not his parent’s name. The point is whatever results you get, they bear your effort, or the lack of it. I have nothing of it. You do well, it is your glory.

…as a stressed up parent will transfer the stress to the child. 

It is not the biggest milestone of your life

I’ve read in so many social media posts that going to primary one is the biggest milestone of so and so’s life. This is typically a comment made by the parent, children as far as I can see, couldn’t care less. Both you boys didn’t cry during your early days in Primary One, and adjusted to the changes like fish to water. How did we do it? We didn’t stress ourselves firstly, as a stressed up parent will transfer the stress to the child. We showed you the school, told you how exciting it will be, becoming a ‘big boy’. There was nothing to fear as we are always there for you, our confidence perhaps rubbed off some on the both of you.

We didn’t make a hyperbole out of it. It was an easy affair, we knew that school life need adjusting to, so we didn’t want to make it such an exaggeration, to further stress you boys. Primary one is to be spent adjusting, going to do things yourself and learning to be independent, and also adapt to a new social ecosystem as well. The school will usually the Primary One babies cruise, and this takes the entire year. Primary Two is where things picks up pace. Then again, it is still not a problem, yet.


This year, the 大哥 is taking the PSLE, which seems to be so dreaded, children and parents kill themselves over it. I know there are stress we cannot avoid, the school has already started piling work since last year. But we still let you, Ian, take it all in, the best you can. 

There are time you got so bogged down with studies you barely have time to take a breather, that is normal. We let you be you, without us coming over to pester you on things. So far, you’ve been motivated on your own. Sure there are some slack, and you took it well, and responded when we urge you to keep pace. We can still see the Ian in you, come home, still find time to play with your 弟, and do all the silly things. That is great, life has to go on, PSLE or no PSLE. 

No Tuition

The both of you have no tuition, except for Chinese. Which is even a weak subject for your parents; but your mum is learning quickly, she is picking up the curriculum, the best she can, so that Wayne can be helped with in this subject. the rest of EMS (English, Maths, Science), no tuition. You boys go to your mum, when you need help, she’s great.

I think it helps that knowledge is just the next room or the kitchen, since going to tuition takes up a lot of time, and money. You need to get dressed, travel to the tuition centre, sit there, wait for teachers, while your classmates play. While we are willing to pay, tuition centres does not guarantee 100% absorption, they always promise results, but none of them promise learning. It depends also on the teacher’s chemistry with students, there are questions perhaps Ian would like to ask but couldn’t and hence didn’t ask, and miss an opportunity for learning. The pace of the tuition might not suit individual students as well, the teacher will not slow down for slower students. Having your mum at home, teaching the both of you, she can speed up and slow down. She can go deep into a specific subject so that the both of you can fully understand the topic. She knows the both of you and so she can adjust her method accordingly.

Having your mum as the teacher also helps to build the bond, I’d rather you bond with your mum than to bond with the tuition teacher. It has always been the case for our family, we are always internally resourceful.

Open to face the challenges

Personally, I wouldn’t consider the PSLE a major challenge or milestone as well. As always we want you boys to put in your best, the results, really don’t matter much. As long as the both of you tried, and fail, we can live with it, but what aches us is when we know that the both of you, being clever, could have done better, and didn’t.

So PSLE is just that, a “Primary School Leaving Examination”. The examination you take when you leave your primary school, it is not SAS selection, it is not the Navy SEALs BUD/S course. It is just a paper exam and where you go in your secondary school, is dependent on the marks. That said PSLE, good or bad results does not prohibits learning, you will learn something not getting the results you wanted, you will also learn something if you do well.  Whatever happens you boys will still go to a secondary school perhaps not of your choice, and continue your learning path. The Government encourages life long learning, it didn’t sanction focus on examinations, so we as your parents, hopefully gotten this right for the both of you.

Have fun

At the end of the day, I still want the both of you to have fun in school I know that Ian, in Primary Six, there is a whole new level of evolution in social norms and how students treat each other. While every one is feeling their way around building their identity, don’t let that distracts you, the ultimate goal is still to have fun, learn and tackle your PSLE as it comes, do your best, don’t let it stress you.


Be a brother, not a parent



Dear Ian,

Be a brother to your brother and leave the parenting to us.

As you are now growing up, and being the elder brother, you will invariably boss your little 弟弟 around. It’s quite natural, since he is the younger, naughtier , more irritating one. You being the older one has a larger responsibility of taking care of him, helping him and chaperoning him. That is fine, until you start to do our job.

Don’t parent him.

Leave that to us, we are the parents to both of you, we are your judge, jury and executioner. Not you, not your 弟弟. He may get on your nerve many times, but don’t take matters into your own hands and scold him the way we do.

You are his peer, his brother, leave the scolding to us.

Wayne looks up to you

Truth to be told, your little brother looks up to you, he doesn’t says it out, but we all look up to out elder siblings. So you need to be a brother to him, so that you can continue to bond with him. Be the elder brother he can learn and emulate from.

While we as your parents are guilty of passing some bad parenting tips to you, that you are doing to your brother, right now I’m telling you, consciously, stop. Enjoy your brotherhood with him. Bond with him, sometimes even cover for his mistakes. I know saying that will cause some resentment, but that’s what elder siblings do.

Your mum, the elder sister.

Your mum covered for her younger brother as well. They were both playing on their mother’s bed and the little brother, jumping on the bed, broke it. They were terrified of course, and tried to pushed the broken bed frame back, and make it looked as if it wasn’t. It was a crack and any more weight on it will fracture it again.

So your mum, orchestrated with her little brother to make it look as if she broke it. When her mother was in, the sister purposely sat on the broken part, and sure enough, it crack, and your mum made a dramatic effect, pretending to be shocked that the bed broke under her weight. Her mum, was shocked but thought nothing about it, since the bed was already quite old. and it is a matter of time. She never knew the bed was broken by her son, and her eldest daughter covered for the younger boy.

These are the things siblings does for each other.

Back against each other

I’ve told the both of you many times, after both your parents are long dead and gone, it will be the both you, back against each other, facing the big bad world. That is really all there is, we are not a big family, right now you have your parents to back you both up, you mum, she has her parents. Me? I’m pretty much on my own, my only source of backup is your mum, my wife. Yes, I have my parents, and my elder brother, but they are an whole bunch of sordid stories on their own.

So whatever the problems, you boys must be able to talk to each other, help each other, lookout for each other, cover for each other. That must be unconditionally done. Always find a way to talk it out, no matter the differences. Sure next time, perhaps the both of you will be married, start your own family, have wives to confide to, like how I confide to your mum, as my wife. But when it comes to brotherhood, that is another whole different level of your life.

Bearing witness.

Ian, you are a good 3.5 years older, and you have seen your baby brother grow up, held him, and in the hospital’s nursery, remarked that your 弟弟 is the smallest baby! You have held him, protect him, cajoled him. Continue to do that, and he will have to rely on you for these memories, you need to provide that reference for him. You have also experience more things in life, last year, we went to Perth and Star Cruises was because you have been on these trips, but your 弟弟 hadn’t. He wanted to do those things you have done in the photographs, when he wasn’t around yet. He will always be your little 弟弟.

You both will have to bear witness to a lot of other things, unique to both of you. we as your parents, can never be a sibling to the both of you. You both goes to school together, and faced the tough school environment together. We are not there, we cannot protect you both, so there is only the both of you, and we trust that you both can look out for each other.

So learn to live with each other, warts and all, this is what brothers is about, it is not about who is the boss.

Are Son-in-Laws, the new Daughters?

Are Son-in-Laws, the new Daughters?

Dear Boys,

This is going to be quite a sensitive subject.

Consistent with our Chinese roots, culture and customs, in a matrimony, the woman/ bride/ wife, will be married ‘into’ the man/ groom/ husband’s family. She will take on the man’s surname, and well, become part of the man’s family. So she is, in effect, a ‘loss’ to her parents. Which is why traditionally, Chinese parents prefer baby boys, so as to carry on the family ‘lineage’ and bloodlines. Socially speaking, the wife should be closer to the husband’s side of the family, now that she is married into the family.

More often than not, It is a vice versa situation.

Let’s face it, I’m a guy, I’m a son to my parents. Is my wife, your mother, close to my parents? Wait, am I close to my parents?

Straight answer: No.

Am I closer to my wife, your mother’s parents and relatives? Yes.

It appears that I am not the only one, your mum had conversation with her peers (fellow mummies/ wives) they too came up with the same observations. The husbands seem to be closer to the wives’ side of the family than the other way around. So it give a very sweeping observation that although the woman takes on the man’s surname in a marriage, but socially, the man becomes closer to the woman’s side of the family.

In that very sweeping observation, every case of this happening is unique. Let’s start with me. My parents are divorced, since then, things between me and my elder brother (yes, you boys have a very little mentioned uncle from the paternal side) has been very distant at best, violently hostile more often, it is very much the same with my mum. As for my dad? He has since remarried, and he seems to be only interested in my money, and my brother’s money. Not the happy bunch of paternal side I’d like to expose the both of you to. Sorry boys.

Your mum’s side? Well, I’m very close to them, for meritocratic reasons, for the fair of a fair argument. They have been your primary caretakers, other than your parents. They take you boys on holidays. You boys have stay-overs at their place. You boys have tonnes, I mean tonnes of photographs with them. But with your paternal grandparents? Zilch.

What happened?

Frankly, personally, it is a case of attraction. Your mum’s parents, The Grands did more, love you boys more, supported my marriage more, helped us more; and of course, created less problems for your dad. We are all attracted to good, kind and nice people and deeds.

Your dad’s side of the family is simply too emotionally taxing and complicated for me to introduce to you boys. Sans your dad’s Aunt (you grand-aunt), she is the only saving grace as a decent relative from your dad’s mum’s side (its getting complicated) She loves and dotes on the both of you like crazy, so much so she is more like a paternal grandmother to you boys, than the actual paternal grandmother, who you boys have only met, less than 5 occasions in your lifetime!

It is a choice I made towards the best interest of my marriage and having the best memories for the both of you boys. I cannot keep hanging around people, and relatives who have little or no interest in my children’s well being, it is not the healthiest thing to do.

That is my case, in specific, I can’t say the same for the rest of the fathers, husbands and guys out there. But both of you, being boys, I’m facing the odds.

As men, we all will become our own Alpha in the family, like how I am, in mine. What can I do when you boys become your own Alpha? You will want your own independence, will you both come back to this home, to your dad, to your old Alpha? You boys will get married, have a wife, and perhaps, get closer to the wife’s side of the family too. I cannot stop that from happening, but here is part of my plan. This blog.

to be the bestest dad ever…

The other part of my plan, the biggest part; is to be the bestest dad ever, show your boys, what it is to be a dad, a father, and a husband, and when you boys settle down, be the best dad-in-law to your spouse. I will be that pillar you build your family on, a constant source of wisdom, culture, experience that you boys can keep coming back to. That means, I have to stay relevant in you life, stay relevant to life, and in doing so, continue to bring value into this family, so that you can continue to see value in coming back.

Our Road Trip to Coney Island

Dear Boys,

Coney Island is Singapore’s latest island open to public. How ironic it sounds as Singapore by itself is an island too!

Coney Island first visit
Coney Island first visit 11 Oct 2015

I made a visit myself on the second day of opening and found it a haven island, left rustic the way it is. The beach was the thing that took my breath away. Of course the beach is not white sandy beach, Maldives equivalent, but it was good enough for me, there is the sea, sand and shore. There is very minimal human presence such as a BBQ pit, signage (Singaporeans loves signage!) or lighting. It was kept this way by the NParks . Kudos to them for doing a great job!

So I had to bring you both there, and since the exams is over, and you boys are raring for a road trip, we borrowed our neighbor’s (its great to have great neighbors!) adult bikes and off we go!

Lorong Halus Way

We took the Lorong Halus way as it is the one closer to our house, we just have to cross the bridge linking Punggol to Lorong Halus wetland. From there is was a vehicular road and I took the lead, Ian following, Wayne the third and your mother covering the back. I can hear the constant yell from your mother to tell the both of you to ‘KEEP LEFT!!!’

East Gate, entering through Lorong Halus.

We used the East entrance to enter and cycled the inner trail, the one closer to the beach, so that I can show you boys how the beach looked like.

There were threats and news of Sand-flies, and people falling victim to these insects, thankfully, we didn’t encoThe Beach at Coney Islandunter any of those! We continue to take the trail and Ian you, having your mountain bike, surely finds no trouble handling the terrain, your little brother Wayne, with his little BMX, took the trail with gusto, falling innumerable times, getting up, and falling down and getting up again.

We cycled a little further to the heading towards the west side of the island and we could see clearly another larger island, Pulau Ubin. We can clearly see the jetty used by Outward Bound Singapore and was wondering to ourselves if the distance was actually swim-able. Which all of us agreed, it is!

Outward bound Jetty @ Pulau Ubin, as seen from the beach

We carried on with our cycling, and both Ian and I have to slow down and stop occasionally so that your gritty little brother could catch up. We found the sign for Coney Island and your mother asked a Malay couple cycling behind us to help us with the pictures, and we in turn helped them snapped theirs. It’s always nice to be nice to other people.

A family shot at a now-ought-to-be-famous photo spot.
A family shot at a now-ought-to-be-famous photo spot.

We left the Island via the West entrance and was feeling hungry, we didn’t settle for the usual palate at Punggol Settlement, and we decided to brave on and cycle further up, towards SengKang, and finally ended up at Seletar Mall to have our meal. thankfully, although the dark clouds loomed, rain didn’t happened as we cycled back, the same way we came, and by the end of everything we realized that we have clocked over 20km of cycling in total! The amazing things is, having being bitten by the cycling bug, you boys pounced on the idea of a night cycling, which your mum and I think, you both will be too tired to continue, so we told you both to sleep, when we reached home, which was about 6pm? and if you both can wake up by 10pm, we can go. And of course, without having to mention it, you both slept like a log! through the night!

The total distance we took to cycle.
By the time we reached Seletar Mall, we have covered 14km

Other helpful links

First published: Nov 16, 2015 11:42 PM

Everything is protected

Dear boys,

I saw this signage when I was hiking at Bukit Timah hills yesterday. “Everything is protected.”

It was an epiphany for me because, when you think about it, isn’t that obvious?

But before we get to that, let’s talk about the word in question here. ‘Protect’, what does it mean? Well, loosely speaking it sort of means, a kind of ‘shield’ against something untoward. To keep away from hurt, harm, injury and other nasty stuffs.

Well, in reality, can you? Will you NEVER get hurt, injured, maimed, scratched, scolded, insulted, beaten up, scalded and other nasty things? Can you protect yourself from all that?

If you cannot, then what is the meaning of ‘Everything is Protected.’ then? If there is no point since ‘Nothing can be protected, fully.’ Reality sucks huh.

Think deeper, Why isn’t it obvious that everything is protected?

Nature and evolution has a way to handle the adversity that comes our way. Sure, we can never fully accommodate every possible calamity that  is thrown at us. There is a lot of life ending methods out there, we can die from disease, from ballistic trauma, lighting strike, choke on Churros, die from insult. or die for no reason. On the other side of the coin, how many inspiring stories are out there, where life continues despite of being shot at, spat at, maimed, injured. insulted?

There is a level of protection built into everything. Even a cell has its own protective design! Against a reasonable amount of threat, in which the protection is designed to work against, the protection will work. But if you overwhelm the protection, failure is assured,

That is on a mechanistic, and rather scientific prediction.

But this is life we are talking about, and life has its own quirks and some surprising ability to scale the insurmountable. So what it means ‘Everything is protected’ it means that everything has a protective design built into it. We as humans, on the other hand must ‘Protect Everything.’ Protecting everything means that we use, and not abuse things. thing will surely fail when abused. To protect is to use sensibly.

Even when injured or hurt, the protective mechanism is still in place and active. We are constantly protected and will continuously receive protection and we must make sure that we know that and use our protection. One way of protecting ourselves, is to protect others, and through mutual protection, we strengthen our ability to resist adversity.

So while everything is protected, we must make sure we protect everything.

 First published: Oct 14, 2013 9:17 PM