Thursday, March 24, 2016

Parenting Your Child for Marriage

It's not often that the Father of the Bride gets to speak at a wedding. Oftentimes, the only words are in response to the question, "Who presents this woman to be married to this man?" In that instance, it is normally a mild-mannered man, one who shuns the attention of the moment, who barely manages to whisper out the refrain, "I do." 
A precious photo of a very special couple. 
This was completely not what happened at a wedding I was at almost three weeks ago. In response to that question, the Father of the Bride seemed to have an entire speech prepared for the Groom, "I present to you the key to my daughter's heart, " he declared. "I have protected her heart all her life until this point, and now I am handing over this responsibility to you." And with a firm voice, he presented this solemn reminder: "Remember that you will not be able to do this on your own, but only with God's help, and by spending time with Him daily."

The entire hall was silenced by these words, a most unexpected occurrence in the society we live in. This is a world which talks about "absent fathers" and "distant fathers". Not often do we have the opportunity to witness the impact that an "involved father" has on the lives of his children. 

But the bride's father did not stop there. Together with the groom's father, he presented a toast to the Bride and Groom during dinner; yet another surprise move in a culture where fathers are not normally known to play such a major role in the weddings of their children.
The lovely couple during their dinner reception.
I must state here that I have known both the Bride and Groom for more than 10 years. I know both sets of parents have invested much into the lives of their children, and this has resulted in a man and a woman who know for certain what they want in a life partner.
The groom in his younger days. A projection of his own future?
I spoke to the Groom the day before the wedding. One of the questions I asked him was whether he was sure about his decision to get married. He said without hesitation that it was a decision that he was absolutely certain about. 

During the wedding dinner, the Groom thanked his mother for being there with him all these years. I know from my own friendship with the Groom, that he shares a deeply close relationship with his mother;
 she was there not only to share in all his achievements and other happy moments, but also to provide advice during the difficult periods of his life.

What I witnessed that day is rare in all accounts. Most children today may be close to their mothers when they are very young - like at the age of 2 or 3, but as they grow older, a "generation gap" appears between parent and child; and by the time they reach the teenage years, children hardly share deep secrets with their parents. 

Sue with our younger son E when he was less than a month old.
The mother-child bond is so strong at birth and it is up to us as parents
to strength this bond as the years go by.
I believe it is possible for us as parents to reduce the likelihood of this gap; and I believe that as parents we have to prepare our children for marriage from as young as possible. We are beginning to do so for our sons.

One of the best ways to prepare our children for marriage is through the telling of stories. I tell a Bible story to my sons every night before bed, and this has led to numerous precious moments during which I teach the kids important truths. For instance, I have had the opportunity to share about godly women in the Bible, ladies such as Ruth and Esther. The story of Ruth teaches the boys what it means for a man to show loving-kindness to a woman; while in Esther, the boys are taught about what it means to have a wife who loves God and His people. 

We are also very demonstrative of the affection that we have for each other; the boys openly hear us saying "I love you" to each other, and they also observe us giving each other physical touch - simple hugs and back massages etc. We have showed them our wedding video, sharing with them about the day when Daddy and Mummy made an important vow to love each other all our lives. 
The importance of always showing affection to your spouse. Children feel secure when he know that
their Daddy and their Mummy love each other.

Psychology tells us that children are the most emotionally secure when they have strong bonds with their parents. I have been conducting a series of parenting talks for a number of pre-schools, and I tell the parents that the single most important thing they can do for their children is to keep a close and intimate relationship with their spouses. This, I tell the parents, is the bedrock for a child who then grows up emotionally secure in his or her identity; and such a child is more likely to make a healthy choice regarding his or her life partner.

The day will come when one or both of our children will make the decision to walk down the aisle with the person of their dreams. When that day comes, I know I will shed tears of joy. I cannot foresee the future, but I can influence the present. I know that the little seeds that I am sowing into the lives of my sons will one day bear fruit; and only God can determine the nature of that harvest!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Wolf! A Review of I Theatre's "The Boy Who Cried Wolf"

There was once a Boy. And he had one job - to tend to the sheep owned by a cluster of five villages. There was, however, one problem. The Boy was prone to falling asleep - especially when counting the sheep. So, it was time to make things more exciting. And what could be more exciting than pretending that there was a Wolf around! That very idea would send all the villagers into a frenzy and bring life to the entire place. And it would be terribly fun for a bored little Boy. But what if the Boy chose to cry "Wolf!" on more than one occasion? Would the villagers still believe him? What if there really was a wolf?

Meet the cast. Boy and his Wooly Friends. Our little one was overwhelmed by the huge attention
he was getting from the Sheep. Baa!
I Theatre's interpretation of the popular Aesop Fable "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" brings to life a world where life is simple; where the grass is green, the skies blue, and the mountains a sight to behold. The musical builds on the original tale, with clever characterisation and a moral in the story - just like any other good I Theatre production.
Bright colourful sets depict a beautiful mountain range.
Boy just about to cry "Wolf!"
Set Designer Wai Yin Kwok created a simple yet functional scenescape, which conjured up the uncomplicated nature of life in the mountains. And Music Composer Julian Wong was again in his element, producing lovely tunes from different music genres. We have always enjoyed Wong's music, and it was no different this time round. When the songs are paired with Cathy Kee's dance choreography, the audience is treated to lovely numbers such as the Umbrella Song, one of our favourites in terms of its energy and catchiness.
The delightful Umbrella Song in all its pageantry.
What dazzled were the costumes. Designed by I Theatre's icon and Creative Director Brian Seward, the villagers' outlandish costumes brought to life their larger-than-life personas. With names such as Vincent Arabella, Amelia Squint, Claude Florrible and Rosie Molecule, it was difficult not to fall in love with these strong and uninhibited personalities. Even the sheep looked sheepish - no thanks to Seward's wooly costumes, which brought to life the sweet and adorable Charrolais, Drysdale, Herdwick and Galway. Who actually names their sheep? I Theatre does, apparently, and Seward's attention to details in the characterisation is what makes every production so unique.
The star of the show was definitely Joshua Lim, who stole the limelight as egotistical
Vincent Arabella, the Umbrella Man.
All's Well That End's Well?
Both our sons loved the show, with almost-4-year-old E insisting to hunt down the Wolf after the show. We were thankful to "Uncle Brian" for humouring him, and he was absolutely thrilled to get a first-hand feel of I Theatre's lovely puppetry.
Who's afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Not little E for sure! Here he is with I Theatre's Creative Director
Brian Seward, who conceptualises each production from start to finish.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf (And Other Big Lies) is running at the Jubilee Theatre from now to 19 March 2016.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

All Too Much for Oliver: A Book Review and Giveaway

As parents, we sometimes wish that things at home would change in a therapeutic twinkling of an eye. That the spirited tantrums in our toddlers would somehow mellow, and what seems like perpetual shyness in our school-aged children would be overcome by a sudden burst of enthusiastic bravado.

Unfortunately, that rarely ever happens. The intentions and interventions we try to put into play in our parenting often result in small, barely discernible steps in their intended direction. However, sometimes we come across glimmers of hope, and help from the most unexpected places. 

A serendipitous link-up with one of our favourite mummy-author friends Melanie Lee (watch this space for our upcoming review of her latest Squirky books!) allowed us the chance to meet up with the lovely Leila Boukarim, a down-to-earth and unassuming mother of two boys. As she shared with us the story of how her first title All Too Much for Oliver came into publication (you can read it firsthand in her blog here), so much of her story rang true with us. 
The illustrations of the book are delightful and depict the events wonderfully.
You see, we rather strongly believe that we are the parents of two highly sensitive and spirited boys. It's something we don't talk about much on the blog, largely because we believe that our children really have the right to grow into who they are becoming without parents who have dictated what they think that might be in this world of cyberspace where the personal often turns public.

But I feel a little more self-disclosure is in order in the light of this review, because I believe that I myself was a highly sensitive child; and that this 15 - 20% minority of highly sensitive types in an 80% majority deserves some air time, and of the positive kind for once.

I am sure many of you who fit into this category would find the following scenarios all-too-familiar: Getting a pep talk from well-meaning parents before a social event reminding you to smile, say hello and shake hands with whoever you might meet; Receiving an annual school report from your teacher saying that you were quiet in class and should speak up more; Feeling anxious and stressed before a party as you think about all the small talk you might have to make. And there are many other such situations.

The world indeed seems to favour those who are at ease in a crowd, who can walk into an unfamiliar space and strike up a conversation with all and sundry. And as parents, we worry about our children who just do not seem to be living up to these societal expectations. We fear for their future, and wonder if how they are behaving has anything to do with our poor parenting skills.

Leila writes in her blog

Just last year, we thought we were alone. Three and a half years after our son was born, we still felt like we were the only ones having to constantly deal with a screaming child at a restaurant; the only ones who always had to cancel plans because our child woke from his nap in a bad mood; the only ones who couldn’t get our son to go ahead and try the slide because it’s fun. We blamed ourselves for the fact that our son would cry during every single shower because he couldn’t stand the water in his eyes. We were accused of not having done our jobs properly as parents because he would run away screaming if another child tried to play with him.

Just last year we had to turn down yet another birthday party invitation to try and save ourselves from having to explain to other parents why our son won’t stop crying and why he won’t join in the “fun”. Just last year I found myself at a loss for words when faced with family members and friends asking me why our child is “like that”.
Enter Oliver, a highly sensitive and extraordinary little boy. He tiptoes stealthily into your heart in a story accompanied by the gentlest of illustrations and muted water colour tones. Oliver's circumstances resonate with our own. Who hasn't felt as if they were standing at the sidelines wishing they could be a part of something, and yet feeling overwhelmed by the situation? 

Oliver finds loud places just a bit too overwhelming and prefers to play on his own, and yet when a bouncy and exuberant new friend moves in to live next door, he finds himself gradually gaining the courage to overcome his fears, because perhaps the relationship he has with sweet Odile is the very thing he needed all along to try out things he had never tried before.
Little Oliver is content to live in his own world. But what happens when he has to experience
situations he is not comfortable with?
I appreciate the peaceful, respectful manner in which the message is put across in the book. A lot of books for children on this subject seem to be still written to bring the adults' messages across to them, instead of really speaking to them as though we are all at the same level. 

All Too Much for Oliver embraces and accepts Oliver for who he is. He is not told by his parents to change, or to decide to join in the activities at the pool or the playground. Oliver is given permission to change his mind about going to the playground when it is too overwhelming for him, and the changes are seen in small, tentative movements in the right direction. His parents' overall concern is for his happiness and well-being, and when he finds it in his unlikely friendship with Odile, they are still there in the background with their quiet and unconditional support. 
What does it mean to provide someone with your unconditional love and acceptance?
Needless to say, our children loved Oliver. They asked me to read the story to them at bedtime the very day I brought the book home. Our bright and insightful older boy, who generally prefers not to be in loud and noisy environments, asked me the next day at an empty playground, "What would Oliver say if this playground suddenly became full of children?" And it has been that way since then. "Would Oliver be enjoying himself at this performance?" "What would Oliver say if the water play area was crowded?"

Oliver has become a friend in our home. I can't say the same for many of the characters we've read in story books - well, there's been a few of our family favourites - Eva, the little Inuit girl from The Very Last First Time, Mirette from Mirette and the High Wire, and Giovanni from The Clown of God, all fictional characters our boys constantly refer to for inspiration. It looks like we've now added this brave little boy into the picture.

And that's how I really feel about highly sensitive people. They are one of the bravest people I know, because they live in a world which is not necessarily comfortable for them, but they do it with heart and soul despite the fact that everything is ten times harder. Their intensity gifts them with a compassion which they would not have if they had felt any less strongly about things, and drives them with a passion to achieve the things which they believe in. I love my two highly sensitive souls.(Add a highly sensitive spouse, and that makes the four of us!)

To find out more about whether your child is highly sensitive, or even if you are - and if you would like more resources on the subject, do take a look at the website My Quiet Adventures. You can find All Too Much for Oliver in our sister-store, Sensational Play

Parenting on Purpose is pleased to announce a giveaway of the book All Too Much for Oliver

How to qualify for the giveaway:

1) Like the Parenting on Purpose and My Quiet Adventures Facebook pages.
2) Share this blog post on your Facebook Wall and tag three friends. (Remember to ensure that privacy settings are set to "Public".)

For an extra chance to win:

Comment on this post and share with us what are some things or situations that overwhelm you.

The giveaway will end on Sat 19 Mar and entries must be submitted by 8pm.

Congratulations to Ashmika Jain who has won the giveaway for All Too Much for Oliver! You will be hearing from us soon!