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Lessons from Kaylie

Because I stayed home to watch you grow up...

Childhood, stay-at-home-mum, growing up, parenting

It is a rainy day. I grew pensive and played a little game with my girl.

I asked her to form 10 sentences to describe herself. All that came up were her likes and dislikes; mainly about food, games and homework. Then I asked her if she could describe herself.

“I am nice.”

“And kind.”

“I give a little but not too much.”

“Why are you saying this? Is it because Mummy told you this before?”

And she nodded.

Kaylie is a very generous person like her Dad. But she oftens forgets herself. She is the type of person naturally empathetic, loving and generous. The type that is easily preyed on in this world, where dangers lurked quietly in the shadows and on the most unsuspecting faces. I often worry how she would be disadvantaged or worse, get taken advantage of.

I reiterated.

“It is not about how generous you can be. Like Kor said, you must take care of yourself first. Then you can be as generous as you want to be.”

Both my children are not the type to fight over toys or push others to be first the line for the slide. They always wait quietly and patiently for others to go first. Often, they were forgotten. They were disappointed but quickly got over it. Of the many times I volunteered in their schools, I saw multiple times how my girl’s toys snatched from her hands. She did not complain and she never cried. All she did was to pick up another toy and joyously played. This is not a usual sight for children. I often watched from afar with admiration and heartache when she was growing up. I am glad my boy fought back occasionally when he was pushed or his toys snatched. Being able to stand up for oneself is a survival skill. How you do it is a skill to be refined later. (Remembering the story in Rich Dad, Poor Dad from Robert Kiyosaki, how his Dad taught him to stand up for himself.)

At first I would intervene but after that I stopped myself. I will not be by their side to help them forever. They will need to fight for whatever they want in life. I will urge them and challenge them. This is all I will do. My advice was fallen on deaf ears. They are happy and contented children. We have a path that we will need to walk and learn by ourselves.

When she was a little older, I once asked her why she didn't fight back?

“It is not worth it.” she replied.

I am surprised at her answer because it takes maturity to understand and pick the battle worth fighting for. But there is a difference between wise and not standing up for yourself. While I can teach her the difference, life experience is the best teacher. They will change and adapt on their own with every encounter. I let her be.

She went on and looked out outside our balcony, as the rain splattered on.

I like the trees but not the people chopping them.

I feel bad for the trees.

When it rains they cannot run.

Because they have no legs, only roots.

And they get chopped off.

They are so pitiful.


- Kaylie Kuah

“I like the trees but not the people chopping them.

I feel bad for the trees.

When it rains they cannot run.

Because they have no legs, only roots.

And they get chopped off.

They are so pitiful.”

(lightly corrected grammar.)

Kaylie ended with a pained look. Both of us were quiet for a moment as I was impressed with her kindness and sensitivity. She picked up many things from what I said. I love the trees and often marvel at how long they could live and how magnificent they look. And I always love telling my kids:”You are not a tree. If you are not comfortable, move!” It is amazing how true that what you say to your children becomes their inner voices.

She notices nature around her. We both love admiring it. There is a big tree near the entrance of our apartment that rains Sakura look-alike flowers at a certain time of the year. It was purplish-pink. The first time I saw them was the year after I visited Kyoto. I missed the Sakura blooming there and leaped with joy when it appeared at our doorstep. Then it mysteriously turned  white the following year to my dismay.

Recalling last night, as we walked home. She pointed at the tree as we were entering the apartment.

“I love that tree.” she exclaimed. The spotlight shone on the tree, giving it a magical glow in the darkness of the night. Both of us looked lingering at it as we walked past.

And I added: “And I love you, my sensitive and poetic girl.”


Her explanation for a poet is someone who makes lines.