Category Archives: Parenting

Xuheng turns two!

My dear Xuheng,

You turned two yesterday! How time truly disappears when you’re having fun!

Papa is very proud to be your daddy. My heart swells with pride everytime you say a new word. It swells even more when I see you sayang your MeiMei and hold her hand.

Xuheng, you are an incredibly fun-loving, funny and even cheeky boy. Papa loves your laughter and your smiles. You just absolutely love to spend time with Papa and Mummy! 

You are also a very sensitive boy. You sometimes get upset when we use harsher tones on you when you do things you are not supposed to – like touching the electric socket or trying to open the car door. But this sensitivity also means you are so expressive of your love for Papa, Mummy and MeiMei. 

Papa loves how you absolutely must give MeiMei a hug, tell her ‘I love you’ and ‘byebye’ when she goes off into infant care before you go to your own class. Papa also loves how you always say to Mummy (instead of ‘byebye’) “Mummy I Love You!!” in the loudest voice you can muster. You are a wonderful, loving boy.

Papa enjoys our evening times before you go to sleep. You would throw a ball around, laugh and use daddy as your playground, sliding up and down and riding on daddy’s back like a horse. You can never get enough of playing that way with Papa! 

Papa never knew his heart could contain so much love and tenderness for you, my son.

Xuheng, you have grown so much! You’re a big boy now! Papa and Mummy pray that you will continue to grow in love, kindness and joy every day of your life.

We love you!

Papa & Mummy

2 July 2016


Every first is a last; every beginning an end

walking together

Xuheng, a few days ago, we were about to go out together in the morning. It was just another regular morning when Papa drives you to school before going to work. Or maybe, not.

Unlike every other morning I have known since you were born, on this day you refused to allow Papa to carry you. Instead, you stood at the door of our house and waved goodbye to your Mama. You pointed at the door and made the noise that tells us you want to go outside. And you shook your head when Papa stretched out his arms to carry you.

Yes, you shook your head. It was not a normal morning.

On this day, you no longer wanted to be carried by Papa to the car. You wanted to walk on your own.

At first, Papa didn’t quite know how to react. A hundred thoughts ran through my mind. Have I brought everything I need to bring? Are his legs strong enough to carry him to the carpark? Dangerous or not? Erm, what do I do with my empty arms now?

Ironically, I was going to buy a new pair of shoes that day. “No laces please, I want slip-ons. Got baby la, I can’t tie my laces when I’m carrying him out the door in the morning.” I told the salesman. How quickly things change when you’re a parent.

We took that walk to the carpark together. It took longer, I walked more slowly that day. You were sometimes distracted by a button, or a fence, or a pebble on the floor. You stooped to pick them up and pass them to me.

I did my best to get us on our way. We were in a rush, I thought. But what is this rush we’re on?

The rush to grow up, perhaps?

“Xuheng, remember, must always hold Papa’s hand when you walk, ok?” I said, as I tightened my fingers around your little palm.

No rush, my dear little one. No rush.

5 reasons to really respect Confinement Nannies

Some of you might have seen my Facebook posts on this topic. To be honest, I’m not fully a believer in all the confinement practices; particularly the ones that are somehow only apply to Chinese humans.

However, having experienced the presence of a confinement aunty in our house over the past month; there is a part of me that begins to realise why Chinese place so much emphasis on confinement month. The reason is simple really: so that Mummy can rest. Weili is so much more relaxed and rested this time round that I really regret we didn’t hire one when Xuheng was born.

And I’ve got a new-found respect for these nannies too.

1. They are basically superhuman.

Imagine this: They cook all 3 meals, clean up the kitchen afterwards, prepare the herbs for Mummy to bathe and basically take care of baby 24/7 for the first month including nights. To be honest, I’m not sure if all confinement nannies practice the same way, but I seriously think ours is superhuman. Basically she’s a live-in SAHM who somehow manages to cook 2 dishes and 1 soup for lunch and dinner in between everything else. Not to mention lack of sleep. Amazing.

2. They spend long periods of time away from their family.

Most of the confinement nannies nowadays come from Malaysia; thankfully so – given their proximity geographically and culturally from us. And not to mention Malaysian food is like epic tasty. But this also means that when they come over to work, they spend long periods of time away from their own families in order to earn their income. Most of them have children and grandchildren of their own, who they miss terribly when they travel here to work.

3. They practically live out of their suitcases.

And because they are here only for 28 days, they usually try to travel light. Life in those 28 days is simple. She completes the tasks she needs to and spends the bulk of the time catching up on her 40 winks. Ask any expat or those who travel frequently for work – living out of a suitcase is fun for a start but it’s incredibly draining emotionally after a while. The lack of a psychological sense of ‘belonging’ or ‘rootedness’ – always being a nomad – can literally make one go mad. These confinement nannies are emotionally really strong.

4. They have to put up with a lotta shit.

Of course, when the confinement nannies first come into a family, there is very little knowledge of each other. Trust takes time to develop and so of course many families will try to ensure there is more than 1 pair of eyes watching her at any time. Our auntie tells us of how one family made crazy arrangements just to make sure there was always someone at home; and that someone made her presence so obvious by walking past the room she was in every few minutes. From my perspective, it’s completely understandable; yet as anyone who has worked in a shitty office knows: the feeling of being watched every minute and every second really shreds away at your psyche. No wonder there’s been some families she’s quit after a few days.

5. They would make awesome family therapists.

Because they live in such close proximity with so many families for such extended periods, they have literally seen all kinds of families up close. Knowing they are there just to do their job of ensuring baby is cared for and mother recuperates well, they are highly sensitive to family dynamics and are good at making themselves less conspicuous. They learn to adjust to the spoken and unspoken family rules and hierarchies of every family they meet in order to make their own jobs easier.

I just want to say to husbands out there: getting a confinement nanny – though expensive – is completely worth it. I don’t really care for the herbs or the bathing practices; but just the fact that mums can get good rest, good food and relaxation for this month after 9 months of exertion over the course of the pregnancy is good enough reason for me. And trust me, getting mothers or mother-in-laws to do it is just not the same.

Looking Back on the First Year of Parenthood: 4 things that helped us survive

In the blink of an eye, it’s been a year! Gosh, I can’t believe how quickly time has flown by. Maybe it’s the stress of coping with a new job, new home and a young infant; or maybe it’s just how quickly each day passes by in a flash because we try to adhere strictly to routines for baby Xuheng and so have given up much of our evening lives. In any case, with a chronic lack of sleep, our body systems are usually shutting down by 8:30pm or so.

I would be lying if I didn’t say parenting a newborn is real tough; but it is also full of joys. Cliched, I know. Yet, our reality was that the difficulties were often so in our face that it was difficult to see the joys. There were many nights Weili and I spent hugging each other in tears not knowing what to do with our screaming baby who refused to sleep; either because he was over-stimulated or sick.

Amy Begel, a family therapist I had the privilege of learning from once shared that one only gets a PhD in being human when we have kids. I suppose one day I will have to pass my Oral Defense then in the presence of my Maker.

We struggled. Big time. To adjust. Adjust what? EVERYTHING. Having a newborn turns everything upside down. I am sure my fellow parents will agree that there is no sphere of life that is left untouched by the presence of the newborn; whether it is the social, mental, emotional or spiritual. It is one of the life-changing events that rocks the proverbial family boat like few others can.

11846745_884124924997875_8896689173914888604_nCredit: Fowl Language Comics – Facebook

There were some things that Weili and I decided on doing early on that helped us tremendously; some others were not so successful and we had to further adjust along the way.

1. Routine, routine, routine

In our desperation to help Xuheng sleep better so we could get more rest (trust me, it’s not easy juggling work and sleep depravation), we decided to implement a strict sleep routine for him. This meant being home every single night by 7pm so we could put him to sleep the same way in the same place. For this, we pretty much gave up our social lives and sometimes even time with our own families for the routine. It meant that it was hard for us to go for Cell Group, or have meetups with friends. But after a year, I have to say, the sacrifice was worth it.


Credit: Fowl Language Comics – Facebook

Xuheng now sleeps pretty much on the dot from 7pm pretty much till the next morning at 5am. He still wakes up a couple of times for the pacifier, but is getting better at putting himself back to sleep. The best part is that on good days when he is not overstimulated, he takes just 10-15minutes to fall asleep. That means that Weili and I can have a leisurely dinner together and time to do our own thing afterwards be it reading, exercise or a slow warm shower before heading to bed.

2. Maintaining relationships

While it definitely was more difficult after Xuheng came, we tried our best to keep in touch with  important friendships. It helped that our Cell Group was very understanding about our absence and never once made us feel bad about not attending. We tried to attend gatherings when they were held on weekends. Whenever we could, we also made time to meet up or hang out with friends for meals.

These relationships, seriously, kept us sane. Whether they were friends who were single or fellow parents, having time when we could take our attentions away from the little ‘bundle of needs’ we were constantly having to take care of helped give us a mental breather.

3. Coming to terms with the New Normal

It took some time for me, but slowly I began to adjust and come to terms with the fact that parenting was not business as usual. We will never return to our lives as singles; or even our married life before the kid came. The very definition of ‘normal’ had changed.

For me, the biggest adjustment was to come to terms with the fact that many things in life I had chosen not to pursue before would now be impossible. I also had to come to terms with the fact that my capacity to take on and pursue new interests if they came along would now be much more limited. In fact, life now consists on very little apart from work and taking care of the little one.

One helpful thought was to realise that my first responsibility now lay in my roles as a husband and as a father; and that the rest needed to be put aside for now. It certainly helped that Xuheng is very attached to us and absolutely loves every minute and second he spends with us!

4. Good food and Coffee. Lots of it.

For a while, Weili and I ordered tingkat for our dinners as it was getting troublesome to buy dinner every day and have to think of what to eat. Honestly, it worked very well for us for a while. Quite a long time in fact, I think we were on it for about 4 months. But you know, it does get sian sometimes. And for me, a good meal is critical to my sense of wellbeing after the end of a difficult work day. Very few things are worse than a bad dinner after a long and tiring day.

And so we stopped the tingkat. Now we either dabao or I invent simple recipes that I can whip up in 20minutes after Xuheng goes to bed. Now, Jamie Oliver’s 30-minute meals make a lot of sense.


And so we survived.

I’m think I need a nap..

The Ivory Bungalow: A Letter from a Father to Russell Tan

Picture courtesy of

By now, there have been many great responses written in response to Russell’s letter, many arguing with a sharpness of mind far greater than mine and expression of words far clearer than what I could write. “Why you can’t separate equity from equality” and “The Rafflesian elite owes society the greatest debt”  are but two great counter-arguments to Russell’s view. I am writing from the my view as a father.


Dear Russell,

By now, you should know that your letter to the Straits Times has gone viral. There have been all manner of responses to what you wrote. To be fair to you, I am not sure how much your letter was edited before publication, as I am aware they often do. Sometimes, the tone of what is written can be changed quite dramatically.

As a father of a young son and a baby to come, I was incensed initially by your letter. Yet, I am not as worried for your naivete (for you have much to learn), as I am concerned for your sense of entitlement.

Many have pointed out that your narrow definition of ‘merit’ needs to be re-examined. I shall not belabour the point. What is saddening almost to the point of laughability is the thinking that the so-called elite are in their social positions because of some innate awesomeness; and that by inference, everyone else among us who are not lawyers or doctors or investment bankers are nothing more than ‘menial’ workers. For this, I think maybe your school needs to open you up to more career possibilities.

Do not forget, Russell, for a moment that where you are at this point in life has never been just about you and your awesomeness alone. You would be nothing without the teachers who have taught you. You probably would not have done as well in school if you had to juggle your studies with housechores at home; thank God for maids! For goodness’ sake, even the menial school cleaner who swept your classrooms made it possible for you to study.

Ask any doctor, and they will remind you that they would not be able to do what they do without their able nurses. Lawyers need their para-legals, MPs their grassroots volunteers. Heck, I dare say even the Prime Minister would struggle a whole lot without his PPS. So, Russell, please don’t forget, for even a moment, those who have helped you get to where you are. I haven’t even brought up your parents yet.

Young man, you do not yet appreciate the complexities of this life beyond simplistic dichotomies. You probably read too many of those simplistic rags-to-riches stories that do not do justice to the real struggles those individuals have had to endure. You, in your ivory bungalow, do not understand the intensity of the struggle that low-income families go through to try and overcome the odds of life.

The myriad of factors around the success of one individual are multi-faceted. Is it not about one’s tenacity and determination? To quote our outgoing Transport Minister, “The short answer is ‘yes’, but it is not enough.”

Young man, you do not yet know the complexities of this life.

One day, when you are a father, perhaps then you would know setbacks, failure and the reality that not everything is within your control only because of your intelligence. One day, when you are a father, you might hope as many of us do, for a society that does not measure your children’s worth only by their grades. One day, when you are a father, I hope that your eyes would be opened to see all that is beautiful and precious about their children beyond their intellect and ability – but value the innocence of their love, the valour of their dreams and the unbreakability of your bond with each other.

One day.

In the meantime, I hope you do not get to become a doctor or a lawyer (or rather, not yet) not because I do not wish you well; but because I actually do. You see, I have a wider definition of ‘good’, for you. And for our society.



Xuheng, you are a year old today!

Dear Xuheng,

You turn one year old today! How time flies! Last year, on this day, at this time, Papa was busily whatsapp-ing your Yeye, Nainai, Wai Gong and Wai Po the pictures of your first moments on this earth.

Xu Heng just born

Xu Heng just born 2

Papa and Mummy are so thankful for you. Your presence has turned our lives literally upside down, but we are so proud to be your parents.


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You are such a sweet little one. Sometimes when someone you are not familiar with wants to carry you, you would smile sweetly at him and then decline his offer by burying your head in Papa’s chest.

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You love being with Papa and Mummy. You literally Laugh Out Loud LOL when we arrive at the infant care to pick you up. You are so happy to see us you literally scramble to crawl towards us with all your might, giggling all the way, to be scooped up in our arms.

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You are the happiest when you get to spend time during the weekends with Papa and Mummy. You coo with delight and flash that warm, toothy smile of yours whenever you see Papa give Mummy a hug or a kiss!

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You love exploring and crawling around to find things to play that you have never played with before. Give you a toy you have never played with before and it can entertain you for really long!

Your favourite is ‘Bah!’. You started out somehow with a longer syllable “mmmbah” but it changed over time and now you like to say “Bah! Bah! Bah!”.

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Like your daddy, you are a real foodie! You never have a problem finishing your food, whatever we feed you, even when you are feeling unwell! You wail when the food runs out and love anything you can eat, including medicines and cod liver oil!

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You love taking photos and have learnt to smile whenever we take family selfies together!

You love being in the outdoors, for us to bring you on walks in your stroller to see things! You giggle, squeal and kick your legs in delight whenever you see daddy pushing the stroller towards the open door.

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Xuheng, you have changed us so much. Papa has learnt to live with little sleep with you around. I haven’t had more than 4 hours of extended sleep in the past 1 year since you were born! I may sometimes be impatient with you, but I am also learning to be calmer when taking care of you.

You have brought Papa and Mummy closer together as we work together with (mostly) flawless chemistry to take care of you and make sure you get good rest every night. We work our daily routines around yours and have had to give up many of our other interests to make good our commitments as parents to you.

Your presence and our love for you has prompted us to re-think our priorities in life and consider many options for work and play we have never thought of before. Gone are the frivolous pursuits like cafe-hopping (though Daddy still always loves a good meal), paktor dates with mummy are rarer now and replaced with more mundane but nevertheless equally lovely activities like a stroll by the Punggol Waterway. Your eyes roam to and fro taking in the sights around you while Papa and Mummy walk arm-in-arm chatting about our lives. Many things we used to think were important have faded into the background; while many other values have become strengthened in the process.

Xuheng, you are the source of such joy and pride to us, your parents. This is a joy so deep, it is almost indescribable with words. This joy is most pronounced each evening when Papa finishes his work and with a leap of his heart, he rushes off to see you and pick you up from whoever is caring for you that day. This joy found too, when you lie in my arms, drowsy and falling asleep (NOT when you refuse to sleep!) and I find in myself a tenderness towards your young being I have never experienced before.

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Xuheng, how you touch the depths of our being.. all this without a single word except ‘Bah!’. All with just who you are in God’s image.

Xuheng, we love you with all our hearts!


Papa and Mummy

Kahlil Gibran: On Children


“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.


You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.


You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

Kahlil Gibran