Social Mobility

Much has been said about social mobility in Singapore. In my generation and my parents’ generation, social mobility was very real. In any case the average standard of living has been on the rise as the country is developing so everyone feels generally that their lives are improving, save where unforeseen circumstances like illness or accidents occur. However, today, where the country is developed and therefore the average wage, average standard of living has not as much room upwards to grow, it starts becoming more obvious that social mobility is not as strong. I start this post with saying that I still feel that Singapore does it as well as possible but I am just lamenting the reality of a fallen world.

Before I had children, I never thought I would be the kind to even try to send my daughter to popular schools. I would be the first to say I went to a neighbourhood primary school where my classmates smoked and hung out with the boys in gangs in the equally neighbourhood secondary school next door, but I still had “equal” opportunity to get into law school. After all, every school a good school, right? Yet when I am a parent, I cannot help but hope that my children do well, and cannot help but try to give them that little edge. I moved near to Nanyang in order to get in. Slightly ashamed to admit it, but true.

What sparked today’s thoughts was attending my daughter’s prize presentation ceremony at Nanyang Primary School. Among a group of about 290 prize recipients (mostly for academic achievement but a minority for character awards), I met 2 law school classmates, one neighbour cum husband’s ex-colleague, a family friend and my personal trainer. Present at the same event was even a person my husband met just the night before at an industry drinks event. Bumping into one friend or two is “small world”, bumping into 6 people in the same circle just shows there is something statistically significant at play here. One can’t help but think of Lee Kuan Yew’s very famous quote:

“So when the graduate man does not want to marry a graduate woman, I tell him he’s a fool, stupid. You marry a non-graduate, you’re going to have problems, some children bright, some not bright. You’ll be tearing your hair out. you can’t miss. It’s like two dice. One is Jack, Queen, King, Ace, other also Jack, Queen, King, Ace. You throw a Jack, Queen, King, Ace against dice two, three, four, five, six, what do you get? You can’t get high pairs, let alone a full flush.”

It is genetics at play? Or is it that privileged parents are able to afford to send their children for enrichment classes? Or perhaps simply that the peaceful family environment is simply more conducive to child development? I’m not sure, all I know is it does seem like there is some hardening of social stratification going on here. I’m not sure how to fix it. As I admitted myself, I fell prey to the kiasu syndrome. Its human nature to. If we have the ability, we would give our children more. No matter how much the society gives the disadvantaged, it is not the same as what parents can give. I suppose we each do our part to help uplift the disadvantaged, and pray for a better world.


Developing children’s potential and giving them an edge

This blog has gone through several changes. When I had my first child, I started the blog as “Sophia Story”. Somehow it never occurred to me that I would have a second child at that time, or indeed that this baby will ever grow up to be a talking, thinking, actual person. But of course both these things happened and when my second child came along the blog became “Mothering the S Sisters”. Quite apt given that I was recently told by a colleague that I am “bossy”. Over time, my posts dwindled not because I have less time. Well, yes, partly because of that but mostly because as the girls grew up, I increasingly felt the obligation to protect their privacy. I dabbled a bit in various topics about children without talking about my children but that felt too much like tiptoeing around the elephant in the room. There are topics I could talk about without bringing them embarrassment as an adult if their friends or colleagues happen to dig out this blog 20 or 30 or 80 years later, like how Sophia just showed me a one handed cartwheel from gym class, but who wants to read a blog that talks only about the children? That’s too much like showing off for my liking. So this blog has fallen into disuse over time. If it were a building, spiderwebs are probably all over.

Fortunately it’s not a building and I can dust it off again. I’m thinking of rebranding it as an education site, where I share my thoughts and experience on educating children. After all, I do have a Masters in Education and in a sense we are all scientists experimenting with education of our young so let’s see how that goes.

The thought of the day is interest being the best teacher. Obvious, of course, but worthy of repeated reminder. Often us parents from lower / middle class families are tempted to satisfy our regrets through our children. Or we may force our children down a certain path because we feel it gives them an edge. For example, we may feel that a certain sport is less popular and hence easier for the child to be comparative better than other children if they start young. At the end of the day, though, it will be a painful struggle if the child has no interest. The better option is to provide the child with a broad based exposure, and as and when the child expresses interest/talent in something then allow him/her to continue. But of course it is hard and there is some element of risk involved. For example, Sophia tried ballet when she was 3 and did not like it because her gross motor skills developed later than other kids. Good thing when she went to primary school, the school conducted a dance session during curriculum time and selected her to join the dance CCA.

The other thing I do is to send her for holiday camps in different areas. I have done multi-sports, chess, art, coding, theatre etc. The thing is during each holiday there is only time to try at best a couple of activities, cramming in too much is also counterproductive. So the trial and error process has a huge luck element and you may not strike gold until many holidays and many years later. And one can is simply not enough to really understand the activity so there are activities Sophia initially liked but then decided is not for her (like Weiqi) and there are other activities that she continued liking (like gym). What I found is if the child likes something, even if he/she starts a bit later, he/she will be able to catch up. But if he/she doesn’t like it, if you adopt a tiger mum attitude, sure, he/she may still get to a certain standard but is very unlikely to really excel.

Ok, I am being as preachy as my daughter’s school Teachers here when telling us to relax and trust in the school’s broad based education but there is some wisdom in that approach and really, a lifetime is long enough for specialisation. Your child will thank you for a happy childhood.

Stress relieve

See, this is why someone like me will never be laugh out loud happy. I’m always running around doing things. In Singlish that’s called “cannot sit still”. So I finally finished my essay for a course. It’s been stressful because I’ve forgotten how different academics was from actual practice of the law. And to celebrate finishing the essay what do I do? I made a dress for Little S, in an evening after a full day of work. What was I thinking?

Haven’t felt this cool in a while

One day before my birthday I heard about this amazing event being held at the Nee Majestic Hotel, which is quite an oxymoron for a hotel that no longer is in operation. The hotel was ceasing operations to be converted into a private club and between ceasing operations and commencing renovations there was a 2 days window to make use of the space and 30 of the rooms were converted into playgrounds for local designers of anything from jewellery to clothes, scarfs, shoes to food to furniture. 

So on my birthday, that was where we went. It was a wonderfully amazing experience especially now that Sophia is on the cusp of being able to appreciate more grown up art and Sandra is cute and friendly enough to attract everyone’s affection. We played chapteh and ogled at a scarf featuring chapteh, ate delicious sea salt caramel ice cream, watched coutour bring hand made, and generally enjoyed ourselves before adjourning to Sophia’s all time favourite fish and chips place – Jerry’s. Ok, not technically a chip shop but a BBQ place, but their fish and chips is delicious.

Subtle publicity for breastfeeding?

I had something on at the People’s Association headquarters today and was surprised at the number of people who remembered me from “the learning journey”.

Now I must explain that learning journeys were things that PA conducted quite regularly so the fact that I shared at one two years ago really shouldn’t be all that memorable. The project that I shared on was one I am extremely proud of for sure – Ageing Gracefully at Home, a program that provided holistic care for the elderly staying alone in the one room rental flats in Chin Swee. I was glad that so many people remembered the sharing about how we assigned neighbours to the weaker elderly as befrienders who would remind the elderly to take their medicine and generally watch out for the elderly, and eventually expanded the program to even providing nursing care in the elderly’s homes. The elderly were also engaged socially and encouraged to come out for exercise if they could. Nutrition down to the point of arranging for dentures so that the elderly can eat well, and mincing their food in the interim was also cared for by a dedicated community nurse and her team of healthcare aides.

In fact, apparently the sharing about the program made so much impact that it appeared on a feature wall with, shock horrors, my face on it! And what was draped over my shoulders but a nursing cover! 

That was when I realised that what people remembered was probably not the program I shared, but the baby I brought along and was breastfeeding at various points. Advocating for breastfreeding while advocating for elder care – killing two birds with one stone! I wonder how many would notice the nursing cover……

Homemade iced gem biscuits

A child at church brought iced gem cookies to crèche and the kids started asking for them so we made some.

We used this recipe save that I replaced a third of the plain flour with finely ground wholemeal flour.

Sophia’s verdict was the cookie is yummy but not the gem part. Sandra spat it out once it touched her tongue. I Guess they are both Nor fans of super sweet things like meringue, which is fine since neither am I.


Or maybe the title should be unusual baby taste buds because my babies definitely have unusual taste buds.

The older one is quite the opposite of usually kids because she really likes green leafy vegetables. I’m not showing off here because it is really quite irritating that she only eats very limited things and the only thing readily available when we eat out is Chinese style green leafy vegetables, and either rice or noodles (lamian style, not Italian or Cantonese style).

The younger one has a broader palette but I still haven’t quite figured it out. She’s not a fan on chocolate wafer biscuits or sweet treats generally. She loves berries only outside the home (at frozen yoghurt places, on cakes etc when we eat out) but whenever we buy a punnet, she hates them.

And more surprisingly, she likes 龟苓膏, a bitter tasting herbal jelly usually rated with a sugar syrup, even when we haven’t added sugar syrup. Hmm..