Sheer panic was what I felt when rumours arrived. All schools, including preschools, will switch to home-based learning (HBL) for a month starting sometime next week. Due to a consistent increase in the number of untraceable COVID-19 infection, the Singapore government has decided to take the bitter pill and call for a closure of schools amidst these desperate times.
In some frantic way to hold on to control, I forwarded the message to a few friends. To some I showed concern if they were prepared as parents; To others, I revealed my dread of having to babysit my 4-year-old for an entire month! The responses brought a bit of relief as ‘fake news’ and ‘too soon’ were uttered in defiance of such a rumour. The live broadcast made by our PM Lee Hsien Loong, however, laid all doubts to rest. The rumours, though inaccurate, proved true.
It took a friend’s curious question about my fear that woke me up to the truth – I am a bad parent. I have become the parent I used to shake my head at and swear I will never become. I dread the closure of schools not because it’s bad for my child, but because it’s a great inconvenience for me. The truth of it hurts like a paper cut on a warm sunny day.
I hear parents cried out as they make their defence. Parenting is hard, and now that most parents work a job, it’s almost impossible to find any balance. What is so wrong about having a bit of me-time occasionally while the child is at school or enrolled in some ‘enrichment-class’? I used to laugh at such reasoning back when I was not a parent. Time spent with children is the most precious thing in the world, say some expert, and I used to agree with that wholeheartedly. But like all things in life, there is a saying and there is a stressed-out parent about to lose his/her mind over parenting.
While there are totally selfish parents out there, most parents that I know do try to be the best parent that they possibly can. This does not qualify for them as good parents though, just as trying to be a good soccer player does not automatically make you a good soccer player. People do fail despite their best efforts. It is just a fact of life and going into this school closure despite all the excellent preventive work that has been done by the government make this more poignant than usual.
But parenting is not a sport, nor an achievement to be had. Parenting is a commitment to see the child grow up eventually. It is great if the child gets the best education or the best parenting, but the ultimate goal of having children is to have someone take care of you while you’re… Nah! I was just kidding… That is just another selfish form of parenting that was leftover from a practical but feudalistic past.
I believe that the ultimate goal of being a parent is love. No other area in life is love being tested more than in parenthood. I can never forget that moment I first held my newly born child in my arms, staring into his eyes as if time stood still so that we (mostly me) could make all sorts of promises in our hearts to each other. Fast forward to yesterday morning when an impatient four-year-old kicked my chair and cried “So boring so boring!” continuously as I was rushing to write an urgent email to a client while trying to finish my breakfast. As I tried to hold on to my sanity, this Bible verse came to mind:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” – 1 Corinthians 4-8
Yes, love never fails, and with that, I closed my MacBook, looked into my four-year-old’s eyes, and made some more promises to him as I asked him why was he so bored. We spent the next half an hour looking at a Star Wars picture book and preparing for school at the same time. I went back to writing that urgent email after dropping him off at kindergarten. There will be no school to drop him off next week during the school closure. Oh God please help! I am such a bad parent…