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Michelle Lim-Chua

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Nana

Actress and mother Tiffani Thiessen said that her ‘must-have’ item as a new mom, was her mom. I couldn’t have agreed more as I’m pretty certain I would have not have survived the past two years as a mother without one of God’s most precious gifts to me: my sons’ Nana. I also hear a lot of stories about how difficult grandparents can be. How they nag, refuse to follow any of the rules set by the grandchild’s parents, spoil their grandchildren, and undo all the hard work parents have put into things like their diet or discipline. Although a slightly unconventional grandmother, my mom is often asked by her other grandmother friends how she does it: maintain a healthy relationship with her own child (and her son-in-law), and is able to play such a large role in raising two grandsons. I decided to sit down with Nana, and find out for myself just what her secrets to grand-parenting are.

What’s the hardest thing about being a grandmother?

It’s definitely seeing your grandchild disciplined by his parents. It physically hurts me! It feels like I’m the one who’s being scolded –  I think most grandparents feel the same way. I just feel so much sympathy for my grandchild when he gets himself in trouble with his mom or dad; it’s just heartbreaking to see him suffer or feel sad. What I usually try and do (if I’m close by when he does something wrong) is to tell my grandson to quickly apologise to his mother, before she can get angry. I can usually sense when he’s crossed the line with my daughter (I can tell when she’s reached her limit), and that’s when I try to come in and rescue him. Hearing such an adorable, “I’m sorry” usually calms her down, and it’s my way of saving him! Of course there are times when the situation goes beyond my help, and that’s when I just have to go as far away as possible because I will just feel this pain in my stomach (don’t know how else to describe it) when he cries.

What was something you really struggled with when you first became a grandmother?

I think the first few months, when my grandson was just a newborn, it was incredibly hard to hear him cry. And my daughter and her husband were quite strict about not picking him up immediately whenever he cried, so of course I had to restrain myself which was very difficult! Of course I’m sure my own three children cried just as much when they were babies, but for some reason I can’t really recall it all that well, and anyway it just sounds so much worse when its your grandchild; I suppose with age it’s much tougher to bear.

It had also been so many years since I last handled a baby, that I had to relearn everything from scratch. It was intimidating at first to take care of such a tiny infant especially when doing things like helping to give him a bath. It took some time to gain confidence, and things were a lot easier once the baby grew to about 5kg.

I do have to say that being a grandmother isn’t easy, if you are one of the main people looking after the baby, because babies in their first year need just so much care and attention. So as a grandparent, although it’s wonderful to be so valued and appreciated, it can also be exhausting at times.

What do you really think of parenting styles today?

I can’t really speak for other parents, but as for my daughter and her husband, I would say the way they raise their sons seems to be a lot more strict than what I’ve seen in other families of their generation. They put a lot of thought into what is allowed and what is off limits for their sons, from no screens, to bedtimes and even what type of food is permitted (and at what time!) For me, it’s a little on the strict side, and it’s not exactly the way I did things when I was a first-time parent, but I try to respect their parenting style. I think everyone has their own way of raising kids, just like grandparents have their own style too.

What is the one thing you strive to teach your grandchild, above all else?

I try to instill a sense of obedience in my grandson who is now almost two and half years old. My main message to him is that he needs to listen to his mom and dad. I want him to know that I’m on the same side as them, so he won’t try and take advantage of me or try and manipulate the situation (kids are very smart these days!) So for me, it’s important that I continue to tell him to obey his parents. My own kids were quite obedient, and I think it really helps them later in life. Even grandkids can learn respect from grandparents, so I take every opportunity to repeat this to him. Connected to this, I try to teach him to be responsible and clean. I encourage him to help with chores at home, to pick up his own toys, to be careful about not breaking things or making a mess. He’s naturally very helpful so he’s been quite easy to train. Also I believe that kids are always watching what you do, so if you are a tidy person, they will usually turn out the same.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to first-time grandparents?

Let your grandchild’s parents make the rules, and then follow them as best you can. I think if you do whatever you think is right for your grandson and just ignore what his parents want, it can cause a lot of conflict. Since we live together, I don’t want any conflict at home so it’s important that I cooperate. For example, if they say certain types of food food are not allowed, I don’t give feed them to him. My daughter usually communicates and new rules to me directly, so I’m able to discuss them openly if there’s anything I don’t agree with. And she’s quite open to my suggestions and advice, so thankfully we don’t have much conflict.

I think it’s all about listening to what your child wants, because it is their turn to be parents, and your turn to be a grandparent which just means giving your support and love, not your criticism. It’s such a blessing to be a part of my grandsons’ lives, I would advise every grandparent to try and just follow the rules (even if you may know better!) so as not to jeopardise the relationship you have with your grandchildren.

Michelle Lim-Chua is a mum of two and a copywriter with a special interest in sociology. Born in New York City and raised across six different countries, Michelle loves traveling and is naturally curious about people and their cultures. She moved to Malaysia more than seven years ago, found God and fell in love with a boy from Melaka. Michelle is still learning, along with her husband, how to be a good parent.

GoodDads

Dads are killing it these days. Gone are the days of being disengaged, uninvolved and undervalued. Today, dads are changing diapers – which, according to our parents, is completely unheard of. But what does it really mean to be a good dad in 2015? I decided to ask five devoted (but very different) fathers what they thought.

Hann_Cheah

“There are a few simple guidelines I conform to every day, and they fall into four areas: Family, well-being, finance, and mistakes. When there’s a new addition to the family, it can affect other members of your immediate family and it’s important to be fair to everyone. Secondly, my family’s happiness is an essential part of our journey. Sometimes we forget to be happy. As for family finances, I believe that it’s about making do with what we have – but of course it would be better to have more! And lastly, I say mistakes because I think it’s important to know what mistakes we can (or can’t) make, and try our best not to make stupid ones! I hope my daughter will one day understand how I’ve tried to be a good dad, and maybe even improve upon my guidelines when she becomes a parent someday.” – Hann Cheah, 35, father of one.


Raphael_Diaz

“I used to think being a father meant just providing the best I could. However after my wife passed, I feel like I’m now supposed to be a super dad for my kids. I have to be a judge to settle their problems, a doctor when they get sick, a clown when they need cheering up, a friend all the time and a best friend when they really need to talk to someone. Basically, I’m supposed to be their everything. And now I truly understand what it means to be a mom! It is really not easy and I can’t imagine how my wife did such an amazing job.” – Ray Diaz, 37, father of three.


Bernard_Hiew

“Everyone can be a father, but being a good one takes dedication, love and discipline. A good father makes all the difference in a child’s life. He is a friend, a teacher, a protector, role model, disciplinarian and spiritual leader. He’s a pillar of strength, support and discipline. His work is endless and oftentimes, thankless. But in the end, it will show in the sound, well-adjusted children he raises.” – Bernard Hiew, 32, father of one.


Jonathan_Hoo

“To be honest, I’m away from my kids most of the day because of work. So it’s about making what little time we have with our kids count. But it’s more than just being there physically; it’s being completely present, having real quality time together. As a dad, I’m constantly having to balance being strong and firm, with being sensitive at certain times too.” – Jonathan Hoo, 27, father of one.


AdrianCheah

“A good dad is one who doesn’t run after his children, but looks after them instead. What I mean by that is, you need to let them experience life the way it is supposed to be – for example, if my eldest daughter falls down, I check to make sure she’s okay, and then I encourage her to get back up and keep running. If she wants to climb up a flight of stairs, I let her go for it (of course I’ll stand watch), because I believe in letting her try things. I don’t stop my girls from experiencing life the way they want to. As a dad, this is something I always try and keep in mind, because I don’t want to build boundaries and restrictions around them at such a young age. That’s one of my biggest responsibilities.” – Adrian Cheah, 31, father of two.

Michelle Lim-Chua is a mum of two and a copywriter with a special interest in sociology. Born in New York City and raised across six different countries, Michelle loves traveling and is naturally curious about people and their cultures. She moved to Malaysia more than seven years ago, found God and fell in love with a boy from Melaka. Michelle is still learning, along with her husband, how to be a good parent.

Image Credit: Adrian Cheah, Jonathan Hoo, Bernard Hiew, Ray Diaz & Hann Cheah.

It’s 12.30pm on a Wednesday afternoon as I settle down in front of my laptop in our study to write this. I have a fresh cup of tea, a podcast playing in the background, and a wonderful two hours of peace and productivity ahead of me.

“Where are your two adorable children?” You may ask, “What do you mean ‘peace’?” or, “Tea? At a time like this?” To which I will answer – Welcome to the highlight of my day: NAP TIME FOR THE KIDS.

You see, my toddler and my four month old baby are upstairs in their own rooms. Both are fed, clean, warm, and safely tucked into their individual cots. Baby monitors have been switched on, and there’s no reason (save for a real emergency) for me to make an appearance in either room until Nap Time is over.

Now if you’re a full-time mother-of-two like me, you will be able to appreciate what I have accomplished here. Two full hours in the middle of the day, entirely to yourself. I’m sure that you can understand just how much can be achieved in two hours without any kids in sight.

How is this even possible? Well, even as a nap-evangelist, I’ll be the first to tell you that it was no small feat. It took weeks of careful planning and research, some pretty intense sleep training (both day and night), and rhythm observation to finally crack a Nap Time that worked for us. And if you’re desperate to have anything close to two full hours for yourself every day, let me share with you how I did it.

I realise that since having a baby you may be even more exhausted, time-starved, guilt-ridden and at-your-wits-end than ever before in your life. (If not, I applaud you for being the kind of mom I follow on Instagram). So the first thing you need to do is tell yourself that Nap Time is a priority. Not just for you, but also for your kids who will benefit greatly from a good afternoon nap; in fact the key thing about good naps is that they will result in a better sleep at night.

Both of my kids sleep through the night (7pm to 7am) and I owe this to three things: Prayer, Tizzie Hall and daytime naps. I began taking naps seriously when I saw how my first son would sleep better at night when he’d had a few good naps (of 40 minutes or more) during the day. And then I started taking naps REALLY seriously when my second son came along, and what little time I had to myself threatened to disappear completely. I knew I had to do something drastic.

I started to pay close attention to daytime naps, and I tried to schedule them several times a day. The basic rule I follow is the rhythm of eat, play and sleep. Keep your child awake after a feed, make the next period of time all about play. That way a nap will be needed, and then start the cycle again when he wakes up. Eat, play, sleep.

I know this is hard when your child keeps falling asleep while he eats, or doesn’t seem tired at all even after hours of playing, but I also know that every baby has a rhythm. And sleep is a major part of that rhythm; you just need to give him plenty of opportunity to find it for himself. And by that I mean, lay your baby down after he’s played for an hour or so – and leave him to self settle. He may protest, or cry for you, but I urge you to give him a chance (around ten to fifteen minutes) to calm down and fall asleep. Use the stopwatch on your phone, and restart the clock when there’s a pause or break in his crying. Remind yourself that sometimes babies who are full, dry and not in any pain, cry anyway. And there’s little you can do.

Record your child’s rhythm, and then sit down and make a plan. Start by asking yourself when YOU are most productive. If you’re a morning person you’ll want your child’s longest nap to be during the first half of the day. If you want to be able to have lunch hour to yourself (much like when you used to work!) then you’ll need to aim for the hours of 12pm – 2 pm. Of course babies can take up to three naps during the day, but toddlers tend to only need one by the time they turn two. The really tricky part is to synchronise both kids’ naps. I suggest using your toddler’s nap as the goal, and then nudge your baby closer to it using eat, play, sleep.

Family and friends might call me a little nap-crazy, because they have no idea the restorative power of having a pocket of time just for me. To work, to think, to read, to organize, to rest, to talk to a friend, to catch up with the world, to run an errand, to recover, and sometimes… to nap.

Michelle Lim-Chua is a mum of two and a copywriter with a special interest in sociology. Born in New York City and raised across six different countries, Michelle loves traveling and is naturally curious about people and their cultures. She moved to Malaysia more than seven years ago, found God and fell in love with a boy from Melaka. Michelle is still learning, along with her husband, how to be a good parent.