As I sit in my patio, I hear my neighbour raising her voice at her 4-year old kid, "Write properly!"
She must be coaching her son again. Oh, how she reminds me of those days when my kids were young. Like me, she's a working mother who tries to teach the kids whenever she finds time.
On the day I moved into my apartment, she had just returned from the hospital cradling the newborn in her arms. Four years have passed and she has two sons now. Uncanningly the age gap and even their names are almost similar to my kids'. Each time I look at them, I think of myself 16 years ago.
Like all mothers, I was enthusiastic and wanted to give the kids a well-rounded and happy childhood. I gave them tons of books and toys to help broaden their general knowledge, develop motor skills and stimulate creativity and curiosity.
Back then, parents weren't that 'kiasu' yet. Sure, there were Montessori, Abacus and Phonics but I didn't feel pressured to send them to these classes. The only time I panicked was when SK still couldn't read in K2. I sent him for phonics lessons.
As a well-meaning and responsible mother, I tried to coach them when they were in primary school. Despite my good intentions, everyone always ended up frustrated. I just can't teach my own kids. I'm generally a patient and calm person but I turn into a monster when I'm sitting before them, trying to make them understand concepts and so forth. My temperature rises, no, soars when they give me that blank stare. The more I yell, the more lost they look.
It was a vicious cycle. They loved me as a mom but hated me as their teacher. In the end, I outsourced all the coaching to private tutors.
I've always marveled at how some mothers, especially Petunia, cope with this teaching thing. Petunia loves teaching her kids and enjoys every moment of it. "How is that possible? Don't you get angry at all?", I asked.
"Easy! I don't try to teach them. They teach me instead." she replied, giving me that trademark cheeky grin.
Now, this is reverse psychology at its best. Your kids think you don't understand what they're learning, so they have to teach you instead. In an instant, your little kid feels like he's smarter than you are and is motivated to learn well so that he can transfer all that knowledge to you. When he's teaching you, you size him up and if he's not getting all the facts right, you pretend to ask some silly questions which might stump him. He goes back, reads some more and comes back with the right answers. Then you thank him for being such a wonderful teacher (and for making you smarter). He'll be so eager to teach you again.
See, I should have learned this trick years ago! We would have saved so much tears.