1 April 2012, by Darren Lim
The Good Old Kampong Days
Remember those days when we would catch spiders, play with marbles and get wet in “lonkangs” (aka drains) to catch fishes… … or in my instance, go to the beach to swim in the sea, without my parents knowing, only to end up getting a good session of caning after that! Well, if you ask me now, it was all worth it! Yes, it was painful but if I were to do it again, I’d still choose to live my childhood days in exactly the same way I did before! Why? Because I realized that those were play opportunities that built me up to who I am today and in some ways I think those natural ways were far more superior than what most kids have today.
Why did I suddenly reminisce about the good old days? Earlier this week, I was left to the task of spending time with my 5 year old and after having exhausted all indoor activities, I decided we’d get out into the sun to do some “exploring” of our new compound (we had recently shifted to a condo in Changi). As we were walking and talking, I suddenly caught sight of a spider on a plant nearby and in a flash, the “boy” in me sprang to action to catch the spider with my bare hands. Jairus who was clued in on what I was trying to do, got all excited too and kept asking, “Did you get it?” It had been a while since I last did this and not surprisingly it was only after a few attempts that we finally caught one (I realized I had ‘lost’ the skill which was so natural to me when I was younger, much younger!). And it was only then that I realized that my boy had never had a chance to do things like this, which I did in the past!
For me, the daily staple of my play consisted of the sun, nature and sometimes the rain. There was no fear of getting sun-burn (maybe because the ozone hole was not as big then?) or getting hit by cars (because we commute about by bicycle in the kampong anyway) and we were allowed long periods of play time with our peers, which allowed us to fully exercise our imagination. Creativity was the order of the day as we were very much lacking proper toys to play with. So every day, we had to use whatever nature provided (leaves, flowers, rocks etc) to entertain ourselves and everyday our imagination led us to something different. Bullets for our self-made wooden guns were fruits from creeper-plants and bottle caps were flattened and made into rotating cutters with the help of strings. Problem-solving was in every minute of our play when we tried to make things work according to our hypothesis of how it should and were faced with problems when it couldn’t. Social skills were picked up along the way when you were ostracized whenever something you said didn’t sit right with your peers and you knew what not to say the next time and learnt how to be more tactful with your words.
These days? Kids have to attend classes to cultivate creativity. Their scope of play is limited by the imagination of creators of computer games. And most of all, their only motor skill development you can talk about revolves just round the fingers! And sun exposure inevitably leads to so much sunscreen and it takes so much effort that it becomes a deterrent. It’s time that daddies (or even the mummies) show the kids what real play and real fun is all about! And what’s even more precious is the bonding time that will happen through such active play where father can share about his life when he was a kid with his children, bringing history into the picture, values and beliefs when relating about things that had happened, and how you (father) felt about it and reacted to it.
Really, it’s just NOW that your children will want to hear you talk about your good old days! I know because my children keep asking me questions like, “Daddy can you tell me something about you when you were young? Did anything funny happen to you that you can tell us?” I’ll want them to know about the time when I climbed someone’s rambutan tree and cut my foot on a rusty nail when I jumped down from the tree while escaping from the owners. They’d know of the foolishness of such actions without even my needing to say it and in such a non-threatening and non-preachy way!
So let’s get some bonding time going while doing fun things together! And dads, it may be a good time to lose some weight anyway, your most recent motor activity was probably just those fingers too!