27 June 2012, by Darren Lim
Don’t underestimate your little ones… …
Over the weekend, we went on our first-ever, epic voyage to Pulau Tioman, as a family, on our sailboat. In this trip, to and fro, we covered 240 nautical miles in total; 20 hours to get there with wind and tide in our favour and 24 hours to get back home.
Being the first time we sailed together, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this trip. But having read and researched a bit about sailing with children, I brought along all that we needed to ensure their safety and entertainment onboard and off we went.
All went well initially, and I was especially impressed with how well Kristen (eldest, 7 year-old) was taking to the sailing experience. She had come well-prepared and was reading in the cabin, on the deck, come “splash or shine” — it didn’t bother her! At some points, when she felt nauseous, she’d inform us about it but maintained her pleasant disposition, and got back to her reading after she felt better again; all without whining!
I was just congratulating myself for having planned well (we sailed off in the middle of the night so the kids could be sleeping through at least a large part of the journey) but just when we reached the halfway mark, Jairus (second-born, 5 year-old) started complaining about tummy aches! We tried all ways to comfort him, sweets to suck, cuddles, even tried to distract him with the iPad and read him stories, but to no avail!
It was at this point when I felt lowest in the whole of this journey. Self-doubt plagued me, “Are my children going to blame me for bringing them on this trip and not be able to enjoy the entire trip because of seasickness?” and even, “Have I so selfishly imposed my love of sailing onto my children, that now I have to pay the price of that selfishness by watching my kid suffer?” And as I watched Jairus writhe in pain and cry agonizingly, I was really torn between turning back, to get him home and blazing ahead, knowing that either way it’s going to be equally tough and if we go on with the journey, at least the children can have something to reward themselves with after putting up with so much discomfort. It was really a tough call to make.
Fortunately, after all the crying, Jairus went to lie down in the cabin and fall asleep. I quickly took that opportunity to cover as much distance as I could to Tioman and when he woke up, we were already left with the last quarter of the journey and he said he didn’t feel uncomfortable anymore. So we were able to continue with the rest of the journey uneventfully.
Of course, when we reached there, the kids had so much fun and sun on the idyllic beaches. I was really glad that I made the call to persist and sail ahead after all. And I’m sure Jairus would have agreed with my decision, even if, at that point of his discomfort, the thought of home or his comfort zone would have been more appealing and comforting. Afterwards on the way back, he was already so well-adjusted to the rocking motion of the boat that there was no more seasickness at all! Just like that, he’s gotten his “sea-legs”! (FYI, Evelyn brought out the Merlion in her on both legs of the trip and admitted that the kids adjust much better than she did!)
In and through this incident, I realized that as parents we tend to shield our children from life’s “forces” and sometimes, it is done in the name of protecting them. But often, if only we let them “roll with the waves of life” will they be able to rise to the challenge to grow “sea-legs” or develop the life-skills to enable them to handle the challenges that life poses. More often than not, we think they are not ready to take on the “training”; we think they are too young for things that children in other countries or in other eras were already doing at a much younger age! My grandmother often related how when she’s three, she’d be helping her family shepherd the cattle. Whenever she met up with neighbours while doing that, they would inevitably good-naturedly tease her, “Have you had your milk yet this morning?”
When I was in India with Evelyn a few years ago to feature the street-children of India at the Don Bosco shelter, we were constantly amazed at the stories we heard of how these children at young ages of even 8 to 10, shouldered so much burden for their families that they would leave their villages to hop onto trains to try to etch a living for themselves in the cities, so that they could send money back home to their families.
In Singapore, children generally have a good life and do not need to bring back the bacon for their families. So in order to “toughen them up”, perhaps apart from an attitude change in parents, we also need to create an environment that’ll be conducive for children to practice honing important life-skills, eg: like packing up after yourself, to learning to cook, to organizing your room, etc.
And the best way we thought, for our family, is by going “helper-less”! So after seven years of having great help around the house, we’re looking forward to creating that great help within the family; one thing I know for sure, I’m glad it’s three more pairs of ready hands!
Look out for my next blog in 2 weeks’ time, “We are so help(er)less!”