When it comes to all things parenting, there’s just no side-stepping that dreaded word: SCHOOLING!
Which formed the core of a podcast discussion I was involved in two days ago.
Specifically, a couple of parents and I sat down with host Sophie Gollifer on a warm Thursday morning at co-working space The Hive, to talk about whether or not schooling today is far more stressful than yesteryears.
A slam dunk, I thought to myself! I mean, what could be easier to talk about, right?
That is until the memories of my schooling years came flooding back!
“Yesterday…all my troubles seem so far away“
Though it’s been ages, I still remember fondly my time in primary school, especially that final year when we were sitting for that dreaded national examination, the PSLE. Oddly though I never remembered feeling any pressure or stress. I only remembered the fun and camaraderie I had with my classmates.
Those were simpler times in the early 80’s. Playing hopscotch, marbles, zero point, ‘chapteh’ or police and thief, or just goofing around and cracking silly jokes with one another. Those were my fondest memories and the warm, fuzzy feelings remain even today.
Sure, I’m not saying I didn’t agonise over the mugging of math formulas and essay formats; plus the extra revisions and homework. And then of course there were the dreaded memories of nasty teachers and competitive classmates in the later years.
But somehow I survived, and those memories don’t seem all that important or mind-numbing now as I look back.
Certainly not, when compared with how schooling has changed today!
Schooling stress for parents
Make no mistake, most parents would agree schooling is more stressful for kids today compared to their own childhood.
Certainly, the bombardment of information coming into our senses has never been greater. In my opinion, devices and digitalisation bear the brunt of the blame.
Of course, they offer modern-day conveniences that allow most schools here to transition easily to HBL (home-based learning), especially during these past couple of years of the Covid pandemic.
But they also bring school work right into our bedrooms and meal tables. They make it harder for kids and parents to draw the boundary line clearly between work and leisure, screen time and downtime.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I’m ungrateful for these tools for a digital era. But they absolutely make it harder for me as a parent not to get swept up by the barrage of emails, text messages, and app notifications from teachers and school administrators. All advising parents what’s next on the school’s events calendar, or what our kids need to bring the next day.
All of these require attention, acknowledgment, and action from already-busy, WFH (work from home) parents!
Any wonder we are more stressed out today with schooling than even our kids?
One recent case in point: My son’s newly-acquired personal learning device!
Personal learning device or just more “screen schooling”?!
First announced in March 2020 by the Ministry of Education (MOE), the scene was set.
Every secondary school kid in the country will own his/her own personal learning device (PLD) by 2028. This was part of the MOE’s National Digital Literacy Programme to raise digital competency and cyber wellness among students, along with enhancing their computational thinking skills.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the timeline was brought forward to 2021, thanks to the pandemic. Since many were under lockdown and unable to attend school, equipping kids with learning devices became more urgent.
Sounds awesome right? Which kid (and tech-loving parent) wouldn’t leap for joy at the prospect of owning his/her own device?
Until of course reality hits.
That reality came in the form of endless announcements via a parent-school mobile app here, or another email there; all to remind parents to guide their child on the proper care and use of the learning device while under lockdown. There were also several guides and manuals to navigate. Including one recent pdf file that had not one, not two, but 27 pages of PLD guidelines for parents to digest!
Oh my, is the room spinning or is it just me?!
Don’t be perfectionists!
One of the parents shared in the podcast something that resonated with me: Don’t be a perfectionist!
While there isn’t anything new about such an advice, the reality is we often end up trying to be perfect as parents. After all, it’s one thing if we can’t balance a checkbook or close a business deal; quite another when it involves the future of another human being, in this case our kids!
No parent can ignore the pinch of guilt that’s bound to plague us if our children stumble in their journey towards adulthood and independence.
And all because we were lax in our parenting.
A missed opportunity to sign up for an enrichment programme here. Or an oversight to exercise their still-growing fine motor skills there. These things do add up, making parenting the toughest job on earth bar none!
Especially if you factor in the uncertain future kids will grow up into, exacerbating the anxiety of future-anxious moms and pops everywhere, themselves aging rapidly yet still shouldering the responsibility to raise up their kids well.
Learning to let go and be kind to ourselves
Which is why in the podcast I shared that schooling and academic success really cannot be the be all and end all. Building life skills and good character are the more important things, and the better way to go to hedge against all volatile tomorrows.
Knowledge may puff one up for a spell, but character and adaptability in the face of challenges are the only sure things to help our kids weather any storm.
But most of all, we as parents must be kinder to both our kids and ourselves, cos fumbling and failing will take place for sure. It’s practically written into the parenting manual of every family!
So rather than berate ourselves, we must learn to let go, be kind to ourselves, and not sweat it if our kid misses a grade or a deadline.
For the sun still rises from the east each morning, and the earth still continues to spin on its axis everyday.
Now if I can just preach this back to myself on the days I have ‘amnesia’ and revert to being a “perfect parent”!
But that’s fodder for another day’s blog.