The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Her name is Stubborn Wolf

on January 25, 2015

#3 is not quite two years and four months old yet.

But as she is in her twos, she can invariably be labelled as being in the Terrible Twos.

The Terrible Twos is that perceived dreaded time of incoherent demands, frustrated screaming and full bodied down on the ground tantrums that can happen any time and anywhere.


Can I just say that this period of behaviour doesn’t end when they hit three. Fact.

When they are two you can put it down to the Terrible Twos. When they still display moments of incoherent demands, frustrated screaming and full bodied down on the ground tantrums at the age of four and six. Well, perhaps I ought to reassess my parenting capabilities. But that is by the by and not what I’m going to talk about today.

Today is all about #3.

#3 recently started swimming lessons with Coach A. Coach A started teaching #1 almost three years ago and #2 for two years. Both #1 and 2 are very competent swimmers which I’m very proud of and which is a necessity in Singapore with the condo pool downstairs (Yes, I know).

At the age of two years and not quite four months old, it may seem a bit young for solo swimming lessons but she’s actually very good at understanding what you’re saying. Her language ability is pretty good and she is not shy in vocalising her grievances. As Coach A was to find out.

Two weeks ago, just after the Christmas break, #3 had her second proper solo swimming lesson. I took her down to the pool, handed her over to Coach A and walked off with her yelling after me ‘Mummy, Mummy, Mummy’. I’ve done enough school drop offs with screaming child clinging onto me to be able to do the walking off in a cold hearted fashion without wanting to break down and cry myself now. Besides I’m only upstairs and I can keep an eye and ear out for her should she get beyond hysterical.

I’m watching from the balcony overlooking the pool and I can hear #3 crying. I’m ready to go back downstairs and retrieve her thinking perhaps at two years and not quite four months, she’s just a bit too young for this. But then I see her holding Coach A’s hand in the pool as he puts her through some walking up and down the pool drills.

I can still hear crying when she’s holding onto the floats and kicking her legs up and down.

I can still hear her crying as she goes off and collects floating things.

She’s crying and yet she’s still actually having the swimming lesson. So I hold back and just let it carry on. At times she’s not crying but then seems to remember that she needs to express just how disgruntled she is with this swimming lesson situation that she restarts and throws in some random yells.

Time is up and I head down to collect her. As I near, Coach A holds up a hand to ward me off. I can’t quite see what’s going on from that distance but he’s giving instructions to #3 which she appears to be following.

Finally, he beckons me forward and I wrap up #3 in her towel and give her a big hug. I ask Coach A how did it all go and his first response is ‘She’s even more stubborn than #1 and 2’.

But she’s two! Surely that’s her prerogative! Surely it’s just the Terrible Twos at play. This stage will pass. It has to.

To hear someone say that this is not a phase, that this is part of who she is was quite a shock. Then I recalled all the times others have hinted as much. That #3 has that glint in her eye that is so familiar to them because they’ve seen it before in their own beautifully spirited child I have often admired for their character and because they make me laugh with the mischief they get up to.

I remember Big Brother Li telling me that the more crowns you have, the more stubborn you are. Both #3 and I have two. When we were back in the UK, my Mum remarked that people with curly hair are much less obedient when #3 was diving off the couch. I naturally dismissed all this as just folklore. I mean you’re telling me that the whole of the Chinese population do as they are told because on the whole, they have poker straight hair? Pah indeed.

In a moment of pique when #3 was being particularly high spirited at dinner time, I said to her in the presence of #1 and 2, ‘No wonder Por Por says you’re hard to teach with your curly hair’. #2 who likes to emulate many of my more wise sayings, was heard by Husband to say, ‘#3 your hair will never be straight with this naughty behaviour’ and proceeded to ask me where she could have gotten this idea from. Where indeed and I go on about my Dad, Mr Li coming out with some random stuff!

Why should it come as any surprise that a child of mine should be called stubborn. Where could they get that from?

It’s not so much that #3 is charmingly stubborn that sticks with me. I’d rather a child who didn’t easily conform and has a will to do things their way, except for the times when I am asking them to do as I say. It’s when Coach A tells me that I should stop praising #3 for every single thing that she does. He reckons that for every ten things that she does, give her praise for just two of them. That way, she’ll soon learn to do things as just par for the course.

Yes I get that, it’s something that #1 is finding hard when he doesn’t get all the praise for something as regular as putting on his own socks yet if #3 does so then she is just so clever and it’s accompanied by a round of applause and kisses and smiles and it’s just so cute. As I held #3, who seemed like such a big girl going off on her solo swimming lessons, I couldn’t quite grasp the notion that she should no longer receive praise for every single thing that she does because at her age, every single thing she does is just simply marvellous. Except for the times when she’s screaming in frustration and lying sprawled on the floor in the supermarket because I wouldn’t let her stand Kate Winslet in Titanic-top-of-the-world style in the shopping trolley.

All it made me feel is that I would just like to hold her tighter and kiss those chubby cheeks and tell her just how fabulous she always is. Because I do know that there will come a point when you can’t tell them that every single thing they do is phenomenal. Some of it is quite normal like putting on your own socks, feeding yourself and emptying your bowels where you ought to. We have trouble getting out of the door with minimal fuss without having to applaud every single movement. And when was the last time you got praise for brushing your own teeth.

I do give praise. I recognise achievements in not just #1, 2 and 3 but in you Grown Ups too. It’s called being supportive and recognising in others skills that I am sadly lacking.

Coach A tells me that in order for #3 to learn to swim she needs to follow his instruction. I get that too. So in order to get her to understand that, he was rolling a ball away from them and asking her to go and get it. She replies ‘No, you go and get it’. I’m half embarrassed and half proud of her. But then he tells me, ‘I’ll give it another lesson or two and she’ll soon be following my direction’.

Whilst I know that this is necessary and I do want her to learn to swim and build a rapport with Coach A. It also makes me sad to think he’s trying to break her stubborn spirit. That she’s going to conform and follow his instructions and not be telling him to go pick up a ball when he was the one to pointlessly roll it away.

I also know that, sooner or later when she does know how to swim, she’ll probably be the one jumping off the two meter drop into the pool I’d much rather she wouldn’t.

Will she listen to me if I tell her not to?

What do you think?



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