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Monday, December 31, 2007

Loving My Baby

As the chinese saying goes, 教儿婴孩,教妇初来. The first few months are crucial in "teaching" a child.

During those months, other than taking care of my baby's basic needs, I paid extra attention to "teaching" him proper etiquettes and attitudes among other things. What does that mean?

For example, tables are not for sitting. I made sure he was not allowed to sit on tables, no matter how small he was. This was my first step in "telling" him what was proper & what was not. I made sure I was "proper" myself too, like standing & sitting properly, instead of slouching on the sofa or putting my legs on the coffee table. I ought to be a role model, remember? Postures were just the basics.

When he started to eat solid foods, he was supposed to sit down and finish his food, no wandering around. And when he could walk on his own, I made sure he understood eating places are not playgrounds. He was not allowed to play or wander around in a restaurant. This was for his safety as well. Who knows what hot food / soup would land on him?

Another example of how I expected him to behave: If he showed signs of impatience while waiting for his milk / food like banging on the table, I would tell him gently but firmly to "wait", together with hand gesture. I tried to convey the message that I've understood what he needed and he was going to be satisfied soon, and he had to behave properly. He might not understand in the beginning, but I hoped he would soon understand that no matter how hungry (or whatever the circumstances), we are humans and capable of controlling ourselves. I don't mean he has to bottle up his emotions, but certain behaviours are acceptable and certain are not. Courtesy is the most basic attitude.

Sounds paranoid? Don't laugh at me. Sounds strict? Believe me, if you love him & put his welfare first, you will be able to do what's best for your child. Every family & every child is different. Noboby is the "best", and there's no right or wrong way to bring up a child, only a "suitable" way. So I made sure I learned a lot, and adapted my parenting style according to my son's age & temperament.

Time for Solid Food!

Before starting with solid food, first ensure that your baby is given "clean" food, not even contaminated by the saliva of adults closest to him. Yes I know it's a gesture of love when adults share their food with babies / kids. But the bacteria residing in our body system can be passed on to the kids. Believe me, I've read up on this issue and have decided it's in my son's best interest to NOT share foods with anybody else, and I try to avoid it as much as possible.

By not sharing, I don't mean it in the selfish sense. "Hygienic" sharing is alright & encouraged. What does that mean? For example, don't let kids stick their hands (with saliva included) into one bag to share their titbits or snacks. Instead pour out some into their individual bowls. At meal times, use a common spoon to serve from a dish into our own plates, instead of sticking our own spoons (with saliva included) into the shared dish. Sometimes adults would use their own spoons or chopsticks (with saliva included again) to give foods to the kids. Sometimes they drink from the same cup or bottle. Sometimes well-meaning adults will take a bite off their apple for example, then offer it (yes the same bitten piece) to a kid. I'm horrified. If you know the consequences you'll be too. If we really need to share food, why don't we get another set of spoon & bowl? I'm sure hygienic sharing would convey our love just as well if not better.

Anyway, what were the types of solid foods I gave to my son? Of course I had started with semi-solids like rice cereal. Sometimes I gave him food from a jar (when we went out, for convenience sake). Then soft foods like apple puree (scrape apple with a spoon), potato puree (mashed potato), papaya etc. Then came the "real" solid foods.

Usual meal would include 2 vegetables and 1 meat. These were complemented with either porridge or soft rice. I tried to rotate the vegetables I used for every meal. List of vegetables include tomato, pumpkin, carrot, baby corn, cauliflower, broccoli, leafy vegetables (like spinach), mushrooms, hairy marrow, potato etc. Sometimes I give beancurd (tofu) , egg (steamed or hard-boiled) or silverfish. Meat given was usually rotated among fish, minced chicken, minced pork or minced beef.

Method of cooking? Usually by steaming. Any seasoning? None. To me, that's the ideal diet for a baby / toddler. He gets the "real" taste of the food. I tried to include a variety of fresh healthy foods and avoided giving him foods which are highly processed, or contains colourings or preservatives. (Yes I admit I don't like Y----t or V-----n.) I don't give him sweets as rewards too. Fruits are healthier. I'm lucky that to this date, he doesn't eat much sweets or titbits. It's been beneficial to both his health & his teeth. In addition, I always prefer plain drinking water to sweetened or carbonated drinks. (Did you know that sweets & additives are detrimental to kids? I'm not sure if they result in lack of concentration or cause hyper-activity in kids, but I do believe kids will benefit if they follow a healthier diet.)

How to entice him to eat? I tried to make at least the colour interesting. For example I'll not give him a meal which includes fish, hairy marrow & tofu. Why? Though it's quite balanced in nutrition, you would've noticed that it's all white! Next I tried to vary the texture & taste. For example, more crunchy baby corn can be given with soft pumpkin, tomato can be given with cauliflower. Then you can also play around with shapes. Carrots can be cut into shapes of stars or moons, baby corn can be cut into round shapes, potatoes can be cut into strips or triangles. You get the idea.

Side-track a bit here. Talking about potatoes. I never introduced him to fast foods when he was young. He was first introduced to Mc------- and Ke------ by his pre-school teachers (when they went on outing)! However with my own attitudes towards fast foods, I believe he has been influenced more or less and accepts that they are unhealthy foods though once in a while he will request for fries. Most of the time he's more attracted to their kids' meal toys than their foods.

Let's get back to meal time. When I fed him, I didn't just "spoon-feed" him. I made sure I told him the name / colour / shape of the food he was eating. Meal time was a learning time & fun time. But he was not allowed to run around while eating. A routine was set so that before every meal time, he would have to sit in his walker (tied so it couldn't move) or high chair (when he was slightly older), and have his hands cleaned. I did have some toys standing-by to entertain him if necessary. (Usually I try to "entertain" him by talking, so he doesn't get distracted by toys, haha.) No shoving of food into his mouth either. Just put the spoon next to his lips so he ate "voluntarily".

Though proper food & nutrition is the foundation for a healthy kid, meal time should never be a struggling time. It's a time for the child to enjoy his food. If he doesn't appreciate your time & effort spent in preparing the meal, so be it. Just accept that it's a passing phase of his life and keep at it. I haven't encountered much difficulties in this aspect and have limited experiences with only one kid, however I've known many mothers who actually became very creative because they have difficulty in getting their kids to eat. So take heart mummies.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New-Born Baby

1999 Februay 22, my baby was born! The first 3 months was more a learning phase than a teaching phase. I learned how to take care of my child's needs, mainly in feeding him, cleaning him, carrying him etc.

I came from a small family and had no prior experience whatsoever in handling babies, or see how other people take care of babies. Thus it was a challenging time for me. The first few times that I cleaned him on my own, I even had to put him beside a big book of instructions & followed each step closely in case I forgot: wipe the eyes, the mouth, the bottom....etc. I even had to consult my book on how to pick up & put down my baby, haha!

The first lessons I learned were to love my child unconditionally & accept him as he is. The perfectionist in me had unknowingly wished for a perfect motherhood & a perfect child. So when I encountered problems with breastfeeding, and when he was diagnosed with urine tract infection, it was a traumatic experience for me. Especially when it's unlike other endeavours, example baking a cake, as I could not start all over again to get the "perfect" result!

Those first months of his life were spent on teaching him to
- recognize day from night, by playing more actively during daytime and toning down & speaking quietly during his night feeds or diaper change
- enjoy rhythm of chinese Tang & Song dynasty poems (唐诗宋词)
- enjoy music & songs & nursery rhymes (by singing to him, NOT by using TV or VCD or DVD)
- be familiarized with our language & his surroundings by speaking to him about *everything*, from what we were doing to where we were going to who we were meeting etc
- stay calm by providing a loving environment: he never hears arguments between his parents (I'm not saying we have heated arguments behind his back, haha, I'm saying we settle any disputes amicably and try not to show any disagreements in front of him, as he's still too young)
- trust his parents to love him & take care of him by carrying him as much as possible while he's awake

Some people might think the last point is objectionable. But this was my way of communicating to my baby that he is safe & loved. Of course I didn't carry him *all* the time, he was given time to entertain himself in his cot by looking at mobiles etc, and he was allowed time to stretch & exercise his limbs. But I do pay as much attention to him as possible when he's awake. (Anyway he was sleeping most of the time during those first few months.) However, when we went out, I always preferred to carry him rather than put him in a stroller. It builded a kind of "closeness" between us. The by-product? I got nice bicep muscles :-)

By the way, it didn't matter that he didn't understand any of the above-mentioned things that I was "teaching" him. I only did all those because I thought that's the best I could do for him. In essence, he's still too young at this stage to "understand" anything except "feelings". So the ultimate goal in whatever I did was to instill in him a sense of love, security, happiness & serenity.

Pregnancy Stage

First things first. I believe the first "communication" with my child was during pregnancy. I tried to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and rest adequately to stay in optimal health. In addition, I did what I could to "teach" him about the world, especially to introduce him to his parents :-)

I remember I was taking social dance classes before pregnancy, and was still dancing (yes, turning, spinning etc though a bit clumsy) until I was 3 months pregnant. Of course I don't recommend other mothers-to-be to do the same. But later in my pregnancy I did continue with exercising by attending ante-natal class & doing the exercises recommended.

By the time I was 5 months pregnant, I left my job to have more control over my state of well-being. I remember my first experiences of "teaching" my baby was in listening to classical & soothing music. Other than that, I tried to "talk" to my unborn baby. I would put my hand on my bulge or stroke my belly gently and recite a simple Buddhist scripture (though I'm not a Buddhist). Or I would speak positively to my baby, sing songs etc. All these provided a calm & soothing state of mind for me, which I believe would be passed on to my baby somehow.

As for my short temper, it improved tremendously during my pregnancy. Partly because I was overjoyed to become a mother, mainly because I cautioned myself to curb my negative emotions. I believe a happy mother would give birth to a happy baby who will have a nice temperament and thus easy to manage (this is for my benefit too, haha). Anyway, nothing seemed important enough for me to blow my top when compared to the possible effect on my baby.

I remember the whole process was quite smooth & easy, except for vomitting 2 times & having high blood sugar count once. Though unpleasant, I accepted swollen ankles & mid-night cramps etc as part & parcel of pregnancy.

In essence, I tried to stay healthy both physically and spiritually. And I prepared myself mentally by reading up a lot on pregnancy, child-birth & childcare.

When my son was finally born eight years ago, in 1999, I was overjoyed. But soon faced with the question: what should I teach him? how do I teach him? To be continued......

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Beginning of Teach-My-Child Blog

My son was born in February 1999. Ever since I became pregnant, I have taken a keen interest in how to give him the best that I can, in terms of his growth & development, especially in his "education". This area is my life passion!

This includes what to teach him & how to teach him. It also includes what I do for myself & for him. Being a parent, I consider myself his first teacher. As such, I became very conscious of how I teach myself to become a better person too. Action speaks louder than words, and "teaching" my son would be easier if I could be a role model, someone he can look up to & learn from. Parenthood thus became a journey for all of us in the family.

All these years, though there were ups & downs inevitable in life, I have felt great contentment & satisfaction in the process. Relatives & friends have doted on my darling & many have asked me how I brought up my son. I will use this blog to share my experiences as a mother for those of us who are interested.

Nobody is perfect, neither is my son, neither am I, though I try to do what I think is best for my son & family. I would be delighted to hear opinions of other parents / children. It would be great if more people share and make the world a better place for everybody.

Hope everyone has a fulfilling life journey!

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