It was past the kids’ bedtime as I returned home, trying to open the doors as quietly as I could, and tip toe-ing into the darkened house.
Before I could close the door behind me, I saw a little head full of hair spying at me from his bedroom doorway. Ah, the little one who places a great deal of emphasis on quality time.
“MaMa! I have been trying to keep awake to wait for you! Can I tell you about my day?” Matthew was all smiles as he whispered loudly, remembering to keep his voice down because MeiMei was already asleep, and loud enough because he knew his mum was a little hard of hearing. In all fairness.
Could I say ever say no to this request of his? Never. I pushed aside my desire to crash out on the floor and followed him into his room. And I listened as he recounted his whole day at my parents’, this week being the 1-week March school holidays.
As the story unfolded, I was reminded how important fairness is to my boy. He explained why he tried to spend equal time with his GongGong; he realised he had been spending more time with PoPo, and not enough time with his grandfather. In all fairness.
“I have to be fair, if not I won’t be able to remember their names next time, right?”, was his (a little strange) reasoning.
But I understood. Quality time with family, no matter how briefly, counts. Every little bit, and as equally apportioned as possible, matters. Powerful reminders worth paying attention to, especially coming from a not-yet-8-year-old boy. Have to hand it to him. In all fairness.
Since late last year or the beginning of 2014, I started “long-talk” nights with the kids, where I would spend 15 to 30 minutes with each of them 2 nights a week, lying beside them on their beds and chatting with them. The kids enjoy the long-talks, and I am happy to indulge them, for I learn more about them through their sharing.
Ever since August 2014, however, I had to cut back on the long-talks because of my studies. The kids were disappointed at first, but they understood and now cherish the remaining 1 night a week long-talk. It is not so apparent for Megan, as she is still young. But Matthew holds my promise of long-talk very seriously, and will look forward to it eagerly. As he is into questioning now, we will spend a little time sharing about his questions almost nightly, leaving the heavy-duty stuff to the long-talk nights.
During one of our treasured and hugely enjoyable long talks recently, I asked Matthew who his favourite grandparent is. To my surprise, he replied as follows:
That is a very tough decision. I like YeYe because he lets us play ipad all day. I like NaiNai because she is good at making things (craft). I like GongGong because he cooks (for us) and lets us watch television even though he wants to watch television himself. I like PoPo because she helps me with all my homework. And PoPo is fair – if I do homework, Megan has to do homework too. And her homework is equally thick, as mine.
I was surprised that Matthew is so diplomatic. Instead of choosing a favourite grandparent, he decided to be fair and list the things he likes about his grandparents. And I am very happy of the outcome too. He is so fortunate to still have all 4 of his grandparents around, and he knows it too, opting not to choose a favourite. A tough decision it is. It also reveals how much emphasis he places on fairness …
Glossary: Spellings in Hanyu Pinyi, pronunciation in the Cantonese dialect and with the most similar pronunciation in English, in parentheses. (Complicated, huh?)
YeYe (Yay Yay) – Paternal grandfather
NaiNai (Ni Ni, as in Nine) – Paternal grandmother
GongGong (N.A) – Maternal grandfather
PoPo (Pour Pour) – Maternal grandmother
I sat motionless on my seat, unable to move because I could not believe what I was seeing. My face slowly scrunched up in a silent scream NOOOOOO!!!
Amidst the drilling and hacking noises that were taking out my eardrums, billows of visible particles happily made their way into my flat from the front door. Wave after wave the particles floated in, riding the wind currents, and quickly settled onto any exposed surface in my flat, including me. Soon, I was covered in a thin film of whitish dust, as with anywhere else.
I did not sign up for this, but with the Man blissfully away on reservist, and the Housing Development Board (HDB) conducting mandatory improvement works (Home Improvement Programme) to all eligible units in our block of flats, I became the only available body to be subject to the “coating of dust”. Worker after worker came in and out of the flat carrying out their assigned tasks dutifully from 8am to 6pm daily. I sat quietly in 1 visible spot in the living room, getting up only to direct the workers. And cleaning up after the workers were done for the day.
I limited my water intake, because that was the only way I could limit the number of visits I would have to make to the 1 of 2 make-shift, communal toilets downstairs at the void deck. I shall not atttempt to describe the condition these 2 make-shift toilets that all females in the entire block of flats of over a hundred households have to share during this period, while HDB replaces our old, rusty sanitary pipes and toilet wall/floor tiles.
I count my blessings that my parents opened up their flat for us to stay in during this period, especially the kids, for the dust and noise made our flat inhabitable. A wonderful haven I got to crash out every evening, after I was done cleaning for the day. And my parents-in-law helped take care of the kids over 2 weekends, while the Man (who thankfully got to book out during weekends and help) and I tried to restore our flat daily after the damage, I mean, improvements.
The improvement works to our flat were finally done after 10 days. The workers have since moved on to other units. And I am so relieved to put down the broom/mop/rags/sponge for the time being, and get back to my regular job as an employee, sitting in a comfortable, air-conditioned office in front of the computer.
Sure, there are still baskets of laundry and bedsheets waiting to be washed. The floor still feels dusty. Dust still coats the surfaces of the furniture, although at a slower rate. Every corner I turn, my now-trained eyes zoom in on remnant debris and dust left behind from the renovation works. My sensitive skin and nose are still reminding me of the combined effects of insufficient water intake and prolonged exposure to dust. But I am so thankful of the help I had from supportive parents, every morning I pass by bleary-eyed neightbours waiting their turn to use the toilet downstairs, carrying their toiletries in baskets or pails. There is much restoration to our flat to do, but I am glad the worst is over. And I would know how to better protect our flat and minimise the amount of cleaning the next time. Not that I wish there were would be a next time …