I agree wholeheartedly with the Chinese saying, “Giving birth is easy but raising a child is difficult”.
Although I love children, I know very well that having my own is a different story altogether. It calls for great sacrifice and patience which I have little.
That led me to procrastinating in building a family. Selfish? Yes, but I believe I did the right thing as I had to prepare myself first. Then I would give my best.
When Baby Cat arrived, she became my number one priority and I set out on a long and winding road to nurture her into a happy, contented and confident little person.
In the initial months, I transformed into a milk factory to breastfeed her. To promote a steady flow of milk, I ingested all kinds of nutritious food till my body outsized my dresses.
Her feeding routine was every three hours, every day and night. I have not had uninterrupted sleep for almost two years now.
The sacrifice, however, is overshadowed by the joy of seeing my fragile newborn grow steadily into a healthy, cheeky and talkative toddler.
Besides taking care of her physical growth, I conscientiously teach her something new everyday, be it a word, an object or an action. As a result, she could point to the object when told the word before she was six months old.
I am aware it is imperative that my baby undergoes some good early childhood development programmes. So I checked and visited a few of them.
Julia Gabriel Centre fits the bill in terms of safety, cleanliness, low teacher-student ratio, syllabus which focuses on speech, language, movement, art, and music-based learning, as my baby loves singing and dancing.
When Baby Cat was 16 months old, I enrolled her in a class called PlayNest for babies six to 18 months old. Three months later, she moved up to PlayClub for older children.
I take heed after reading researches confirming that the child’s brain develops fastest in the first five years and the child’s brain architecture is formed in the first three years. I don’t want my baby to miss this small window of opportunity.
Some friends think I am being kiasu to put my baby through school regimentation at such a tender age.
But the class is not academically-based. Here the babies play, discover and learn specific skills by performing simple tasks together with their parents and teachers. After all, it is only an hour and a half of fun-time, twice a week.
The class starts with free playtime for 15 minutes. The teachers turn on lively music and lay out stimulating and educational toys and books on soft floor mats for the babies to play.
When the time is up, the teachers sing the "Clean up time" song and encourage the babies to pick up the toys, put them in trays and carry them to a corner with the help of teachers and parents.
Then everyone sits in a circle and sings the “Good morning and welcome” song with simple movements to greet each and every child, parent and teacher. The babies are very fond of their caring teachers namely Shoby, Elsza, Adeleine and Joyce.
Together we sing a few other songs with actions. Baby Cat loves to imitate the movements and dances rhythmically to the tunes.
The theme for this semester is animals and she loves it.
Each week a new animal puppet is introduced. Every child is given some time to play with the puppet - stroking, petting and hugging. Aside from learning, this promotes sharing and patience, too.
The next session is storytime. Lead teacher Shoby narrates a story from a huge book through singing, usually accompanied by one or two instruments.
Baby Cat loves stories and always sits in front and listens attentively, nodding in agreement or expressing excitement as if she understands the plot.
There is also an art and craft activity where different materials are used to promote soft motor skills and coordination.
Next, the babies wash their hands before they are seated with their classmates to snack on organic biscuits or fruits while listening to soft classical music.
Outdoor time follows. Once a week they either play with sand, water or wall painting. Other times, it is free playtime. Baby Cat loves to ride the rocking horse and pretends to cook on the large kitchen set.
This is followed by more singing and a short downtime where we lie down with our babies and sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Stars while pretending to catch the stars in dimmed lights.
Finally, the class ends on a high note with the teachers blowing bubbles and children running around to catch them.
Every class is fun and everyone leaves in cheerful mood. I thoroughly enjoy the class, probably as much as my baby.
I observe she has learnt quite a lot after attending Playclub for three months.
She interacts with others very well, behaves during mealtimes, has developed good motor skills, recognises many objects and animals and able to imitate their sounds, utters many words and dances gracefully whenever she hears music.
I can pat myself on the shoulder for making the sound decision to have started my baby on an early childhood programme. The experience I have gained will put me in good stead when my second child arrives in May.
So, raising a child is not so difficult after all. Actually it is a joy.