Jasmine Ong discusses her decision to keep her kids at school during Phase 2 HA. She speaks about the physical toll of last year’s Circuit Breaker (with one child gaining 10kg) and why she hopes keeping her kids at preschool will be better for their education and health
It has been about three weeks since the Heightened Measures set by the local government has impacted the lives of many. Schools were moved from physical classrooms to Home-Based Learning (HBL) almost immediately. Thankfully in my case, my two children, aged 3 and 6 years old, who were in nursery and kindergarten respectively, weren’t affected by the HBL ruling. Learning still goes on the same for them, with them attending their classes, albeit with Safety Management Measures in place.
But not every parent shares the same thoughts as me. Following the Heightened Measures, many of my friends and neighbours in my estate have preferred to err on the side of caution and pull their children out from preschool. Preschools alike have been equally obliging to offer parents learning materials which their child could continue his learning journey at home.
For one thing, I was glad that HBL wasn’t imposed on preschools because that would mean I could still have my little terrors attending classes without taping them to the floor had they stayed home for HBL.
The Nightmare of Circuit Breaker
2020’s Circuit Breaker months still bring bad memories for me. You see, my spouse who was with the Ministry of Manpower in a white-collared role was tasked to be among the staff to be stationed at migrant dormitories island-wide. Back then, workers’ dormitories had seen an explosion of over a thousand cases, with numbers climbing day by day.
My spouse’s dormitory shift consisted of 13hrs at a stretch on every alternate day, including public holidays and weekends. Our ministries were too stretched for manpower that even white-collared staff were tasked to assist.
With my spouse, who is also the family disciplinarian, away from home most of the time, I had to handle looking after two toddlers whilst juggling endless Zoom meetings back-to-back and a piling workload. Unfortunately, in my child’s preschool, educational lessons are taught for an hour to two in the morning and another one hour at 3 pm. That left most of the day idle for them. Parents of boys could relate with me when you have two toddlers wanting each and every piece of you. Every. Constant. Minute. Not that I hate it. After all, you won’t get that kind of attention as they get older. But it’s a tall order when you have to juggle the housework, children and a full-time job.
The physical toll of the Circuit Breaker on my child
With most of my time spent at my laptop, my eldest kid took the chance to raid the family fridge for sweets, snacks and ice cream supplied by overly doting yet, stubborn grandparents. I wish I could have chained the fridge up like how Jon Arbuckle did for Garfield.
Remember those memes flying in cyberspace about pre and post-Circuit Breaker folks who Work From Home (WFH) and had access to too many snacks? Well, that was true in the case of my eldest son. Due to a lack of physical activity and incessant snacking, my son gained a whopping 10kg within two months.
A part of me is guilty of neglect as I was burying my nose in my laptop. It has been almost a year since CB ended, and he still hasn’t been able to lose any of the gained weight. Till now, as a firm believer in healthy eating habits, I still have not forgiven myself for that.
So how am I helping my son get healthier?
Ever since the CB ended, my husband no longer has to be deployed in the dormitories and the children have returned to preschool full-time. In the months since, I have been trying my darndest to reverse the unhealthy diet and lifestyle of my son. From switching his white rice to brown rice, using sweeteners like erythritol in my cooking, to firmly telling my parents and in-laws not to purchase candies for their grandchildren (although my son still does get the occasional treat under my watchful eye). I am also exploring home exercise videos that my son can do on the weekends.
My joy that preschools were excluded from HBL during Phase 2 HA
Perhaps because of the absence of peer pressure to behave properly, or perhaps because expecting a toddler and 6-year-old to sit still in front of a screen is too much to ask, but my children couldn’t keep their eyes on their tablets during their HBL moments. To get them to pay a mere five minutes attention to their lessons is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.
When the media reported that preschools and kindergartens were excluded from HBL during the current Heightened Measures, imagine my joy that I need not have to go through what I did a year ago. Naturally, I sent both my kids to school without fail daily. They would be better behaved and educated, especially when their peers are with them. The teachers would ensure that the children eat only during proper meal times with none of that all-day unhealthy snacking. The children would be amongst their friends, and having fun, balanced with some outdoor physical activities, all of which would keep them occupied and engaged in safe management measures.
But most of all, I get to keep my sanity. This experience has unleashed in me a newfound admiration for Stay-at-Home mothers who can handle two or more children as they juggle the duties of mothers and wives.