The Blogfather’s National Family Pledge

Update:I’ve noted on some quarters that NFC’s affiliation to certain religious, albeit like-minded, community organisations has been called into question. The Blogfather would just like to say that religion has nothing at all to do with the issue, and neither will I join in on a witchhunt based on perception of guilt by association. The National Family Council is, at the end of the day, a community organisation formed with the intention of helping families and promoting family togetherness. This is an issue of fundamental flaws in an otherwise we-thought-it-would-be-nice programme. If you want to play the game on a secular level, you will do well to abide by the rules in which you so vehemently draw people’s attention to. And if you take issue with this update, say it to my Face… book comments in at the bottom of the page.

When I first heard the news that the National Family Council (NFC) came up with a National pledge with the happy endorsement of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), I thought to myself, “Wah, donation drive ah? I thought gahmen is their main sponsor?” Then I read Kirsten Han’s blistering opinion of the National Family Pledge. Her post was the first I’ve ever seen of the Pledge in all its naked glory, and I shook my head thinking (whilst still keeping in line with everybody’s adherence of the family theme), “Oh brother.”

It reeked of the same intentions of the Centre for Fathering’s Better Fathering Index: it starts out innocently enough, but gets severely misplaced, double quick time. Ms Han puts it well in discriminatory terms for the minority classes that are still as much “the people of Singapore” as anybody, so you can read her piece to understand the problems arising from that area.

Instead, The Blogfather is going to give his take on the Pledge as a red-blooded Singaporean family man.?It took us 48 years to take at least some measure of pride in reciting our National Pledge every 9 August. I think with some adjustments, we can hold up the National Family Pledge to the same standards. Just maybe, uh, give the people another 48 years to let it sink in first, yeah???I leave it up to the good people of the NFC and the MSF to take my humble ground opinion however they wish.

Pledge

The Original

Now, the Actual National Family Pledge goes like this:

We, the people of Singapore, pledge to build strong and happy families.
We affirm the commitment of marriage between husband and wife.
And take responsibility to nurture our children, and respect our elders.
We celebrate and honour the roles of each family member.
And uphold the family as the foundation of our lives, and the building block of our society.

The Rewrite

The Blogfather has a suggested rewrite to take into consideration Kirsten’s gripe about inclusiveness, and my own problems with the original pledge (which I jolly well hope is not set in stone yet):

We, the people of Singapore, pledge to build strong and contented families.
We affirm the commitment of unity among our loved ones,
And teach responsibility to our children, and care for our elders.
We celebrate and honour each family member,
And uphold the family as the foundation of our lives.

The Breakdown

And now, for the blow-by-blow:

We, the people of Singapore, pledge to build strong and happy contented families.

“Happy” was the very first word I changed. Strong family bonds are not necessarily borne out of happiness; in fact, between family members or even among friends, we find more often than not that the difficult times and the hard fights we fight with each other serve to bring us much closer than we would expect. It is far more important that we learn contentment in order to come to terms with each other’s, and everyone’s. differences, rather than veil our eyes with the fleeting, temperamental notion of perpetualising happiness.

Happiness is a want, or a reward, and contentment is how we earn that reward. So learning how to be contented, that is what you really need to build, because happiness, when it manifests, never lasts, so better to work on its frequency rather than its lifespan.

We affirm the commitment of marriage between husband and wife?unity among our loved ones.,

As for marriage? In all practicality, we can’t expect the local marital legislation to change overnight. We work on the change, yes, but looking at both sides, I can only say for now that the best that we can hope for in moving towards an all-inclusive society is to take little steps. We start with ourselves, work our way out to the people whom we love and whom we need to love us; and eventually we might one day get to a point where unity is an accepted familial form.

Oh yes, please apply proper punctuation. The line should end with a comma, not a period.

… And take teach responsibility to nurture our children, and respect care for our elders.

I would also choose not to be ambiguous about what we want to “nurture our children” into; take a stance that needs addressing, and just address it. It doesn’t have to be “responsibility”; I’m open to suggestions from the floor. But leave room for interpretation, and you could well get yourselves parents who may be inclined to nurture their children into little Hitlers.

“Respect for elders” is a noble, traditional Asian value that I would personally like to see the entire world be able to uphold. But nobody’s perfect, not us, and not even our elders, and respect is something that I,?as a father to a skeptical 4-year-old boy, have learned has to be earned; you will also understand how the idea will not apply to some “elders” after watching 492 episodes of the same bloody Taiwan soap every evening on Channel 8.

Caring for your elders (and the elderly in general), however, can be (and should be) done outside the purview of respect – that’s what the people of Singapore would call “compassion”.

We celebrate and honour the roles of each family member.,…

Celebrate and honour the people you love, not the jobs they do. Your family is all you have. If you want to celebrate the roles that your family members do, do it on Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Children’;s Day, Youth Day and International Secretary’s Week. But you jolly well love your family members every day.

And again, watch the comma leh.

… And uphold the family as the foundation of our lives.

Finally, let’s leave society out of this, yeah? Not that we don’t care as a society, but the natural transition from self to family to community to society to nation should be left as an unspoken truth, shouldn’t it? In fact it’s pretty addressed in the reverse. When a member of society sees a rude boy pushing people around willy-nilly like he’s the crown-prince of LEGOLAND, society deems him as being “badly brought up”.

And there you go: simple tweaks make for better meaning. But what do I know? I’m just a small fry freelance copywriter. And it’s not like Singapore uses copywriters to write their national songs or anything (much less one on attachment from Canada). Right?

A final note: The National Pledge wasn’t composed in a day; neither should something like this, made to resemble the National Pledge, but as a rallying call to families already having a hard time populating the nation on moral grounds like “What legacy will this country leave my child?” So get it right before you give it sight, NFC; you’re walking on glass.

What Really Goes On in a Dad’s Mind During an Ultrasound

16 July 2013:

At our first ultrasound scan…

Me: “Can I take a photo?”
Sonologist: “Sorry, no photography or video recording allowed. We will print out a photo for you to bring home though.”
Me: “Oh.”

A few minutes later…

ultrasound

Sonologist: “… and there it is.”
Me: “There what is?”
Sonologist: “There.” (Pointing at what looks like a little lump holding a flashing LED lightbulb) “That’s your baby. That flashing thing is its heartbeat.”
Me: (standing up to take a closer look) “Heartbeat? That early?” (By now the wife was 6.8 weeks into it) “It looks like a peanut.”
Sonologist: (sniggering) “That is not a peanut, sir.”
Me: “How can you tell? I mean, what if she just swallowed a peanut?”
Sonologist: “I assure you, sir. That is not a peanut. I speak from experience.”
The wife: “Yes, she has experience. And FYI, it isn’t a lentil either. So calm down.”

babycenter-week-6

And now that we know it isn’t a peanut (or a lentil), the next step is to ascertain whether it is a hamster.

It Was an Accident (Again)

1 July 2013:

Early this month, I received a call from my wife?saying she was going to be late, ?on account of she had a car accident on the AYE. Nothing serious, just a slight bump against another car’s side (car in picture is other party’s).

acident-2

I helped her handle the situation, and managed to settle with the other driver without much hassle.

Now, why is that significant?

3 July 2013:

You may remember I shared an old post a while back about how we found out that we were pregnant with Xander. A few days after this latest scrape, my wife mused lightheartedly about how funny it would be if this latest accident was also a sign from… wherever, that she was pregnant again.

I laughed. “Ahahahahaha! Hahahahaa, heeeheeheeheeheehee…”

4 July 2013:

2013-07-04-10

“… Heeheehe… Oh.”

***

We kept it under wraps until now because we had a few important people we had to notify about this latest development. The very first and most important person we had to tell was Xander.

The Wife: “Baby, there’s something we need to tell you.”
Xander: “What?”
Me: “Your mummy is having a baby. You are going to have a little brother or sister!”
Xander: “AH?!”
The Wife: “Yep!”
(stunned silence)
Xander: “But… Why is it mummy that is pregnant and not Daddy?”

That moment our endearing little boy pointed at my 6-years-old-and-counting pregnant belly. And that is why I am now ?regularly?going to the gym.

To Be Continued…

The War Against Dengue Part 1: A Soldier’s Story

In the early days of my National Service, during a lunchbreak in a field exercise, I noticed my Company Sergeant Major (CSM) standing some distance away from everyone else, holding a small white paper cone with a look of slow, calm concentration around him. Curious, I moved closer to him and peered into the paper cone he was holding.

In the cone was a pile of dead mosquitoes.

“37 so far,” he said. Then he suddenly made a fist in the air, and dropped another mosquito into the cone. “38.”

I looked at him in wonder. Then I asked, “Why, Encik?”

My CSM smiled. “I collect 99 dead mosquitoes. Then I trap one last live mosquito into the cone and leave it in there with its dead friends for a while. After that, I let it go so it will send the message to the other mosquitoes not to bite me because of what it saw.”

For many years after, I wondered about that moment – a lot. Particularly a month before my son’s 1st birthday, which I’ll come back to in another post.

dengue-banner

But then a short while back, I had the privilege to attend a dengue prevention volunteer training workshop and house visit held in Yishun, jointly organised by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the People’s Association (PA), and delivered to varied sections of residents, Yishun Town Council’s contract cleaners and grassroots volunteers from the PA’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Nee Soon Central Zone 6 Resident’s Committee. In order for the volunteers and residents to gain proper footing of the facts before spreading awareness around the estate, the NEA wanted to cover as much ground as possible to explain the current dengue epidemic that Singapore is trying to contend with, and a comprehensive list of Aedes mosquito breeding hotspots that residents need to watch out for, both within their own homes and around their communal environment.

The History Behind the Urgency

From the data presented in the workshop, this country’s seen dengue outbreaks on a very regular basis – every 2 to 3 years since 2005, NEA has kept track of dengue outbreak peaks, each involving one of four different serotypes of the disease, and each outbreak a different “serotype”, or strain, than the last.

dengue-preso

What’s important about this little nugget of information is that while our bodies can build immunity against any given dengue serotype, unlike chicken pox or measles, we can contract dengue fever multiple times, because there are 4 serotypes we have to contend with. This was explained to us by an NEA rep when fellow dad blogger Edmund Tay shared at a roundtable discussion that he contracted dengue fever twice; once in 2005 and again in 2008.

Also, the wave of each outbreak tends to start from the east side of the island and move its way to the west, which explains why we were all at Yishun that day, since Singapore’s well into its current – and worst – outbreak.

Your Home, the Warzone

If you were one of those that thought the recent haze would have cleared out the mosquitoes like a cross-border fogging courtesy of our kind neighbours, NEA informed us that 70% of Aedes mosquitoes breed indoors. So quite aside from the fact that there’s no evidence that a PSI level of 401 would suffocate the little killers, it seems we may well be unknowingly ensuring the survival of the Aedes lineage whilst protecting ourselves from the bad air by closing our windows at home.

aedes-stages

You may have heard of the 10-minute (or 5-step) Mozzie Wipeout. I remember the TV ads, radio announcements and flyers in my mailbox, continuously reminding us to check our flower pots, clear our drains and gutters and turn our pails over. (I also remember?resenting the term “mozzie” being used so endearingly for what I know now to be the one animal species “responsible for killing more humans than any other animal on the planet”.)?but what is less known about the importance of keeping tabs on the water collecting around our living space is that mosquito eggs (they look like black specks of nondescript dirt to the naked eye, and are usually laid just above water lines) can last up to 9 months without touching water, but once they do, they hatch into mosquito larvae, and as you can see, baby “mozzies” are not cute at all.

***

To date, The Blogfather has yet to personally test out whether mosquitoes are really susceptible to the kind of psychological trauma my CSM was trying to inflict. But if you ask me, the preventive measures as put forth by the NEA make a heck of a lot more sense. They’ve provided a whole library of resources not only to educate the public on protecting themselves against dengue, but also to keep track of the ongoing epidemic. If you’re interested in keeping abreast of Singapore’s dengue situation, give the troopers a “like” on their Stop Dengue Now Facebook page for more info, tips and updates on Singapore’s ongoing war against dengue. You can also pay them a visit at?http://www.dengue.gov.sg/?to find out more about why you’ve already joined the war.

aedes-mosquito

[NOT a Review] 320? Below – Keeping the Ice Dream Alive

This is not a review. It’s more like a commentary about the current labour crunch faced by one of many small, mom & pop F&B operators in Singapore. Also, look for the call for help at the end of this post.

320-shopfront

About a month ago, my wife published a review on her blog about this nifty little place near Little India called?320? Below Nitro Cream Cafe. About a day or two after that post was published, the owners of the cafe announced on their Facebook page that they were closing down the business.

We were shocked to say the least. It was Xander’s favourite ice cream parlour, and it was also such a unique concept, we couldn’t fathom how they would not be able to sustain themselves. So I decided to see if I could find out why.

A few hours after I heard the news, I posted this on my Facebook page and personal FB wall:

320-FB-callout

Two days later, one of the owners, Susan, responded.

We met up a week later at their cafe (the shutters were still down). Both Susan and her partner Keith said they’ve had no problems breaking even since they started in October last year, so the business is financially sound. But the problem was manpower; they couldn’t find someone to help them manage the day-to-day operations and part-timers were also very hard to come by. By the time my wife got to talk about them on her blog, they were all burnt out keeping the place running by themselves.

320-Nitro

I’ve seen other perfectly healthy F&B businesses go belly up because of the exact same issue. Hock Lam Beef Noodle’s flagship Upper Serangoon shophouse shut down unceremoniously, and for 3 days (I think), they put up a banner on the front of their shop blaming the government’s foreign labour restriction policy for their inability to find hired help (it was a large banner, with a long writeup).

With?320? Below, the problem they presented was that they didn’t have the requisite number of locals in their employ to hire people who actually wanted to work in an ice cream shop – and the pool of ready F&B job hunters mostly hail from overseas. After speaking with a number of friends in the F&B business, I realised this was a problem?felt widely across ?the industry (except maybe for Eighteen Chefs). But somehow, the idea just didn’t sit right with me.

***

So ultimately, The Blogfather is writing this for 2 reasons (and unfortunately, money is not one of them – and neither is free ice cream).

320-Xan

1. This is my son’s (and my nieces’ and nephew’s) favourite ice cream parlour. I’ve personally had quite enough of standing by watching helplessly as good dreams such as this fade off into the sunset, never to be seen again. Also, my wife is living in the fear that the next food review she puts out will cause the business she’s writing about to also close down (apparently this is not the first time), so I’m trying to break the curse. And if it all doesn’t work out, at least I know I bloody tried.

2. I believe there are locals – and lots of us – who are perfectly fine with working in the F&B service line; just that Susan and Keith, being new inductees into the industry (they previously had very established careers in the finance sector before starting the cafe) were simply looking for help in the wrong places.

But where should they really be looking? This is where I need your help.

320? Below is now looking for a manager for their cafe, as well as a team of permanent part-timers who like to serve up unique, fully customisable freshly concocted nitro cream in KitchenAid Artisan mixers. They need help keeping the dream alive, so if you know anyone who would like to give it a shot, or are interested in it yourself, do give the nice couple with the neat little cornershop a mail at jobs@320below.com.

And if you’re curious about what exactly they serve up (you can see from what Xander’s eating that this is not the usual ice cream you get anywhere else),?320? Below has since reopened, albeit only on weekends for now (Fri-Sat, 2pm-12am and Sundays, 2pm-11pm) until the cafe manages to staff itself up good and proper – or die trying.

Child Care, Child Abuse – Spot the Contradiction

No doubt any parent with a heart would have reeled in shock over last Friday’s alleged child abuse incident at the Toa Payoh branch of NTUC My First Skool. A three-year-old boy sustains a leg fracture after what the school claimed was a “fall”, only to have the parent’s discover through reviewing CCTV footage that something else entirely happened.

cc-abuse

My own first reaction, however, can be summed up with 3 simple words: stupid, stupid, brash.

The First Stupid

How did the entire staff not know there was a security camera installed? For the childcare teacher (who has since been arrested) to blatantly carry out the act of abuse in full view of the CCTV, and for the other staff members in the classroom to remain passive to the incident, is just plain and utter stupidity. But more than that, it speaks of a far greater issue of how they managed to get into the childcare centre as staff in the first place. As much as The Blogfather tries to imagine, I can find no single opportunity throughout the entire hypothesis leading to this incident where brains have been actively applied.

The Second Stupid

This one would take prior experience to know: most, if not all, commercial establishments have a very strict policy of only releasing CCTV footage of their own premises to the relevant authorities for investigative purposes. One of the very first questions I had when I saw the video go public was, why did the childcare centre management allow the parent’s in question to record the footage in the first place?

This is an important point because any misuse of the video evidence may impede on investigations, and should there be a court case (and here, the arrest of the teacher would have made this a criminal case), affect the decision of the court – and not always in favour of the victim.

The Brashness

Screencap from CNA interview with the victim's father
Screencap from CNA interview with the victim’s father

This is the iffy one. A thinking person would hesitate before sharing this over social media, because the virality of its content is guaranteed. If the intention was to attain justice from the eyes of the public, then congratulations, you’ve got the public all riled up. But are the boy’s parents prepared for the backlash?

The preschool educators have all been in a tizzy over the incident. Some of these educators even go so far as to blame the parents, either citing insufficient information, or making assumptions about the child being naughty (ridiculous) or the parents being out to make a buck out of this (even more ridiculous). And as quickly as these comments are made in the educators’ respective online message boards, they are removed for decency sake. I would say the commentary qualify for a third Stupid, except for one thing that explains their reaction to this incident.

The entire profession is now feeling vulnerable, and afraid. Their reactions are defensive, but they are not trying to protect one of their own, the one who erred. They are wondering what’s going to happen to themselves now that this has happened. And to be honest, no one knows (neither the school, nor the parents) what ripples this incident will effect?now that the government is fully involved.

If parents have the autonomy to unleash such fury against not just one teacher now, but an entire profession, through sharing a story that, for all that it speaks of, has yet to be assessed in a court of law, how safe would any educator feel at this point? In just 3 days, I’m already feeling like the preschool sector – a sector sorely in need of a boost in manpower, among other factors – has taken a brutal hit for the sins of one of its members.

But as a dad, under the circumstances, amidst the anger and the feeling of betrayal that a professional outfit I trusted to give care to my child would treat my child this way, would I have done the same?

I can only say, my heart goes out to the parents of the child for having to go through this ordeal.