What does letting kids enjoy their childhood really mean?

10 February 2014
Kids having fun

Girlies having a great time

Does anyone else struggle with this question? Well, I’ll be honest…it didn’t start off as a struggle. It was clear cut to me. I have 2 young girls and I want to bring them up to be competent, self-sufficient, and mature girls, young women and eventually adults. I want them to be able to fend for themselves from a young age, not be spoilt, indulged or feel entitled and most importantly, learn good habits from a young age. In my world view, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Where do these strong views come from? Where I think it always comes from. I guess that was how I was brought up (although I’m sure my parents didn’t have a particularly well thought-out strategy – it’s just the way they happened to raise me). And naturally, I think I turned out strong and independent and capable (apologies – there is no space for humility in this reflective post. I have to be honest here in order to get some honest feedback). And if something worked, then I feel it was worth applying to my kids as well.

When I first met my future husband, I realised that he did not grow up in the same way that I did. Extreme examples of how different our lives were – I was taking public transport to school all by myself at the age of 8 (I did grow up in super safe Singapore though). While my mother-in-law didn’t allow her daughter to sleep in her own room until she got married!!!! (some context: my husband grew up in Bangladesh and they always had household help living in their house and my in-laws didn’t trust who might enter their daughter’s room).

Some other everyday differences – from a fairly young age, cleaning my room, making my own bed, washing the dishes and sweeping the house, serving drinks to guests etc were non-negotiable. I was also given a monthly allowance that I had to learn to manage,  from the tender age of 9! And I was not really given many material things.

Naturally none of these applied to my husband’s family. Their material wishes were largely indulged (although they claim that there were many limits). They of course had household help to sort out the more mundane chores. But there was also an overwhelming thought that kids should be kids and should be indulged  – adulthood was looming and would always be there for them to have to do all of the above. Why place such responsibilities on their young shoulders. My mother-in-law felt it was the job of a mother to indulge her children’s every request.

In light of the different ways we had been brought up, my husband’s initial view was that our kids should be allowed to be kids and be sans responsibilities. However, over 20 years of living in the West and having  2 kids born and brought up in Australia has completely changed his mind!!

So now our kids  – aged 8 and 6 years by the way – are expected to make their own beds, tidy their own rooms, make their own breakfast, lay the table, bring their dishes in from the table to the kitchen and put away their own clothes after the laundry has been  folded.  I’ve actually racked my brains and that is all they are really expected to do. And now I’m thinking they have it too easy!!

But here comes the ‘struggle’ part. My sister-in-law, who still lives in Bangladesh, visited us for 6 weeks and has left thinking we are really hard on our kids and that we don’t let them enjoy their childhood much.

There are other factors contributing to this view too. I have major limits on screen time for my kids, which includes  TV and other technology gadgets. And perhaps, more importantly, for my foodie sister-in-law, she finds it pretty galling that I limit their intake of ‘yummy food’ and also insist that they eat varied and well-rounded meals (i.e. I don’t just cook what they like. I’m very strict about them trying new things and sometimes eating things they don’t like very much). I also limit their intake of biscuits, crisps, lollies, ice-cream etc.. on a daily basis. I insist they eat fruit and other healthy snacks first.

When someone (especially a close relative) stays at your house for a long time and sees the way you parent and leaves disapproving of your ways, it makes you think. I look at her kids and her lifestyle and I don’t want it for my children. My sister-in-law throws birthday parties for her kids that have a minimum of 80 guests! The parties are major productions with themed decorations. All  of her peers celebrate birthdays like that (even grander) and she did tell me that she never wanted her child to ask why other people had such fancy parties and she didn’t. 

Me, I would have no qualms telling my children that we  didn’t think it was the best way to spend our money.

Barbie cake

A Barbie cake is all my baby needed for an awesome birthday party!

Don’t let me mislead you. I am an uber strict parent. Perhaps too strict. There are lots of rules in our house.  For example, ‘Dining Room Rules’ include bringing plates, cups and cutlery back to the kitchen, tucking in their chairs and switching off the lights (my husband REALLY struggles with the ‘tucking in the chairs bit’). Kids have to put their shoes inside the shoe cabinet when they come home. Or they have to place it neatly, if outside (my husband REALLY REALLY struggles with both of these too!). Everything ‘belongs’ somewhere. (I am an uber neat freak and clearly have some ‘control’ issues).

Perhaps it is these many little things that my sister-in-law responded too. Broadly I think I would prefer to stay true to my parenting style. However, her ‘disapproval’ has definitely made me think through my style. Am I too harsh? What, of the many things I believe in, should I stop or pause and what is ok to continue? 

To be fair to my sister-in-law, she never said anything outright. Certainly not to me. But through the bantering relationship she has with her brother (my husband), her views come through loud and clear.

Where do you stand on this spectrum? How far should children be allowed to be children (and what does it really MEAN?) and what are the limits? I would love to hear your views!

Girls Bedroom Update

04 November 2013

Oh this blog hasn’t really taken off, has it?  Almost a couple of years later, I’m back and I thought I should at least provide an update on what has gone on with the girls’ room. 

Most of my ideas did come to fruition. The now 6 yr old definitely has her own bed. Unfortunately it’s not exactly the same bed as her sister’s because this time we opted for a bed with storage drawers at the bottom (it’s such a small room and storage for 2 girls is a challenge).  We did get some paint on – striped walls and all and the painted Ikea spice rack/ bookshelves went up a treat too. I went a different route for the bed linen though.

So this is what it ended up looking like.


Painted Wardrobe doors and painted Ikea spice rack bookshelves and a pretty little decal.

For the bed linen, I fell in love with another new trend, the Indian kantha. I got two matching aqua ones for the girls room and layered it on top of some beautiful Kas bedlinen. We also painted the stripes on the walls the same colour as the wardrobe doors on the other side of the room. 


Kas Bedlinen and Indian kantha quilts.

We probably need some sort of valance because the trundle bed, which doesn’t have a mattress but more storage boxes doesn’t look so good as it is. And a dresser in that middle space is definitely needed as well – the girls clothes and things are just overflowing!  Am looking into some Ikea or pine options as I definitely wanted to pain them too. Maybe a pastel green.

So what do you think?

Girls Bedroom

25 January 2012

My baby is 4.5 yrs old and still in a cot! Yes, I know, I know!! So we’re going to buy her a bed. But because she has to share a bedroom with her big sister and there just isn’t that much room in their tiny bedroom, we have no choice but to have a hideous L-shaped layout for their room. (& no, bunkbeds wouldn’t have worked because the ceiling is low and we have a fan). Which means – ugly layout, no pretty bedside tables and mismatched beds (we can’t have the same beds, as baby girl’s bed needs to have underbed storage,  seeing how the existing chest of drawers in the room has to be banished). In other words – boo hoo!

Anyway, so this is more or less what the room looks like now:

An old picture of the girls' room pre-chest of drawers and new carpets. But chest of drawers are ugly, so you're not missing much!

And these are some of the ideas I’ve had to TRY and pretty up the room…

We’re going to paint some wide stripes onto the wall and paint the cupboard doors.  Something like this:

We'll go for something a little less pink...more mauve-y. Contrast it with a cream.

We’ll create these wonderfully cheap and cheerful Ikea spice rack book shelves. Something like this:

We'll paint ours to match our room decor.

And we’ll find some matching bed linen for both the girls beds. Now, here’s where I ran into a small glitch. I don’t seem to like the kids’ bed linen around. Plus it’s hard when the younger one still likes everything Dora related and ALL things pink, while the older one is getting too cool for school and only BLUE will do!

But the grandest problem of all – what I decided I like is crazeeee expensive. The wonderfully vibrant (but in my humble opinion still kid-friendly) Otomi textile from Mexico. Available in Australia from Table Tonic. And if you’ve clicked on the picture then you’ll see what I mean about the prices!

For the girls room, I'd love a pink and teal or turquoise version.

But to my utter delight, I came across Spoonflower, where you can create your own custom fabric or buy other people’s custom creations – isn’t that the most fantastic idea?? Anyway, there’s no way in hell I was going to be able to create a custom fabric, but I found some Otomi look-alikes!


Wish there was a teal coloured one as well. Might have to choose turquoise instead.

So now I’m thinking that I can use these MUCH cheaper fabric alternatives to make into duvet covers for both girls’ beds.

And then I’ll have to find some art work and hopefully the too-small, too-difficult room will look somewhat nicer! I’m not sure how long it will all take, but when it’s done, I’ll post a picture of the after!

My Suzani

26 September 2011

Bear with me – this will be my last word on suzanis (for a little while at least). Just wanted to say that my chair obsession led me to buy my own suzani. Ebay has loads. Slight problem though…the bloody internet distorted the colour!! So I’ve basically spent a lot of money on something I didn’t really want :-(. It’s not all bad. The design I liked is still there. And most of the colours are true. BUT I thought I’d be getting a white background. Instead it’s beige!!! That’s a HUGE difference! Let me try and explain it a little better:

This is what I thought I was getting:

Please tell me the background doesn't look white to you...

But this is what I received…

A DECIDEDLY beige background!

A close-up just so that there’s no confusion!

Suzani close up so you can see that it is definitely beige!

Don’t get me wrong…I still like it. But I LOVED the picture that I literally bought into!! This has taught me one thing though…next time I go shopping for suzanis, I’m going directly to Uzbekistan. I’m not kidding either…maybe next year…(the fact is that travelling through Central Asia has always been on my bucket list)

Anyway, in the meantime, I have to decide what to do with it. It’s certainly not big enough for any upholstery work (i.e. for a suzani chair), so maybe I’ll use  it as a wall hanging. It comes with straps on the top end of the suzani, which I imagine were placed there from when it probably did hang up on a yurt!! Knowing me, it’ll take me another year to get it up. Rest assured, when the suzani is up in my house in all it’s glory, I’ll post a picture here!

More about chairs

25 September 2011

At the risk of being totally boring, I just want a few more words about chairs. Firstly, since I’m sharing the love, I might as well show you a couple more chairs that I’m loving. This time they’re in Ikat prints. Yes, yes – also on trend. I’m not necessarily a trend-chaser, but what can I say? These current trends are doing it for me!  So here goes…what do you think?

This style of chair is a great alternative to a wingback - I don't know if there is a name for it though!

I have a thing for colour, so this one appeals as well!

Anyway, I’m more partial to the suzani chairs but what about you – suzani or ikat? I know there’s a danger of these prints going off-trend and totally dating my room, but the thing is, as mentioned before,  it’s not the trend I’m chasing –  I just love the prints. By the way, anyone catching my design drift? I love ethnic – a collection of art and pieces from around the world (ideally personally collected). It’s as much about the aesthetic as it is about the story behind it…

Many moons later…

24 September 2011

More than a full year later, I’m back. All that I have to say has been sadly eaten up by my busee busy-ness. And I do mean the pun. Because the good news is that at least one of my ‘plans’ has come into fruition. I did start my online business and it’s been running for just over a year! So I’ve graduated from being only a ‘MUM’ , sidestepped being a ‘housewife’ and am a full-fledged SUPERWOMAN. Wishful thinking of course. Any working woman will know that there is no such thing as a ‘superwoman’ (just a woman who tries really hard and is probably failing at almost all of them – not to be overly pessimistic or anything). But I digress…the fact is that I am now officially an entrepreneur (plus mum, plus housemaid, plus driver, plus chef of course).

In order to continue maintaining my anonymity, I will not put my website address on here (and thereby potentially missing a search engine optimisation opportunity – haha – look at me talking such sophisticated online marketing speak!!) but I am incredibly proud of myself for starting up the business, for doing so well in my first year and trying hard to rack my brains and busting my gut to try and make sure I don’t sink in this terrible retail slump climate!  The main thing I wanted to say about the business is that….I’ve done it!

And about my other plans…the round the world trip…still on the cards. Still getting horribly distracted every once in a while while I work and re-work the itinerary. But I’ll save many millions of other posts on that topic till later.

What I did want to talk about is this : suzanis…I am in LURVE! For those who don’t know, suzanis are embroidered textiles from the Central Asian region (mainly Uzbekistan). I should point out that while suzanis are traditionally passed down as part of wedding trousseaus and used to decorate yurts (yes yurts!), in the West, they’re used for upholstery, wall hangings, as bed spreads etc.. They’re all the design rage in the US, but in Australia…not so much. So there aren’t many shops here to feed my obsession, so I’ve done what any good suzani lover would do and turned to the internet. And these are some examples that I’ve found – that i am positively COVETING.

My absolute favourite. It's not for sale but if it was, I'd order it from the US - no matter the cost!!

This is available to buy in the UK but I really wanted a wingback. If anyone knows where to buy this fabric, let me know!!

This upholstery fabric IS available to buy but it's probably my least favourite of the 3.

so what do you think? wouldn’t you love one or two of these in your house??

Plans, plans and more plans…

20 March 2010

When I started the blog, I thought I had so much I needed to say and I didn’t want to bore my loved ones (who probably think I love the sound of my own voice a little bit too much anyway!). But all this stuff to say doesn’t seem to have translated into writing. But I’m back. & I still have lots to say.

What have I been thinking about…ok obsessing about? Well, two things to be precise. 

 1) A round-the world trip to be taken with my husband and two kids (yes, will have to pull them out of school), but wait for this….in SIX YEAR’S TIME!! I’m not ashamed of the time-line…I mean, to afford a trip like that (and I’m talking about a 6 to 9 month long trip), you do need to plan and save and plan and think through things. I’ve started early and that’s ok. But I’ve been spending ALL my internet time researching where to go, the best time to travel to the places I think I want to go to, the potential itinerary, the milestones in the kids’ schooling that we’ll have to get around, the finances. It  must be a phase and it’s taking me away from what I REALLY should be concentrating on…

which is…another plan…

2) To start up my own online business. I’ve been a ‘dedicated’ stay-at-home mom for the last 5 years and from next year, my younger daughter will be going to pre-school (2 days a week) and I feel that I need to be doing something else. Not so much because I’ll get bored or won’t have enough to do, but because I know that if I don’t then I’ll have to officially accept my role as a full-time housewife and I have no desire to do that. You see, I’m a MOM not a housewife at the moment 🙂 Anyway, there’s so much I need to do re: my business. First priority is finishing the damn business plan. I am SO procrastinating.  I have to do lots of research and I think I’m afraid that I might find that my business idea is not viable once I do do the research! But this round-the-world trip planning isn’t helping either!!!!

Ok, so it’s actually just plan & plan. No ‘more plans’…everything else is on hold till I know where I’m at with my business. The aim is to launch at the back-end of this year or beginning of next year. There, I’ve committed it on cyberspace now, so hopefully I’ll hop to it and make sure it happens. Wish me luck all ye folks that are NOT reading this blog – hahahaha!!!!

Buying and selling and moving

13 May 2009

So I haven’t really been around. The blogging thing didn’t quite take off. But I’ve been busy – really. Planning to rent a house, which morphed into planning to buy a house, which became a reality when we bought a house. Which led in turn to selling a house. & now we’re planning the move into the house. So in short, it’s been busy.

More importantly though, I think we’ve been lucky. EXTREMELY so. Or maybe we’re just astute. Really savvy real estate types (haha – not really). There is a global economic recession going on. Which means that house prices have fallen drastically in Australia and interest rates have also plummeted to an affordable level (affordable for us at least). So unfortunately we’re benefitting where others are suffering. But the price we got our house for is really unbelievable. It was a steal. & it was a private sale – we bought the house of a friend’s dad who is on the cusp of retiring and needed the cash. The house is small, but the location is beyond prime! A minute from the main drag of shops & restaurants and the same distance to the local primary school that boasts an excellent reputation.

And the apartment we sold? Got it at our asking price. A price that even our estate agent thought was ambitious, but one that I insisted on. Because I believed we needed to start high in order to give ourselves the chance to come down in price, should we need to. & no sale would be fun (in hindsight of course) without a bit of drama. A prospective purchaser made an offer below our asking price, subject to his bank valuation of the property. But the bank’s valuation came back about $50,000 below his offer!! But he still wanted the apartment and so still made an offer but this time reduced his offer by $20,000. We needed to buy our house and were almost going to accept but said that we’d hold off any decision-making until one more viewing. & that very Saturday we got our golden offer at our asking price. Tell me that is not lucky!

Anyway, so all is set in stone. We’re moving next month and there might be silence till after we move. But it’s all happening and I’m excited!

Celebrating NYE – Mama stylee

31 December 2008

It’s Sydney. Great weather. New Year’s Eve. Young people are dressed up ready to have a great time and what am i doing? Back from the 9pm family friendly fireworks (which lasted all of 8 minutes) and already in my pyjamas, drinking some coca-cola so that I can stay up till midnight to watch the midnight fireworks on TV. But even that might not happen. I just may fall asleep before then. I blame it on my kids of course. But  it’s not them. It’s me. I could hire a babysitter and go out and paint the town red but all I can think of is that the streets will be so crowded, the transport situation so painful and that my bed and home are so much more comfortable. I am not above a late night, but it really has to be worth it. & not require too much effort! I wonder if this is just called getting old?

Wannabe photographer

29 December 2008

I can’t take good photos but I really want to. I’m thinking of taking some classes. Get up to speed with the technicalities of photography. So that i know the theory at least. But  really… not sure that will do me any good. I’m not being self-deprecating but I really don’t think I have the ‘eye’ for composing good photos. With such self-awareness, one would have thought that the decision to buy a top-of -the-range digital camera vs. a perfectly acceptable point and shoot would not have been so torturous. But I called every electronics retailer. I GRILLED the digital camera guys on the pros and cons of both cameras. I regaled them with tales of how I have used my camera to date and insisted that they make a recommendation. The thought process went like this: the point-and-shoot was good, the best in its category. Comes in funky colours even. But i WANT to take better photos. I might NEED a better camera. What if taking good photos can be learnt and I regret not getting the better camera. Then I called my husband and asked for his opinion. He pretty much decided it for me. He said – ‘You know me… I’d buy the more expensive, better camera. Take classes, take good photos. BUT, BUT, BUT, you’re a klutz. You’re going to destroy this camera like you’ve ruined the last one. Go with the cheaper one. DEFINITELY.’  Oh ye of little faith. Or does he just know me very well??