They Know

“Why did you spank me that hard?”
“No. I know that it was not too hard.”
“But you were angry and that was not the right way of doing it! And you didn’t really like me when you hugged me afterwards!”

Her words sent a chill down my spine. She knew.

When we had our Bible discussions with fellow parents about “how to properly discipline our children,” she had been listening. When I spouted out all the doctrinal truths which I ought to have adhered to, she had been taking note. When I disciplined her without yelling, yet without love, she felt the absence. When the reconciliation hug was just a mere going through the motions, she knew. And, especially as an Asian, if I spank her to “save my face” and not for her restoration, she will know. She always knows.

I like to tell my children that I know them best and what is best for them, but what I didn’t really realize was that they, too, know me best. My day to day attitude, my response to things, my emotions, speech and deeds; my life is always at full display before them. I can write, say or show others what I want others to think about who I am but it’s my closest ones who know who I really am. Or more profoundly, they know whether what I write, say or show to others is what I really am.

Such realization is a constant cause for both trembling and joy. Trembling, because I will inevitably leak out to my closest ones the ugliest side of my sinful-self, and how I am so full of potential to lead them away from the faith I profess. My greatest fear is to have my children see me as a hypocrite and by hypocrisy subject them to condemnation.

But thanks be to God who is faithful and promises victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ. He has not only designed for us parents to be His authoritative representation to our children, but has also set family as a place where gospel is continually portrayed. We are fellow sinners to our children, who constantly offend them in our sins and must constantly repent and seek their forgiveness. I thank God for He made little children very forgiving, they do not hold grudge and they forgive freely. To be forgiven and be genuinely loved despite my failures is a joy unspeakable. It is the gospel.

I wish nothing more than to have my God and my children find me faithful and truthful. May God help!


Homekeeping Freedom

The first thing that came to my mind after a good sweating of scrubbing the kitchen top and the cooking hob was “How wonderfully clean things will stay if only no more cooking should ever be done here!”

The next thing, of course, was to realize how foolish could that idea be. What’s the point of having the kitchen there if there’s no cooking to do?

I see now, I was doing the cleaning with the intention of freeing myself from the cleaning itself. It’s of little wonder why I get disappointed and discouraged by the mere thought of having a mess to clean again soon from the next cooking, or meal, or play. I see now why, especially after a thorough house cleaning, I get easily irritated just by having living beings living in the house.

My housekeeping serves no one but myself. I think that summarizes why. The irony of it all is, the freedom that I am chasing is an elusive one, and is in fact not a freedom. Instead, it binds me and my family away from living freely in our own home. Because every act of living we do will inevitably violate the cleanness and tidyness of the house. And that is absurdly funny, is it not? Having a house that you can’t live in?

I see now the real freedom housekeeping affords me is the freedom to serve my loved ones again and again. And the real reason why there is a need for my housekeeping is because my loved ones are fed, clothed, and taken care of in this house. As the proverb goes, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” In my current season of life, mess is the mark of productivity, and cleaning is the means to continuity.

As sure as there is pleasure in doing others good, so it turns out, the true pleasure that homekeeping gives is the repeated pleasure of providing hospitality, joy and happiness for others (often, the dearest ones). The satisfaction felt in seeing a sparkling clean and tidy house after a good sweating out is then a ‘bonus’.

Our Wonderful Dad – Happy Father’s Day 2017

We have a wonderful dad
Whose shoulders we’ve always had
As a friend he is not bad
But don’t you dare make him mad!

He reads to us every night
He slides with us from the height;
He teaches us the Lord’s way
And joins us too in our play

Though he won’t listen as we say
“Daddy, please don’t go to work today!”
We are well fed and well cared for
What could daughters ask for more?

So Daddy, Happy Father’s Day!
Please know we love you everyday!

Your Little Nonas
18 June 2017

Not Mini Adult


Children are not adults in wee little size. Though often we, the adults, expect them to be and treat them as one, to our own frustration. It’s probably about time we accept that being children means:

1. Covering their mouth AFTER, not before, sneezing (God forbid, with a full mouth, at someone’s face).
2. Asking pointless questions endlessly.
3. Cannot sleep when you want them to sleep.
4. Cannot wake up when you want them to wake up.
5. Wearing their slippers the wrong side.
6. Needing to pee, poo, at the wrong time.
7. Asking you to do the same thing again, and again, and again (please auto repeat).
8. Cannot find the ‘missing’ toy that is right in front of their nose.
9. Being so engrossed in what they do that they are deaf to you calling them.
10. Being so in tune with your voice that they know it when you whisper to yourself “let me get some chocolate”.
11. Do not understand/operate based on/respond to common sense.
12. Always moving (or talking).

And a thousand more.

Science will tell us that some of the above are because it’s in their wiring, and the rest are because it’s not yet in their wiring. What then, if it’s their wiring and there’s nothing that adults can do to make these little ones otherwise, does it not make more sense to conclude that this time window must have been meant to be a learning and growing opportunity for the adults?

Apparently, children are not the only ones growing and learning. Adults must, too. When the adults learn to forebear children’s childishness, with tenderness and compassion, that’s when the adults learn to be parents.

God help us to be parents.

“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” – Psalms 103:13-14

Happy Lunar New Year 2017 – More Than Just Food


Even though this year I am again unable to make the trip back home for the reunion dinner, reliving some of the taste of home certainly brings me back to the fragrance of our late grandma’s table and the merry chit-chat of three generations’ folks around it.

Growing up in a close knitted family and having a tradition to remember is indeed a blessed thing. I hope our two girls, too, will grow up with a table and family tradition to cherish. Because a shared meal means so much more than just happy tummies. As the saying goes, the family that eats together stays together.

Wishing all of you a warm reunion and blessed Lunar new year!

P. S.
Sharing with you our favorite pork belly family recipe so that I will not be the only one coming out with belly excess this CNY 😉

Emotion Is a Gift from God


The Tantrum Specialist

Our second daughter, Mila, is one emotional child ever since her newborn-hood. Her will is unbent, her tantrum intense. She cannot contain her excitement, and she expresses her sadness in manner that (I think) is beyond baby.

In this video was one of her emotional moments. It was taken when the eldest and I went to catch the Christmas Wonderland at Gardens By The Bay, leaving her with Hubby at home. We left while she was napping. I was told later that she was visibly upset but was rather quiet the entire evening. She finally broke down in tears after a lonely dinner.

Being blessed with an emotional child provides parents with its own challenge to struggle through. While dealing with their emotion, we may very often be overwhelmed ourselves, but we must remember to look at it as a blessing.

With it, humans are enabled to live their lives meaningfully. They are made able to love and be loved, to know grief and therefore learn to cherish, to fear and revere what is beyond them.

Ultimately, emotion equips man for a rich relationship with the Creator, with which they may feel the wonder of His love and be fulfilled by His joy, presently and even more so in the eternity. What a powerful gift! A gift when rightly used, blesses mankind in ways that are beyond the capacity of any other creatures, but when corrupted, turns them into the worst of beasts. And herein lies both encouragement and solemn warning for parents. Nip it not in the bud, as it is not meant for suppression, trim it dutifully while basking it in the Light of Heaven’s Sun, and see it bloom into the beauty it is meant to be.

To the God who has bestowed this child with the gift of strong emotion, we will turn our gaze and plea.

Grant us, O Lord, everything we need
to raise this child to be the master of her emotion.
And if it pleases Thee,
a fierce lover of Thy name.

Hidup Hemat: Kebajikan dari Masa Lampau


(This is the Indonesian translation of the original post Frugality: Virtue of The Past, as it was meant to be a tribute to my parents, who will better understand the article in their national language.)

Baru-baru ini saya nganterin anak ke pesta ulang tahun temannya, biasalah, kalau sudah punya anak, kita pada cuma jadi supir atau bodyguard, anak-anak inilah yang menjadi tamunya. Sore itu cuaca panas dan acaranya di ruang terbuka, pas sekali para tamu disuguhi cemilan Es Ganefo – es yang biasanya dibuat dengan membekukan minuman bermacam rasa dalam wadah plastik silinder. Sering juga dikenal dengan sebutan Es Lilin.

Gegara Es Ganefo ini, saya jadi teringat kenangan masa kecil, kenangan baik yang membuat kangen. Oh bukan, saya bukannya sering jajan Es Ganefo semasa kecil, saya lebih sering dengar cerita tentang Es Ganefo. Soalnya Es Ganefo ini obyek ceramah favorit Papa di rumah, semacam kuliah beliau di meja makan.

“Kalian ini tidak sadar diri seberuntung apa ya? Waktu Papa seumur kalian, Papa mesti keliling-keliling berpanas-panas jualan Es Ganefo naik sepeda!”, begitulah Papa memulai ceramahnya, “Yaa elahhh Es Ganefo, Es Ganefo lagiiii…”, pikir kami diam-diam.

Orangtua kami memegang standar yang ketat kalau urusan membelanjakan uang. Seperti umumnya etnis Cina keturunan generasi mereka, mereka besar dalam masa yang sulit. Mereka mengalami dan tau jelas apa itu hidup miskin dan berkekurangan.

“Habiskan makananmu!”
Papa selalu membelikan makanan apa saja yang kami minta, tapi jangan coba-coba menyisakan makanan sehingga terbuang. “Tidak tau bersyukur ya kalian ini, waktu kami kecil, mau makan yang kalian buang ini pun kami tak bisa! Tau tidak, mie pansit pun kami cuma bisa makan setahun sekali!” Belum lagi cerita beliau tentang gulai ikan.. “Kami delapan bersaudara kalau mau makan gulai ikan, cuma bisa beli ikannya satu, minta kuahnya sepanci.”

Soal mainan, Papa sedikitpun tidak melonggarkan standar. Saya masih ingat dua kalinya saya pernah minta dibelikan mainan. Yang satu adalah boneka beruang berwarna ungu saat masih duduk di bangku TK. Berkali-kali kami mendatangi toko kelontong penjual boneka ini, dengan rengekan yang tidak berhenti, akhirnya saya dibelikan juga. Yang satunya lagi adalah Playstation set, kira-kira sewaktu saya kelas 4 SD. Saya dan adik terus-menerus meminta untuk dibelikan Playstation. Setelah lama didesak terus, akhirnya beliau mengalah, tapi bukan tanpa mengomeli kami dengan “Bapakmu tukang cetak duit ya.”

Sering juara kelas itu tidak bisa dijadikan alasan untuk minta dibelikan macam-macam mainan. Nilai bagus untuk mainan? Tujuan pendidikan kami bukan untuk sesuatu yang sedangkal itu.

Segala sesuatu pakainya harus hemat. Kami paling takut kalau Papa sudah mulai merapikan isi lemari TV, biasanya tanpa terduga. Kalau sudah kami lihat Papa mulai beberes, biasanya kami cepat-cepat kabur ke kamar. Tak lama pasti terdengar omelan Papa sambil mengumpulkan banyak penghapus, pensil dan barang-barang kami lainnya yang kami sangka sudah lama hilang dari dalam lemari. “Terus! Beli baru, beli baru terus ya!”

Almarhumah Nenek dari pihak Papa bahkan lebih ketat lagi standarnya. Pernah sekali saya dimarahi beliau karena minta pulpen baru setelah menghilangkan yang lama. “Kecil-kecil sudah royal ya! Besar mau jadi apa?” Padahal juga bukan Montblanc (memang sih anak kelas 2 SD juga tidak kenal Montblanc), cuma pulpen murah yang semua anak tahun 90an pasti pernah punya. “Tuh kan, memang keturunan..”, kami biasa bergosip dengan para sepupu. Kaum Hainan memang katanya menjunjung tinggi nilai berhemat. Tapi untuk anak-anak seperti kami pasti berpikir itu namanya pelit. Tiga sepupu kami bahkan berasal dari kelompok dialek yang lebih hemat lagi dari kaum Hainan. Kami hanya bisa menyelamati mereka, semoga bertahan.

Kami juga dilatih untuk memakai air dan listrik secara teliti. (Setelah bertahun-tahun diomeli, mematikan saklar ketika meninggalkan ruangan itu menjadi kebiasaan yang otomatis, seolah-olah akan ada alarm yang berbunyi kalau lupa mematikan.) Menampung air dalam ember juga umum meskipun kamar mandi kami sudah modern.

“Coba jual kerupuk Jangek ini, baru kalian tahu untuk mendapatkan lima ratus rupiah itu usahanya seberapa.” (Kalau dikurs ke mata uang Singapura saat itu kira-kira senilai 10 sen.) Uang dinilai dengan kerja dan usaha, bukan dari bunga bank ataupun bunga saham, ini pegangan kami ketika membelanjakan uang. Jadi memang “uang hasil keringat” dalam arti sesungguhnya. Dalam enam bulan pertama saya di Singapura untuk studi, berat badan saya menurun sebanyak 8 kg. Sama halnya dengan kedua adik saya, berat badan mereka menurun banyak ketika awal-awal keluar kota melanjutkan studi. Datang dari kota kecil seperti Pematangsiantar, biaya hidup di kota besar, bahkan biaya sekali makan saja, bisa berkali-kali lipat dari normal kami. Wajar kalau kami akhirnya menghemat makan dengan ketat untuk mengurangi rasa bersalah kami yang sudah menghabiskan banyak uang hasil keringat orangtua (tentu saja orangtua sedih ketika tahu kami berbuat demikian).

Dengan begitu banyak omongan tentang bagaimana kami harus hidup hemat, mungkin membuat orang berpikir bahwa Papa seorang kikir yang pantang mengeluarkan satu peser pun. Tapi kebiasaan keluarga kami seminggu sekali untuk makan bersama di luar, dan juga pemakaian uang untuk Mama berbelanja pakaian maupun untuk tujuan amal menunjukkan sebaliknya. Kuncinya mungkin bukan ‘tidak membelanjakan uang’, melainkan ‘memanfaatkan uang secara bijak dan bertanggungjawab’. Sesungguhnya nilai uang itu terletak justru pada penggunaannya, sebab uang yang diam dan tersimpan selamanya itu sama tidak bergunanya seperti talenta yang terkubur dalam perumpamaan Yesus tentang talenta, atau seperti seguci kepingan emas yang terkubur dan akhirnya dicuri dalam salah satu  dongeng karangan Aesop, tanpa guna di dalam simpanan.

Adalah bijak untuk mengingat pentingnya uang, tetapi kita pun harus berhati-hati untuk tidak menggelembungkan uang hingga melampaui ukuran sepantasnya. “Ingat, jangan memandang koin uang sampai sebesar roda pedati.”, demikian nasihat rutin Papa. Kalimat inilah yang menjadi penyeimbang terhadap semua ajaran beliau tentang pentingnya uang dan berhemat.

Kini, kami mengelola rumah tangga kami sendiri dan membesarkan anak-anak kami sendiri dalam kehidupan yang cukup nyaman di Singapura. Mungkin tidak lagi ada keperluan untuk hidup berhemat. Hemat itu tidak gampang, tidak nyaman, dan tidak menyenangkan. Tapi kita sejatinya sedang melakukan pembodohan terhadap diri dan anak-anak kita kalau kita berpikir dan mengajarkan bahwa hidup hemat dan beririt itu hanya respon semata terhadap masa sulit. Rasa berkecukupan, bersahaja, pengendalian diri, pemakaian sumber daya yang bertanggungjawab, dan tenggang rasa terhadap kaum tak berpunya yang dipupuk melalui kebiasaan hidup irit, uang lebih yang boleh disisihkan dari hidup berhemat untuk tujuan amal; kebajikan-kebajikan seperti inilah yang menjadikan kita manusia yang lebih baik. Seperti kata William J. Bennett, anak-anak (manusia) itu pada dasarnya adalah makhluk moral dan rohani, dan inti dari pendidikan adalah nilai-nilai kebajikan.

Orangtua yang memaksa dan melatih anak-anaknya untuk hidup irit mungkin bukan orangtua yang disenangi (untung saja mereka tidak mempermasalahkan suka tidaknya kita kepada mereka). Setiap didikan memang sepertinya tidak menyenangkan pada saat diterapkan, namun seiring waktu ia menghasilkan buah kebenaran dan damai bagi mereka yang dilatih olehnya (kitab Ibrani 12:11). Melihat ke belakang, saya mensyukuri dan mengagumi dedikasi orangtua dalam menerapkan hidup hemat dan sikap irit. Semoga saya pun bisa mewariskan kebajikan ini kepada generasi selanjutnya.

“Isilah pikiranmu dengan semua yang benar, semua yang mulia, semua yang adil, semua yang suci, semua yang manis, semua yang sedap didengar, semua yang disebut kebajikan dan yang terpuji.” – Rasul Paulus, kitab Filipi 4:8