Things I don’t love about Singapore (kids edition)

I thought that it was only fair, given last week’s love letter to Singapore to be equally honest about things I don’t love about Singapore.

Since the things I probably talk about loving the most have to do with my kids, I thought it only fair to talk about the stuff I don’t like with regards to them first.

1-People give Ellie candy…constantly

I’m actually fairly pro-candy on an occasional basis.  But people (store clerks, doctors, her violin teacher, taxi drivers, etc) are constantly giving her lollipops and these little sweets.  It’s like they walk around with their pockets full of them, and just randomly give them out to kids.  In principal, I realize it’s meant as a nice gesture, but as an example-today the woman at the chicken rice store gave her a lollipop as she was handing me Ellie’s dinner.  Luckily after over a year of this, Elanor is resigned to the fact that I get to dictate when she gets the candy.

Chupa Chup lollipops–a common suspect

2-People stepping in when I am disciplining my child

Let me be clear…I do not cane or spank my child.  I don’t curse her out.  I put her in time out, or I make her sit in a shopping cart, or I tell her “no, you can’t have that thing”.  Then Ellie starts crying.

Here is where the trouble starts.  Strangers walk up to her and tell her things like “don’t cry” and “what’s wrong?” or offer her candy.

I generally love how child friendly the country is…but when my kid is crying and I’m explaining to her that she doesn’t get everything she wants or that she is in time out, or I’m even just standing there, obviously handling it…interfering doesn’t help.  It generally makes things worse.  It’s sort of the flip side of everyone being sweet and welcoming of children…they also feel that they can/should step in without knowing any of the details.

No, really…I’ve got this.

3-The accessible entrances that aren’t

I have been pushing a stroller around Singapore for about 2 years, and while Singapore is likely the most stroller friendly country in Southeast Asia…I have some serious beefs with what constitutes “accessible.”

Every so often, you will be going through a mall connector (say from city hall to Marina Bay Financial Tower)…and in the middle of an otherwise ramped/accessible throughway…there is a random set of stairs.  Or the random set of stairs at the bottom of an escalator.  Or there will be an escalator in one direction (up, for example, from the parking lot to the entrance at Indoor Stadium) but not the other…an escalator can be stroller friendly in a pinch, but stairs are an issue, especially if I’m on my own.

I am deeply grateful not to be in a wheelchair in Singapore.  I spent 8 weeks in one, and it was so profoundly hard that I barely left the house.

4-People’s love of and respect for kids/moms goes just as far as the elevator door

Look, I really don’t love taking my stroller on an escalator or two…but when I need to get 8 stories, or 5 (or say, at United Square where everything but the 2nd floor has stairs between the “floor” of the mall and the parking lot level of the same name) I really need to get in an elevator.  Unfortunately, the elevator door is where people’s courtesy ends.  I have learned to use my stroller as a weapon, especially when I *was* there first, because I’ve gotten shoved aside and had people shove on in front of me too many times.

This is one thing where the US wins when it comes to kid friendly.  Generally speaking (although of course I’m sure it happens, and has even happened to me) when a parent with a baby is waiting for an elevator, s/he is let on first and then people fit on afterward.  Otherwise they wait or take the escalator.

I don’t know if it’s because the malls here are generally 5+ stories or what, but it irritates the crap out of me.  I have literally had to wait over half an hour for an elevator, even when I’m willing to do anything–go up to go down or the inverse just to get on the elevator.

All those escalators I’ve taken?  Have resulted in me replacing two wheels on my stroller thus far after escalators took a chunk out of the wheel.  I’ve resigned myself to thinking it won’t be the last time either.

5-The negative side of the academic coin

Yes, Ellie is getting a fantastic education.  Yes, Singapore is a leader in academics.  That is not to say that there isn’t room for improvement…

We love our pre-k school…I wish she wouldn’t age out of it after K2

There is a lot of pressure to put your children in school early, and to get them tutors early.  I think the reason I didn’t experience much of it is that I had Ellie in classes at 2 1/2, which is a fairly typical age for kids to start.  But a friend of mine, whose son just turned four says that she has gotten tremendous pressure to put him in school, regardless of whether he is ready or not.

Tutors also start fairly young.  With Elanor getting Mandarin daily in class, and Ravi and I having zero fluency in Mandarin (beyond the occasional word we picked up from Ni Hao Kai Lan) we are actually considering getting her a Mandarin tutor sometime this year or next so that she can keep up.  I certainly feel concerned that I can’t support her in her Mandarin.

I like that the schools here range from Montessori t0 very academic, so there is likely a good fit for every kid (at least in the pre-k/k category).  However, not every kid is ready for school at the same age, or the same approach, and the variation in approaches dwindles as kids age into the primary and secondary schools.  As kids age, there is far more push for every child to excel, and tutors are seen as the way to get your kid up to the level (or to be ahead).

Along with that, there are not a lot of choices for parents of special needs students.  Few schools are equipped to (or choose to) address learning disabilities, autistic kids, or other students whose needs may not be standard (I haven’t heard much about students who have physical disabilities or how their needs are addressed).  It is my understanding that awareness of these issues is starting to grow, but that few schools address them.

Readers with kids…any pet peeves you want to share?

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12 Responses to Things I don’t love about Singapore (kids edition)

  1. Dawn says:

    I love the fact that you are so on top of the tantrum that you have a chance to take a picture of it! (Or is that posed? If so, Ellie has a future in acting!)

    • Crystal says:

      No, that’s from 4th of July 2010. She was pitching a fit about something ridiculous, and I had the camera handy…and thought it would make a funny picture. If I recall, I used the picture to make her laugh and forget what stupid thing she was pitching the fit about.

  2. Robin says:

    Thankfully, my son hasn’t been given too much candy. Whew! Guess I’m lucky. But boy do I hear you with the elevator/lift issue! That was one of the first things that contributed to my culture shock, and it still drives me nuts! I also constantly get asked when my son will be in school. I prefer to educate him at home for the time being and give him social interaction through Little Gym, music class, etc.

    There is one additional thing I cannot understand: Too often outdoor stairs are sheltered from rain but ramps are often not. Hmmm, everyone can use a ramp, but not stairs. A person walking up stairs can usually hold their own umbrella, but a person who needs a ramp (often due to a wheelchair or stroller) usually cannot because they are pushing something. I want to ask, “What was someone thinking?”

    • Dawn says:

      Ramps cover a lot more surface area than stairs, so it’d cost more to put a roof over them. However, it’s probably a matter of that the ramps were added after-the-fact because they were required by disability access guidelines, but the regulation didn’t stipulate anything other than the ramps themselves, so they minimized cost by adding the minimal amount, which was just the ramps.

      • Crystal says:

        It’s also, I think, a lack of a law comparable to the ADA, so there’s no one requiring acessiblility minimums that I am aware of. Please correct me if I’m wrong on this, readers.

    • Crystal says:

      I think that part of the problem is that there is no real law on the books in Singapore comparable to the ADA compliance laws. So BAM! random staircase! BAM! uncovered ramps, although there’s no real logic to it.

      Today I was reminded of one other issue…stroller unfriendly bathrooms. There’s usually only the one accessible bathroom for both men and women (and boy are they some of the worst maintained, smelly, airless, awful rooms I’ve ever had the displeasure of occupying, even at malls where the bathrooms are otherwise nice) and if it’s occupied and you really need to pee, once you’re int he women’s room, you either need to leave the baby outside the door, or semi-pull them in and have the door 1/2 open. I hate both those solutions.

      I love Little Gym.

  3. katrijn says:

    Oh, the random stairs-thing! I know what you mean, especially since I tend to use the pram as a shopping cart on my way home… Heavy going, especially when passing shop houses, which look lovely – but which often have little steps between the terraces, awkwardly positioned bins, huge pots of plants for decoration or other sort of stuff that means pram and I have to go into the road… Also, I dislike people picking up my child when she falls down when I am trying to teach her independence. On the other hand, my husbands Singaporean colleagues tend to praise our “laissez-faire” attitude towards child raising and they do not interfere at beach outings when we let her cover herself in dirt and sand while wearing white clothing (not one of my brighter moments, no).

    • Crystal says:

      The randomly positioned planters/chairs/steps/bins! YES…HATE. It’s like an obstacle course, no matter how adorable they might otherwise look! I also use my stroller as pseudo shopping cart, so I feel your pain.

      The “helping” when she falls…yes, we get that too. I get some looks when I’m like “she’s fine!” Ellie will bounce right back from a fall unless you stop and help her and fawn over her…at which point she realizes she’s supposed to cry…and does (unecessarily and for attention, not from pain).

      We all have those “not my brightest moment” parenting moments. I was so eager to take E on her first zoo outing in Boston that I walked out of the door without expressed milk, diapers, or a change of clothing. She got fussy over a wet/dirty diaper…which is when I thought I’d just forgotten stuff in the car. I swear all the walk back to the car. Which is when I realized the depth of my stupidity. She did not know how to breastfeed. She screamed all the way home…a 20+ minute drive, all while I cursed myself for my stupidity. parenting #FAIL

  4. bookjunkie says:

    Gosh I can’t imagine that people are that ‘kaypoh’ and butt in when it’s such a private matter – mum disciplining her child. That’s way too intrusive for me and I would be annoyed too. & yeah all that candy giving can be a problem.

    Love that you wrote such an honest post 🙂 I like to hear all sides. What you love and what you loathe as well. The things you loathe might be the things we loathe as well.

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