I have an incredibly broad repertoire of children songs. I can belt you ABC, Ten Green Bottles, Wheels on the Bus and 两只老虎 to name a few. If my nieces' childcare centre taught it, I can sing it. That's the result of a week long road trip with my family. Aged 2 and 4, they provided stereo surround live singing over the sound of traffic, regular music and attempted conversation. And as with all siblings, it was punctuated by whining, shrieking and crying.
On one particular afternoon when my brother drove them out to town, I stayed behind on the farm where we were putting up, for some moments of peace watching television with my father. Commercials to be exact; the programming was like a telenovela where every story point led to an opportune advertising moment.
"Only $36,000 for a car!" My father was incredulous, gesticulating at the screen. "That's not even half of a COE in Singapore!"
"But that's because there's barely any public transportation here. There's no need for the government to control how many cars are on the road," I tried defending to little avail.
The channel switched to a news program debating if smacking a child is acceptable. Someone was just charged in court for a heavy hand and the morning show was flaying the man for his iniquities. My father snorted in derision. Even he, in his overly doting grandfather ways, recognized the limits of liberal parenting. My mother joined in, spewing Chinese idioms about the value of a strict upbringing.
Conversations with my parents on most holiday trips are peppered with comparisons to Singapore. "The weather here is so much cooler! The food is so fresh, so cheap! Singapore where got lavender on the streets?"
And they are right. In my own quiet moment sitting on the lawn with my milk and chips, I know I can't get this peace back home. Here, I can think. No, I can even hear myself think. Well, without the kids of course. Who knows what great things I might be able to achieve with all the time and space here?
(Now imagine this with 12 degree weather and never-ending green fields)
But could I set aside my career goals and life targets for a slower relaxed pace of life, right now when I’m in my prime working years? Or perhaps I should consider somewhere else, where I can push myself to even greater heights? I suppose if I had children of my own, the considerations would be different as well. Thankfully, I have to contend with simpler things like whether my skin would be able to take the dry air here. Probably not.
The move to a new country (or back home) is rarely a simple balance sheet, it’s almost impossible to make sense of everything and come to the best decision. It’s different for everyone and I think PM Lee said it well in his recent trip to the US when he met over 300 overseas Singaporeans in New York City.
“You are all flying the flag for Singapore all the time. You are representing us and you will show what Singaporeans are and I think that is something valuable.”
And like what any proud parent would say, he ends off his speech with, “Keep in touch with home, keep in touch with us (…) Keep in touch and come home from time to time and one day, come back home to Singapore.”
"Keep in touch and come home from time to time, and one day come back home to Singapore," said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Singaporeans living in the US during his week-long trip to New York and Washington. str.sg/ZvJnVIDEO: JEREMY AU YONGPosted by The Straits Times on Sunday, 27 March 2016
For me, until I’m done mastering the entire compendium of children’s songs, this proud uncle is staying put where the naughty duo are growing up and where my parents are growing old.