A big part of our wanting to experience living overseas had to do with our children. We wanted them to see the world, experience other cultures and foods, and basically just see that there is more out there than just Virginia, U.S.A. Also, Marcus and I wanted to be able to do some traveling so it wasn’t totally altruistic.
For our oldest child, change is nothing. She easily and readily adapts and faces new challenges with a smile on her face. On our third day in Singapore she happily woke-up and said she would go down and get the family breakfast. After Marcus wrote down the order and instructed her on how to use the credit card she left and was back within minutes, so proud and happy for herself. She did forget the croissant I had asked for but remembered the coffee so I eventually forgave her.
Meanwhile, on the third day in Singapore, our youngest held the family hostage and refused to get dressed and leave the room. This isn’t a surprise. For one, she has anxiety which manifests in stubborn behaviors and really comes out with the changing of seasons. When the temperature changed in Virginia I struggled to get her to wear long pants instead of shorts. Battles were fought and lost and sometimes unhappily won but eventually she came around to the idea of covering her legs when it was cold.
So, for a solid five days of being in Singapore she wore the same outfit every day. The same one she had been wearing in Virginia when we left. In her defense, it is a particularly cute pair of distressed jean overalls. But, again, she wore them for five days straight. Through airports. On airplanes. On city, public transportation. Walking through the heat and humidity of Singapore. I think she also wore the same underwear because for some strange reason all of her other pairs of underwear inexplicably shrunk in-transit. Either way, and I’m not a psychiatrist, I do believe she feels like she has so little control over the rest of her life that this is one way to control something. Unfortunately, it often means controlling the family as we prepare to venture out for the day.
But all that is nothing compared to when she has one of her more epic meltdowns. The previous scenario is merely an annoyance that we eventually overcome. It is when she truly has bottled everything up inside and lets it out that is the bigger problem. This is when she tantrums.
One of my fears was realized the evening before school started when the youngest had her biggest tantrum since we landed. It pains me to write about our 9-year-old experiencing tantrums but we’ve run the gamut of counselors, psychologists, neuropsychologists, etc. with varying success in helping her overcome her anger and anxiety. After a solid 30 minutes of her screaming at the top of her lungs, hitting us, and kicking us I cannot believe that someone did not call the police. I actually wish someone had as maybe an embarrassing moment, such as it would be, would help her work through her feelings in a more productive manner.
I have no doubt that all of this has manifested due to school starting. It’s a scary time for a kiddo and I get it. I was the most shy child and I can remember entire school years of eating lunch by myself. I believe the youngest suffers from that same shyness though she is better than I was at making new friends.
I am certain that overcoming this hurdle of being in a new country will help all of us grow as a person. Already I have seen out of my children some wonderfully unexpected growth. Both girls have become more assertive and more sure of themselves. They are now responsible for their Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) cards and their Trace Together tokens and they use them with ease. We recently had lunch at a hawker centre which is an open air food court and can be loud and overwhelming. I watched as my oldest confidently ordered herself a juice at one stand and chicken rice from another. It was amazing because I, as a child, would never have had the courage.
Day 1 of School: Children unloaded from the bus with tired eyes but smiling. Both were happy and excitedly told us about their day.
Day 2 of School: Children unloaded from the bus smiling, lulling us into a false sense of security. One is currently crying in her bedroom and the other is moaning and flinging herself around the living room because we, the parents, know nothing. This is way more normal than the Stepford Children from yesterday.