Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Long-Awaited Changes

Change #1: Empathy

It started with a mug of tea and a cookie.

"What's so special about them?", one may ask.  They're special because they were presented to me in the above format, after dinner one evening, by a boy, who, until very recently, is the centre of his own little universe.

To me, this small gesture represents a step towards maturity and having empathy, knowing, or at least becoming aware of, other people's needs. 

Having the dual roles of being both his mother and his primary teacher, I am very keen to make sure Tiger develops in a balanced way, both academically and as a whole human being.  Therefore I am encouraged by a number of recent developments, of which the above is one example, that indicate to me that Tiger's heart is in the right place and that he wants to do the right thing even when his ego wants to take the easy way out.  He is starting to experience moral dilemmas, which will make for a different level of conversation between us soon.

Change #2: Self-Confidence

Tiger recently discovered the joy of tree climbing.

Thumbs up from the tree top.

It's one of the those things that happens at the right time.

A year ago, Tiger was happy to watch other children climb trees while he stood safely with both feet on the ground.  One afternoon last week while we were enjoying the sunshine in the garden, I had my back turned towards him for a few moments as I was gardening when I suddenly heard an excited cry, "Look how high I can go, Mummy!"

Having discovered his own agility and a new perspective of his surroundings from the different heights of the tree, Tiger has been climbing the tree in the garden nearly every day. 

Change #3: Improved Health

Maybe I'm experiencing 'the calm before the storm', since everyone talks about the terrible upheavals caused by hormonal changes in tweens and teens, but I am rather enjoying not locking horns with my child.  Below is an actual conversation that took place a few weeks ago.

We were doing our respective work at the desk when Tiger suddenly turned to me and said with a big smile on his face, "I have calmed down now, Mummy."

Mum:  Huh?  What do you mean?
Tiger:  I mean what I just said.
Mum:  Do you mean in general, or do you mean something more specific?
Tiger:  In general.  I can feel it.
Mum:  Really?  Well, that's very good news!

A little background might help readers understand why this change is significant.

From about two years ago, Tiger's behaviour became increasingly challenging.  We thought it was one of the common parenting issues that most parents are faced with when raising young children so we dealt with it as best as we could.  It was a very difficult year.

We got a diagnosis last summer that brought both relief and agony.  Relief in the sense that we finally have a name for what we were dealing with -- it is a neurological disorder that can potentially become degenerative if left to its own devices.  No wonder Tiger's behaviour and temperament underwent a drastic change for the worse!  One can hardly blame a child for acting out on physical discomforts that he cannot understand, let alone articulate!

Agony soon followed our initial relief because the NHS's official stand on this disorder is: "Nobody knows what causes it or why it happens, and nobody can do anything about it."  Well, as far as I'm concerned, THAT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

That summer, Tortoise and I threw ourselves into intensive research as we felt we were racing against time to prevent Tiger's condition from getting worse.  In the process, I learnt much about the correlation among food, nutrition, health, environment, neuro-toxicity, gut flora, blood-brain barrier, neurology, biomedical treatments....  To cut the long story short, we eventually found the top specialist in the country, who shares my conviction that neurological damage in children can be healed and even reversed using early and intensive intervention of the right kind, to be Tiger's medical consultant.  After spending many a pleasant (and very costly) hours consulting the good doctor, and making major overhaul to our diet, we finally started to see significant improvements after six months.

As of today, Tiger's overall health has greatly improved from where it was nearly a year ago.  As a result of him becoming physically robust again, the behavioural issues and external symptoms have been reduced by 90%.  I wouldn't have believed it had I not lived through this myself.  We still have some way to go before full recovery, but compared to last summer, Tiger is a very different boy these days -- well-balanced, cooperative, healthy, happy, and whose company I am actually starting to enjoy again.

Change #4: Learning  Partners

I have read and have been told that, as children move into the Middle School years, they will or should become more independent and be able to just get on with the work that they have been assigned to do.  While Tiger is certainly very independent in many of his own studies and doesn't need me to sit with him to complete his tasks, I have noticed an increase in his wanting to work with either Tortoise or I on different projects.

Father and son drawing fighter aircrafts and dogfight scenes together.

It has been interesting for me to observe this development in Tiger, because he has only just begun to be able to work alongside others without feeling the need to dominate the direction of the project.  What I'm about to say may run counter to the current thinking, especially in the Western world, where people are trained to see dominance, aggression, and taking control as signs of leadership.  I regard those to be signs of immaturity and insecurity.  There is much value in being able to collaborate successfully and harmoniously with others, and I am very glad to see Tiger heading in the right direction in his increasing ability to consider the value of other people's input.

I am starting to think about the next academic year.  The above changes seem to point the way towards more collaborative learning in our homeschool, rather than to a situation where Tiger completes a list of assigned tasks on his own.  It will suit us well -- although that means I can't put my feet up yet -- since Tiger will need some help with taking his skills up to the next level.


  1. Hwee, I am so happy for you! Good for you for researching, implementing and finally seeing improvements. You all must feel incredibly empowered and confident about facing difficulties together in the future.
    Thank you so much for sharing such a victorious story!

    1. Thank you, Claire. It was quite a roller-coaster kind of year for us, and we are definitely very relieved to finally see improvements. While we are indeed confident of our ability to solve problems, we would rather not have to encounter such difficult scenarios. It was very scary and upsetting at first. :-)

  2. What a beautiful post, Hwee. Thank you for sharing all the positive changes you're experiencing - it's very uplifting and inspiring to read.
    I completely agree with you about the importance of collaborative work. I think combined with innovative, creative thinking - and not being afraid to defend one's opinions in the face of disagreement - working as a team is absolutely key to success in life.
    I admire your commitment to resolving Tiger's health issues. I'm so pleased for the success you've had with the changes you've obviously worked so hard to achieve. :-)

    1. Thank you, Lucinda. I think any parent faced with similar challenges with regards to his children's health and well-being will do the same. It often surprises me that raising children these days isn't a straightforward business anymore. :-)

  3. I agree with the rest. Congratulations to you and T on the positive outcome of all your hard work. It's never easy to see our children struggle and your efforts to minimize the negatives and maximize the positives are inspiring. I always mean to write a short note whenever I stop by and am glad that today I had some time to do so. Lovely to see the way your delightful young man is growing up.

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words, Suji! It's been a long time coming, but now I can finally say that Tiger has indeed become quite a delight to be with. I certainly wouldn't have been able to say this about him a year ago! :-)

  4. Hwee,

    I am so happy for you and Tiger! Your care and effort for your son has certainly worked miracles.

    Collaborative learning... I have heard a lot of people say this is exactly what we all need to be able to do. Sites like Scratch encourage collaborative learning by sharing projects and allowing children to build on and modify each other's projects in order for learning to take place. Conversations in the comments section allow the sharing of ideas.

    Thank you for sharing your inspiring story!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Sue. It has been a difficult journey but when it comes to our children's health, we just have to try everything, haven't we? :-)

      As for collaborative learning, it's something that we are starting to do more and more at home. Once Tiger is mature enough to work well with us at home, then he'll venture out to work with others. Thank you for the tip on Scratch. I'll have to check it out. :-)

  5. What a lovely post Hwee, it sounds like Tiger is maturing into a fine young man. I am especially happy to read about the improvements in his health - it sounds like it would have been a harrowing experience, not the least because of the minimal support offered. It's wonderful news that all of your research has brought such positive results.

    1. Thank you for your support and encouragement, Marie! :-) Yes, it was very scary and distressing at first. We certainly felt moments of despair before we found the doctor and saw improvements months later. I don't like to share distressing news here because there's no need to get everyone worried over what I feel is a personal challenge for my little family. However, I am very happy to be able to finally share some good news that will hopefully encourage others who might be in a similar situation.

  6. These types of posts can be some of the most encouraging as we see the results of our hard work.
    I'd agree with you, for some kids NOT taking the leadership role and working better together is the hard part, in my kids' case, that's Princess. But, there are also some kids that are working to learn to step up and voice their opinions, not just agree to keep things smooth. The hard part is knowing which one your child is.

    So many wonderful changes to celebrate.

    1. You're right, Ticia, about finding the balance for our children by knowing which areas they need to work on to participate positively in a group situation. :-)


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