Friday, January 4, 2013

Humbling lessons from Luqman.

I have received lots of messages from friends regarding Luqman scoring straight A's in his recent PMR exam. As much as I would like to bask in the glory, I really cannot. It has been a very humbling experience for me. Humble enough to make me feel really crappy and get me reflecting on lots of things.
19th December was a very long day for me. It was the day the PMR result was out. I contemplate very long whether I should write about this or not. This post is not about Luqman scoring straight A's. Or an advice post. I am far from finish with him to qualify me to give parenting advice.

This is a sharing of lessons learned. Hopefully, the sharing can help alleviate some of your parenting worries and give you the strength to soldier on, whenever you feel down and need that extra boost of motivation to keep believing in your child.

LESSON #1; No expectation does not equals to underestimation. Never ever underestimate your kids.

I was feeling really crappy for underestimating him. I thought the most he'll get is 4 or 5A's. Which we are very OK with it BTW. Which was why I thought it was not a big deal to be at school at 10 am. I thought we can just pick up the slip from school much much later and scoot off. After I completed my long list of errands. I had no idea.

My inner voice kept telling me, it won't be fair to others who have really studied right?? But the thing is, I said I trust him. If you trust your kid, you don't underestimate them, right?? You should believe sky is the limit for them. The truth is I don't really trust him. I don't trust that he will excel doing things his way. Sigh. Blerghh.

Then a friend posted something really profound on my FB wall.

"It's not so much that we don't trust them but that we don't trust ourselves. Everything we feel is an attempt to clue us in on areas we need to take a look at, bring the pain up and heal it. Negative feelings are never meant to judge us"

Then it dawned on me...yeah...exactly. OK. Noted. Thank you SC Mak ;-)

LESSON #2; Not everybody wants to be an achiever. Even those with good brains. And it's OK.

In general, Luqman is a very intelligent young man. He has good brain. Most likely because he lived his first 2 years of his life with books and no TV. Being a voracious reader, his general knowledge is pretty good. And he has the knack of acing the exams without even trying so hard. If he wants to. But most of the times, he doesn't want to. And that drives me NUTSSS. He is a very laid back person. Even laid back is an understatement. He prefers to be mediocre than stands out as an achiever. And he prefers to be in the background. He thinks prefects are people who sold their soul to the principal for a neck tie and a blazer (WTF??) He will never volunteer himself for anything in school. To the point teachers & friends just volunteered him on his behalf. He is fine to be a nobody in school. It took me a very long time to accept it's OK.

LESSON #3; Helicopter parenting is hell for everybody. 

I was a helicopter parent. I hovered over my kids and barged in whenever I see no action. Or when they take too long to act. I thought I am just doing the necessary mom thing. For the sake of my children. I am much better now. But bad habit dies hard. So I still have that ugly side of me. From time to time, I do slipped.

When Luqman scored 5A's for his UPSR few years back, I adamantly believed half of the credits should go to me. Why not?? I studied as much as him. If not more. I scoured the internet for question papers, exam tips, whatever stuffs I can get my hands on. To be honest, it has nothing to do with me undermining his capabilities. We know he is bright. But I also believe you need to put in effort to succeed. And I was naive enough to think that he should do it MY WAY. Coz I am the mom. Ain't mom knows best??? Few days before the exam, we were so pissed with each other we were not even talking. I really believe he would have not scored if it wasn't for my effort. I tell you, it was hell. It's not worth it. Until this year, I still believe he would not stand a chance to score straight As if he studied on his own. I was so wrong.

LESSON #4; Trusting your kids is HARD but it's freaking worth it.

Parenting is hard. Parenting teenagers is double hard. Teenagers are emotional. And whiny. And nonsensical. And a pain in the ass. But trust me, it shall pass. Every parents go through this. Not only your teens. But teens is also the most crucial time for them to develop their character. So take charge.

If you read any parenting books, you will discover lack of trust is one of the fundamental reasons that contribute to volatile relationship between parents and teenagers. Trust is easier said than done. As a children, I grew up being told to do stuffs. To meet expectations. To ace all my exams. To obey without questioning. It doesn't matter what I think or what I want. I just need to figure out a way to fit into the model that meet society's standard. Once it's done I am OK. It doesn't matter that I feel crappy about myself. So as much as I hate how I was raised, I hate it even more when I sub-conciously raise my kids the same freaking way.

Moving on, I have changed my perspective on exams greatly. Especially since I embarked on homeschooling Emily. Exam is not as important as it used to be. So when Luqman decided that 2012 will be his last year of school, and he need to sit for his PMR, we leave it to him on how he think he should handle the issue. The deal is we will not intervene. Unless he ask. So he studied on his own. No tuition, no extra help from us, no whatsoever.

It was HARD especially for me to stay out of his way. Even when I believe exams matter less (at least that's what I thought).

Although the exam result will not matter, it will be a reflection of his capabilities and attitude. Mom being mom, I watched him from the sideline and cringed. Coz really, from my point of view, there's nothing much happening. Even after getting 7Bs and 1E for the trial, he still insisted he got things covered. And his life was as usual. Until the exam day. School, sleep, computer, TV, music, fooling around with sisters, manga, more manga, more and more and more manga (grrrrr...). Homework and studying were sandwiched in between all those.

But we kept our promise. I was able to keep my promise not to intervene because I kept reminding myself this is my chance to trust my son. I keep telling myself, don't screw it.

LESSON #5; SLOW down. Learn to do more "NOTHING". Our schooling kids are really tired and stressed out.

As a mom, I worry a lot. Because I have seen enough examples of people with good brain who struggle to make end meets due to their attitude. People who didn't maximize their potential due to their attitude. I believe IQ alone ain't enough.

So for years, I have been nagging him, sending him to workshops and seminars, pushing him from time to time...trying to knock some sense into his head...hoping that he will come out of his shell and buck up. He hardly did. At least, from my point of view. Because I want an instant result. Coz we are a fast food generation. Everything is fast. If it's not fast enough, we'll go against nature and speed it up.

I have learned now that some things need time. Kids need time to be ready and bloom.

Luqman think he did well in the exam because he's chilled. Unlike most of his friends, he's not bogged down by extra classes or tuition. He think that allows him to think better. I think so too. Be patient. Stop worrying. Nurture them with love and good foundation, give them space and time and let nature take its own course.

LESSON #6; What looks like an attitude issues might not be an attitude issues. It might just means they do things differently from you. Unless they break the law or they go against the religion, it might be worth to just shut up and let it be. 

One of my biggest worries is my kids having attitude issues. I used to think Luqman has an attitude issue. The dude slept in his exam. Every time without fail. And he slept in his PMR exam. Despite my continuous reminder not to fall asleep. Real exam OK?? And he slept when he hasn't finished with the questions. I asked him why, he said just sleepy. What if you dozed off until time is up? And you got no time to finish up the exam questions?  He think the invigilator will not let that happen. He think the invigilator would wake him up if he didn't. Can you see the common sense? Can you see why I have lots of white hair??

Every time I attended parents-teachers day, Mr O and me would have to listen to all weird stories about him from the teacher. Luqman had to stand outside class because he said some forbidden swear words in class...Luqman didn't bring his stationary to workshop...Luqman fell asleep in exams...Luqman's desk was too messy...Luqman refused to tie his shoe laces because he likes it that way...Luqman didn't want to tuck in his shirt.....etc etc etc. Not to mention the generic remark "Luqman has potential to excel IF he puts more effort". Try listening to that same remark year after year, while looking at the C,D and Es in the report card. Some of you might find this hilarious, but being his mom, many times I wonder...should I laugh or should I cry?? I always wonder, why can't our meeting be like other parents'? Most parents discussed serious stuffs.... about the kids' performance. Academic and extra curricular. Not us.

Once in a while, it will be good I guess to listen to some serious stuffs :P Now I realized, each kids are unique. Learn to let it be. Some stuffs are not worth fretting. Unless they break the law. Or they go against the religion. Breatheeeee...and let it be.

LESSON #7; Mind the siblings.

Hajar and Luqman is like Siamese twin. An odd one. So far, Hajar has not been that outstanding academically. At least compared to Luqman. Not that I am comparing. It really doesn't make her any lesser in my eyes. She's the most trusted and reliable big sister.
But the rest of the world might not concur with me. As much as my kids know that academic achievement is not a big brouhaha in our household, you cannot help feeling overwhelmed and insecure when everybody went berserk congratulating your brother. Again and again. And showering him with loads of rewards. Unfortunately, this is not the first time.

So I made a point to keep reminding Hajar, (and the rest) of their strengths. It's slightly easier because Luqman never gives so much hoot about his achievement. He's quite indifferent. If he brag, it will be tougher.

LESSON #8; For certain things, especially the spiritual stuffs, stick to your gun. Even if they don't like it, soldier on. It's necessary to fill up their spiritual needs.

It has not always being easy to drag my kids to religious lectures. Or to do volunteering works. But I believe it's necessary to fill up their spiritual tank. So I am very good at ignoring their whines and complains and dragging my troop to comply. It did pay off.
I can see gradual change in him. Spiritually. This is important to me. Kids need to start everything with the right intention. Guided by their spiritual knowledge and close relationship with God. The sole reason Luqman strived for PMR was my dad. Not him. Not me. He knows it means a lot to my dad. As shallow as it sounds to him, he just want to make the old man happy. And he did. My dad was a very proud & very happy grandpa indeed. And that made him happy.

The fact that Luqman cannot even tell his aunt what he wants as a reward because he think he has everything he needs makes me happy. The fact that he doesn't need stuffs to make him happy makes me happy. It shows my young man is fulfilled spiritually.

As a mom, I am proud of his academic achievement. But really it's not a big deal to us. And it's no big deal to him either. What matters most to me is the person he has become throughout this journey.

So there. Lessons learned from the dude. Kids are entrusted to us to make us a better person. Trust them. Have faith. They will soar. God willing.


  1. I am loving everything you have written in this post. You are one of a few moms that inspired me and I want to learn from you. :D

  2. Thank you so much for the tips. With a son about Lugman's age, I can really relate as it all sounds so very familiar to me. Thanks again for sharing.


  3. Congratulations
    I have two grandchildren of Luqman's age and two who are waiting for their SPM results. Results come and go over the years. My own children's results seem such a long tike ago and have lost their value! But I look forwards to seeing good results for the less privileged children who need them most to have any meaningful future.

  4. Thanks for your sharing, this is so inspiring to me :)

  5. Thank you so much for the sharing.. May Allah ease your path and shower His blessings to your family, inshaallah :)

  6. This is very inspiring to me, thanks!
    As I read, I can so relate to it, as if I saw my own schooling life here again :D ...#2 & #6 was my mom's headaches too, but I don't sleep in exams.
    #2 - I used to think prefects and librarians were free labour to the school :p
    #6 - it was always B or even C for my behavioral score in the report cards since my primary 1, and I got that generic remark on it almost without fail every year!
    And I can foresee my 4yo gonna grow up the similar challenge too ...
    I am sure I will revisit here for reminder to self

  7. Thank you for re-sharing this at a time when I am about to start my unschooling journey and am as anxious as a drowning fish.