Wednesday 1 January 2003

Daddy issues: On second thoughts

I blame Ah Ma. More specifically, I blame Neo Swee Lin who played Ah Ma on Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd.

I was executive producer-scriptwriter for the show when during rehearsal one day, Swee Lin asked if I was planning to have a second child.

She insisted that I must, I must, I must have another child. It would be cruel of me not to.

Melodramatically, befitting an award-winning actress, Swee Lin recounted how lonely it was for her growing up because she was an only child. And that I should not allow the same sad fate to befall my first-born. O, how she yearned for a sibling!

I recalled feeling lonesome myself as an only child till I was six when my first sister was born. So in some small way, I understood how Swee Lin must have felt.

So when not long after, my wife announced out of the blue that she wished to get pregnant again while she still could – even though she and I had previously resolved to stop at one – Ah Ma’s words immediately came to mind and I said, “Uh … OK.”

And thus another life-changing decision was casually made based on advice from an entertainer, albeit an award-winning one.

I’m not sure if “To keep the first one company” is a good enough reason to have a second child, but that stork has flown, dear.

To be fair, even before Swee Lin mentioned it, my wife and I were concerned that my toddler son Graeme didn’t have anyone else to play with at home besides us. Not concerned for him, mind you, but for us. Because the bloody kid was wearing us out.

But we had sworn to ourselves not to have another child. Just as we had earlier sworn not to have any at all. Swearing just doesn’t mean as much as it used to.

If one child was tiring, two children would be two times worse, or so we thought. In reality, it’s four times worse.

It’s not just an additional child demanding our attention – it’s each child requiring more attention individually than they would otherwise if he or she were an only child.

And when the two are together, it’s a whole other monster. An evil unreasoning unstoppable monster called Sibling Rivalry. So you see, it’s exponentially more exhausting.

I blame Ah Ma.

Fortunately, Caitlin, the second child, occasionally fulfills her raison d’être when she and her brother manage to keep each other occupied peacefully and thus out of our hair for those few precious uneventful moments.

Another consolation is that my second-born is a girl. So I’m grateful for the variety if nothing else. Everyone had told us that girls were less a handful than boys. We were viciously misled.

The second child also helps to amortise the cost of the first, no small consideration. Though not a big environmentalist, I’m a staunch believer in recycling Graeme’s clothes, toys, footwear and even diapers (and I do mean the cloth ones, so relax) for re-use by his sister, who doesn’t seem to mind so far.

So it’s not so painful to buy new outfits for the boy since they would eventually be worn by both children. We get our money’s worth. Good thing then that we had the boy before the girl and not the other way round because the girl can wear all the boy’s clothes, but the boy would attract the wrong attention in a Power Puff Girls party dress.

One totally unexpected consequence of my second child was the birth of a new local sitcom about a feisty heartlander lass who works in a phone shop created by yours truly. The name of the show? Ah Girl, which is still what I call Caitlin, now three years old.

And that’s the answer to the question of how a cast member from one local sitcom inspired the creation of another in the most convoluted way possible. Not that you asked.

I blame Ah Ma.

And in case you’re wondering, definitely absolutely positively no number three.

For now.

- Published in Young Parents, January 2003