Ideally, when you have young children — five years and 18 months old in my case — you just want to stay rooted to where you are. Why leave, when your children are being surrounded with neighbours and friends who love them? And wouldn’t it be wonderful not having to deal with truckloads of baby stuff sitting in every corner of the house right this minute? However, if you aim high for the children’s future, you have to do what you have to do.
Taking a leap of faith, our family moved from spotless Sengkang to colourful Ang Mo Kio in early October last year. This is in an effort to stand a better chance of getting into the primary school that we have selected for our daughters. As our older girl will be in K2 this year, and our HDB flat had turned five years under our ownership, it was time for us to make a move.
Finding a place within one kilometre of the primary school in a mature area such as this is not an easy task, particularly if you needed to stay within a certain budget. After the hunting and negotiating, we put our flat on the market and it was sold after two weeks. The new owners of our house is a young family with three children. They seem to fill the gap we are leaving in our old neighbourhood easily and comfortably, so much so that I almost envy them.
At our end, having plowed through a list of things to do that seemed endless, we found ourselves living in a temporary place half the size our usual flat while our new flat is being renovated. We have also moved our older girl to a new preschool, as well as to new Mandarin, mathematics and ballet classes.
In our first weeks here we realised that the challenge of moving house lies not (only) in the packing and unpacking of the 62 boxes plus 14 pieces of furniture. Indeed it took weeks to sort, and sort some more. But really, the uphill task lies more in breaking the children’s routines, and having to make new things more interesting. New things like our new way of getting to school. And how we now hang out at a wet market more than at a mall because it’s nearer to us.
Thankfully, our new and different neighbourhood is refreshingly pleasant — what with hilly land and huge old trees. Hawker food is less expensive in this area. The two public libraries nearest to us carry very good range of audio video collections. The children’s playgrounds are many and each is better equipped. I don’t recall any sandbox nor swing set in Sengkang.
The most popular new experience with my girls is the sight of resident stray cats in many a void deck. Some are friendly enough to perform delightful gymnastics upon the slightest pat. Some became my girls new objects of affection, nicknamed “Miss Cat”, “The Scared Cat”, and “The Sunbathing Cat”. Having good humour does help a lot in trying times.
The people who live in this neighbourhood are friendlier, but they are also more outspoken, and unapologetically so. Since I am always with my younger girl, commenting on my parenting style with her seems to be everyone’s new hobby. From the auntie who praised my younger girl for feeding herself (but scolded me for not stacking up the chairs she sat on higher), to the auntie who teased the same girl as the poor thing who was left standing next to her highchair (but reprimanded me for ignoring her as she was throwing one of her tantrums). This had never happened in our old neighbourhood. I try to take it all in my stride.
Our new home will finally be ready soon, and we will even be closer to the library. This time the move will only require minimum adjustment from the girls. I hope our new neighbours will be as affectionate towards the girls as our old ones. And we will learn to love them back, unapologetically outspoken and all.
Christy Muliana is mum to two girls aged five years and 18 months.