One beautiful day, a baby was born. He was the pride and joy of everyone in his family: his parents, his siblings, his grandparents, his aunts and uncles. Everyone doted on him, took care of him, made sure his food was clean and baby-proofed the house. They kept him warm in the cold and kept him cool in the heat. They held his hand while he learnt to walk. They gave him encouragement when he fell. Most importantly, they allowed him to fall without making him feel guilty of not being able to do so. Many parents understand that babies grow at their own pace and so they let their babies grow at their own pace.
Gradually the baby grew into a toddler. More was expected of the baby. He was to follow certain social etiquettes and behave in “appropriate” ways like greeting adults when they meet, saying thank you when receiving a gift or learning that hitting other people is not allowed etc. On top of the character development, the little toddler was also sent to enrichment classes like baby gyms or playgroups in the hope to have him stimulated and “not lose out” to his peers of the same age.
It was now time to be a preschooler. N1 to K2. This is the period when this little boy had more things added into his daily schedule. Apart from the full day childcare, he was also being sent to enrichment classes for Math and Mother Tongue because his parents felt that it was necessary in order for him to “survive” Primary School when he finally enters Primary 1. However, he also had fun visiting the zoo and bird park. It as a good time to be alive. His parents sent him to places like Kidzania and Fidgets. The boy enjoyed his childhood. He felt loved.
Then came primary school. Everything seemed a little harder for him. He now had less play and more work. Things were no longer fun. There were lots of paper for him to deal with. Homework never seemed to end. Even the school holidays were lined up with enrichment classes. There was no time for a break. There was no time to be a child. He felt exhausted.
Exam results seemed to him like it was the most important thing in his life, especially so when he was in Primary 6, the year he had to sit for the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE). He felt like his parents really wanted him to do well. He felt like that was all they cared about. He felt alone. But he persevered on anyway.
In his dreams, at night, in his own room, the boy often hear his parents talk about music, the only thing that he was interested in. In his dream, his parents were fully supportive, they sat down and listened to him sing his heart out. The smiles on their faces and the encouragement they gave him, telling him how good he is capable of being if he does what he loved.
But when he woke, reality sank in. His parents never liked him to waste time singing. They said he wouldn’t be able to make a living. He didn’t understand. If someone could not make a living out of singing, how can there be music and songs in the world for people to enjoy now? He didn’t understand his parents.
On he went to Secondary School. The first two years were a good break, especially after having studied so hard for PSLE. When Secondary 3 came, he began to feel the stress and pressure once more. This time, it was ten-fold the pressure he felt in Primary 6.
Everyone was talking about Junior College, University and overseas studies. His parents threatened him that he had to do well enough to get into a JC, if not he will end up with low-paying jobs. The boy was scared. What ever happened to the belief that every child grows at his own pace? He was scared to disappoint his parents. He was scared to face the future if he performed poorly for his ‘O’ Levels. It was as if his ‘O’ Level results will determine the rest of his life. It was a big burden for a 15 year old to carry on his own shoulder. It was so heavy.
Slowly the boy withdrew from his friends. He talked less to his family. He was in his own world, trying his best to do well. He studied day and night, sometimes without breaks. He was determined to “make it”.
He did his best during the ‘O’ Level exams. Yet, he couldn’t help but feel nervous. It was going to be a long few weeks to wait for the piece of paper that he studied so hard for. He felt himself almost having a nervous breakdown. But no, he couldn’t let his friends or family see through. He had to “act” normal. He had to hide the fear and anxiety deep down. Only he could know that he was scared to death.
He couldn’t keep still. He was almost shivering. The only way to calm himself down was to keep rubbing his palms together, shaking his legs as he sat there in the hall waiting for his name to be called and receive that fateful piece of paper: the ‘O’ Level Result Slip.
He saw it. It was what he had expected. He didn’t do well enough. With those grades he wouldn’t be able to get into a JC. He felt sore. He felt giddy. He felt like a failure. Most importantly, he couldn’t swallow his guilt that he had failed his parents. His heart started beating uncontrollably fast. He didn’t know what was happening. His mind was a whirlwind. He couldn’t hear anything else in the hall. It was as if he had floated away from his surroundings.
It was 4 hours before he had to face his parents. There were 15 missed calls from his father and mother and a dozen more text messages. They were curious to know how he had done for his exam. But no, he will not respond to any of them. He was not ready to face the music. Now he had to consider his options. What was he to do? How could he escape his plight?
Alas, he had come to a decision.
One that there was no turning back.
One that left a deep hole in his family’s hearts.
One that he regretted as he was falling….
Parents. How would you feel if this was a story about your child?
Parents. Do know that your child will do well when he can.
Parents. Life is more than the letters on the result slip.
Parents. You are the only support your child has.
Please do not be the source of their fear.
Let us help one another build a society that values relationship more than results.
Let us help one another raise children to be resilient yet know that there’s always another road.
Let us help our kids understand that effort is not always correlated to outcomes. Things happen.
Let us show to our children that there are many people in the world who lead a good life regardless of their academic results.
Can we all do this together as a nation, parents? It is my plea to you.
One life lost is too much a loss.
According to the suicide prevention agency SOS, suicides of Singapore teens, aged between 13 to 19, reached the highest in 15 years in 2016. There were 13 reported teenager suicides in 2014, the figure doubled to 27 in 2015.
We do not want this to happen ever again. Not to your child. Not to my child. Not to ANY child.
Let’s work together as a nation to achieve a ZERO suicide rate for students.
We can do it.
If you are feeling suicidal, there are many people waiting to listen to you. Your privacy will be safeguarded. Below are the numbers you can call to seek help.
Samaritans of Singapore (24-hour hotline): 1800-221-4444
Tinkle Friend: 1800-274-4788
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Care Corner Counselling Centre (in Mandarin): 1800-353-5800
Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222
Aware Helpline: 1800-774-5935
Lili is a wife and a mum to 3 boys. An aspiring writer. Adores creativity, art and beautiful creations. Dog lover. Gentle-parenting follower. Follow her on Facebook where she shares articles about family happiness and how to stay connected to our spouse and kids.