Secrets of a successful mum
By Su-May Tan
Malaysian women share their voices with UNICEF to mark the country launch of The State of the World’s Children (SOWC) 2007 report on International Women's Day.
Themed “Women and Children – The Double Dividend of Gender Equality”, the SOWC 2007 examines the discrimination and disempowerment women face throughout their lives – and outlines what must be done to eliminate gender discrimination and empower women and girls.
KUALA LUMPUR, March 2007 – Behind every successful man, is a successful woman. The same goes for children. Kam Su Sze, 7, with the support of her mother, Kim Tho, has achieved what some grown-ups have not managed to in a lifetime. At the age of four, Su Sze raised more money for survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami than some charity organisations. With the help of her mother, she turned her paintings into postcards and collected over RM 30,000 (US$ 8,800) for UNICEF Malaysia’s child protection program.
While most girls her age were absorbed in the wonderful world of Disney, Su Sze was intent on helping the world’s less fortunate, as she saw it on the news. She would say, “I’m going to give the food in the fridge to the Tsunami children”. Or “I am bringing all my toys to share with the children.” Or “I want to build houses for them next time.” From this, Kim gathered that her daughter was serious about doing something to help. Kim knew that emptying out the piggy bank was not going to be enough, so the idea of the postcards came along. Postcards which were from Su Sze’s own art class paintings, accompanied with little stories she had come up with herself.
Education, the key
Su Sze’s desire to help others may not just be in her nature but is also influenced by an education her mother has nurtured in her since she was a baby. Kim believes in starting young and has been stimulating Su Sze’s physical and mental growth since she was 20 months old. Kim believes that the first eight years of a child’s life are the most important as it sets the stage for how a child will turn out as a grown-up. Investing time, effort and care during these early years does not only strengthen the bond between mother and child but also lays the foundation for a healthy, well-rounded individual in the future.
If you ever had any doubts on whether parenting was a profession, Kim’s cool, articulate explanations would dispel them straight away. Fun learning activities are conducted at home every day. While actual sessions last 30 minutes, preparation time could take hours. Kim prepares flashcards, teaching material and props for memory games. Kim manages playtime to challenge and stimulate Su Sze mental development. In other words, there is a skill to all of this, making motherhood not just a stage of life but a vocation you have to be willing to prepare for.
Not surprisingly, Su Sze has been reading since age two. “My favourite book is Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osbourne!” she exclaims with the eloquence and enthusiasm of someone twice her age. She does story-telling, painting and can recite five stanza poems. Her favourite hobbies include “homework”, presumably attributed to the love for learning inculcated by her mum. Away from the desk, the well-rounded young girl does tap-dancing, drama, music and wall-climbing at school. She started swimming at two and is featured in the Malaysian Book of Records under ‘Longest Distance Swim by a Toddler’ for swimming fifty metres, baby crawl style.
Kim adds, however, that it is not just about sending children to classes. “When you do it with them, the progress is faster,” she says. “And there’s nothing like doing it together at home on a constant basis.” For example, when Su Sze went for swimming classes, Kim was there with her and made sure to repeat whatever was taught at the classes, in the pool they have at home. The same goes for learning how to think and read and communicate with others. Parents are the first and most influential people for a child. And when they are present throughout a child’s development it can make all the difference.
“An actress!” whispers Su Sze excitedly when you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up. Her mother laughs, saying it changes all the time. At various points in her life it was to be a gardener, an astronaut (after watching ‘Young Einstien’), an architect (like daddy) and a scientist (after reading about the water cycle in an encyclopedia). With all the education and the encouragement she’s getting, Su Sze can be all or any of these. And when that happens, she’s bound to find some way to make a difference – yet again.
SOWC 2007 - Women in Malaysia Speak Out!
State of the World's Children 2007 - Malaysia