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National day as a parent

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Normally, as a jaded adult in Singapore, you don’t give two hoots about National day. I haven’t been watching the parades since aeons ago, and I definitely do not wear red and white this day. Every time I hear the National day songs (except Home by Kit Chan), I cringe. I  might even escape the festivities by going for a short trip, especially this year when there is such a long weekend. Perfect for a short getaway to Bangkok or Phuket.

All that changed when my son was born. Who would have thought that I would play Mari Kita on YouTube just to watch him stand erect with hands straight down beside his body? Who would have thought that I would sing along the lyrics of our National song in order to inculcate some sense of patriotism and gratefulness for our homeland in him? Certainly not me 2.5 years ago.

But as I decked him in red and white, with his shirt showing the crescent moon and the stars, watching him wave his little hand-held Singapore flag excitedly whenever he spotted those big Singapore flags that dotted our neighbourhood, I can’t help but feel a sense of belonging too. Before being a parent, I’m here but my heart is not here. I’m merely a participant but I’m not involved. After being a parent, I’m fully invested here.

It’s a strange feeling. It’s not the I ate the wrong thing and my stomach felt strange kind of strange. It’s a warm fuzzy feeling that tingles down my spine kind of strange. I still don’t wear red and white and I would rather die than be decked in those 2 colours to parade around the streets today. But I would teach my son to love his country religiously, to say the pledge, to sing the song and to be grateful for everything we have here. He might be a jaded old man in the future, aware of all the nationalistic brainwashing, cringe at all the national day songs he hears on the radio, but that can wait.

Who knows? Maybe his journey will be the same as mine, especially when he has his own kid who waves his little flags excitedly whenever he sees the bigger flags that dotted our neighbourhood.

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