Sliding Doors and Pictures of Egypt

“Do you miss Singapore?” someone asked me recently, and it’s made me do a bit of a ‘Sliding Doors’ exercise about what may have been if we hadn’t come back to Perth.

In April last year, my wife and I moved back to Perth after nearly four years of living in Singapore, just under two months before our baby was born. Those years were, in some ways the toughest ones for us, being away from family and friends who had become family, dealing with new cultures and, at times, being a little out of our depth. But they also grew us greatly.

For me, much of that growth was in a professional capacity. My job title changed over that time, and I got a major step up in pay. I went from largely working for small companies to working within a division of a global information and data conglomerate. I got better as a journalist, and was able to parlay my experience with working in an airline into that role. I felt like I was able to contribute a lot to the company, and was getting great recognition.

I was even fortunate enough that when I advised my employer that we would be moving back to Perth that they bent over backwards to allow me to continue to do the same work remotely. Practically, that meant that I still had a job with me when I touched down back in Perth, and that has allowed us to be able to buy a new house, and also taken any pressure off my wife going back to work.

Do I miss Singapore? Sure, I do miss some things.

I miss the church community that we became involved in for the last five months we were there, and the other friendships that we made there. I miss being in an office with my colleagues and the watercooler talk, as well as being able to contribute a lot more by just physically being there.

I also miss the weather – although the past week in Perth has been a good reminder. I got used to the humidity, but more than that love the wet season when it pours down for a couple of hours and then cools wonderfully. Perth’s dry summer and cold winter have made me miss the constancy of Singapore weather.

And, yes, I do miss the food. From where we lived, there were literally hundreds of places to eat out within walking distance. It’s hard to beat a char kway teow or satay by the beach at East Coast Park, washed down with an icy cold beer.

So, yeah, I guess I do miss Singapore. At the same time, with how life has changed since then, I’m also a little glad that I’m back in Perth.

I can’t imagine not having the support of our extended families who have helped us out in more ways than they understand. Sure, if we were in Singapore, we could hire a maid to help look after our little bub, but at the same time it’s not the same.

Financially, I’m not sure that would be feasible for us to have stayed in Singapore either. While my wife and I both earned good money and were doubly blessed with low taxation, if we were on just my income alone, it would be a struggle to pay the rent and all the other living expenses. We had a good amount of savings that would have been a cushion, but my wife would also have had to go back to work after only three months off.

The more I’ve thought about it, I just find it so hard to picture how life would be with the three of us now over there. Indeed, the Singapore chapter seems like that part of the pre-kid life that passed almost nine months ago. Amidst nappies, soft food and grizzly teeth, it seems like a bit of distant blur.

That little mind exercise made me think of how reminiscing can be a double-edged sword. No doubt, it is good to look back and see what we have learned, acknowledge the good things (or bad) and be thankful.

But at the same time, we can’t live there. Thinking of how things were doesn’t address the challenges that we face today, nor the future ahead – as bright or tough as that may be.

Quite a few years ago I heard the song ‘Painting pictures of Egypt’ by Sara Groves, which has these poignant lyrics:

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacks
The future seems so hard, and I want to go back
But the places they used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned

The lyrics reference the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt. After seeing God do massive things, they hit some hard times and a few people start grumbling that they want to return to the country that had oppressed them. At least we would get a meal there, they argued.

When the future looks scary, it’s easy and natural to seek the comfort of the past, even if that was terrible. It’s one of the reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, or dead-end jobs, or as the immature party boy/girl.

Or, as is tempting sometimes, to get stuck in how things were before a baby. When you’re ridiculously tired after a rough few nights, haven’t had a night out in a while, or any of the other changes that come with being a parent, it’s easy to look back at pre-baby life and wonder how to get back there.

But, amid the challenges of being a new parent, it’s important to remember that there is much more ahead than those challenges. I am so looking forward to seeing how our little girl grows up and being involved in her life. So much so that it is hard to imagine life without her now.

Sliding doors exercises are amusing, but at the same time, I am so glad with the path that we are now on, and the future ahead for our small family.

Like growing teeth

Having your teeth pulled is unpleasant, but I’m finding out that a teething infant is even more unpleasant for everyone else around.

OK, that may be putting it too strongly – but seriously, who took my pleasant little girl and replaced her with a fussy, clingy and totally out of whack clone of her?

Our little bubba cut through her bottom two teeth about a month ago. That saw her have a couple of days where she was irritable, not sleeping as usual, and a bit more clingy than normal. A couple of doses of Nurofen later, the teeth poked through and order was restored to the world.

This time however it is taking much longer. We’re into our second week of her little life being ruled by the pain of her top teeth making their way south. And this time, the teeth are taking longer and seem to be having a lot more of an impact.

That has meant that I have been demoted from being an equal favourite parent to a mere commoner. She gets more irritable when I hold her,  and overall has become a lot more attached to her mum. She’s also not going down as easy as she was for her naps, which makes her over-tired – and god help the parent of an over-tired child!

The most annoying part for us is that her previously great sleep record is now in the past, with the little girl waking up a few times a night, which combined with the earlier sunrises of summer here, are robbing us of sleep.

And, yes, I do hear many readers rejoicing at the comeuppance that we are receiving.

But, as with many painful events in life, this is just normal.

The good news is, if the first set of teeth was anything to go by, she should be back to normal once they have punched through. Which hopefully will be soon.

As I’m learning from the parenting gig, sometimes you just have to ride it out, so we’ll do our best with that.