I am the mother in the Today article that has generated much sympathy for my son and excoriation for me, and this is my side of the story.
To be fair to Today, I did say “You can forget about your Nintendo DS,” as was reported in the story. But it was not in response to my son’s text message sent to me, to check if I was angry. It was part of a longer face-to-face conversation with my son.
The reporter had contacted me through KiasuParents, and I was under the impression that she wanted my views on the PSLE experience, in my capacity as a co-founder of KiasuParents. When she expressed interest in being present for the release of the results, I agreed that she could follow me around, but it led to an article that affected him much more than his results or my reaction did.
For those who have offered to purchase a Nintendo DS for my son, my family appreciates your generosity, but my son already owns a set. I had confiscated it because he couldn’t control his screen time according to our agreement—30 minutes per session. I then used the return of the Nintendo DS as an incentive, hoping to motivate him to work harder and better his score for the PSLE.
For those who deplore my son’s joyless existence, rest assured that we are intent on celebrating life. We had a post-PSLE treat right after the exams, where we went out for a good meal and my message to my son was: “What is done, is done. The hard part is over.” We’re looking forward to a family trip, which was planned before the exams and would have taken place regardless of how the results turned out. It’s not a reward for my son because I don’t believe in tying such experiences to grades—we travel for enjoyment and exposure.
For those who accuse us of unrealistic expectations, I had predicted that my son’s score would be around 230 (wrongly reported as 250), based on previous performance and my knowledge of his weak spots. His actual score fell short of my prediction by one mark, as was reported in the story.
For those who question why I wasn’t more media savvy and cautious in my dealings with the reporter, I was unaware that I was going to be made the focal point of the story. I never asked for, nor thought that we would be thrust in the spotlight and I admit that I feel overwhelmed – I’m a private person by nature.
For the most important person in all of this, my son, I want to tell you that your results are satisfactory. I have not explicitly said “Mummy will love you no matter how your results turn out,” but I hope you know this for a fact. Results are never the end goal; they only provide a form of feedback as to whether your efforts are working, and they are not always accurate. What you must strive for is a good attitude and a willingness to reflect and consider your next course of action. Never wallow. This will ensure that you’re ready to handle anything that life throws at you, even when I am no longer around.
Don’t be troubled by what people are saying about me, because I’m not affected. I won’t be brought down by others’ comments as I know who I am and why I do what I do. I hope to show you by example that other people’s comments about us don’t matter, especially if they don’t know us. And because you’ve gone through this, you will understand why you should never jump to conclusions based on a snapshot of information, and why you can’t believe everything you see or read online. I’m sorry that you have received all this unwanted exposure, but we will get through this together.
I met with TODAY on 29 November 2016 to clarify issues arising from the original version of this open letter. As a result of the meeting, changes were made to the letter to address the following issues:
· The allegation of invasion of privacy.
I had agreed to be interviewed and accompanied on PSLE results day, 24 November 2016, by a TODAY reporter who asked for permission to do so on the night of 23 November. The reporter openly recorded our conversation at the school, which lasted 45 minutes and 49 seconds on her recorder.
· The circumstances surrounding the comment “You can forget about your Nintendo DS”.
The comment was made in the presence of the TODAY reporter, who did not intrude into a private conversation as the original version of the letter implied.
· Withholding personal information about my son.
I had requested that my son’s name not be revealed, and for his photo not to be taken. These requests were honoured. TODAY published his T-score as I did not ask for it not to be published.
TODAY has also agreed to append a clarification to their online story with regards to the context of the Nintendo comment.