Mom’s Creative Problem-Solving

I am back in Singapore, temporarily. My sister came to get me at the airport past midnight, and we, the entire family, went downstairs to have some supper when we got home. The fantastic thing about Singapore is that there is always easy access to food at any time of the day. The less desirable side effect is none other than weight management.

I have been unpacking and reorganizing my room for the past few days since I have been back; I am still not done with unpacking the parcel that I shipped back from Perth. I am developing some resistance because it means I have to reorganize my shelves and cabinet to free up space for the “new” items from Perth. I know, I know not the concept of light travel, what does that even mean!

My mother has been a fun joy, mostly. (If you haven’t read any of the hilarious accounts of my mother’s antics on a Facebook page that I managed “Me and Ma”, you might want to pop over for some background feel) Amusement aside, my mother continues to impress and amaze me with her unsurpassed intelligence.

Mom’s Creative Problem-Solving Ability

My mother is a collector. She collects everything (I mean, EVERYTHING), including illnesses (we must be able to laugh at our misfortunes because there are things that we cannot change within our power, so we choose to find the silver lining and laugh it off), so she has quite a lot of different pills to take with confusing instructions. She was taking her medications this morning and she animatedly mumbled about her medications – yes, she is very dramatic, guess where I got that gene from?

I resisted asking, but well, I can use some home drama today, so I thought. Apparently, she missed her medication yesterday. From her expression, I guessed she was inviting me to probe – or not, she would have (over)spilled the information one way or another. I succumbed and asked how could she remember missing a pill?

She wrote numbers on the back of the pill strips to track her medication intake! I have to say, it’s a neat and simple tracking system! A good solution is one that is simple to implement and maintain. Speaking of an effective solution, I am almost tempted to whine about the inefficiency of the Singapore’s online security system, but I think I will let that go, for now.

My Mom’s Lack of Education Benefited Me

The silver lining of my mother’s lack of opportunity for education – which is a great loss considering her intelligence – would be that I learned to push myself to acquire coping strategies to mitigate executive dysfunction – executive function is responsible for the cognitive processes that manage things like planning and organizing, making decisions, and emotions control etc.

The story started once upon a time… When I was in the primary school, my mother would make me carry ALL the textbooks, workbooks and spare workbooks for ALL the subjects for the whole year because of her lack of understanding and reading the timetable written in English. It was like carrying bricks on my back every single day only to use some of them.

She was doing her best for what she had not experienced – school. She never knew how to pack a schoolbag; she never knew that only some books were needed for different school days. She only knew to prepare us as adequately as possible so that we didn’t get punished for not having materials for the class and to learn efficiently at school.

It was especially challenging for me to know that we didn’t have to bring everything to school, because I was unusually quiet and shy, so I spoke to no one to know immediately that people were doing things differently than I. After a while, I started to realise that the teachers would advise what books to bring to the next class, so I started to repack my schoolbag. My mother would sometimes repack my repacked schoolbag!!! Oh, that determination of hers!

It daunted on me today that if my mother had sufficient education and like many modern educated mothers, she might also choose to do everything correctly for me, and I would learn nothing. Many people I know who also have executive function difficulties continue to suffer from the inability to problem-solve, plan and organize; many of them may have been deprived of the chance to acquire the life skill. Learning the skill from a young age allows us to compensate to a certain degree in planning and organizing tasks; failure in tasks management is possibly one of the biggest barriers to gaining some successes in life. We must be unafraid of letting the young ones make a mistake; we could do everything for them because “we knew better”, but they would have missed the many developmental milestones.

Formal Education is Not the Only Way in Tapping into Our Intellectual Abilities

My mother may not have the chance to grow academically, but she shines unhinderedly by thinking creatively to solve problems fluidly. See, my mother is the fix-it-all at home when my sister and I were growing up (I am fix-it-all 2.0). To her, an object is an abstract concept, and it is possible that having no formal education removes the chances of constricting her mind to a rigid framework.

By not knowing (from structured learning), she knows more (abstractly and experientially). For example, she could cook a hundred different dishes using the same pot; I would need a hundred different pots for different dishes. It’s simple logic. I see a book as a book, meant for reading; I may not automatically assume that there are other uses for a book. My mother, who is not formally taught about that, would see a book as a book for reading, and an object that can be used as a base to raise height for another object, or a weight to press something down. So, she could steam, deep fry, stir-fry, and boil dishes using the same pot; we would probably need a steamer, deep frying pan, wok, and pot for the different uses – I mean, that’s why they make different utensils, right? I totally worship marketing tricks!

If we were willing, we can learn something valuable from an uneducated person – no negative connotation is being attached the word “uneducated”.


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