MOD­ERN FAM­ILY

David Yee and Jac­que­line Chow – the model cou­ple mak­ing their own par­ent­ing rules as they grow up with their girls. By Su­nitha Thaya­paran.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Contents -

A day in the life of the Yees proves that a lot of love and a lit­tle laugh­ter goes a long way

“To­day’s melt­down, will be to­mor­row’s funny anec­dote,” laughs David Yee, 43, the day BAZAAR breezes in for a bright sum­mery shoot in the cou­ple’s taste­fully dec­o­rated sub­ur­ban home – shades of white, cream, and grey. It’s pos­si­bly the best in­tro­duc­tion to the “Zen and the Art of Parental San­ity” ap­proach as prac­tised in the Yee house­hold. David and Jackie Yee may look like they just stepped out of the pages of a fash­ion mag­a­zine with their chis­elled good looks and stat­uesque, nat­u­rally an­gu­lar frames, but they lit­er­ally fall down with laugh­ter when a quick look around their pic­ture per­fect home prompts one to re­mark “You guys re­ally have it to­gether.”

“Oh my God,” laughs Jackie, mum to Is­abel, six, Alexis, five, and Chelsea, three. “Far from it! We of­ten look at those par­ents who seem text­book per­fect. They’re jet­set­ting to Parrot Cay, try­ing new restau­rants ev­ery night, scor­ing phe­nom­e­nal ca­reer highs. Don’t get us started on their kids. The kids are do­ing things that make you won­der what man­ual those adults got at child­birth that we didn’t. And that’s just try­ing to keep up with the new de­vel­op­men­tal “norms”. We hear of two-year-olds play­ing the vi­o­lin, three-year-olds who read and write, fouryear-olds who are trilin­gual, five-year-olds who never miss an es­say dead­line. We are al­ways telling our­selves not to com­pare our kids. But it is hard when you are con­stantly bom­barded with sto­ries of tod­dlers who are all but form­ing nu­clear physics the­o­ries.”

The cou­ple met in the early 2000s when Jackie was a ris­ing PR mav­er­ick and David host­ing TV shows, and are clearly an­chored in a re­la­tion­ship based on hu­mour and a great at­ti­tude. “Well, we met through mu­tual friends in Sin­ga­pore at an Em­po­rio Ar­mani event that Jackie or­gan­ised,” be­gins David. “We were both in rocky re­la­tion­ships at the

time and talked on the phone for hours, con­sult­ing each other on our re­spec­tive fail­ing re­la­tion­ships. We even­tu­ally re­alised that ev­ery­thing was com­pletely our ex-part­ners’ fault and we had absolutely no hand in what went wrong. So we then de­cided that we must be per­fect for each other. And we were right,” the now col­lege di­rec­tor laughs in re­flec­tion as he brings out white wine with creamy un­der­tones and a rain­bow of an­tipasto for a snack. The girls prac­ti­cally fall on their dad as he dis­trib­utes hum­mus on crack­ers be­fore run­ning off to watch the ad­ven­tures of Princess Barbie.

“Fun­nily enough,” says David, “Wik­i­how ac­tu­ally has a five-step list to man­ag­ing work, life, and kids but the truth, as all par­ents of young kids will tell you, is that all you can do is take it one day at a time. If one of us is hav­ing a tough day, the other will try to help out a bit more. We just have to en­joy (or suf­fer) each day as it comes. Again, the Tao of Tod­dler­hood is that to­day’s melt­down will be to­mor­row’s funny anec­dote.” At that mo­ment, Is­abel, Izzy, for short, comes run­ning up with tales of woe about the pink dress she’s meant to wear for the shoot. “It’s scratchy, Daddy,” she says plain­tively, and David turns to set­tle her into com­pli­ance. Jackie says, watch­ing the sce­nario, “David’s a great dad, re­ally hands-on. Af­ter Izzy was born I re­ally thought I could han­dle go­ing back to work on a more free­lance ba­sis but the guilt just wore me out. PR is a full-time op­er­a­tion, even part-time, so I re­alised some­thing had to give and I cer­tainly did not want it to be my fam­ily. I do the school runs and Chelsea is with me through the day, leav­ing me time to work on my oc­ca­sional hobby, an on­line busi­ness sell­ing baby sleep­ing bags. It’s like a lit­tle side pro­ject that keeps me en­gaged but re­ally, my girls are my pri­or­ity and it’s great I can be with them full­time.” Jackie, 41, who does not look a day over 29, ad­mits her style has def­i­nitely evolved since her PR days. “Well, I’m loving Gwyneth Pal­trow’s easy, clas­sic style and now I favour fluid sil­hou­ettes like maxi dresses that can take me from the school run to a spot of shop­ping or cof­fee with friends.”

It’s clear as day, as Chelsea, Lexie, and Izzy ham it up for the cam­era, and buzz about try­ing to get ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion, the air punc­tu­ated with shrieks of laugh­ter and

“You tell the truth, ap­pre­ci­ate your par­ents, kiss the ones you love good­night. They pick up on the good stuff ...

If you’re lucky.” – David Yee

squeals of ex­cite­ment, that this is a happy house­hold. “You have to have a sense of hu­mour about things,” muses David, “but we be­lieve in par­ent­ing by os­mo­sis. We try to be­come “bet­ter” peo­ple ev­ery day in the hopes that they will pick up on our at­ti­tudes and be­hav­iour in­stead of just preach­ing to them. It is chal­leng­ing try­ing to be what we want our chil­dren to be­come. So we speak po­litely, eat our fruit and veg­eta­bles, curse out of earshot, scarf down the Doritos only when the kids are asleep, try not to fight over the re­mote con­trol.” Jackie con­curs, say­ing, “We have be­come more con­scious about our ac­tions in ev­ery­day sit­u­a­tions – how we treat each other, how we treat strangers, how we re­act to good and bad sit­u­a­tions, and how we prac­tice our be­liefs. It’s an ex­er­cise in re­spect, pa­tience, hu­mil­ity, and hu­mour.”

“It’s in­cred­i­ble watch­ing them grow up, de­velop their own per­son­al­i­ties, so dis­tinct from each other,” says David. “Lexie is in­cred­i­bly shy, Izzy is pretty de­ter­mined, and Chelsea is a fighter.” Jackie chimes in, say­ing, “What’s im­por­tant is to re­mem­ber they are in­di­vid­u­als with in­di­vid­ual needs. I re­mem­ber walk­ing into Is­abel’s preschool one Mother’s Day and a buzz of chat­ter, oohs and aaaahs could be heard as the teach­ers handed each mum a card plucked from a row of draw­ings the chil­dren had made for Mother’s Day. There were hearts, flow­ers, houses with fam­i­lies of stick fig­ures in ev­ery Cray­ola shade. Two teach­ers came up to me and started apol­o­gis­ing pro­fusely, say­ing, “We re­ally wanted to help Is­abel. We kept ask­ing her what she wanted to draw but she re­fused our help.” They kept the piece of pa­per face down. Af­ter a few ner­vous glances, they turned over the piece of pa­per and handed it to me. It was a page of black scrawls. No colours, just black. There were no iden­ti­fi­able shapes. Not even a stick mother. When Is­abel and I got into the car, I asked her what she had drawn for me. In a flash, she sat up and leaned over to the driver’s seat and pointed to some black squig­gles and said “Q. V. T. P. Love!” She couldn’t spell or draw to save her life but my four-year-old got her Mother’s Day mes­sage across. It re­ally is the thought that counts.”

“In the end, it’s not that hard,” smiles David. “You tell the truth, ap­pre­ci­ate your par­ents, kiss the ones you love good­bye and good­night. They pick up on the good stuff.” He pauses. “If you’re lucky!” And breaks out into that trade­mark laugh of his.

Ta­ble talk with the Yee fam­ily. From left: Is­abel, Jac­que­line, Chelsea, Alexis, and David

The girls at play

Jac­que­line and David al­ways make time for one an­other de­spite their busy sched­ules

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