Little Lessons


The wife and I are in Bali as I write this, taking a little break from work. We do this once a year on average, without the kids. While we still take the kids to short holidays during their school holidays, we make the time to be with each other as husband and wife too.

The wife has learned to let go of her children. She used to angst over our kid-less trips, and miss the kids a lot. But now, she is much better at enjoying herself without feeling guilty. And the kids have also learned to be totally cool without their parents for a few days, enjoying the company of our capable helper and my mom. Even their uncles, my brothers, chip in to take my kids out for a movie or a trip to the Science Centre, in our absence.

I find children, and parents, rather clingy these days. Maybe in our affluence, we forget that it is totally fine to let kids develop some resilience.

One neighbour, a psychologist whom we have never met, once approached my mother at the void deck and told her, "I have been watching you with your grandchildren in the playground, and I think you do a great job. You never run forward to pick them up when they fall!"

In fact, that is just the half of it. My mother does not only not run to the kids' rescue, she laughs at them when they fall.

Mom has mellowed. If we fell down while playing in the past, we got a beating and scolding for being careless.

But my children have learned to take it in their stride and dust themselves off, suck it up and keep playing.

We try our best to teach them other little things too. Things like asking before taking a chair from another person's table. I never understood why someone can just take a chair from your table at a coffee shop and assume you don't mind. Or worse, clear the dirty dishes from their own table and plonk it on yours… while you are still sitting there.

We also teach our kids to hold the lift for others, and to say thank you if someone does that for you. You will be amazed how many adults, let alone kids, say thank you. The only exception is when they are lingering at the provision store looking at goodies while I am already at the lift and screaming bloody murder. Then I will purposely let the lift close as they run to the lift, and they know they are in trouble.

One of the kids in my block, about 12 years old, will always greet me in the lift, with or without her parents around. "Hello, Uncle," she would say. How refreshingly pleasant and respectful. It is something I want to train my 8-year-old and 10-year-old to do more of.

"Never call auntie/uncle ah," is my refrain these days, when the kids forget to greet their seniors.

Maybe I am old-fashioned in my parenting ways. Recently, my son said, when I asked him to do something, "Sure thing, dude!"

"Dude what dude," I said firmly. "My name is Papa to you."

"Sorry, Pa," he replied sheepishly.

Secretly, I smiled. I guess a son can call his father worse things than "Dude". I called my late father Pa all my life, and hopefully, my children will still see it fit to call me Pa too, when they are all grown up and have kids of their own.