It was a welcomed rain. After a scorching day, the air needed a change. The downpour managed to flush out what was left of the day's oppressive heat within minutes and coolness set in. But to some, the refreshing rain was a curse.
The weather had grooved into the familiar pattern of tropical June - torrential rain closing the curtain on a day of excessive heat and humidity. However, the expected rain didn't stop the crowd from buzzing along the road on a Saturday's night earlier. But much to the despairs of the owners of the makeshift stalls lining the road, as expected, it poured. The night market heeded the cue from the weather and took an unwilling break.
Sitting in a coffee shop facing the once crowded place, it would be fun watching people scurrying for cover when the rain started, but my attention was caught by a little girl behind a stall located in front of the coffee shop.
She seemed the same age as my nine years old daughter. I didn't notice her until the rain started and she rushed out from inside the van behind the stall. Needing no instruction from her parents, she swiftly moved around the stall. She helped to shift and cover the tables used to display shoes of various shapes and sizes from raindrops that escaped the big umbrella. Just when they were about to finish, the parents shooed the little girl back into the van. Under the generator-powered yellow light, the little girl took a few moments to regain her concentration and continued her homework.
While the rain continued to pour, her work was interrupted when her father handed her a plate of food. Together they sat at the back of the van, chatting while nibbling on the food. I couldn't hear their conversation over the distance and through the noises of the rain and the generator. But I could certainly feel the warmth between them - giggles interlaced with hearty laughs, gentle nudges on the shoulder exchanged with cheeky facial expressions, playful teases replied with puffing faces in pretence - it all seemed so familiar.
The string of my heart resonated warmly to the picture portrayed by the pair of father and daughter under the fluctuating yellow light. My daughter and I share a similar kind of relationship, interactive and fun loving. But I doubt ours will ever plumb the depth of theirs.
I am lucky that I earn enough to provide my children an environment where they can spend their times mostly between studies and recreation activities. At this stage, they know we have to work to get the food, the clothes, the shoes, the books, the Gameboys, and etc. But it's nothing to concern them directly. In facts, we shield them from the hardship of life and ask them to concentrate on enjoying their childhood. Reality has never forced us into a partnership of any kind through any hardship, unlike the shoe peddling family. For that, I am thankful.
Hardship of any nature is never our choice of destination. But, guess what? We never have a choice but to face them when they are at the doorstep knocking on the door. Having gone through forty plus years in life in a not-too-hard environment, compared to our parents, I am still fairly confident that I'll be able to withstand any austerity that dare comes my way. Stay away! But my children? Are they growing up in an environment that is "too comfortable" to face any possible adversity in the future? Have we prepared them adequately?
Of course, we will never push our children into formally earning any sort of money at this stage. We will continue to try and create a safe and comfortable environment for them to grow. At best, we will create simulated environments where they are required to work hard to earn rewards of monetary nature or otherwise. But it is simulated. Without the monster of life breathing down the necks, they will never comprehend the magnitude and the weight of the "hardship".
I guess my daughter will not grow up to be as good a fighter in life as the shoe peddling little girl. To compensate what is lacking in the "early training", as parents, we'll try to instill in her characteristics that'll prepare her for the anticipated challenges in her future. While I'm not exactly yearning for the situation of the shoe peddling little girl for my children, I am envious of the shoe-peddling father.
As a father, I'm sure this is never what the man intended for his child. But having to go through life's obstacles hand in hand, bearing the burdens of livelihood on their shoulders standing side by side, the bond growing between the father and daughter will be strong. Their understanding of each other fabricated by comradeship, the successes they enjoy in overcoming difficult times together, the sharing of fruits from their hard work are all special ingredients for a unique father-daughter relationship that will carry them far in the challenges of their lives.
Of that, as a father, I am envious.