Thursday, November 26, 2009

So ...

What's on your mind?

Dunno. But it's kind of heavy.

Work? Relationship? Personal? Family?

Hmmm ... sort of a little bit of everything.

That's what they call LIFE ... Hang on, positive heavy or negative heavy.

Not exactly negative, but definitely not bubbly positive. Just heavy.

First time feeling like this?

Nope. It's been a while. In fact, on and off for the past few years, I guess.

A sudden change happened in your life lately?

No ... there's no changes in my life lately. Well, little changes happen all the time here and there, but no, there's no major changes that would throw me into these kinds of heavy thoughts. No, not that.


I suddenly have the realisation that I'm not exactly the captain of my ship in this voyage called LIFE. I was constantly being pulled in all directions except mine. I'm doing things that I may not want to do. I'm not complaining, I understand that's part of life. And sometimes making sacrifices and doing things for others is what happiness is all about. I won't always get to do what I want to do all the times. In fact, I might not want to do what I want to do all the times. That's life.

Seems like you're at peace with where you are right now. What's the problem then?

Well ... I guess the bigger problem than not being the captain of my ship is - without these external pulling factors, I'm not exactly sure where I want to go with this ship of mine ...


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To Capture Happiness

I'm not sure it's a Wednesday afternoon, but most likely it was. Because usually that's the day I would have a lighter workload and get off early to wait for you after school. Although, being self-employed, lighter workload means less income - but that's not what this post is about.

As usual the school entrance was crowded with parents when I arrived. Most were huddled in groups of two or three chatting away; some preferred to wait at the opposite hawker stalls having a drink; some, like me, who didn't meet any acquaintances would stand alone in the crowd and look pensive, while trying to eavesdrop on some interesting conversations. We were all under the shade away from the evening sun, of course. Was it overcast that day? I'm not sure - but that's not what this post is about.

The school bell rang. A bunch of schoolboys in white shirts and dark blue shorts started to trickle out through the gate. Almost everyone came out like they went into the school earlier - neat and tidy, NOT! - especially you and your other 7-years old friends at Primary One. If there's not a stain on your face, it'll be on your hands; if it's not on your hands, it'll be on your white shirt. For some reason your knees were always dirty. You told me that was because you have to kneel when you couldn't find a seat during recess (or was it school assembly?) - but that's not what this post is about.

I have always enjoyed spotting your dirty face and uncombed hair amongst all the happy faces streaming out from the school. It's a happy feeling to watch your wondering face blossoming into a smile when our eyes meet - it's the kind of happiness when we stumble upon a long lost love after a hundred years apart, even though I had just bid goodbye to you in the morning. I hope, you're just as happy to spot my face amongst the neck-stretched, head swinging and eyes scanning adults - but that's not what this post is about.

As usual, the first thing we did was to enlighten your load. Heavy school bags were always a complaint amongst the parents. I hope those weight would not hinder your growth, although, looking at your other 7-years old friends, you weren't exactly short or small for your age. When we crossed the road, I stretched out my hand. You held it. I felt happy - a fuzzy-warm kind of happy. I had started to cherish these special moments. Lately, as you grow older, at times, I have to resort to commanding to hold your hand. When you were younger, no matter what the situation, you automatically holding onto my out-stretched hand was as natural as our heartbeats - but that's not ... well, you know.

As we walked towards the car, I asked you to walk in front of me. You had always liked to walk behind me. With news about children being kidnapped never stop circulating, I could never be too careful with you. Although, you following my footsteps was something that once made me very happy - a being-idolised kind of happy. For the record, when you were younger, you adored me (Yes, adore! To a certain degree, at 7-years-old, you still do). You had said that when you grow up, you wanted to do what I do as a career. Of course, not long after that, your ambition changed to a teacher, and then a scientist - but that's not what this post is about.

This post is about an image of you that was imprinted onto my mind a few minutes later that day. That image has been bringing happy, very happy smiles onto my face until today, several weeks after. And hopefully when I revisit this post in the future, I can conjure up the same image and bring back the same smile.

I think you were especially happy that day because some companies had sponsored soft drinks and snacks to the school for Children's Day, even though the school had celebrated it in the week before. There were extra bounces in your steps that day. As we approached the car walking on the corridor of an old two storey shop, your gait changed.

Instead of putting your right foot down after you had stepped on your left, you hopped once on your left foot. You then put down your right foot. Left foot out, hopped once on your left, and right foot out. Yes, you were skipping on your left foot. And your hair bobbed freely with every bounce. I'm very sure it was your left foot. I'm not sure why you didn't skip on both legs. I'm also not very sure whether that was the first time I saw you skip, one leg or two. But watching you skipped in your slightly over-sized school uniform of not-so-white shirt and dark blue short, pulled slightly above your waistline, I was suddenly overwhelmed. Unexpectedly.

I think I was almost in tears.

Perhaps it was the way you embrace life at that moment, or perhaps it was simply the cuteness of your skipping, my heart suddenly flooded with happiness by what I saw. I'm not sure I can put my feeling of happiness then into words. I'm not sure words can describe something so inexplicably wonderful. But if I was to pinpoint that happiness in its extensive spectrum, I think it was contentment.

And - because of the old man who sold chee-cheong-fun on a mobile stall - pride too.

The old man had been peddling his food by that road for the past few weeks. He noticed you skipping. I noticed him smiling while watching your skipping. Although with those skips, you didn't achieve anything to any degree in academic terms, or artistic terms, or physical terms, at that moment, when I saw you skipping, I was happy, very happy to proclaim -

"My boy! Yeah, that's my boy!"

Simply because I'm your father.


Thursday, November 12, 2009


No new post for this week.

This post will explain why.


Thursday, November 5, 2009


The train of thoughts was flagged off by a picture of the recent flood in Manila, Philippines. Its speed picked up with a story of a robber praying with his victim in the US. A dialogue with tertiary students by Singapore Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew loaded it with more purposes. On its way, it took a slight turn and picked up a story that I had been wanting to write for a while. It reached the penultimate stop in my previous post. And now here we are, chronicling the journey of this particular series of thoughts on parenting.

Game for a ride on the J-Train?

While hopping through blogs recently after the Typhoon Ondoy had wreaked havoc in Manila, a particular picture captured my imagination. It shows a well-dressed middle-aged woman carrying her handbag on top of her head wading through chest-deep flood waters. "Unpredictability" was the word that sprung up from the contrast reflected in the picture. With the recent spates of natural disasters, it does seem Mother Nature has run out of patience, striking readily anywhere, anytime, and anyhow - ready or not.

Not so long ago, if we were caught in such a predicament and need to start over, we have the comfort and assurance that our insurances or savings and investment in financial institutions will kick-start our recovery when we need it. But during an age when long-established major banks, insurance and financial institutions, and even a country can go bankrupt, the safety net provided by our finances suddenly seems loose, and with it, our economies.

In my non-professional, non-economist opinion, our economies have evolved too far away from the supply and demand of our basic needs, and weighed too heavily on a financial system that is too sensitive to sentiments and opinions. The greater the influences of human factors are in our economies, the more fragile and unpredictable it is. And much like the wraths of Mother Nature, it does seem it can falter and crumble anywhere, anytime and anyhow - ready or not. And not so long ago, it did. And it seems a certain Mr Smith was not ready.

Have you heard about the praying robber? In short - Mr Smith was unemployed, has a family to support, decided to rob a bank, ended up praying together with his victim, gave up his gun, ran off with a cell phone and $20, and later turned himself in after being convinced by his mother, who saw a surveillance video showing his face on TV.

What struck me with that piece of news was that - my son could be Mr Smith in the future!

On the face of these few facts, I'll make a few assumptions. I assume Mrs Smith had raised her boy much like I'm raising my children - with a similar set of moral values and righteous characteristics that would make them grow up to be responsible members of the society (he did own up to his wrongdoings). I also assume and am quite sure that Mr Smith had struggled and failed to refrain himself from stepping into the world of crime as a solution to his financial problems (he seemed nice, as a robber).

Mr Smith had erred, just as my children will make mistakes of various degree in the future. He is big enough to raise his hand and admit his misdemeanours; and I hope if my children do make a mistake in the future, they'll be responsible enough to do the same. In some ways, Mr Smith is the intended result of our parenting, except he had decided to rob.

How do I prevent my children from following the criminal footsteps of Mr Smith if they were faced with the same financial destitute? How should Mrs Smith have brought up her son differently to avoid his misdeeds? Given the fragility and unpredictability of our economies (my assumption), how should we prepare our children to face any possible financial destitute in the future mentally? It's one thing to describe the pain of a tooth being pulled out, without any painkillers, and another to actually go through the pain physically.

Perhaps we should not be too protective of our children from hardship. Or perhaps we should lead our families to a lifestyle of modesty bordering on hardship, even though our income allows us to enjoy better things in life. Perhaps companionship with hardship during childhood will strengthen the wall of resistance against any desire to take the easy way out of any financial difficulties in their future. Should we, as parents, forgo these "better things in life" and make these sacrifices to better prepare our children for any possibilities in their financial future?

Minister Mentor Mr Lee of Singapore certainly thinks so, as he had revealed during a recent dialogue with tertiary students. He and his wife refused to move into the official prime minister residence for the sake of their children. In absolute terms, him living it down was probably still many, many levels above us. But in relative terms, he did live it down for the sake of his children.

I'm sure, as parents, we all try to give the best to our children - better food, better clothes, better quality of life, piano lessons, art courses, ballet classes, etc, etc, as far as our income can afford. And at times, we even pay for them with our future income. That's how much we love our children. And I assume that's what Mrs Smith did too.

But, as parents, are we missing something?



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