Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Someone's gonna get hurt real bad

'Tis the wedding season so I've been to a wedding a week the last couple of weeks and there's something that has struck me as bizarre. In two of the weddings, the newly married couple gave thank you speeches. No surprise there. They thanked everyone from God to the little boy who probably only opened their car down with a big grin and oranges in order to get some moolah. No surprise there too. What was surprising was the reason why they thanked particular people.

Parents fall into the "Must thank" category. If they are not thanked, that would be akin to slapping them in the face and spitting on their grave. So they get thanked. And in true Singapore fashion, these couples' thank you speeches seem to follow the composition answering template that was taught to them in primary school.

Q: What fruit do you like?
A: I like apples.
Q: Why do you like apples?
A: I like apples because they are sweet and juicy.

Similarly, there were a lot of "I am thankful to my parents because..." and the reasons bordered on mundane and made me wonder if my kids would say the same thing about me years from now. There was thanking mom for making breakfast and thanking dad for sending/picking them to school/work. But there was one that did make me sit up. Thanking Dad (mostly) for disciplining them and being strict with them and caning them or making them do tons of assessment books.

It really sounded like a case of taking the whole Confucian thing a bit too far. I think our education has imbued into us that anything that disciplines us is good for us. And anything that builds character is good for us. So since discipline builds character, discipline must be good for us. But that's where it gets me. I'd be plenty ashamed if at Baby J (she won't be a baby by then...) or Evan's wedding that they stood and thanked us for disciplining them so that they grew up to become upstanding useful citizens. Discipline is very important, I agree with that. And it is part of loving our kids. I agree with that. But for it to be such a key feature of the relationship with my child such that it becomes the illustration that defines it, that's a bit too much of discipline and too little of everything else in the relationship. I don't know how the fathers felt, to be in the audience when this was announced to their 500 guests but I'd be quite ostrich like if it happened to me.

When I think back about what I'm thankful for with my Mom and Dad, I think about how my Mom would make it a point to book a holiday bungalow or chalet with us every year end vacation and we'd stay there for a week at a stretch. Our days revolved around being in the water or playing on the sand, occasionally coming up to eat. I even remember how one year, Mom booked it for the last week of the term because everything else was booked out and the thrill of going to school from the chalet was immense. It was like I had a secret and to be able to go "home" to the chalet after the school was way better than anything anyone must have had at that point. This was coupled by the fact that going to school meant playing games in school since it was after the exams. Now, that memory was something I am immensely thankful for and I look forward to being able to do the same thing for the twins.

With my Dad, he wasn't the most involved or enthused Dad around but he tried. And I remember how much he believed in my leadership abilities and how he took great offence at my not being selected to be a prefect. I'd come home crying because I found out that I hadn't been made prefect (I have no idea why it was such a big deal), not because I wasn't good enough but because my class had decided that Little Miss Good at Everything wasn't going to get away at being good at yet another thing. (The combined bitchiness of teenage girls and their elephant memories made for life in a girls school being extremely miserable for me) My Dad huffed and puffed about it and was about to march into the principal's office demanding how a girl's future (seriously?) could be determined by her impartial, immature peers and how it was obviously a flawed system. Thankfully, he heard me when I begged him not to make my life more miserable. I found out later on that he did the same thing for my brother. Dad had something about making sure that we were given the leadership opportunities we deserved and even though there wasn't direct discipline involved, it taught us another virtue, as important as discipline and that was justice and objectivity.

Oh! It just struck me that being a prefect was a big deal because my brothers had been prefects and had served on the prefectorial boards and I got a kick out of them wearing school blazers. I think that and the idea of head girls put into my head by Enid Blyton and all her school stories! But that's beside the point. My point was that those are the things I remember my parents doing for me and while they didn't directly build character like the cane would have, they made me feel loved and protected.

And in my book, growing up with a childhood memories that do not involve school work or tuition and knowing that my parents had my back are as important as being taught right from wrong. But at the same time, don't get me wrong. My parents were big on discipline. Especially Dad. His oft bellowed threat was something about turning us upside down and walloping us. So much so that I recorded it verbatim in a composition I wrote for the school news letter and the principal called me in for questioning, on whether I was really subject to such cruel and ununsual punishment that bordered on abuse.

But I don't remember the overt acts of discipline even though I know they were there and they make me part of who I am now. And I don't want my kids to remember the times that I smack/ ground/ rail at them, especially not at their weddings!

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Ondine tossed this thought in at 00:24

0 thoughts...

0 thoughts...

Post a Comment

" Far in the stillness, a cat languishes loudly"