We are often so engrossed in trying to mould our children into what we feel are upright beings in society. We try to prepare them for life, and ever so often, we forget that they are individual beings with their own personalities. It's been said that a child is a direct extension of us, and that their inborn nature mirror that of their parents'. Whilst I agree with this, I often remind myself that even when I see so much of myself and the husband's habits and nature in the boy, he is his own person, and how he chooses to act upon them is entirely dependent on his personality. As parents, we can only steer and guide him in the right direction, make him aware of society's norms, and teach him the difference between right and wrong.
It makes me wonder that when parents push their children to excel, be it academically or in extracurricular activities, are they truly thinking for their child's well being, or are they (subconsciously) making their children live their dreams? As a parent of a preschooler, I am in no position to comment on what parents of school going children face, but this will serve as a reminder to me that even next time, when I unwittingly get too caught up in preparing the boy and cheering him on in his mice race (they graduate to rats once they start work), I must never forget him as an individual, and respect his wishes.
Just last week, I was talking to some friends, catching up on life, and taking a breather off work. One of them posed this question to me:
“What if Caden tells you one day that he would like to be in F & B, and manage a restaurant in the future?”
Without even missing a beat, I asked her: “Why not? But if he chooses to make this his career choice, I will ask him if this is what drives him. If serving people and making sure their every visit to the restaurant is memorable – is his passion. If he tells me that this is what he enjoys doing, no matter how much money we have invested in his education, we will support him.”
She was pretty surprised at my response, and mentioned that all of us at the table, being in the F & B industry ourselves, should understand better than anyone else how this job can be so unforgiving. Crazy hours, working when others are enjoying weekends and public holidays, and living a pretty unconventional life. You leave for work when people are preparing to go home, and reach home when many are either going to school, or to work. It is an often thankless job, accolades are few and far in between because people expect good service, and when there is a slight lapse in service – people are so very quick to pinpoint mistakes.
I told her that in any kind of job, there are bound to be pitfalls. More so in Singapore where efficiency ranks supreme, people are increasingly heading home from work at later hours. It is difficult to maintain work-life balance when working over one weekend might mean a contract won over another company which insists on a strict 5-day week policy. When deadlines have to be met and clients need to be attended to, sometimes working way beyond the usual 8 hour / day is mandatory. Otherwise, with Singapore ranking Number One as the most expensive city in the world to live in – if we were to work the way the previous generations did (dinner at home is at 6.30pm, prepared by the wife who stays home because that’s the norm) how do we manage to earn enough to pay the bills, and basically survive – even at the most basic level?
I further added that majority of people think that the F & B industry is a 'dead end' option for those who never did well enough in school to be in another vocation. Perhaps it's true that it's a means to an end for some, but there are others who are passionate about their jobs as a server, captain, cook or bartender - for whatever drives them. They are happy at work, they genuinely try to give service above and beyond, and they try to better themselves at every available opportunity. I think they are better than others who are dragging themselves to go to work daily, dealing with office politics and working just for the sake of working.
Anyway, I digress.
It’s way too easy to forget that our children are their own persons, even though they may be entirely dependent on us for the first 16 years of their lives. Respecting our child’s wishes can be unintentionally forgotten in the humdrum of daily life, and when you have 2 (or more) kids tugging at your skirts and demanding attention 90% of your waking moments, sometimes it’s just easier to set the course of action for them. I totally understand that, but even when it makes things that much simpler when I make decisions for the boy, please let me never forget to ask him first what exactly he prefers, and then decide the best course of action according to what he wants.
It makes me think – when people say that ‘I treat my kids like adults and I expect them to act like it’ – aren’t they really saying that ‘I expect my kids to act like adults’, and that said, only adults are people?
The husband and I believe that respect from the boy is earned by showing him the values and meaning of respect. When we respect his opinions, wishes and feelings, we are teaching him about how choice can influence the outcome of things, and we think that this is a very important lesson in life. When we present him with choices, outbursts and tantrums too, can usually be averted, because these frustrations usually stem from the lack of control. By giving him options and allowing him to choose, we have shown him that we trust him, and therefore taught him to trust himself. Like us, he is not always going to make the right decisions, but we are firm believers in learning through experience. When he makes the wrong decisions despite advice, as his parents, we will not be quick to say ‘We told you so!’, because we have made unwise decisions too, and will not be who we are without overcoming stumbling blocks along the way.
Our society is too caught up with ‘control’. As parents, we feel that we have to be in control all the time, because it is our duty to ensure that our child(ren) do not grow up to be rude, insensitive, and spoilt. We fear that our children will deviate from the social norms, and what seems acceptable in society. Are we more worried about being embarrassed or ‘losing face’ rather than how our children feel? When we push them to be better, stronger, and excel in school, are we doing it mostly for bragging rights?
For me and the hubs, please let us never forget that parenting is never about barking orders, ensuring that he always does things the ‘right’ way, punishments, or telling him that things won’t work without showing them why. Never let us lose sight of the fact that parenting has so much to do with relationships. It’s how well we bond with him, how we set boundaries, how we teach, and how we love.