Mummy hasn’t written to (now both of you) in awhile and it’s probably partly because when you’re not home/ napping your sister follows her around the apartment with a ball and guilt trip. And then one of you, the one not Doing Important Things At School likes to play See How Mummy Runs If I Crawl Right Off The Bed To Get At The Dog – Fun! when she’s awake. And that’s getting really often.
Then a dear reader asked what values Mummy hopes to raise you with, and so she’s starting a rough laundry list in between your naps and homework… Mummy knows you are both young yet, but in her mildly obsessive compulsive spirit of starting-slow-when-young being easier than fixing-something-when-not-so-young, your parents also periodically look for lessons from their friends who have older children.
In no particular order:
Number 1: Humility.
Mummy believes 99% of the time brains or talent are nothing without also the right attitude, the willingness and eagerness to accept a lesson anywhere you can find one. (For an old, semi-related post about Mummy surviving her dealing room gofer years click here.) It’s the choice between wanting to be as good as you can be at something, and simply appearing to be. (Mummy gets very taken by the irony that the latter and your corresponding ego can very easily cost you the former.) Somewhere in there is also the reminder you have to know what you want in order to get what you want.
Excepting the few super-talented out there who somehow got there while still being arrogant a-holes (most of whom Mummy thinks would still end up someday with things like award winning movies showing them in hugely unfavorable light and all manner of other karma, just that we might not be around to see it), virtually every self-made, incredibly successful person Mummy and Daddy respect is exceedingly humble. They listen to everyone, even if only for a few minutes to ascertain if they should listen for longer. We think their attitude had a lot to do with where they are today. They might not be the Absolute Most Talented, but somewhere in the package of things that equate their success Mummy believes is humility and discipline. (As an example of Talent Without Right Attitude Being Unable To Save You, Mummy would choose Lindsay Lohan.)
And then Mummy had the opportunity for a few conversations with parents of older children recently, many of whom are quite well to do. It was interesting, how fairly common the concern that affluence was its own parenting pitfall. That would bring us to:
Number 2: Emotional Resilience
For want of a better way to elaborate, this one was from another reader who sent Mummy some news articles about the 24 year old medical student son of a well-to-do doctor in Penang who is suspected of jumping to his own death over a love triangle. Somewhere in there was the sad message from a grieving father whose advice to other parents sparked discussion that perhaps providing material comfort a bit too readily or plentifully, risked creating a lack of resilience to the disappointments in life that would invariably come up.
This seems so far off when one of you is still 5 and the other not yet 1, but Mummy being Mummy figured she’d kinda slide into it as early as she could, so she thought to set her “default” reactions to material stuff as “not the deciding factor of how your day goes”. In other less clumsy words, Mummy tries her conscious best not to imply, via any of her actions that you may observe, that your day might get better if you got new Lego. Your day gets better if you complete a particularly complicated project, instead of giving up halfway. After all, if stuff is easy and just anyone can do it, where’s the fun, the achievement high? (Also, ordering you Rockstar, to do it “because Mummy said so,” just never works.)
And so we have a game, one Rockstar is habitually addicted to: What’s Your Best And Favorite Part Of The Day. Mummy’s Best And Favorite Parts always have to do with the bits where you try your best and don’t give up when something is tough. (As opposed to you getting stuff or just winning something because Mummy thought it would make her job harder when you get bummed about not actually getting/ winning something )
One day, your parents discussed with friends if it was possible to “artificially” throw some of life’s curve balls our kids’ ways as you got older, in the hopes of making you more resilient to disappointments life would invariably bring. Mummy once saw her RM insisting her two (primary 2 and 3) boys not send back an order in a restaurant when the waiter produced a Spaghetti Carbonara instead of Bolognese, saying she’d wanted her boys to just deal.
Mummy hasn’t made Rockstar do that but she is occasionally mildly pleased when restaurants run out of your favorite juice or meal and you learn to adjust. Ditto the postponement of your school beach trip last week because of bad weather – in fact, weather is perhaps one of the best illustrations of things that are out of everyone’s control, and an excellent practice at being determined to have a good time anyway. By finding alternatives and what-not. By choosing to be happy about it.
Because your greatest happiness will not come from things going your way. There are people who never have enough things going their way. (And how about that annoying flight that gets delayed, stranding you in an airport – especially when the pilot comments it’s due to them finding a glitch, have you ever thought about the alternative if they didn’t find the glitch – this is why Mummy never complains that much about flight delays – she does however complain relatively more about bad service/ treatment of others because that implies a choice to either behave badly or not care about others. You will need friends and allies when you grow up, everyone does – and that “everyone” can choose you or they can choose someone else to work with)
Anyway, the general consensus we arrived at among our friends was the irony that if you kids were really loved, it was likely you would never truly realize just how privileged you were, it’s just human nature. (You cannot fathom say, the dysfunction of a parent with a serious substance abuse problem, for very rough e.g., you are infinitely secure in the availability and reliability of your parents, the knowledge we would do everything in our ability to keep something really bad away.) There is no substitute for the perception of (or lack of) a safety net in life. Like, you always know we’d post bail and stuff. (Though really if you end up in jail and you did do it, we’re gonna kill you. Ha ha just kidding. Maybe.)
For real though, we love you. And it makes it that much harder to parent you. We have to make do with things like spaghetti and bad weather.
ps: Dear Namesake, this one’s for you too
pps: More later on, with further thought and feedback…