Parents and children – do we honour them enough?

In the past almost 3 years of my marriage, I’ve had the honour of building relationships with a whole new family. Mothers, aunties, grandmothers, grand-aunties, uncles, fathers, cousins, nieces and nephews. The relationships I cherish most are the ones I’ve built with my mother-in-law and the elderly grandmothers in the family. There’s always a special story, a glint of tear sparked by a deep emotion triggered by a distant memory of a loved one, or of an impactful memory. There’s something very powerful and strong about all mothers of the world. Perhaps because I came from a family of many strong mothers – it has shaped me to look up to them and to know that the strength we see, is but the tip of the pillar of strength they’ve developed.

Today, I met Nenek Piah as everyone in my in-laws family fondly calls her. She comes over once every couple of months or so. A petite and frail lady with weathered, tanned skin – telling of her extended exposure to the sun from her many cycling rides. I glimpse at her face and wonder what the story is behind every crease on her face and the kind of experiences she must have lived through. She stutters as she speaks and only those closest to her can clearly make out what she’s saying. She rides a purple Piyo-piyo bicycle she claims has been her trusty companion, seeing her through motherhood, and bringing her all around Singapore. She’s small but fit. She claims to be 94 years of age, – “in 6 years, I’ll be 100!”, she retorts. Nenek Piah, I’m told is but a shadow of her younger sprightly self. She used to make the best noodle soups and the best cakes, everyone tells me. Now, her memory has started to fail her, and she has a tendency to repeat the same stories ever so frequently. She claims that many closest to her have accused her of begging, but she never begs, “Why should I? It’s a sin! Plus the police will catch me if I did!”

She also shares how her children and grandchildren look down upon her, for she has no money to contribute to the household. “They (referring to her grandchildren) hide the food from me! That’s fine – I’ll get by. If I have money, I’ll get myself a cup of coffee – kopi-o (Black coffee) is 80 cents, and kopi susu (coffee with milk) is $1.20!” If I don’t, that’s fine, I’ll sit quietly.” Also, I can’t work these days. Did you know employers can get fined if they hire someone as old as me?”  She continues to answer my questions – how she used to make $100 a month when she could iron clothes at one of the laundry shops in Eunos. She detests her children, whom she claims don’t care for her, and who have accused her of ill-treating their children. “Why would I ill-treat them?” she asks indignantly. She has tears in her eyes even though this is probably the 30th time I’ve heard her narrate the same story. I don’t know to what extent her stories are truthful, but it makes me think a lot.

It makes me ponder on how mothers are sensitive people, how they have expectations of their children, and how many of them in their late elderly years are probably hurt by the acts of their children and how it’s sad, even as an outsider to witness that. This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed this. My own elderly grandmother has grown more sensitive too, and often finds herself hurt by the acts and words of her children and grandchildren, even if they may have been driven by good intentions. I suppose, in a society, that has successfully shaped us to believe that self-worth is linked to the ability to independently care for yourself, to create wealth and to care and provide for yourself and others – it is easy to feel insecure and have that manifest into sensitive thoughts of someone’s lack of care for you.

Yet, whose responsibility is it? Is it the child’s responsibility to understand that as your parents age, they are likely to be more sensitive and to therefore respond with greater care, love and patience? Or should parents be the ones to expect less – and to learn how to control and manage their expectations – and not think they’re entitled to care by their children just because they took care of these children when they were younger? It’s a sensitive topic for which there clearly is no straight answer, and for which there’s always a subjective view, complicated further by each family’s unique dynamics and circumstances.

And yet, I feel like in the ideal world – where theory rules, children ought to be more giving. They ought to empathise with their parents who oftentimes have to come to terms with losing many aspects they took for granted – health, independence, agility and strength. Simple things like going to the washroom, preparing food, and running errands may no longer come at ease. This understandably results in mounting frustration and questioning of their self-worth, giving way to a shorter temper and a more sensitive nature.

In the ideal world too, a parent will nurture their children, give them the best of themselves – with love, kindness and patience, and yet not expect any returns from their children when they’re aged. As a young parent myself, I say this with hesitation – because clearly, the ideal world is not how reality is. Our real lives is fraught with expectations, ego, hopes and dreams. As parents, we do think we deserve the attention of our children when we’re elderly. We do expect the same patience we showed our children when they were young and completely dependent on us. I mean, isn’t that the least they can do for us? And yet, expectations only begets disappointment at times. Clearly, there is no moral judgment in the views to be held by parents and children alike – it is tough to cast judgment when each has had their own unique upbringing and experiences to have shaped what they think is right.

A recent sharing by Imam Omar Suleiman encapsulates this well though –

Sincerity (ikhlas), which is the opposite of showing off (Riya) is that you are indifferent to the praise of others. This causes you to be always drivern to good whether or not anyone else is watching. 

Truthfulness (Sidq), which is the opposite of conceit (‘Ujb) is that you are indifferent to the praise of your own self. This causes you to always be driven to better because you can never be too good. 

sincerity and truthulness

In this context, sincerity and truthfulness is relevant. Imagine if children were sincere and truthful, they’d then persevere to keep doing good in the context of their parents, and yet remain truthful / humble in that what’s good can always be improved upon.

Likewise with parents – they’ll strive to care for their kids, because that is what’s right, and when it’s done with sincerity – it comes with no strings attached. And without any  expectations (driven by conceit – “clearly I was a good parent/ did so much, and therefore ought to be ‘rewarded’/ taken care of”), one is more content, and anything that comes, becomes a bonus, and a gift that usually inspires gratitude.

What do you think? Is this truly possible?

How can we master our egos, ditch the expectations, and truly be truthful and sincere in life, and in every role that we play? Would love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

 

Defining 2019

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We’re hours away from 2020- which seems both full of promise and challenge. I vaguely remember how, about 3 decades ago – the then Prime Minister of Malaysia (who’s once again the Prime Minister of Malaysia – who would have imagined?) shared on his ambitious Wawasan 2020 – and how as a youth, it sounded so grandiose and distant.

Yet, here we are literally moments shy of this big decade switch – and I feel.. weathered but hopeful. Equal parts calm and anxious – enough to make me want to sit up straight, and pace my breathing. A bundle of mixed feelings, really.

2019 rounded up with painful lows and enough highs to leave me cautiously optimistic but also open to the fact that anything can happen.

Here are 4 defining moments for 2019 that I wish to remember:

  1. I became a mother! Indisputably, the biggest life blessing and life milestone I’ve experienced to date and also one accompanied by large sacrifices and huge responsibility. This big life transition has left me with so much joy and love in my heart that has made my husband and I want to do better and be better for him. And although there is nothing in this world I would trade my little baby and the honour of being his mother for, it would be a lie to say it’s been a walk in the park. Despite being blessed with so much support from my mother in law and extended family that has allowed me to still work, there have been sacrifices too. The daily parenting struggle: less sleep, milk- diaper- food demand-clothes-creams and lotions’, insurance (etc etc) selection and demand- supply planning and inventory management, developmental activities, milestones and time together is transcended by the sobering responsibility of raising another human – whom you know will be shaped by the values you live by and the decisions you make. That continues to place much pressure. Mothering and working has left me less room for my parents, friends and passion projects – but I remain optimistic that things will improve in 2020 with better planning. (ever the optimist, albeit a more cautious one)
  2. A close mentor was hit by a grave illness. Once a sprightly and fit man, I broke down in tears upon seeing him immobile and unconscious. I’ve seen this happen before to another dear high-flying corporate mentor – but seeing this happen once again, to another person whom I’ve worked with so closely in the past couple of years, and who has both inspired and taught me so much, has shaken me deeply. Life is fleeting and unpredictable, and health is truly everything. As a person of the Islamic faith, I take comfort in the belief that God is the best planner, and that everything will unfurl exactly the way it’s meant to – regardless of what we think is best. It has also reminded me to not take the future for granted – to take action now and consistently for things that matter. To call my mum and grandma *today*, to invest in self-care *now*, to take time to plan for your loved ones in the event that you’re no longer around, and to take steps to making that dream come true now. It has reminded me to translate the gratitude of being blessed with yet another day in health by being present and striving for excellence in all that I do, with humility and heart.
  3. Obama’s sharing – Always act from a position of hope and courage, and never of fear. Living in a competitive Asian society like Singapore where certain versions of success are more celebrated than others has left me with several FOMO (fear of missing out) and vulnerable – “am I enough” moments – and I see this present in the way conversations with my peers pan out. The subtle need to compare how we’re doing relative to others is but an outcome of a society that’s constantly measuring who’s younger, better and more accomplished. This one take-away has reminded me to focus on what matters. Acting out of fear –whether it’s the fear of missing out, or fear of not being enough is unproductive as it drags you away from an empowering position of what -can-I-do to uplift this situation to one of helplessness (what-will-I-lose-as a result of this situation). Changing our frame of mind and attitude is truly half the battle won, already. For with the right mindset (and coffee), you can conquer the world.
  4. Wealth and talent are impactful enablers, only if you’re not afraid to use them.  This was something I grappled with a large part of my life. Having come from humble origins, my goal for a large part of my life was to study hard, gain a stellar education and earn a ticket to an awesome well-paying job, save up and work for the rest of my life, and maybe retire someday. Yet, gone are the days of the iron rice bowl. Lives are disrupted with new technology and bravado by individuals who care to change the world. Stable corporations with decades of existence can be rocked overnight with the advent of new hungry underdogs who change the way problems are defined and who dare to introduce innovative solutions. All of us – are blessed with our own inclinations, talents, experiences and inspirations – that could translate into us becoming agents of positive impact should we choose to. But, it won’t be possible until we can truly embrace the entrepreneurial mindset that dares to use wealth, time and talent for their true noble purpose, and to invest them where paths are less forged in solving problems that matter.  To enable greatness, you must dare to be different. I’ve seen so many remarkably talented individuals – from ivy league institutions whose sole goal is to get a leg in the door of corporations, and run the machinery of large well-oiled corporations – sure, that’s not a bad way to live at all, and indeed, to each man, his own. Yet, I can’t help but wonder how amazing it’ll be if more of these outliers would dare to put that talent, persistence and drive into solving real problems that aren’t getting the time and resources of the day, that they deserve. What I’m saying is, if we realise, how much impact we can bring, to the world and lives by choosing to solve one problem – be it as a side hustle/ a passion project or even a full blown life-consuming gig, we’ll all be the richer for it. This entrepreneurial mindset – is something I realise most of us are not born with – especially not in Singapore, where thankfully, the system works and for a large part of our education, we’re taught to fix and optimize, as opposed to create and innovate.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed reading these. What were some of your life-defining insights gleaned from 2019?  Leave a comment – I’d love to read them.

Here’s wishing you a fantastic 2020 ahead – one filled with optimism, bravado, courage and hope. Let’s make it happen!

 

A new you

person holding compass

Photo by Valentin Antonucci on Pexels.com

Hi,

I’m typing this at my dining table at home, after a solid cup of gold (read: coffee). Just watched a couple of videos from the Bucketlist family, and they moved me so much. They represent so many good qualities that inspire me – qualities and values like authenticity, integrity, courage, purpose and passion. To do what is right – even when it may not feel like the easiest thing to do. To try, and step up in making your dreams happen. To choose family and to celebrate them everyday in the littlest and grandest of gestures – but oftentimes, through shared experiences that challenge and redefine your worldview, and not so much, through material pleasures. I’m trying to find their email, so that I can write to them and tell them how I feel – that even if my dreams don’t come true, that I have decided to pursue them, one at a time because they have inspired me to. Life is a journey – never a straight path, but one of curves, and sometimes, downward-slopes, but as long, as you’re growing to be a braver, true-er person, you’re on the right path.

What’s your journey to a more authentic you – gonna be like? Have you revisited your self lately? Are you in touch with who you are and how you want to grow? Don’t give in to the shackles of life – just because it is the way it has been for so long. There is no ‘path’ except for the ones we choose to create for ourselves. If you gather your courage to revisit ‘you’, you may uncover just who you’re meant to be, and what that looks like in terms of the steps ahead.

Much love and peace to you – and I hope you give flight to those wings.

Khairah

Emotionally heavy

I take it personally.

When a young one tells me indirectly that she ditched her dreams of being a copywriter in an agency because no one gave her a chance. Nevermind that everyone around her believes she was born to be one.

I take it personally.

When a young tender girl tells me that she is pained by her Nursing attachment experience in the UK, not because it was bad, but because it gave her the right and space to wear her hijab when her own birth country denies it.

I take it personally.

When a single mum tells me she is worried that she and her 5 kids will be evicted out of their home come mid-Nov and been left homeless and stranded unless her rental home application gets approved.

I take it personally.

Do you?