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.

 

 

 

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

Godspeed

“Godspeed”: Good wishes to someone who’s embarking on a journey.

Tsumago, Japan - trekked there in 2012.
We are Voyagers in this journey called life. (Tsumago, Japan – trekked there in 2012.)

That’s what every new year brings – the promise of another journey, for we are all voyagers, with a heart that still believes in the promise of a better tomorrow even if the burden may get heavier with every passing year filled with its share of trials and jubilations.

The clearer the destination, the more straightforward the journey, the lighter the burden, the speedier you go, the more positive the company, the more uplifting this journey it will be.  It’s straightforward and difficult at the same time.

Where do you want to go?
Where do you want to go? I prepared this for a sharing session in 2013.

1) Where are you heading?

2) What are the important stopovers to get there, and by when?

3) What do you need to gain or lose to ease the journey?

4) Who are the ones you’d like to have as support for your journey and to support in their respective journeys?

Start with the destination,  work out the stops, prepare, go with a ready heart, reflect and recalibrate as you head along and take time to savor the journey even if  you may stumble once in a while.

I wish you Godspeed in this leg of the journey we call Life. 🙂

Flawed

A piece of heaven on earth, the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin mosque in Brunei Darussalam. It reminds me that despite our flaws, there is hope, there is beauty that we can create within and without.
A piece of heaven on earth, the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin mosque in Brunei Darussalam. It reminds me that despite our flaws, there is hope, there is beauty that we can create within and without.
This world will hurt, everyone you forge a bond with, will too. Until you realize your feelings can transcend beyond them to something less ephemeral, to something less transient, and finally arrive at something that is purposeful, that is eternal.

Until then, you will bleed, it will hurt, those you care about will fail you, and they must, that’s how it is meant to be – no one is meant to keep you in tact, that role is too big a burden for any mere mortal like yourself or like them to shoulder. Only the Eternal,can.

Allah, I’m 27 years, and I finally understand. The previous times, I sought to forget, I strived to rebuild that trust and try one more time to trust. But it isn’t about trust – it isn’t about not trying hard enough – we all do, we all don’t want to hurt, if we can afford it. The thing is we can’t for our flaws do define us, like it or not. But so do our strengths, and so we strive – it is an endless pursuit of balance – like that of a race with a teaspoon carrying a pping pong ball, except that spoon is in your mouth and your eyes, blindfolded. It was never meant to be easy.

It will ache, as it does now. But I strive.

Allah, I pray for wisdom to choose what is right, to have courage to pursue it and the strength to sustain my efforts at it.

What is enough?

Oh, what a beautiful day today (yesterday – it’s 12:16am) was! It was extremely windy – so windy, I could hear the howl of the wind, trees were swaying vigorously, and it felt like a the wind was cleansing the house of any negativity as it whooshed its way in and out..

I also had the chance to meet my 3 beautiful friends, fellow CP-mates with whom I worked on the E50 consulting practicum project in Uni.

A good ol’ catch up with them over dinner after more than half a year, I believe! Besides the usual catch up – how’s everyone doing, what has everyone been up to, and even our take on current affairs (foreign talents, new policies and how we feel about them, possible worries about it’s not-so-positive consequences), there was that extra special indispensable part on epiphanies and our dreams.

One such sharing that struck me and that got me thinking was a friend’s reflection on  her life in US, when she was there for almost a year, in order to accompany her husband who was there to do his masters. She shared that they led a very meagre lifestyle because they could only survive on his monthly stipend as a student, and did not want to resort to asking for funds from family members in Singapore (how remarkably responsible!). She shared how in view of their tight budget, that every dollar mattered to them, how eating out was too big a luxury to afford, how they scrimped and saved even on transport – (they found an old worn out bicycle that she used to cycle 3km on, and 3 km back in order to go for a babysitting job for some additional income).

Her stories were eye-opening as it made me realize how many of us (myself included) have it so much easier when it comes to material wealth and standards of living. But beyond that, it opened my eyes to the concept of what is enough.

She shared that one of the greatest life-changing take-aways from this experience was that she learnt to treasure the simple minimalist life that they led and how she grew to realize that there really was no need for too much that we have grown accustomed to (branded stuff, bags,etc), and how just the simplest things – like having 3 meals a day was sufficient, really. That was a beautiful sharing – a humbling experience no doubt, but very much important in imparting life skills for her and one that pushes us to reflect on, I’m sure. It also begs the bigger question – how do we define and find meaningfulness in life? What is truly important and good enough? And at what expense?

The common theme of life and living is that many of us find ourselves being led blindly towards chasing a predefined dream that may not be the best in allowing us to reach our destinations (happiness, fulfillment), and that is because our journeys are different, heck, in fact they’re unique. 🙂 I guess it must first start with clarity from within, of purpose and goal. Once that is defined, the what and the hows are clearer.

When they asked me about my dreams, it was like uncovering a switch that was left untouched and covered with dust over time. When they encouraged me that I could be a trailblazer in those secret plans I shared with them – it triggered a spark that had  nearly fizzled out, smothered by the exhaustion and long hours that work is to me today. This is exactly why such positive and supportive friends are a must in everyone’s circle – they help you remember, and then you must take charge, and move. God-be-willing, InshaAllah, there will be movements in the right direction and powered by the right intentions.

Special shout-out to my beautiful friends, we may not meet that often – but you’re a blessing I hold close to my heart. (This makes me such a red.  *inside joke*) 😛

Cheers,

Khairah