Recently, I attended a family friend’s wedding. It was the marriage celebration of their eldest son. We knew each other since we were little, so naturally it was a very exciting occasion. I looked forward to it merely because I was excited for my daughter to witness and experience a Malaysian Chinese wedding celebration.

As a parent now, I’m trying hard to remember when was a time I realized what gratitude is. My parents were the typical military-style parenting model. I still remember the days where I would be punished with caning whenever I did something wrong. Nowadays, this won’t go so well with children of this generation. I’m not sure what it is, but children these days are more intelligent. With smartphones and screen time opportunity almost everywhere, it is very easy to allow your child to delve into a virtual world, a world promising happiness and bliss from made-up stories, fancy ideals, and pre-conceived notions about life. They are also accessing knowledge at dangerously fast speeds like never before. Thus, the advocates of attachment and calmer parenting come into strong play these days, reminding us all to re-connect with our natural parenting instincts. Most importantly, it is to reconnect with your child at all times.

Perhaps, I spend too much time with my mom’s friends, where they spill their complaints of their children’s disobedience and non-filial ways. I don’t usually get to hear the child’s side of the story. However, now that I am a parent, I understand truly how it hurts when your child doesn’t show appreciation or gratitude for all that you’ve done. My daughter is now 2 years old. Yes, she is pampered and is a very fortunate kid. Still, I do feel the bits of gratitude from her when she comes and hug me out of nowhere, or kisses me on the cheek out of the blue. I know deep down, she is thankful for having mummy’s love and care. At what point though, will this translate into nagging and reprimanding?

There’s always two sides to the coin. Some say that you have to approach the rebellious stages calmly with lots of effective communication. But will kids really understand until they realize they’ve truly hurt mom and dad’s feelings? Sure, I used to be selfish at times, wanting my independence and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why my parents impose so many restrictions on me. But after a blast of anger from my dad came through, not only was I scared to commit my wrongdoings, I was more afraid to hurt his feelings again. Till today, I’m sensitive to what I say and how I act. And, I apply this when I meet other people as well. My sister disagrees with me otherwise on the fact that one cannot be living like walking on thin glass all the time. For me, I’d rather walk it for as long as I can than to have it shatter to a thousand pieces again and again.

I have no idea how this childhood friend of mine was like growing up with his parents. His upbringing could have been just like mine, or perhaps the total opposite. What I do know was the hurt his mom probably felt when he stood on stage giving his speech without thanking his parents at all. The only thanks he mentioned was to his “brothers” (brotherhood friends/”heng tais“). At least the bride was smart, giving thanks to her parents and in-laws for helping to put together such a joyous occasion. I wonder how bad could the relationship be that it could slip the son’s mind?

In Malaysia, the Chinese families have a saying these days, “Better to bear a daughter never a son,” which is opposite to traditional mindset in ancient times where a son is the most precious gift for a family; a son to carry down for generations the family’s name and fortune. These days, instead of families marrying off daughters, it is the other way round where sons are married off. I always remind myself that not every son would do that to his mother. However, that was the night where I witnessed for the first time in my life a true case of this sad predicament.

Son or daughter, I strive to teach my child/children the importance of gratitude in everyday life. They are never too young to understand. When it comes from the heart, it’s already there in them. It just needs a lot of nurturing to grow and glow from the inside.

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