Are you a good parent?

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As my son and I hopped into the lift yesterday morning, we were greeted by a little boy’s shrieks. The three-year old was dressed in his blue and white uniform, his cheeks and little nose red, while tears flowed non-stop from his little eyes.

His mom tried to cheer him up, persuading him to stop crying. I assume she was also telling him what a good time he would have at nursery. I could only understand bits and pieces of their conversation because she was speaking in Cantonese. But despite his mom’s persuasion, the boy continued crying, refusing to carry his schoolbag and hugging his mommy’s legs tight.

I stepped out of the lift, turning to take a last glance at the boy. He had such a sad look, it made me feel so sorry for him. I smiled and waved but received an empty stare in return. As I walked to my car, I could still hear his cries from the lower ground parking lot. The boy was not acting like a spoilt brat, nor was he acting hysterical – instead he just looked so sad.

After sending my son to school, I went to my local breakfast place to have my usual tosai before attending a 9am meeting. As I dipped my masala tosai into a mixture of fish curry and mint chutney, a man and woman walked in with a little boy. They stacked a few plastic chairs for him to sit on and placed their orders. The food arrived – a few slices of roti bakar.

I watched the gruesome scene of parents late for work, force feeding their child. The poor boy gagged a few times only to be told to swallow it with some Milo.

I have witnessed too many similar incidents. I have seen parents at cafes, busy talking to their mates, scolding their children when interrupted; parents dragging their children across the street like rag dolls; parents yelling or even worse, slapping their children in public for misbehaving; parents dragging their children to work, exposing the young ones to so many common illnesses out there.

I have often wondered why these people even have children in the first place.

Today, children as young as a few months old are forcefully woken up so early in the morning to be sent over to their nannies or nurseries. Instead of having their mommy’s waking them up with a warm embrace and kisses, rolling with them in bed followed with stories about the dreams they had, followed by a game of you-tickle-me-I-tickle-you – children are yanked out of bed while half asleep, dressed-up and dumped in the backseat of their parent’s cars where they doze off to sleep once again.

While parents busily pursue their professional lives, children are forced to adapt.

The thing is, weekend parenting does not work. Children are not like our cars to be sent to the service centre every 10,000 km for an overall check. An ice cream on the way home or a weekend at the mall cannot make up for lost moments. Children remember. And you will be lucky if that is all they do – for they can also grow up feeling neglected and unloved.

Seriously, have you ever seen the face of a child holding on to the nursery gates, sticking his/her face out through the bars with eyes wildly searching for their mommy and daddy when it is time to go home? It is a sight that can’t be easily forgotten.

Today we see everyone reacting to cases involving child abuse, paedophilia and child kidnapping. Even when we see pictures of unfortunate children, disabled children and homeless children, our heart aches and we quickly reach out to lend a helping hand or at least share their plight on social media hoping someone would lend a helping hand. But how about the child we have in our own homes? Are they given the care they deserve?

I have spoken to many working parents who justify the need to work hard in order to earn enough for a comfortable life. But who is it seeking that comfortable life – the parents or the child?

Parents enslave themselves at the office, claiming the rise in living cost forces them to do so – but a peek into their lifestyles prove otherwise.

And the most popular excuse – “Education is expensive – play school, music class, martial arts, speech & drama, private school, college, overseas education – seriously, it isn’t easy to give a child a wholesome education.”

Have you tried asking yourself about your best childhood memories? Bedtime stories under the blanket, picnics by the beach, playing marbles in the backyard, climbing trees, playing hide and seek, Scrabble & Monopoly, card game nights, taking showers in the garden – those are a few of mine. In almost all of my childhood memories, my parents are involved. They made my childhood special.

You see, childhood although shorter than adulthood, is still the most significant period of an individual’s life. Our basic character, behaviour patterns and personalities are set from those tender early years.

Giving a child the best education, the best clothes and the best food money can buy does not come close to having a fantastic childhood. Any adult who did not enjoy his/her childhood would tell you this.

Parents should modify their lives to meet their children’s needs, instead of trying to fit children into their schedules. If parents are incapable of doing so, I suppose they should start asking themselves why there was a need to have a child in the first place.

Making babies is easy. All it takes is one steamy encounter. But raising a child takes a great deal of responsibility. Not everyone is capable of carrying the weight.