Monday, May 30, 2005

Let them cry

It is natural that as parents, we want to shield our children from pain and suffering.

When they are learning to walk, we hold their hands to guide them and to prevent them from falling and hurting themselves. When they are hungry or thirsty, we supply them with food or water.

When we see teenagers playing football or basketball at the playground, we try to guide our children away from the balls or the rough play.

We try to prevent accidents from happening, and this is an essential part of our role as parents. After all, one mistake and we could be regretting our lack of vigilance for the rest of our lives.

Yet, it is important, experts say, that sometimes, we let our children cry. They believe that we shouldn't try to shield them entirely from reality.

Child development expert David Elkind has written about how parents and educators are trying to cocoon children from difficult experiences. But instead of doing the children a favour, such actions deprive the children of the necessary skills they need to survive the adult world.

In many ways, we try to protect our children; from disease, strangers who may have ill intentions, hurt, both physical and emotional.

It may seem like a small matter, but I think this is part of character-building. If we shield our children from negative experiences, they will not learn how to deal with disappointments and setbacks.

Yes, we want to shield our children from every little thing that could cause a blight in their young lives. Yet, to help them, we sometimes have to let them fall. To teach them, we have to let them learn from their mistakes. To help them mature, we need to allow them to face disappointment.

They need to fail in order to succeed and that's reality. If they don't know what pain and sorrow are, how can they know well-being and happiness? So, sometimes, we just have to let them cry.


This article appeared in the Sun a couple of weeks back. The full article, called "Let them cry" is here, but the above is basically the gist of it.

Truthfully, I can’t help but agree. Obviously, I am not a parent and I speak from the child’s point of view.

I believe my parents subscribe to the view that they should protect us children from all the bad things in the world. They often use the excuse, “You are our son no matter how old you are.” I am fine with that, but the way they treat us (my brother and I) has to change as we grow older.

Clearly, I would have much preferred them to say, "You are still our son no matter who you are and what you did. Even if you are gay."

As an illustration, my dad would always questions directed at us. When relatives or friends asked, “How are you doing in school?” he would immediately answer for me, saying things like, “Ok-lar, he did quite well for PMR, now have to study hard for SPM. Hopefully can good results too.”

Or, “You still taking taekwondo lessons? What belt are you?”

“Nothing one-lar, now he is red belt. Don’t care much about the belt, the lessons are for him to have some exercise and sweat a bit.”

As you can see, I didn’t have a chance at all to answer. And the things he said really did wonders for my self-esteem too.

The point is that he thought my brother and I couldn't answer simple questions. Even when we were seventeen.

I am not sure about your parents, but my parents seem to think they know a lot about me. They think they know what I like, my strengths, interests, etc. Actually they don’t. They are not even half right.

You might wonder why I don’t correct them. It doesn’t work. My dad likes to assume many things, and he always thinks he is right. Even if I am right, he thinks otherwise. Oh, and he also thinks that I can’t think, that I have a brain of a six year old.

So now, I just let whatever he says pass. I keep quiet and let him think whatever he wants. No prizes for guessing how is my relationship with him.

You wouldn’t believe the things he says. He tells my brother, “Remember to take off your contact lenses before you sleep, wash your hands before that.”

And “Remember to call the IT technician. Ask him when will the computer be repaired. Is it the hard drive or the monitor that is spoilt? I think is the monitor, as it turned off by itself when I was using it. Or maybe is the hard disk. Surely, you must have tinkered with it, simply download programs from the internet. If he said next week, ask him to hurry up. Find out how much does it cost to repair. If possible, ask for a lower price.”

Yup, he assumes, accuses and acts smart. Oh, and he likes to repeat himself.

In addition, do your parents worry a lot? They called when I was at a school camp, university camp, outstation trips, etc. Ok, perhaps these were justified.

But calling, like ten times, when I am out at night yam cha, watching movies, hanging out, having exams, at a friend’s house, to ask what am I doing and what time will I be home?

Besides that, there were a lot of, you shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that. There are still a few. Things like:

“You know you can’t run, so don’t try to show off and over exert yourself.” – my school’s cross country

“You can’t swim well, so you better don’t go too far out from the beach.” – visit to Port Dickson

“You are not fit, and you want to go hiking?” – Mount Kinabalu Hike

“You can’t drive properly, so you better not use the car.”

As such, I don’t listen to them anymore. I think, subconsciously, sometimes I do things just to annoy them, like scuba-diving. There are occasions too that I thought that these rebellious streak in me, is the cause that I am gay. I might have, unconsciously, decided to be gay.

Yes, I have mentioned before that my personal view is that homosexuality is more nature than nurture. However, there is a school of thought which says that a person, already predisposed to homosexuality, might have chosen to be gay without himself knowing it.

Well, it could have happened and I can’t know for sure anyway.

Basically, I think they can’t accept the reality that their child has grown up and continue being protective. I have mentioned this to them before, that they can’t be around forever. I have to make my own mistakes and learn from them.

In short, I agree with the writer. That at some time, the parent has to stop being a parent. And be a friend instead. They have to let the child face the world.

Hopefully, I am right on this. I am reminded of another often used statement, "Wait-lar till you have your own children, then you'll understand how we feel."

However, things are changing. Slowly. Disagreements persist but there is hope yet that there will be a compromise one day.


Espion said...

" ... choose to be gay without himself knowing it"

Errr ... Can you choose without being conscious of choosing?

Choice, by definition, involves deliberation and decision from a range of alternatives. It is not, if any of these elements is not present.

If there is only one alternative, or you know only of one option, or if you are not in a position to decide on which alternative, then you say you have no choice, eg you attending the only village school anywhere within 30 km radius, or your parent deciding you take TKD lessons or coming home by a certain time.

If there is no deliberation on the options, such as one thing instinctively appealing to you, eg to drink when you are thirsty, then again it is not a choice. You may have a choice of fluids but no choice about not drinking.

And some gays is another example: guys instinctively appeals to them but they may have a choice of whether or who to have sex with. Of course for some not to have sex is no option.

You choose only when you can decide deliberately on a choice from at least two equally viable options.

Derek said...

Why can't someone choose without knowing it?

Are you always aware of everything, every thought that enters or appears in your mind? We have not known and understand all the workings of the brain yet.

How many people are aware that their experiences in the past may be influencing their current actions? Isn't quite common that people who grew up in a violent and abusive environment turn out to be like that too, without them realising what is the cause?

Similarly, it is very probable that a person has decided on something, without knowing about it. In other words, he is not conscious about it, but in his subconscious, he knows.

Espion said...

"Why can't someone choose without knowing it?"

Not unless you change the meaning of the word "choose".

What then does it mean, to you, to choose?

Of the rest of the things you said, surely they are true. We are shaped and influenced by our environment unconsciously and unknowingly, and perhaps to a greater extent that we dare to admit.

For if we admit to such, we have to conclude that we are really not in control of who are and who we become, ie we no longer have the freedom to choose who we want to be, contrary to all the popular wisdom that is in the world.

So you do without knowledge, eg of other alternatives, and you act without thinking, for you have been conditioned, as Pavlov's dog was, to respond to stimuli instinctively.

To say you choose in such a condition is just being semantically hollow and meaningless. Choice is then only apparent, and the seed for it was actually planted in you long ago, maybe even while you were in your mother's womb.

To be able to choose you must have freedom: physically, physiologically, psychologically, epistemologically, legally, etc etc.

Derek said...

Let's not get into the semantics. Choose might not be the accurate word here, but I feel what I intended to say is communicated across well.

If you can think of a better word, I'll appreciate it.

Obviously, we as humans, are the most intelligent beings on Earth. As such we are special and most believe that there is such a thing called free will.

I think, to some people, the thought of it being untrue is sacrilegious and even repulsive.

Though I am sure you are aware of the idea of determinism.

Anyhow, this is going beyond what is intended. Perhaps we could have this discussion at some other space.

Espion said...

The better word is nurtured or conditioned, or any other word without implication of 'free will'.

Not everything about you is an outcome of 'free will'. Such as you being born in KL, in these times of the Internet, or who your parents and siblings are, etc. You have no choice about all these determining factors that contribute a large part of who you are and will be.

And yes lets stop here and if possible continue this discussion elsewhere.