May 16 2014, Friday
kind of character traits do high-achievers possess? What kind of parents do they
was hard. Trained as a historian, I believe it is dangerous and even criminal
to generalize! Not parents! Not children. Every child is unique. Even when we
try to draw some patterns and commonalities, there are bound to be exceptions.
is obvious why my son is asking for such information – he wants Hayley, the
daughter to be successful in life and he and his wife successful
bet such questions have never come across the mind of my mom and dad, parents
of eight children. Parenting these days has become quite a huge
“curriculum” with experts of all kinds having a say in it. Parents themselves are not lazy either. Those with children
born in the same year pro-actively pool their
experience for the betterment of their children by creating
chat groups and Facebook accounts to share almost everything.
They also hold various
parent-child activities to meet and have fun. While they are cementing unity
and support, they are also unknowingly brewing trouble.
one child starts babbling, parents of other children who haven’t begun doing so panic. When the travel
photos of a family are posted to the Facebook, other families begin to plan a
similar trip. As children
grow up, parents begin comparing the schools their children go to and then
their performance in academic and extra-curricular activities. The
peer pressure is so oppressive that there is no time and space to keep a sane
mind but to keep catching up with the norm. These parents set high targets
for themselves and their children. Family life can become stifling and children
overwhelmed. As the family wrestles with meeting high expectations, anxiety,
anger and even depression will be built up. I know times are different and that Hong Kong is a
highly competitive society but life cannot be all about meeting targets
especially not for children.
I did try to generalize a few common traits for my
son’s reference putting much emphasis on “exceptions”. But still my heart was
not at ease.
May 14 2014, Wednesday
It was an unusual Friday evening –
I was alone at home accompanied by Bean Bean, my dog. By chance, I saw a movie
on television, The Help, a film
adaptation of a 2009 novel of the same name by American author Kathryn
Stockett. At the 84th Academy Awards in 2012, Octavia Spencer won the Academy
Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Minny Jackson in this film.
The story is about
African-American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi,
during the early 1960s. Though long ago in 1863, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th
President of the United States, had already declared the emancipation of
slavery and proclaimed that everybody including the black was free and equal,
racial equality did not really exist.
is about three women: Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. Aibileen Clark is a
50-year-old black maid spending her life raising white children. Her best
friend Minny Jackson, an outspoken black maid who has worked for Mrs. Walters
for so long that they are very comfortable with each other. Skeeter Phelan is
an liberal young white woman returning to the family home after graduating from
the University of Mississippi. She wants to pursue a writing career. She gets a
job with the local paper as a "homemaker hints" columnist.
Increasingly, Skeeter becomes uncomfortable with the attitude of the whites
towards their "help" such as believing that "black people carry
different diseases to white people".
Skeeter has the idea of writing
about the relationships between whites and their black help. The maids are very
reluctant to cooperate, afraid of retribution from their employers, but
Aibileen agrees. Eventually Minny cooperates. The other maids approached are
not interested. Skeeter submits the draft book to a New York City editor and
the book goes to print. It is a big success.
The film is witty, heart-warming
and inspiring. Here in Hong Kong, we have the Filipina helping us at home. Many
of them have left their children to the care of their family while they raise
our children. They are selfless saving every dollar to send back home whether
it is for their parents, siblings or children. Maria, our helper since 2009, is
now my mother’s best companion. They understand each other. My mother manages
to speak a few words of English and Maria has already mastered quite a profuse Cantonese
word bank. When Maria is away on leave, my mother counts the days she will be
back. She urges Maria to see a doctor for the slightest coughs. Maria secretly
tells me how my mom argues with the taxi-driver for detouring and
over-charging. I have taken Maria as a member of our family. These helpers are
closer to us than family members we meet once or twice in a year! They cook for
us! We live under the same roof! How can we not love them?
May 3 2014, Saturday
As the lift doors opened, I walked in and
there were already two grown-ups and a school girl aged around 5. I assumed
they were parents and the child was their daughter. What the parents were doing
and how the child reacted astonished me.
The father was tidying up the girl’s
uniform which was quite crumpled and combing her hair which was messy. The
mother was stuffing the child with a bun murmuring that she had to be fast or
else she would miss the school bus. The girl, still drowsy, didn’t react much.
I felt odd witnessing this family scene.
What a terrible way to start a day for all three of them! Couldn’t the parents
manage the morning routine better?
“Is this happening every morning or just
this morning?” For the girl’s sake, I truly hoped that it was an
extraordinarily hurried morning because the alarm was not working!
Breakfast is important for everybody
especially kids. Their growing bodies and developing brains need regular refuelling
from food. When kids skip breakfast, they don't get what they need to be at
their best. Besides, when breakfast becomes so sloppy, parents are transmitting
the wrong message to their children – breakfast is not important.
A healthy breakfast does not have to be
elaborate. Simply splash some milk over cereal with fruit such as berries or
banana added. A toast with cheese and tomato slices is refreshingly tasty!
Stuffing a child with a bun and dressing
her in the lift is no way to start a morning!
This is an incident that happened in the
lift at around 8 in the morning.
May 1 2014, Thursday
Have Mercy On Them!