Laundry & Meals

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (September 21, 2013)


I remember heading to boarding school when I was 16 being excited and nervous at the same time. Aside from going on some short-term camps in the past, I had never lived away from my parents and certainly hadn’t lived alone in a new country. I packed my bags and headed off to the UK.


Of course, there was homesickness so I’m eternally grateful that I had my sister go to boarding school with me. There was a lot to get used to: living with someone else in the room, eating canteen food three meals a day, learning what ‘lacrosse’ was, and learning that ‘chips’ meant French fries and ‘crisps’ were chips.


But more embarrassingly to admit, I think boarding school offered me the first time when I had to make my own bed everyday, and when I joined Upper Sixth, it was the first time I had to cook dinners for myself. After burning, undercooking and messing up an array of meals, I finally learnt how to cook. I had grown up, like most Hong Kong children, with a helper and I had never needed to make my own bed nor make my own meals. Thankfully, boarding school helped me prepare for my years in college and living alone. However, I wish I had learned earlier.


Studies have shown that nearly 70% of children in Hong Kong between the ages of 4 and 12 don’t know how to bathe or dress themselves. That number is astounding. We’re often so focused on preparing our children’s minds to get them ready for schools and colleges but just as importantly, when they get to those places, they need to know how to take care of themselves. They will need to know how to wash their own laundry, cook their own food and make their own beds. And there’s no better time to teach children when they’re still living at home. It may seem redundant to let them do it when there’s a helper at home but in the same way that you learn how to drive on easier familiar roads before going on the highway, let children take care of themselves at home before they have to when they live alone.


So that could mean making their own bed every day by age 4, learning to dress and tie shoelaces by age 5 and washing dishes by age 6, helping cook a meal by 7. I wish I had done those things at those ages!


We can prepare our children for boarding schools academically and in the way they are able to take care of themselves but I believe the most important way to prepare children for boarding school is in their character. In giving children their independence, we need to trust that they know how to differentiate between right and wrong, know how to choose the right friends, to say ‘no’ to temptations and to be responsible for themselves and their choices.


So I didn’t learn how to cook meals from my parents but I did learn how to choose friends and make decisions from them. Let’s prepare our children for their future – for their laundry and meals, but more so, their decisions and character.



#Responsibility #independence #development #learning #growth

記得16歲那年,我在前往寄宿學校唸書的途上既興奮又憂心。過去除了曾參與一些短期露營外,我從未離開過家人的身邊,當然更未嘗隻身到異鄉居住。收拾好行裝,我便踏上前往英國之路。


思鄉是必然的,因此非常感激妹妹陪伴我一同前往寄宿,那裏有很多事情需要習慣:與其他人在同一房間內生活;每日三餐都是學校飯堂的食物;學習「Lacrosse」是甚麼;以及學習「Chips」是薯條,「Crisps」才是薯片。


雖然尷尬但必須承認,寄宿學校讓我首次要每天收拾自己的床鋪,到中七時也是首次親自下廚準備晚飯。經歷過燙傷、煮不熟和把食物搞得一團糟後,我終於學會下廚。我終於長大了,像大部分香港的小朋友一樣,因為有人幫忙而從來不用自己收拾床鋪或準備自己的膳食。值得慶幸的是,寄宿學校的日子已為我多年的大學和獨居生活做好準備。可是,我仍然希望能早點學會自立。


有研究顯示,超過七成4至12歲的本地兒童不懂得自己洗澡或更衣。這個數字非常驚人。我們經常集中訓練孩子的頭腦以讓他們為考學校做好準備,可是同樣重要的是他們成功考進這些學校後,必須懂得如何照顧自己。他們需要懂得自己洗衣、自己煮飯和自己整理床鋪。沒有任何時機比孩子仍在家時教導得更好。雖然有家傭的時候他們做這些事情顯得有點多餘,但這樣可以讓他們在進入高速公路前,先在較簡單的家庭小道上學會前行,讓他們在離開家庭的照顧獨自上路前,先學會照顧自己。


即是說,讓孩子在4歲時學習收拾床鋪,5歲學會縛鞋帶,6歲學會洗碗,7歲開始學習煮菜 。真希望當年我也能學會這些事情!


我們可以讓孩子做好到寄宿學校讀書的準備,這樣他們能夠照顧自己,但我相信更重要的是讓他們好好建立自己的個性。要他們學會獨立,我們需要相信他們懂得明辨是非,懂得選擇結交合適的朋友,懂得對誘惑說「不」,以及懂得對自己及自己的選擇負責任。


我沒有從父母身上學會做菜,但從他們身上學會怎樣選擇朋友和做決定。讓我們為孩子準備他們的將來──洗衣、煮飯,以及他們的判斷力和個性。

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