Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (November 22, 2018)
When I first became a parent, people asked me whether it helped me understand children more. Having been an educator for over 10 years, I had interacted with many children over the years and the question asked whether I could relate to them more because I had my own. My answer every was ‘no, not at all’. When I became a parent, I didn’t understand children more, I empathized with parents more! Over the years, because of my work, I had interacted with hundreds of parents and it had and continues to be such an honour to hear their stories, their accomplishments, their struggles, their worries and their concerns. And before I became a parent, I think I tried to show understanding but I don’t think I could show empathy. Because I had never been in their shoes before, I could only offer a listening ear, advice based on my experience as an educator and encouragement as a friend. But things changed after becoming a parent.
I think I used to see things as more black and white and sometimes couldn’t see why parents couldn’t see the same way as me. If you don’t want your child to continue doing that, then just say no. If you think your child’s grandparents are spoiling them, then just tell them to stop. If you handhold your child so much, they will not be independent. To me, it seemed more like a science. An action leads to a specific reaction. And so, parenting is the science of taking the best actions that lead to the best reactions.
But I have now come to realize more and more that parenting is an art. It’s not black and white. They’re not straight lines. An action could lead to multiple reactions. And so often, it’s a struggle because it’s a judgement call.
Just this past weekend, my son was crying about not wanting to go to Sunday school at our church. He would have to go independently which he had done before and I knew he had a school friend there too. But he was adamant about not going. On one hand, I really wanted him to go. We have an amazing Sunday School at our church and I know that he would learn great things there. But on the other hand, I didn’t want to force him into the room wailing and crying and end up hating it. In the end, I had him stay in Sunday adult service with me and it worked out well for that day. But I second guessed my decision and still wonder if I made the right one.
And this is just one small decision in the plethora of ones we need to make on a daily basis as parents. Not to mention the larger decisions for their lives.
Do I make him eat his food or let him have his way and feel the hunger pangs later?
Do I let her get ready for school on her own and let her learn to do things on her own or help her so she actually arrives school on time?
Do I go through homework with him and rectify mistakes so that he doesn’t get a bad grade or do I let him work independently and let the teacher give him red marks?
Do I send him to a local school and have more discipline or an international school with more creativity?
Do I have her continue her piano classes that she hates so she learns perseverance or do I let her choose something else to do to empower her choice making?
These are just a snippet of the decisions we as parents have to make and I have come to the conclusion that parenting is not a science but it is an art. An art of continually getting to know our children, getting to know ourselves, making decisions with trial and error, making decisions with our wisdom and best judgement, and trusting that God will fill the gaps that we fall short in. Parents – a salute you all because you have the most challenging job on the planet, but also the most rewarding one. Enjoy the art of parenting – sometimes messy, sometimes confusing but a joy to be a part of.