Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (October 5, 2013)
A couple of months ago, I went to go scuba diving. I had never been scuba diving before and I was petrified. The only reason I went was that I was in Maldives, a beautiful diving site, and my husband really wanted me to share his hobby. So I mustered all the courage I could and headed to the sea. I signed the consent forms, then started to put all the gear on. As I was putting my gear on, the instructor gave me the 15 minute crash course on the basics of scuba diving. She started teaching me how to breathe through my mouth, how to clear my fogged up goggles, how to do the hand signals and it was like information overload. All I could think about at that time is…if I get any of this wrong, I could die underwater (melodramatic – I know!). 15 minutes later, I was in the sea, slowly sinking towards the seabed. I held, rather, crushed, the hand of my instructor for the 30 minutes I was underwater. I could hardly enjoy seeing the fish and coral underwater because I was so focused on kicking, defogging googles, and making sure I kept breathing. After what seemed like forever, we came back up to ground. I was exhausted, scared and dizzy. Needless to say, I was thrilled to be back on land.
Over the following months, I shared the experience with my scuba diving lover friends and they all were shocked at how I could not enjoy the experience. And the conclusion was that I hadn’t had the time to prepare for the magical experience. If I had done lessons in the pool first and taken some classes first, I would have enjoyed the open water dive a whole lot more. And I agree with them.
As I think about my scuba experience, I think about how parenthood is very much like my scuba diving experience. It’s something everyone tells you is amazing but sometimes, you feel like you’ve been thrown into it and it’s scary. It’s scary to think that someone’s life (literally, when they are about to jump off a table) is in your hands and that the choices you make as parents will affect your child first hand (try screaming at your child and see if he learns to scream at others). Being a parent is challenging, messy, complicated but amazing, rewarding and exciting – all at the same time.
And as I look at the responsibility and sheer weight of what it means to be a parent, I have come to believe more and more that parents-to-be should prepare for their life of parenthood. After all, being a parent is the biggest responsibility you will have in your life. What job in the world is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the rest of your life? I believe that parents should take courses, attend talks and read books to prepare themselves for the life ahead of them. I would even go as far as one day, I hope that parents have to take compulsory courses about parenthood before giving birth. Not only to learn how to take care of a child physically but to learn how to help them develop emotionally and in resiliency, how to build a strong relationship with them and what helps a child develop well. Before the pressures of society comes, it’s important for parents to decide on what the core values are that they will bring up their child with.
I liken it to driving a car. Driving a car can be an enjoyable but dangerous thing. Because people know how dangerous it can be, everyone is made to take driving lessons and to take an exam before having the right to drive a car. Being a parent, I believe, is of significantly greater responsibility than driving a car. So how much more so should we prepare for it?
As with all things, we learn as we go along and in the same way as I’m improving my diving skills with each dive I go on and I’m improving on my driving with each drive I take, parents learn along the way. But let’s prepare a good foundation to prepare for the lives we will impact.