We write notes to one another, well, not so much these days, but I think in the early days of our family lives, it is a good way to tell and encourage each other that we have love, care and concern for every one in our family.
It of course started with me writing and putting these little notes in your mum’s purse, dress, crockeries and other places where she will use, go to or touch. the whole idea was to give her some kind of a pleasant surprises that her husband loves her and is constantly think of her.
While of course, it was a romantic gestures, more importantly, I want to put these nice loving thoughts so that we constant remind each other to be nice to one another, even in a quarrel or unhappy episode, we still need to think of each other in a nice way.
Of course your mum reciprocated in kind, and we learned to put little notes in your bags and wallets, in no time Ian you’re also writing stuffs for your brother and vice versa.
Try to keep this up as there are times where words can’t be spoken enough, or we did a lousy action and hurt our loved ones, but serendipitously come across one of these notes, will help soothes any ruffle feathers.
We are human beings, and as an organic instruments of nature, we need to make sure we master the more difficult humanistic skills first. Simply put it, be a decent person of character and values.
But humans are lazy creatures, we often take short cut and find the easiest thing to do. We resisted that, and this shows in our digital policy. We are not introducing mobile phones, tablets and all those addictive things, because they are easy to pick up.
Mobile devices are easy to use.
This is the boon of the digital landscape, the diffusion of innovation is leaking into younger humans. Technology is getting easier and easier for us to adopt at an every younger age. It is in fact a bane for parenting.
This is so prevalent everywhere, we see last evening, at Manhatten Fish Market, a family eating dinner, 2 kids, each of them ate their meals, fed by a maid, both with a tablet in front of them, watching a cartoon while they eat.
Child as young as the age of 3 are able to use a mobile device, swipe left, to unlock it, find their favourite program on YouTube. It makes them sound and appear so smart, but it is the easiest things to do. The software tech guys made these devices so easy to use, simply because they want to make a lot of money out of their products, and they are winning, by a tonne loads of money.
Everyone is on it!
Pick up tech later, hit the beach first
It is never too late for the both of you to pick up tech at the later age, since it is so easy to use, we can leave this easy things to do till a later age. We want you to focus on ethics, values and treating people right. There is a lot of work to do in this department, and it is a constant never-ending struggle. But this is the challenge of parenting, making sure we raise good people.
Besides, we want you boys to be children, that means doing children things, play sand, enjoy the beach.
Do the tactile things, enjoy nature, understand the more humanistic problems. Understand that while we are at the beach, it rains, while we are in the water, there are temperature changes. (As we get deeper into the water, the water gets colder!)
It is an inconvenient thing to do, going to the beach, there will be grimy sand, salty water, dirt, germs and all. It is a heck a lot easier to play with a mobile phone, get on an online game, whatsapp your friends, chit chat on nothing. But who would we have raised?
Why would I want to turn the both of you into mini adults, and get you to adopt what adults use way before you boys need to?
Raising good adults
Being on the mobile phone, isolates you from human to human interaction. While you can make a conversation through messaging apps, nothing beats talking, person to person. Laughing and the usual banter. This is the best way to learn how to be a good person.
It also helps the both of you read body language, and develop effective emotional skills and relate to people. But one thing I can tell the both of you, the people you will be relating to in future, will not be a bunch of people friendly people, because everyone will be on their mobile phones!
Does Aikido defines you? Gives you a sense of meaning? Purpose? Responsibility? Makes you a nicer person? Give you character? And all the other nice things? Does Aikido also provides you front and side air bags? If Aikido is really that good to you, like a cuddly teddy bear, then can you let it go?
I’ve not been attending class lately, perhaps it is simply a matter to reaching that ‘plateau’ again, where I don’t see myself ‘progressing’. The sense of plateauing has happened to me before, I’m not sure if it had happened to you, the last time I felt it was when I was in my 3rd kyu? Or later.
Right now I can look back and understand, again, the sensation of plateauing. It is a play of the ego, where the ego is not getting that adrenaline kick anymore. There is a sense of mental fatigue and no matter how hard I try, an irimi nage will always still be an irimi nage.
This time, it is not a sensation of the plateau. It is a sense of the self is telling me to give it a rest. Too much time and energy is spent on Aikido that other parts of your life is lacking. My presence in Aikido dojo, would means an absence at home as a father. It is a zero-sum game no matter how I look at it. I can only be at one place at a time, and sometimes I need to pull myself away from my regime to spend more time doing my other duties.
And this clinging, even to something as good as Aikido, is bad.
This is happening naturally, I don’t really miss Aikido, and frankly, when I’m in dojo, I don’t miss being a dad. There is sense of ease in the role and when there is an over-balance, the body, mind and spirit will automatically redress that, without any sense of angst or reluctance. Even though I said it is a zero sum game, I don’t feel a sense of scarcity, I just do more of this and less of that, and later time, more of that and less of this.
That gave me an epiphany, because we so often hear people say, that when they don’t get to train, they’ll feel uncomfortable. If they don’t go to the dojo and sweat it out, something don’t feel quite right. That means that deep in you, you hadn’t been able to let go. And this clinging, even to something as good as Aikido, is bad.
Nothing last forever, not even Aikido training. We must be able to let things go without attachment, only when we are able to do that, then we can take our skills, our life skills to the next level. Our Aikido existence is not a be all, and end all. Well if Aikido really matters that much to you, then you have to look somewhere else and see what other good stuff in your life you have been missing, doing your Aikido thing.
…the world feeds us and we need to give back to the world.
We all wonder what is the purpose of our existence. This is the ultimate rocket science, and not many has figured this out, but those who do, live their lives in the greatest of wonder and splendor.
My Dark Side
Of late, I am mired in a cesspool of dark thoughts that surrounded me, slowly but surely, I get stronger from this constant battle, inside of me, and through my own doubts, critical thinking and understanding of my own vulnerability, I begin to understand why I am like this, and what it is to be done with me.
A lot of good meaning people tried to help, Steve told me it is a mid life crisis thing, your mum told me it is a certain insecurity. She has her point, we will talk about that in a while. But I realized that I am mildly, depressive.
The thing about me is, I will always find an answer to my woes. There are incessant questions, issues and problems that I tussle with everyday, in my head. Somehow, I always have the intuition to come out of it, with an answer.
To that day, I was browsing through Facebook, and I came across this article ‘The Mental Health Issue Men Never Talk About‘; while I don’t believe at that time of reading, that I am ‘depressed’, I decided to try an online Depression Test, and lo and behold! The test results showed that I am ‘mildly depressive’.
It was one of those casual test, 16 questions, I did it on my phone and I wondered at the results. At this point, I need to be critical and careful about ‘branding’ myself, but I let that reality sink in a bit. Being ‘mildly depressive’ didn’t hit home, it was something else, but while I am at it, depression does feels like something I am feeling now. so I am going to deliberate on that a bit, my mind will always comes to an answer.
Sniffer Dog Mind
My brain is like that, a kind of sniffer dog, and when I let the mind wander, I will pick up vibes and nuances that resonates strongly. Sometimes, my mind will pick up a fake scent, lose a scent, or a very faint scent. Whatever it is, my sniffer dog mind will wander, and relentlessly seek out and find, whatever that is out there.
It is a process, and the mind needs to wander, you will need time for the dog to go around up and down in the most non-linear way. So I don’t stand in the dog’s way, and whenever I can, and have the luxury of time, I let the dog wander, and bring back the quarry, whatever it may be, and I think my dog is on to something.
What we are here for
The journey in my mind of late, has been perilous, and dangerous. There is a chance that I might go crazy, turn into someone completely different, and I think that is the message I am getting, I need to be someone completely different, as right now who I am, is not serving the greater purpose.
Society will challenge us, people will doubt us, so we become a fraction of ourselves so that we can fit society, and the expectations of those around us. We do all that to become accepted, but the irony, and boys, this comes from experience, the more we try to get that acceptance, and fit in, the more we get rejected. It is a lesson I learned again and again, to fit in, we need to stand out. Nobody ever fits in to anything, anywhere. When we try to do that, all we do is become a shadow, it dims the world.
While I am at it, one word keeps ringing out, act. Put out action. Time for deliberation is over, the time to act on things is here. As a Piscean, I over-think and over analyze things, a lot, which is good for a critical mind, and bad, when it comes to action. The first 40 years of my life has been dedicated to thought; I need to know what I know is absolutely true, robust and resolute. I need to know my intrinsic value.
Once the thinking is cleared, it is time for action, acting on life always guarantee an outcome. While the outcome might not suit what you expected, the next action you must take, is to either work harder to get the desired outcome, or adjust your expectations of the outcome. To get all these done, needs action, not thought.
Action that benefits others
The world has turned too much into a ‘Me’ world. while that is fine, to better that; the ‘me’ has to give back to the world, so that the ‘me’ can continue to be ‘me’. When what we do, does not benefit the world, and make the world a better place, the world we are in will destroy us eventually. So don’t lie to yourself to think that the ‘me’ will continue, irrespective of what the world becomes. It doesn’t, the world feeds us and we need to give back to the world.
And we can only do that in our own unique way. So boys, as your dad, you need to find you own way. I can guide, provide resources, but you have to use your own guile and cunning to make sure that you can benefit the world, and not just benefit from the world.
Reputation takes a lifetime to build and moments to destroy.
There is this fearsome thing that keeps me, me.
I’ve learned this from a long time back, Steven told me about it. He said something like whatever we want, we can get, money, material stuffs, education, but there is one thing that is the most valuable, and yet most intangible. Our reputation.
What is a reputation?
I think it goes like something people regard you to be. Strictly speaking, it is difficult to put in words, but I think it has something to do with exactly that; word. The word we give, and the action that follows the word. In short, keeping promises.
We live in a life filled with turmoil, and unexpected twist and turn, well, that is what life is all about, there are no straight line in life. So more often than not, we will end up making well intended promises, but ended up not able to fulfill them, perhaps we over-promised, we are not grounded, or sometimes, the situation might change so much so we are no longer able to keep to our promise. Life’s like that, no choice.
But those promises we can make, and keep, is what makes us, people will know us for the promises we make, and keep, and of course, those we couldn’t. By and large, as long as we conduct our lives with earnest and grace, without resorting to manipulation or cheating, we ought to end up with a healthy social psyche.
As we all grow up, we will make promises, the most important deal we make, are those we make to ourselves. We have our own namesake in it. As long as we can do what we promise ourselves to do, and do it to our best ability, we shouldn’t care how the world judge us. Deep down inside of you, there will be a strong sense of right, and you wouldn’t care much about what other people think of you. The irony is that, when you start doing that, people’s opinion of you will change and you will begin to build your own reputation.
Making and breaking a Reputation
While part of what Steven said is true. Reputation by and large is formed by what other people thinks of you, it is also about what you do to yourself. Like I mentioned earlier, you keep the promises to yourself, you hold yourself accountable. There will be people who value that in you, there will be people who don’t. As long as you stick close to universally upright values and dogma, most of the time, people will have no bone to grind with you, and those who do, tends to have some problems themselves, it is not your fault. Work on bettering yourself, not bettering them so that they will have a better opinion about you. Trust me, I’ve tried that, it usually doesn’t work.
So find time to understand yourself better, when you fail, it is a promise broken, of some sort, use that as a learning lesson to make a better, more grounded promise to yourself. Reputation takes a lifetime to build and moments to destroy.
Marriage and My Dark Side
That said, I told Steven, that I honestly do not know how I will behave and become when I earn my first million, when I become affluent, in mind, in material. Or will I become corrupted, starts to womanise, become a bad father? Gamble? Get into vices? I told you boys I have that dark side, it is not the most pleasant part of ‘Randy’ I dared to delve in. I don’t usually go ‘there’ in my mind,as it is a scary place to be. So I really don’t know.
So one way I try at my best is to do what I can to keep to the promise I’ve made, to your mum and her father. Many, many things have happened in our marriage, and so far nothing has come close to undermining this union. I’m entirely sure about it in the future, many other things could happen. But it is all about making sure the word I say, correspond with the action. It is in the action, what we do that defines us. So when you get into a marriage, always remember, you must read those marriage vows, and make them actionable. Never fool yourself into twisting those words, manipulating them, to suit your own self centred agenda, when that happens, the whole world will look and knows the truth, you will be the only one deluding yourself.
I asked Ian a straight question:”Are you stressed?”
“No” Came a straight answer.
I asked that when I read 2 articles from The Straits Times and it is all about children being stressed out. Recently there are some cases of children committing suicide due to ‘stress’. While I am a parent and father, I do not want to critic those incidents, other than to share my grief, I do not want to see either one of you die before me, by means of taking your own life. There are better ways to get things done, and solve life problems.
Committing suicide is a stupid, stupid thing to do and it solves no problem other than to bring grief to those who are left behind. Please don’t kill yourself.
So what is this ‘stress’ all about?
It starts with the parents.
I’m stressed out at work sometimes, when my boss gets to anal about my performance (He is a great boss, and I have great colleagues, but shit do happen at work!), so I do come home with a dour face. Bad mood, foul, quick temper, yes your dad has it, you both has seen it.
Which is why I am forever thankful to your mum. She knows how good or bad things are with me in the office, and she always tries her best to soften things up before The Papa comes home. She’ll give you both ‘advance’ warning to stay clear from me, put toys back in the right place, things neat and tidy, well as much as the both of you can help it. Live firing in progress.
More importantly, she soften things, by explaining what happens at work to the both of you. We try to be as open about the trials and tribunals of life. When we are cash strapped and we need to tighten a bit, she explained it to the both of you. When I have a shitty day, she explained it to the both of you. She also explains and tell me about the days for the both of you, and that helps me ‘adult-speak’ with her.
You both are kiddos, what do you understand about stress, if we do not explain it to you both? We as parents have long learned that you both learn fastest and best through example, good, bad, and the ugly. So we explain everything, the best we can. We do not want you both to pick up the sullen, dour, foul, depressive mood, without ever knowing why, or sorting out your feelings about it. So we do our best, not to shield the both of you from our sullen, dour, foul, depressive mood, we don’t try to pretend that everything is fine and dandy. We explain that life can be shitty at times, and you parents are doing our best to roll with the punches.
I think this is all where it went south for us as parents, now raising the new generation called cotton candies. I was brought up that way too. As a kid, my parents didn’t really tell me adult things, and they would rather hide these issues from my elder brother and me. These issues, were of course, complex decision making that was top down. We as kids, did our kids thing, while the ‘higher management’ deal with high level matters, such as finance, relationships, and other ‘adult’ things. We as kids, were not privy to such matters, nor were we guided in anyway.
Whenever we ask, they will tell us that it is adult stuffs they are handling and children won’t understand, and shoo us away. In fact we do, because when an ‘Adult’ says, “children should be seen not heard”, we as children, incidentally, sees everything and hears a heck a lot more. Shielded, protected, cocooned. For our own good these ‘adults’ often say! So we as children back then, learned these ‘best practice’ from our parents, and now as adults and parents ourselves, we do these to our kids since this is the best way to parent children. We have made a very conscious choice not to bring the both of you up like that. We want to provide guidance, to make sure you boys hear things as it is, and sees that life is highly complex and it is not a bed of roses. It never is and it never will be.
As your dad, the head of the family, I make the decisions, often dictatorial of course. You both, many a times bear the consequences of those decisions, good or bad. I always try my best to explain. In my lexicon, there is no ‘adult’ thing to shield from the both of you. Your parents also do not paint a rosy picture of happiness, materialism or good life to the both of you. We want to be grounded, pragmatic and transparent. There is nothing we don’t tell the both of you, and we expect the same in reciprocation. Thankfully, you both do, tell us, things that is happening in your life.
We here your pain
This is no typo error, we want to be present for your pain and suffering, physically, mentally, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. I never profess that I can wish them away, nor can I buy a upscale Nerf gun to soothe your suffering. We want to be there for your growing pains. We know you feel them, just as we felt them when we were younger. We cannot take away your pain, we do not want to shield you from your suffering, but if we can do something to lessen that, you boys know we will. Not just lip service, superficial rub on the head.
We are here for you, both, deep, long conversations, to help the both of your become stronger after you both are broken. We don’t have a sweep under the carpet mentality. You as our boys, sees life, our life, your life full on, in all glory.
There is no calm in life
Sorry, that is the cold, hard truth. Tell you both something, at my age and maturity, I (still) have a monkey mind, and the irony now is that they want to teach you kids how to be mindful so as to find ‘inner calm‘.They REALLY expect a kid to find ‘inner peace’??? First and foremost, I feel, if anyone needs that piece of mind(fulness), it is the parents, they are the ones transferring all the stress to the children. Even with so many years of martial arts training, your dad is ever so mindful, not to let the mind fool me, with mindfulness.
There you have it, reality sucks, really. I don’t want my kids to be raised with some esoteric, hippy mumbo jumbo mind tricks(Pardon my French), but I want the both of you to know life as it is, there is no calm. There is ups and downs, there are highs and lows. I want the both of you to be resilient. resourceful and responsible. If you boys do find inner peace along the way, then that’s good, but right now it is not needed to get through your childhood, what you both need is your parents to parent the both of you a little lesser, and let you kids, be kids.
Your mum and I were chatting in bed and we realised that a lot of kids with good grades are getting what they want. When they get good grades, they are entitled, rewarded, encouraged to have things done their way. If you get an ‘A+’, you can spend all the time you want in front of a computer, and play games all day.
Children are any parents’ gem. I love the both of you dearly, and like any parents, I would do whatever I can for you, and make your world a better place. But please remember, the world was here first, and your world is nothing but a small part of a larger world, and the world do not evolve nor revolve around you.
Let me tell you boys something else, like the world was here before you, your parents are here before you.
Having better grades or being smarter than your parents does not put the both of you in the leadership spot. I am The Dad, and I still runs the house. My rule stands, if you want to run a house, go get your own, go get your own woman, and make that woman your wife. Until then, I lead the pack. Not you, the children.
Parents relinquishing their authority to their children raise brats. Period.
Children don’t rule the world, they never did, and when we let them, bad shit happens when they grow up. They will think that they are able to get anything they want, without care or consequences. If we allow them to have their gratifications as long as they secure a good grade, we are cultivating a very narrow band of life values. And just because children get good grades, doesn’t make them pack leaders. Child-led parenting style upsets the natural pecking order in the house.
It is getting very prevalent, as more and more parents are not stepping up to be parents, but they are simply, Adults with Children. The parents of these adults probably didn’t or failed to impart the right parenting skill-set, or they was exposed to child-led parenting template before and this is what they thinks works best. It doesn’t, but without the right values, adults who grow up to become parents, have no idea how to manage children, with the right leadership and authority.
Ethics Values and Principles (EVP of Life)
Getting good grades does not automatically qualifies one as a good human being. Being smart does not means one is wise. Clever is sometimes turned into deceit, when self-centredness becomes a person’s core motivation. When we parents do not set the parameters right, we are linking the wrong consequences to the action. While we can reward our child with computer game time if they get good grades, we need to bring to their attention and awareness that they get what they got, doesn’t means that they have gotten everything.
By everything, I don’t mean to simply aspire them to get better grades. If in Primary 5, you get 90%, you can have 2 hours of game time, that does not naturally equate that if you subsequently get 95% you can get 3 hours of game time. This kind of rewards structure teaches the exact value that leads kids astray.
Everything means, the value of hard work, having good ethics to help people, weaker classmates, instead of ostracizing them, be principled and argue for the good, admitting to wrong when wronged. As kids, do not negotiate nor bargain with your parents for gains. There is no negotiation, parents give, children receive.
When children gives good results, does the parents receive?
This is crazy and skewed.
I’ve long said, the results, good and bad are yours to keep, boys. I do not stand in the way to bask in the limelight of your good results. Your grades, is not my bragging rights, they are yours. You go to a good school, that is your merit, you go to a bad one, that is also your doing. While I love to be proud as a parent to have kids getting good academic results. I’d prouder if you boys grows up becoming good decent human beings, who are not extraordinarily smart, doesn’t save the world, but remembers to greet the people, show respect to the elders, is gratuitous, still laughs at the silliest jokes, have fun. And enjoys being in our company when we are old.
The conduct as a decent human being is more important than a grade, remembering where you came from is more important than a grade. Remembering your lessons learnt in failures is more important than the celebration of your success. Remembering and honoring those who have helped you,is more important than becoming a champion.