I Do

I Do

Dear Boys,

This is not about a wedding vow.

It is about something just as important and just as life changing, perhaps even more.

It is about suicide.

Let me be honest here.

Your dad has thought about it.

And is sometimes thinking about it still.

What is suicide?

I’ll not be clinical here, as you boys can read about it in the many, many journals out there. I’m also not trained or studied (in a serious academic way) in psychology or psychiatry. I know suicide in my own personal, macabre, deep dark way.

It’s not a sad thing, nor happy thing.

It is mostly an existential thing. Like what is the purpose of struggle? The purpose of life? Those big profound ‘cheem, cheem’ (deep, deep) stuff. These thoughts keeps me up, and they still do.

Sometimes it can be very mundane things like annoying colleagues, the day to day struggles, and why we do it. It can be as easy as lazy to live. Yes, it can be a chore to get up, get dressed, get up the next day and groundhog day, over and over and over and over and over again, and again, and again…monotony kills.

Just writing about it puts me in that train of thought…

Anyway…

Why I hadn’t kill myself yet.

Contrary to many out there who thinks that suicide is a form of escaping reality, it is in fact a very courageous thing to do, under some circumstances of suicide. It takes a tremendous amount of energy and will power to set up a rope to hang yourself, or to cut yourself to bleed dry, or hurl yourself off a building. It is not an easy thing to do. In fact it is one of the hardest thoughts any living being can entertain.

It is a powerful thought to have in your mind about killing yourself, and it is not necessarily a good or bad thing. It is a thing.

So use that thing, that powerful thing purposefully. Of course if your purpose is kill yourself, then perhaps its your thing then.

What is more salient here is the powerful thing you have. I learned about this when I heard one Mediacorp Actress/Host, I think it was Irene Ang who said that you need a tremendous amount of will power to kill yourself ( I think she was speaking from experience) and why not use that willpower to kill yourself, to do good and live? And that made sense to me

The other reason why I hadn’t kill myself

Your mother, she will not let me die. If I’d kill myself, she’d revive me and kill me herself. Joking lah. On a serious note, she is the meaning of my life. Sorry boys, you both comes in second. Really, without her, I’d have no meaning.

But with suicide tendency, it is an ironic twist. It took me a while to look outside of my own selfishness to see her. In the past, I’d still think of killing myself, despite of what she has done for me, and after all the love and affection we have shown each other.

But as it grows, and me talking to her about my suicide tendencies, she somehow has opened a part of my feelings that allow me to depend on her, and see my importance to her. I wouldn’t want to leave her alone in this world and change her title from ‘wife’ to ‘widow’.

In short, I see her life and well being as more important to mine, in a very intimate, and interconnected way. Sometimes, you might think that killing yourself is a way of setting your loved ones free from the burden of being with you, the other side of the argument is just as true. When I die, the world will be robbed of an unique individual, well not that I am that great an individual, but the bigger truth is, I am robbing my wife, her companionship, her someone to hold her hands, and make meaning in her life.

We all contribute to the world in our own small way and killing ourselves rob the world of a life, no matter how small, or insignificant it can be. Think of it this way, Wayne, if you kill yourself, your friend, Angel (pun unintended) will never have a chance of bumping into you on the streets. Neither will you ever find out how stupid or smart you can be.

Death robs

I attended 2 funerals this year. Both my friends died of ailments and a genetic disease. Its not the death that matters, it is the fact that, when I walk the streets, I can never bump into Grace or Peter anymore, because they are dead. There will never be another Peter, someone who looks liker Peter, but not Peter.  While death robs, suicide is almost like grand theft arson of life. You deliberately choose to eject yourself of life, and robs  everyone around you a friend, brother, son, sister, mother, father, cousin, student, child, singer, driver, chef and so on.

I Do

Recently the lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester committed suicide. The band wrote a song One More Light for one their friend who died of cancer. Somehow, my association of the song was more related to Chester Bennington’s suicide than anything else. I think it is the context of the song that matters. Sometimes, we take signs of suicide too lightly and wrote them off as some wild thoughts, our loved ones shrugged our thoughts of self-death as non-sense, out of fear or the lacking in understanding and openness to talk about suicide.

Well, boys, I do. I do want to talk to you both if you wants someone to talk to about killing yourself. About suicide, about gays and lesbians. I’m your dad, and somehow have I am gifted this unique exposure towards suicide.

Getting over it

There is, unfortunately, no getting over it. It is part and parcel of life, and just like flu, you will ‘get it’ again and again. The thoughts of suicide continues to linger around me, and if I slipped into the darker character of Randy Lim, yes, death is always there. But unlike flu, there is no visible symptoms. Suicidal thoughts, depressions and other mental conditions cannot be seen outwardly. Which is why Chester’s death is so haunting for me. He was okay and laughing and having family time 36 hours before he killed himself. He was happy, or so it appears to be.

So it will come and it will go, and let it go (of course!) when it leaves and if it stays longer than you are comfortable, your mum and dad are here for you to talk to.

Telling it like it is.

There is no sugar coating, no code word or whatsoever. Boys, if you have a feeling of wanting to kill yourself, just come to us and say: ‘Mum/ Papa, I feel like killing myself.’ We will not judge you, nor will be shrug you off like it was nothing. If you have suicide thoughts, we are here, we will drop everything and talk. Thanks to your mum’s chat, he voice and presences grew larger than the suicidal thought and when I think about suicide, I think of her, and everything is okay.

Suicide is the ultimate leveler

Suicide, if properly done, leads to death. There is no turning back from death. No saves, no close call, nothing, once you’re dead, you stay dead. And death has no age limit, gender or political orientation, you kill yourself you die. Period. And you can die at any age, time and space.

I don’t care if you are nine, or ninety, if you want to kill yourself, you can talk to me, boys.

thoughts taken off an eight year old’s school journal

 

 

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No Permanent Friends, No Permanent Enemies

Dear boys,

Humans are the strangest creatures, making friends one moment, and enemies the next.

Your Grandma’s experience

Last week, while we are at your Grands’ house, for our usual Saturday get-together, your grandma revealed an unhappy episode she had when she was in Secondary 2. She mentioned that the senior Sec 3 girls would pass their past year materials to their junior Sec 2 girls to copy, so that the juniors can have some advantage into their tests. Your grandma also ‘enjoyed’ such a privilege, until one day her friends turned on her. Her group of friend started avoiding her like she was a plague.

She couldn’t understand why, given no reason, she was perplexed. Eventually she managed to find out from her best friend, who somewhat sheepishly told her that their Sec 3 senior girls, told the rest of them not to share these materials with Kan Tee (Your grandma) as she didn’t want to go to church with them.

Your grandma was no pushover. To hell with that, she studied on her own. And during the good times, they will all walk to school together, and now, whilst they still walk the same way, it was a frosty walk, no one would talk to your grandma, and she kept to herself as well.

Eventually, the girls failed their test, and your grandma passed it. We jokingly say that Grandma’s Guanyin, is more powerful than the girls’ God.

It is not about the religion, but about the people who likes to group together. It is a common in-group and out-group phenomenon.

Your dad and mum’s experience

We too encountered our own share of relationship woes, with friends and colleagues. Both your parents encountered wonderful and lovely people as colleagues, folks we felt close and have that great friendship with. We talked to these friends and colleagues about everything, and some, even invited to our houses and vice versa.

All can fall apart the next day.

No given reason or revelations.

When we were younger, it hurts us in some ways. We like to think we have a healthy ego and we can socialise quite well, we can make friends take care of them, and them take care of us. That is a great feeling to know that we can build on these friendships to count on years later.

It was not, never meant to be.

It has been quite a few years ago and it happened to me more than twice, the hurt is no longer there, but it was replaced with a immense sense of curiosity. Why? Why did these seemingly good friendly folks turn? Colleagues who lunched and laugh at your silly jokes, you laughing at theirs, suddenly stop asking you out for lunch, buys everyone coffee except for you, no longer small talk, chit chat with you, no longer asks you ‘How’s you day?’ They just stopped caring about you and aiming to effectively wiped away your existence, socially.

I felt quite lousy, insignificant and somewhat indignant back then.

Not so much these days.

It made a difference I have your mum, and you mum have me. With the both of us, we pretty don’t quite give a f**k about what happened at work. Your mum is my pillar, and she came from a more complete family, she has her family to fall back on, no matter what friends and colleagues does to her. I relied more of my social circles to give me my sense of worth, and this kind of ‘sudden relationship winter’ hit me hard. But your mum has always been there for me, and it took me some time to accept her as my solace.

But that’s that. We are all much older now and I have grown not to take these kind of cliffhanger relationships personally anymore.

In the latest spat, I learned that some things was said about me, in my absence, and people started distancing themselves from me, typical signs of a drop coming. I’ve seen it all happen before.

Not to be affected, I continue with my work. People chit chat and joked around me, not involving me in their conversation, when I am clearly, physically in the room. I hear all the banter going on, and people asking each other about their personal lives, weaving care and concern all around. I just have this cold, hard shell, and continue plowing into my work. Keeping myself busy at work, helps you keep away from all these subtle insidious  negative attacks. The aim of making you invisible is to make you feel bad, and them feel good.

I felt nothing, no good no bad, its a job, do it well and go home. I only feel bad if I don’t do a good job.

It will be over soon

Good times like bad times always ends, no matter what. Friends always comes and go, so does your haters. No one stays at a spot forever, well, at least not let yourself be the one. Move on and find something new. After a few years, these haters will no longer know why they hated you, or did those things to you. Heck, some might need you to do something for them in future. If your haters need you to help them, help them. It is not because you need to prove them wrong, you help because you can, period.

So while at times, especially when it is happening, it might seem like it will go on forever, but it doesn’t. Always remember what happens at work stays at work, you boys have a family to come back to. At home we can heal each other from the hurt we got outside in the big bad world. And over time, it will all be buried in the past, even the hurt to appear to have will be gone.

While the world may judge you boys badly, you can always come home where no one judges you destructively. There are no enemy in our family.

 

 

 

 

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Why have Children?

dsc01847.jpg

Dear Boys,

In case you are wondering, why should you be having children in the future, please read this.

In Singapore, you don’t need to have kids.

the boys with the toys
The boys with their toys

Kids adds no value to our society, regardless of what the government says.

Farmers needs kids, Cosmopolitans do not

It has been my long held beliefs, that in our urban, concrete society, there is no need to have kids. What do you need the extra ‘headcount’ for? You need to spend a long amount of time, energy to raise little humans, and despite of all that, as parents you might not get to reap the benefits. There is no economic benefits having kids.

But in an agricultural landscape, farmers, need kids, that additional manpower, when properly invested can help to till the fields, feed the livestock, and do other farming stuff. it will be ‘cheaper’ to have 6 to 8 kids and these additional hands will help around the household.

In modern Singapore, apartments are getting smaller, and it is made for couples in mind. Despite of what the government says to encourage making babies after marriage, houses these days are simply not big enough to have more people living together. Kitchen is getting smaller, because people are cooking less now. Everyone is out working, husbands and wives, who has time for cooking, much less taking care of babies???

Gender equality

Speaking of which, I am not a chauvinist. Women and men has equal rights, but vastly different biological responsibilities. Everyone has earning power these days, and some women earns more than men, why would these women give up their monetary superiority to become a mother? What’s the cost benefits analysis for that? Women these days spend better days getting branded bags, going for Pilates, and yoga, than to stay at home, nursing unreasonable babies, sucking off their sore nipples, looking all unglam and so uncool.

Again, I would like to say I am not a chauvinist. To have kids, sacrifices has to be made, men are not reliable, so women has to earn for themselves, and make themselves independent. That’s fine, but becoming a full -time mum doesn’t mean that you are not independent. In fact I see your mum, not earning, living off my salary, a very independent and strong willed woman in her own right.

We have biologically different responsibilities

Feminism is good, but when feminism goes Amazonian way, then it is bad. For child bearing, it takes 2, male and female. Until science comes along to change that, it will be like that, most animals are like that.

Humans want to be different. Women wants to think that they can be equal to men, better than men. When women starts to think like that, then that is the end of our race. Women can never be equal or superior to men, because women are different from men. Men need women to be women so that there can be a balance.

Things loses equilibrium when women fights for a zero sum game of gender equality. We are never made to be gender equal nor neutral. But our society and workplace demands that we do, for the sake of equal employment, and avoiding politically sensitive gender discrimination. We refrain from calling female ‘manageress’ and stick with manager, to represent both genders, because we do not want to discriminate the sex.

But we have to.

Because both men and women are different. until we can learn to accept that difference and let women be women, then there is a chance that there will be balance in a marriage.

Money talks

It is all not that bad. Like I said it, a society like Singapore, you don’t need kids. You just need money. You have money, you can buy things that makes you comfortable. Your mum and I agreed all the money we spend raising the both of you, could have helped us traveled the world. We could have car(s) and nice houses.

When we are old, can we depend on the both of you to take care of us? Not quite, but as childless couples,  we can employ maids, or check ourselves into retirement homes. Or if we keep ourselves fit enough, we might live a longer healthier lives. Anyway, our demise, if we do not have the both of you, will be the State’s problem. The government will make sure we die properly and our bodies disposed off. Who needs kids? Our personal effects? That’s the government’s problem.

Just have enough money to pay for that to be settled, even when our heart stops beating.

So why?

Since there is much more pros to not having children why did we end up having not one but two?

The Kiss

One recent afternoon, I was lazying, half slumber on the couch, my eldest son, came over and gave me a peck on the cheek. I’m one satisfied dad.

Wayne on my chest
Wayne on my chest, 9 years ago

Stress? Where Got?

Stress? Where Got?

Dear Boys,

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.

straits time 1
screen grab from The Straits Times
straits time 2
Screen grab from The Straits Times

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.

大人的事小孩子不要管!!!

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.

sweeping-under-the-carpet

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.

Links:

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/kids-find-inner-calm-through-mindful-breathing?xtor=CS1-10

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/more-children-and-teens-are-stressed-out?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&xtor=CS1-10#link_time=1489462100

 

Child-led Parenting

Child-led Parenting

Dear Boys,

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.

 

 

Yesterday is always better/worse

Yesterday is always better/worse

Your future and my past is very different

Dear Boys,

In your lifetime, you will certainly hear this from other people, and it usually goes something like:

“Back in those days…” or “In my time, things were a lot tougher! easier! better! worse!” Or “compare to our times…”You youngsters had it easy!”

Well, your dad, will probably pull the same script on you from time to time and I have been told umpteenth times by folks from all walks of life, young and old, the same thing.

People will always try to compare things. And when they compare, there will only be 2 outcomes that will influence their decision making;

1- things were better in the past, so if currently things are worse off I’d better do something.

2- if things were worse in the past, and we have it better now, we’d better do something.

We all have to do something, irrespective of how well or bad things were in the past. You job, as the future, is to make things the best you can, with your resources at your given specific time and space. Sure people like to reminiscence things, tell you things of their good ‘ol days, don’t be fooled into thinking that you had it better, you will not. Neither did you had it worse, you didn’t.

‘In my days’, when I was in national service, I wore helmets dating back to the Vietnam War, Kevlar helmets was considered a luxury, and our instructors used that as a motivation for us to do well in our obstacle course, saying we get to wear ‘Air-con’ helmets, owing to its more cooling design. Nowadays, all helmets in the Armed forces are Kevlar, and the newer ones are even better than the ones I had. I’m telling you boys this, is not to tell you that you are going to have it better. Well that is a given, but the task at hand is still very much a challenging one. It never has been any better.

So the point is, don’t envy, if someone had it better in their heydays, don’t gloat if someone’s worse off than you. That was that, this is now. Your future and my past is very different, I will tell you boys stories, my experiences, do some of these “in my days things’ but please understand it from your context, not mine. Use my experiences as lessons, understand that problems then were different, solutions to those problems are different too. You will have your own set of problems and requires the solutions that is only appropriate at your time. Take away one thing though, the spirit, attitude to problem solving is the same, you must apply the same tenacity, dedication and focus to solving them, the problems you have now and the problems you will have in future. And when you tell you children and the newer generation your ‘In my days’ story, please remember, that was in your days, not theirs! So give them a break!

First published June 15, 2015