“KIDS nowadays. Sigh!” This will always be a common lament, especially among parents.
And it is not without reason that parents feel disappointed and let down by their children time and again.
Who wouldn’t when what you say goes in one ear and out the other?
“Jo, you left the key hanging in the door lock again! One day we will surely get robbed.”
And all he can say is, “Is it? Okay, okay.”
Not even a “sorry.”
Then it happens again.
The bigger heartache is when they simply ignore you while you go on and on about their carelessness, forgetfulness and ignorance.
“Amy, you left the bathroom light on. And the air-conditioner in your room was running for hours while no one was in.”
Silence. No reply, no sorry, not even a nod to acknowledge her fault.
All these can lead parents to apply the “give up” tag on their children. We start having negative thoughts about how they will abandon us in our old age given their apathetic attitude. Sometimes we even wonder if they love us like we love them.
Even worse, we fear that without our help and supervision, they won’t survive in this big and cruel world. How can they when they won’t even switch off the lights behind them? How can they when they don’t even fill up the water bottles in the fridge?
Fret not. All is not lost. That was the realisation I had during a recent holiday to Pulau Perhentian with Jo and Amy.
The first surprise or rather shock was that they invited me to join them for the trip. Me, a grumpy old man with a 20-something son and teenage daughter chilling out at the beach together for four nights?
I actually jumped at the offer because such bonding opportunities don’t come easy.
It turned out to be a blessing and restored my faith that children are not so “useless” after all. In fact, I learnt a lesson or two from them.
First, it was their willingness to rough it out. We went on a low-budget vacation. The room had no extras, not even an air-conditioner. But it didn’t seem to bother them even a bit. They were more intent on having a good time taking meals, singing songs, hiking, swimming and snorkelling.
More than that, they did the impossible. They switched off their phones for the duration of the holiday, checking messages only once a day before going to bed. They knew when to shut out everything and have some quality time to themselves. In fact, I was the culprit because I kept logging on with my data plan to check my WhatsApp messages and post on Facebook.
On the second night, the chalet owner dropped a bombshell. She said we had only booked for two nights, not three. I felt cheated and almost blew my top.
Guess who were the cool heads who kept me in check? Yes, the kids. They told me to calm down and not scream my head off. My son did most of the talking with the owner in a civil way. Although it was in vain, I discovered that he has more tact than me and can keep out the rude words even when upset with others. Yes, it has taken me so long to find that out about him.
We decided to leave the next day and moved elsewhere. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we found a better room and the beach was nicer.
The kids reminded me how things had turned out to be better and that there is often a silver lining behind our troubles. It is nice to know they can take things in their stride and try not to let anything get in the way. All is not lost after all.
On our last day on Pulau Perhentian, we decided to hike up a small hill. Our mistake was to do it in the afternoon under the blazing sun.
We had to climb nearly 600 steps to reach the top. Once there, I felt giddy and weak. I started to worry as this had never happened to me. It was probably heatstroke.
Again my son remained calm and collected. He told me to lie down sideways and breathe in and out slowly. True enough, after a few minutes, I stopped panting and felt better. How did he know all this stuff? Maybe I had underestimated him all this while.
Even my daughter told me not to talk too much but just rest for a while and that I would be all right. “Okay, thank you very much,” I said silently.
I rested on a long bench while Jo took his sister and her friend J.H. down the steps so they could wait for the boatman. Jo then ran up the steps to get to me as fast as possible. He was panting furiously and I asked him why he had to run. He said he was worried for me. That really tugged at my heartstrings.
The next day it was time to go home. Despite the setbacks and shortcomings, it turned out to be a priceless trip for me and I am sure, for the children, too.
I learnt that sometimes children behave the way they do not because they are stupid, lazy or hate us but that’s what they are – children, even if they are way into their 20s or 30s.
Maybe they take their parents for granted at times because they know we have their backs but when it comes to the crunch, they will be there for us, too.
So parents, don’t worry too much about the little things although it gets annoying and frustrating at times. If we have given enough care and love, the children will turn out to be okay.
I have to end here because I heard someone at the door. I hope Jo didn’t leave the keys hanging outside again. Kids nowadays, sigh!