I’m a parent who’s open to talking about anything with my kids. Be it religion, philosophy, YouTube, games, life or intimate issues such as sex. Though I have a very open-minded father, my grandmother was very conservative. But I was heavily influenced by my aunt, who still inspires my parenting style. I watched how she spoke to her daughters and took the time to listen, explaining patiently whenever they had questions. So, I chose to emulate that with my kids. They are the given the independence to form their own opinions. Has this been a good or bad thing, you may ask. Let me just say that because of this, I’ve learnt so much about being a parent from my own kids.
Just a few days ago I was stressed about something personal and turned to my daughter and asked if she had any advice for me (without telling her what was causing the stress). This was our conversation…
Me: Malaika, do you have any advice for Mummy?
Malaika : You’re asking me? For real?
Me: Well, if you have any advice, why not…
Malaika : My advice to you is just do what makes you happy.
All I could do, in response, was smile.
Growing up, I played masak-masak with my cousins. We often pretended to be mothers or wives, and hardly ever thought of playing the role of a businesswoman, celebrity or doctor. With my elder brother, he was always the boss and I, the assistant. Now, when I watch the girls around me play ‘pretend’ or what they now call ‘role-play’, it’s evident that their generation is more strong-minded and empowered. One evening, as I watched my friend’s daughters role-play putting on a concert, it struck me that both of them had very strong roles. One was the star, and the other the manager who managed the star’s performance. We’ve definitely come a long way from playing masak-masak. Girls today are not just ambitious, but also in tune with their personalities. I’m thankful for children who ask questions and seek answer to gain knowledge and experience. And for parents who encourage their daughters to speak up and embrace her own opinions.
My own upbringing was shaped by strong Asian sentiments such as not talking back to your elders, and that girls had to learn to cook and clean. I retaliated by being outspoken and opinionated. When I learnt I could express these opinions in writing, I gained a sense of empowerment from it.