Monday, October 5, 2009

Teaching our children to be filial

WHILE driving through the outskirts of Malacca town, the sight of so many retirement homes reminded me of an advertisement which appeared around Chinese New Year a couple of years back.

In the advertisement, four elderly women were talking while having lunch when the topic turned to their families.

Three of them were trying to outdo each other with tales of their children’s successes and when they got tired of bragging, they turned to the fourth woman who was silently listening.

They asked her about her son.

She replied that he was also doing well and that he would be coming to fetch her soon.

Moments later, a young man and his family turned up in a Proton Saga at the drivew ay.

“T h at ’s my son,” the fourth woman said.

“He’s here to take me out with his family.

He always takes me everywhere.

” She then leaves her friends at the courtyard of a retirement home.

It was one of the best advertisements I had ever seen.

I interpreted it as the reality of life in modern times where filial piety is becoming almost unheard of.

I wonder if how we bring up our children had something to do with it.

Ask any working parent in the city and chances are that by the time the child is 4 years old, he would be more familiar with the nursery or daycare centre than his home.

Some start sending the baby to the babysitter immediately after the confinement period is over as the mother needs to get back to work.

Some would take their babies home after work each evening but there are also others who only take their babies home during the weekends.

The baby stays with the babysitter and her family five days of the week.

For those who can afford home care, the maid usually takes care of the child’s basic needs.

Next time you go out for dinner, pay close attention to families who take along their maids.

Watch who cradles and feeds the children most of the time.

Lately, tuition centres and training schools have also become a child’s second home.

By the time parents are in their twilight years and realise that they only see their children during anniversaries, the gap would have widened so much that it could be too late to close the divide.

The children would probably have spent so much time away that they have lost their sense of attachment to their family, let alone filial piety towards their parents.

Is it any wonder then that parents who are no longer able to care for themselves are sent to retirement homes in an unconscious reversal of roles? I remember growing up listening to tales such as Si-Tanggang Anak Durhaka in the Malay classics which told of the ungrateful son who was cast into stone after rejecting his mother.

Another story in Chinese was about a boy whose family was so poor to buy mosquito nets that he took off his shirt nightly so that insects could feed on his blood and leave his sleeping parents alone.

Such tales would appear irrelevant, maybe even ridiculous, in modern times but back then theywere a lesson in filial piety.

I wonder if parents today ever read such tales to their children.

Of course, we can blame modern influences, but if we make no efforts to right the wrongs, then we are equally guilty.

Only time will tell if the lessons we had taught our children had been in vain.

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