My elder son just turned 12. Our trip to China last November was my last chance for him to fly on a child’s ticket. Of course, in many ways, my son is not independent yet, but I’m proud to say that my efforts to help him overcome autism through adventure and independent travel have borne fruit. But as kids turn into teens, they start to notice instances where their parents or even their teachers don’t practice what they preach. They point out our mistakes and ask embarrassing questions about relationships with our in-laws. Why are adults always late for a wedding dinner when the kids are punished for not being punctual? Why is Mother always sulking when Grandma is around when she keeps telling me to respect elders? As parents of teens, we should all be prepared for questions like that. We should also be prepared for challenges to our tastes and opinions. Thinking back, I must have given my parents quite a tough time when I was a teen. For the teen, the transition into adulthood isn’t that easy either. A new kid in the block who is embarrassing adults all the time, he/she won’t get admitted into the “club” without a fight.
For most of us, we reluctantly accept it as payback time. When we were growing up, we thought our parents were unfair, old-fashioned, narrow-minded and cynical (and we could be right). Our attitudes gave our parents endless headaches. Nevertheless, it’s our turn to endure the same headaches our parents once faced (or could still be facing). Even though autistic kids are not so mindful about other people’s feelings and ask a lot of insensitive questions, they tend to rebel less than the neurotypical (politically correct term) kids.
However, not all parents take it philosophically. You may be surprised, but some ignorant parents refuse to accept that the child is growing up and getting more curious and observant. Hurt by some of the pointed remarks and embarrassing observations, they put the blame on “third parties” (like grandparents) for poisoning their child’s mind.
How does such a thought arise? Where else can they be applied? Well, I believe such conclusions are drawn when one regards preserving and protecting the “self” as the sole purpose in life. To these immature parents, the self is sacred. Like some other sacred beings that appeal to their superstitions, the self can never be criticised or slighted. It’s never their “god” not doing its job. It’s always the work of some “evil spirits”. This “spiritual” philosophy ties in very well with their interpretation of real life.
When the child doesn’t perform well in school, it’s not their fault because they’ve already employed an army of tutors to drill the child when they’re on the phone. It’s the kid who can’t appreciate the joy of having so much tuition and it’s probably the tutors’ fault for not having enough insider’s information. Not their fault. They don’t realise that the child must feel the love, concern and involvement of their parents before they can be motivated to perform better. They don’t realise that kids with special needs need something special aids like memorable experiences from field trips and not stacks of worksheets.
When their spouses ignore them because of their tantrums, unreasonable behaviour and other anger management issues, they deny all these issues and conclude that it must be the combination of a slutty “third party” and an unfaithful spouse that is destroying the marriage. Friends and colleagues of the opposite sex bear the brunt of their condemnation. Not their fault. It’s never their fault. They don’t realise that the “third party” only exists in their imagination because they simply cannot indict their sacred selves. Whenever they encounter failure or any unpleasant experience due to any reason, they blame it on others and place permanent black markers for revenge on them. They dig into their memory banks to come up with “evidence” of former friends and even family members trying to harm them. Unsuspecting new friends think it’s all right to make fun of them in the same way they have been made fun of by these immature parents, only to realise that reciprocation is not allowed. These people fall out with old friends and make new enemies all the time. Revenge is mandatory. They fret over all the small stuff and magnify them into reasons for declaring war. Whenever they’ve been “hurt”, they swear to return the favour ten-fold. They may even exact revenge on their own offspring for pissing them off. Aren’t these characteristics and behaviour more than a little obvious even to the least observant? How can the thinking 12-year-old not feel unloved? How can he not ask questions?
Yes, we all envy those who were born rich and we pity those who are unable to afford the basic necessities in life, but money isn’t everything and the lack of it may not kill you. It isn’t so bad to be born in a poor family if we have the means to work our way out of poverty. But even without financial woes, life can be far worse to be born to immature parents and even worse to be born to immature parents who refuse to grow up even when we ourselves are entering our teens.
© Chan Joon Yee