Yesterday, a reader called Joan Veronica Chong from Singapore shared this on the Facebook page:

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Yes, we fuss over babies and toddlers. They are cute, are they not?  The UK press paid homage with large photos of David Cameron’s 6-year-old daughter  Florence (EIGHT photos in one particular article) but there was literally zero mention about Florence’s teenage siblings, Nancy and Elwen.

When do we stop cuddling and cherishing children?  And why do we do that?

Like puppies and kittens. We ooh-ed and aaah-ed over them when they were cute.

But paradoxically, children need more love and cosseting than ever when they stop begin cute.  For teenage years are one of the most challenging periods in our lives as we seek to make sense of the adult world and negotiate our ways through it. People – including parents – expect us to behave like a grown-up and in many cases, the soft cuddles, indulgences, cherishing and tolerance are withdrawn once we are no longer cute.

I knew a couple of people who had such unhappy teenage years (and childhood) that they counted down the days when they could leave. They left as soon as possible. One ran away, the other left for University.  Imagine the hurt. Imagine the damage to the adults they became. None of us became parents to create damaged adults, yet this sometimes is the outcome.


My boys were a pain in the ass in their teenage years yet we loved having them in our imperfect family home. They were gangly, struggling to fit into their new faces and new bodies, testosterone surging, beards sprouting. How could a child-man with bum-fluff on his chin and hairy legs ever be cute? They ate a lot, they made a lot of mess, they made a lot of noise, and they were T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

They have always been boisterous, and their mischiefs were scaled up as they got older.  They borrowed our car illegally at fourteen, threw water bombs at officious security guards, organised illegal boxing matches, streaked naked through our housing compound, sneaked off to computer-gaming centre….agh, I shudder still thinking about their activities. But their father took that all in his stride, grinning even, as he drew his boys closer in his embrace. They were his babies, and they will always be. My parents took great pains to remind me what a terrible teenager I had been yet they still loved me (at 48, I still haven’t moved out of my parents’ home) – thus, I had to do the same for their grandchildren.

I thought about which photograph I would use to go with this post. The obvious one of course would be of my youngest G (who is every bit as high-spirited and as boisterous as her brothers) with her indulgent Daaad, but last night, I snapped this one of my second son Kit and my father. My father is a very difficult man, not child friendly at all, and I think Kit gave him quite a few silent heart attacks in his days as well as popping a few minor veins in his head.  I think of all my children, he is the most challenging one to me. I went into post-natal depression when Kit was TWO because I really struggled to cope with the toddler that he was.

Though my father alternated between being incandescently furious and tight-lipped anger with Kit and all my children, he loved them nonetheless.  His sharpness and cutting tongue were for strangers and outsiders, never his un-cute, boisterous grandchildren.

My father is very indulgent with this grandson though he never found children cute. Last night he was telling Kit that he will bring  over some shrubs for the garden and the antique table from his family for Kit.  And here is the 27 year old Lieutenant of the Royal Navy with his granddad, so un-cute but very much cosseted and cherished by his family. You can tell from my father’s expression how soft and gentle he is with this grown-up boy who used to draw on his pristine walls, cut his curtains and set fire to his sofa.

Never stop cherishing children, especially when they stop being cute, because how you treat your un-cute children becomes the joy or the damage in their lives.

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