Our children are like young birds learning how to fly: they want to test and stretch their wings, see how far they can go.
If you clip their wings too much, they will not be able to fly.
And if you don’t teach them how to fly safely with your guidance when they are still in the nest, how would they navigate the dangerous skies, full of predators on their own?
Recently, when I was in London, I was shown a video clip on social media of a girl who went to school with my children in Kuala Lumpur. The girl, from a conservative Malaysian Chinese family, was simulating oral sex with a shot glass, cheered on and filmed by a group of drunken lads. She made a big display of licking the white foam before tipping everything down her throat suggestively.
I may have pulled a similar stunt myself in my misspent youth, but back in those days, there were no iPhones ready to record everyhing, and no Facebook or Instagram to store my youthful misdemours THAT WILL REMAIN IN PUBLIC DOMAIN FOR LIFE.
Thus, I always caution my 17-year-old about what she puts out there, because as sure as night follows day, things have a way of coming back to haunt you in years to come, when you least expect them to.
As we were having this conversation, my daughter showed me the things her friends post on social media. It shocked me, though I am not puritanical or naive. Not only the film clips but the language used was very demeaning and degrading – why are girls talking about gang bangs and why are they talking about dick size so publicly, for the whole world to read??? Do their parents know, I wonder?
Though my 17-year-old is no angel, we have chosen to cultivate a culture of openness and honesty in our family. We told her, “We give you lots of freedom in exchange for you being completely honest with us in ALL areas. And if you want to do something that we potentially disagree with, talk to us first, and we will find a middle ground.”
Our “no secrets” policy seems to work well. She has a boyfriend whom she has been dating since she was 14, and fortuitously, her boyfriend’s family also cultivates the same policy of openness and honesty. Both our families are in constant contact with each other, keeping a watchful eye at the two young people about to set off on their independent lives, finding a path together that all parties can be in agreement with. We bring difficult subjects to the table and discuss in the spirit of complete openness – though it does get uncomfortable and confrontational sometimes. Like the fact that they are not allowed to stay in a hotel in Patong (party town) if they go out partying with their classmates (which some do openly).
As both of them do not drink, smoke or take drugs (they play football at a very high level), it doesn’t mean that it’s all smooth sailing for us. We have other issues to face up to, such as contraception, sleeping arrangements and no driving at night.
But I would rather these challenging, open discussions (which sometimes result in fights) than burying my head in the sand, pretending that my daughter is pure and perfect, living in a perfectly safe world.
Here is an sobering article from Channel News Asia:
“It was the newfound freedom,” said Marianne, a graduate now in her late 30s. “My parents weren’t around and I wanted to do as many things as I could, away from home.” You can read the article here.
Yes, my fellow parents, drugs, alcohol, casual sex, drink-driving, and many deadly evils exist out there in your children’s world, even if you choose not to see them/pretend they don’t exist. They most certainly DO exist.
Thus, I think it’s far wiser to bring these subjects out in the open and have rational discussions about them, than to pretend that your child is impervious to the real world, or worse still, shout your child down on these sensitive topics, which make them all the more glamorous and exciting. You know how the saying goes … forbidden fruits are always the most attractive.
Wishing you luck for your dialogue sessions with your growing children x
Image from http://allchristiannews.com/the-penn-speaks-is-christians-burying-their-heads-in-the-bible-like-ostriches-burying-their-heads-in-the-sand/