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||THE TELLY FAMILY?
It was just recently that
I was asked an unexpected question. My dad was
having some drinks with his ex-colleagues when
I popped by and one of his colleagues suddenly
asked me “Hey, is your dad a good dad?”.
I replied without hesitation, “Of course
he’s a good dad!”
This made me think because on a sub-conscious
level, I knew the answer but it’s not something
one often says and thinks about. I was actually
quite surprised that I had the answer at the tip
of my tongue – under normal circumstances,
I would have retreated shyly and just smiled at
the person asking the question.
Have you ever thought about your relationship
with your family? How you have been raised? And
if you are going to have your own family –
how would you raise them up? What values would
you like to impart upon them?
The modern family
Stephen Covey, in his book entitled “The
7 Habits of Highly Effective Families” says,
“Modern life is family unfriendly. We now
live in a world that values personal freedom and
independence more than responsibility and interdependence…Social
life is fractured. Families and individuals are
becoming increasingly isolated. Escape from responsibility
and accountability is available everywhere.”
I tend to agree with him to a certain extent.
In today’s city lifestyle and with the constant
advancement of technology, things tend to be different.
My observation is that families today tend to
spend more time doing things like watching TV
and window-shopping. My family is guilty too!
These are not exactly the best ways to bring about
We don’t spend enough time talking to each
other over long Sunday lunches, or daily dinners
because everyone has a different schedule and
sometimes parents tend to work late and so on
and so forth. Even when we spend time at home,
do we actually “spend time at home”?
Most of the time, we retreat to our private cocoons
(our rooms!) and just do our own thing like surfing
the Net, watching TV etc. This isn’t actually
bonding with our family.
It starts with you
It’s funny how you remember the most insignificant
details as a kid. I still remember that when I
was 12, my dad took me to my first movie premier
(“Empire of the Sun” it was). His
company had sponsored some seats at the top theatre
in town, and he took me there after work (just
the two of us). It was the best movie I had ever
seen and until today, I still think about it.
But as I grew older, I now know that it wasn’t
the movie. He could have brought me to the lousiest
movie ever made in the century, and it would have
still been a good movie to me. It was the time
spent with him that I had cherished and misinterpreted
in my kid mind to be the movie.
When I think about it, the list goes on and on,
and my most cherished memories are actually things
like family holidays, family dinners, family badminton
From what my parents practiced, I realize that
family closeness does not come automatically,
and is created by conscious effort, attention
Here’s a list of what I think families can
do to encourage closeness:
Whether one likes it or not, your family has been
“assigned” to you, and you can’t
change that fact. I’ve realized over the years
that every family has it’s plus and minuses,
and if I was given the chance to change my family
today, I wouldn’t. So, make the best of it,
and what I’ve learnt is that no matter how
you screw up, somehow your family comes to terms
with it, and everyone pitches in to get you back
- Family meals
Although everyone has their own schedule, trying
to synchronise family meals together can bring
about more communication. Members of the family
can use those times to update each other on
what’s been happening in their life, and
pose questions and get feedback from the rest.
- Put family first
Just think about it. Is it very likely that
your family members are the few people in this
world who would put everything else second to
you if you had an emergency and needed help.
So, always put your family first no matter what.
My parents always showed us that we were more
important than work. It makes sense because
if you had only 1 day left to live, would you
still spend that day at work? My sister recently
graduated and the whole family took time off
work to just be with her at her convocation.
- One-on-one bonding
This is what I experienced when my dad took
me to that movie premier. There are lots of
ways to spend time with family members one-on-one.
You can get your dad or mom to take you to your
favourite activities such as camping trips,
riding your first bike etc. Bonding will naturally
take place during those moments.
- Show unconditional care and love
Deepak Chopra writes, “In a perfect world,
parenting would come down to one sentence: Show
only love, be only love.” We all need
love, it’s like water to a plant. However,
we as Asians are all pretty shy about expressing
our love to our family. Well, you can show love
to your parents and family by other ways such
as helping out at home, getting along with your
brothers and sisters, and much more.
- Create family traditions and rituals
Although this seems to be the job of the parents,
sometimes as children, we also can influence
family traditions. I remember that we used to
suggest to our parents that each time we travel
outstation, we would want to stop at Ipoh in
this particular hotel to eat. And this became
a ritual to our family, and because everyone
was looking forward to this time together, we
would always enjoy that meal.
- Communicate effectively
A family that talks a lot is a family that weathers
every storm. And that’s very true. However,
when talking, always remember that it should
be based on mutual respect without blame or
judgment. Try to understand your family members
first, and then try to make yourself understood.
- Use technology.
Technology can be a double edged sword, and
we can use it properly to gain closeness with
our families or it could isolate us further.
Remember what I said about us Asians being shy
to express our love. Well, my sister recently
sent an SMS to all of us in the family which
went something like this, “Just wanna
let you guys know that I love you and thank
God for the wonderful family He’s blessed
me with.” After reading that, I sent her
back an SMS saying something similar. Now, that
would have been extremely difficult to come
out of each of our mouths if we were standing
in front of each other! So even if we are away
from our family studying, using SMS, email,
and what other technology that’s available
to us, we can still keep our family “connected”.
Ronald Khoo Swee Keat