More on Parenting

In a few hours, I would pick up my bags for the Los Angeles International Airport for another long haul home. I would then rest for a day before making off to Seoul, this time for a pilgrimage.

I have already discussed the highlight of my North American trip in the last two letters. Suffice it to say that I spent the rest of the time in LA catching up with a few friends, catching up with my sleep, and trying to do some reading. All in all, it has been a rather quiet and relaxing few days, notwithstanding a weekend, Father’s Day and the Dragon Boat Festival in between.

My in-laws have spared me this time of the never ending meals. Instead, they went to work every day, and so did my son. Last night was Dragon Boat Festival, but it was a regular work day even for the Chinese communities. A friend took me to a Brazilian barbecue in a big shopping mall. We had plenty of meat and some beer and in between we discussed parenthood and parenting.

Let me call him Joe for the purpose of this letter. Joe has a similar background as my son, except that he is close to ten years or half of a generation his senior. The similarities include that they had both read in the same secondary school, both had been in the scouts, and both had left for the United States after Form 6. There is one big difference which followed though, my son asked to go there, but Joe went largely at the instigation of his parents who said they would not like him to blame them later in his life for not having provided him opportunities to study abroad and thus have his vista broadened. It was a time when many students in Hong Kong whose parents could afford it went overseas for university education.

Joe recalled that he would use every opportunity to retort his parents, argue with them, or to interrupt their speeches so that they would lose their train of thoughts. The most interesting part of it was that all his peers did the same and apparently all had gone through similar experience. The situation changed, however, after he got married and more so after his first child was born. As he learnt to be a caring husband and a loving parent, he began to appreciate the difficulties of parenthood and all of a sudden, realized the pains and trauma he must have inflicted on his own parents when he was younger.

Interestingly, while I have had such sharing before from parents who are my age and older, this is the first time I had it from someone in a younger generation.

Talking of generations, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, has listed the many generations in American culture since 1588. I invite you to do an internet search for the details. There, you will find definitions for Baby Boomers, Generation Jones, Generation X, Generation Y, Generation C, Generation Z and many others.

In America, there has been serious sociological and anthropological research on generations; and they have what they call generation researchers. For example, Neil Howe and William Strauss have defined Generation X as one including anyone born from 1960 to 1978 in North America. These and similar studies have been used now for marketing and in popular culture.

Generation X can technically be defined as the generation following the Baby Boomers (1940s to 1960s). While it has been generally acknowledged that Generation X has evolved from the resultant changes following the decline of colonial imperialism, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, some commentator such as Jennifer Jochim has said that Generation X defies definition. In this connection, the media often has a definitive role to play by assigning them specific characteristics. Thus these are people brought up on television, Atari 2600s and personal computers. They are the generation that was raised in the 1970s and 1980s, and saw America undergoing a selfish phase that they do not want to repeat.

My son Lawrence thought that he was in Generation X. He was somewhat amused when I told him that he was probably in Generation Y which Wikipedia assigned to Americans born between 1970s and 1980s. This would also be the generation associated with the Millennium and the Internet. In any case, most generation researchers have focused on the American scene only. One specific milestone for the Generation Y has to be the explosion of the Challenger in mid air shortly after lift off; and some researchers have now argued that September 11, 2001 should mark the end of some generation and the beginning of another.

Back to my friend Joe’s observation, I suppose I could expect better times ahead in my parenting career, which is good news and rather reassuring. It is not that I have been unhappy with my children or that I am resigned to the fact that children in that generation would behave as such. I am very much alive to the difficulties involved; and the fact that I was left alone in mid-career must have made it, in my words, more than doubly difficult.

Here, I should add that when I say I expect better times ahead, I am not simply expressing a hope or belief that it would happen; I have been working at it and would continue to do so. Hope in Catholic theology is one of three theological virtues, along with faith and charity, and a spiritual gift from God or grace; as opposed to one of the many physical emotions. Once again, the Wikipedia outline some 40 physical emotions, the positive ones include affection, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, gratitude and love; while the other side includes anger, despair, envy, frustration, hate and horror. Hope is just among one of the emotions.

The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh has also spoken on hope and has cautioned that hope could become an obstacle, in the sense that only when one refrains from hoping, one can bring oneself entirely into the present moment and discover the joy that is always there. In other words, hope alone would not work. One must learn to live in the here and now, in the present moment, to be happy and peaceful. I hasten to add that one should read and practise what the Zen Master has written, rather than taking what I have said out of context.

Back to the present, Stephanie called me on Father’s Day with her good wishes. I was happy and grateful, particularly when I knew that she must be up to her eye balls with packing and preparation for her move from Davis to Ventura. I have since learnt that she has arrived Ventura and I know she must be extremely busy unpacking at the present moment.

As for Lawrence, he has been offered a place in Parsons, New York; and he would start his new courses in fashion design in September. He asked me whether his new move would adversely impact on my finance and hence affect my quality of life. I thanked him for his concern, and assured him that I could manage by postponing my order for my Ferrari.

No one is perfect; and we all make mistakes. I remember saying to Stephanie once that, “Life is a series of mistakes,” and she agreed.

On this happy note, I would start packing and I would talk to you latter.

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