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Tue, Mar 01, 2011
The New Paper
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Learn skills from dad? Go fly a kite
by Eugene Wee


I can't do simple repairs on rattan furniture.

I can't hem pants.

And I can't hone a knife on a whetstone if my life depended on it.

So in a apocalyptic zombie-ruled future where rattan is the only building material left, over-sized pants the only clothing, and butter knives the only utensil readily available, I would be pretty dead, pretty fast.

But my parents and their parents would be alive and doing pretty well.

It seems that such handy skills were quite common among folk from previous generations.

And I was reminded that I had learnt very few of them when I heard a discussion on the radio about the skills that our parents had that we don't.

It's not that my elders didn't pass down any - my granddad taught me to make kites and my dad taught me to fish - it's just that I haven't used either skill since.

I started to feel a little guilty that these were things that their parents and grandparents probably taught them, and that I was letting some sort of family tradition go down the drain by not passing them on to The Spawn.

Times change

Then again, my parents probably can't make charcoal from scratch, build an attap hut, or hunt wild chickens - things I bet their great-great-grandparents could do blindfolded.

I guess the mix of changes in technology (we have battery-operated knife sharpeners) and the cultural landscape (the shop where I get my pants hems them for free) makes it impossible, or impractical at the least, for us to apply and pass down everything that our parents have taught us.

And it is likely that relevant skills I can pass on to The Spawn now - such as trouble-shooting computers and Swedish furniture assembly - will be obsolete by the time he has children of his own.

But what I think is important is not what skills are passed down, but the bonding that occurs when it is done.

Among the fondest memories of my childhood were my granddad showing me how to use cooked rice as glue when making a kite out of rattan and tracing paper. And my dad demonstrating how to dig up live worms from the ground to use as fishing bait.

The one skill I would love to pass down to The Spawn wasn't something my dad or granddad taught me, but something I picked up from the Internet - building an electric guitar by hand.

If he becomes a rock star, it would be a really cool story to tell Rolling Stone magazine, just like how Brian May from Queen, who built the iconic Red Special guitar together with his dad.

And if he doesn't, at least he might be able to make a couple of bucks on eBay.

Either way, as long as he remembers the good times he had with his old man, it would be worth it.

I also plan to relearn catching live bait and to teach it to The Spawn so he can live off the land.

You never know when that apocalypse might come.

Zombies are sneaky like that.


This article was first published in The New Paper.

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