updated 9 Jul 2013, 02:40
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Tue, Jul 02, 2013
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Be good, for your kids' sake
by Andy Chen

The traditionally low bar for being a good father means I often receive praise for being one, sometimes even from a person who has seen me interact only briefly with my two daughters.

If indeed I am a blessing to Faith and Sarah, a small but significant qualifier has to be made: I'm a good father only to them. I don't necessarily have the heart of a father per se, one whose parental role and love extend to empathy for the children of others.

Parenthood up-ends the lives of many.

Far fewer, however, see through their newfound eyes as parents when looking at other children. I certainly don't have that tendency.

Before the arrival of my first child six years ago, I did not like children. After my second was born three years later, I did not like children. Even now, I do not like most children. Faith and Sarah are among the few exceptions. They are also the only children I have carried in the last decade or so.

Many parents, I suspect, are like me.

Hence the playground spats you hear of that break out between parents as a result of their children's scuffles. These would never happen if parents looked at all children with a parent's eyes - and heart.

Without going into egregious detail, let me just say that a few children have been on the receiving end of the evil eye and even curt words from me, for being less than pleasant to Faith or Sarah.

Thankfully, my behaviour has not thus far been repaid in kind. The opposite, in fact, has happened.

When the Pollutant Standards Index hit 401 recently, two mothers I know approached me out of the blue with offers to help me buy air purifiers because my daughters are still so young. Poor things, how Faith and Sarah must be suffering, they sighed.

The fact that one of them is a neighbour of mine and the other a classmate from more than 20 years ago mattered less, I believe, than their sincere concern for children, whether their own or not.

Their actions shamed and chastened me. In my blind panic to source for N95 masks, especially those that fit children, I did not once think about anyone else apart from my daughters and maybe my immediate family.

I seldom think about the welfare of other children unless cattle-prodded by my wife, whose compassion is as exceeding as mine is deficient (probably, non-existent). So, in a wife-led initiative, we subsequently distributed smaller-sized N95 masks to our friends with young children after we managed to buy a stash.

There is another occasion when I think about other children: When their parents behave in a way I tsk-tsk at, I climb on my moral high horse and wonder aloud how the children would be impacted.

Most recently, this occurred at Club Med Cherating Beach in Kuantan, where I vacationed with my wife and kids.

Once upon a time, the beach resort was probably a haven for swinging singles. It has since transformed into a lovely familyfriendly paradise I highly recommend.

A woman, the mother of a preadolescent girl, seemed stuck in the past, though. She must have thought she was at the Club Med of old or that she was an unmarried floozy, flirting crassly with the bare-bodied hunks who manned the trapeze activity.

In plain view of her daughter and husband, she caressed the Club Med employees' chests as she posed for photos with them and said to the Japanese dude with the six-pack: "If I were 10 years younger..."

Her salacious tone left no adult there in any doubt as to her intentions. What did her daughter make of her behaviour? I can only guess. The girl wore a poker face.

Either she was used to her mother's brazen flirtatious ways or she had no understanding of the sexual undertones.

In any case, the amateur psychologist in me says there is a real possibility she could internalise coquettishness in women - not to mention ravenous sexual desire - as normal.

While parents do not have to be hypocrites and prudes in front of their children, they do at least have to behave like they care about the impact on their kids, no?

Sure, there are instances of children swearing off the kind of destructive behaviour that bedevil their parents after witnessing first-hand the damage wrought.

But equally, you hear of alcoholism, for instance, tearing a path through the heart of families down the generations.

Just bad luck? I think not.

Recalling the Club Med episode, I wonder what the flirty Singaporean Chinese woman with a hair-raisingly lewd giggle sees when she looks at herself in the mirror as she applies too much make-up and puts on her 3-inch wedges and cut-off denim shorts: a woman, a mother or a bad influence?

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