Definitely a keeper from my memories of my primary school era are these lines from Mum. “Don’t shake your leg when you’re studying! Your school never teach?!” Or how about, “Don’t sit on books! Your school never teach?!” Mum had an understanding that my primary school would dutifully impart these values onto me.
While she was wrong about my school, I never questioned these values and simply learned to behave accordingly when within her radar. I can’t say the same for my son.
LEFT: Son being allowed to skip school on ‘off days’.
RIGHT: Me still lost in the wonderful world of being ‘Daddy’s girl’.
Perhaps it’s due to his drastically different upbringing. I introduced him to hugs and two-way conversations.
“I was doing my work when Teacher X scolded me for shaking my knees. What’s wrong with shaking my knees?! I wasn’t even noisy or distracting anyone,” he lamented one scorching hot afternoon on our walk home from school.
Perhaps it’s Asian values, I told him. I didn’t appreciate them when I was around his age, but now at the ripe old age (in his opinion) of 39, these values are slowly gaining my respect. Not that I find it disrespectful when someone younger than I am fails to drop into an instant curtsy in my presence – but it’s heartwarming. Or maybe it’s just nostalgia kicking in. I am, after all, a product of the 20th century. Gasp.
Rewinding back to Mum (circa early 1990s), “Education and food are sacred. So we have to treat them with reverence.” Speaking of reverence, these days Mum finds the internet holy. She’s on Tiktok (I’m not), she knows how to surf YouTube & numerous other apps on her television (I’m only acquainted with Netflix), and just like most Mums, she’s a forwarderholic on WhatsApp.
But I digress. Mum is a post-World War 2 baby. She grew up with minimum, and my parents spent their first decade as a married couple close to poverty. Education and food were (and still are) sacred in their opinion. They worked hard to offer us both, teach us the value of both, and live with the faith that these would help us become success stories.
But there’s Google these days. But I digress again.
Coming back to my son. Shaking his legs while studying might not make him score any lesser – but would it lower his respect towards the sacredness of Education? I honestly don’t know. But it was this question that led me to discover ‘What They Forgot to Teach You at School‘.
They might have overlooked many things, but first, I have an aching need to address the obvious.
There’s such a stern, serious approach towards education – or if you’re like me, you learned to view it as equivalence to God. We spend almost 20 years (or more!) in formal education, with most of our days dictated by the machinery of schools. Yet, despite all the lessons we sat through, we never spent a lot of time on the critical things that dominate and trouble our lives. Important things that start even before we complete our school lives.
Who to start a relationship with?
How to trust people?
How to understand one’s psyche?
How to move on from sorrow or betrayal
How to cope with anxiety and shame?
These were some questions I’ve spent years searching for answers to. Questions that an education system could have helped me better understand. So when I finally discovered this nugget, I felt I’d scored big time.
My personal favourite chapters are ‘No One Knows’ and ‘No One Cares’, but ‘Give Up on People’ is one I’m actively working on. The book elaborates on four positions we might take when struggling against the inability. It serves as a faithful friend, consistently reminding me that I need to do that strange thing called ‘walk away’ with some people.
It’s still a struggle, and it goes against the grain of what I’ve labelled as ‘Asian values’. The older me is almost convinced that I’m wrong. These aren’t Asian values, but misconstrued understandings of mine derived from misconstrued understandings of Mum. She’s learned better, though. These days, she’s made her peace with walls, distance, space, time, and Tiktok.