This blog has been neglected for a couple of months now. My life in Toronto has indeed become quite hectic. Balancing work and family for working parents here can indeed be quite challenging. In Sri Lanka, where the extended family ties help each other out, such challenges are usually passed over to the older generation, a.k.a. grandparents, who willingly and with much relish accept this task of moulding the second generation. Thus ensures the contiguity of ethics and family values in Sri Lankan culture.
In a foreign country, where values and the choice of words in language (English isn’t the same everywhere!) are sometimes contradictory and alien, the task of striking a balance can be onerous. After all, children spend most of their time in the multi-cultural milieu that is Toronto. Parents have to help them to adapt while passing on aspects of the culture of origin. Thinking about it for sometime, I realize it just boils down to a few simple tasks we as parents have to do and keep at it everyday. I am sure more things can be added but here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Spend time with your kids – without spending time with them, you really don’t bond with them. This is the way to earn their love, trust and respect as someone who is there for them.
2. Experience and enjoy life along with them – when enjoying that football game on TV, share your passion and talk about it with them. Get them involved in it. Read or tell them a story even if it is something that was in the news, if they can understand it. This could be about bullying issues in school, ghost stories on Halloween or just making up your stories. All humans, especially kids love stories. For those interested in finding out why, go to:
3. Take them to your cultural gatherings – this can religious places, parties or community gatherings where they meet and learn from kids of a similar background.
4. Keep reminding them of their responsibilities, even if it sounds like nagging. Children need to learn to take responsibilities but they have to be reminded often until they learn to take it upon themselves. This can be for trivial tasks like washing hands immediately after coming back to the house or doing their home-work or getting ready for school. Be patient knowing that they will test your patience and you will lose it some of the time!
5. For those with more than one child, be fair in your punishments. They will realize this uniformity over a period of time and respect you for treating them all equally and more importantly realize the purpose of their punishments.
6. Importantly, all this in effect means children build their own identity and sense of belonging. Their identity should be their strength and should increase their confidence to interact with society. Give them all the skills you can such as swimming, dancing, karate, soccer etc. but leaving time for them to just be kids (remember they are not machines) and have a childhood.
6. Never impose aspects of culture that they despise like forcing them to wear certain clothes or prohibiting them from interaction with the opposite sex. It ruins their confidence leading to more complex problems.
As for the parents who do not have time, for whatever reason, here is a story:
The Mayonnaise Jar
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle,
When 24 hours in a day is not enough;
remember the mayonnaise jar and 2 cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class
and had some items in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly,he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and started to fill it with golf balls.
He then asked the students if the jar was full.
They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly.
The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.
He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand
and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’
The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table
and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand.
The students laughed.
‘Now,’ said the professor, as the laughter subsided,
‘I want you to recognise that this jar represents your life.
The golf balls are the important things – God, family,
children, health, friends, and favourite passions.
Things that if everything else was lost
and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the things that matter – like your job, house, and car.
The sand is everything else – the small stuff.
‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued,
‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.
The same goes for life.
If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff,
You will never have room for the things that are important to you.
Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Know your God.
Play with your children.
Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your partner out to dinner…
There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap.
Take care of the golf balls first —
The things that really matter.
One of the students raised her hand
and inquired what the coffee represented.
The professor smiled, ‘I’m glad you asked.
It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem,
there’s always room for a cup of coffee with a friend…!’
You can share this with the other golf balls in your life.