My Parents’ 10 Unfulfilled Wishes

  1. I never became a doctor.
    My parents had a grand plan for all of us, which quite amazingly, was fulfilled 3/4s of the way. They had envisioned a brood of children who would grow up to work in top-level professions; my eldest sister became a lawyer, so we’d be in good hands if we ever got into any legal trouble. My second sister took home an architect’s degree, so we’d be able to design and build our very own family home. My third sister came back from university with an accountancy degree (and later, an MBA), so we’d have financial counsel. And finally, they wanted a doctor, so our health would be taken care of.It was thus to their utter dismay to find out when I turned 11 that I was afraid of the sight of blood.
  2. I never stayed 12.
    People have varying opinions about when a child starts losing his cuteness and ceases to impress or? amuse them. Some say in the midst of a child’s terrible twos, his incessant tantrums will have begun poking at the patience of those around them. Some go further, till four, when they start stringing complex sentences together and begin talking way too much. Or how about nine, when primary school homework becomes too much for an adult to handle (read a Primary 3 student’s Mathematics workbook and tell me you understand)? I hit twelve, when my parents’ hopes and dreams still hung tightly on me being able to get accepted into a top secondary school (think Raffles, Victoria, Maris Stella, St Joseph’s, Anderson and all those colonial first names people tend to associate with good schools).I listed them all down when I completed my PSLEs, picking only one neighbourhood school (Presbyterian High) in my very last option. Guess which one the Ministry of Education put me in?
  3. I never got into junior college.
    By the time I hit Sec 4, I was streamed into the worst-performing class in the Express stream (no offence to the classmates I still have in Facebook). It was thus of no surprise that I didn’t fare well at all in my O-levels and got a handful of Fs to complement my good English. By this time my father had already given up on me, and my mother was worried sick. They started discussing contingency plans, and sat me down one night to explore the possibility of training as a chef in Indonesian cuisine and setting up a restaurant somewhere in town where we could sell nasi padang.I balked at them during that entire conversation.

    A few weeks later, my dad drove me to Katong to see if he could get me into a Pre-University Centre so that I could at least do my A-levels. Thankfully my English grades pulled me through, though I imagine I can fry up a seriously killer ayam penyet.

  4. I never went to university.
    As my studies continued its bear run, and I continued my teenage shenanigans of losing my homework and chasing skirts, my parents’ last vestige fo hope were ultimately dashed when I was not even able to get myself into the lowest grade requirement degree course (Arts and Social Sciences) in any of the local universities. I was shocked myself; so shocked I decided to try my A-levels again as a private candidate 2 years later, studying through my first year as an army enlistee. My second attempt proved one thing; the army does nothing to improve your intelligence level.

  5. I got into a polytechnic instead. Much later.
    After an initial rejected application from Temasek Polytechnic’s Graphic Design diploma course, I was finally able to enroll into Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of film & Media Studies, much to my mother’s dismay. Polytechnics in my parents’ generation were generally seen as upmarket vocational institutes, and graduates would end up in dead-end jobs that only paid marginally better than technicians and clerks. In fact, my mother actually confided in me while I received my rejection letter from Temasek that after I decided to pursue a diploma, she had prayed hard to her Lord Buddha that He bless me with the luck to not get into a polytechnic.
  6. I am not (really) financially independent.
    I was never good with saving money, and my father once told me when I was about 13 that he would stop financing after I had reached 23, which he calculated would be just the age where I would have graduated from university.As per point 4 though, he never did get to alleviate himself from his financial burden for a lot longer. Even though I started working in all manners of jobs (waiting tables, bartending, stage crew work, construction), he still gave me varying amounts of allowance more or less regularly all the way till I was 27.

    What makes me even more guilty was that just before I got married, I still had to get “bailout money” from him to help me clear my debts, which to this day I haven’t finished repaying him.

  7. I spend too much money.
    A point which my mother argues is a trait passed down from my father. My father always had this concept when it came to shopping for anything: “If it’s expensive, it’s good.” In turn, I picked up the habit of making purchases on really expensive toys that fall more in the category of wants than needs. I have acknowledged I have a more-serious-than-not spendthrift problem, but up until recently I never stopped.Did I mention debts?
  8. I never, nor will probably ever, own a Volvo.
    My mother always had this opinion about Volvos being the mark of good status; not as obnoxious as a Mercedes-Benz, and not as aggressive as a BMW, just a reasonable symbol of success.Having driven my sister’s Jaguar for a while, I have decided continental cars are not my cup of tea, nor will I ever hope to actually own one, looking at the sad state of affairs running up from points 1 through 7.

  9. I never, nor will probably ever, own a 4-storey landed home with a basement.
    A few years ago, my mother laid out her dream home on the table in front of me and my sisters. She said she would be content with a landed home that had 4 storeys and a basement, where each one of us (and our respective families) would take on one floor each, and she and my father – being of old age – would take the ground floor so they wouldn’t have top climb the stairs. I assume the basement would be for all the things in her current home that she had hoarded over the last 20 years, but who am I to say anything? All I can offer my mother now is a 30 square metre room in my HDB executive flat, 17 kilometres away from the smack-in-the-middle-of-town penthouse my eldest sister bought for them.

  10. I’m not filial.
    This is perhaps the most damning of all. My mother constantly nags at me for not calling after I moved out and got a place of my own, my dad complains I never respond in a timely manner to all his technological emergencies (mostly involving a spyware-ridden computer with no Internet connection and audio-video connections that got screwed up after he buys a new DVD player or orders a new cable set-top box). The truth is, I do miss living with my parents, but like my dad, I never did develop the proper communication skills needed to interact with people who are close to me. My wife has been continuously chiding me over the same issue, but in truth, I’m not good at showing love.

    At least I think I’m not.


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