Sunday, 25 June 2017

You are different for a reason.

Kids with dyslexia more prone to social, emotional problems - that's the headlines in the Home section today. 
While Tom Cruise, Richard Branson and even our very own Lee Kuan Yew made it big, rich, and famous in their own unique and admirable ways as they all struggled with reading and understanding, most kids are neither that fortunate nor privileged in their own struggles. 
It reports that kids with dyslexia are often target of cruel bullying and it persists throughout the most crucial phrase of their childhood, that is, throughout their emotional and cognitive development. 
As such, they often suffer from anxiety, depression and low self-esteem - than their normal, well-adjusted peers. 
To them, the world is a stranger and will readily pass them by with ridicule and mockery as they struggle with what they can't understand and grapple with fear, uncertainty and anxiety alone in silence. 
They are basically embarrassed with themselves. They count themselves as failures. And they would rather the world just pass them by.
This cruelty often stems from the insecurity that those who are deemed normal (by society's superficial standards) feel when they notice that their peers are different from them. 
In a society where many strive with unreflective efforts to converge at a one-dimensional economic goal that seduces her seekers with instant gratification, fame and wealth, being different, "slow" or "abnormal" is a liability or burden to such society or community. 
Diversity (or being different) is therefore not uniformity, conformity and ultimately, productivity to such society. 
Lesson? One.
When my youngest, 6, was diagnosed with borderline dyslexia and needed extra help in her studies, I deeply regretted the times when I had used the cane, instead of gentle persuasion, stimulation and playful distraction, to get her to learn.
She must then be wondering by herself, "How do I help daddy to understand that I just don't?"
As a father, a parent, we all want the best for our child. We want them to be accepted by society, to move forward with hope, and to succeed in whatever they are passionate about. 
It is undeniable that their first and most enduring experience of being loved and accepted is in the place where they spent most of their childhood.
Alas, the love of family is the wellspring of their growth and development, and the springboard for their future resilience and hope. 
I have thus learned that rearing a child and loving her is not so much about filling her schedules with work assignments, expecting her to jump academic hoops one after another, and making sure she matches up to that neighbour’s kid who scored all "A's" for his exams. 
Don't we sometimes catch ourselves as parents secretly hoping that our kids would never be different, that is, to always conform, to be like our neighbour’s kid? We hope they were different because being different is bad, even embarrassing. 
Yet, as parents, truly loving our child is to never let her feel that she is alone in her struggles. It is to never let her feel that daddy or mommy doesn't understand, and doesn't care that she's also struggling to please, assure and comfort us so that they may be accepted by us as not being different. 
They have learned through our unintended social cues and body language that being different is wrong.
And most importantly, loving our child is to never let her feel that she is a disappointment to us as she will never be like us, that is, she will always be different. 
My god, I do not want my daughter to be like me. I don't want her to live my script. I want her to be her. To be assured in herself, to grow within herself, to overcome in her own skin, and to be different in her own unique ways. I want her to be different and to know that being different is a privilege, not a liability or burden as insecure bullies will mock her with.
And I understand now that the script that is going to make our kid over-comers later in life is not going to be written alone by them, but it will be primarily co-authored by us as their parents in this growing journey with them. 
We therefore stand in the gap for our children. We make the difference by assuring them that being different is not only normal, but it is a cause for celebration and a reason for loving nurturance. 
We must never forget that we are here as parents in this brief lifetime to love them, not use them as an extension of our stillborn dreams, to cherish them, not make sure they perform to competent levels dictated by society, and most crucially, to help them build wings to soar and fly at their own pace and time, and not put them on society's conveyor belt and expect them to magically experience accelerated growth and maturity so as to conform.
So, joy, daddy is always here with and for you. He is a jerk sometimes, but a jerk who is always prepared to learn. He will faithfully walk with you so that you will never feel alone, or misunderstood and bullied. 
We will journey this together, and together, we will write a new script - a different script because being different is what makes me love and treasure you even more as you are one in a million, or a billion. 
You are the one shining star in the galaxies of billions of stars that supports life - my life. 
And the world, for all I care, can stay the same, uniform or conform, just as long as you stay the way you are - different and uniquely you. Cheerz.

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