I am writing this column from the crown jewel of Indonesia…Bali! We are on a speaking tour and have done parenting seminars called “Raising Responsible Kids” with parents from Vietnam and Jakarta. After our little rest for a few days in Bali we will have the opportunity to do the same in Singapore, Bangkok in Thailand and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. How lucky are we?
This is our fourth trip through Asia and we never cease to be amazed at the fact that no matter where you live, parenting is the same! Even though cultures and economics and religions are very different, every parent wants to raise happy, self-confident, responsible children!
Asian parents’ stories are full of drama and sorrow along with the joy just like ours. In Vietnam we met a single father whose partner left him with their one-year old daughter to raise on his own… for about fourteen years until she showed up with another daughter by a different man, who he also adopted even though she was not genetically related to him. They are two of the brightest, most lovely girls you would want to meet, despite their hardships.
At an amazing restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, I sat by a wonderful mother whose son owned the restaurant. She was an amazing designer and had decorated the Asian-Fusion Restaurant with enormous talent. She told of meeting her husband as a refugee in Australia after the Vietnam War. He had looked across the room and knew instantly that she was to be his wife. The thing that makes this love story fascinating is that he was eighteen, she was twenty two and eight months pregnant. The father of the baby, an abusive gambler had deserted her. She said that her mother had told her never to hold hands with a man or kiss one either because she would immediately become pregnant and that the baby would emerge from under her arm. With that great information, it’s not a wonder that she had no idea what she was doing when she got involved with this loser, whom she didn’t hold hands with or kiss! The story has a happy ending as they did marry and had that child (who now owned the restaurant) and four other beautiful children. They were both fabulously gifted and have become very wealthy as well!
In Jakarta, which is larger than New York City, we did a seminar for the magazine empire. Our sponsors were the Parenting Magazine of Indonesia and also the Indonesian counterpart Ayahbunda (meaning MotherFather). About a hundred delightful parents showed up for a day long seminar.
Around ninety percent of Jakarta is Muslim and as you might or might not guess, the audience looked exactly like an audience in the U.S. There were a few head scarves worn to show their outward devotion but all were just struggling to be the best parents they could be. I sat at a table at lunch and discussed labor and delivery with about ten young mothers. Their health care system is very good (except for the poor…sound familiar?) with one difference. NO pain relief unless you have a C-section!
What a delight it was to be with another set of parents for a two day seminar there. Even though they all had nannies, housekeepers and drivers, their issues were just about the same as ours: How do I protect my child from the dangerous things they hear in the media? How can I make them responsible for their things, their choices and their own goals? How do I keep from spoiling my child in a material world?
It was fun to talk about the importance of having a family mission statement, family meetings, family laws, formalizing family traditions, setting up a family economy and helping their children make some good decisions in advance as well as discussing how to talk to their kids about sex. The last hour on the second day, their children joined us. Bright and happy, they seemed to have the same questions, the same curiosity, the same bright minds, same worries, same resentments and sometimes even the same “cluelessness” as our own little children.
The farther we go around the world, the more we realize that “families are families” and “truth is truth” no matter where you live, what your economic level is or what your religious beliefs are. Even though working fathers and mothers may not be with their children as much as they would like, all parents agree that letting their children know that they are their first priority is crucial. If they show that commitment through having a family infrastructure that helps kids feel they are part of something bigger than themselves as well as showing unconditional love, parents can produce happy, responsible children, regardless of outside factors. It’s a small world after all!
See more of our trip on our blog at Valuesparenting.com