I turn 30 this year.
It’s an interesting age to be in. I’m still young enough to remember my high school years pretty well, yet old enough to have been in the working “real” world for quite a while now. At family reunions, I often feel like the link between the true digital natives (kids who are glued to iPads) and the old guard.
It’s an age where you feel like you’re wise enough to give good advice, yet remain flexible in your ways.
So in honor of this Chinese New Year, family and festivities, here’s a list of the top 5 annoying things that our parents nag(ged) us about. Things we hated listening to, but actually turned out to be quite true.
1. “Study hard – and get a good job”
Some of you have amazing careers and lives. If you’re a celebrity / professional blogger / fashion model / entrepreneur / Felixia Yeap, feel free to smugly laugh – because this doesn’t apply to you.
The rest of us have to cari makan in more conventional ways though – like having a full-time job.
My point? Better paying jobs require qualifications (usually technical). There’s a strong correlation between education level and income.
What I would tell my kids: Find a field that interests you and get a degree in it. If you don’t know what interests you, get off Candy Crush and start looking!
2. “Your target is straight As”
Ah… the pursuit of As – what most people will tell you is meaningless, a waste of time, and how they wish they spent their time on Candy Crush instead.
So why did your parents emphasize them so much?
The truth is – your parents never cared about those As. They just wanted you to be excellent. Unfortunately our flawed education system overly emphasizes grades as a metric for judging performance. And so they emphasized it too – because that was the only metric they could easily use.
If there was a more wholesome way to evaluate students’ performance, I’m sure they would have embraced it with open arms.
As or no As though – The culture of excellence is a great predictor of success in life.
What I would tell my kids: Be excellent in whatever you do. In your studies, and outside of them.
3. “Bring your boyfriend to meet us, so we can evaluate him”
Back in my younger days (like most people), I used to think that my parents had no idea on how modern day relationships work.
“Times have changed. We don’t go to amusement parks and eat cotton candy for dates anymore. You wouldn’t be able to understand my relationship.”
But the experts tell us otherwise. Researchers have found that arranged marriages can be more successful than conventional marriages. And that parental involvement helps in successful marriages.
So yes, your parents might not understand emojis, Whatsapp and Snapchat (you naughty people). But they still probably know more than you about how to have a happy relationship and marriage.
What I would tell my kids: We know you best. Having our input helps your relationship!
4. “When are you having kids?”
Probably the most common intrusive question at family gatherings. (If you’ve made it past the “when are you getting married?” stage of course).
It is a valid concern though. There are real medical risks involved, the later a woman has a baby. For example (from Wikipedia),:
A woman’s risk of having a baby with Down Syndrome:
– 1 in 1,380 at age 25
– 1 in 960 at age 30
– 1 in 340 at age 35
What I would tell my (female) kids: If you want to have kids, have them before it starts getting medically risky. If you don’t – start practicing your dog-keeping skills.
5. “Listen to your mom and dad (and relatives)”
Most commonly said by parents to convince you to listen to them, although it tends to have the opposite effect.
One of the best things I’ve ever learned is to always look at people’s motivations, not so much their actions. And if you look at every piece of nagging your parents/family has ever thrown at you – I’d bet you that their motivation was always because they were concerned and wanted the best for you.
Their advice may not always be 100% spot on, or they may even offend or annoy you at times. Or they might just give you broad generalizations, without practical steps. But you’ll never lose by listening to their wisdom, and at least considering their advice. Give them the respect of listening to their point of view, and keeping family ties close.
The happiest people are those who have happy relationships with their families.
What I would tell my kids: Career, money, achievements, family. All are important. Only one is necessary.
*The original version of this article first appeared on Emmagem in conjunction with Chinese New Year 2014.
Picture by Eric Ward via Wikimedia