I’m trying my best. Are you?

This reader recounts her tough childhood that she says taught her the value of being independent and planning for a rainy day.


It was an exhausting morning for me Monday. First, my stupid phone failed to wake me up. It was also a nightmare waking up my son for his first day of school. Nagged him until he dragged himself to the bathroom, then grabbed a Twiggies and his school bag.

Next his pencil box went missing. Seriously, why didn’t he think to pack his bag last night? Anyway, after a good 15 minutes of going through almost all the drawers in the house, we finally found it.

I drove my boy to school in my tiny car. As we got nearer, we noticed cars and vans parked all over the place. Some took up two spaces while others were double-parked. I frowned as I had to drive further for a parking space. “Irresponsible, selfish dungus!” I mumbled.

Gave my boy a kiss on his cheek, tightened his prefect necktie and watched him walk to school. My pride and joy. I remember he sat on the school staircase crying his eyes out when I enrolled him in Standard One. Today, my 16-year-old hero is beginning his first day in Form Four. Time surely flies.

As I drove home, I remembered my own school years. I remember how mom tied my hair into pony tails and stuck in a dozen colourful hair clips (which I detested). I remember how dad propped up my socks with a rubber band so it wouldn’t slide down my legs. I remember carrying my dad’s old luggage as my schoolbag (with a rope tied over it because the locks weren’t working). I remember how I used to envy my friends who brought money to school while I was always stuck with my “roti planta dan gula”.

My parents weren’t rich. Once I asked my dad for KFC and he bought a whole chicken from the wet market and made mom deep fry it. He said hers tasted better. And there was this time when my school friends told me about this new fast food outlet called Pizza Hut and I begged dad for pizza. He came back with two pieces of murtabak, nicely cut into bite-sized portions. I always wondered why my parents were so kedekut.

My brothers and I never had anything fancy. Toys were passed down from one sibling to another. Mom sewed all our clothes, curtains and bed sheets. Dad made most of our home furniture. We did not have video games or computers, instead we’d spent every evening playing ‘baseball’ and badminton. Weekends were all about visiting our grandparents and relatives. School holidays meant spending hours at the beach, waterfalls and parks.

I had an amazing childhood – we had less, but still enough.

My dad was never concerned about my grades. The only question he’d ask every time I showed him my red inked report card was – “Did you try your best?”

My dad made sure my brothers and I knew what it meant growing up in a country as a minority. We were taught to stand on our own feet, never depend on anyone, be independent and always think ahead. With my parent’s blessings, I emerged top in my school – best SPM results, head prefect, best student, the works!

Sadly, no universities or institutes of higher learning wanted me. Most of my friends went overseas, left for pre-U or private colleges, while I continued with Form 6. Feeling bitter, dad enrolled me in a private institute. It wasn’t cheap. Exam fees were in pound sterling. I finally understood why he was so kedekut. And all of a sudden, I was thankful for mom’s fried chicken, murtabak, dad’s luggage and the rubber band socks.

Today, I am a single mom raising two kids on my own. I try to give them everything they desire – which includes lots of KFC, Domino’s, new school bags and school attire every year (well, maybe not every year). It isn’t easy especially in today’s society where everything is so darn expensive.

I try to fulfil my responsibilities as a mom. I am not perfect but I do try. When I was short on cash, we lived on instant noodles, sausages, buns and nasi lemak bungkus. My kids never complained. They knew their responsibilities as children – they did household chores and focused on their studies.

Everyone has responsibilities. Parents. Children. Siblings. Students. Teachers. Security guards. Policemen. Cleaners. Journalists. Bankers. Doctors. Religious scholars. Businessmen. Members of society. Government.

It is important that every citizen understand and fulfil their responsibilities. When we fail to do this, things crumble.

When teachers are less dedicated, there are second class students. When doctors are negligent, there are grumbling patients. When cleaners are lazy, there are stinking toilets. When spouses do not work on their marriages, there are broken homes. And when government neglects their responsibilities, there are disgruntled citizens.

Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor recently made a statement urging parents to stop depending on the government and start saving for their children’s education. She advised parents to “set a good example for their children by having a good savings habit and learning to invest in reputable and trustworthy platforms for rainy days.”

I can’t help but wonder how much of the government’s RM700 billion debt could have been used to help the future of Malaysian children if only the government followed her advice.

Imagine how many children and less fortunate Malaysians would have benefited from that enormous amount of money.

If only our government was more responsible. If only.

Boy, I am so glad my dad had the same mindset as our beloved Prime Minister’s wife. Looks like I now have no choice but to get a piggy bank for my kids. Well, maybe not a piggy bank – a kambing bank rather.

I shall always remember my dad’s advice: “Stand on your own feet. Never depend on anyone. Be independent. Always think ahead.”

“As far as your personal goals are and what you actually want to do with your life, it should never have to do with the government. You should never depend on the government for your retirement, your financial security, for anything. If you do, you’re screwed.”

American actor, comedian, sports executive

Fa Abdul is producer/playwright in a local theater company

Source : http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2015/01/14/im-trying-my-best-are-you/

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