054 Have You Taken Your Parents’ Presence For Granted?

Cherish the time you have with parents

For those who were taught filial piety as a traditional Chinese value, you must have heard of an ancient Chinese poem that goes,

“A tree may prefer to stay still

yet the wind refuses to subside.

A child wishes to be filial

yet his parents are no more.”



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This poem speaks of the boundless sadness of having no one to call mom and dad anymore. Therefore, cherish the time we have with our parents.

A friend TS shared her story,

“For ten years, I became so absorbed in my work that I didn’t even have time for my mum in the weekends. Then, as she aged over the years, she had one bone fracture after another. Now even when I make time to bring her out, she no longer enjoys going out. And sadly, she started to have dementia recently.”

I find TS’s situation strikingly similar to those of us with aging parents. The moral of her story: Spend time with your parents before it becomes too late.

Have you taken your parents’ presence for granted?

The problem is many of us are time strapped. Our time is spread thin over work, family obligations and personal endeavours. There is just so little time left for our aging parents even if we wanted to do more.
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For the most part of my life between twenties and thirties, I was so caught up with work, and then in battling autism for my son that I cannot recall anything worth mentioning that I had done for my parents. I could, however, remember vividly their worried looks as they looked on how their son cope with the upheavals in his life.

It dawned on me that I had unwittingly taken my parents’ presence for granted. Surely, there is no reason to allow our aging parents to become just an afterthought.

Break the routine if necessary

I visited my parents for extended family dinner on almost every weekend in the past. While the atmosphere was lively with young children around, thoughtful conversation with parents was nearly impossible. It became nothing more than a run-of-the-mill routine.

In recent months, I changed the weekly dinner to a fortnightly activity. And thanks to my younger brother HL’s efforts to bring our parents out, there was a sense of novelty as we started to explore different places to enjoy food and mingle with parents outside the home setting.

To add variety to our outings, I also invited my dad to join me on the days I took leave to be with my son. Here is a picture of my son running alongside his grandpa who was riding a bicycle.

Picture: My dad rode on a bicycle which he had not tried for years.
Devise little ways that work for you

To create more opportunities, I devised little ways to spend more quality time with my parents in the last 2 years.

I make impromptu visits once or twice a month for the sole purpose of making conversations with my parents. I used to find it difficult to make extra time to do so, but that is not the case. All I need to do is to add a short visit to my parents on the to-do-list on the days I take leave from work for one reason or another.

Occasionally, I’d find time to join my parents on the days when they had to go out for medical appointments. That solved the difficulty in persuading them to get out of the house. Then after the appointment, I would seize the opportunity to have lunch or walk around in the vicinity together.

Picture: A light moment with parents at the supermarket

Interestingly, it is during these precious private moments that you get to appreciate the joy of being a son or daughter. And it is at such moments, you would appreciate that having parents around in itself is a privilege.

William W K Tan

1st March 2019


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