It was a disturbing incident alright. There we were, the four of us sitting in the small cafe outside the library. Myself and 3 of my students ages 8, 10 and 11. Two of them are special needs kids– one with the official govt OKU ( orang kurang upaya ) card, let’s call him A. He is 11 but mentally, he is 5 years old. And U. He is dyslexic. And F.. a bright 8 year old kid in educational transition from my hometown since her parents crossed over and migrated here.
We were enjoying our lunch just now, chatting about post holiday topics when U nudged me saying ‘ Teacher… budak tu menjawab kat mak dia… so rude!’ And I knew who he was talking about. Behind us there was this mother with 2 young kids. The elder one is kindy age and the younger brother a toddler. Soon, the quiet moment in the cafe was broken with an ear piercing scream. ‘ YOU BETTER SAY SORRY TO ME !!! YOU BETTER SAY SORRY TO ME ! WHY DID YOU DO THAT TO ME AH ? AH ? YOU CANNOT SCOLD ME LIKE THAT YOU KNOW !!!! ‘
That was not the mother. That was the little daughter with ribena in her hand. A tiny finger wagging at her mother. Their bewildered maid watching on and her toddler brother giving the ‘it’s just another day’ face. The jaws of my three students just dropped, especially A– the one with the OKU card. The mother looked helpless, telling her to keep quiet and still said nicely to the ‘mightly princess’. She sounded desperate, almost pleading. And embarressed too I must add. Because my students were staring at them, so were the makciks at the counter.
The mother then hissed… ‘ You should not talk to me like that. I am your mother!’ Her voice, was not even stern. As if she was afraid of offending her child. I would have thought that tone would have come from the maid. But no. It was from the mother. I would have smacked the girl had she been my student or my child. But she was not. So the best I could do is to lead my gaping students out of the cafe as soon as possible to save the mother some face. More screamings and ordering of the mother around from the time I walked from the table to the counter to pay –to the time I gathered the kids — to the time we walked out of the cafe. By the time we reached the door, we heard the mother apologising to the ‘mighty princess’ for scolding her earlier on.
My students’ take on this.
A meekly asked me, almost crying himself ‘ Teacher… we cannot do that kan? Berdosa kan? We cannot shout at our mothers kan?’
U, although dyslexic is quite outspoken. He went ‘ A bad girl. How can she talk to her mother like that? I dare not menjawab balik like that! In Morroco, the fathers would cane her you know! ‘ ( he has a Morrocan dad who is very strict with manners )
F, the typical Singlish speaking former HDB dweller went ‘ Kurang ajar giler seyyyy budak ni. Mana boleh marah mak dia macam tuh?? Aperrr jerr.. Merepek eh teacher!!!’
My take in this? This monster was not borned. She was created. Her father ( or his absence ) has alot to do with it. Her mother to a certain extend too, but I was observing her like how I was trained to observe people. She was a non dominant, non assertive character. That’s her weakness. But the child, was the product of both her weakness and fatherhood gone wrong.
In my years dealing with 21st century young kids– trust me, the family factories are creating these monsters faster than Gardenia making breads. And these monsters are going to be our leaders of tomorrow. Scary ain’t it? My students are special needs kids. I think this incident today scares them of what their future may be. They didn’t tell me that, but when they looked at the girl and her tantrums with mouths wide open, I could somehow guess what’s on their minds.
In the light of a better world/save the environment etc.. yes use less energy, plant more trees, use biodiesel.. whatever. But also, please take parenthood seriously. You can save the future of the world in a huge way like that.