Keeping up with kids is hard work

Keeping up with kids is hard work

One of the many adjustments I have had to make as a parent to two daughters who are fast becoming teenagers is to take an interest in their hobbies, even when they are not to my taste.

Okay, who am I kidding?

I have had to adjust to a very different kind of pastime once my older daughter, Yanrong, learnt to crawl. Which adult would play DVDs of Barney & Friends and Sesame Street, Hi-5 or throng shopping malls to meet characters from those shows, if he did not have a young kid at home?

But at least these activities were dictated by me, the parent.

But as the children grow older, they are making choices that don't align with mine at all.

Not surprisingly, music is one area where our interests do not dovetail. I did not take to the music genre that my parents grew up with and I don't expect Yanrong and Yanbei to relate to my eclectic mix of rock anthems and saccharine musicals - a lifelong interest that is the result of my exposure to music and drama in my secondary school years.

Not that I didn't try.

When they were younger, I would occasionally play the music videos of Queen on my laptop. With the exception of the wacky video I Want To Break Free, the girls didn't really care much for the music of Queen.

This does not matter, of course. In fact, I would be most worried if they did not find contemporary music more appealing than that from a defunct band.

Following contemporary music, though, is hard work for me.

Not since the heyday of the likes of Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie and Whitney Houston have I taken much notice of pop stars or their music. Names such as Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus ring a bell only for the controversies they generated and played in the media.

So when my 11-year-old daughter recently pored through a story in Life! about a pop artist who is coming to town, I asked: "Yanbei, who is coming?"

"Meghan Trainor!"

"Who is she?"

"Dad! You are so not in! She is the singer of All About That Bass."

"Oh!"

I am not so out of touch as to be unaware of the monster hit of 2014, given that it was played regularly on Kiss 92, the default radio station when I'm driving. But all too often I am familiar with a song but not its title or the singer.

At least All About That Bass is something I can understand since the lyrics are in English. With 13-year-old Yanrong, getting to know her favourite music means having to learn from scratch the various South Korean pop idols.

She is a fan of Chinese-South Korean boyband Exo, comprising a dozen members. She tells me two have since left, but in my mind, that is still twice too many for a real band.

I sometimes muddle up their names, to the exasperation of both my daughters.

"Dad, why do you keep calling them Exocat? It's Exo!" exclaimed Yanbei recently.

For some reason, the three-syllable word rolls off my tongue far more smoothly than simply Exo, probably owing to my familiarity with the Falklands War's stories in which deadly Exocet missiles were fired by the Argentinian warplanes at the British destroyer Sheffield, sending it to the bottom of South Atlantic Ocean.

Social media on a personal basis is also an area I have taken a reluctant interest in lately. I am fortunate to have a well-established platform in The Straits Times and Sunday Times to express my views and, consequently, never felt the urge to blog.

But I had to sign up for a Facebook account after Yanrong and Yanbei got theirs. At their age, they don't mind "friending" their father. They also know I'm not snooping on them. And I do not, honestly.

To me, Facebook is an additional channel through which to connect with my daughters. They also get to see a different side of me.

No matter how close a parent-child relationship is, there will be a generation gap. This is easily bridged when the child is young. It will be harder to do so when they are older.

But, for now, I'm happy that both Yanrong and Yanbei consider my wife and me as their best friends.

Maintaining this is a neverending endeavour.

dennis@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 10, 2015.
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