Mum taught me so much, now's my turn

Mum taught me so much, now's my turn

My mum upgrades her iPhone every time a new model comes out, and so far, she's owned four different models, but she still makes the same mistake of pressing the home button while trying to snap a photograph.

So you can just imagine how she is when it comes to using a computer or the Internet. I usually try to lie low and remain out of sight whenever I hear the boot-up chime of her second-hand laptop.

Because, like clockwork, it happens. "Tam, I can't find the Internet."

This can lead to full-blown chaos when I get impatient with her inability to comprehend "simple instructions" and she gets frustrated at both the laptop and my attitude.

For people like me, part of the tech- savvy generation, it's hard to understand why my mum can't navigate her desktop without asking for help every five minutes or so.

For her, routine tasks such as dragging a file into a folder or sending a document for printing can, and most likely will, go wrong as long as it is more complicated than a simple click of the mouse. (Yes, she still uses a mouse instead of the built-in trackpad on her laptop.)

But I know that my mum is no dummy. After all, she has single-handedly supported the household for 18 years since my dad died. She learnt to invest and juggled a full-time job in advertising with teaching English as a part-time tutor to provide for my two siblings and me.

But this capable woman is scared by flashing pop-up windows that can send her into a frenzy that involves turning off the computer to stop the barrage. Sometimes she gives up and just orders one of her children to complete the task for her.

While it's hard to stay patient while trying to teach her these new skills, I know it is a small way to give back for all she's given me.

Being part of her tech-support team at home, what helps me keep my cool is simply remembering that she was the one who taught me to walk.

Between explaining that "cookies" on her Web browser are not of the chocolate chip variety and helping her to search for vacuum cleaner reviews on YouTube, I've come to see a parallel between a child introducing her mother to the world of technology and a mother introducing and preparing a child for the world.

I can't help but think that my mum must feel helpless and confused interacting with the new generation of technology and intricate gadgets. As she takes baby steps to venture into the World Wide Web, shouldn't I practise some of the patience and encouragement she showed me as I was growing up?

Compared to the years she has given as a parent teaching and providing me with the skills to navigate life, the extra minutes spent helping her find her "lost" cursor or explaining the concept of online storage service Dropbox to her ("it's like a big thumb drive which doesn't physically exist"), are nothing.

And nothing is as telling of how much of her life she has given to her children as her recent request for help in searching for medical screening packages shows.

Seeing the words "X-rays", "blood count" and "cancer markers" pop up on the screen while comparing available packages was heart-rending and sobering for me.

My mum is in her late 50s, an age when health issues matter and check-ups are more mandatory than optional.

Just a few weeks ago I was scrolling through Instagram and I was surprised to see that my mum, who has an account only because my younger sister created it for her, had posted a photo of herself outside a flower shop during a recent holiday to Japan.

The caption read "I like flowers" and her post attracted only four "Likes". But, significantly, it was the first Instagram post she uploaded on her own.

As I double-tapped to "Like" the picture, I felt something surging up inside me. Like a proud mother watching her toddler take her first steps.


This article was first published on May 17, 2015.
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