‘When the Popiah Skin Breaks’: How to have Joyful Parenting in an Accomplishment Driven Society

A Parenting Talk by Dr Tan Lai Yong

Ever wondered what the local delight, popiah, has got to do with parenting? That got me really intrigued to sign up for the session. Some 41 participants got to learn that and more when they attended the parenting talk on Saturday, 26 Nov. The guest speaker was none other than Dr Tan Lai Yong, who is well known for his fourteen years of missions in China to alleviate poverty, develop the community and train village healthcare workers. Supporting Dr Tan in the workshop were also members of the Wesley Youth Ministry (YM).

Participants listening attentively to Dr Tan’s sharing

After the opening prayer and worship led by members from the YM and Family Life Ministry, Dr Tan asked for three gentlemen to step forward to show their skills in wrapping popiah. All three were seemingly seasoned DIY popiah rollers, with a gentleman giving the tip to use two popiah skins as added insurance so the ingredients would not break out of the skin. As participants looked on eagerly, each gentleman took extra care to put in as many ingredients as they could fit, without breaking the popiah skin. Next, Dr Tan asked that the volunteers wrap their popiah blindfolded while taking instructions from others as guidance. Not surprisingly, doing it blindfolded in the next round was much more challenging, as the volunteers had to grapple with putting in enough ingredients at the right spot while listening to the instruction of others. Chuckles and amused comments could be heard as they rolled up the popiah, some of which ended up looking more like an interesting fusion between a taco and an Asian burrito. 

With no playbook on hand, parenting is akin to one preparing the popiah blindfolded. Parents do their utmost to provide the best for their children, just like trying to fit as many ingredients as possible in the popiah. Parents are also ever ready to listen out for guidance from experienced counterparts who have done it before, but sometimes at the expense of forgetting that every child is different. Just like how a good popiah seller would check in with each customer on their unique preferences– chilli? peanut allergy? less sweet sauce? Similarly, parents should bear in mind that different children may require different parenting strategies.

Sharing on Wesley Youth Ministry by Small Group Cluster Head Song Tao

Dr Tan shared Luke 24:13-35 with us next. This is the passage on the Road to Emmaus, where Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples. He likened this to the posture of parenting that Christian parents need to model after, which is to appreciate what we are given and develop our children to bless the community. 

Dr Tan drew the analogy that parenting is like the case where Jesus asked the disciples to feed the five thousand with the bread, and that the disciples are to trust by faith that the bread will be adequate to feed everyone. So similarly, parents should prayerfully trust that God will develop our children to be used powerfully by Him.

Throughout the session, Dr Tan candidly shared his own parenting experiences. He emphasized that the most important ‘e’ in parenting is that we should aim to engage our children and not entertain them

Jessica, a participant who serves at Children’s Ministry, shared: “Dr Tan gives very good perspectives which I can take away to share with my family and friends, who are both believers and non-believers. This is because the parenting tips he shared are universal. In fact, his teaching can be applied to not just children, but also adults. The key takeaway is the importance of role modelling.”

Three youths from YM had been invited to attend the session as well. Dr Tan asked each of them to share something that their parents did that stood out as encouraging and affirming. The authentic sharing by our Wesleyan youths was powerfully received and touched the hearts of parents in the room.

Sharing by Marvus on his growing up experience

Claudia, one of those who spoke, shared thereafter: “It was a good session overall. I thought and reflected on the journey I had with my parents and I hope the sharing by the three of us was able to provide a different perspective from the child’s point of view.” 

May shared that she was very impressed by the sharing of the three youths: “They provided wonderful insights of what teens think and feel. It really gave us parents another perspective and allowed us to understand them better. Hearing their experiences, it encouraged me to think of how I can better tweak my parenting.”

Sharing by Enya on what she found most affirming from her parents

Participants then shared their parenting journey. They were grouped together with parents of children of similar ages and the conversation was facilitated by volunteers from the Family Life Ministry. This was followed by a 30-minute Q&A session. Participants fielded a wide range of questions such as how parents should guide their charges in this new age of social media, how to react when children do not uphold their promises, when parents need to tighten the reins and when to learn to let go. It was a testimony of the wonderful session of sharing as many participants stayed on after the talk to ask Dr Tan for more parenting tips. 

Finally, let me end by sharing the following quote from Dr Tan:  “Parenting has been a journey of listening – and ‘unlistening’.
Listening to the sighs, laughter, anxieties, silences and chats in our family. Listening to the Lord. And ‘unlistening’ when in our anxieties and agitation, we push, compare and complain because we think we have no choice”.

Read also: All I Needed to Know About Emotional Intelligence, I Learnt it at The Movies

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