by Khoo Hui Ling
I recently wrote a short essay called Three Birthday Wishes which was published in the 2019 edition of The Birthday Book: Narratives, Undiscovered and Underway in celebration of Singapore's bicentennial.
Wishes are not just for birthdays though. Christmas is a season for wishes too, and this festive week, I'd like to share this essay here as a dedication to all my students past or present, whether at NUS or The Music Studios: Merry Christmas and onwards to 2020! Here goes:
Are childhoods then and now very different?
My parents sometimes reminisce about their childhoods. They played simple games like chapteh, hantam bola, goli and five stones with neighbours. Having many siblings meant there was always someone to play with. They recall terrifyingly strict school headmasters. Yes, they had canes!
Childhood had a certain romantic innocence then. That simplicity is a Tasmanian tiger in modern lifestyles: extinct. For many families, both parents work. Many children see much more of the helper at home than they do their parents. They probably have schedules like a fondue fountain, overflowing with sports, arts and academic classes. There is an undeniable complexity in the lives of today’s children.
We cannot change the inevitably morphing face of childhood. But as a music educator who has taught children and teenagers, I question how these changes are impacting them. Are we raising healthy children with beautiful hearts?
In each child’s face lies a pair of twinkling eyes, alive with curiosity. Children are a reminder of the undiscovered, as easily destroyed as it is precious. This year, as we celebrate 54 years of nation building, I would love to make birthday wishes for the children of Singapore too. Just three wishes.