A parental sacrifice of Olympic scale
It took 52 years, but Singapore is now back in the game with Feng Tianwei’s bronze medal win at the 2012 London Olympics in women’s table tennis. Of course, every successful athlete has a story to tell. Feng’s rise in the world of sports was largely due to the concerted efforts of her parents.
Of course, every successful athlete has a story to tell. Feng’s rise in the world of sports was largely due to the concerted efforts of her parents. Her father worked in a granary, while her mother was a department store employee; despite their meager income, Feng’s parents dedicated their earnings to funding their daughter’s training. And though her father was suffering from multiple sclerosis, Feng did not know how severe his condition was until news of his death in 2002 reached her weeks before she was due for tryouts in the China national squad.
We may not live in similar hardship here in Singapore, but any parent can understand how it feels to want our child to grow up successful, and the lengths we will go through to make it happen. But do we know what’s best for our child? Sometimes, our child can give us that answer.
We live in a rather rigid education system where paths are set out in well-defined structures. But what if your child has something else in mind for him or herself?
In fact, your child might have the talent for something huge without you even knowing it. Pay attention to the things your child enjoys doing, and don’t limit your imagination to what is prescribed in schools. Parents might miss out on the greatness their children can achieve in life, as the mother of Gillian Lynne nearly did.
8-year-old Gillian was brought to a psychologist on her school’s suspicion that she had a learning disorder, simply because she couldn’t sit still in class. It wasn’t until her mother was told to observe her little girl begin dancing on her own in the psychologist’s office that she realised her daughter was born to be a dancer. Gillian Lynne graduated from London’s Royal Ballet School and has now made her mark as an accomplished choreographer, and has produced big-name Broadway shows like Cats and The Phantom of the Opera.
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Let your child be your guide
If your child really does have an innate talent, the single most valuable gift you can give is your approval. Feng’s parents went through such lengths to develop their daughter’s passion for good reason - they know in their hearts that their child is the future.
And so is yours. As parents, we know that once we bring new life into the world, we no longer live for ourselves - the world now belongs to our children, and our children mean the world to us.
What we may not yet understand is that our children are individuals in their own right, born of unique personality, developing independent thought and experiencing life in their own terms. We can (and must) teach them the ways of the world, but we must also allow ourselves to be taught by our children.
Feng’s devastation on learning of her father’s death stayed with her for a long time; she recognised the sacrifices her parents made to bring her where she is today. Likewise, you may one day take pride in your child’s achievements, but imagine the gratification of knowing your child is proud to have you as parents.
Related: Talent – overdoing it!