DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam Q&A on family matters
DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam talks about family time, the coolest thing he has done with his children, values, marriage and more. Read on for how he keeps a balanced family life.
1. How do you spend time with your family? What does family time mean to you?
Time with the family is simply the most enjoyable part of the week. Chatting with my kids, usually about their sports, listening to music together, or just talking about what they’ve done during the day. They are in their mid-teens to early 20s (4 children), and everything about their lives is so interesting.
The little moments add up. I sms them when I am on my way back home, in the hope I can give one of them a lift. Sometimes they get off the bus or MRT just so I can pick them up along the way.
1. What is the coolest thing that you have done with your children?
I don’t know if it counts as cool, but I like listening to the latest electro-pop and whatever they listen to. What’s probably cooler is the way my kids enjoy the music that my wife and I grew up on. It’s nice to share music spanning the decades, like Dire Straits from the 70s. We all like many of the African musicians too.
We are a family of 6, so we used to do regular sprint relays at a running track late at night, in the dark. I eventually found it impossible to keep up with the children, including my daughter. We would play street soccer late at night too, until a year or so ago. But the main thing cool about it was the temperature.
2. How do you impart values to your children?
I think it’s much more about what we do than what we say. I was inspired by my own father because of how he has lived his life and the passion and discipline he has put into his work. He never tried telling me how to live my life.
And I suspect something of what I do, including not just the big things but the little actions each week, will eventually find its way into how my children think they should run their own lives. They are each fiercely independent but I know they watch. I’m sure they will judge what I have done too.
There is also something to be said for respecting what our kids believe in. They grow up with their ideals, remind us of ours, tell us frankly what they disagree with and challenge some of the things we do. That’s something I really value.
1. Many parents get so caught up in their parenting duties that they neglect their spouse. How do you make time for your marriage amidst your busy schedule?
My wife and I do a lot of things together. We are lucky that we have the same interests. We also try to take walks together, usually around mid-night when things are quiet. I walk much faster than her because I’m much taller. So I zig-zag around her, while she walks straight. That way we can talk while we walk.
ON PERSONAL ASPIRATIONS:
1. What did you aspire to be when you were a teenager?
I wanted to be a sportsman. I spent all of my teen years playing sports, and could not think of anything else I wanted to do.