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A Truth Finally Shared

18th August Featured Post

Background Its strange to share a story that happened nearly a year ago. And it also feels weird to mention this now, like I have intentionally kept this from everyone else. At the start, perhaps it was indeed awkward and a little difficult since I was still coming to terms with it myself. After that, it simply felt too tedious to explain and I just procrastinated. Admittedly though, I also questioned my own decision to share this publicly, and if it is something I should be doing or really wanted to. The story To cut to the point and to effectively condense the whole story into a single sentence, basically, my brother is now married and I have a niece. And I am wondering how much of a shock I just generated with that statement. The notion of marriage and having children is of course not unfamiliar to me, but I guess what kept me occupied at that point was a different set of issues; pre-marital sex and unplanned pregnancy. Maybe in all the lessons I have learnt, I felt that it is wrong, but theres little purpose even if I were to express my disapproval at something that already happened. The fact is, I wasnt sure what to feel, maybe I shouldnt be passing judgment, but it is impossible to simply witness the proceedings without having a clear perspective, or any thoughts on them. There are certain things that are unambiguously frowned upon by society, along with its ethical system and humanistic point of view. Say smoking, for example, it is discouraged. Nevertheless, there are still people who do and a general acceptance of smokers in our community. Indeed, for various issues beyond the jurisdiction of our law, ethics and moral values play a somewhat subjective role in discerning the right from wrong. I could list a whole lot of things that seem intrinsically wrong and how disconcerting, or even disturbing, the experience has been for me. It was only several months after the birth of the child that they registered their marriage. There was no crowd at the solemnization ceremony, without the blessings of friends and well-wishers. There was no wedding, no dinner and few photographs. All in all, this is the opposite of my every imagination and expectation for a marriage.

And it definitely wasnt easy to sort out my thoughts on all these, and to accept wholeheartedly these recent developments in my household. Thus, perhaps penning my thoughts on this in hindsight is not a bad idea at all, as it has allowed me more time and freedom to consider the whole issue in greater insight and with better objectivity. Pre-marital sex and unplanned pregnancy I actually managed to talk to a few close friends regarding pre-marital sex and I am now generally pretty open-minded about it. I think it depends on how one views sex, like if its a commitment for a genuine long-term relationship or simply an act engaged in purely for hormonal needs. Put it this way, the average age at which we are getting married is entering the thirties; our sex hormones are obviously active in our twenties. Very rationally and objectively speaking, we should not forcefully put off our bodily needs if they do arise, especially considering its a choice made by two willing parties. Unintended pregnancy or an unplanned child seems far more complicated. Its pretty regretful for me to share that my brother and sister-in-law have been the least prepared in welcoming the birth of their child; cleaning the room, purchasing a baby cot and other necessities. Its not merely the lack of fanfare for the birth of a newborn, but it suggests their unpreparedness in entering parenthood, and this is unquestionably worrisome and irresponsible. Yet, sometimes, I feel that I can go to great lengths to understand them. I seem to notice that its not as much as pre-marital sex as the fact that they are such young parents that somewhat startles people. What is the problem then; are people uncomfortable with the news simply because most others marry in their late twenties instead, since the norm has long since been to settle down with a family only after furthering your studies and advancing your career? And for those whose priorities are different, I dont think they should be judged any more critically. Wouldnt it be shallow if this is fundamentally an issue on conformity instead? Young parenting and family dynamics In my experience the past few months, I feel that I now have many sentiments regarding this. Its an unsettling feeling, and I now feel that its easy to look past the act of engaging in sex, pre-marital or not, because it feels that pregnancy and childbearing are more severe matters, with far greater repercussions. To a certain degree, I would want to defend my brother, or both of them, in fact. They have been together, and I doubt they had any interest to further any academic pursuits.

They spend their time working, or at home, which isnt exactly a bad circumstance to start a family. My father observed that fatherhood has made my brother a more responsible, and matured person. He had been at his job; its a usual 9 to 5 office job, nothing impressive but quite a decent pay considering his qualifications. I would think that such office jobs will definitely bore him, but perhaps, he do feel the responsibility to provide for his own family now and has been making the effort, such as waking up every morning on time (most of the time) for work. And of course, there are also the problems. There are a lot of practices regarding infant care, that without my parents comments, I would never have been wiser to notice. My mother would say that when we were young and went out, she would always bring along a clean cloth to wipe our mouth and hands. And my dear niece has a habit to grab anything within her reach and chew on them, and her toys should therefore be washed frequently. These are common sense, and they are the simple habits that some parents adopt, while some dont. Its many things like these that even if my parents were to tell them several times, they dont respond eagerly nor put their words into action. I dont know, maybe they are just not that competent, that prompt as parents? Or as persons? There are also the crying and seemingly lack of patience as well. I really have no prior experience or observations to compare with, but I would think, or hope that parents are usually not so easily vexed by their crying children, and I would expect parents to take no more than a moment to tend to their child if they start crying. And I know that my parents are also displeased at them at times, at how they would be using their phones or computer when they should instead be preparing the milk or changing the diapers. Or how they are still sleeping in the late morning when the youngest member of our household has already woken up and needs her milk. Or how one went out of the house, one is sleeping in the room, and my niece wakes up in the afternoon and only my parents are there to tend to her. All along, its the little things in the lifestyle that may not mean much, but ultimately they get on your nerves. I doubt I am writing this with the most coherence, but there are also the other stuffs and my parents would somehow rant and sigh about them; how if my brother went off to smoke, they would mention the likelihood of his daughter following in his footsteps. And they quarrel every so frequently and its probably the main issue that makes me the most depressed. Of course family quarrels are never pleasant, between my father and brother, and it is a whole new level when they are no longer a couple but husband and wife. If they were still dating, I would still feel upset, and also a little exasperated at how they put up with each other in such a relationship; I certainly dont expect quarreling to be a common theme in my relationships. And now that they are married with a child, it

feels a whole lot more disturbing, and how I fervently wish that my niece would never grow up enough to understand and feel the unhappiness stemmed from such occurrences. My father wonders if their somewhat incompetency in parenting may be due to a lack in education, and its hard to explain. What defines good parenting? Should there be a minimum age, or a maturity level? Are there people, because of their upbringing or character, just less cut out to be a parent? The question probably is if there should be rules to qualify one as a parent. And its of course not without joy with our latest added member into the household. Its been a wonderful experience watching my niece grows through the months, both in physical size and in developing her motor skills. And I am glad to be another person able to attest to how infants, toddlers or children have the uncanny ability to bring joy and uplift spirits. And aside from the unpleasant moments, its lively when my niece is around and an undeniable warm feeling to hear my parents laugh out when playing with their granddaughter. As an aunt Perhaps most of my apprehension is because I am unsure of what or how I should feel, and how I fit in in the midst of all these. For most of the time, I play the part of the neutral party. I once said that I am on good terms with my brother, just that we are not on close terms. And now that I have a sister-in-law, I wonder if, and I think a friend did advise, that I should work towards having a better relationship with both my brother and sister-in-law. I suppose I could let my parental instincts awaken, be more helpful and ensure my niece grows up well and speaks proper English, eats healthily with no obsessive love for fast food etc. Then again, I question if its possible. Because if I allow myself to be uninvolved in their affairs and still feel upset at their actions, wouldnt I just feel a greater disapproval at them should I be more involved? At times, I come home to find my sister-in-law making a fuss with my niece. Or when I am about to turn in and the both of them are just raising their voices next door. And its ridiculously tiring having to put up with their nonsense so often, like theres a part of me that wants to complain. They were the ones who chose to have the child; I didnt sign up for this. And its one thing when you choose to set aside an hour a day to entertain your niece, and its another thing when you are just going around doing your daily chores and in your room, and your niece so unknowingly disrupts your activities. I wouldnt say infants are a nuisance, but I guess caretakers must be willing and not find it a chore.

It feels unfair why one of their not-so-carefully-considered decisions have to affect us so directly. Yet, at the same time, I am glad that they didnt move out, because you know how admirable my parents have been; advising them, helping to take care of my niece, playing peacemakers, and all to maintain the harmony of this household. Not trying to sound too skeptical, but it is because of my parents that their relationship and family have higher chances of working out. Sharing the issue I mainly procrastinated because its amazingly easy to procrastinate on such a long piece of writing. It feels tedious to explain, made even so because I feel compelled to explain it wholesomely so that its more understandable. And its also difficult because I am not clear about what exact points I want to bring across by sharing this, and I dont think I am any clearer now either. I probably also procrastinated because it doesnt feel that everyone can understand, and I am not sure what I should be expecting of their reactions. Its like oh, okay. I suppose one should receive the news calmly, without the hysterics and disbelief. Then again, I will be wondering thats all, hardly any reaction? and wondering what people really do feel and think. Maybe through this writing, I wanted to present a fuller picture of young, less educated parents in our society and to offer greater insight on this issue. Its not just about playing with your niece and its not all happy, but of course I would not go to the lengths of saying that it was a tragic or unfortunate event that happened. And I felt like sharing because this is what I always do for my life experiences? But I am not trying to impart any lessons learnt; I am merely narrating and accounting the issue. I am not even sure what I am trying to achieve, but I hope it would still be an interesting read, and thought provoking in certain ways. Or perhaps, it simply felt strange or wrong to not share it. I dont intend to keep it as a secret. I dont think I am ashamed of it. Or maybe its tiring to be consciously aware of the fact that there are those friends that know and those that dont. I am picturing the scenario that in university, I would coolly say that my baby niece is at home and we shouldnt be going my house for projects. Its just that I probably wouldnt be eagerly volunteering the fact that my brother has a family and having to explain later.

In some way, I feel bad for having kept my nieces existence a secret, perhaps somewhat guilty for not acknowledging her presence. If death results in grief and expressed through condolences, then I would think that the joy of life should be shared and each birth celebrated. Ending off Even as I write this, I dont think it means anything in the sense that its still an ongoing experience I am going through here. And like many family matters, there werent be anyone to advise and guide us, but I hope that I will continue to grow and learn along the way a more matured perspective, a greater capacity to love and everything else.