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Published: Friday April 4, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday April 11, 2014 MYT 6:55:01 PM

Survivor kids

If the writer’s son can plant and harvest his own vegetables, he will not starve.

If the writer’s son can plant and harvest his own vegetables, he will not starve.

With scenes of apocalypse and doomsday playing in her head, this mother is preparing her children to fend for themselves.

THE remainder of the 21st century is going to be tough, I told my two children though they are only 11 and seven years old. I am not trying to frighten them but to instill a sense of urgency so they will learn survival skills. Sure, children thrive in a calm and secure environment, but the world out there is pretty brutal. There is so much to contend with ... capitalism, globalisation, overpopulation, food and water shortages, pandemic, political instability, and the list goes on.

In schools Down Under, children read about food shortages and learn about illnesses. These are facts of life they need to know, and as parents we can’t shield them in our little homes, away from the ugly truths. Hence, my kids are told – come what might, you need to survive!

How? I wondered and they asked. Not by sending them to scouts camps; that is old-fashioned to me though the skills they learn will come in handy. I am looking for something more spiritual. I always believe what one has inside comes forth twofold stronger. With that belief, I set to work.

First, I teach my son self-reliance and self-sufficiency by growing his own food in our little backyard where potatoes, broccoli, corn, leafy vegetables and herbs abound. He ploughs and weeds, while my daughter harvests, learning the convenience and rewards of hard work. When it is time to mow the lawn, my son pushes the lawn mower, toiling and meditating in the field he claims part ownership of.

Under my watchful eyes, they cooked. They turned the harvest from our garden into food with simple steaming, stir frying or boiling. I make them mash the potatoes and steam the buns lest they starve themselves to death in times of troubles. They’d at least be able to prepare their own food, unlike a teenager who came to stay with us who couldn’t eat the prawn dumplings he wanted because he didn’t know how to cook them.

Once I made sure my children could feed themselves, I started on a host of other physical skills that involve endurance.

They need to swim, hide, run and aim well. Whether it is in the water or on land, they’ll respond to what is demanded of them.

Hence, my children don’t really play football or tennis. They walk in the bush, climb trees, stone down acorns and play hide and seek. And when they swim, they focus not on speed but endurance.

At her gymnastic school, my daughter learns to climb like a monkey. Don’t call her tomboy, I say to my mum. Give her a pole now and she will climb to get the coconut if she needs to in the future. My daughter grins, curving her wide eyes, as she understands very well physical ineptitude is nothing to be proud of.

Besides endurance, the other qualities a survivor must have are quick-wittedness, empathy and emotional intelligence.

Very quickly, kids need to know how one thing can positively lead to another. Their empathy must rise to the occasion when needed and unspoken emotions have to be understood lest they do the wrong thing at the wrong time. My husband has always emphasised the concept of Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ) and he insists that our kids learn to gauge, interpret and respect each other’s emotional needs as well as that of their parents, teachers or friends. EQ is highly expected from adults, but rarely taught to children. Our society has somehow placed more emphasis in honing a child’s aptitude more than instilling their emotional propensity.

My parental inclination to equip my children with survival skills is not unfounded. Movies foretell the future. Thirty odd years ago Steven Spielberg introduced to little kids extra-terrestrial beings through his film E.T, and now their existence is highly believable. Similarly, many of the movies these days portray doomsday. The arid and treeless earth is most likely our dwelling by the end of the century. And if we are unlucky, we become outcast, not admitted into an alternative planet commonly as depicted in Elysium, Matt Damon’s latest sci-fi flick.

Am I ranting? I am not though I may be overly and overtly pessimistic and negative. But deep down I think you too concede the world is not any better than before and our kids need to be equipped with more than just academic skills. Take them into a forest and ask them to shoot something off a tree. It may turn out to be a feat but that skill is highly needed for them to survive.

Tags / Keywords: Opinion, Lifestyle, Parenting; Family; Parentpost

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