Get off the screen and get bonding again
by Peter Tan. Posted on June 7, 2014, Saturday
TODDLERS in prams burying their noses in smartphones or tablets are common sights nowadays.
They can be so engrossed with the devices that they become oblivious to their surroundings. This is not a new phenomenon. It started when the newer generations of mobile phones came with simple built-in games.
One thing I have noticed often in relatives and friends is that they allow their children access to these devices to keep them occupied.
We all know that kids can become edgy very quickly when left unattended.
The interactive nature of these devices keeps the little ones busy while the parents could carry on with their own activities without interruption.
How the times have changed. I was not even allowed to touch the only electronic appliance the family owned, the cassette player-transistor radio, when I was seven.
Whenever I got bored playing with the neighbourhood kids I would bug my mother to take me to my aunt’s house. She is the younger of my mother’s two sisters and lived just a stone’s throw away from us.
The two-minute journey by foot was always full of anticipation. My aunt has three sons and two daughters. While she and my mother were busy chitchatting, her youngest son Ah Huat – who is a few years older – would take me along on his escapades around the village to play folk games, fly kites and spin tops.
There was always something new each time we got together. Of all those activities, there is one that I remember most.
It all began with Ah Huat pulling two lidis (coconut midribs) off from his mother’s broom. He gave one to me. We took a short walk down to an old jackfruit tree where he plucked a leaf off a branch and twirled the lidi to coat the tip generously with the oozing sticky white liquid. I did the same with mine not knowing what it was for.
I followed him as he meandered through narrow paths then up a long flight of cemented steps leading to a Taoist temple. Halfway up, there was a break in the handrail revealing a trail almost concealed by a wall of dense thicket. We stirred up small clouds of dust behind us as we trampled over the bone-dry dirt of the path.
What greeted me beyond was unexpected. Crystal clear water was flowing out from an opening in the rock face, partially obscured by overgrown weeds on the banks.
We carefully made our way across the slippery rocks to a small pool a short distance away.
There, in the serenity of the gurgling spring, I saw this little creature perching on a reed. It had big eyes, delicate wings and an orange body with a long tapered tail. It darted away when I extended my hand towards it.
That was my first encounter with a dragonfly. I stood there, captivated by the flight of dragonflies in various vibrant colours darting around and hovering in succession.
Ah Huat squatted on the other side of the bank and was paying rapt attention to a dragonfly that was hovering above his head. I squatted along and observed him from where I was. When the dragonfly finally settled on a reed, he extended his lidi stealthily towards it.
With a swift flick, he tapped it with the tip coated with jackfruit sap. Instinctively, the dragonfly tried to dart away but it was stuck fast. So that was what the lidi coated with jackfruit sap was for.
He took out a kite line from his pocket and tied it around the dragonfly’s body. He then carefully pried it off the lidi. As soon as it was free, the dragonfly again tried to fly away but was restrained by the line.
I tried to catch one on my own but they always flew away before I could get close enough. After many failed attempts, Ah Huat let me play with his dragonfly instead. It is difficult to comprehend now how I could derive fun from the cruelty of just holding on to the line while watching the dragonfly desperately trying to escape.
When we were done playing for the day, Ah Huat untied the line to set it free.
Until today, I still get excited whenever I see dragonflies and am perfectly happy just watching them performing their aerial antics, having long outgrown the childhood urge to trap and restrain them for puerile pleasure. Those jaunts with Ah Huat were fun-filled days nonetheless.
Children growing up in urban settings nowadays seldom get to experience the excitement of the great outdoors like those of my era. Even so, they should be given every opportunity to get a feel of these adventures through nature hikes and excursions to recreational parks and realise that there is more to leisure pursuits than being riveted to their mobile devices all the time.
Just like recent calls for adults to peel themselves off their smartphones in order to cultivate healthier communication and social relationships with the people around them, children’s usage of such devices should be controlled and monitored for the same reasons.
It is beneficial for the family unit to spend time bonding with each other to maintain a positive and healthy relationship.
Like the saying goes, “The family that plays together, stays together.”
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