The five love languages of Singaporean parents
Asian parents are not the best with words, but they do show love for us in many other ways.
I’m not sure why, but it seems like Singaporean parents really find it difficult to say “I love you” to their children, especially after we become teenagers.
If I had a dollar for every wedding thank you speech I heard where the bride or groom said “my father is a man of few words, but I always knew he loved me”, I would probably have enough to cover my own wedding expenses.
So if they are not so good with words, how exactly do our Asian parents express affection? Here are five distinctly Singaporean ways our parents show their love for us.
This is simply an Asian way of showing love.
Be it cooking or dapaoing a meal, our parents show care for us by putting food on the table, and making sure we are well fed.
Some might argue that much of our weight gain during this circuit breaker can be attributed to our mother’s (or grandmother’s) culinary prowess.
After all, many grandparents would be concerned if they see we’ve lost weight, or are eating smaller portions. The word ‘dieting’ just doesn’t exist in their vocabulary.
Food is sometimes used for conflict resolution too. With the emphasis on ‘face’ in our culture, it is very difficult for parents to apologise to their children, even if they are the ones in the wrong and have upset their kids.
This is where food comes in, for the act of cooking a meal or offering to buy food for their children can be seen as an indirect way for parents to say they are sorry and want to make amends.
Meeting our practical needs
In a similar vein as food, our parents show love by making sure our material needs are being met.
This is especially true when we leave the shelter of home for an extended period of time, for example on our first trip overseas without them, or moving to stay in hall.
Being unable to keep an eye out for us, our parents make sure we have everything we need to live comfortably away from home, be it a little more pocket money, or warm clothes for a journey to a cold country.
If actions speak louder than words, then providing for our needs is a practical way for them to say they love us.
This is where Asian parenting differs most from the West.
Whether it was the belt, slipper, ruler or cane (which just happens to be the best-selling item for parents this circuit breaker), most local youths have grown up experiencing some form of physical punishment.
And as painful as corporal punishment is, our parents would always remind us that “this hurts me more than it hurts you!”
Though we found it difficult to understand at the time, most of us have grown to appreciate the tough love our parents showed us that helped to build our character.
Invading our personal space
Whether it is entering our room without knocking or asking intrusive questions about our love life, Asian parents have a knack for intruding into our personal space.
They also take things a step further by offering unsolicited advice on matters we never asked their opinion on. This includes everything from our choice of clothes, the state of our room, where to find a life partner, and the amount of toilet paper we should be stocking up at this time.
While this overstepping of boundaries feels uncomfortable to many of us, I suspect our parents keep doing so because they still want to be actively involved in our lives even as we become young adults.
And for what it’s worth, they often do have valuable experiences to share when it comes to the major decisions in life.
Keeping us humble
‘Words of affirmation’ may be one of the original five love languages, but it’s not something you’ll hear from Singaporean parents.
If anything, our parents seem to feel it’s more important for us to be humble than to be confident.
During extended family gatherings, if any older relative were to comment on someone’s good grades, I noticed the person’s parents would be quick to put in a negative word about their child. It was as though they didn’t want any success to get to their kid’s head.
Parents push us hard to excel, often using tactics like guilt trips or comparing us to others to make us strive harder to reach our potential.
Sure it’s stressful, and we can always debate if it’s effective, but we know our hardworking Medeka generation parents are just hoping for the best for us.
Singaporean parents really have unique ways of showing love, but we know they love us nonetheless.
Which makes me wonder… if these are the ways our parents showed us love, how do we show love to them in return?