My Excellency was the Matriarch of the family. Steep in her own Confucianism brought-up, she believed that kids must be punished if they did wrong, or did not do what they had been told to do. When she meted out her punishment, her countenance would be the most severe, her eyes reptilian cold, both hands akimbo on her waist or wavering in the air the dreaded rattan cane with one hand, like some butcher wielding a sharp knife about to slaughter a trussed-up chicken. When her face was contorted with anger over some juvenile delinquencies, this was most feared by the kids. Sometimes her scolding may be more severe that the beating itself for it was at such times that the house shook with such tremors that our neighbors a few houses away would be able to hear her booming voice and knew that the kids were in trouble again.
Yes, she ruled with a rattan cane and was strict with discipline. If the kids did not toe her line they would get whacked with a few strokes from her ubiquitous rattan cane. She could whack with such severity that the cane left some undesirable welt marks on the calf of the legs of the kids and it would only disappear after a few days. And when this happened the boys would try to find some whitish cream from her room when she was at work to hide the pinkish marks so that their school friends would not see them.
A child psychologist may well argue that one should not be using corporal punishment for kids as it would leave a lot of deep resentment in them in later life. What was more to it was that when the kids were being punished twice for the same folly, one with the caning and the other the shame leveled on them when the welt marks were clearly visible to all and sundry. Westerners would of course frown at such cruelty but, believe me, a lot of Asian mothers were Tiger Moms. To beat them was to love them, so said one stupid Chinese philosopher.
(Anyway the situation has changed dramatically over the last twenty years)
Corporal punishment from her came with ‘sins’ of commission and ‘sins’ of omission. ‘Sins’ would include, but not confine only to, playing truant, failing in their exams and failing to do their assigned home work, ‘bluffing’ that was telling a lie, taking things that were not theirs and other childish pranks. However, before she carried out the punishment she would make the kids said aloud why they were being punished. They must go through their own tribunal and pronounced that the punishment on them was just and they deserved it.
Now, it was only the two boys that had always being at the blunt of her cane. The eldest daughter was always up to date with her homework, scored well in exams, kept her bed neat and tidy and was always obedient. Boys would always be boys, and sooner when the punishment was done with they would forget about the severe episode and would repeat their own follies again.
On several occasions when My Excellency had punished the boys with rattan caning she was all tears inside our bed room, saying that it was more painful to her than to the boys for she so loved them so much that she must be strict with them. Gosh, what would I say to her? I thought of quoting from the Bible, “That God so love the world that he gave his only begotten son ……to die for us” but on second thought I held my tongue so as not to exacerbate an already grave situation.
But then again she was all hearts when it came to their food, their health and their extra-mural activities. She would save all there could be saved from our join income and refused to indulge in branded clothes, expensive handbags or jewelries, cosmetics (apart from some basic womanly stuff) and all unnecessary expenses of her own. She would send them for swimming classes, piano lessons, sport activities, art classes, summer camps, scouting activities for the boys, cello class for the girl and gave them whatever they wanted when they requested from her. She would take them out for dinners when I was not around, to cinemas, outstation trips, agriculture farms and other local places of educational interest. Each kid would have her/his own party for their birthdays. She would never refuse them on school excursions, no matter what the cost maybe.
Of course, the best days of their lives were when we had vacations overseas……
On a final note, the boys held no recrimination on her, in fact, they are now so close that Tiger Mom is now the Pussy Cat and knows everything that goes on even in their most private life.
Now, I am the one that was left out of the loop. Oh! The less one knows the less one worries.
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