Family Is What You Make Of It

Singaporeans
 
We now have a National Family Pledge drafted by the National Family Council.
 
It is one more pledge to remember – never mind that I already have the Singapore Pledge, several school pledges, uniformed group pledge (scouts), SAF pledge, Officer’s Creed, marriage vows and no lack of other commitments to remember. Worse it has drawn the ire of many within society despite it's good intentions. I myself have some reservations with some of the verses that were put out for public consumption so I've come up with my own version that  I’d proudly recite:
 
"We, the people of Singapore, pledge to build strong and happy families.
 
We affirm that a marriage is a commitment and a civil union between two consenting individuals who love each other.
 
We accept our responsibility to our children and vow that we will equip them with the necessary skills to make their tomorrow a better place. 
 
We promise to always treasure our elders and show them the respect that they've earned through their lifetime of drudgery. 
 
We solemnly swear to have and to hold each of our family members for better or worse and in sickness or in health.
 
We support those who must do without and swear loyalty to those who display it and earn it because family is ultimately what you make of it." 
 
I started off by recognizing that in this day and age, not everyone who calls Singapore home is a naturalized citizen. There are the rare few who've spent their lives here contributing to our nation's progress without taking up citizenship for whatever reason. Which is why I felt that we the people was more fitting as it denoted a better sense of inclusiveness instead of perpetuating the poisonous mentality of us against them.
 
I also wanted to distinguish that within today's zeitgeist, people have a right to be with the person they love. Be it straight or gay, a loving commitment between two adults is what will act as the foundation of the modern family. You cannot have a strong family when the parents within the relationship start off on the wrong foot. A loving committed relationship between two adults is something to be applauded not reviled regardless of orientation or background. 
 
It is also worth nothing that the traditional husband and wife model that conservatives cling onto has become obsolete under today's circumstances. Studies have shown and I believe that a gay couple can be parents who are just as a good as a heterosexual couple. Husband and wife, or mother and father labels no longer matter in a relationship between complementary equals as long as the children's needs are taken care of.
 
Verse number two seems like a no brainer. I've been a witness to many people who complain that today's society has become farce where bratty children with no values reign supreme. The problem with that line of thinking is that we forget that we do a disservice to our kids by enabling them to be little emperors. Little Emperors who will be ill equipped to face the challenges of tomorrow. Good parents will know the differences between tough love and real affection. They will teach their kids that the universe does not revolve around them and in doing so, train them to be able to withstand whatever cruelty life has to throw at them. We need to prepare our children to face real life. Not life in a man-made bubble.
 
For the third verse I wanted to remind people of our responsibilities to the generation that came before them. We should respect and treasure the fact that the comforts and privileges that we enjoy today didn't come about without someone suffering for them. We need to constantly remind ourselves that we can't throw away someone who loved and nurtured us just because they've grown past their prime. 
 
The fourth verse is a riff on marriage vows. I wanted it to teach all of us that you do not cast aside someone you love just because you have a problem with them. We can question each other's integrity or disposition but we can't question each other's heart.  We should always be there for one another because come hell or high water, family will always come first and the love within family is unconditional.
 
The final verse is meant to address people who come from less than ideal circumstances. Face it, we've all heard of stories about deadbeat parents, selfless single parents, or of siblings who fought against all odds to raise someone in their families. 
 
On the flip side, there are many amongst us who understand what it feels like to be disenfranchised with your own blood relations; to grow up feeling like an outsider looking from the outside in, always looking for some form of acceptance and to fit in. For those cases, it's always the lasting friendships that you built that finally instils upon you a sense of belonging that was always lacking in your life. 
 
For people caught in those situations, the line between friend and family becomes blurred. Your friends become your family. Ultimately the final verse is meant to be a reminder to all of us that family is what you make of it. Just like how life is what you make of it.
 
Happy National Day Singaporeans!
 

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