2003 issue 52, 29 Dec 2003 - 4 Jan 2004

Chua, Irene (1996). My Daughter, My Friend. Singapore: Pan Pacific Publications. 101 pp.

The book is on creative parenting by letter writing. The compilation of 43 letters was written to Ming, the author’s daughter when she was between the age of 17 and 21. The letters clearly pen a mother’s understanding of the developmental needs and issues confronting a girl passing through the phase of leaving late adolescence and entering into young adulthood. It is a particular phase of life when a mother may be desperate to find opportunities to communicate with her daughter whose schedule is filled with “study for exams, extra-curricular activities and friends who took up a lot of her time” (p. 11). She describes it as a “generation trying to reach the next one” to tell her the “things she should know about growing up” (p. 11). She has found letter writing an effective means to bridge the generation gap by sharing her thoughts and discussing life-related subject matter with her daughter.  When there is a will, there is a way.

Irene Chua is one unique mother who “grows” up with her children. Coupled with an understanding of human development is the realization of leaving behind her parent-authoritarian role to assume a new posture of a parent-friend to match the daughter’s developmental phase. The letters demonstrate the different roles of her posture as parent-friend to her daughter, Ming. Premarital counselling is one of her crucial roles in advising her daughter on handling boy-girl relationship, selecting a life partner and warning her against hurting herself and hurting others in a failed relationship, “Always keep your friendship honest and frank with no hidden agendas. Never toy with other people’s feelings or manipulate them. Just as we don’t want to be hurt, we shouldn’t hurt others” (p. 35). She is skilful in guiding Ming the “why” and “how” to begin with friendship, courtship, going steady before plunging into a marriage (letters 1, 14, 24 & 40). The problem of having a “boyfriend and studying at the same time” (pp. 42,43) and the danger of getting physical too soon, “Believe me that hearts can be more closely knit when bodies are not entwined” (pp. 22,23) are openly discussed.

As an educator of moral values, she desires Ming to acquire good habits for Christian character building because “just like choosing to do right, choosing to do wrong becomes a habit” (p. 19). The habits of exercising her “freedom” sensibly (pp. 16,17,34,37); fleeing from attachment to materialism (pp. 30,31); pursuing success without losing one’s integrity (pp. 54,55); not yielding to temptations (pp. 18,19) and resisting peer pressure to adopt a lesbian orientation (pp. 52,53) are essential values to guard her life style and Christian testimony. These habits should lead her to a consciousness of God in making any moral choice by asking, “What would God want me to do in such a situation. Will I be able to maintain my good relationship with Him? Will He be pleased with me?” (p. 19). The author's teaching on the morality of dressing should remain a godly advice for Christian girls today. She believes that, “dressing modestly, we are making a statement for other women too, that says, 'Hey, women are not sexual objects' and we are also protecting other women from molest. It is also a respect to men, especially those who have to struggle with such distracting thoughts, and have trouble keeping in rein their baser urges” (p. 65). 

Career counselling is inevitable when Ming enters adulthood and her mother shows sensitivity in her letter (pp. 92,93), the anxieties a young lady is likely to experience when entering the working world for the first time.  Note her ways of initiating Ming into the working world and to enjoy her work. She is also the peacemaker in the home when there is a conflict between the daughter and her father (pp. 50,51). Other letters on various issues of coping with exams (letter 7); balancing work, family and self fulfillment (letter 8); securing a woman's self-image (letter 2); dealing with life uncertainties (letter 26) and confronting death and dying (letter 43) provide facts and biblical views to inform mothers what their daughters should know about.

The letters do not give an impression of a mother nagging at her daughter but a portrait of a mother who is humble, a good listener, who knows when to advise and not quick to pass judgement. Irene is an exemplary mother, a God-fearing Christian who treasures her daughter as a special gift from God. She wills herself to “grow” up with Ming, to help “shape” her physical, intellectual, moral, social and emotional being and what matters most is her daughter’s spirituality. The author’s ultimate desire in parenting is Ming's “ongoing and deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ” (p. 97) and regards her work complete when her daughter is “totally committed to Christ, and reflect the true marks of a Christian in all that [she] does (p. 97).

The book is a legacy she wants to leave with her daughter to “remember the sweet times [they] had together” (p. 11) and to pass the Christian legacy to her own children, My mother [Irene's] has influenced the way I relate to my children…. “When you become a mother one day, Ming, you too, will understand how one generation influences the next. Pass it on” (p. 69).

The message of the book honors Christian mothers but mothering comes with hard work and accountability. A mother plays multiple roles and the demand to balance the difference roles to bring up daughters to fear God in the postmodern world requires divine guidance, "Cling on to Christ because He is one person who will never change. No, there is nothing to be ashamed of, to be totally dependent on God. He created us to be dependent on Him. He said that He is the vine and we are the branches" (p. 97).

(Reviewed by Dr Ng Peh Cheng)

 

Another Year is Dawning

Another year is dawning: dear Father, let it be,

In working or in waiting, another year with Thee;

Another year of progress, another year of praise,

Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

 

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace;

Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;

Another year of learning, upon Thy loving breast;

Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

 

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love;

Another year of training for holier work above.

Another year is dawning: dear Father, let it be,

On earth or else in heaven, Another year for Thee

 

NEWS BITS

  1. Courses commencing in 2004. The course schedule for 2004 is available from our website or you may pick up your copy from the Library. In particular, we would like you to prayerfully consider registering for the intensive courses taught by Guest Lecturer Rev Dr Douglas Milne:

  • Theological Foundations II, Jan 14, 15, 19, 24, 26, 28, 29, 31 (Note to BGST MDiv students: This is a required course).

  • Apologetics, Jan 16, 20, 27, 30.

  1. Chapel next week on 7th January will be taken by Dr Philip Satterthwaite.

Building Fund chart 7

A BLESSED 
BIRTHDAY TO ...

Mr Vincent Tan  29/12

Rev Jimmy Tan  29/12

Mrs Joyce Go Yong  29/12

Dr Ng Liang Wei  30/12

Dr Douglas Milne  1/1

Mr Andy Lew  1/1

Elder Victor Wee  2/1

Rev Lai Zhunduo 2/1

Dr Sally Wong  2/1

Mdm Agnes Ng  3/1

Dr Timothy Lee  4/1

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