Further to the “Children’s Education” series, I want to write about my relationship with my mom throughout my school life. I want to write about how I shared my educational journey with her, and how we came to have this very special relationship. She’s not just my mom – she’s a trusted confidant, academic adviser and counselor. At one point, we even shared the same teacher in university (though years apart).
Years ago, my mom took an writing course at university taught by a Dr. Katherine B. Patterson (on the left above). My mom (on the right) was then a mature student. She would always attend Dr. Patterson’s office hours to chat. They became good friends, and my mom invited her to our home, where she met me as a little boy! My mom couldn’t have known that years later, I would attend (a different) university where Dr. Patterson would teach me!
Storytelling as a building-block for childhood learning
Ever since a kid, my mom had me exposed to reading story books (including horror stories like Frankenstein as I grew older). I remember as a small child, my mom read to me bible stories. This was how I first learned about the story of Noah, Tower of Babel, and Moses. Stories contain many symbolisms, and many hidden meanings which would come to shape one’s childhood thinking. Through stories, children learn what’s right and wrong.
I remember one time, a childhood friend’s parents brought me and my friend to a theme park, and one of the games involved bible characters. I predicted where the game would lead me, and ultimately beat every challenge. My friend’s father was very surprised, and asked me if I went to Sunday school every week. No, but my mother told me bible stories at night, and I became a bible story “expert.”
Literature encourages children to analyse the world
As I grew older, my mother had graduated from telling me children’s stories to encouraging me read English literature. She would ask me read certain chapters from selected works, and would ask me mostly open ended questions. Say, the story of Frankenstein (one of my childhood favorites). I might have shocked my mother when I told her that I found Frankenstein, i.e. the “monster”, to be the victim of the story.
A child has an innocent heart and in it, I saw Frankenstein as someone who was judged for his physical appearance, someone who simply wanted to fit in, whilst everyone rejected him. Through stories, my mother had come to understand how I saw the world around me. Through stories, my mom and I developed a very special bond. I would always go to my mother when I ‘discover’ a new idea. She would then give me feedback on it.
Trusting children to make their own interpretations
More often than not, I would disagree with my mother (be it life decisions or how I think a story should be analysed). The thing is, there is never one ‘right’ interpretation. Our lives are stories which are written by us – there is no right or wrong way to write it. My mother’s interpretation of something might not be the same as mine. In this, I have always been blessed to have been given my own freedom to make my own interpretations in life.
How a child analyses a story is a reflection of his own values. From those interpretations, a parent may understand her child’s development. Through interchanging ideas with my mom, she got to know my values, and what’s important to me. Over time, she came to show more trust and let me make more of my own decisions because she would know that I would have my reasons for doing so. After all, through stories, I learned that my mother’s interpretation is not the only possible interpretation.
That one summer day, as my mom and I walked towards Buchanan Tower at the University of British Columbia, a very familiar face walked out of the building by chance. She was Dr. Patterson, who was both my mother’s and my university professor. It was as if an old friend of our family had come to greet us. This was a very special moment which my mom and I shared. It was a beautiful moment between mother and son.