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Friday, September 22, 2017, 18:18
More than words
By Honey Tsang
Friday, September 22, 2017, 18:18 By Honey Tsang

An award-winning young writer found inspiration and filial joy in tracing the past with her father, Honey Tsang reports. 

In any adolescent’s life, even that of the best-behaved teenager, there will come a few times when they become capricious and rebuff their parents’ most amiable or mundane questions.

Tse Hiu-yan, 15, knows she’s a rare case. She knows seeking a new level of autonomy at puberty, if handled well, doesn’t necessarily mean conflict with parents. And perhaps, in some cases, good communication can be transformed into a glorious moment for the family. 

Standing in front of the crowd and media, Tse, clad in her school uniform, was gladdened to receive the first writing prize of her life. She had become one of the title holders of the city’s annual essay competition themed “parent-child relationship”. 

It was a special moment for Tse’s family, especially as her award-winning article revolves around stories of a family she very much loves, trusts and confides in. 

By learning some stories of your parents, along with Hong Kong’s histories, youths can better fathom the indomitable spirit that took root in the early times

Dennis Fan, associate dean of the Faculty of Business Administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

“The essay was created from scads of deep talks with my father,” said Tse, a Form 3 student of Hong Kong University Graduate Association College. 

Tse’s article relates the close relationship between her father and grandfather in the 1960s. It’s a nostalgia-laced depiction of them living in a public housing estate and playing around the jungle gym ­— something the three generations of the family share fond memories of.

Tse’s article was singled out among 8,800 entries from nearly 200 participating primary and secondary schools. It’s a writing competition organized as part of the Jockey Club Mei Ho House Hong Kong Spirit Learning Programme. The contest is intended to foster communication between generations in the city. 

“In today’s Hong Kong, some argue that the city develops with a thinner air of compassion and humanity. Even in parent-child relationships (they argue), the bonding has loosened due to miscellaneous reasons,” Secretary for Education Yeung Yun-hung said in a speech at the award ceremony in July in Mei Ho House, Kowloon. 

Yeung hoped that through the essay competition adolescents would have a “better grasp” of the lives older generations have led.

A 2016 study titled “How Do Young People Perceive their Parents”, to some extent, bears out the notion of debilitating parent-children relationships in the city. The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups found that 40 percent of 500 respondents aged between 12 and 24 said their parents didn’t understand them. Furthermore, 30 percent claimed their parents were frequently a nuisance. Meanwhile, 20 percent would very often quarrel with their parents. 

Talking cure

While many teenagers tend to run on their own schedules, Tse never considers interacting with her family as an imposition. Rather, she always welcomes spending “family time” with her parents.

One of their favorite activities is photography, a passion Tse’s father has passed down to her. Last year, he took her to Choi Hung Estate, where he lived in the 1960s, for a planned photo-shooting tour on which they roamed around a park, happily taking snaps. 

Tse recalled her father recounting his childhood, explaining how the jungle gym, or “monkey bars” as the locals call it, relates to his family’s close rapport. This particular moment set the cornerstone for her winning essay. 

“My dad reminded me that growing up is like a kid climbing up the monkey bars. You have to crawl up, unhurried, little by little, with your own strength and effort,” Tse recalled of the enlightening conversation which gave her the metaphor she subsequently used as her essay’s locus. 

Tse Wai-keung, Tse’s father, who also attended the award ceremony, said building intergenerational bonds was a virtue he’d hoped to pass on from his father to his daughter. “I’m grateful she’s always interested in learning details of our childhood,” he said. 

“More to our delight, she never keeps an emotional distance from us, as most adolescent do. She’s always on board to make the most of family time,” the proud father added. 

Dennis Fan, associate dean of the Faculty of Business Administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who was one of the judges of this year’s competition, admires Tse’s writing. He said it gave him a unique feeling of “time-traveling”. 

At the ceremony, Fan stated: “By learning some stories of your parents, along with Hong Kong’s histories, youths can better fathom the indomitable spirit that took root in the early times.” 

Small mercies

Raising adolescents might be the thorniest task for most parents. It’s even more challenging in today’s digital era when young people are so tuned into their smartphones — the latest iteration of a time-worn aloofness brought on by hormonal changes. 

A lack of communication might lead to a lower level of contentment within families. According a Hong Kong Family Welfare Society study released in May 2017, when the city’s youngsters, aged 15-29, yearned for privacy and became cagey about their lives, they actually felt least satisfied through family communication among all age groups. The statistics reveal they only had an average of 3.66 points of family happiness, 10 percent lower than the 4.03 points of those aged 40-49.

Lo Ying-ngo, Tse’s mother, said that if youngsters acquainted themselves with how their parents went through tougher lives in the early days, they might feel more blessed. 

“They (adolescents) are endowed with a better-off environment that they don’t even realize. They could be more thankful for small mercies, if they knew the difference between the past and now,” Lo told China Daily. 

Future goals

Tse has always had a flair for writing. In 2016, she created a social platform where she “scribbles” — in her words — and shares a series of compositions. It’s her way of polishing her writing skills. 

She said she never fantasizes that her creations could earn her any recognition. The writing award she just scooped is a huge “boost” to her confidence, propelling her to pursue her dream of being a writer. 

To Tse’s father, the prize signifies “a deeper understanding with each other in the family”, he said. 

Tse, sitting next to her father, nodded in agreement and cut in: “You never know what it can bring to you when you take the initiative to interact with your parents.” 

For her, the experience hasn’t just afforded some joyous family time but also spurred her writing enthusiasm. 

Contact the writer at honeytsang@chinadailyhk.com

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