Instilling Traditions – Part 1

The Star Online > Features
Thursday April 22, 2004
Passing on traditions

ONE humble egg can evoke many warm memories. Whether it is the fragrant bunga telor which the Malays give to their wedding guests, the colourful Easter egg which signifies a new life or the traditional Chinese red egg that symbolises good luck, the story behind each of them ought to be treasured and passed on to the next generation.

As a child, red eggs were the only food item offered to me on birthdays. Those red eggs were bland, boring and stained my fingers. But my mother never failed to prepare red eggs on every birthday. My two older children who were under her care did not escape the mandatory red eggs on their birthdays.

The eggs bore little significance for me until my mother passed away. That year, my second son celebrated his fourth birthday and the absence of the red eggs was greatly felt. From there, I learnt the importance of tradition – that it is worth preserving because it weaves the memories of our past and blankets us with a sense of belonging and security in the present.

I then decided to instil tradition as part of my children’s upbringing. Though this sounds easy, it involves a lot of patience, some creative storytelling and a great sense of pride. You cannot perform a ritual without making it significant and memorable for the children.

While getting my fingers and palms all stained with the red food dye, I would recall the number of times my children had eaten the red eggs prepared by grandma.

Sadly, this Chinese tradition is dying out. If you ask a group of children to draw pictures of a birthday party, not many will include the red eggs. Instead, you will probably see pizzas, chicken nuggets and other food items that are alien to Chinese culture. It leaves a vaccum in our children’s childhood if there is nothing left for them to relate to the next generation.

When my children invite their school friends for a birthday party at home, the young guests have to eat or take back one mandatory red egg. One day, I hope my children’s friends will remember a certain aunty who forced them to eat red eggs or take one home during her sons’ birthday parties.

Live saving skills – CPR – Part 3

I see hazards in our everyday life: apartments with swimming pools, picnic spots without lifeguards, choking hazards in everyday food, untrained babysitters, daycare centres without trained staff – the list is endless. As I have four other children, life can be full of paranoia if I were to dwell on the negative side of things.

On the other hand, I can equip my children with some first aid knowledge. I remind them often of what they can do if something happens to their friends. They are to call an adult, be brave and not run away if a friend is hurt. I know I have made a difference when my six-year-old got burnt recently. A piece of skin had peeled off his upper arm. Instead of screaming in pain and staying rooted to the spot, he rushed to the sink and thrust his injured arm under the running tap water before his sobs alerted me. I am relieved that all my “campaigning” has not been in vain.

A CPR For Parents course will be conducted by Dr Cheang Hon Kit, a consultant paediatrician/neonatalogist of a private hospital in Penang, on Dec 20, 2004. Dr Cheang is a certified neonatal resuscitation programme instructor/certified paediatric advanced life support instructor. For more information, contact 04-6571888, ext 1011 or e-mail


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Live saving skills – CPR – Part 2

It must be noted that the wrong application of CPR can do more harm than good. CPR procedures or techniques vary between adults, children and infants. Never apply CPR techniques meant for an adult on young children or infants as the result can be fatal.

A few months ago, I received a frantic phone call from my husband’s niece who said that her daughter was unable to breathe because of phlegm in the airways. As the young girl has a disability, she could not cough up the phlegm. The mother panicked as her daughter was beginning to change colour.

In the chaos of the moment, all I could think of was to ask her to put her daughter on the floor, pinch the girl’s nose and blow air into her mouth – something akin to blowing balloons. I asked her to observe if the chest was inflated. If not, I told her to pick up the girl and give her a few hard blows on the back. Thankfully, the girl was given enough oxygen and recovered after a stay in hospital. Prior to the incident, I had the chance to demonstrate CPR procedures to the mother during one of her visits to my house.

My hubby was initially sceptical about learning CPR but an encounter at a hospital changed his stance. He came across a distraught father who had brought in his lifeless baby. Both of us know there is no time to spare when a child has stopped breathing. It is important to breathe air into the child. It would be too late to bring the child to hospital for medical assistance. Every second counts.

All these encounters made me even more passionate about preaching the importance of this life-saving skill. My friend Mei who is a doctor sees to it that her maid is given some basic instructions on things to do in an emergency. In fact, she will be sending her maid, who helps to look after her baby, to attend a CPR course.

Life and death are usually not within our control. No amount of knowledge can prevent death but there are circumstances where something can been done instead of standing by helplessly. I know that I would have carried a much heavier burden of regret and guilt had I failed to revive my baby Vincent when he was two months old. It was through that short and simplified CPR that I got to spend another five memorable months with him. Vincent passed away at seven months old due to premature-related illness in May last year.