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It didn’t seem too long ago when I was a child and Emily helped me prepare for the weekly dictation and spelling tests we had in school. She’d read out the words on the given list one by one, and I’d write them down on a piece of paper for her to check after we’d run through all the words on the list. Although DBS and I mostly helped ourselves with our schoolwork, there were times when we sought Emily’s help, particularly with our Chinese homework. For me, that help extended to include work meted out in the Art and Craft classes. I still shudder to recall one of my art assignments when I was just nine or ten. We had to make a doll from scratch! Now that definitely constituted as child abuse to me.

Anyway, I thought of the past because the Fat Bunny, DBS & I recently gifted Emily with her first smartphone, and I’m now teaching her how to use it. She had some anxiety using anything related to technology, and was very adamant to hold on to her normal candy bar phone with physically present buttons. If not for the fact that she needs a smartphone for her work now (don’t ask), she would never have agreed to replace that candy bar phone.

As I taught her how to make and receive phone calls, send and receive messages, put her phone on silent mode, and take photographs of her work documents to send to her supervisor, I was reminded of those days when our roles were reversed…when she guided and I learnt. I wonder if she felt proud of me then, for I sure feel proud of her now as I watch her struggle with her new smartphone.

There are difficulties to be overcome; with age, one tends to be forgetful and it’s not uncommon for people to be nervous with things they’re unfamiliar with. My new pupil has little confidence in her ability to handle the new phone (it’s the technology that scares her), and she’s frustrated when she can’t remember the steps to whatever it is that she wants the phone to do. But I’m a very patient teacher, contrary to what some of my friends may think. I don’t mind repeating myself when it’s a genuine case of forgetfulness, but I do detest wasting my time when it’s a case of bad attitude towards learning.

After about two weeks of practice, Emily can now make and receive phone calls, send and receive messages, put her phone on silent mode, and take photographs of her work documents. I’ve also explained what ‘taking a screenshot’, ‘airplane mode’, and ‘screen rotation’ mean, but since she’s not tried any of them yet, I’ll be surprised if she remembers. She still forgets the basic things she’s learnt sometimes, but I keep telling her that she’ll get better in time as long as we practise. I’m not sure if she’s willing to move on to learning other functions once she’s comfortable with what she’s learnt, but it’s evident that she’s determined to master the basics.

Sometimes, I ask myself why I put her through the ‘torture’ when in fact, I could have used my phone to help her with with her work documents, which was what I had been doing for the past few months. It’s the same reason why I made the Fat Bunny responsible for his medication some months after his surgery in 2006. I remember I sat down with him, and went through the names, purpose and dosage of each medicine so that he would know when to take what pills on his own. Although I’m sure he doesn’t remember the exact function of each pill if you ask him now (he does know the general purpose though), he is still the one who organises his pills into the pill boxes so that he may take them at the correct time each day.

I’m not one to mollycoddle others, especially those important to me. I believe in personal responsibility. I’ll do what I can to support my parents, my sister, my as yet non-existent children, but they are the main players in their lives. I have my life to live out, just as they have theirs, and nobody can and should be responsible for the outcome of our choices. I choose not to mollycoddle them so that they would not be helpless if I were not around to help them one day. Life is unpredictable; I’m the youngest in my family, but I could be the first to go.

When I was a child, I would never have guessed that I’ll be teaching my parents something one day. And even as I teach Emily, I’m also learning new things about her and about myself. Who knows? Maybe one day, she may even know how to use a computer and send e-mails.