From having no curfews to sharing alcohol during family dinners.
I hit puberty when I was just 8 years old. My sister and I sat for a long talk by my parents about, what else, sex. We even sat through a slideshow about sexually transmitted diseases, complete with images to scar me for life.
When I turned 12, my parents bought me my first cocktail. They also bought me a pack of condoms when I first started dating.
Obviously, my parents do not subscribe to the conventional way of parenting.
Smoking is just one of the many things that is accepted in our household.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/WINSTON TAY
Our household never really had any of the typical rules (read: no sex talks, no drinking, and definitely no boyfriends staying the night). There were rules, but they were always up for discussion and could be bent occasionally.
I would later learn that such liberal rules in our household are rare in typical Singaporean families, and that my parents were possibly outliers.
Here are three reasons why growing up with liberal parents was never a bad thing. Trust me.
1. Learning about responsibility at 11
Since I was a primary 5 student, I started going out with friends after school. I learned how to navigate the public transport system and manage my money to save up for an outing with friends.
There was always a curfew, but it was never a hard and fast rule. If I was late, I was always allowed to explain why before a punishment, if any, was given.
I just lost the privilege of going out with my friends after missing my curfew too many times, hence the expression on my face. (I am seated on the floor, far left.)
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ARIELE TAN
Having such freedom from a young age meant that I quickly learned how to manage my time before enjoying myself. If I did not keep up with my studies, my privileges would be revoked.
This encouraged me to keep a handle on my own life without the need for caning threats or adult supervision.
2. Being treated as an adult
One thing that my sister and I were always encouraged to do was to think for ourselves. Freedom of choice is paramount in our family. All decisions can be discussed and will be supported, if necessary.
This applied to everything, from simple things like wanting to play netball (despite being the shortest girl in school) to more important decisions about our future.
When I decided that junior college was not for me, I wanted to try for direct admission to an arts course in polytechnic. I was encouraged to follow my passion.
When I got tired of weekly religious classes and realised that I did not believe in the religion, it was not forced on me.
Naturally, there were times when I made bad decisions, like getting drunk enough to crack my head open at a chalet till I needed 10 stitches. Incidents like those never ended well.
Drinking is not something taboo in my family, but there were consequences when I went overboard.
PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/ WINSTON TAY
My parents took care of me with no questions, but there was hell to pay once I felt better. I did not go out drinking for at least a month or two and there was a huge loss of trust between my parents and I, which took weeks to rebuild.
3. Never having to lie to my parents
I never felt the need to lie to my parents about where I was, who I was with or what I was doing. When my friends were desperately searching for excuses or faking school documents to go to a class chalet, I just had to tell my parents where I was going and update them periodically.
They even picked me up from a couple of booze-filled nights out at the club, only to catch me with a cigarette in my hand.
This trust goes both ways. I can trust my parents to be honest and supportive should I confide in them.
At the same time, they can trust that my sister and I will not lie to them. No matter how badly we messed up or how much trouble we got into, my parents know that we will always come clean with them first.
Some may say that my parents were too lax with us, but I wholeheartedly disagree. We learnt how to communicate openly with and to trust each other, which actually improved our relationships.
Rules are just rules – as long as you maintain a healthy and open relationship with your parents, I think we will all turn out fine anyway.
BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTH.SG/WINSTON TAY