An Open Letter to Parents and Would-Be Parents

Let me tell you a bit of my story in order to make sense of this letter.

 People who only know me now wouldn’t believe my life story growing up. They would see me as the soft-spoken, demure lady. But if they’ve seen me as a child and a teenager, they’d be surprised.

 I grew up a provinciana – an Igorota from the Mountain Provinces. Until the age of five, I ran around the field with our dog, Happy. Had lunch with neighbors I and my friends found ourselves at sun up. Bathed in the river. Opened and ate fresh palays from the rice field. Climbed trees, even the thorny calamansi tree, carefully holding on to every branch so as not to fall. Hugged a guava tree in an attempt to climb it too but got pricked by a caterpillar. It was then that I learned how slippery it was to climb a guava tree after a rain shower.

 We then moved to the city, where I experienced a different life. We initially stayed in a mining community where my dad was hired as an electrical engineer. But even while we were living in the outskirts of Baguio, we got schooled in the main city where I slowly learned Tagalog, made new friends, wore uniforms, shoes, and ribboned socks, and had snacks and play time.

 Our elementary school years were all about shuttling schools and houses until we finally bought a lot and built a home.

 We didn’t have a car so we had to commute. Walked the steep path of the village to get to the highway that gave me defined calves, which I proudly embrace.

 My brothers are now taller than I am but I cared for them before.

 I carried my brother RJ with a cloth sling while playing around the house when I was 7 years old to assist my mom and our help doing chores on Saturdays, and I was fine with it. He was a big baby but the sling helped me carry him better.

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Bonding with the sibs and cousins (Nov. 2013)
My brother RJ wearing the red sweater. My brother MJ wearing the gray and white hoodie and me in the blue-belted long-sleeved polo

 I did my contribution at home. I’ve carried pails of water from a distance and washed my own clothes. Our house helps did the washing when we were younger but when we got to high school, we were mandated to do our own laundry. We packed our own clothes when we go on trips, and learned to slice vegetables and meat to be cooked.

Our parents’ imbibed in us the value of responsibility, constantly reminding us that it’s for our future.

It’s a note to all parents – so you don’t worry when your children leave for boarding school or even, to a new city to look for a job.

I know some parents still pamper their kids a lot so I meet peers who don’t know how to cook or just started learning. Who don’t value helping because there’s a house help anyway. Who can’t even wash their own clothes because they don’t know how to.

Parents, if you’re still overly-pampering, be warned. Don’t spoil your kids unless you want them to turn out demanding and carefree.

What if you’re gone? Do you think they can handle themselves well and the inheritance you leave behind? Do you think they can respect the worth of other people if you treat your helps as nothing else but domestic machines? Even, dressing them up in uniforms to show the world that, “Hey, I’m rich and this is my atsay.”

We had helps at home too growing up but there were rules like doing our share in chores. Our helps eat in the same table at the same time with us.

I also asked at one point why I needed to help out if there were “maids”. That was when my mom corrected me, saying that we shouldn’t be treating helps as such. They were hired to assist but not to take over our ability to contribute at home.

She also reminded me that everything they were teaching us was in preparation for adulthood.

True enough, it helped immensely.

I didn’t go looking for my mom or a help to get me started with cleaning the apartment I shared with other friends when I moved to the bigger city for work.

I didn’t call a friend to ask how longganisa should be cooked, and perform the process while being instructed over the phone.

I didn’t have to ask my mom what things I need to put in my bag for a trip, and how many underwears I should bring.

I didn’t have to call my dad to pick me up at school or in the mall because I know my way.

I didn’t struggle carrying pails of water for my bath during a camping trip because I did it back then.

I didn’t complain when we had to sleep on cement during a survival camp just because we had no more tents.

Bottom line, I know how to survive. I can blend in.

Even if I have some “kaartehan”, when the going gets tough, I will survive because I know how.

If you’re a guy, you don’t have to worry that I can’t walk the long rugged path if that’s what it takes to get to the destination. I’ll walk with you, whether or not you carry my pack.

To echo Michelle Yeoh’s words, I’m also silk and steel.

I am not “pa-arte” in the wrong places. I admit my wrongs and I recognize my insecurities.

I see people as to who they are and not what they are.

Greetings shouldn’t just be for bosses and colleagues but also for marshalls and janitors. If you have prejudices, you build walls instead of bridges.

I admire people in ranks who remain grounded. They lead by example.The same way that I admire taxi drivers who don’t only know the direction but who are also well-informed because they’re tuned in to news.

So parents, dear parents, as much as you want to give everything to your children, do it with actual concern.

That while you don’t want them to get sick, let them experience bathing in the rain anyway. No matter how cold it is, it’s a joy just getting drenched in the open.

That while you want their skin to be soft and unblemished, let them run and play. Bruises will be part of it but at least, they experienced what real play is – not in front of a computer screen with virtual characters. And believe me, it’s better if you let them explore than restrict them because they’d be more curious to try if you say “no” or “don’t do that”. There’s that itchy feeling to try it more with those words, which would create bruises on them anyway.

And when they grow up, let them help out in the house even if there are house helps.That way, they learn domestic life and you don’t have to worry how they’ll survive out in the real world.

Imbibe in them the virtue of respect and understanding. Respect – not just for elders, equals and bosses but also for house helps, janitors and staff. This way, the virtue passes on to the next generation.

And while you want them to have everything that you didn’t have or experiences you haven’t had, don’t overdo it.

For while it is true that people need to connect, cell phones are really not needed by 7-year olds and advanced models at that for teenagers.

For while baseball, piano or alternative classes are useful to enhance or develop talents, it’s not really needed to fill up the weekends. Weekends are supposed to be family bonding times. You do things as a family. Otherwise, you end waking up to drive your kids to a scheduled class on a Saturday morning. Then you complain you’re tired, that your week’s so full. Who filled it up with schedules anyway?

And then your kids go home tired. They wash up, go to their rooms and get immersed in the gadgets you bought them. Then you complain they don’t communicate anymore. You start comparing that during your time, you had ample time to talk to your parents and friends. Well, that’s because you created that culture with them.

I grew up spending the weekend doing what I want to do alongside what my family planned, and we grew up fine.

I did piano lessons in first and second grade during recess. But when I transferred schools because we had to move, I didn’t continue and that was okay because all the while, I knew what I wanted and that was to write. But my parents didn’t enrol me to writing classes. There was no need because school taught me how to.

Point is, your kids need you by their side to show you they can draw trees beside a cute drawing of your dog, family and home.

They need you to help them figure out how to build a lego ship, or solve a picture puzzle.

They need you to sing with them and teach them how to dance.

They need you to tell them stories and listen to theirs.

It’s not rocket science to raise kids. Because once you establish that close connection and teach them the basic virtues, you don’t have to worry much about them when they reach puberty.

You would feel grateful that when they get hurt or they won something, they’ll confide in you first, not their friends.

Dear parents, remember that you were kids once too. And you vary in experiences growing up. And while you want your kids to have everything, resist the temptation. There are lots of negative consequences of having everything than having initially nothing or just having the normal stuff.

I thank my parents for raising us the way that they did, and teaching us wonderful life lessons by sharing their life stories.

You may say I don’t have the right to say these because I’m not a parent yet and I don’t know how it is.

But I’m not speaking as a parent; rather, as a daughter. Because what I see now against the older Gen Y-ers (1980s), there’s clearly a huge generation gap that’s brought about by home development and family relationship for a child besides the obvious social contribution that will constantly transform him or her.

It’s not a question of how much you love them but a question of do you really love them?

If you’ve read this and you felt offended in any way, prepared to justify with strong remarks against this writer, then this letter is for you.

All comments will be gladly taken.

I just have one request – that you reflect on the letter’s contents and consider the suggestions.

 

Sincerely,

A concerned daughter

 

 

 

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