I always hear that said to me: "You wouldn't understand because you don't have kids. There are things that you will only grasp once you become a parent."
OK. But I think not.
Point considered: I do not have children. I have not followed the decree of evolution that I am here for pro-creative purposes. I did not even abide by the Biblical order that I be fruitful and help in the multiplication of the species. But I also think so many people are already doing that for me. As a matter of fact, the problem is not that I have failed to become a progenitor but rather the population is so vastly expanding that there should be a unified world decree on collective castration.
At this point in world history, we can certainly do a whole lot with a proliferation of eunuchs.
Anyway ... the point is not my infertile attitude. The discussion centered around a friend who spent an entire afternoon boring me with her woes and lamentations. And the subject matter was pretty much the same: How She Failed as a Mother.
My friend is suffer from a textbook style guilt trip that has actually made these afternoons of emotional abandonment and outpouring as something bordering on the boring. In a nutshell, my friends feels that the perennial misbehavior of her two kids sprang from the fact that she is a working mother. Of course we have all tried to explain to her that since she did not surrender her career to be Alabang's nominee for the Ulirang Ina Award of the Year does not mean that she has exclusive rights for self-flagellation as far as her kinds are concerned.
For one thing, we are at that point of human civilization when a working woman is out there pounding the pavements in order to be a ballbuster. A woman works because she has to --- because the cost of living has become so high that a two-income household has become the most practical if not the only solution.
I told my friend that maybe her son and daughter should know the exact amount they have to pay each semester to the university where they are studying. Maybe if they see the six-figure enrollment fees (which does not include books, miscellaneous expenditures, allowances, cell phone load and maintenance, etcetera, etcetera ...), then perhaps they could stop carping about Mummy leaving everything to Yaya to take care of their daily needs.
But that would not appease my friend. She would sigh and give me her classic Cherry Pie Picache look (who just happens to be her favorite actress --- of which I commended her taste) before blurting out those classic lines,"It's so hard to be a parent." I asked her if either her mother or father told her that in her younger days ... because my parents certainly did (which is probably why I have turned out to be like this). Yet no amount of consolation can convince my friend that this is not her fault.
Well, yes: her son has practically gone through the gamut of all the courses offered and available in the university. The sad part is that he could never go beyond second year ... before he changes his mind because he wants to be something else. Oh, another thing: if he is not changing his mind whether he wants to be a computer engineer or a entrepreneur or a graphics designer ... now he wants to take up music to be a rocker.
Once upon a time we could have laughed at the thought. After all, my friend's husband was also a child of the 70's like us. Those were the days we shared when I still had hair (and I mean long wavy hair) reaching up to my shoulders --- and her husband looked like he had cannabis for breakfast, lunch and dinner (which perhaps he did anyway). I reminded my friend that she fell in love with her husband because she thought he sang the vocals of Stairway to Heaven so beautifully (and I am not referring to the Neil Sedaka song but that piece by the Led Zeppelin).
"What's the big deal?" I told her,"Wasn't your husband a pseudo-rocker who moonlighted dancing the Twelve Steps to the tune of Love's Theme by Barry White?" She said it was all too different. This is her son, you see. Her son! What will happen to him if he just keeps on fluttering from one course to another ---- not to mention the fact that he is dating this girl who actually has a butterfly tattooed below her shoulder blade? I still couldn't see the cause of her panic.
"I don't think she is a virgin," my friend said, referring to the Tattoo Girl.
I spent about three good seconds of silence before I retorted,"You weren't a virgin either when I met you. And that was in first year college ... "
"That's beside the point," she dismissed. Well, yeah: my friend didn't have a tattoo in any part of her anatomy.
But we still could not figure out all that fuss. Let's get real here.
All the friends agreed that her son was not exactly the sharpest pencil in the box --- and that, by all accounts, he was not exactly going to be the summa cum laude or valedictorian of anything not unless it involves horticulture specializing in growing poppies and other profitable forms of potted vegetation. He was a nice, sweet young man who smiled a lot and really had very limited talents. That included music.
(So we also figured out that he was not going to be a rocker even if he wanted to ...just like his father.)
And, for the record, we never expected anything from her daughter either. What I meant was that ...whatever transpired with the young lady was something we somewhat already suspected. No, it was something we anticipated ... or feared.
Even at the age of six, the friends (more or less) knew that this was not the sort of girl who will dedicate her life to Jesus. There was something about the daughter, aside from the evident fact that she was smarter than her brother. She had chutzpah whereas her brother merely possessed the license to exist. She talked a lot and giggled a lot and wanted to cuddle up a lot. As she grew taller, her dresses did not grow bigger. That sort of thing.
She was the sort of student in an exclusive school for Catholic girls that gave nuns very serious problems.
Her daughter was a people person. She had this thing about being charming and accessible. Apparently, when puberty came in ... she also developed the uncanny quality to be immediately available to anybody who ... uh, wanted to avail. Her daughter was only in the Seventh Grade when all sorts of stories floated about her --- and what she did while hanging around the Glorietta area right after classes. Then it went as far as Rockwell. And this involved boys in short white sleeve shirts, black pants with their school IDs still hanging from their necks.
"Ok lang yon," said one of the friends when the stories persisted until our friend's daughter reached high school."Honor student naman, eh. At least, di ba? Eh, yung Kuya?"
Another friend recalled, "Are you surprised? Remember that night after she got so drunk in Velvet Slum and ..."
We all went into a collective, "Ohhh ..."
"So why is she so pissed off with her daughter?"
To this I retorted, "Because she is no longer 19 ... she is actually 52. Somehow things change between the years."
My friend would have this bi-monthly breakdown because of her rather colorful confrontation scenes with her daughter.
As friends who have remained faithful and true through the years, we would always be ready to listen to the latest installment of the rather predictable plot that is to be their love-hate-mother-daughter relationship. But what makes them still so interesting despite threats of redundancy and possibilities of violence is that my friend and her daughter are so much alike that they cannot stand each other.
Thus following the principles of the like poles in magnets, mother and daughter naturally repel each other. The repulsion is expressed in very creative (yet somewhat loud) discussions, accusations, vexations and even curses. From what we heard, some of their vicious exchanges were lifted off verbatim from ABS-CBN prime time telenovelas. So we greatly suspect that they are preempting the revival of these soap opera sin real life even before they are replicated on the small screen.
But their battles can be so ...uh, disturbing ... that one time the next door neighbor actually called the subdivision security to check on what was happening.
That was when I got somewhat pissed. I categorically warned my friend her assertion of maternal authority was already bordering on the baduy and that she should watch out because her neighbors were no longer amused by the noise pollution she was creating. After all, they were living in an exclusive corner of the earth which has been declared a bird sanctuary.
Besides, how was her husband responding to all this?
"He has given up," she lamented.
I clarified that there is a substantial difference between someone giving up from somebody shutting up. Just because her husband had chosen not to join the cacophony did not necessarily mean that he left the fate of his children to karma.
And of course to this , she mumbled: "It's so hard to be a parent."
Why? She kept asking that. "What have I done so that my kids turned out that way ... especially my daughter? She is smart ... she is beautiful. We have protected her all her life ... we have given her the best ... then why ..."
I gave it some thought: she was actually trying to figure out why her daughter turned out to be a slut. So I said calmly, "Eh, what can you do? She really likes boys. Like you rin noon, di ba?"
But of course that did not appease her the least bit. Now my friends and I feel that she actually enjoys all this angst because it gives further meaning to her life which her well-paying career apparently has not (except to pay for the various amortizations). That is also why we have learned to live with and for this drama ... even if it has become suffocating ... and yes, to reiterate ... boring, boring, boring.
There were years before when she used to bore us with photos of her kids in little plastic flip-over albums. Now she is boring us with this ordeal that will challenge the Mahabharata in length.
Once for all, how can we get it through her thick skull that a parent cannot be a hundred percent responsible for the turnout of her kids?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. As a good Mommy or Daddy, you do everything to provide the best for your child. Remember that famous phrase? A child enters this world not out of his choice but because a man and a woman had fun nine months earlier. So indeed, it is the responsibility of the parent to make sure that the kid gets the damn best that they can possibly give. But ...
Never was it ever written that parents own their children.
Nope. Parents merely facilitate the entry of a child to a world confused and confusing ---- and with their guidance, the kid manages to fend for his own survival.
Parents who tend to overprotect their kids produce wimps and runts: their bones are weak because in their formative years they have never been given the opportunity to fall, to earn their wounds and scars ... and to learn the tricks for survival. Parents will not be there forever. There will come a time when parents leave their children on their own ... and they are left unprepared ... then what?
Parents love their children ... and part of righteous loving is giving your child the chance to make mistakes. The chance to get dirtied and hurt. The chance to cry. And learn. That is what is most important --- that they learn on their own rather than rely on the stories and warnings of their parents about what life can truly be out there.
And sometimes parents think that the ultimate proof of loving their children is by shielding them from all the monsters that lurk outside the safety of their homes.
Unfortunately that is not possible: not unless you lock up your kid in his bedroom (and cut off the damn internet connection, television, radio, cell phone, landline and other forms of communication to the outside world), you cannot let your child grow in a contained and controlled environment. And it is as if that will do any good.
One thing I know from years not of raising children but teaching the kids of others is that sometimes parents are the last people to know who their kids really are. Ouch! But that's true.
Parents forget that once upon a time they were kids too. And we know very well that we present ourselves as different people depending on who sits across us, who we speak to and what impression we want to leave. Despite all attempts at openness with your family ...you always leave something aside. You always keep some very private and personal corner that only your friends can gain access. And sometimes you are a different person to your friends --- because your parents only choose to look at what they want to see in their kids.
Another thing I want to shove down the throat of my friend: her kids have their own minds. They are in college. Even when they were in Grade School, they already had their own minds: their manner of thinking may be wobbly and inexperienced, but these kinds have operational brains to have a sense of choice. The choice is whether to follow what is said to be good or take the alternative path to what they feel or think is better. And that is their choice.
I know it is very difficult for parents to accept the fact that kids --- despite all the love and care given to them --- still choose to move the opposite direction from where their parents want them to go. But then again ... as I said: that is their choice. I remember what my grandmother used to say to encapsulate all this: Buntot mo, hila mo.
Parents should not flatter themselves by taking all the blame for all the faults and failures of their kids. At a certain point in their lives, children graduate from being somebody's son or daughter: they come on their own. They have their own definitions of happiness and fulfillment, failure and misery ... and even family and parenthood.
In the meantime, we console our friend. We tell her that whatever will be ... will be. And that despite all that she deemed of her life, she was and is a good mother. We all believe that. Drama and all, histrionics and monologues ... she is a good mother. Because despite all that she has gone through, she has not given up.
She has not stopped loving her children...as all good parents know they can never ever do.