When Mommy's Little Man and Daddy's Baby Girl grow up to be ... well, just a boy on the eve of becoming a man or a girl learning to be a woman, that whole equation about the parent-child relationship seems to change drastically.
A friend of mine (incidentally single because of chosen alternative lifestyle) once said that children are adorable for seven minutes and when they are below the age of one and a half.
I did not quite understand (nor believe in) him until he started enumerating all the changes that happen when the little darling starts to grow up to become that incorrigible brat.
"Kids are best when they are babies because they are helpless. They look at you and flash their oh-so-cute smiles, the blabber nonsense and even spill their spit on you. But you can forgive all that because they are angels who fell from the heavens straight to your arms. You can talk to them in jibberish and they will turn on their charms ... then pee on you, shit on you and even barf their barf on you and ...you still think it is all so damn cute."
I looked at my friend with a very polite smile and decided that his cynicism and bitterness should be the best reasons why he will live miserably for the rest of his life. How can anyone not love babies? There must be some terrible childhood experience somewhere in that personal history to warrant such contempt.
"Well, that's because you're not a parent," he said. The moment that infant learns how to walk ... the first thing he will do is to walk away from you. He will only walk back when he needs something.
And I told my friend that he reeks of venom.
I told him that his was the kind of attitude that is punished by God with a very long life alone. Then he said something that really made a lot of sense: "Children are never meant to remain helpless all their lives. The moment a parent maims his kid by keeping him or her dependent on them, then he is not a good parent. He is just another selfish s.o.b. who considers his child as a possession ... or worse, an investment."
I really could not argue with him regarding that. As much as it hurts to admit, there was a grain of truth in those statements.
I tacitly agreed. As I have written before, children are meant to grow strong on their own ... and even stronger through the lessons learned by their mistakes. Miscalculations, wrong decisions and even disastrous missteps are necessary in the process of development for there is not one human being who was built to be immune to vulnerabilities more so the harvest of a lifetime of errors.
As much as they would want to do so, parents cannot insulate their children from pain. As much as they would hate to admit it as well --- pain is necessary to give character and strength. A life shielded from battles and an ignorance about pain leave the child weakest, useless and incapable of having a life of his own.
Parents can only do so much to guide, teach and explain to their children all these twists and turns in life. Parents hold their children's hands and warn about the demons that lurk in the great unknown. But they cannot and can never guarantee the future of their kids even if they left them an inheritance tantamount to the entire GNP of some insignificant country between the continents.
Being a provider is not enough. Being a vigilante protecting your child from all the ills of the world --- real or imagined --- is mission impossible. There is no way any parent can totally control a child and claim that this is done out of love: that is very much like the maternal instinct of the Witch in raising Rapunzel high up in her tower. One day the child will and can escape: when they do so, they will leave greater pain.
The greatest and perhaps the most noble responsibility of a parent --- is the willingness and the acceptance to let go of their children.
Moreover parents can only guard their children to a certain extent.
"Tell me. Who knew you better? Your friends or your parents?" my friend reminded me. "We are different people to different people as well. The child they think they know is not exactly the person that others see ... feel and experience."
Again so true. And perhaps to a certain degree my friend is correct. Sometimes our parents are absolutely clueless about who we truly are and what we are going through in those most difficult formative years. Some parents never cease to see their children as innocents, as kids who know nothing ... and children often pretend that they are so just to keep their parents either happy or at arm's length.
That is why my friend said that the moment the child can learn to walk away ... he can therefore he will. A child will never be happy entrapped by his parents even under whatever synonym there might be for the word love. "Kids want to be free. You either teach them to fly ... or you chain them and they will still fly away, maimed with weak wings. Parents must open the doors for their children to know that they are free."
The moment they demand to grow up ... the moment they cease to accept that what you say is an absolute law, then there is a completely different way of dealing with your offspring.
Gone are the days when you can hold your child by the collar and say, "I don't give a damn about what you think or what you feel because it is still my house and therefore my rules. I am your parent, I feed you ... I answer all your needs, so you follow me." There are so many fallacies in that argument, so many wrong assumptions that being a parent gives you the blanket authority to demand anything from your child.
After all, a child did not choose to be born.
You were making whoopee which was why some egg was fertilized by the fastest swimmer. In reality, they do not owe their lives to you because you gave it to them not with their consent but because of your needs --- whether social or biological. And in everything that you ask them to do ... it is best that they know why they are being made to do so, the reason behind the restrictions ... and the parameters of their freedom.
There is a substantial difference between discipline and totalitarianism. Education and brainwashing are two different organisms all together.
A child best learns when he knows why he is being made to behave in a certain manner, believe in particular ideologies or even accept certain things his parents request him to embrace. He cannot do things without rationale or at least a chance at an explanation. If ever he does so, he will do it only when the parent is looking or when it is convenient but it will never be a part of his system.
"But that's the way I was raised by my parents," someone would argue. Yes, that is true. There is a tendency to repeat the same pattern of parenting despite how the children reacted to the way they were raised. That is because that is the only way they know how to raise their own kids. Either that or they have such vehement (if not violent reactions) to the kind of environment they grew up in so much so that with great resolve they refuse to be like their parents.
"When I become a parent, I will be better because I will NOT become my father or my mother."
Take statements like that at face value because for some reason or another --- blame it on genetics or simply the naturalist's insistence --- heredity and environment mean everything. No amount of resolve or even trauma can veer you away from becoming where you came from. In one's later years, whether one is single or has chosen a partner in life, the self-discovery is consistent: we all end up being like our parents.
We may have been irritated or completely vexed by the way they behaved and certain habits they owned but somewhere along the journey we still end up to be like them.
That is why I need some clarification about the way some parents perpetually blame themselves for everything that happens to their children.
I hear woes and wails of friends narrating their personal tragedies because their children have become disappointments.
There is that father who feels wrecked because his son chose to be a musician "in a rock band" and defied his wishes to take up a career that could (more or less) guarantee a secure future. Although it has been what? Four or five years already? His son's career has not exactly challenged the luster of Bamboo Manalac or Rico Blanco. As a matter of fact, even he gets a headache each time he hears his son indulge in the music that he wants to play.
Then there is that mother who endlessly bemoaned the fate of her son: she blames it entirely on that slut who actually maneuvered her son's destiny by seducing him and then eventually getting pregnant thereby ruining his future.
"He could have been a successful lawyer but look at what happened?" Although through her insistence the boy never married the girl he fertilized, there was still the responsibility of becoming a father (because she did not want people to think that her boy reneged on his obligations to be a family man). It did not matter that her son already had a notoriety of having great difficulty of keeping his zipper closed whenever a member of the opposite sex catches his fancy. It did not matter that, on all accounts, her son could never be a lawyer because his mental capacity did not seem to permit that.
Parents have built-in illusions about their children: they are sometimes the last to confront that painful reality that there are times only they could see their children the way that they do.
And there is that terrible resignation of parents whispering (with matching tears): "I do not know my child any more."
To play fair maybe I should ask any parent who mumbles this with the hope of earning national sympathy, "Did you ever know your kid?"
That's why I marvel at parents who do not act as parents but as authoritative friends.
That is why I find it sick or sickening when parents shamelessly and determinedly BLAME themselves for every misfortune or misbehavior their kids exhibit in a lifetime. Reality check is in order here: children are their own people. Parents should not imbibe a megalomaniac credit that every bad and good deed accomplished by the child should be credited (or discredited) to Mama and Papa.
There will always be kids with the best of upbringing who will still grow up to be major assholes ... in the same manner that there will be children who will go through the eye of the needle, suffer unimaginable tests and maybe ... just may be have contemptible parents but who will turn out to be such great and wonderful specimens of the human race. Although genes do play a major role, it is still about how you handle the raw materials that turns them into duds or masterpieces.
It is all about the parent being there and being a friend above everything else that matters. It is a joy to savor the success of your child --- but then it is a fallacy to believe that their failure can be solely attributed to their parents' mismanagement or miscalculation. Not everything about the kid has the parent to blame.
Children have their own minds. Although they came from the womb of their mothers, they are still individuals who will make their own decisions regardless of influence or even terrorizing of authorities.
Believe it or not, destiny plays the cards ... and the decisions made by the kids as individuals are all their own. Or even perhaps they can refer to the memories (now lessons) provided by the parents to teach the child how to maneuver himself in a world that has turned completely gray.
There will always be a part of each parent in the lives of the children. But despite how much a parent wants his child to be happy and complete, it is still the son or the daughter who will define his or her happiness --- and often, the parents have got nothing to do with it. There is no decent and responsible parents who wishes nothing less but the best for their children --- but is the child again who determines what is best for him because it is after all ... his life and his journey that he must remain a captain.