It is a futile exercise for parents to be constantly knocking themselves out trying to protect their children from the harsh realities of the world. How many times do we parents have to climb the heights of anxiety waiting for our teener to come home? wallow in despair over our daughter’s teen-age pregnancy, our son’s drug addiction? rage against the bullies? cringe with mortification at their foul language? stay up all night when power’s out, fanning their sleeping forms? cover their eyes from a sudden obscene scene on TV? I’m sure all of us at one time or another, have gone similar lengths and more trying to shield our children from the big bad wolf. To some of us, this parental concern has developed into a full blown obsessive-compulsive disorder.
But the third time my 13 year-old daughter came home from school at 7 PM [at which point I was a nervous wreck], crying because the jeepney driver dropped her off out of nowhere and so she had a hard time finding her way home, I finally blew my top and told her to get her act together or I’ll pull her out of that fancy school she attends in the City. Being a sensitive child, I always fought her battles for her. I was a mother hen clucking noisily against any sign of threat to her peace of mind. And I realize it’s time to loosen up.
I think it is very important to accept that evil [I mean this in the most generic and liberal terms], is an inescapable force in the universe, and no amount of evasion will make it go away. Parents should never let their children live behind glass walls, looking out, but untouched by adversities. It is a crime to offer them a false sense of security–because there is no such thing as security. Parents who lived miserable lives justify their driven existence with the line “I do not want my children to experience what I experienced” are, excuse me for saying this, delusional. Just because we’ve been there, done that, we can live our children’s lives for them. They have to make their own mistakes and learn from them.
What then, can we do? I suggest we teach them to be strong, to fight, to hope. And when they fall, be there for them– take courage to take blame when they mess up. I’m a firm believer that the fruit is only as good as the tree that bore it. Questions like “what did I do wrong in bringing you up?” is obviously rhetorical. Show them what temptation is so they can recognize it when they come face to face with it. Respect their choices and give them room to deal with the consequences. Most of all, we shouldn’t act like supermoms or dads, omnipotent and invincible. Parents are human. Much has been said about the harmful effects of fighting in front of the kids or creating a freezing war zone in the home. But is it fair to make them believe that their parents’ marriage is a fairy-tale made in heaven? Wouldn’t it help them understand the situation better if we explain the problems to them and leave it up to them to decide whose side they want to be on? The more we humble ourselves and admit our own frailties to our kids, the more they will avoid committing the same mistakes we did.