Friday, March 23, 2018

The Challenge of Trusting Our Children

My 10-year-old has been getting into the habit of uttering these two words to me lately: Trust me.

Whenever he wants to do something that he knows I'm predisposed to disagree with, he will say those words with his serious, assuring tone. Trust me.

"Noah, why don't you do your Reading homework now so that you can sleep early tonight?"

He'd say something like, "Don't worry, Mama. I just need to finish this round for now (a video game) and can still do all that before bedtime. Trust me."

Or anytime he senses I'm nervous about him being out, or him doing something that falls under my 'dangerous' category (which is most likely not really dangerous), he'd say those words. Trust me

Yesterday, he insisted on walking to school with his best friend. Since best friend lives about half a mile away, we compromised and agreed I'd drop him off at his friend's house and from there, they could walk to school together. Then the list of reminders: don't be oblivious, keep walking, and then send me a short text message as soon as you get to school. 

After about 30 minutes, I started wondering why he hadn't texted me yet. And then this...(P.S. the media file he sent me was a photo showing me that he and his friend stopped at a spot to 'hang out')...





I laughed with the 'they didn't get abducted' bit, as he justified how his two friends used to hang out exactly at that spot where they were, of course further illustrating my son's familiarity with my paranoia.

Did you notice how he said 'trust me' twice during our exchange?

Trusting someone, if you think about it, translates to mainly two things: trusting that the person is 'able' (trusting in his abilities), and trusting that person's judgment or nature. 

The ability component can further be broken down into two aspects. To trust someone is to trust that they know what they're doing and that they'll know what to do when something goes wrong, or that they can cope with the situation or mitigate a problem.

The nature or judgment component of trusting someone is about trusting that they won't do anything bad or that you can trust their moral compass or their capacity for discernment. 

Trust, as we all know, is built or earned. It's not something randomly deserved or haphazardly granted. 

If that is the case, there is only one way for anyone to know if someone can be trusted and that is by giving it slowly. You have to let go little by little in order to see if someone is worthy of your trust. You can't be like a job opening to new graduates requiring prior job experience in the field. If no one is willing to hire a newbie, how can said newbie ever get the experience required by everyone else?

How can someone show they can be trusted if they've never been let go before; if they've never been allowed to be in situations to prove their trustworthiness?

It's never easy for parents to let go of their children. And we can't say it's not them we don't trust, but everyone else around them. That's a crappy excuse because it still points to you not trusting your child's ability and discernment to deal with others. There really isn't any excuse. It's either you are willing to let go and trust, or you're not. 

My son is 10. I am realizing more and more each day that I have no other choice than to keep extending the leash and loosen the reins. Objectively speaking, he has given no prior indication of being irresponsible, undisciplined, and reckless. I know he can be trusted. I'm just not sure if I can trust myself as all this unfolds. Would I be able to calm my fears and honor this inevitable process? Will my heart be strong enough to let go?

I think that is the real crux of the matter. 







Friday, March 16, 2018

Watching Your Baby Grow: Excitement or Fear?



Fear and Excitement...Excitement and Fear...I've been vacillating between these two for a while now, and more often than before as I'm struck deeply by the realization that my only child is inching towards the teen years. 

Today, he's on a field trip to this interactive simulated town where students get hands on learning on how it is to be workers, entrepreneurs  and simply how it feels to be part of the economy. These kids had to learn financial literacy and apply for jobs in the week preceding this field trip so they all have roles to play and be equipped once they get to their 'town'. My son ended up being CEO of the UPS store. 

Excitement and Fear...I wonder how he'll be once he starts with his first real job. I'm happy he's slowly learning about the economy and the idea of applying for a position, managing employees and customers, depositing your earnings to the bank, getting health insurance and feeling exhausted at the end of a work day. When he's old enough to get a real job in the real world, will he handle his finances well? Will he find work that he enjoys and can be proud of? Will he have the grit required to keep showing up and exhibit good work ethic? 

Last night, our family attended an orientation for rising 6th graders at the Middle School he'll be transferring to next school year. I felt like pinching myself the whole two hours we were there. 

Fear and Excitement...How can we be already here? Wasn't he just in pre-school yesterday? How is it that he will now have his own locker, choose a major and a minor and have the liberty to join any club he fancies or feels he's good at? Wasn't it just last week when our lives were simply all about Nickelodeon, snack time, nap time and build-my-Lego-ship time? Is he ready? Will he succeed the way I want him to? Is his self-esteem strong enough to survive greater challenges in the academe? Will he be able to forge deep and lasting friendships?

Fairly recently, he decided to start his own YouTube channel. He asked for our help in setting him up. We gave him a small filming space in our upstairs storage room. His Dad set up his computer, camera and created a sturdy frame out of PVC pipes on which we can hang curtains so that he has a decent backdrop. Then he started creating his own content, taught himself to edit and posted the videos himself. 

Excitement and Fear...t's amazing how fast he learns and how admirable it is that he did what he said he wanted to do. He didn't overthink and simply ran away with something he truly enjoys. But I hope he doesn't get discouraged even though he doesn't have a huge audience. I hope he doesn't give up so easily. I pray to God he doesn't get bullied online. I pray he understands his responsibility now that he has a social media platform. I pray he always finds the wisdom, even at his young age, to speak and behave with respect and integrity. 

This boy of 10 years has also been honest enough to admit that he now has a crush. I have been neutral about it, neither discouraging nor encouraging, but always reminding him that he is still too young to take these things seriously. 

Fear and Excitement...I'm eager to see what kind of person will capture his heart. Will he choose well? Will he find true love and be able to keep it? How will my 'baby' fare once he comes face-to-face with heartbreak? It's only a matter of time. Will he know how to survive it? Will he welcome it, knowing that he will only come out stronger and wiser? I can't wait to pass on to him what I know, although I'm afraid it might never be enough. 

Any parent knows what I'm going through. We watch these human beings who are our external hearts walk their own paths, and there is no stopping time. We do our best giving them what we have, hoping they'll be equipped for the world and be the best versions of our dreams. They have our hearts and our souls and yet they are different from us. That difference is not always easy to accept. The possibility of failure, as well as pain, are always looming in the background, causing us sleepless nights and infinite anxiety.

Fear and Excitement will continue to flow in our veins for as long as we are parents. They might feel the same at times but we must be discerning because one holds a person back, while the other sets free; one stunts the spirit, the other tends to nurture evolution.

Our children will break, fail, hurt and suffer. It's all on them to make their own choices and live through the consequences. And as their parents, it's on us to cheer them on, keep the faith, and keep loving them deeply so that we can always stay excited about the miracles they can blossom into.





Monday, March 5, 2018

Love is in the Details


Love in its early stages evokes only good feelings, making us giddy, ecstatic, energized. And perhaps it has to be that way so that it's enticing enough for us to pursue. Though any step towards Love takes courage, you can't deny that the thought of being able to possess the giddiness and a feeling of inspiration all but propel us even more to take the plunge.

But as we get more acquainted with Love, we realize that there is a lot of work involved. And it is hard work, don't let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise. It requires devotion and grit. It's not a mere feeling or thought but something that becomes infused into your identity. 

Love is in the details. 

It's in the way you talk, your tone, the kindness you show; the compassion and empathy your convey through your words; the assurance you give someone in times of doubt or insecurity; the words of comfort when the other person's in pain; the encouragement you offer when faith hides in the shadows.

It's in your touch. It's the relief and healing you offer just by holding the other close. Love finds its way out of your pores as you embrace your child and stroke their hair, or wounded flesh and sore muscles. The simplicity of the gesture offers unparalleled comfort. 

It's in your waking up in the morning to prepare meals for your family, or your surrender to the drudgery to earn a living.

It's in the quick phone calls to ask how the other is doing and in the never forgetting to say 'Take care, I love you' before you hang up. 

It's in the way your face lights up when you see the other person. It's in your smile or the peace in your eyes. 

Love cannot be denied, nor can you mistake something for love when you feel deep down it isn't. The lie cannot be sustained, the cruelty will show, the disdain and disrespect always eventually bleed out. The beauty of life is that you could never lose with love. The only way to really know it, is to keep experiencing it. And no matter how imperfect, Love is Love, and it never fails to change you.