Wabe: When your kids teach you a lesson

Posing with his other classmates. (Hanna Wabe)
Posing with his other classmates. (Hanna Wabe)

WANTING the best for our own children is a universal objective of all good, responsible parents. We strive hard for our kids because we want them to have a good life, even better than what we ourselves had experienced. We support them to give them an optimum chance of success. We inculcate good values to ensure they grow up to be kind, responsible, and successful adults.

No one wants to see their children suffer, so we try to protect them from the hurts of the world. If only we can bubble-wrap each kid, it would be great! We offer guidance and advice that’s why there’s this old adage called—Mother knows best. However, in our efforts to steer our children in the right direction, there are times wherein we unknowingly stifle their voices.

This week, I had a simple lesson on how mothering can morph into smothering, thanks to this encounter with my bonus child, M. I thought I have graduated from making costumes (with 2 older kids in high school). Then the pre-school sent a letter that my youngest son has to come for show and tell wearing his favorite healthy food. The instruction was to use simple materials, recycled stuff, or borrow from friends.

Since we were pressed for time coming from an out of town trip, I simply had no time to make a nice looking costume. None of my friends had one I could borrow either. I asked teacher if I could buy, instead, and she said it’s okay. I found an apple costume in store and told M that we will just buy that. Problem solved! I wanted him to look decent and not “kawawa.” He frowned at me and said, “But mango is my favorite fruit! I want to be a mango, Mom!”

I was urging him to please see it my way because it was the easiest and most logical solution. Hey, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, after all. It was indeed the perfect one. But M insisted that the teacher said favorite fruit—“MY favorite and not yours!”

He even came up with his own speech: “Hi I am a mango. I am healthy because I am rich in Vitamin C. But if you’re coughing you can’t eat me because it will make your throat itchy!”

The last part was bittersweet for me to hear because every time he has a semblance of cough, he isn’t allowed to eat mango. He has allergic rhinitis, which progresses quickly to an asthma attack, so he is well aware of why he is banned from eating his favorite fruit the moment he starts coughing because it makes things worse.

I went to the bookstore last minute to make a simple costume. His eyes immediately lit up when he saw the finished product. He was excited the next day and he was the first one called to speak in front. He was able to perform proudly, all by himself, just the way he liked it. When he was done, he slid next to me and whispered: “See, I did it, mom!”

It was an important reminder for me that no matter the age, it is essential to validate our children’s words, feelings, and aspirations. What our children have to say about the world is just as important as what we adults have to say. We can also learn as much from them as they can from us. At times, they even teach the better lesson, especially if we allow our jaded adult selves to enter their world and see things with their eyes by the means of child’s play and activities.

Making a meaningful connection by listening to our children is vital. There are moments where we just need to ask them how we can support them, give our ear, and offer our undivided attention. We don’t always have to prove a point, be right, or teach a lesson. Instead of trying to fix the problem or dictate the next move, simply ask, “Are you okay?” or “How can I help?” These questions empower our kids because they know we are there for them. We are a team.

Parenting is indeed neither easy nor simple. We fight for our kids and sometimes with our kids. How do we know when to push our kids to motivate them, versus, how do we know when it’s time to hold back so they can learn from their own mistakes? Too bad there’s no parenting manual!

On top if it all, the measure of “success” (or if we have done something right as parents) comes later in the future...if we’ve actually reared self-sufficient, responsible, and kind adults. Ah, the pressure! That’s why this parenting journey, though beautiful, can also be scary and terrifying.

Not only do we have our hearts running around outside our bodies in the form of our children, but the weight of what we do can have a tremendous impact on their lives. But ask any parent, and I would bet they’d say all the trouble in the world is worth it for our children. We would do anything for our kids, trying oh so hard, because we care so much and love them so fiercely.


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