26 October 2010

5-year tested truths on parenting

Every time our son gets to celebrate his birthday, I always consider it as an annual graduation day for Lakay and me. (If you find this weird, wait till you hear about how for one month I treated every Tuesday since the day I gave birth as a milestone week!) I think that makes a lot of sense. Every parent has to be given a small pat on the back for letting one more year pass fruitfully and wonderfully for their children. At year 5, I think we can already be promoted to a teeny bit above status from beginner parents. This is because we've somehow learned some tested truths. I've noted some of them, hoping my parent readers here might find it helpful.

1. The most expensive toys are not exactly the ones they will enjoy most.
I think parents, at least we, who have this overwhelming need to show their kids every time how much they love them are deceived by the wrong equation we give between price and love. Oh yes, we've bought him some of these toys, and they simply ended up dusting away in shelves. What this boy prefers? Tissue roll cartons (for telescopes), papers (for as long as they can be written on, cut-out, crumpled, posted on walls), empty boxes (to convert them into cars, hats and whatnots!), a couch or a bed that they can jump on. Point is Leapfrog, Fisher-Price or Disney don't know what your kids want just as much as you do! Don't let them pressure you.

2. Time is the best investment.
We've made some decisions that looked unsound to "practical" parents - renting a condo unit that was within walking distance from Ateneo where I worked, but which also ate up most of our monthly income, and getting a scholarship abroad while putting Lakay's career on hold. I know, at the back of their minds they ask, what would we gain from all these? (yes, even a PhD warrants that question). Lakay was the one who had a clear answer for these--we get to be with our son more rather than leaving all the growing up years to his yaya. I feel so blessed that my husband and I are on the same wavelength here. This is the stage in our lives where people our age are so bent into looking over one's shoulder to make sure they're not left behind the race. Meanwhile, Lakay and I are like these two slow turtles, taking time to go to God-knows-where. Which brings me to ask, does anybody really know where this race is heading?

3. There are some things you can ram down their throats.
Like vegetables. And repeatedly teaching them to say please and thank you. And giving them a regular routine - time limits on tv time and pc games, no-tv rule while having dinner, prayer time. While children need enough freedom to grow and explore, they also need enough force to limit them so they don't get lost.

4. Laughter builds ego.
Promise, 5-minutes of continuous tickling and laughing can make your child get a sense of security that everything will be ok, that life is happy (an important thing to learn before the angst-ridden teenage years), and that there are people who will give the world to make them know they are loved.

5. Don't rush them.
Something that Lakay and I often do wrong and end up paying for. When I wrote my papa about how our son is having difficulty sleeping in his own bedroom, he told me that we ourselves were not rushed about this, so we shouldn't force him too soon. (I do remember staying with them until the two younger sisters threw me out). I'm just not talking about sleeping in another room. There were other things - lifting food from his own spoon, potty training, zipping up his pants and jacket- I say I rushed him into these things because I was worried that he was the only kid his age who hasn't learned them yet. Until I realized that rushing him made him feel alone in his situation, that no one was there to share his frustrations with him. Since then, Lakay and I became more introspective about our own projections and anxieties. Growing up is supposed to be his own struggle, not ours. It's not about us, it's about him. We should be there to root for him.

So here are all 5 of them. Give me one more year, and I might be able to add one or two more.

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