I’m sure that all parents of children who have already reached puberty would agree with me when I say that all our parental concerns and fears are encapsulated in just two seemingly innocent words. Raging Hormones. When the adult hormones (Estrogen for girls and Testosterone for boys) kick in, that’s when serious problems normally start to emerge.
Overnight, our sweet, agreeable, predictable and bubbly angels could turn into strangers that are sullen and angry, depressed and rebellious, irrational and emotionally imbalance, aggressive and combative, impulsive and competitive, hostile and volatile, and strong-willed. The dreadful things that we only used to hear from other parents, or read about in family-centered books and magazines, or watch in teen-oriented TV dramas and movies are now menacingly looming before us – threatening to destroy the tranquility in our homes, to wreak havoc to our relationships, and to disturb our otherwise peaceful lives.
Like monsters lurking in the dark, ever ready to pounce on our vulnerable adolescent kids, there are various temptations constantly all around them.
In their intense need to belong, they may give in to their peers’ prodding and pressure to try drugs, smoking, drinking, or gang affiliation. In their hunger for parental attention, they may aim to flunk in school or, in worse cases, they may try to run away from home or even to commit suicide. In their want to test their limitations and recently-discovered freedom, they may attempt to perpetrate petty crimes and to perform ridiculous or even life-threatening antics. In their quest for love and companionship, they may turn to intense teenage romance and premarital sex.
When our eldest son, Emar, turned twelve, my husband and I were assailed with worries.
“What if we fail as parents?”
“What if the challenges of puberty and adolescence prove to be too much for us?”
“How tightly should we hold on to him and how loosely should we let him go?”
“If those crises that could turn even the smartest or most spiritual or most experienced parents into pathetic failures, beset us, how should we react?”
We knew that one small error on our part could either make or break our child. That’s how emotionally fragile adolescents are.
A year after, it was MD’s turn. We thought that, by then, we would be more prepared than the first time.
We thought wrong.
The same fears and doubts attacked us, perhaps even stronger than before, because with two adolescents in our midst, the challenges (and, yes, the raging hormones!) had been doubled. Our initial realization when they were much younger that each of them was unique and, thus, required a unique kind of care and discipline technique, was further reinforced. There’s simply no fool-proof and one-size-fits-all recourse or rule in dealing with them. So, it was like starting all over again.
And then, in a blink of an eye, our youngest, Lala, joined the pack.
Frayed nerves, frazzled tempers and seething emotions notwithstanding, we just rushed headlong. Without so much as breaking our stride, we let our parental instincts take over.
Thank goodness, all our kids have not strayed too far away from that invisible line that separates the acceptable from the unacceptable, the norm from the delinquent, the proper from the improper, and the typical from the atypical. As far as we know, they have not fallen prey to the influence or sweet allure of drug addiction, alcohol, nicotine, and gang connection. Not one ever tried to run away or to commit suicide or to execute a crime. Neither did anyone of them become a perpetual flunker in school.
But our work is not yet done (I don’t think it will ever be!), for a great challenge is now upon us.
All our three kids are already romantically involved!
Emar was a high school junior when he got all tangled up in matters of the heart; MD, a few months before his high school graduation; and Lala, when she was a college sophomore.
With the two boys, my reaction was the same. I went through the whole gamut of emotions — Initially, I was furious, then disappointed. Next came the hurt and the feeling of betrayal, followed by a strong resolve to put a stop to whatever it was they think they were having (I know, I know. “You’ve been their age once; you should know how it is.” was the line I was made to endure then—once too often.) Finally, after a long process of alternately playing shrink and mental patient to myself, I got it. The more I would try to pull them apart, the stronger and more solid their relationship would become. So, I threw in the towel. That was when acceptance (albeit, hesitantly made) came in.
Over the years, though, as I grew to know the girls more — and it had become apparent to me that theirs were not a simple case of a passing fancy —, the acceptance became genuine.
Emar and his girlfriend, Eira, would soon be celebrating their 5th anniversary, while MD and Joyce are now together for 3-1/2 years. Yes, they still have their petty quarrels but they always manage to find their ways back to their respective partners’ welcoming arms.
With Lala and her boyfriend, Yego, it had been entirely different as far as my reaction to their budding relationship was concerned.
I don’t know why, but I was able to skip all the negative emotions that I experienced with my two boys. It was acceptance right away — genuine, instant, unadulterated acceptance.
My husband’s (and Lala’s grandfathers’) reaction, however, was a completely different story. He had been in denial right from the very start — and had since gotten stuck there as of this writing. Perhaps, it has something to do with the alpha thing and their inherent territorial characteristic—I honestly don’t know. (He has to delve deep into his own psyche and articulate his emotions first before he can make me understand.) Generally, though, the parents’ apprehension when their teens start dating is centered around these following reasons:
- They are convinced that their children are still too young to emotionally handle a relationship. Ask them what they think is the ideal age for their kids to get romantically involved, and you’d probably get the vague (and extremely subjective) answer, “…when they are already mature enough.”
- They believe, with the absolute certainty that the sun rises in the east, that a romantic relationship is a distraction to their kids’ focus on their quest to conquer the world.
- They are not yet ready to talk with their kids about such formidable topics as wet dreams, erection, libido and, goodness, safe sex! Probably, they will never ever be.
- They are afraid to contemplate the possibility of their kids being part of the growing statistics of cases of teenage pregnancy. The mere thought could actually induce severe migraine or, worse, heart attack.
- They are afraid that their kids’ partners have traveled straight from hell and are sent here by the devil himself to ruin their family’s peaceful existence. Their nightmare personified!
- They are absolutely certain that when romance messes with their kids’ lives, the latter’s relationship with them may no longer be as open and amiable as before. After all, no daughter in history has been known to confide to her father, “Dad, I’m delayed. You might be a grandfather sooner than you think.”
- They are not ready to see their children getting hurt (and to welcome the possibility of them spending the rest of their lives in jail for murdering the person who caused such pain and heartache to their precious children).
- The mother is not ready to give up her position as the most important woman in her son’s life, in the same way that the father is unable to relinquish his title as the most important man in his daughter’s life.
In our case, there is one more reason why the news of any one of our kids starting to date caused us countless sleepless nights and wrinkles.
You see, my husband, Roel, married his first girlfriend (Whoever does that, right?!!!). And our children, especially the two boys, hugely adore and idolize their father that they are determined to follow in his footsteps. Roel also married young – two months shy of his 21st birthday. Our eldest would turn 21 in November. Now, you do the math. We already did. Waaaah!