THE KEY TO FINDING YOUR MR. RIGHT

When you were young, you used to keep a long list of qualities to look for in a man. You wanted someone who was good-looking, tall, filthy rich, generous with his gifts, flatteries and promises, demonstrative with his feelings for you, adventurous and daring, possessive and protective, and always ready to engage in a brawl to defend you and your honor. You would imagine yourself flaunting him before your relatives and friends, with his arm constantly draped across your shoulders in a proprietorial way, making you the object of people’s admiration and envy.

But, then, you grew up — and with age came maturity.

You realized that all those qualities were flitting and superficial, and were based solely on your immature, romantic — twisted even– notion of what love should be.

You came to understand the importance of taking seriously the pursuit of a great life partner. After all, the man you will marry was to be that person you will have to live with under one roof, the one person you will have to sleep with every night and will wake up to every morning, the one person you will have to stay with until you are both old, wrinkly, toothless and senile, the one person that you will have to make the most important decisions with, and the one person who will be the father of your children and your partner in raising them.

So, you came up with a new list of qualities to look for in a man.

It was still long. But you could declare with pride that, this time around, it was based on a much more mature, insightful and realistic view of what love –true love—should be.

Couple holding hands.
image from cbmw.org

 

QUALITIES THAT MY POTENTIAL LIFE PARTNER SHOULD HAVE

  1. Reliable / Dependable. He should be solid and stable in all aspects, and should be willing and ready to step up each time the need arises. He does not crack easily under pressure or heavy burden, is not needy or clingy or lacking in self-esteem, and neither should he be walking around with lots of emotional baggage with him. He should be my pillar of strength.

 

  1. Faithful / Committed. He should prove that he is loyal and dedicated, not only to me and our family, but also to his other relationships, his job, his health, his obligations and his word. He should not show any indication that he will cheat on me with the first woman who will give him the come-hither look.

 

  1. Honest / Decent. He should be a man of integrity who is able to handle himself in a principled and honorable manner. He must be truthful, sincere and candid in all his dealings, most particularly in how he treats me. Yes, truth sometimes hurts, but secrets and lies oftentimes ruin most marriages.

 

  1. Smart. He should have a quick-witted intelligence and critical thinking skills that will not fail to arouse my interest, and to challenge and keep me on my toes mentally. It is of utmost importance that we be on the same mental wavelength. It would not hurt if he is also street-smart and financially savvy.

 

  1. Spiritual. He does not have to memorize Bible verses or to go to church every single day. However, he should be God-fearing and must walk in obedience to God. His unwavering faith will get us through the good, and the not so good, times. He should always start and end each day with a prayer of thanks, fully aware that every blessing we enjoy could only come from the Lord. He should also have a forgiving heart.

 

  1. Hardworking and Motivated. To be a great provider for our family, he should know how to set his priorities straight. He should be patient, diligent and focused. He knows that good things come to those who work hard. He should be willing to sacrifice and go the extra mile for our family.

 

  1. Witty and Funny. He should know how to find a reason to laugh even amid the darkest and most challenging moments. When the demands of the adult world prove to be overwhelming, he should be able to bring out the children in us. His sense of humor, playfulness and happy demeanor will keep us both afloat and eternally young at heart.

 

  1. Affectionate. He should be attentive to my needs, sensitive to my moods, appreciative of my efforts, and accepting of my flaws, quirks and imperfections. He would want to spend time with me, is genuinely interested in what’s going on with my life, and is comfortable in sharing with me his thoughts, his convictions, his dreams. He builds me up, and values and supports my opinions and beliefs. He is willing to make compromises. He views me as his partner, his equal and his teammate.

 

  1. Passionate. He should be enthusiastic about and fired up over his advocacies, intentions and endeavors. Mediocrity should never be in his vocabulary. Even when it comes to our sexual relationship, he should always be sizzling with sexual energy and is not afraid to try new things so as to spark excitement. Boredom in bed can be a deal breaker for some couples. On the other hand, passion ignites the flame that keeps the home fire burning.

 

  1. Compatible with me. Although it is important that we celebrate and support each other’s individuality, a certain level of compatibility between partners is essential towards a happy and enduring relationship. We should complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we should have significant things in common (such as basic values and principles in life), and we should be a good friend to each other as friendship is a solid ground for a future together.

 

Ultimately, the most consequential ingredients of a blissful, healthy and fulfilling marital relationship are LOVE, TRUST and RESPECT.

OF TEENS AND RAGING HORMONES

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.

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Having three teens under one roof could easily be every parent’s worst nightmare!

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.

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Emar with his girlfriend, Eira

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.

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MD with his girlfriend, Joyce

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.

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Lala with her prom date and soon-to-be boyfriend, Yego

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.

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Our three babies with their respective “Babes”

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:

  1. 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.”
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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!
  1. 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.”
  1. 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).
  1. 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!

ADOLESCENCE 103: THE PERKS OF HAVING TEENS AROUND (Part 2)

I initially thought that compelling myself to list at least 15 benefits to having our teens around would cause me severe migraine. But, after browsing through hundreds of pictures, reading lots of old letters and articles, and engaging in numerous positive conversations with my husband about our kids (You see how I had to prep myself to come up with this list?), I was able to do it. And I managed to write down, not just 15, but an incredible total of 30 advantages!

So, this second and final part to Adolescence 103: The Perks of Having Teens Around (Part 1) is a proof that, indeed, if we just put our heart and mind into something, nothing is impossible. 🙂

  1. Teens could be our reliable memory bank. At our age, memory may already be failing us. We tend to forget lots of things, and being the considerate children that they are, our teens are always there ready to give us a hand. They regularly remind me, for instance, about the allowance I forgot to give them, their personal hygiene needs I forgot to include in my shopping list, the dates of an all-nighter over at a groupmate’s place, or of the debut party they are invited to or of an org event they are required to attend. And, yes, the money I owe them. (Please refer to #15.)
  1. Teens could be our personal writing editor or grammar Nazi. In my case, it is my daughter, Lala, who helps me with my blog articles. She, without any trace of hesitancy or a hint of mercy, could reduce me to a bundle of nerves, figuratively tear my work into small, pathetic pieces, and turn my ego into a pulverized slab.
  1. Teens could provide us with a free front seat to their daily fashion show. When getting dressed for school, my daughter has an average of five changes before she finally settles on her OOTD. After shower, she’ll emerge from her room in her outfit #1. A little hair-patting here and there, then she’ll go back to her room. She goes out and sits on the table for breakfast in outfit #2. She goes back to her room and goes out again to brush her teeth in outfit #3. When done, she goes back in then out again to get her packed lunch and snacks in outfit #4. Finally, prompted by her father’s honking, she gets out of her room to leave for school in outfit #5. This daily show could leave me exhausted, annoyed and amused all at the same time.

    My daughter, wearing her final choice of her OOTD
                               My daughter, wearing her fourth (or is it her fifth?) choice of her OOTD
  1. Teens could give us free vocal exercises. I start my weekday mornings with four soft little words – “Wake up. Wake up.” I do this at least two more times before they finally get off their beds. Forty-five minutes in their bathrooms, and I’ll start banging doors. “Hurry up. Breakfast is ready.” Amid animated and seemingly unhurried conversations around the table, I would go, “Hurry up and get dressed!” Another fifteen minutes in their rooms, and I’ll be hollering, “Hurry up, you’ll be late! Take your vitamins and get your lunch and snacks!” Ten more minutes arranging and rearranging their bags, and I’m already shouting, “Go! Go! You’re already late!!!” After they leave, I collapse into the nearest couch, heave my deepest sigh and whisper a quick prayer of thanks. Could there be a better way to strengthen one’s vocal cords and expand one’s vocal range?
  1. Teens could be part of our solid support group. After my husband’s kidney transplant, I decided to sign up as an organ donor under the “I’m A Lifeline” campaign. My kids showed their support to my advocacy by signing up, too. With my most recent project, this blog, I don’t know how many of their friends, classmates, orgmates, and schoolmates my children have already wrestled, coerced, paid or begged just to have them read and share my blog posts.
  1. Teens could make sure that we don’t get blocked tear ducts. Good or bad news, happy or sad occasion, warranted or not – mothers are known to be shedding tears all the time. Raising babies, though, involves more physical exertion so moms are not as prone to crying. Raising teens, on the other hand, is more of an emotional struggle so we tend to cry more often. And, in my case, that’s thrice the amount of tears I have to spill. So my tear ducts are not just free from possible blockage; they are working overtime.
  1. Teens could teach us the values of sharing and saving. Lala and I have almost the same shoe size and we tend to favor the same designs and colors in accessories, in the same way that Roel and the boys have pretty much the same shoe size, shirt size and taste in accessories. It’s not unusual, therefore, to see me wearing Lala’s sandals, Lala adorning her neck and wrist with my accessories, Roel wearing one of the boys’ shirts, and the boys sporting their father’s tops and sneakers. With just a few excellent mixing and matching and layering techniques, nobody would even notice that we’re just swapping things among us. A real money-saver.
  1. Teens could sharpen our debating and reasoning skills. Remember the terrible twos when all our toddlers could say was “No!”? We had no choice then but to simply grin and bear it. Now that we are the ones who always have to say “No!” to their ridiculous requests, demands and queries, grinning and bearing it is not in their vocabularies. Of course not. Nothing could be that simple with our teens. They have to make us defend our decisions and answer their rebuttals before they get to accept that that “no” is well-deserved, after all.
  1. Teens could turn us into instant Tito or Tita to many other teens. Our kids’ social skills could earn them their own army of myrmidons, a huge group of peers and a big circle of trusted friends. And when I happen to bump into those excitable teens, things could turn into a ruckus with everyone excitedly shouting at the top of their lungs, “Hi, Tita!” and scrambling to get close to me for that customary beso.
  1. Teens could be our daily source of news, stories and gossips. When the kids get home from school or when we’re all gathered around the dining table on weekends, our children would try to outshine each other with their animated versions of news they read online, stories about their day, and gossips they heard from someone in school. This is precisely the reason why very seldom do I feel the need to watch the news, listen to the radio or read the broadsheets. I have my free and reliable sources.
  1. Teens could be a testament that we are raising economically-boosting individuals. I don’t know about yours, but my kids are the consummate consumers. From every imaginable consumer product that teens nowadays cannot live without, to every brand available in the market today that they claim they need – my experimental teens have already used, tried and tested it all. All this buying exercise at our expense is putting an enormous hole in our pocket, but who’s complaining? (Ah, yes, I am.) A few short years from now, it’s going to be payback time!
  1. Teens could teach us to be prayerful. Time and again, I have emphasized that raising teens could be the most difficult challenge that parents have to face. It could be emotionally taxing and draining. It could reduce us to one big emotional mess, with nerves frayed and tempers constantly tattered. Oftentimes, we are left with no other recourse but to get down on our knees, pray like we have never prayed before and surrender everything to Him.

    Parents become prayerful because of their teens.
               Parents need to be more prayerful because of their teens. Or they could bid their sanity goodbye.
  1. Teens could be a reminder that we benefit (a little bit!) from all those taxes we pay. All my kids attended a government-owned high school – Lala in Philippine Science High School; and her brothers in Marcelo H. del Pilar National High School via its Engineering and Science Education Program, a special program for the most academically-endowed high school students in our province. So for each year of the entire secondary education of my three children, we only had to dish out ₱50 for each of them. Lala was even accommodated in Pisay’s dormitory for a minimal charge and was receiving a monthly stipend. For their college, two of my three children are currently studying in UP, a state university and considered the premier university in the land, for a much lower cost compared with that of its private counterparts. The two are also recipients of DOST academic scholarship grants.
  1. Teens could foster a closer and more romantic relationship between Mom and Dad. We, parents, can now have that vacation in Bali, or the Caribbean, or in Maldives or in France (in our case, it’s just good, old Boracay) that we’ve been dreaming of all these years, without having to worry about leaving our children behind. If our kids are old enough to decide for themselves, they are already old enough to fend for themselves, too. The state of the house we’d be going back to is a completely different matter, though.
  1. Teens could be our night-shift security guard. While the rest of us have already retired for the night and are taking the trip to Dreamland, our nocturnal kids are busy studying, updating their playlist, chatting with friends, watching movies online, playing games, or all of the above. They tend to be at their most active and productive during this particular time of the day. 

Finally, it’s not all the time that our teens are in a bad, bratty, dramatic, uncommunicative mood. There are those few times that they are “normal”, and during those times, they could be very affectionate and warm and sweet. These moments could be extremely few and far between though (so we better savor them and bottle them up if we could). But when they come, all the past disagreements, worries, hurts, mistakes and doubts are instantly forgotten. And we are reminded how rewarding and fulfilling parenthood could be.

ADOLESCENCE 103: THE PERKS OF HAVING TEENS AROUND (Part 1)

I know, I know.

With my first two articles, Adolescence 101: Don’ts For Parents Of Teens and Adolescence 102: Things Teens Wish Their Parents Would Realize, Asap!, I quite managed to effectively establish the fact that raising teens could be every parent’s worst nightmare. That it could be the most difficult, the most dreadful, the most traumatic and the most potentially-damaging phase in our lives as parents. That it could leave us with permanent marks such as emotional scars, wrinkles, selective amnesia or, in worse cases, even psychological or mental trauma. That it could drain us of all our available resources – time, energy, money and positive disposition.

Convincing you, therefore, that having teenaged kids around could have its perks might be a tall task. But hey, what the heck! I am trying, anyway!

  1. Teens could be our most reliable gastronomy and culinary guide. Chef Gordon Ramsay has nothing on them when it comes to brutal frankness and candid honesty. When a certain dish does not meet their high standards, for instance, be prepared to hear a litany of complaints and commentaries. But, if they find something that particularly appeals to their discriminating palates, they could talk your ears off with endless oohs and aahs, high praises and compliments loaded with superlative adjectives.
  1. Teens could be our resident techies. While we are too absorbed in life’s various preoccupations, our teens are constantly honing their technological skills. And in today’s age of great and extensive technological advancements, we simply couldn’t cope without our teens’ seemingly indispensable assistance. I, for one, often find myself in need of rescue from a computer key that sometimes decides to defy my wishes and would, instead, take on a life of its own. And those files that magically disappear before my very eyes? No, I definitely cannot live without my techies.
  1. Teens could be our most important key to pop culture. Most of the folks I interact with belong to the same age and academic group as mine, and as such, have also limited knowledge of the things that are “in” today. Aside from the recurrent MRT/LRT breakdowns, the chronic and sometimes epic Metro traffic that could immobilize the entire city, and the usual source of mockery that is politics, I am virtually in the dark about the things that the ordinary Juans and Juanas are raving about. So, thanks to my kids, I know what DOTA, emo and jeje are, or what “idk”, “slr”, “ftw”, “yolo” and “bfn” mean, or how “hugot pa more” and “…pag may time” are correctly used. I became hooked with the YA books through my daughter, Lala. We learned to fall in long queues just to see Heneral Luna, That Thing Called Tadhana, the Twilight series, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, X-Men, Avengers and all the Marvel and DC movies that, according to our kids, are a definite must-see. I know a lot more about basketball, boxing and wrestling than I care to know. They are not fans but they have a pretty good idea why the Aldub mania is taking the country by storm. They are the ones who introduced me to glutathione, K-pop groups, Lee Min Ho, 9Gag, 1-Direction and, of course, the Jadine loveteam. I wouldn’t be on Facebook either if not for their prodding (Though, I’m sure, they regret that now!).
  1. Teens could be our personal fashion consultants. The world is really round. Whereas, just a few years ago, we were the ones deciding on everything for them, especially on their OOTDs, we now depend on their opinions where fashion is concerned. When going to the fitting room of the department store or of a boutique, I make sure that I’m always accompanied by my daughter, while Roel by any one of our boys. Long gone are the days when Roel and I would holler for each other from inside the fitting cubicle to ask, “How’s this?” or “Well, whatcha think?”. It’s now the kids that we turn to for objective – albeit sometimes insensitively delivered – opinions and advice.
  1. Teens could be great floor cleaners. Every single inch of the floor area of our house is fully utilized. Dirty clothes (their laundry hamper is like an invisible fixture to our kids), shoes (shoe cabinets are always almost empty), used towels (towel rods and hooks in the bathrooms are rendered useless), guitars (I’m not sure if my son even knows that his guitars have cases) and school things (apparently, their bags and study tables are reserved for other stuff) are strewn all around. There’s no more space, therefore, for dust, dirt and cobwebs to settle in.
  1. Teens could be an extra hand around the house. We don’t have a housekeeper and when I started blogging, my to-do list has suddenly turned into a mile-long scroll. Hence, a substantial part of our weekends are reserved for household chores. Each member of our family has assigned tasks that he should be able to complete before he is allowed to even get a whiff of whatever it is I am preparing in the kitchen.
Eye rolling, one of our teens' many annoying skills
                           Eye rolling, one of our teens’ many entertaining skills
  1. Teens could be a great and entertaining diversion when things get boring. Consider their many skills – eye-rolling, arm-crossing in defiance, eyebrow-raising, jaw-setting to a grimace, long-suffering sighs, stomping of feet, slamming of doors, talking monosyllabically, playing deaf – the list could go on and on and on. There are behaviors that need immediate rectification, and there are those that are harmless and are only meant to get our attention. As long as the behavior doesn’t involve in-your-face disrespect or compromise anyone’s safety, it is advisable to just ignore it. Or, better yet, enjoy it!
  1. Teens could be our almanac, dictionary, atlas, encyclopedia, yearbook, reference book and, yes, even bible rolled into one. They are a bunch of know-it-alls that could render Mr. Google unnecessary. My son, Emar, who loves reading about (and sharing) trivia has this funny habit of beginning his sentences with “Alam mo ba?….” (“Do you know?….”) And he usually pops this question out of the blue.
  1. Teens could be the show-stopping referees between bickering parents. But, beware. Unlike the sports referees, our kids are not known to promote fairness. They could give verdicts and take sides based on whose win they could benefit more from.
  1. Teens could take us places we’ve never been. There are lots of places they need to go to, either for academically-related activities or social functions. And since we are constantly at their disposal as their chauffeur (or risk worrying our pretty little heads if we let them take public transpo or hitch a ride with someone else), we are in for a lot of sight-seeing. All this chauffeuring could also prepare us for a possible moonlighting job or post-retirement occupation as a cab driver.
  1. Teens could be effective kitchen cleaners. They could eliminate food off our dining table, fridge and pantry in a jiffy. As if the sight of leftover food is a personal insult to their eating prowess, they always make sure that the kitchen is free of any evidence of food.
  1. Teens could be our fountain of opinions and advice. A deep and inexhaustible fountain. What gives them the confidence to dish them out generously, you ask? Please refer to #8.
  1. Teens could bring us good value for money. All my teens are enrolled in Globe Telecom’s unli-call-and-text postpaid plans, and with them using their mobile phones until the wee hours of the morning, these plans are fully maximized. Not a single centavo is wasted.
Teens could be our devoted exercise partners.
                                       Teens could be our devoted exercise partners
  1. Teens could be our constant travel buddy, voracious eating companion, intellectual sounding board, devoted exercise partner, opinionated shopping pal, dashing event escort, and trusted confidant. We should try to maintain a close relationship with our kids. They are, after all, the ones who would choose and pay for our nursing homes, funeral homes and memorial parks when the time comes. They will also be the ones to write our epitaphs and deliver eulogies in our honor.
  1. Teens could be our personal creditor. Need instant cash? Look no further. Our teens have a stash that they accumulated through all the birthdays and Christmases past, year after year. It continues to grow with all the allowances they are able to save because they wisely bring to school packed lunch, water and snacks. From our very own kitchen.

Believe it or not, after racking my brain to the point of being almost brain dead, I was able to list a total of 30 benefits to having these pesky creatures around. And since this article has become quite lengthy (Coming from me, believe me, it must REALLY be long!), I decided to publish this in two installments. The first one, I am publishing today. The final part would be available to you next week.

Finally, if you have something more to add to this list, feel free to leave me a message. If it has not yet found its way to the next installment, I will gladly include it there.

Happy reading! Happy sharing!

ADOLESCENCE 102: THINGS TEENS WISH THEIR PARENTS WOULD REALIZE, ASAP!

It is unfortunate that, unlike most consumer goods, children don’t come with instruction manuals. Parents are expected to perform their parental duties based on common sense and intuition. And since our kids go through multiple stages, all of which with varying and distinct degrees of complexity and uniqueness, we are bound to flounder, stagger or trip. Over and over again. Constant doubt, guilt and fear that all parents (yup, no one is immune!) are inexplicably prone to don’t make things any easier, either. Yes, we receive a handful of well-meaning advice from people who have already traversed this bumpy road before. There are also a lot of DIY and Idiot’s-Guide-to-Parenting books available in the market. And, of course, one can always turn to the ever-reliable Mr. Google to find crash courses on Parenting 101. But, could there be a more accurate source than straight from the horses’ mouths – or in this case, our children themselves? And since adolescence is definitely the most challenging of all the stages that we struggle through with them – infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood – (and also, adolescents are, by far, the most vocal lot!), this article will focus solely on what our teenaged kids have to say.

While my earlier blog post, Adolescence 101: Don’ts for Parents of Teens, was about a set of “rules” I came up with based on my personal experiences as a mother of three teens, this one, in contrast, is based on the kids’ perspective. Through an on-line survey conducted by my son’s girlfriend among some University of the Philippines students, the respondents were to list the things that they think their parents should realize in order for them to develop some semblance of harmony in their relationship. Reading through their extremely candid answers, I was blown away by an avalanche of emotions. I’m sure, one or two of the following answers will also tug at your heartstrings.

Advisory: Grab that box of tissues. You’ll need it!

Teens always keep their thoughts hidden and well guarded from their parents.
Teens always keep their thoughts hidden and well guarded from their parents.
  1. We (you parents and us children) come from different generations, and therefore, from different contexts. Teenagers of the modern days are extremely different from those during your time. Forming an opinion about us based on some Jurassic standard is like comparing apples with oranges.
  1. You are not perfect. Parents make wrong decisions, too, but we don’t hold that against you. We won’t treat you any less if you own up to your mistakes and say sorry.
  1. We have a lot of questions, fears and doubts. It is better that we get the answers and reassurance from you than anywhere else.
  1. We already have too much on our plates. You’ve been through this years ago so you know how complicated a teenager’s life is. You don’t need to aggravate that by putting unnecessary pressure on us.
  1. We crave for freedom – to weigh our options, to make our own decisions, to be independent, to commit mistakes, to learn our lessons, to find our way and to discover the world. You need to trust us. Don’t be too controlling and don’t shelter us too much. The more you restrict us, the more likely we will rebel. We also need space where we could truly be ourselves, alone.
  1. We value our privacy, and you should respect that. But balance it with just the right amount of perception in case we need you to intervene when we are going through a rough patch and we are too proud to ask for your help.
  1. We need to feel safe and secure. We need to know that whenever we fall, there are arms ready to silently pick us up; that you are always there for us no matter what. We can’t face this alone. It may not seem like it but it’s during these teenage years when we need you the most.
  1. We need to see harmony at home. Though we may not show it, we are thrilled when you guys are acting all romantic and sweet to each other.
  1. We need you as our role models. We may not be listening to your advice as much as we should, but we see your every action. Someday, we want to be exactly like you.
  1. There are times when we will deliberately shut you out of our lives, preferring to deal with our problems on our own or with the counsel of close friends. Nevertheless, I think you should never quit trying to be involved in our lives, if only to let us know that you care.
The Anatomy of a Teenager's Brain. Photo owned by Sharpestpencil.com.
The Anatomy of a Teen’s Brain. Photo owned by Sharpestpencil.com.
  1. We need your time. We need you to listen to us or we will find other ways to get your attention. And trust us, you won’t like all of them.
  1. If we start acting up, which can happen a lot, handle things with enough love and understanding. Rage will get you nowhere.
  1. It is important for us to feel comfortable enough to tell you anything and everything. We tend to keep things to ourselves or to our small group of friends – things that could potentially harm us. Openness between us should be firmly established. Also, know that communication skills will either be your strongest tool or your downfall as parents, depending on how well you use them with us.
  1. Excessive and regular punishments will further strain our relationship. Yes, we need authority: you should establish your role as the one in charge of the house because once we realize that we can talk back without any consequences, we will live out our entire teenage life thinking that it’s okay to do anything. But, rebellion is also inherent in us so you should be able to balance authority and freedom. Also know that consequences are different from punishment. Just because you punish us for doing something wrong doesn’t mean we will realize the consequences of our actions.
  1. We need you to understand us, not judge us. Make us feel like we can approach you for anything, without the fear of being scolded or judged. You should also understand that we are bound to stumble. Everything about us is changing and we’re reeling from all those many changes. Don’t belittle the emotions and experiences we have. Just because we’re younger and are at “that phase” doesn’t justify you invalidating what is inherently human about us. Yes, teenage romance sounds stupid and trivial. But you were once there. A little additional understanding will go a long way.
  1. We are full of vigor, enthusiasm, and curiosity to discover the world. Also, we are still on the journey of finding who we are. Be our guidance but never cut off our wings.
  1. There are biological reasons as to why we are moody, rebellious and always sleepy. It’s not necessarily a manifestation of our character. At our age, it’s normal to have crushes and it doesn’t mean that we’ll drop off everything because of that guy/girl. We also like to try new things. Most importantly, we are not all perfectly intelligent and talented, so don’t expect too much from us. “You know the best way to make it through with hearts and wrists intact is to realize two out of three ain’t bad.” – Fall Out Boy
  1. We would appreciate it if you would be as honest to us as you would want us to be honest to you.
  1. While we’re no longer quite the kissable babies we used to be, we still occasionally need a little babying from you.
  1. We love you even if it’s not evident. You should know by now that we are not the demonstrative type.

For us, parents, this stage should not be about letting go. It should be about hanging on. We might be getting hurt by our kids’ words and actions, but we have to understand that it is a vital part of our role as parents. Just the other day, for instance, when I asked my son why he prefers going to his girlfriend’s place to study on weekends rather than doing it here at home, he replied that he could not concentrate here enough because he is always annoyed. His words cut deeply through my heart. After I let go of my initial anger, I cried. I was in pain because I knew that I was doing everything in my power to make our home conducive and comfortable for them. And then, I came across this quote in the internet. It is by a certain Eddie Vedder.

“No matter how good a parent you are, at some point, your kids are gonna have to create their own independence and think that Mom and Dad aren’t cool, just to establish themselves. That’s what adolescence is about. They’re gonna go through that no matter what.”

Those reassuring lines helped me to deal with my own emotions. I was still hurting but the hurt was somewhat subdued by the realization that my son did not really intend to cause me pain; that he probably regretted his words but was too proud to apologize and too embarrassed to approach me. In the future, if I have to face the same situation again, I am certain that I can react more appropriately. I will also make sure that all the pains that we will be inflicting inadvertently on each other throughout this challenging phase will not leave any permanent mark. After all, I am now armed with a powerful tool – our kids’ innermost thoughts and fervent wishes on what they think we, their parents, should realize.

Finally, we have to realize that “adolescence is that hazy limbo between childhood and adulthood”. It could be an extremely confusing stage for our teens. While a part of them wants to cling to the security and safety of their childhood, another part needs to get free and face the uncertainties and challenges of adulthood. Furthermore, they often get frustrated because they feel that they are no longer allowed to be children WHILE not yet accepted as adults. So, whatever they may turn into – a monster, a grouch, a know-it-all, a drama queen, a recluse, a sleepyhead, a diva, a lazybones, a rebel, a daredevil, an eye candy, a geek, a wallflower or a giggly schoolgirl -, we have to remember that it’s all a facade; a mask that they use to hide their insecurities. Because, deep inside that disguise is a lost child – our lost children – craving for our love and understanding.

Thanks. ‘Till my next blog entry!

ADOLESCENCE 101: DON’TS FOR PARENTS OF TEENS

Adolescence is that tumultuous stage all parents dread. It’s when our sweet, innocent, spontaneous, playful, demonstrative and wide-eyed-with-wonder children get kidnapped by aliens from outer space and, in their stead, are the angsty, sullen, emotional, whiny, unpredictable, awkward, moody, impulsive and rebellious monsters that are thrust to live with us. They are the house guests who have abused the generosity of their hosts and overstayed their welcome. They are the burglars who invaded the serenity of our lives, raided our fridge and pantries and turned our immaculate sanctuary into one big, noisy, messy pit. They are the leeches that latch onto us as their prey and drain us of all our energy. During their lengthy stay, our homes become war zones that we need to carefully tread for fear of accidentally stepping on an inconspicuous device that could trigger an explosion. During this stage, we become hostages by a situation there is no easy way out of.

Adolescence can also turn a harmonious parent-children relationship into one that is replete with conflicts and drama. To minimize the damage, there are certain “rules” that we parents have to abide by.

The following is my personal list. I may not be a professional in dealing with this kind of things, but having to live simultaneously with three teenagers (Yup, you read it right. Three teens all at the same time!) makes me a deep well of credible knowledge and of sound and valuable pieces of advice in the matter. Heck, in my book, that actually makes me a freakin’ expert!

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   My kids with their teenaged masks on – furious, dubious and amused

  1. Don’t nag, preach or lecture them. Our teens hate litanies, so as much as possible, make that heart-to-heart, one-on-one talk concise. Choice of words and timing are also important. In my case, I have found out that the best time to have serious talks with my teens is after a hearty meal, at the privacy of their respective rooms. And, instead of plunging at it right away, I try to soften them a little and put them at ease with some small talks.
  1. Don’t make a habit of criticizing them. Teens are particularly sensitive on the subject of their physical appearance, so you might want to go easy on them when you want to call their attention to their OOTD. Sugar-coating it a little would definitely help. To the father of my children, bear this in mind!
  1. Don’t mess with their hair. Hair is extremely sacred for the teens.
  1. Don’t compare them – not even with their siblings and definitely not with the other parents’ kids.
  1. Don’t tell stories about them on social media. And, for Pete’s sake, do not tag them! I know. This is very difficult to not do for us parents, especially when our kids have said or done something funny, smart or brag-worthy. But, lest they be teased mercilessly by their peers, let us try to exercise that self-control in posting their most recent activity, conversation, comment, letter, certificate, or what have you. I, for one, do not have that strength to control my itchy fingers in posting about my kids so I just opt to suffer the consequences.
  1. Don’t contact their friends. Teens feel betrayed when they think that we have done something behind their backs; that we don’t trust them enough. They also get embarrassed. But, of course, when we can’t get hold of our children in cases of emergency, we are within our rights to talk to or call anyone who could provide some help. Friend or no friend – it shouldn’t matter at all.
  1. Don’t be the proverbial broken record. Just as much as our teens hate repeating themselves, they don’t like having to listen to the same things over and over again. Who does, anyway?
  1. Don’t act too eager and too excited when they decide to open up, otherwise they would clam up. Teens are naturally suspicious and wary of parental motives so they tend to be skittish, edgy and fickle around us. That is why when they talk of their own accord, act natural. Find that accurate combination of enthusiasm and disinterest to encourage them to continue talking. Relish the moment by jumping up and down with glee when the kids are no longer around.
  1. Don’t share with anyone else whatever they shared with you. It doesn’t matter if it is a rubbish story, a casual declaration, a trivial opinion, a serious confession, a profound revelation or a highly-classified secret; you have to guard it with your life.
  1. Don’t judge their choice of friends and romantic partners. If you really have to, you need to be very subtle and tactful and crafty in getting your message across.
  1. Don’t make any promises to them that you are not absolutely certain you could keep. Teens have long memories. They hold grudges in the absence of a pay-off. And, they could charge an exorbitant interest for broken promises or promises not kept on time.

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  1. Don’t invade their personal space. They might still be living under your roof, but their bedroom is definitely off-limits.
  1. Don’t impinge on their privacy. Teens tend to be very protective of their privacy. Every one of their gadgets is password-protected as if all the best-kept secrets of the universe are stashed in there!
  1. Don’t expect extreme positive reactions from them. Emotions like glee, interest, gratitude, surprise, admiration, enthusiasm, pride, amusement and awe – they were all gone along with our innocent children abducted by the aliens from outer space. Occasionally, we may be allowed to get an unexpected glimpse of our easygoing preteens and be rewarded with an impish smile, flippant hug or offhand compliment. Those are the rare occasions that we need to bottle up because they come few and far between.
  1. Don’t show them any sign of affection in public. Giving them a hug or a peck on the cheek, or even holding hands with them is a big no-no when you’re out of the house. When their friends see them “getting chummy with Mum”, we are inadvertently “ruining their social lives”.
  1. Don’t be a helicopter parent. This one is a legit concern. True, our teens would not appreciate us hovering over them and closely monitoring their every activity, but helicopter parenting also has adverse effects on our children – extreme dependence, narcissism, low self-worth and poor coping skills.
  1. Don’t make fun of or undermine their feelings. Adolescence is a period of crisis and inner emotional turmoil for our kids. Perhaps, we could have a better understanding of this stage by looking at it through the eyes of another teen, the brilliantly candid Anne Frank. “They musn’t know my despair. I can’t let them see the wounds which they have caused. I couldn’t bear their sympathy and their kind-hearted jokes. It would only make me want to scream all the more. If I talk, everyone thinks I’m showing off; when I’m silent they think I’m ridiculous; rude if I answer, sly if I get a good idea, lazy if I’m tired, selfish if I eat a mouthful more than I should, stupid, cowardly, crafty, etc., etc.”
  1. Don’t make them feel judged. Teens are confused creatures. They have a perennial struggle to cling on to their childhood AND to be accepted as adults. They feel that the world is conspiring against them. The least we could do for them as their parents is to guide them through this bumpy ride armed with love, patience and compassion.
  1. Don’t give out too many rules (or errands!) all at the same time. Teens already have enough on their plates – physical changes, peer pressure, quest for self-identity, behavioral changes, romantic issues, school load, family matters, etc. If we have to impose rules, we should do it one at a time and they must always be within the bounds of reason.
  1. Don’t be insensitive to their non-verbal communication. Teens could be silent, succinct, inaudible, mono-syllabic or downright uncommunicative. It is our role to decipher their means of communication other than the verbal and written ones. These include actions, body language, gestures, facial expressions and posture.

Finally, we have to understand that adolescence is a troubled stage where only few manage to get out unscathed. As parents, it is our duty and responsibility to help our teens survive its slings and arrows, bumps and bruises, and wounds and scars while trying to keep our relationship with them as amicable as possible.

There you have it, co-parents! Know that I learned (and am still continue learning) all these the hard, painful way. So hopefully, through this list, you would be spared the feelings of desperation, frustration and anxiety, and all those worries, fears and doubts that occasionally assail me, sometimes even to the brink of insanity. If I have, by any chance, saved you from a potential heart attack, severe stress, migraine or any mental disorder through this article, you can show your appreciation by sharing this on your preferred social networking site. And if you wish to add your own “don’ts” to this list, feel free to leave a comment below.

Thanks. ‘Till my next blog post!