Something Like Life
March 23, 2007
DESPITE the sobriquet mader that some young reporters attach to me, I am not a mother in the real sense of the term, having no real children of my own. And thank God for small mercies like that, because I doubt if I would have the patience to actually take care of little people, running around screaming wildly all day, or throwing tantrums in the middle of the supermarket. I’m the type of person who will walk away if put in an irritating and annoying situation.
Sure, I love cute babies just like the next person, and delight in animated talk about toddlers, but once they give me the lip or misbehave in any way, I will put them in their place. I find that I do this a lot of times at Sunday Mass these days. I don’t know why parents insist on bringing their rowdy children to church. So I would either give these little devils the evil eye to shut them up or actually shush them, especially when their own parents aren’t doing anything to control them. Sunday Mass is the only time I can think and pray and commune with some Supreme Power, and I find it offensive when the peace and serenity of the entire ritual is intruded on by loud blabbering, whining and crying.
“Eh, mga bata ‘yan eh!” some of you guilty parents would probably say. True, they are kids, so if you can’t control them, leave them at home! Or stay with them. God isn’t about to smite you down if you don’t go to Mass because you have to stay home with your kids. My own mother didn’t allow any of us to accompany her and my father to church unless we were well-behaved. Now that I think about it, just one hour of sitting still, with a cute little white veil over my head, wasn’t so bad. Of course, I would always look forward to the rewards of being so good in church—usually a small bag of tasteless barquillos and a big red balloon my mother would tie on my wrist so it wouldn’t fly away.
I don’t relish the hell that parents sometimes have to go through just to keep their children in line. It is virtually a 24/7 job that parents try to convince themselves will have its rewards when the time comes. When their children end up as bums, drug addicts or, worse, homicidal maniacs instead, they feel like they’ve been hit by a bus and overanalyze what they did wrong. (Parents, sometimes it isn’t you. It’s just the company your child chooses to keep.)
But when both parents are working, it is virtually next to impossible to have some kind of monitoring system going on what with the kind of nannies we have today. In my day, yayas (as well as the maids) were just fantastic. They were smart despite having finished only high school, spoke English well, were clean and fastidious about a child’s health, manners and behavior much like a parent, and had that all-important factor of malasakit toward the family. They functioned basically like majordomas so parents could entrust their children to the yaya’s care, secure in the thought that they will get back their children safe and sound, and probably even smarter. Unfortunately these days, yayas are just glorified domestics who will spank a child into submission if they aren’t left alone to watch their afternoon telenovelas. (I should know, I live next door to such a household and am this close to calling Bantay Bata.)
Parenting is a special calling, in the same way that a life of the cloth is. Like priests and nuns, parents have to be unselfish, willing to give up their time and their own individuality for the sake of the family. There is no room for thoughts of independence or freedom for parents. If you must have children, you have to make a lot of sacrifices and make room for any sudden changes in routines and schedules. If your child is sick, you have to be absent from work. Informed of an important school project the day before a teacher’s deadline and you have to run around like a headless chicken buying up the required materials. When he has a taekwondo match, you will likely have to shuck that important business conference in Singapore. And by the way, you can’t raise your voice or get mad when you’re kids are being makulit and misbehaving. You have to learn to control your own temper to answer their incessant questions, or explain to them the consequences of misbehaving. Patience, patience and more patience.
There was a time when all parents had to worry about was sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. The times today are different and these are the least of the parents’ concerns. There are just too many temptations out there for kids that parents have to deal with. The drugs are harsher and more addictive, their kids’ peers are nastier because of the lack of adult supervision, there are gory video games, violent TV shows and even more violent movies, sexed-up advertising is everywhere, road rage and drunks at the wheel are not uncommon, and preying pedophiles and dirty old men have become a very real danger.
I know some working women, at the peak of their career, giving up their corporate life to stay with their growing children. They want to make sure their kids don’t turn out like the teenage whores out there shaking their booty in low-cut jeans with their T-backs peeping out of the waistband, or teenage punks willing to risk a jail time for just 15-minutes worth of petty thievery. Rearing children is a tiring and thankless job, and having children is a choice all parents must live with. So you can’t do the job with a half-assed attitude like you didn’t know what you and your spouse were in for when both of you decided to do the nasty every night.
As for me, after having played virtual nanny or baby sitter to my three nieces and nephew (now all adults, thank God!), I don’t relish the thought of changing any more soiled diapers in the near future. I think I’ve burped enough babies, eaten enough Gerber baby food just to get those kids to savor the subtle nuances of its different flavors (ick!), and taught the ABCs and 123s and sung “Little Sunny Water sleeping in a corner…” to last me a lifetime.
I also can’t imagine a life of no regular travels, dine-outs, get-togethers with friends, shopping and spa indulgences. Call me selfish, but all these are a part of who I am and what I enjoy doing. I’m not ready to trade these in for sleepless nights, constant worries about whether my child would come home alive today, or how I’m going to find the next project to pay for my kid’s college tuition. Heck! I can’t even water my plants everyday let alone take care of a child!
Like I said, parenting is a calling, and I’m not hearing anything.
(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror.)