May 12, 2012

What are your kids up to this summer?

(So many workshops for your kids to enjoy this summer! Photo from

SUMMER is one of those seasons most parents dread.

Their kids are out of school for at least two months while they are at their offices toiling away. Who knows what sort of mischief the kids would run into?

And what if there are no househelp, grandparents, or other grown-ups to help supervise the kids? When I used to work for a government office, I’d espy some parents bringing their kids to work. (“Walang bantay.” “Walang pasok.” Etc. etc. etc.)

When my siblings and I were much, much younger, there seemed to be no surfeit of grown-ups around to supervise us. There was either a yaya or a smart househelp, and my ever-present Lola Ding and her sister Lola Lily. So even when my parents weren’t around, I was pretty much kept in line.

I would usually play with the neighborhood kids or by myself, reading or sometimes vegging out in front of the TV watching Sesame Street or Dolphy/Nora Aunor movies (my yaya’s influence).

But there were also the piano and ballet classes—which were de rigueur among middle-class families back then. I don’t remember what my brothers did during the summer—probably making mayhem with their friends, as there were no martial arts classes that are so popular among kids today.

When I grew into my pre-teens, there was tennis—I already had dropped ballet class by then, as it was just way too early for me at 8 am, whereas my tennis classes started at 4 pm. (I had always been an afternoon person even as a child.) I loved playing tennis so much I actually had dreams of becoming the first Filipina to win at Wimbledon.

One summer tennis clinic, I remember even watching the three Castillejo sisters—Jackie, Dyan and Nina, all budding tennis stars then—show off their form. I marveled at how the littlest one, Nina, could pack a wallop with her racket—the yellow ball sailing smoothly across the net into the other court and she was hitting it from her end of the baseline, mind you! She must have been only six or seven years old then, half the age of most of participants in the class. It was one of those jaw-dropping moments making me believe if she could be that good, I, the older player, could do better. (Unfortunately, college soon intervened and all my dreams to win at Wimbledon faded away.)

The point in these ruminations is that while kids do deserve a break from their studies this summer, it doesn’t mean that parents should just let them run wild and go unsupervised.

Kids still need structure and discipline even during vacations. Sure, they can wake up later than usual, but they should never miss any meals. Even if they’re allowed to watch TV more often than usual, the kids still need to be monitored on their viewing habits. There’s just too much trash airing on TV these days—yes, I’m referring to Jersey Shore—that some kids still manage to watch, especially when their parents aren’t home. Seriously, who would want their daughters idolizing Snooki and growing up like her? Ewww.

(Art classes allow your kids to express themselves in colors and paints. Photo from

Try to keep your kids occupied. Enroll them in short classes that will expand their knowledge or hone any talent that may have already been surfacing. Unlike my time where the parents’ de facto choice was either just ballet or piano, kids these days have so many classes and workshops to choose from – swimming, creative writing, painting, dramatic arts, taekwando, soccer, etc. (I leave out computer classes here because most of these kids are already tech experts anyway.)

Classes like these not only instill some organization in the way kids think or behave, it enables more face-to-face interaction with their peers and authority figures. They learn to deal with other people, how to solve problems, and they expand their social circle. More importantly, the learning happens in a fun, safe environment.

Of course these classes won’t babysit your kids for the eight hours that you’re in the office, but at least they’re not sitting at home just bored waiting for you parents, and getting into trouble. (You know what they say: “The idle mind is the devil’s playground.”)

Many of these classes don’t even have to cost a centavo. I’ve noticed several local governments that have announced summer classes for the kids in their districts. So parents should check with their city hall for these.

For the older, teenage kids, I think it’s also a great idea to make them get summer jobs. It’s never too early to instill the right work ethic in your kids, and since you may not have the time to teach them yourselves, making them work during the summer would accomplish that. (Or if you own your own business, then make them work for you.)

I’ve always admired Americans for encouraging their kids to get summer jobs, and learn to make money as early as possible. These kids are not afraid of manual work, e.g. they do paper routes, help out in stores, become waitstaff or kitchen staff at restaurants, etc. They learn the value of working hard early enough.

Also, these summer jobs are a good addition to one’s resumé for anyone who’s graduated from college and looking for a job. Companies on a hiring mode would normally prefer job applicants with previous work experience.

These summer classes and summer jobs will help your kids discover who they are and in many cases, the lives that they may want to pursue in the future. One foreign friend, for instance, used to work for a restaurant kitchen every summer when he was young, he later became a chef, and is now a popular hotelier here.

This summer, don’t let your kids’ free time all go to waste. Enroll them in summer classes, or tell them to get a job. These will help them become more responsible adults in the future.

(Originally published in The BusinessMirror, Apr. 27, 2012. My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of BM.)

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