To be or not to be...concerned, worried, bothered, involved on one hand, or indifferent, detached, uninterested, uncaring on the other. That is the dilemma I face now-a-days with regards to my brother's almost 15 year old daughter. My brother who is a single parent lives next door with his two kids, a son and a daughter. The son started college last year and comes home only during breaks while the daughter is still in high school. My brother works in another city four days a week. He goes every Friday afternoon and comes home early Tuesday morning, leaving my niece whom I shall call Aloof Girl with their househelp cum nanny during those days. Her mom usually comes to pick her up on Saturdays unless something comes up and brings her back on Sunday afternoon. Her relationship with us has been good until last year when her brother left. Since her dad and brother weren't around, I would watch out for her and she did not like it. She felt it was enough that her father knew her whereabouts and resented my monitoring of her activities which basically just consisted of being informed where she is going and with whom. She complained to her dad that I was trying to make her into a nun. Imagine that! I told my brother that for a 14 year old, she has been given too much freedom. She always comes home past 6 pm even when her classes end before 5 pm, does not talk much about her friends or activities even when asked, and has been caught a few times telling half-truths. However, my brother believes that he is being a cool, supportive and trusting dad. I may not agree with his permissiveness but I can see how difficult it is for him to raise his children alone. Recently, she has become reticent, distant and generally uncommunicative towards me and my mom. If Aloof girl resents my intervening in her life as I am not her parent, then she should not run to me when she needs something or wants something to be done. I should learn to look the other way when it comes to my brother's children. I am not saying I won't make myself available for them when they need me, but I will no longer take it upon myself to feel responsible for and act like a surrogate mom to Aloof girl, especially since she does not appreciate it anyway. Although it was my hope that my mom and I would be positive influences in her life, I now understand that I am not my brother's children's keeper. I have to rethink my role specifically in Aloof girl's life. I thought because her parents are separated and her mother is not around that she needed a mom. I took it upon myself to take that role. I realize now that she does not need another mother. After all, she already has parents, albeit separated but still very much alive and kicking. When all is said and done, Aloof girl's upbringing is her parents' responsibility, not mine. Perhaps my role is simply...to try to be a friend.
Saturday, April 07, 2012
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Last week, I wrote about Preemie girl and now it's Big brother's turn. My son whom I raised since he was 5 months old is now 21 and hopefully will be graduating from college this year. Unlike my daughter, I had no behavior issues with him when he was growing up. He was such an obedient child that it was easy to bring him along with me to public places because he was very behaved. It was when he started school that problems started. Although he was a sensitive and intelligent boy, he did not like studying. Unfortunately, I did not have the skill nor the inclination to instill in him good study habits because I too did not like to "study". Therefore, I could not teach him what I did not have, which is weird because I was and still am an avid reader and a life-long learner. It is not the learning part that I hated about school but the process of teaching of what must be learned that was being used by traditional schools. I was the type that needed teachers who knew how to challenge and motivate me. However, unlike my son, I forced myself to study when I needed to even if I found the lessons incomprehensible or was bored to death with the subject matter, while he simply did not care whether he passed or not. This attitude led me to do research on learning styles and learning disabilities as he was growing up. Finding information on multiple intelligence was an eye-opener for me but it seems that in 1995, not many teachers or schools were aware of this or if they were, they did not apply this in their teaching methods and remained very traditional in their evaluation and grading system. And so, my son went through his high school years struggling in all his math subjects but breezing through MAPE, Social Studies and the like. Like any concerned mom, I got him weekend tutors in math and Filipino to check his understanding and skills at the same time to give him some advanced lessons. He passed but clearly, he never quite developed a love for study.
BUT, there were other things that he was very very good at. For the longest time, it became a habit for me to sing to him nightly while putting him to sleep. I think I have memorized all the nursery rhymes and cartoon theme songs in the world. I even had a Spanish one. His birth-mother was tone-deaf and for this reason, I'd like to believe that his musical ability is all because of me. He first sang during his pre-school culminating activity where he had the role of the prince in Cinderella, and all through his primary grades up to high school, he was the class favorite to compete in the school's annual singing contest.
When he began his intermediate grades I would teach him some simple chords using the Yamaha guitar left to me by my dad. Before long he was mastering it and was teaching himself to play the harder chords. I bought him his first guitar soon after, which was upgraded to a more expensive one by the end of his high school. Today, he is good enough to get invited to play in college acoustic bands.
But it's not all about music for my son. He dabbles in photography, getting more adept at it as time goes by. He is also an accomplished swimmer, competing in high school intramurals and used to play little league basketball. But his other great passion is Taekwondo. Although expensive, I enrolled him in lessons when he was 9 years old believing that it would develop discipline and character in him. I did not know that it was going to be a long-term love affair for him. He had enough motivation to make it up to Black Belt- First Dan and joined competitions every summer. He was good enough to make it into the college varsity team and won a silver medal (it should have been gold, but that is another story...) in the senior division of the 2009 NOPSSEA. He plans to make 2nd Dan this summer.
He is very good with children and when he was 11, he asked to become a god-father to one of his nephews. He is a loyal friend, a loving, caring and protective son, grandson, brother and cousin. He does not abuse his privileges and never asks for his wants, only for his needs. Except for wishing that he has better grades, there is not much more I can ask for in a son. I continue to pray that he will be a good man, a man that God meant him to be. Although he is far from perfect and continues to be a work in progress, I have no doubt in my mind that my only son is bound for greatness.
Greatness Starts @Home Blogging Contest
Monday, February 27, 2012
I used to think that bringing up kids wasn't all that hard. My parents raised us their 3 children (1 girl and 2 boys), fairly and without biases. We all had the same privileges and got the same kind of punishment when we did wrong. I never felt any more special than my 2 brothers. But when I became a mother to a 3 month old baby boy in 1991, I realized that it was not easy at all and that parenting is the hardest job in the world where there is no retirement ever. And so when I took home a 5 month old baby girl (who was born severely premature) for Christmas in 2008, it was an act of faith and trust that this too is God's will for me and my family. You see, raising my son was a relatively fun task for me, maybe because as the eldest in my family and the oldest grandchild, I grew up looking out for my brothers and playing with my cousins, majority of whom were male. I have always been partial to boys, even as a child. I remember each time my mom became pregnant, I would always wish for a brother. Being used to boys, I understood them better than girls. I was worried not so much about the fact that she might have special needs, but that I wasn't too sure that I knew how to handle girls! If I just based my capability on the limited interaction I had with female cousins and my family's not too great experience with adopted or fostered daughters, I probably would have gotten cold feet. On the other hand, I love children regardless of gender and this angelic, fragile and helpless child stole my heart forever. Indeed, time flies because Preemie girl will be 4 years old in July. She is so different from her older brother when he was her age...in fact, she is the exact opposite. While my son was an obedient and quiet child, my daughter asserts herself all the time and could hit the right decibel to cause temporary deafness when she does not get her way. She is hyperactive and needs to be entertained, quite unlike her older brother who used to play with his toys for hours all by himself. She is inquisitive and a quick study, but is such a handful that I could not help but compare her to Big Brother who is now 21 and the only one who can make her obey at first try. He adores her, of course and enjoys being called "dada" instead of the usual term of manong (respectful title for older brothers). And thank God, except for a really fast metabolism and hyperactivity, she is as normal as any child her age. She is smart and adorable. And she can be so sweet when she wants to. She is all girl...loves using pink lip gloss and polish.
As I write this post, I am inclined to believe that the difference in behavior (aside from genetics, of course) between my 2 kids at that particular age (2-3 years old) is probably because I nurtured each of them a little differently. I had my son when I was a lot younger and with less responsibilities at work, so that I had more energy and time for him. I used to come home for lunch and spend part of the afternoon with him before going back to work. I would put him to sleep and even tutored him. When my daughter came to us, I was at work the whole day, coming home early evening just as she is getting ready for bed. Although she sleeps with me, the time I spent with her is considerably less than the time I used to spend with my son. She spends most of her waking hours with her nanny and since I would bring part of my work home, it was also her nanny who would put her to sleep. Now that I am out of work, I do have more time with her but I have to admit that at my age, an active child is really challenging. We will be putting her in nursery school this summer in preparation for the regular school year this June. I hope by then she learns to sit still, stay quiet and pay attention...otherwise, we are in big trouble.
And Big brother? Well, let me just say that he outgrew the docile behavior by the time he was in grade school...but, that's another story and for another post (big wink).