Okay, who’s bright idea was this, anyway? Mine. It seemed like a bright idea then but now I am somewhat regretful. It’s been almost a month since Jimmy and I have parted ways in New York. Jason and Jimmy flew back to China while Joshua and I returned to Manila. Although I know we’ll be reunited at the end of July, it seems like eternity and I feel the pain of all mothers without their child by their side. I know I am much, much luckier, muchly much luckier, ducky, that the time of separation is relatively short at two months. Others have years in between of not being together, of not being able to embrace each other with only Skype to ease the longing and pain of distance.
At times like these, I need to reflect on the purpose. Since Jason has family duties to fulfill in China and I had similar duties to perform in the Philippines, we decided to divide and conquer. Before, it had always been my two kids and me going to Manila but now, we thought it would be good for each grandson to spend time with their grandparents in both countries since they have sorely been missed after embarking our major coast to coast drive.
I also wanted to focus on Joshua’s education, since another decision Jason and I made as parents is to finally enroll them in regular school. Alleluia! This has been my sentiment and hope for the past year even if I had been researching these alternative mumbo jumbo. It was my smokescreen. It was a desperate ploy to make sense of what we were doing if it was done within the context of a scholarly research, an experiment with academic bent. However, the search was also a legitimate project that has evolved into something greater than I imagined, leading us to places we would not explore otherwise. It was a blessing. It was my way of turning adversity to advantage.
What was the adversity? I was not fully convinced about homeschooling for our family. I was more on the lookout for progressive schools. Although I admire and envy many of my friends who homeschool (e.g. Bunny, Jen, Laksmi, Nimai), I know I dislike teaching kindergarten or grade school age kids. At that age, I’d prefer to send them to a traditional or progressive school and the option of homeschooling would only be considered in the later years before or around high school. I prefer formal schooling until they are able to read and write well enough in English and Mandarin. Though, I am open to switching back to homeschooling if the kids themselves request it themselves.
Having tried homeschooling for a year, the results fell far short of my expectations and I need to cram review time. I’m arranging tutorials for Joshua to get him prepared for the upcoming school year. So that’s the other purpose of the separation — for me to be able to focus on Joshua’s academics. I just did not realize it would be this tough without Jimmy. We were separated when he was three months old when he had to go to China to get his passport with his Dad but we had recently been in this tight-knit, family bonding, 24-7 togetherness trip. Without him, it feels like jumping off a plane without a parachute. Jimmy is so sweet, so malambing. He is the yin to Joshua’s yang. Near polar opposites in personalities, the two boys are too dear to me for words, gushing moms know.
Another purpose for this imposed separation is the Art Camp Donna and I planned for July — the Hero’s Journey where Chinese students are flying to the Philippines to practice their English in theater, art and music workshops in Casa San Miguel, Zambales. Jimmy is too young to join, Donna and I decided but now I wish we could reverse the decision. Jimmy has matured a lot after the US trip.
I guess I want Jimmy to know that this separation is hard for Mommy. It’s only two months, for heaven’s sake! It reminds me of my friend who’s having separation anxiety because her eleven year old boy is off to a three-week summer camp. Separation indeed feels different when the child is at age 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 . . . . You get the drift. We parents have to eventually learn the art of letting our children go. Imagine the parents who can’t let go of their kids who are already 35, 40, 45, 50! Yes, there are parents like those, probably more in Asia.
Imagine the difficulty parents face when they can’t accept the fact that their 25 or 45 year old child has a life of his own, who can’t trust their child to make decisions for herself because they think it’s a mistake, they’re going to run aground, bash their heads into a wall, crash and burn, fall and scrape their knees like they were four year olds.
I don’t want to be a parent like that. My friends and I talk about it. If we come to a point in our lives when our children are grown and we still want to exercise control over their lives, we should slap and remind each other of that time when we promised not to be that kind of parent.
My husband, Jason remembers fondly and I do appreciate how he recalls the speech that Bo Sanchez gave during the Philippine Homeschool Conference that we attended last year. A famous inspirational speaker, Bo said that parents ought to know when to switch hats. The first hat is the Controlling Hat when the child is small and needs a lot of firm guidance. The next hat is the Coaching Hat when the child has developed more independence and it’s better for the parent to act as a coach or mentor. The last hat is the Consultant’s Hat when the parent is on call if the grown-up child asks for advice.
There are parents who don’t mean to be dictators but exercise a form of veiled dictatorship. Pry underneath the layers of euphemisms and good intentions and it’s undeniable. It persists and the child is not able to break out of his or her cocoon. The wings are clipped. Their every move is scrutinized and fall short of what their parents want for them. What they want does not matter because they have been created for serving the purpose of their parents. Yes, children ought to serve their parents, but they more importantly, serve the purpose that they were meant and put in this universe to serve. Who knows what is the purpose for which each person is called? “Anak, eto na lang gawin mo. Huwag na yan,” the parent says. The parent assumes to know the child better than anyone else. “He shouldn’t go down that career path,” or “He can’t take a job far away because I need him here.
Where do you draw the line between pushy meddling and friendly urging, between unsolicited advice and necessary intervention, between healthy concern and unhealthy attachment? What message do you send to an adult child — I don’t trust you to make that decision for yourself and then that child in turn won’t be able to trust her own child because she did not receive that trust from her parents.
Oooops. I just wanted to say I miss Jimmy very much and I’m rattling on and on. Jimmy is still far from adulthood. It may be my way of consoling myself. This too shall pass. I need a diversion.
We all try to be the best parents we want to be. We fall short as parents. We fall short as children. Our children fall short of our expectations. How can the cycle be broken? Through this, one thing is certain and that is love. Love forgives our shortfalls. Love understands our fears. Love makes us whole again. Love saves us from ourselves.