Rules for life:
There are no secrets, only surprises.
I read an article online about how this line ensures the safety of children – physical, emotional, social, psychological. Sometimes, they are unaware that they are being taken advantage of, so it helps when children tell parents most of what is happening in their lives. We can then step in and guide them. Because of our rule, I found out about Achi’s classmate who lies all the time.
Achi told me because she does not keep secrets. I cannot confront the child nor her parents, but I can help Achi mitigate the effects. All the friends have decided to only half-believe the liar. They do not want to revoke their friendships because that would leave the liar with no friends and she may be bullied and/or become more emotionally-scarred.
If nothing else, be kind.
The kids now know that Tatay and I, and they are allowed to rant within the confines of the family. We heave our peeves and off-color jokes only in the safety and isolation of our car and home. For general public consumption, we always demand that we are kind to everyone we meet. When other people are not kind to us, we walk away. We do not need to spend time nor energy dealing with unkind people.
You can do it.
We don’t need to say this anymore. The children have been brainwashed into believing they are capable individuals! They no longer ask me to call a waiter; they immediately line up for their own orders at coffee shops and fast food chains.
We have always trusted in their capabilities and capacities. We know they can do things on their own and have always pushed them forward. The only times we are still over protective is in crowded areas, where strangers can just carry them off.
How can I help you?
This is a new tactic I’m trying out on Shobe. She easily gets frustrated because she has a one-track mind. She usually decides on an action plan before she begins a task.
However, when her plan does not work, it takes forever to lead her into thinking up a new plan. “How can I help you?” gives me and Tatay a leg up.
It requires her to think of what her current dilemmas are, and outline in her head items she can do independently, and items she needs help with. I’m giving this strategy a few more months to see if it takes off, and lessens Shobe’s frustrations.
So far, she has been thinking really hard on which aspects of her tasks and life she needs help with.
Nanay and Tatay first.
We have always maintained that in our lives, it is us first. Our lives do not revolve around our children. We agreed to mold them to have their own lives, and that means knowing when to exit. The girls often try to ask us which of them we love better. Our answer is always Nanay or Tatay.
Always say yes to:
• Books. I mostly do not monitor their choices, but once in a while, I will read what they get and veto further books by a particular author or series.
• Food. We love to eat! Thankfully, the husband and I planned this way ahead of time. As soon as they hit two years old, we made them eat sashimi.
“Nanay, what’s this?”
I replied tongue in cheek, “It’s fish gulaman, you dip in toyo.”
And because it was jelly, they ate with gusto. Both are now quite adventurous with food and it’s a joy going to new restaurants, and those Sunday markets.
• Ice cream. This is added by my two hellions. I kind of agree because… ice cream! (and yes, sometimes, even when we’re sick and know ice cream will make it worse, we still eat an ice pop or iced fruit for our emotional well-being.)
Always say no to:
• Disposables. We are transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle and that means generating less waste. It is not about segregating or throwing out trash properly (which incidentally just lands in our overflowing landfills). The lifestyle is about not bringing home waste and generating less waste. I have stopped buying vegetables from the supermarket and head to the wet market instead. This way, vegetables are naked. I also only patronize supermarkets and meatshops that would put meat directly into my take out container. We are proud to announce that our one-month worth of trash for the garbage collector fills up only 2/3 of a shopping bag.
• Bad food and drink. When the girls were toddlers, any drink that was not water was bad drink. Anything junky was bad food. They understood bad and it was easier than explaining the word junk.
• Toys except on birthdays. Each child gets to choose their own toy for their birthday.
When they were younger and the playing field needed to be even, the birthday girl could get a big toy, and the sister gets a small toy. They didn’t know how to read prices and sometimes, the small toy costs more. As they now know how to compute for prices, I give them a budget to work with.
Shobe recently bought a series of small toys to eat up her budget, instead of just one big item. I wish we could always follow our rules on yeses and nos, but that would mean quite a rigid life. My family is very fluid. Our lists are there as a guide to the principles by which we live.
Our children are:
• Independent thinkers and doers. I hope that parental advice will always be sought. I dread the day when I realize it is time to butt out, that I have done enough raising them, and that it is time to let them spread their own wings. That said though, when I talk to my 11-year-old Achi these days, I ask her not to grow up yet. Then I recite our favorite line from our favorite book called Love You Forever by Robert Munsch: “I love you forever. I like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” I have seen #adulting on Facebook quite often in recent months. When I recall what the posts were about, I smile inside because my children know how to do the tasks described: cooking rice, cooking in general, making their own breakfasts, packing for a trip, cleaning up after themselves, laundry, even grocery shopping to a degree.
• Well-behaved. Achi is reading this over my shoulder and immediately said, “yeah right.” So let us qualify. The two girls are generally well-behaved, especially in public. Now that they are older, they do know proper etiquette, and that public spaces are not venues for acting up or having catfights. Even when they were toddlers, my husband and I were confident enough with their behavior to bring them to meetings and the office, if and when classes are called off during typhoon signal number one.
Let me humbly brag about a really embarrassing moment. Husband’s partner in the company recently “advised” an employee: “You should talk to Meah and get tips on how to make children behave.” (Her four-year-old boy was running around the office space even during meetings when he was asked to sit and draw/ read/ color.)