Making a decision

The years have fled. Achi has graduated from elementary school.
It seems only yesterday that I began writing this parenting column filled with baby articles and our family’s struggles with a toddler. I now have a preteen who is beginning to carve out her own life. She agrees to be my baby forever, still giving me much needed hugs. There are so many things I want to tell her, but being the introvert that she is, she would feel awkward with long talks.
Late 2018, she applied to both the Philippine High School for the Arts and Philippine Science High School. Even as she did so, she said she did not want to move schools. She just wanted to see if she would pass. Only one of her classmates passed PSHS, but she will stay in Raya School anyway. One of Achi’s best friends will enter PHSA. Achi is a little envious and wants to audition again next year.
At 10 or 11 years old, these children have to make life-changing decisions. Students who enter PSHS must take a science major when they enter university or pay a stiff fine. Those who graduate from PHSA are strongly encouraged to take an arts-related major.
Such major decisions at such a young age. If the children are not stressed, I, the parent, am.
As a parent and professional educator, this seems to be counter-intuitive. Experts all say that children cannot make proper decisions. Yet, these children are expected to choose their life’s path before they are even teenagers.
What I find instead is that we are making life decisions one chunk at a time. Achi was promoted to Level I at Ballet Philippines Dance School just this January. Back 2017, her teacher told me that Achi might be promoted in December 2017. When it did not happen, Achi felt a little sad until I asked her to wait until May 2018 because there were no promotions in December. When May 2018 passed and she still was not promoted, Achi wanted to quit ballet altogether.
My husband and I thought she should not make major decisions out of one disappointment. We had a long talk and she revealed she loves ballet, but was sad because she was not promoted. She agreed that she probably needed more practice and was not yet ready for Level I. When her promotion happened, she was ecstatic.
This summer will be her first summer program at Level I and we just learned she will be at the Cultural Center of the Philippines approximately 12 hours a week. At her level, students have to take classes in classical ballet, modern dance, hip hop, tap, acting and a few lecture sessions. I thought Achi would feel stressed when she found out about the hours, but she was quite giddy with excitement.
Last year, before she auditioned for the PHSA, I asked her if she wanted to make a career out of ballet. She really could not say. She is a child and life decisions like these are not to be made lightly. She did say she wanted to be a writer or a scientist, like Ahku, for a career. She loved dancing though and wanted to continue. In 2018, we agreed that this was a hobby. With her promotion, she might still change her mind.
Meanwhile, on top of ballet, Achi requested to be enrolled in a creative writing class, a journalism class and she wants to continue art classes with Teacher Baldwin (Kho).
It seems like an overload for her, but we might be able to work things out. After all, these are all her requests and it looks like she wants to work on them.
On another meanwhile, her father is making sure that she continues to code computer software. He taught her to use Scratch, a programming software for children, when she was seven. She took to it like a duck to water. In school, Scratch is part of the curriculum in third grade, when she was eight. The good thing was that the teacher adjusted Achi’s lessons because she was beyond the basics.
By fifth grade, the school was teaching them to use App Inventor, a visual programming environment that even children can understand. At one point, she tried making a personal app for me. When I clicked the app, it only said “Hello Nanay.” She was only nine years old then. I was definitely impressed.
My husband and I believe that with Achi’s strong abilities both in the arts and sciences, she should not limit herself.
Right now, when asked what she wants to be when she grows up, she answers “journalist.” She might – and I think she will – still change her mind.
Decisions made at this age have to be one at a time and only a few months at a time. A compilation of these small decisions will eventually reveal her career path. Our job, as parents, is to make sure that these decisions are supported and that our children grow up to be strong enough to make the big decisions with confidence.