Yesterday, we brought Alex to the dental clinic. She’s going to get braces and there were some preparatory tests to be done. Speedy went in with her while Sam and I waited outside. We bought fruit shakes, found an unoccupied bench and chatted.
We were observing the people that walked by. She noticed a child in a stroller, its hand hanging out on the side and in danger of getting hit by the stroller’s rear wheel, the father pushing the stroller quite oblivious to the situation. She smirked as a toddler screamed and shouted nearby, the parents encouraging him, and minced no words in saying how she hated kids running wild in public places oblivious to people they bumped onto (she said akala nung magulang cute yung ginagawa ng anak nila). She laughed about a young woman coming out of a hair salon flipping her hair as though everyone ought to notice and gape in awe. She told me things that happened when she was out malling with her friends. We talked about people we knew and how OA some mothers were… I told her what I thought about some of my friends — my adult friends — and the pretentiousness and superficiality of some people I knew. We gossiped and we confided.
Thirty minutes later, I was dying for a smoke. I asked her if she wanted to go out with me to the parking lot or if she wanted to stay, in which case, I would leave my camera bag with her. As I started to get up, she held my arm and pulled me down to my seat. “No,” she said, “let’s just talk.”
Sam is 14 — she’ll be 15 in August. How many teenage girls would say that? Of course, I stayed.
A friend told me once that when kids reach a certain age, they would start acting as though it isn’t cool to be seen in the company of their parents. They start talking their own language and they start growing away from their parents. I have no illusions that my kids tell me absolutely everything. Of course, they don’t. We all want to keep certain things to ourselves. It’s called privacy. But it’s another thing when kids don’t tell their parents anything anymore except inanities. That is a break down in communication. How does it happen?
A few years back, we were in the car and Sam was telling a story about something that happened in school. It wasn’t a pleasant story. In fact, she sounded like she was complaining and whining. Speedy reacted by giving a lecture — and I mean a long and convoluted lecture — and Sam just clammed up. Later, I discussed it with Speedy. I told him that Sam was talking to us, she was voicing out her frustrations and she needed for us to listen. She wasn’t asking us to judge her actions. If we lectured her every time she tried to say something, she’d stop telling us anything. And that would be a nightmare.
Not that Speedy alone had that attitude. I have a close friend whose husband reacts in much the same way towards their daughter. And she had to talk to him too.
I mean, look at it this way. If a friend tells you a story, would you react by giving him a lecture as to why he was wrong or why you would have done things another way? You wouldn’t because you consider him your peer. It’s like an adult-to-adult talk. Get lecture-y with a peer when he hasn’t asked for your advice or judgment and he would shun you. Or he would gossip about how hoity-toity you are. So, if one can respect a peer, why should children be entitled to less?
See, I think that one only tends to get lecture-y when talking to someone he considers a subordinate, an inferior — people whom one feels have no choice but to listen and accept criticism. I know, it sounds lousy. But that’s a common attitude among parents — to treat the child as someone, well… less — just because he is younger. As though the child always deserves to be told how to be better. You know, like, I’m the adult and I’ve lived longer and experienced life more so I know better. That kind of thing.
It sucks. And it’s a sure way to drive the kids away. It’s the seed of communication gap.
In my family, it’s not like things changed overnight. Sometimes, Speedy would still start ranting. But the girls KNOW that we’ve discussed it and their father is aware and trying. So, when he starts on a lecture, the girls will say, “Mommy, o, ayan na naman sya (there he goes again).” Speedy would check himself and… chuckle.