Mommy Talks

When the line between good and bad gets blurry

Sam was supposed to leave at midnight tonight to go to Mindoro on a four-day optional school trip for third and fourth year students. There was an orientation for parents two weeks ago, I went, we were apprised of the risks, real and imagined, including dengue, malaria and the NPA. I signed the consent form with a special note to “Please take care of my baby.” Big baby, okay, but still my baby.

Speedy did not exactly say no. He did not actively raise any objection against Sam’s going. But when we were out shopping for Sam’s gear last Sunday (she needed proper clothes and gear for mountain hiking and crossing a river on foot), I suppose that was when the reality of the trip hit him hard. You know, the inevitability, the glaring truth that for four days, his daughter would be somewhere unreachable (no electricity and cell phone signal there). He started telling her, “Huwag ka na sumama.” The literal translation would be, “Don’t go” but that would make it sound like an order. Speedy was making a plea. When Sam asked why he didn’t want her to go, he said, “We’ll miss you too much.” Sam was adamant — she was going. Not that she was dismissive of her father’s feelings but I guess she’s wise enough to realize that missing her was not a logical reason for not going.

It might sound unreasonably mushy and it only makes sense when taken against previous remarks Speedy had made about the trip. More than once, he asked me what there was in Mindoro and the Mangyans that was worth the trip and it was hard to explain. The Mindoro trip was not meant to be an excursion. It was about exposure and immersion. It was about learning how other people live, the physical environment in which they exist, the hardships and the challenges. Even without anyone putting it in those terms, that much I understood when we were informed that each student would be “adopted” by a Mangyan family.

I don’t know if I explained it to Speedy well; I myself was hard pressed for words. I’ve gone to a few similar trips in the past although I was much older then than Sam is today. That’s probably why I was “so cool” about the trip, and the teacher who gave the orientation said as much in front of everyone. I’ve been there; I understood. Maybe someday, I’ll write about those times. Too bad there were no digital cameras back then.

But Speedy’s a father with a very Catholic school education and immersion trips were not familiar territory. I understand that, first and foremost, it was Sam’s safety that he worried about. Naturally. I suppose he was weighing the “good” experience that Sam could gain by going against any “bad” thing that might happen. But of course. It’s like trying to determine when a risk is worth taking and when it is completely foolhardy. It’s one of the things that make our partnership so good — we’re so unlike with the way we think that we balance each other out. He’s practical, I’m impulsive. He’s prone to weighing pros and cons lengthily, I often go with gut feel. He likes familiar things, I’m the thrill-seeker.

I don’t know how he was able to resolve that issue, but my personal belief in the essence of that trip was not the only reason I had no misgivings about allowing Sam to go. As a man who was a boy once, Speedy will never know what it’s like to grow up and be told that there are things you can never do and places you cannot go to “because you are a girl.” I was raised that way until the devil in me rebelled and I finally took control of my life much to my mother’s dismay. Through it all, I promised myself no daughter of mine would ever have to go through that kind of shit. Being born a female should never be a liability nor a misfortune. I know Speedy well enough to realize that he will never use that kind of reasoning with our daughters. Still, I don’t want the girls to even get the feeling that we’re trying to hold them back in any way because they’re girls.

But all that anguish and introspection were cast aside today. Sam came home with the announcement that the trip had been canceled because of landslides in Mindoro. It’s good because the issue of Sam’s safety is moot. It’s bad because she lost a chance for personal growth. Well, maybe next year.

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