When I was 5 years old, I remember standing at the edge of our descending garage driveway waiting to leave for preschool when I was suddenly struck by one of my father’s hired delivery drivers. I remembered being under the vehicle, the tire was on top of my frail, young body for what felt like at least half an hour of pure horror. In reality, I was only down there for a few seconds, a minute at best. I can’t recall all of the details now but I do remember shimmying my way out of this vehicle, with vivid memories of my sky blue ironed out uniform which was left with holes in it, somewhat covered in grease and that my right hand was shivering in pain.
Of course, my horrified parents ran to my rescue. I even remember my father’s quivering voice as he scolded his staff with rage. My mother provided tenderness first-aid, a hug, changed my clothes, tucked me in bed. Calling the doctor was a distant thought, I was a tough child & if I cried a bit, that was all.
Fast forward to my migration in America and observing a girl in the playground who bruised her knee after a speedy slide extravaganza. I watched as she ran to her American mom who in turn, asked her if she was okay, mom softly asked her if she needed a band-aid & assured her that she has what it takes to keep sliding away—and so she did.
Mhia, your American born child bruised her knee sliding down after you have repeatedly warned her to be careful. She ran to you for comfort, crying.
In your hearts of heart, you wanted to comfort her & you somewhat do while you released the words, “Tsk, Tsk, I told you to be careful,” And since you don’t like to see her hurt again, you add salt to injury by starting your with the words, “Sige ka” (better watch it…), hoping that your threat will make her think twice. In all fairness to Mhia whose only 5, she tried her best to be “more careful,” & when she scraped her elbow while running & started to cry again, you commanded her, “wag kang iiyak (don’t you cry), I told you to be careful!”
Certainly not all Filipina moms would respond in the way I just described. If you do, know that your role models have done the same. Be kind to yourself and to them. Even just a tad of being more self-aware is a good start.
I got a lot of praises as a child for not crying easily. I biked with the boys in the neighborhood & at times I wouldn’t even wince when my father twisted my ear (pingot) until it felt numb to the touch. When I was 9 years old, I was tasked to help my grandma make Christmas bags by using an industrialized stapler to ensure that the ends of the bag were securely in place. I thought I was getting good at it when I stapled my index finger. This huge staple went through my finger & left it bleeding like crazy. I stood up & wrapped this finger with a piece of cloth & ran to the bathroom to nurse myself. When my grandma asked where I was, I just told her I needed a break and tried to proceed with my task. Mhia, the 5 year- old kid in the playground, may have picked up this life lesson that tough means-not complaining, not being a burden to others & saying aray (ouch) as seldom as possible is a good showmanship of your strength. Never mind if you’re all bandaged up inside as long as you don’t show any traces of it outside.
It’s not difficult to understand why many of us shy away from asking help of any kind. Doing so might be a giveaway to others that you don’t have it all together (surprise, no one does!) or that you are hurting somewhere inside, be it, emotionally, financially, or physically ( this means being human-surprise again!).
How To Teach Our Children Instead
You are not trying to be American but simply incorporating Filipino values that are important to you while honoring your children’s uniqueness. To start slowly, try these-
- Instead of saying , “be careful” harshly because in reality you don’t want to see your child hurt. TRY THIS: Say,” I need you to be careful because mommy/daddy feels hurt when you get hurt. “ You’re simply explaining what might appear to your child as pure harshness in your response.
- Instead of saying, “be careful” 20x in the playground. TRY: 10x instead as starter. There is value in the phrase because you do want your child to be careful. But, too much of it, stiffens their movement, which may fulfill your unwanted wish that they hurt themselves again. You can also try the phrase, “watch your surroundings, look where you’re going. “In this way, you give your child a chance to believe that they are in control and you provide them the tools to indeed be more careful.
- Instead of telling your hurt child not to cry or I told you so. TRY THIS as starter, allow your child to cry & say something like, “I’m sorry you hurt yourself. “ Take a minute break. In the beginning stages, you might need more of the break than your child. If you’re at home, you can leave the room to give you & your child space from each other. By starting this practice, you break your tendency to utter the usual scoldy words that you spit out like wild fire. Remind yourself that no one wants to intentionally hurt themselves. Once you get better at this, the next step is to learn how to comfort your child when they get hurt. Sharing the invaluable lesson to our children that its ok to ask someone for help and that saying aray (ouch), gives others the opportunity to help while they get the help that they needed is a win-win scenario.
As a parent, you have done what you thought is best for your child. I get it, life can get hectic. Who has the time to think about their next step every step of the way? If you choose to reflect on, consider or even better apply these simple recommendations, you are in for a good start. You’ll find your children getting into “things,” & accidents less. Be patient with yourself though, the truth is the real work begins within you and everything else follows. In the meantime, as you allow your children to express a bit, practice your own self-expression practice. I’ll leave you one suggestion before we end here: if you’re feeling overwhelmed anytime this week, tell your children or your spouse, “I need 10 minutes break, mommy’s a bit tired.” Try not to reason why you can’t do this. Even paid workers get 15 minutes break every so often. You deserve one.
Sa Uulitin ( til next time),
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