By Paulyne Fermin
In a blink of an eye, my little boy is now a teenager. He towers over me, has earplugs perennially stuck to his ears (and yet, I can hear the blaring music from halfway across the room). And he has opinions that almost always differ from mine. Welcome to my world.
My firstborn M was an only child for eight years. He enjoyed my undivided attention and endured my tiger mom ways. He was a willing student, but a very independent thinker. I nurtured his interest for reading and writing. But when he was younger, he resented my editing of his work and thought me cruel for making so many corrections. My husband, on the other hand, was his coach in both local and international math competitions. At 11, M graduated at the top of his grade school batch and was awarded a high school academic scholarship.
The physical and behavioral changes happened simultaneously. I had to buy new school pants every year because he kept on growing. And for the first time, we allowed him to have his own computer. “Do not watch things that are bad for you. Be responsible.” I suppose it came to our lives later than most. The digital world beckoned and we had to give in.
While some moms I know still hovered over their children, I gave mine space to prove that he could do things. As parents we had planted the desire for excellence and the importance of hard work. But mistakes were made (still being made) and old habits clung mercilessly. “You have to take down notes! Why are you playing video games? Don’t you have any homework? Faster! You’ll be late!” It’s during these times when I have to remind myself that my son may not be a child anymore, but he is also not an adult. I have to respect his space, but I must keep him moving in the right path through constant reminders.
Communication is key. “Up to you, Mom,” is his usual reply when I ask him where he wants to eat, what movie he wants to watch, or where he wants to spend Christmas. Most often, I have to read the non-verbal clues like the serious face, the scowl or the nod of approval. I’ve had mom friends complain to me about fights and misunderstandings with their teenage sons. I’ve only had few with my own, and luckily, my boy knows how to say sorry, and I’ve learned to do the same.
I’m not sure if I’m doing a good job. I survived the first slew of soirees, but I seriously doubt if I’ll fare so well when he starts dating. For now, my son continues to do things that please me (like play the piano and keep at math training) so that I would let him do the things he wants (hours of online video gaming with his friends). That’s okay, too.
In a few days M will add another candle to his birthday cake. And in a few months, he’s moving on to senior high school. While there have been many changes, some good things remain. He still writes to me on Valentines and my birthday, still leans over to take a rest on my shoulders and waits up for me when I go out at night. And yes, he’s very proud to acknowledge that he looks like Mommy.
So, with much patience, tolerance and hope, I look forward to the changes and challenges ahead.
Happy Birthday Miguel! I will carry you in my heart forever.