Yesterday, I was back in Paranaque at my parents' place working in the family business when two o'clock came by my window and reminded me to head to a friend's house to get some DVDs I had lent out some months back. With a quick cartwheel down the street, a leapfrog over some residential doggies and a SMSed "I'm here," my friend's mom Tita N allowed me to step inside and greeted me like a friend I haven't seen in a long time.
And in many ways, that has been something true about how things were between me and my friend and his family. Even with the age difference, the interest gap and the like, me and him and his family always had this strangely familiar level of understanding and comfort that one usually only feels among best friends or close relatives.
With an initial false start to hunt down the errant DVDs (I had left the list back at my parents' place) we eventually got down to looking them up by title while talking about how things have been. Eventually, the discussion began to focus on my recent move out of my parents' place, the emptiness and at the same time the pride a parent feels once their kid takes it upon him/herself to move out and begin living their own lives, and the fact that nowadays it can be hard to foresee how things will turn out considering how complicated life can be nowadays. In many ways, it was far simpler in the past when stereotypes were more often than not true: band people did drugs, long haired people were rebels, people with tattoos had been in prison, homosexuals had no future save to work in a parlor or in fashion, artists never made money... wait, that last one still holds I think.
Nowadays, things are far different from before. And it can be quite a challenge for parents at times to relate with thier kids having been raised in a time when such stereotypes were more often than not true. I remember the times I'd want to grow my hair long and my parents would reprimand me stating I was making myself look like a "hoodlum". Or how my sister would have friends who were in a band and automatically there'd be some level of mistrust towards them ("Baka they're getting her into drugs, etc...") even if the fears were unwarranted. More so when the said parents are actively trying to move past the stereotypes, however out of fear and worry for their kids, end up stepping backwards into them for familiar security.
Tita N shared with me some very heart-warming pieces of advice to bear in mind:
1) Moms know their kids more often than the kids know themselves.
While this sounds very cliche, in many more ways than not it is true. Moms tend to know things and in many occasions if it happens to be something they refuse or are unprepared to face, can very skillfully rationalize or deny what they know for as long as they need to. So if there were things as a child you needed to tell your parents, 8 our of 10 times it would be best to start with your mom. Chances are, she already knows, or denies what she knows and would rather you come forward to tell her than force her to bring it up. Mas mahirap din naman kasi if she assumes something, brings it up, and it turns out to be wrong, diba? (Just imagine, "Anak, buntis ka ba..." "Mom?!??!" "Ay, sorry, tumataba ka lang pala..." "WTF!!!?")
2) Family is family.
The bonds of family are truly more powerful than most realize. Again it sounds cliche, but part of this bond is the fact that every family can only move forward by letting go. A child has to move on. A parent has to let go. And with the emptiness and fear and pain of letting go, comes the unspeakable pride and joy of realizing your kid is ready to brave the world on their own.
And with that, of course, comes the fact that you can always come home. While some families end up with arguments and issues that separate the bonds or threaten to fray them to shreds, when push comes to shove, parents will want to help their kids. Kids will have to learn to see their parents willingness to help. And the two need to swallow huge Pride pills to mend the issues of the past.
3) We deserve the chance to attempt our preferred lives.
In many ways this seems like a no-brainer but can be difficult to embrace considering how Filipino society can be oppressive in its expectations of one's roles. Be it due to social or economic constraints, skill or talent requirements, connection or geographic limitations, Filipino society tends to have a "doon ka lang" mindset which tends to suffocate one from reaching for their dreams. At times, emotional blackmail is used to force one to stay "in their place." In others, one's self esteem is pounded down and torn apart in an attempt to make one dependent on the other. But ultimately, this crab mentality manifests as others saying "dito ka lang, or hanggang doon ka lang aabot." Whether this is a strain borne from the prevalence of telenovelas and the like is irrelevant. What is relevant is that we realize we have the right to dream of better things and we deserve giving ourselves the chance to try to reach for it.
After all, if you don't try for yourself, who will.
Soon, it was getting dark and night was ushering in. Tita N wished me the best and showed me out. I promised her to visit again sometime, perhaps even to update her on how her son is doing abroad. She does worry for him, but in her eyes I can see the pride she feels that he's going for what he believes he should.
She said I was a great friend to her son.
Here's hoping my parents think I'm a great son, too.