updated 18 Jan 2011, 08:42
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Wed, Sep 08, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer
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How raising children helps parents become more mature
by Marina Benipayo

Philippines - Mark and I were talking one night about what he would want to take up in college. He started counting the years, paused and then asked, "Mamma, when you think of all these years that we're together, how do you feel?"

I looked at him and said, "I'm proud, Mark. Proud of you and Joshua; not only because of what you both have grown to become, but because of what I have become because of you." Mark smiled and said, "I love you, mom!" When he left the room, what just happened made me think of how, although we emphasize the value of the love we give our kids, we every so often overlook the fact that they are instrumental to our own maturity as well.

We have, in all our existence, known that our own experiences with our parents had an impact on how we have become adults. Whether it is filled with good and not-so-good memories, we will always see some parts of our parents in us. It could manifest in our behavior, gesture, the way we talk, walk, decide and live. On the same level as actions, a large factor comes from what our parents used to say to us. Even the way or manner in which a thought is said has long-term impact.

I have heard of some parents who, when asked a question by their children, would reply, "What kind of a question is that?" or "That's a stupid question." Some would even retort, "You don't know?" These types of replies apparently would make the child think that he is either dumb or really ignorant. So do we want that to stay in their young minds?

Being a parent does not only give us the responsibility of giving our child his/her basic needs. We have to push and go far beyond what is expected of us. We nourish not only their stomachs and minds, but also their souls.

If you come to a point that you start asking yourself, "What about my own needs?" because you may happen to be either overly stressed, tired and left out from the rest of the world, look at your child or children now. I know it sounds cliché, but they are all you need. You may have forgotten, but despite their sometimes seemingly strange and outrageous personalities, they ARE your reasons for living. You work to make them live as comfortably as you could afford. When they're happy, you become happy. When they tell you they have learned something new, it is because you have instilled openness in their minds, which allowed them to learn. Their achievements are your achievements, too. It goes back to you.

But of course with that openness, they also get to explore other new things which you had wished they never have found out. You enter into that "arena" with them, be with them, understand as well and explain to them in their own level of understanding why this or that would probably be generally wrong or morally off limits. Then listen to their thoughts.

Secret stuff

I have always told Mark and Joshua that as they grow up, they will be seeing more and more of the world which they thought was all perfect. If they hear or see or notice something of which they are curious to know, just let me know and we'll talk about it. Anything from the absurdly simple thing to even the ones which they think I wouldn't even know of. This so I could learn it with them. When they ask me why they need to tell me even the "secret stuff," I'd answer, "It's like going to battle knowing which weapons are available for you to use. As your mom, I don't think I'd be comfortable sending you off to that battle without you knowing your gear. Let us look at the options. You choose."

Let's be brave enough to accept that although we cannot control our kids' minds, the best we could do is continually remind them that we will always be there when they need us. For in as much as we help our kids build their character, we strengthen ours. And it could be exactly for that reason that our kids will decide to do what is right.

Let us take as much time as we could to cherish watching our kids grow into their own individual self. Hold their hands more than holding them back. Connect more than correct. Hug more than tug. Talk more than shout. Let us not take them for granted because they are just nearby. We have seen many movies and real-life stories about parents who fail to give their kids much attention in their younger years and have grown old only to realize they have missed living the essence of their lives. Their children grow up distant from them; not because of lack of love, but the ignorance of how it feels.

Give it all you've got while you can, and everything else in your life will follow smoothly. Test yourself even more and you learn to be more tolerant, more understanding, more learned. You will notice that even the most stressful things in your own life such as relationships, work, or the lack of income will encourage you more to persevere. There will also come a time when we won't even think of what we do for our kids as responsibility, but a privilege as well. This is what Mark and Joshua have done for me.

Looking forward, when they have their own nests; and me with my empty one, I shall still expect myself to continue to grow more. Our growing doesn't stop until we allow it to and it could be the best choice we could ever make.

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