Every week, Preen tackles motherhood sans the rose-tinted glasses. Our columnists L. Juliano, Marla Darwin, and Rossana Unson tell their personal experiences like it is—at times frustrating, oftentimes confusing, but always enlightening.
The barkada dinner became awkward when my friend Andrea* and her husband Mico* forgot about the people in the room and argued for almost an hour.
It all started with a casual question—somebody else’s at that.
“How are your scheds this Christmas? Are you still visiting the lolas? We plan to go out of town,” our friend asked.
Mico quickly chimed in quite forcefully, “Kung pwede lang, hindi. (If only we could skip out.)”
We all shifted our eyes to Andrea, who let out a loud and irritated sigh. “Can’t you just let it go?” she muttered.
“No! If your parents don’t like my rules, then they don’t get to see their granddaughter,” Mico retorted. The two work full-time every day and travel quite often, leaving their daughter with Andrea’s parents while they’re away. It’s been the same situation for a year now.
“And how do you propose the set-up is, then? Where would she stay when we’re at work or out of town?” Andrea countered, with full knowledge that Mico’s parents are abroad and his siblings aren’t much help either. “You have to learn to compromise! They’re her caretakers too!” she continued.
Mico raised a few parental pet peeves to drive his point: The grandparents make their daughter eat chocolate. They allow her to watch TV. They drive her around without a car seat. They buy her too many toys.
Andrea answered back with realistic and attainable solutions. Still, Mico was maintaining his alpha, repeatedly proposing that the only solution is removing their daughter from this default environment.
“You talk as if I was raised like an animal! My siblings and I are perfectly fine! My parents obviously know what they’re doing!” Andrea cried.
Mico finally backed down until everything simmered to a calm. But the silence after was deafening, and we soon called it a night.
Parenting skills, reviewed
My husband and I talked about what happened as soon as we left. Like them, we leave our little bub with his parents almost every other day when I have meetings or work outside the house.
The situation rattled our own beliefs. I began to think if it’s even healthy to keep little bub in such a clinical setting where everything is measured by what the latest studies say or what my pedia’s (who, by the way, is super cool with his five kids) opinions are.
I don’t mean to let little bub live without rules, but I also know that every child is different. That my instincts are as important, and that these “rules” have been changed time and time again. I still believe in taking everything with a grain of salt and focusing on your unique child as a way of knowing what he or she really needs.
So hubby and I worked on a few general rules and we brought it up with his parents:
1. We wish to raise a smart, compassionate, and empathetic child. No name-calling in front of her. No rude comments about people from other social classes and people with other beliefs when she’s around.
2. Don’t let her get her way easily when she’s in the wrong.
3. Teach her how to share.
4. Let her do things on her own with your guidance.
5. Don’t play favorites with the apos.
Little bub is almost two and at the moment, the rules don’t seem to affect her much. She’s still my clingy little angel who throws a mean tantrum. But there are days when I see the rules take effect, like when she hands a toy to a friend, kisses the toes of her baby cousin, says she’s sad when she sees our cat get hurt, or—my favorite—when she compliments the helpers in the house (“Nice shirt, yaya!” “Thank you, ate!” “Pretty yaya!”).
We figured that we didn’t need to sweat the small stuff. If we and her grandparents can agree to stick to five simple rules, we can still provide little bub with diverse settings she can continuously learn from. Wouldn’t the occasional candy bar at lola‘s house make for good memories in the future?
*names have been changed to preserve anonymity