Christmas in the Home

Archie Modequillo (The Freeman) - December 12, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Christmas is just around the corner. It is, of course, a merry season for the world. But, sadly, it can actually usher in something else for the home. 

With all the family reunion parties and other gathering in the home, the usual rift between parents and their growing children can arise. Parents may be especially strict in enforcing stay-at-home measures with teenage kids, who’d want to smell fresh air outside with their friends. Even without the coronavirus threat, parents think the merry season is too dangerous for the young one to be outside, especially at night.

But the youngsters often view parental restrictions as denying them of precious opportunities for personal growth at a period of life where they need to socialize and explore. Arguments frequently ensue, and these can get in the way to the Christmas spirit.

It is common to hear parents complaining about the insistent behavior of their growing children. They say it’s exasperating to have to explain every parental order when kids have other plans in mind. They see it as rebelliousness when young ones ask their parents to defend their decisions.

I was once visiting a friend’s home when his son, a high-school freshman, pleaded with his Dad to go with friends to a drag race at a nearby seafront field. The father responded with a stern answer. “No!” he told his son, “It’s too dangerous for you.”

The boy persisted for a while but the father was unyielding. Soon, perhaps convinced of the futility of any further effort, the boy went quiet, moping. I felt a bit uncomfortable to be around as my friend dealt with his son.

To my big surprise, when his father was not looking, the boy turned to me and winked impishly. Then he stood up to leave, faking a disappointed face. As he was passing by me, he whispered, “Kabalo man ko di gyud siya mosugot, Tito, pero ako lang gisulayan.” All the while he knew his father would not let him go out and yet he still tried to solicit his permission.

Teenagers are in an awkward situation, that’s why they often behave in awkward ways. They are at a point in life where their self-concept is uncertain – no longer little kids but not yet fully grown up, either. Social expectations are already beginning to affect them and they don’t know how to conduct themselves accordingly.

It is perhaps in an effort to overcome their confusion and as an outlet for their bursting energies that teenagers struggle to assert themselves in every way they can. But their youthful inexperience and lack of discretion oftentimes make them appear stubborn and rebellious. Then when grown-ups brand them as such, their budding egos glower and, in effect, they end up embodying the name they didn’t want to be called.       

The truth is that teenagers desperately want to know better – to better understand their own selves and their changing role in life. Their wild sense of adventurism is actually a passion for discovery. They are, deep inside, frightened of their present ignorance and naiveté about life.

Thus, grownups need to assure young people that wisdom will eventually come. That they need to take good care of themselves in order to remain intact until they are wise enough to manage well in life on their own. That, in the meantime, they need the guidance of caring and loving adults.

At the same time, concerned adults also need to be patient, and understand that it doesn’t work to try to completely quell the youthful spirit. The more we try to restrict or repress the young, the more they’ll struggle to be free.

Parents get angry when their teenage children vehemently demand a reason why they couldn’t go to a downtown rock concert. Fathers go in a rampage to catch their young daughters skipping class to go swimming with boys. A mother weeps to discover the frame of the Blessed Virgin in the garbage bin, because her boy prefers to fill his room instead with posters of naked women.

There is, however, another truth beneath the surface defiance. Young people are often relieved when their parents or any trusted adults tell them, “No!” They sometimes put up a big show of challenging the decision, but often that is just their game. Even if they know beforehand the certainty of a refusal, they’ll try, “just in case – who knows?”

In fact, young people are comfortable in the knowledge that a caring authority is there, surrounding and watching over them. Because, indeed, they need protection against their own wild spirit and bold curiosity. Although once in a while they put elders to the test, often it is just to be sure that boundaries are securely enforced.

A happy compromise is, therefore, possible. Parents only need to call forth from their own previous experience as youngsters in dealing with their kids. And growing children need to understand that their parents’ restrictive stance is actually a sign of parental love.

With such arrangement in place, there will be peace at home. The family will certainly have a joyful Christmas. And more, the peace and joy can be made to last way beyond the yuletide season.

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