How to be a good mother (and other advice you should ignore)

FIGHTING WORDS - Kay Malilong-Isberto - The Freeman

I spent Mothers' (or Mother's-I'm not really sure) Day replying to text messages telling me to have a happy one and sending out a few of my own. I had read an article saying that the celebration has lost its original purpose (a daughter wanting a day to honor her mother) and has been converted to just another capitalist holiday designed to make people spend more on gifts, greeting cards, and restaurant meals. That may be true but there are enough things to be cynical about. I want to believe that for a lot of us, a day to honor the woman who gave birth to us (and the other men and women who raised and nurtured us) is an important day that should be celebrated.

That's a self-serving claim from someone who happens to be among the persons honored last Sunday. I am happy to report that none of my children bought me a gift and I feel grateful that they did nothing to promote the consumerism associated with Mothers' Day (actually, the 2-year old is not old enough to go anywhere by himself). I did get chocolates from my teenager's girlfriend but I think it was because I got her notebooks with pictures of her favorite city on the cover.

I liked how Mothers' Day became an occasion for family and friends to share pictures and stories about their moms in social media sites. I learned about how their moms managed to raise their children despite economic hardships, the loss of their husband, illness, and other life trials. I teared up when I read stories from friends whose moms had passed on. I felt grateful that my own mom is still around and that we have a wonderful relationship.

It was also a good time to reflect on what kind of mother I am and to ponder if I am doing enough to raise my sons to become decent men. A few weeks ago, I had asked the teenager if he thought I was a good mom. After all, if being a mother is a lifetime job, I would prefer regular performance reviews and feedback from my children. He had answered, "I don't think I turned out bad." I liked his answer even if I know that I can't take all the credit for how he turned out.

Since I work from home and he's on a school break, I am lucky to be able to have breakfast with him often. One of the topics we talked about recently was the need for "permission" to date or to have a girlfriend. I pointed out that he did not ask for permission from me or his father to have one and that I believed that it was not necessary: having a girlfriend is part of growing up. Children do not need permission to grow up.  He agreed with me and added: "Strict parents make sneaky children." I took the occasion to tell him about the problems associated with drug abuse, drinking too much, teenage pregnancy, and other fears and worries that most parents struggle with. He tried hard not to roll his eyes and laugh. I laughed first.

I know that my children will make mistakes (everyone does). I just hope that they will be resilient enough to get back on their feet and start over.  I also hope that I will be smart enough to know when to offer help and when to step back.  And strong enough to resist meddling in their lives so that they will have space to learn on their own.


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