28 August 2007

The Village vs. Us

Maraming salamat (many thanks) to Sugarmama and the rest of the awesome FM site contributors for having me over and allowing me to share a snippet of my life with everyone! To say that I have been looking the blogosphere over for a place to hang my tsinelas (slippers) is a massive understatement! Finally! I get to read about, as well as share, the many aspects of parenting as a Filipino woman. I hope that, from this and my future posts, you will get a lot of entertainment. And as always, like I do in life, please take everything I post with a grain of salt (or rice, or patis, etc.)! Mabuhay!

The village (aka: my parents and the various aunties and uncles who live around them). That’s pretty much the reason for our move back to my parents’ house earlier this summer. Hubby and I agreed that it would be good for us, and the kids, to make good use of help from our ‘village’. A decision which has impacted every thread of our very existence, even more than we had possibly hoped to have been prepared for. We moved in with my parents. Gah!

Now, it’s really not that bad (no, really it ‘is’!!!). The ‘living-with-my-folks’ part has been fine. Hubby and I both do our best to be productive while maintaining a balance of quality time with the kids, couple-time, and time to ourselves to re-energize. It’s the ‘adjustment’ that’s been quite, um, interesting.

You see, being a first-generation filipina, my parents and I have always been at odds when it comes to doing certain things. And, as with everything else, the way they raised me back in the day is completely different from the way Hubby and I raise our own kids in this child-centric day and age. Following me here?

What we used to contend with only during times of Lola’s (grandma’s) visits, now seem to be an everyday battle. Case in point: I’m a firm believer and avid promoter of breakfast first thing in the morning. It just makes sense to me – all night without food and your body’s bound to be screaming, “Feed me already!” as soon as you get up, no? And I mean ‘food’, not a snack to tide you over. So, despite how groggy I may be I drag myself into the kitchen to prepare (short of a full course meal) something that incorporates a little bit from each of the daily food groups. Sure, my older one will demand Lucky Charms, or cookies, or even ice cream which, scarily enough, Lola will happily run and get. But I merely laugh it off, saying “Uh-huh, that’s nice dear. Now eat your waffles, eggs and banana along with your orange juice!”. Pretty typical, yes? But sometimes trying to beat a preschooler (who wakes up at five in the morning) to the kitchen just isn’t feasible. And so, guess what Lola comes up with? A single. humongous. serving. of pandesal – the bread of all champions! Because it’s so enriched with overbleached white flour and other yummy (nonexistent) nutrients! Okay, sure-sure, that’s fine. I can deal with that on occasion. But e-very. Friggin’. Morning? Seriously. And, here’s the thing: five minutes later my kids are even more ravenous! Can you say, “Another pandesal, please!”?

Saving money and paying off debt was the biggest incentive in making our move out here. Two full-time jobs + no rent = bills payed/$$ saved/and a house in about a year. It’s a no-brainer, right? Well, so is daycare when it comes to the grandfolks. As with the generations before them the younger adults went off to work while nanay and tatay (mom and dad) stayed behind to look after the kids. I know my own grandparents did it for my mom, and so it’s only natural she does it for us. Call it the quintessential circle-of-life, so to speak. Well, imagine the shock and horror when we announced to my parents that our kids would be attending preschool/daycare. Isn’t that just glorified babysitting?” my dad asked. But what he was really saying is, “You’re such a fool! You’re wasting your money on something your mother could do!! Such foolishness! What I should’ve done was point out how tiring it is to watch kids by yourself on a daily basis. And how, you’ve gotta have more than the tv set to TFC (The Filipino Channel) in order to keep them entertained. And I should also have reminded him that Mom doesn’t like taking the kids to the park because “it’s better to stay at home and be safe” than to run around burning up some natural energy. Meanwhile, the kids get no sunlight and are completely anemic by the time I see them. Kidding here, sort of. Dare I have explained the social benefits my little ones receive from being exposed to other munchkins their size at this early and crucial time in their life? (Not to mention playing with more than the remote control, AND having more to snack on than pandesal). Nah, didn’t even go there.

It’s apparent that ‘the village’ hasn’t been too happy with us. I hear the ‘tsk-tsks’ behind our backs and the shaking of their revered heads as we push more milk than juice into their daily routines. They’ve taken it rather personally that their ‘advice’ hasn’t been set in stone within the pages of our parenting handbook. It’s also apparent that they think we’re complete quacks when it comes to this parenting thing, and offer up tons of “See, I told you so…” whenever anything goes awry.

But, from my humble (first generation) point of view, it’s also ‘a parent’ who has to decide what’s best for their own child based on their own, albeit still-learning-as-I-go, experience. These kiddos don’t come with a manual – otherwise we’d all be parenting them in the same cookie cutter way all the time, yes? Regardless of age and/or culture who’s to say that one person’s way of raising a child works for the next, um, villager?


Anonymous said...

Standing O!!! You have articulated perfectly the post I've had bouncing around in my head! Thank you Thank you!

My parents even criticize me for being so "by the book" whatever that's supposed to mean! And being a doctor for children hardly cuts me any slack. They still think juice and M&Ms are ok!

Grace said...

My sister (who lives in the same city as my folks) lets my Mom have carte blanche with her kids. And they're great kids. But I tell my parents the "rules" for my kids. Because I live far away and I have to live with any kind of repercussions that result from our visits. I'm VERY strict. And my entire family knows that if they didn't follow my instructions I'd be totally pissed forever. So my village lives by my rules.

Karmela said...

Unfortunately, we're not only battling old-school cultural ways of thinking but generational as well. Are you guys familiar with the bigkis (which is essentially a baby girdle)? One of my best friends, who lives in the Philippines, almost stopped talking to her mom for one entire year because of this issue. Her mom portended all sorts of dire happenings to my friend's older child if she didn't put a bigkis on the little boy; my friend flatly refused.

maria said...

I sent my kids to school early too... and yes, my in-law didn't like that.
All I can say is that thank God my kids were brought up by my own Mom and Dad. Had it been the in-laws, I can only imagine what problems I would be facing now. My Dad is very broadminded when it comes to raising kids and they've never questioned my decisions. They offer advice but don't rub it in if I make a mistake. My parents also raised my sister's kids because she was working abroad at that time. Now They're fine gentlemen. I guess I've been lucky with my village ;)

mamazilla said...

i complained in an earlier post about not living with my mom and being really bummed out about it... but, whenever we pick up the kids from an morning/afternoon at her house, i'm always deprogramming them... i'm often repeating to them - what happens at lola's house, STAYS at lola's house...

slowly but surely, it seems to be working. ;)

mom2amara said...

Holla at ya! I first applaud you for taking the leap and living with your parents. While I can see so many advantages to this, I also know Lola2Amara would probably be ready to shoot us before it was all said and done! :)

And as Karmela said, I think it's generational too. My MIL (who is Caucasian) believes her way of watching Amara is the only way to watch a child...regardless of what Dad2Amara and I ask. So it amazes me -- raising a family is such a personal endeavor. How can anyone, including our parents, say what is "best?"