Monday, March 24, 2008

Message to the Children...and Parents

When my son was in his last year in grade school, part of the school’s curriculum being a learning institution runs by the Salesian Order, is for these graduates to have a spiritual formation retreat. My son’s class was scheduled to have their retreat in the outskirt of Batangas headed then by a young priest by the name of Fr. Ding, a Salesian Priest. Part of the culmination activity is the parents’ Grand-Salubong and a small program to be ended with a little salo-salo. By chance, I was invited by my son’s class adviser to give a talk during the culmination activity.

I was having a discussion with my son a week or 2 before their scheduled retreat when suddenly in the middle of our conversation, he asked me to buy him a PS2. I paused for a while trying to find ways on how to say no to him without being totally disagreeable considering that such request might be his way of asking a recognition or a reward being part of the graduating students that will march on the stage. I paused for a while getting the momentum I need and I replied, “Son, right now, it’s not our priority especially that we have lots of expenses lined up, you know graduation expenses here and there then there comes the enrollment next school year, etc.” An air of silence suddenly enveloped him but only for a short while. My son still showing no sign of surrender fired his second question, “Daddy, ano ba’ng laruan mo noon bata ka na binili ni nanay Memen? (Nanay Memen is the moniker of my mother, he calls her lola by that name) Again, I paused for a while trying to decipher the logic behind that question so as to prepare for a logical answer. Then I answered, “Wala, pero ang mga laruan ko noon lahat gawa ko lang. Kasama ko at tinuruan ako ng tatay ko na gumawa na lang, di pa uso kasi ang mga laruan na de-remote noon pero meron na akong trak-trakan na gawa sa lata ng Rosebowl sardines, yung oval shape ba? Tapos nilalagyan ng 4 na gulong na galing sa tapon ng dextrose bottle. O kaya naman, mga kotse-kotsehan na gawa sa empty container ng Johnson’s baby powder. Di pa man uso ang play station noon, wala pang RAGNAROK at BATTLE REALMS pero ang uso sa amin noon ay mga gagambang naglalaban sa ting-ting, kung sino ang maunang mahulog, talo o dili kaya naman mga salagubang na pinaglalaban, lalagyan ng bubble gang sa likod at ipagkakabit mo sila sa likod, kung sino ang unang makatayo, panalo.

After that story, he just looked at me and went away without saying a word leaving the father and son’s pep talk ended giving me no opportunity to explain the moral of my childhood story. That night, I was so dumbfounded because I felt I disappointed him. Whilst I can give him the thing he wanted but what I wanted to give him that night was a graduation gift that money can’t buy. A very rare commodity if I may describe it,- a parent’s undivided attention.

So the pep talk ended without me elaborating the logic behind my childhood story. But of course the Grand-Salubong and the talk I gave during the program provided me the avenue to punctuate my unfinished talk with my son, but that time is totally different, the audience is “Buy 1-Take 1”, sons and parents. And right at this very moment, if so happen you are still reading this BLOG, that makes you my new audience.

Below is the excerpt of my speech delivered on April of 2005 at Risen Christ Chapel, Don Bosco Makati, Philippines.

I’m so happy to see parents as well as relatives present here for tonight’s culminating activity of our son’s spiritual development and transformation. I’m really proud and glad that I was given this opportunity to give this talk, at least I could punctuate the unfinished PEP talk I once had with my son. Much more, I’m quite elated that your graduation is getting nearer. Perhaps, most of you are already expecting gifts from your parents as a reward that I’m sure all of you truly deserved.

As what Father Ding explained to us parents during the Parents’ Recollection, today’s generation are too engrossed to material things. Some parents provided their children material things thinking that it would manifest their physical presence or to simply compensate the lack of it.

Noon, akala ko, ang pagiging tatay eh, once you have provided the needed resources eh ok na. Akala ko after paying the tuition fee, basta may pagkain sa ref., may load ang time zone card ng anak ko eh ayos na.

I realized that I was wrong when I received the report card of my son come the end of first quarter. Suddenly, I pressed my panic button and started to think what went wrong. That was the time; I humbled myself and ask for an advice to other parents who might have been in a similar situation. I was the very same father who made the e-mail with a title “A father worried about his son’s school performance”, circulated in our DB e-group and hence, the most talk-about topic discussed amongst parents subscribed to the group.

After that e-mail, I received dozens of replies. Some giving suggestions while others had found the guts to come out in the open claiming to be in the same predicament as I was into. The responses were overwhelming and I thank you for that. From then on, I realized that it is not the amount of material things that we have provided to our children that matters most but our availability and undivided attention especially during those moment when they need us most. I went back to the point to where I should start. I got heavily involved not only to my son’s academic and extra curricular activities but also to the extent of getting myself actively participating in the discussion involving social problems that the school and the PTA are facing.

To tell you boys, you are all very lucky to have very supportive parents. Your parents’ presence tonight will speak for the love they have for you. I can tell you how many parents here who are not really into singing suddenly became a singer just to render our welcome songs during your arrival. Have you noticed that? I wish I could describe to you how we looked like during our song rehearsal just before this program, I’m sure you never knew. Despite their very hectic schedule in the office, they still managed to file under time, others filed whole day VL just to be with you. Boys, isn’t it good to know that you have your parents every time you needed them most? No amount of money could buy their presence tonight. Sons, I think your parents deserved a kiss and hug. So may I request all of you young men to please stand up, go to your parents and give them the reward they truly deserved and please, don’t forget to tell them how much you love them.

To all of our homeboys, congratulations for a very successful retreat, congratulations to all parents and to everybody, a pleasant good evening to all of you.

Thank you.

After that night, the atmosphere was quite different. I knew I touched the lives of many but I believed the talk was more apt to the parents like me. The class with their teacher and parents had a summer outing right after the boys graduation hosted by a parent who owns a picnic resort somewhere in Tagaytay. That was the last time I saw these parents and their sons whom I considered part of my life.

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