The love that we feel for our children is undeniable. We want only the best for them, and pray that they conquer any challenge they face. All these will be part of their memories, and as parents, we simply wish to be remembered for participating in their growth in any way we can.
However, the age of adolescence poses a new set of challenges for both parents and teens. Our children tend to give us one-word answers when asked about their friends, social activities and increasing needs, which leaves us even more confused. Some of us just give up asking, while others end up second-guessing.
I suppose this reticence is normal for teenagers, and may be attributed to reasons ranging from not knowing what and how to answer, to sharing only the stories they want us to hear, and not telling us what they think we don’t want to hear.
Nevertheless, these are signs that we should exert more effort to let them know that if there is something they want to tell us, we are here to listen.
My son Mark is 19 years old. He met someone and fell in love. And, of course, I was one of the last to know.
I noticed he was being more secretive than ever, and time spent with family remarkably lessened. So, each time I had the chance, I would ask him how he was and tell him, “Mark, if you want to talk about anything, I’m ready to listen.”
That time came, so I grabbed the chance to ask him about her. I didn’t want to ask too much since it might throw him off, so I just allowed him to talk about her as any young man in love would.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel nostalgic, thinking how, many years ago, this young man beside me was just a three-pound baby, born premature, fighting for his life. I guarded him closely during those times, prayed so much to God for his health, wishing that I could feel the pain he felt, holding his tiny body with gloves attached to the incubator. He’s a fighter, and I have been proud of him since the day he was born.
When he and his younger brother were growing up, I was both mother and father, working myself to the point of exhaustion, so I could give my two treasures the basic needs they deserve. I took up further studies to guide me through their growing-up years, to better understand what they were and would be going through.
I learned that the transitions they will experience, from being young boys to becoming responsible men, will be challenging. I knew that in time, they would ask questions, and would want to do things on their own. I wanted to know as much as I could about how to deal with all that.
Mark was clearly happy, and I didn’t want to take that feeling away from him. During that talk, we debated, he defended his love for his girlfriend, and some tears were shed. In the end, I told him, “Mark, you know your responsibilities and I know that you continue to fulfill them. I am very proud of you. But even if you ask for my blessing, a relationship like yours has to start with you and her first. If I didn’t give you my blessing, would that stop you from having the relationship?”
Mark replied, “Yes.”
“But you will still love her, though, and without a relationship, you both have no way of finding out if you are really for each other, right?”
“Yes,” said Mark.
“So, go ahead, Mark. This time was bound to happen. You both have so much to learn from each other, and you both have your own dreams to fulfill. You will both get to know each other—your habits, behaviors and preferences. If you want your relationship to work, then make it work. I will not stop you. You want to experience how it is to have a girlfriend, then go for it. Just don’t make any decision that will cause both families to worry too much.”
“Okay, mama,” he said. “Thank you.”
Then we embraced and I said, “I love you, kuya.”
It was difficult for me, but I was quite sure it was difficult for Mark, too. I’ve always told him that I’ll always be here for him but this time, I wanted him to go through that phase of maturity.
Having your first feelings of love and affection for someone, love that is very different from what you feel toward your family, can be quite puzzling for teenagers, too. We went through that when we were younger. It felt good. We were happy, but we also had to deal with the challenges that came along.
Mark’s relationship did not last long. And this time, I was one of the first to know. I shed a tear, too, and I checked on him from time to time, knowing how hard it was to recover. But Mark did learn, and he knew he’d be okay.
After some time, he told me, “I bet you’re happy that it didn’t work.”
I answered, “No, Mark, it didn’t make me happy. I know how it feels to be in love as you were. But I also know how it feels if things don’t work out between two people who wanted to be together for the rest of their lives. It’s painful.”
Mark understood. Then I advised him not to give up just because this relationship didn’t work out. “Probably it was just the wrong time for both of you. You’re both still young and have the rest of your lives to look forward to.
“In a few years’ time, when you both have stable jobs, are more independent and feel more secure about your own selves, maybe you’ll meet again. And that time may be different. Who knows? If not, you will finally meet the one whom you’ll decide to be with. This is life, teaching you a little at a time.”
I gave him a big hug and told him, as always, how much I loved him.