On war–and raising our children | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

I don’t know about you, but I am a bit nervous about the flexing of muscles and threatening posture of North Korea. Is it just I, or are you worried too? Do you lose sleep over the almost casual way media carries the news? I do.


Could it be that they are thinking a bit too much in terms of the boy who cried wolf? Their leader boasts about missiles trained in the direction of the US and its friends. Is no one worried?


Yahoo news recently reported that US President Obama played golf over the weekend, walked to church with his family on Easter morning and presided over the yearly Egg Roll. He seems relaxed.


Last week our Department of Foreign Affairs issued a level-one watch for our nationals in South Korea. Just to be careful, you understand? No reason to run for cover.


Russia advises maximum restraint. “You hit me, I’ll hit you back!” South Korea says. Some explain this is not “the brink of war,” but we run the risk of miscalculation.” They talk about “heightened tensions.”


What does it all mean? Who makes sure they keep their itchy fingers off the “red buttons”?


I wish my father were here to assuage my fears like he used to during the war. We had air raids for breakfast every day. I always heard the approaching squadrons of planes ahead of the rest of the family. Before the sirens sounded I was calling out,  “ugong”! Papa calmly walked to the shelter, making sure Mama, my sister and I followed closely. If he was worried, it didn’t show.


We were always ready; emergency bags within reach, a cork and a whistle hanging from a string around our necks. The cork was for us to bite and keep our mouths open during explosions to avoid damaging our eardrums. And we were to blow on the whistles if we had to run and were separated.


The corks came from empty wine bottles provided by some distillery. Mine still had the sweet and fruity flavor of Mompo, vino de consagrar. Quite pleasant, I might add. I guess one could say that I had my first taste of wine way before my teens, while hiding under a tiled azotea.


Despite reassurances from media that this is just another excess of “warlike rhetoric,” I do not have a peace about it. Do you suppose media knows something we don’t? The thought of going through another war chills my blood. Someone at a party the other night said “Don’t worry. This time it will be quick. Just one big bang.” Not a pretty thought.


And yet despite these ominous warnings, I find myself all enthused making plans for my yearly holiday in Atlanta and Florida, booking flights and contacting friends, as if nothing was amiss. Still I hear someone (maybe it’s the voice of experience) asking: Is it really safe enough to “go outside and play”? I wish we could Google this one.




I was sitting with some young and not-so-young parents the other night and listened as they discussed their children, some glowingly, others painfully frustrated.


One mother went on a rant about her son who, after dropping out of college, decided to take a vacation abroad and there maxed out his dad’s credit card. I think I heard the word “irresponsible” several times. “How could he do this to us”, she wailed in genuine anguish.


My first thought was: Who gave him the credit card in the first place? Why do we give our children tools for destruction and then are surprised at the damage they do?


A couple agonized about their daughter who ran off to “live in” with her boyfriend. “It’s not like we have not taught her right from wrong. We are a churchgoing family. She was such a nice girl. Where did we go wrong?”


Another one was caught with his hand in a shabu jar.


What, indeed, can parents do when their children stray from the straight and narrow? We cannot disown them. Many go into denial and pretend it isn’t happening. Suddenly we avoid friends and relatives who may have “found out.”


How do we explain? Most of us will do anything and say whatever it takes to deflect attention, avoid censure. But we won’t talk to our children. Why? It’s too confrontational. Dangerous. Painful.


I went home that night and lay staring at the ceiling, sleepless and wondering whether keeping quiet throughout the discussions was the right thing to do.


I know parents don’t like being told how to do their jobs. No one does. Besides, by speaking up I would have run the risk of having them tell me to go peddle my platitudes elsewhere, that this was none of my business. And they would be right.


But here’s this lola’s two cents worth on the matter.


All children must be taught accountability. It is imperative to awaken in them a conscience that wrestles against dishonesty of any kind. Just as fast as they scramble to receive credit and take bows, they must learn to stand firm and bear the brunt of responsibility.


In the words of Mahatma Ghandi: “It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one’s acts.”


Parents must step up. Talk to your children. Speak into their lives, as often as necessary, and for as long as it takes.


Will they hate us for it? Probably. But if no voice is raised, if we deny them the light and wisdom of our years, we have failed as parents, and missed our purpose.


Former AT&T chair Michael Armstrong told a story about the Roman arch. “The ancient Romans had a tradition: whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: He stood under the arch.”


May we raise our children with such courage and integrity!