Give and Take

I remember my teen years in the 80s.  I was head strong and independent-minded, but I bowed down to my parents’ wishes when then drew the line.  They were generous with me and my siblings to a fault — I could get away with having a fancy dress made for formal parties, the equivalent of 5 outfits for a regular dance, or a whole new outfit from heat to toe for the regular evening parties.  (I wasn’t supposed to be seen wearing the same outfit in another party because the crowd was more or less the same.  In your teen years, you wanted to impress the boys.)  Because I got the clothes and the all-important permission to go, I abided by the rules and never rode in anybody else’s car — it was always our car and my driver.  I was also home by midnight.  (Cinderella time as they say — but hey, I played by the rules.)

So it was how I grew up — a healthy give and take but with the elders having the advantage.  They slowly ceded their advantage as the years passed until I got free rein and got the freedom to stay out late until the wee hours of the morning even if I still lived in the house.

It was a lesson in give and take I learned early on in my childhood.  It’s a lesson I wish I can impart tot he 15-year-old.  Yet the way he is so set in his ways, I think this would be a lesson infutility.  We have been trying — but all he knows is to take and to take.

He begrudges us for the simplest of rules like picking up after himself in a house small enough to be heard no matter which part of the house you are in.  With his only regular chore being throwing the trash which is always bundled up by one of the three other adults in the house, all he has to do is walk it downto the co-op dumpster on his way to school.  He is aksed to wash his plate and some (but never all) of the dishes once in a while, and from time to time, his Dad solicits his help in doing the laundry — and he only gets to fold his own clothes.  Yet he will leave his beddings lying around unfolded, the clothes he takes off all over the small living room, less than 10 steps away from the hamper.  He would often leave his cereal bowl or dinner plate lying dormant in the sink until the next meal or untile someone else (usually my mom) picks it up and washes it.

When confronted about his poor performance in school, he raises the defense of the adults always being on his case.  When he was being taught to organize his paperwork, he insists he wants them mixed up and unorganized.  In trying to put one over the adults in the house, he resorts to smart alecky answers which do not betray his disposition.

Las night, we tried to talk to him and even if none of the adults were raising their voices, he kept saying his father was yelling when he meant he was getting mad. 

This teener’s brain is a one-way sieve.  It filters stuff that goes in but does not censor what goes out.  For all my husband’s and inalws’ generosity to him form his early years, they failed to teach him the virtue of gratitude.  He thinks nothing of asking for a $75 La Coste shirt and is all smiles when his Dad buys him one without conditions whatsoever.  I wanted to warn the adult that the teener was bound to conveniently forget this when they go head-to-head again, and I was proven right last night.

So how do you teach someone who never knew what saying “thank you” really meant to know what it is to be grateful?  Giving is an alien concept because he was only shown one side which is the “taking” part. 

Last night it hurt me to hear him count against us the fact that he helps take care of his brother.  In local parlance, sinumbat niya sa amin.  I countered and asked him it’s not as if he was taking care of a stranger.. that he was taking care of his flesh and blood.  I can only heave a sigh of regret.  I guess it sets the tone for our expectations of him taking care of my son– not that we expect him to, even in case something happened to me and Alan.  He has never really been that brotherly to his other half brother with his mom.  I do not expect anything more from him.

It would be nice if we could just start with the basics of Give and Take, and maybe from there, he can learn how to relate better to his family and to people in general.  Alan and I have had many discussions, fearing for how he will fare in the real world.  It makes me hope that we do better in preparing Angel and molding him to be a better person, one who will know that he must learn the basic concept of give and take.