Living in a Material World

Crossposted on Motherhood, Etc.

I am a fan of Madonna’s work, largely because she has managed to reinvent herself each time, morphing from music diva to mom-writer and music sensation through the decades with such ease.  But this post is not about her.

I’ve been meaning to write about my dilemma when it comes to instilling the proper values in my now almost two year old son.  I have to admit that I am literally groping in the dark yet trying my darnedest.  The things I see around me are not very encouraging.  I have a 16-year-old stepson who is steeped in materialism it clouds his own loyalty to his father.

I love my son more than anything in this world, but I do not intend to give him everything he asks for.  I did not grow in want and poverty, but the reversal of fortunes we experienced in my early adulthood taught me the precious lesson of working for one’s living.  I was in the middle of law school in Ateneo when I was forced to work part time to help defray the expense of seeking higher education.

My first job was as a newscaster in DZRJ – FM where I was paid an hourly wage.  (It was then that I did the female voiceover for the novelty rap, LOUNINGNING by Markie D a.k.a. Denmark).   For a time I moonlighted as a paralegal researcher for one of the councilors in Manila.  Then I moved to become an Executive Assistant to a Program Director for a joint project of the Department of Health under Secretary Juan Flavier in coordination with the USAID for 18 months.  My next stint saw me as Executive Assistant to the President and CEO of a boutique Advertising Agency where I honed my skills in communications and I got acquainted with the nuances of Public Relations and Advertising.  Finally finishing law school, I took the Bar Exams of 1994, but before the results could be published in 1995, I switched to the client side and joined a newly established foreign life insurance company as their Corporate Communications Executive, working directly under the CEO.  In this job I got to travel to the regional office in Hong Kong which was my first ever chance to go beyond the shores of Philippines.  After 2 years, a competitor recruited me to join their Marketing and Advertising department and that was my last job before I left for New York.

All throughout my more or less 10 years in the job force, I have been humbled and enriched by my interaction with all types of people.  I learned the value of money.  Throughout those years, be it in my failures or successes, I have found my parents’ (particularly my Mom’s) wisdom a meaningful guide in the corporate world.

Now that I am a Mom myself, I want Angel to see the importance of earning the rewards of a life lived well.  I want him to enjoy the benefits of the hard work his Dad and I have put in to put a roof over our heads and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.  We are by no means wealthy — but we enjoy a relatively easy life because we work hard.

I want him to see that hard work will pay off, be it at home doing his chores (he now puts away his toys on command at the end of the day, and puts his clothes in the hamper after we take them off to take a bath) or later on in school.  It is so frustrating to see my stepson struggling through his freshman year in high school and giving up so easily.  Next year will be his third time attempting to complete his freshman year.  He is so easily frustrated by early failure, so much so that if he sees he is not doing well, he just gives up and stops trying to make the grade.

I want my son to see that parenthood is not all about lavishing one’s child about presents, but more importantly, it is about being there for your child at all times, through the good and the bad.  My stepson celebrates his birthday in a few weeks and had asked his Dad if we were going to celebrate it — and of course we will, but when his Dad told him it won’t be the same as in previous years when we celebrated it with his favorite Aunt and Uncle who had a falling out with us and his Grandmother — he felt bad and said “but they give good presents”.

Two weeks ago they had arrived from Manila with presents and had asked him to stop by.  Despite his father’s admonition that although we cannot stop him from seeing them, he felt it wasn’t a good time as yet given how jarring the enmity has been between them and us, the stepson went anyway and boasted to his grandmother how he had received a new pair of sneakers from Manila.  I have a good mind to reiterate to him that we don’t want to hear about his going there and we better not find out.  It hurts to see my husband’s feelings being trampled upon by such materialism, and yet his own son is blind to this.

His very own grandmother who had lavished presents on him could only shake her head in disapproval and say “mukha siyang regalo..”  True in the literal and figurative sense, but it was his upbringing which made him the way he is.

Which brings me back to the point of this rambling of mine today — as a parent who thinks the world of her child, I have to stop a moment to think about whether or not something I am giving to my son will actually be good for him and lead to strenthening his character instead of weakening him.  Who doesn’t want to give everything to the apple of her eye?  The smile on my son’s face and the unmistakable glee that he glows with when he is happy are far beyond precious, but there are things that are far more important than seeing him happy, like teaching him how to be a good human being.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no strict disciplinarian.  My son has his own spoiled moments — take for example his continuing to breastfeed from me.  I am usually prone to indulge his whim, but I know when to put my foot down sternly and hold my ground.

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from the way things have turned out with my stepson, it is that it is important to start things young.  You cannot spare the rod at a young age, and then find yourself dying to use it when he is older — at which point you have no option to do so anymore lest the child call 911.  It is never too early to teach your child the proper values, even if you are at a loss about how you are going to do it.

We all want to be good parents, and while there are a hundred and one books on parenting, the truth of the matter is that there is no particular set of rules that ensure us we are doing it right.  I have my Mom’s wisdom to guide me and my own upbringing as a measuring tool for the highs and lows of parenthood.  And my stepson. 

True, we can measure a person’s worth monetarily — by the clothes and jewelry that she wears, the expensive shoes or the fancy car he has.  I want my son to see that the true measure of a person is not his bankbook or the possessions he has, but rather the goodness of his heart.  I want him to see that beyond the presents that he receives is the love that goes with it — and that love is the more important possession and gift even in this material world.

Coming down with something

I’ve lived with asthma all my life and it’s now something I anticipate when the seasons change from cold to warm.  I’ve been feeling under the weather lately, probably due to the ficklemindedness of Mother Nature about whether or not it will finally get warmer here on my side of the world.

My tonsils have been killing me for most of the week and last night, I tried to take some Nyquil to hold off the flu.  Not much luck, and I’ve been feeling chilly of late.  Again, ginawin ako.  Even after 6 years of living here, I still can’t get used to it.

Fortunately, my asthma is more of an allergy and not really a full-blown condition.  I don’t take maintenance meds and only grab my inhaler when I’m actually in the middle of an attack which lasts anywhere from one to two weeks.  Hopefully not..

Meanwhile, I have to drink water to death to keep myself hydrated.  I might yet lick this one and not succumb to another bout of asthma this time of the year.