Thursday, August 21, 2008

conversation with a teen-ager

i'd better post something new before anyone thinks i actually got sued and even arrested for tipping off the MMDA demolition team to the sidewalk vendors.

there have been a lot of things and events i had intended to write about the past month, but never had the time or the energy to do so. and then time just passed me by that emotions eventually petered out. one thing that doesn't go is how i would always be proud of my son's precociousness. truly he is an old man in a young man's body.

during my most recent visit to my son i was once again gobsmacked by his emotional maturity, just like in the other times when he shared his thoughts unexpectedly. and he's living up to the award he got in pre-school, 'most articulate' at a time when he didn't even know what it meant and couldn't even say the word correctly.

saturday, while we were lying in bed he abruptly sat up and blurted, "mommy, i have anger issue." darn, what was i supposed to reply to that one when i didn't realize i had anger issue myself until i was thirty-something! i was a bit disconcerted but i had to play the cool mom that make him open up to me. "what makes you say that?", i asked. "i easily get annoyed, i tend to react aggresively, even violently over superficial reasons." (he spoke in taglish but writing it here in english, still making sure the essence is not lost in my translation). "what are the things that annoy you and what do you do when you are annoyed?" i asked again, reminding myself that i'm his mom and not his psychologist.

he was so sure of the things he wanted to say, and didn't seem concerned that i would judge him at all. or perhaps he has already judged his actions, thus calling it an 'issue'. "simple things like when the internet connection is so slow, or when dillan [his cousin] is being a pain in the neck. i want to smash the computer, sometimes i want to punch dillan. when i feel that way, i walk out and punch the pillows instead" darn again, it did sound like an anger issue. then a brief moment of silence, he was probably expecting me to say something curt but brilliant.

all these years of single-parenting make me learn everyday how to be or not to be a parent. keep it short and simple, KISS, works well with teen-agers, and not the kilometric lectures on life. now i don't know if what i said next was brilliant, but i had to say to him, " it's good you recognize you have anger issue. you know what the problem is and soon you will know how to manage your emotions." "mommy, i need a psychiatrist." he retorted, partly joking. now that one made me smile. still not knowing what was best to say, i could only come up with 'lolo dad is a psychiatrist."

another brief moment and i shiftef to another role, this time the psychiatrist that he wanted. i did explain to him that people get frustrated over many things, some of it we are unable to express and find their way to the manner we handle things. recognizing that there is a problem is the first step, being aware of the symptoms and then finding out the cause. meantime, when we are unsure about what's causing the problem we can attend to the manifestations.

at this point i told him, 'when you start getting annoyed, try counting up to ten, while slowly breathing in and out." guess what he said, "mommy, i've tried that, it didn't work". and then, remember that i always play the cool mom so i said, "ok, try twenty " along with an impish grin.

then again i had to be serious and talk about the possible source of his anger issue. my son tells me almost everything that i am well aware of how he feels about being left by his biological father and years later by another person he considered his new dad. although i have told him that he should move on as i have, still it was difficult for him. unlike me, he never got to tell those people how hurt he was. and maybe, those people didn't even know how the boy was pained by their leaving.

how was i to make a child understand that a separation is never about the children? they are as badly wounded as the parents are during separations. but adults tend to get over the pain faster than the children do because they are the ones that caused them their pains in the first place. but the children, they didn't have any part of it yet they suffer greater and longer.

when kahlil and i talked, i had to tell him about my own anger issue which i had to eventually come to terms with by either surrendering to the fact that i can no longer undo the things that have happened, or by forgiving the people who caused me to be angry even without them asking for it. and i had to add that we could no longer change the past but he can still command his future. he did seem to understand.

sunday, when he went to attend mass, he prayed that he would be able to forgive. we are both not expecting miracle, (especially the atheist mom) but we both know that gradually he would be able to manage his anger and rechannel his energy to something positive. and with his maturity, i certainly believe that he will be able to transcend everything he went through. plus, i have to be always the cool mom and the friend that he has.

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