I-Parent: What was your childhood like?

In Photo: The first photo is me in my Chiang Kai Shek uniform at age 4, while the second photo is my favorite toy when I was a kid. Thank you, Paolo Periquet, for gifting me with this vintage He Man figure last year.

I describe today’s parents—working or not, millennial or not—as “parents in constant motion.”  We have our daily schedules packed. We have our chores and gatherings during weekends. We maximize downtime with travel. The list is endless. But beyond having a fast-paced environment, “constant motion,” for me, is also our view on constantly searching for what’s better.

Personally, I see no wrong in “constantly moving” as long as we are fully aware of this choice; and never forget the meaning behind it. This is why it’s important to step back once in a while to give time to explore the self. It’s like our physical health.  If we want to stay fit, we exercise regularly. If we want to be emotionally content parents, we need to allot time for activities to keep us whole.  These are activities that lead us to wake up every morning, and happily see ourselves in the mirror.

By being happy with ourselves, we’re also more open to share who we truly are to our kids.  As they get older, we also feel more comfortable sharing the ups and downs of our journey with them.  This allows our kids to have a true relationship with us. This means our kids know we’re not perfect, that we have both hurts and failures, but we’re proud to share with them the wisdom we have learned along the way. I always believe a “whole self” simplifies parenting because it is rooted in authenticity.

This is why I decided to do an “I-Parent” series.  Once a month, I would like to share my thoughts on how to strengthen our “I”s.  These views are from books I have read, seminars I have attended and a lot of my personal experiences and philosophies.

For this first installment, I would like to focus on childhood.  Try to jot down distinct memories chronologically from the age of 0-8. Try to at least write down the persons involved, what happened and why it was significant to you. For the more avid writers, try to write it down like it’s your autobiography without filter.

Why 0-8?  These years are considered to be a child’s formative years.  These years of early child development includes the physical, socioemotional, cognitive and motor development. When I did this exercise eight years ago, I coincidentally found that my memories from 3 to 8 were the most vivid and largely revealed the roots of my philosophies today. I also saw these years as having the most crucial consequence to my youngest sister, who is 10 years my junior.

I remembered at the time that I was doing this in 2010, my purpose was to answer my personal question on why I felt and acted so differently from my immediate family. After this initial exercise, I had a better understanding. I was able to read through my life as if I was reading someone else’s story. I saw why, how and who lead me to my “I” today. I realized how much those minute moments affected how I think today.

The more difficult part is assessing the consequences. Which are positive? which are negative? Which do you choose to bring to your “I” today?

I often hear people blame their adult emotional health to their childhood or, more directly, to their parents or the people who raised them. I would often tell my younger sister that one can leverage this reasoning up until a certain point in our adulthood. Better for us to realize soon enough that whoever raised us did the best they could or raised us based on their own childhood experiences. Whatever our past, it’s still our choice to edit and live our future on our own terms.

Below are some excerpts of my own childhood exercise:

“I was born 8.8 lbs. at Metropolitan Hospital in Manila in February 1977. I was often told that my mom really wanted a boy. There was no ultrasound then so my birth was not as joyous. I was left at the hospital for a few months before I was brought home. I was told that my mom was really depressed because she had a miscarriage before me and it was a boy.

“We used to live on Agno Street, with my dad’s family. Everyday, my grandmother would prepare our breakfast. My grandaunt would be there to review the lessons with me from the night before. The three of us had one boiled egg everyday. We even had our own egg holders. Mine was colored red. Then it was off to school with my nanny, Manang Iyang.

“Many of my best memories were in our study room downstairs. At 4, I remember painting there one afternoon. I remember learning at Chiang Kai Shek that week to put some color on one side of the paper, then folding it to create a mirror image. This began my journey for art and colors. That night I told my mom I wanted to be a painter. She told me I was going to be a lawyer-businessman because there is no money in painting. From that day on, I wrote lawyer-businesswoman in all the slum books [a book where each person wrote their biodata and interesting facts about oneself] of my friends.”

To be continued….

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