Advice from a 3-year-old

I went to work today not in my best mood. I was sleep-deprived, tense and uninspired. The moment I entered the classroom, I was already counting down the seconds that seemed to take forever. 

In my afternoon class, I have a student name Jairus. His mom got pregnant with him at a very young age, and his dad ran off when he found out about the pregnancy. He knows he doesn’t have a dad but at a young age he has already come to terms with it. He usually gets picked up an hour or two after all the other kids leave, but I’ve never heard him complain. He’s also one of the most carefree kids I’ve ever met, so it only seemed right to seek his advice.

Earlier today, while the kids were taking a break from their worksheets and activities, I sat beside him and said, “Jairus, I’m feeling a bit sad today. What advice can you give me?” 

He has this thoughtful look for a moment before telling me, “Never give up.”

Before I could respond, he goes on to say, “Sometimes, I can’t find my way but I never give up.” 

At this point, I was already mesmerized by what he said. And I was so sure that we were having one of those coming-of-age movie moments wherein the kid and the adult would share this deep and meaningful conversation, revealing how the kid knew all along the inner turmoil hidden within the depths of the adult soul.

And so I ask, “You can’t find your way to where?” 

I’m not sure what kind of answer I was expecting, probably along the lines of ‘happiness’ or ‘inner peace’. But instead, he shrugs and says, “My friend’s house.”

That made my heart smile. It wasn’t the thought-provoking answer I anticipated, but it’s the kind of answer that made me realize how wise children can be without them even knowing it, and how the simplest answers to the most trivial problems can still save you during the most difficult times.

Of course, after that, he goes on and on, listing down the names of his friends and the games they play, and how his mom took him to see How to Train Your Dragon 2 in the theaters and how awesome it was. 

It’s a good day after all. 

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A list of promises to my future kid

Hello, you.

I’m writing this now as a 23-year-old single woman. You might be wondering why I’m doing this given that I am only 23 and very much single. I’m in no hurry to get married and have you either (no offense, I’m sure you’re awesome and that your dad is too). I am, however, a preschool teacher and when you’re a preschool teacher, you witness the fruits of parenting every single day which is basically what I’ve been up to this past year. Let me tell you, I’ve seen good fruits and I’ve seen bad fruits. And honey, I do not want you to become a bad fruit.

So I’ve decided to write down a list of promises I intend to fulfill the moment you come into this world. Some of the things here are based on what I’ve seen in my profession. Then there are other things here that are just, I don’t know, my thing I guess.

1. I promise you’ll grow up knowing how to read books, if not loving to read them. This might seem like a trivial thing but trust me, I’ve had little kids in my classroom who would try to “swipe” the pages of their books. You will not be one of them. I won’t allow it. You will grow up holding a book first before holding high-tech gadgets that are likely to drastically shorten your attention span. I can’t promise that I won’t force you to read Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game because I firmly believe that these books must be read by my child.

2. I promise you’ll know what it’s like to play under the sun and not just in front of the computer or TV screen. I will show you that playing hide-and-seek and tag with your athletic dad and competitive mom is in fact more fun that sitting on the couch with your eyes glued to a screen. I also promise to give you all the board games and puzzles you want. Monopoly? Scrabble? Snakes and Ladders? Battleship? You name it, I am willing to get it… but not all at once, okay? You can play PS5,6 or 7 after the real games are done and even then, fun dad and hip mom are still game for some FIFA/NBA 2k18,19 or 20 and Need for Speed. No GTA though, that’s a bit over the top for me.

3. I promise I won’t hand you an iPad or iPhone just so you’d stop crying. I’ve seen this happen quite often. I can’t deny that it is pretty effective, but it just gets worse in the long run. Sooner or later, you’ll be throwing a fit and I’d have to give you my car to be able to appease you. So no. You’re going to cry and you’re going to stop crying because mom is a lean mean humming machine that can calm you down with James Ingram’s Somewhere Out There or because dad can give an epic death stare that will give you second thoughts about throwing a tantrum or vice versa.

4. I promise I won’t bring you to the movie theaters while you’re at a really young age so that people won’t hate you if you start crying. You’re my baby, of course I don’t want people glaring at you when you’re doing something that is perfectly normal and expected for you to do at your age. So instead of bringing you to grown-up places, we’ll bring our party to little kids’ places instead – they’re more fun than fancy restaurants and movie theaters anyway.

5. I promise to introduce you to the movies I watched when I was a kid because I can’t promise you that the movies that’ll be showing in your time will be appropriate for you. Don’t get mad at me if I do not let you watch Iron Man or Spiderman or any other “Man” that’s trending. You will watch them eventually, but not when you’re five. And before you ask, no, not when you’re six either. They’re not bad movies; I find them to be really good actually. But I don’t want you to think that the boy who grabbed your toy without asking permission is a villain who needs to have his head zapped off “like what Iron Man does to the bad guy”. It’s also highly likely that there will be very limited Disney princess movies because you shouldn’t concern yourself with true love at a young age. If I’m raising you the way I plan to, you’ll only be watching the really really good movies. Like The Lion King, 101 Dalmatians, The Jungle Book and The Rescuers. And Toy Story. And Homeward Bound. And Fox and the Hound. Are you seeing the pattern here?

6. You’re not going to like this but I promise I will not give you your own cellphone until you actually, definitely and genuinely need it. Take not, I said your own cellphone. I’ll gladly share mine with you if you need one for school; I rarely use it anyway. That means you can call and text your friends and all that, but that also means I can get it back whenever I want to and that you can’t be upset when I do. And your own phone? That might take a while, not unless you’re willing to spend your own money to buy your own phone and pay your own phone bill. But seriously, I want you to experience writing to people, sending a snail mail, or even just using a telephone.

7. I promise I won’t force you to learn how to play a musical instrument or take dance lessons or join sports teams if you don’t want to. My parents forced me to take piano lessons for a couple of years when I was a kid, so I know it’ll do no good if I do the same thing to you. I am not going to force you to do something you don’t want, but I am going to encourage you to do something that you want to do.

8. And if you do, I promise to attend all your games, plays and recitals. I promise I’ll have front row seats to every program you’re in. I’ll take pictures and your dad will take videos, and we’ll show it to the rest of the family when you’re still too young to care and too old to be embarrassed. I also know there’s a chance that, when you reach a certain age, you won’t be thrilled to have your parents watch you play or perform anymore. So I also promise that I’ll be hiding somewhere among the crowd to every event you tell me not to attend. Because I know that’s just a phase, that you’ll get over it soon enough and that eventually you’ll be glad that I went.

9. I promise you will be raised in a family that does sing-alongs even if no one can sing and that dances even when cool dad can’t dance (because groovy mom definitely can). We are going to sing at the top of our lungs and we are going to dance like there’s no tomorrow because we, dear one, will be a family who knows how to have fun.

10. I promise I won’t judge you by your test scores but I also promise I’ll be asking you to show them to me. I don’t need you to be on the honor roll. I don’t need a child who has perfect grades. But I do need you to learn. I need you to learn because you need to learn. And I promise to help you with every lesson that I know and I promise to relearn the lessons I forgot so that I can help you with them.

11. I promise to be nice to your friends, I can’t promise to be the same for the ones who only pretend to be your friends, and I promise you I can tell the difference. Trust me on this one. I know.

12. You won’t be happy about this but I promise I will not allow you to have a Facebook account until you promise to accept my friend request without putting me on that privacy setting list (I will find out); no Twitter account either until you know the difference between there, their and they’re; and if you’re just going to post “selfies”, you can forget about Instagram as well. You might think these conditions are stupid and insignificant so let me explain. Having me on your friend’s list means we have the kind of relationship where you don’t feel like you should hide anything from me. Knowing the difference between there, their and they’re is important because grammar and spelling are important, so if you’re going to tweet about your life, I want to make sure you do it in the proper grammar and correct spelling. Lastly, I know you are extremely good-looking and beautiful. Please don’t brag about it on social media. I want you to be confident with the way you look, not narcissistic about it.

13. I promise I won’t freak out when you start dating… only if you introduce the person you’re dating to your intimidating dad and your diplomatic mom. Only if come home on time (plus points for coming home earlier than curfew). And only if we truly feel that you’re dating a good human being. Again, trust me, we know.

14. And lastly, I promise I will try to be the coolest and most awesome mom ever. I can’t promise that I will succeed…in your eyes. I promise you that I won’t embarrass you in front of your friends, but I can’t promise that you won’t feel embarrassed by something I did. In my eyes, I’m just doing you a favor. I get that it might seem the opposite for you. But hey, like me with my mom, eventually you’ll understand my reasons and I’ll understand yours, and we’ll love each other even more.

That’s it for now. I’m sure there’s a lot more to be added as I get older and closer to having you. But I wanted to list all these down right now so that I will remember. I realize that it’s possible to forget promises like these along the way. I see parents who raise their children the way they do based on convenience or casual routine and even indifference, I don’t want to fall under those categories.

So you see, this list is for me as much as it is for you, so that I won’t forget how I wanted to raise when I was still 23. Because maybe I know better now than I will in the future. That happens sometimes.

Preschool Dialogue #1: Of flying things, merlions and peeing

This splendid conversation between my 4-year-old students, Enzo and Brent (with a special appearance of JJ), will happify your day. A few months ago, Enzo went to Singapore with his family and was so amazed with everything he saw. Brent, on the other hand, did not go to Singapore but that did not stop him from seeing amazing things as well. And JJ just knows how to end a conversation perfectly.

Enzo raises his hand…

Enzo: Teacher, when I went to Singapore, we ate in a restaurant with flying ninjas!

Before I can reply, Brent raises his hand and doesn’t even wait for me to call his name…

Brent: Teacher, I saw flying birds!

But it doesn’t stop there. Enzo looks at Brent and accepts the challenge.

Enzo: And then Teacher, I saw a merlion. It’s white and hard and it’s like a mermaid… but it’s a lion.

Brent: Teacher, I saw a merlion too. But it’s color brown. And… and it spins the ball on his mouth. And it swims in the ocean! I saw it on TV!

Teacher (because I couldn’t help myself): Brent, I think that’s a sea lion.

Enzo raises his hand…

Enzo: Teacher, I also saw a sea lion.

Brent raises his hand…

Brent: Teacher, I saw the sea lion first!

JJ raises his hand…

JJ: Teacher, I need to pee.

 

4-year-olds will be the death of me

Problem-child-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, a warning: Kids are a threat to your mental and sometimes even physical well-being, people. I know that now.

Don’t get me wrong, I love kids. (Shout out to my nephew, Timothy!) I worked as a summer school teacher in a nearby preschool for two summers; I used to babysit my younger cousins and I’m a Sunday school teacher.

But that kid in church who keeps shouting at the top of his lungs, who, when arriving to church with his soft-spoken parents, goes straight to his aunt and yells, “iPhone!!!!!!!!” and actually gets the phone? And who, I might add, always ends up sitting next to me because his aunt usually sits two seats away from me? Him, I most definitely do not love. Him, I kind of sort of a little bit dislike. With a passion.

Also, for the past couple of months, I’ve been tutoring this 4-year-old girl to earn some extra cash. Every Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I’d go to her house and teach her how to read, write and count. While she’s been slowly learning how to read, she’s also been pretty difficult to handle. I sometimes find her mildly terrifying because it’s like she knows we’re in “her territory” and so she can do anything she wants without me being able to scold her. But she has never pulled out a stunt as ballsy and provoking as she had during our most recent session.

Yesterday, she decided to stop listening to me. She stood up from the table, crossed her arms and told me, “Don’t come here anymore.” I like to think that I took after my dad, who’s a disciplinarian, when it comes to handling kids so I looked at her and told her in a very firm tone to sit back down which, until then, has been very effective. But seriously, my 22-year-old self felt a little bullied when she said that. Instead of sitting back down, she walked further away and just stood there and shot me a death stare. I am neither joking nor exaggerating. That kid gave me a very real and definitely convincing death stare. I crossed my arms and looked at her, figuring that maybe the silent treatment would work but, of course to make this story more interesting, it didn’t. We literally stared at each other for about half an hour until the time was up and I had to leave.

I think I lost that battle.

So here I am, telling all of you that 4-year-olds may possibly be the death of me. With the first kid, because his parents might kill me if I suddenly snap and knock him unconscious one of these Sundays when he’s screaming in my ear. And with the second, because she might just actually kill me.

And if it isn’t obvious enough, yes, that knocking the kid unconscious bit is a joke so please don’t report me to child protective services.

I conclude this post by saying to all you moms out there, I figuratively bow down to you, literally salute you and just wholeheartedly virtual hug you for taking, whether willingly or unwillingly, the scariest profession of them all – motherhood. Anyone who says otherwise is either a misogynist (which is SO not cool) or an idiot (which is SO not cool… for them, but maybe a little entertaining for us).