Monday, July 8, 2013

Of the Cuddled and the Caring

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Of the Cuddled and the Caring
Published by Planet Philippines

(Planet Philippines is distributed in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, London, Melbourne, Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles.)
The Melbourne edition

Playmates Mira and Finn have a lot in common. They love to play with clay, are attached to their “blankies”, and take a bottle of milk to bed. The only difference aside from their gender is their age: Finn is two while Mira is almost six. Mira is by no means delayed in development. She, like many Filipinos raised in the Philippines, is just reared differently. My son on the other hand is Fil-American, raised in the Midwest, and is just about to be weaned from his bottle.

During a recent visit to the Philippines, I noticed a stark difference in how Filipinos are raised compared to children in the Western world. During a get-together, I expressed concern over my son’s attachment to the bottle. My friends waved it off. One said she weaned hers when he turned five.  The others had similar stories. I found that surprising, thinking kids back home no longer take a bottle after the first year. But what shocked me most was the confession of another friend. He claimed that he breastfed on his mom until he was seven years old. Seeing him now as a grown up with his own children and imagining him sucking once on his mother’s breast as a little boy was disturbing to say the least.

It takes a village

The whole conversation about weaning did not settle my concerns and instead made me think about how different Filipinos are brought up. They say it takes a village to raise a child. It is never truer in the Philippines. Without question Pinoys receive more attention from their caregivers. After all, Filipino children are closely surrounded by family from the immediate family to the extended members. If parents work during the daytime, kids are often left to the care of a close family member or a yaya who the child has usually grown to love. In this environment, the child gets the sole attention. 

In the Western world, the young ones are left at day care with a bunch of other kids. In this structured environment, they are taught to follow rules and schedules and learn to live with other kids. They are expected to know where to find their snacks while halfway across the world, Filipinos their age are still being spoon-fed. Yayas follow them around with a lampin in hand.

Case of the night stalker

The Lolo is always part of bringing up a Filipino child.

The spoon feeding extends to the formative years. Even adolescents are still “babied”, co-sleeping with their parents. If a nightmare wakes them up in the middle of the night, they are patted or rocked back to sleep. Back in the States, when the child comes running to their parents’ room in the middle of the night, a parent simply takes the kid back to his room.

We also have a little night stalker. He was never used to being carried or rocked to sleep. A bedtime story and a “baba” will send him happily off to slumber, but in the middle of the night we would hear the patter of feet heading towards our bed. We had long since surrendered the battle and had gone accustomed to him clambering into bed with us. 

Apparently, this should not be a problem as my friends kids (many close to their adolescents) are still happy campers in the master’s bedroom. It’s cheap and effective contraception they say.

Towards independence

Bridging the gap between Filipino parenting and American child rearing.

Back in the States, kids are not only expected to sleep in their own room, they’re also expected to take care of themselves with both parents working. After their toddler years, they don’t have maids to clean up their room or help give them a bath.  On some instances they are paid to mow the lawn or paint the fence. As they grow older, they are encouraged to baby sit or wait tables to finance a Justin Beiber concert or a new mobile app. 

Early on, Western children are conditioned to be self-sufficient because soon as they are of legal age, they leave the house. It’s not like they are kicked out of the house; even the kids themselves yearn for independence, to earn their own way and finally be able to paint their walls black without anybody breathing down their neck.

Caregivers and go-getters

Americans are usually weaned off the bottle at age one. In the Phils,
kids are still on the bottle at age 5 or even older.
Experts say that the kind of sheltered upbringing of Filipinos can be detrimental to growth and maturity.  Sheltered within their little “villages”, Pinoy children are noted to be shy and quiet compared to their Western playmates who were reared early on to be assertive because there was no yaya to attend to their needs. If they want something, they go get it themselves.

Filipinos on the other hand will always have someone to get something for them even when they can do it themselves. If there is no yaya, there is always ate, lolo, and of course papa.

The Filipino values family more than anything else and they take care of each other no matter what. To leave our aged at a senior’s home is unthinkable. We care for our own too much that we cannot close our doors to a bachelor son who still has not found the initiative to get his own place or a widowed aunt who has no one else. We even open our doors and hearts to strangers.

Anybody who needs assistance can rely on a Filipino’s healing hand. This is one reason why Filipinos are known to be excellent caregivers. The best example of this is Gertrude Baines. She is not Filipino but is recognized by the Guinness World Record as the oldest living person until her death in 2009. She was cared for by a group of Filipino caregivers, nurses and doctors.

Planet Philippines Melbourne edition

There is great pride in the fact that we are outstanding caregivers, but I’d like to think that we are more than just that. Surely we should also be known for our talent, our ingenuity, and so much more.  

I would like to raise my son to be an exceptional caregiver too. I want to see him grow up as a loving and caring person who will not drop us off at the nearest nursing home when the time comes. But at the same time I’d like to see him as a go-getter. I want to see him conquer and care for the world as a doctor, a pilot, or an artist.
For now, it’s time to wean him off his “baba”.’’


I want to join! Esquire or Macworld!

Very interesting points, Ana. There are some advantages to being the cuddled child, and Pilipinos can benefit from this. I think it is selfish for children to simply dump their aged parents at a home when they are more than capable to take care of their folks the way they selflessly took care of their kids when they were younger. But on the other hand, we have people who juggle kids and work and they don't have the luxury of maids and extended family to help out. What choice do they have when they themselves have to leave their children in daycare. What to do?

I like how your articles make your audience think.

I'm proud of how we highly look up at our elders and how much we respect them. Elsewhere people call their elders by their first names. we wouldn't dare! We have manong, manang, ate, kuya, tatang. And don't forget the "po" and the mano.

o mag or readers digest thanks

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