Last February 5, 2017, I was invited by Kumon Tuguegarao to present a testimonial on my daughter’s Kumon journey and was requested to talk about my parenting style, principles and experiences. The days before I wrote my speech, I reflected on the 15 years that I became a solo parent and in those moments of reflection I remembered the ups and downs I went through. Has it really been 15 years? How time flies.
It was such a profound experience to be able to share my own story and journey to solo parenting. At that moment on stage, I felt I was the most blessed mother in the world; to be able to talk about my daughter, her accomplishments and how she makes me proud, every day. I cannot be prouder than that episode when I spoke of my love to my daughter and the many challenges and trials I have gone through to make her a life that she deserves in this world.
Our Kumon Experience
Kumon began with a parent’s love for his child. Toru Kumon built a philosophy that developed the ability of children around the world to achieve their goals and dreams.
I would like to begin on this note, emphasizing that the beginning of every Kumon experience for any child is rooted on love. It is our love for our children why we enrolled them in Kumon.
We all want the best for our kids, especially in securing them a good education, a colorful academic life and a successful life thereafter. As parents, Kumon is among the best experiences that we have given them indeed, because we have created a path for them to realize their dreams.
My daughter, Ninotchka Karenin who we fondly call Itchie started her Kumon journey when she was in Grade 4 and from then on, her life changed, along with ours. Her Kumon life became an integral part of our daily schedule and became an experience where we pooled in our time and resources. We would wait on her for hours at the center and would battle strong rains and other inconveniences just to make time for Kumon. Looking back now, I would say that it was a rollercoaster and a memorable experience.
Kumon has benefitted Itchie in many ways. She gained discipline in her studies and she became an independent learner. With Kumon, she also excelled beyond my expectations, making her No. 1 in Mathematics in her class during some grading periods. It was one of the best investments I made so far in my life.
In a year’s time perhaps Itchie will be able to complete her Math program and her Kumon experience will come full circle; from a slow learner to an advanced one. Indeed, Kumon was among the best decisions I made for my child’s academic life.
The Pressure of Doing Double Roles
Parenting is the hardest career ever. It is a vocation that does not come with a manual. It’s an experience that brings joy, happiness and delight. It can also give us feelings of confusion, anxiety, stress, worry and depression.
It’s even harder for a solo parent like me, because I have been pressured to do double roles- a mother and a father at the same time. Being a single parent can bring a sense of victory, yet it can sometimes bring devastating feelings as well.
I am not a perfect parent. I was a strict mother when my daughter was growing. I had a different perspective of parenting then. I was a young mom, I was very idealistic and I was coping with my own insecurities, frustrations and inabilities. Eventually, I loosened up a bit and had a paradigm shift in parenting. I embraced a new style, one that focused on giving more freedom to Itchie without being too lenient.
I realized that my daughter would grow and thrive better in an environment that allows her to explore and harness her own potentials. And so, I had given her more room for freedom.
Teaching Values for Life’s Adversities
We cannot be protective of our sons and daughters all the time. Eventually, they will have their own identities, opinions and decisions. We should let them take on their own wings and fly to where they can bloom and blossom to become the best of what and who they can be.
One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is giving them the freedom to discover their own abilities, guiding them and motivating them in the pursuit of their passions. Children become best when they are given room for their personal growth.
Children are naturally carefree and free-spirited. They are full of imagination and they even think ahead of us. Theirs is an unadulterated world; an untainted one that is peppered with beautiful dreams, thoughts and ideas. We must nurture their sense of imagination, creativity and ingenuity.
It is also good to give them a taste of frustrations sometimes. Letting them experience solitude, sadness and a bit of discouragement will make them realize that life is a balance of happiness and sadness. They will learn that life is a juxtaposition of losses and victories. This will give them an opportunity to reflect on their mistakes and blunders; make them learn how to rise again from their bumps and move on. It will even help them appreciate life better.
There are many values and lessons we want our children to imbibe. For me, I simply want my daughter to realize that she is her own person and that as a mother, I am just here to guide her to what she wants to achieve in life.
I have always reiterated to my daughter that education is important. It is crucial that Itchie finishes her studies for her own security later in life. However, I taught her that success is not just about achieving the luxuries of life, high career positions and fame. Being successful need not be being the first or the best, but in being happy, inspired and contented in the pursuit of her passion and profession in the future.
We all want happiness and success for our children. But for Itchie, I want her to live a meaningful and fulfilled life; one that will equip her with values of respect, responsibility, charity, humility, patience, tolerance and faith; enough to make her a strong and independent person in order to battle the hardships and adversities that her future will bring.
The Challenge of Raising a Millenial
Itchie is now 15 and at her age, so much have changed in her- from moods, to fashion to likes and dislikes. It is hard to cope with a growing adolescent. With their raging hormones and mood swings, it can be really very frustrating.
For parents with growing teens, it is important for us to understand that they are adolescents. We have been teens once, so we know the feeling. It is also important that we understand that their world is entirely different from ours.
We are rearing Millenials, a group of individuals who have a different perspective than ours. They move in a fast-paced environment and they are hooked on the internet and the social media. Though they are a planet away from our world, we cannot judge them. They have their own uniqueness and individuality. It is therefore good, if we can make an effort to bridge the gap between us by learning and understanding their world.
At his stage in their lives, it is important to encourage a more open relationship. Communication is the key. We need to listen clearly and attentively to what they have to share.
It is the age of curiosity and confusion for our teens. They are emotional, vulnerable and highly sensitive. The pursuit of their sense of belongingness and approval sometimes lead to immature decisions and judgments. Let us therefore pave the path of enlightenment by guiding them to make sound decisions.
Sharing their pains and frustrations will also let them realize that they need not look farther for comfort, because they can find security in our arms. As parents, we should always be the first to understand what they are going through. Let us be their shoulders to cry on all the time.
The Gift of Time
I have always been involved in Itchie’s life. I supported her activities in arts, music and sports. I have come to every PTA meeting, school activity, family day, and dance performances. They grow up so fast, so we have to make time for them. We cannot turn back the clock and we cannot rewind moments. It’s now or never.
I know it may sound as a cliché, but making time for our kids is very essential. They will not remember the things we have bought them on their 5th or 10th birthday. What they will most remember are the moments when we were on the sides cheering on them during school activities and competitions. They will remember the trips to the beach and the zoo. They will remember their Kumon Awarding when you pinned their bronze, silver and gold medals.
It is also important to make parenting enjoyable. Itchie and I talk about her school life, her friends and her sometimes, her crushes.
My daughter and I love to watch movies together too. We eat out when there are family occasions and celebrations.
We also make time for travel every summer. It’s something that I have done since she was a toddler because I want her to explore the world around her and learn about life outside her comfort zone. I have always believed that we should gather memories, not material things. With our travels, I have given Itchie a glimpse of different cultures and different ways of life, and ton loads of memories to cherish on her lifetime.
However, having fun with our children need not be an expensive excursion or travel to somewhere fancy and nice. The most cherished moments are spent at home, with them doing things together. Make the most out of it.
Parenting Lessons from my Own Experience
As a parent, I would not have made this far without the support of the important people in my life, and that is my own parents. They have extended their love to their granddaughter and they have been very loving and caring of Itchie. They have come to witness Itchie’s annual awarding and they did not miss her Family Day at school. They have been the most influential people in my life. Much of my parenting philosophies are practical viewpoints that I have personally experienced from my parents when I was growing up. I could not have given my daughter a good life without them. Thank you Papa Ted and Mama Anday!
Parenting is Love
As parents, I believe there can only be one reason why we stay strong despite the hardships and trials of parenting. There can only be love in every parent’s heart. It is love that drives us to secure our kids’ future. It is love that binds us to our commitment to stay as their parents until we leave this world.
Like Toru Kumon, the greatest lesson that any parent can learn from his or her child’s Kumon experience is also love. And this, my friends, is enough to remind us what profound life we have as parents.
I would like to thank my parents, relatives and friends who have supported me all the way from day 1 I got pregnant with Itchie.
Thank you to all the Kumon Tuguegarao teachers for patiently teaching our sons and daughters. You are our children’s inspiration. Thank you for touching their lives!
To Teacher Susan Alivia-Carag, who have believed in my daughter and who saw her potential, thank you teacher for inspiring her to shine, along with the other awardees and Kumon students. Thank you for this opportunity.