An observation on parenting in public transportation

Bilib jud ko sa mama nga akong nakadungan sa jeep kaganina.

(Kudos to the mother on the jeepney – Philippine public transportation, that is – today.)

She couldn’t have been much older than me (she was probably in her late 20’s) and she was shepherding three kids (between 5-10 years old) while nursing a baby (my estimate is about 4-6 months old.) She paid for two of the three kids and asked the eldest to have the small girl sit on his lap.

While the jeep was filling up, she frequently asked them if they were comfortable (“OK ra ka? Gakaipit ka diha?”) She gave calm, clear instructions and explained why they needed to be done (“Ibutang ra na imong Barbie sa cellophane para dili ka maglisod ug dala ana.”, “Padaplin mo pagkanaog ninyo ha? Dungan ra ta motabok.”) Even when one of the kids tried to run while the jeep was moving, she managed to catch her with one hand and tell her not to do that again. All this was done firmly and calmly, without sarcasm or raising her voice. Usually, the kids didn’t need to be told more than once to do as she said.

You would think that this ought to be a more common sight but my experience (with public transportation at least) tells me otherwise.

Once, an lady on a jeep I rode persistently scolded her nephew for having a frown on his face (he didn’t want to leave home but they had to.) Her constant nagging triggered a tantrum. Isn’t he at least allowed to be sad because he’s leaving home? He wasn’t making a fuss at first but his aunt’s persistent yammering made him more and more restless. (“Dili mag ingon ana. Murag kinsa man ka’g tag-iya sa jeep no? Alang ipabalik nato ang jeep para nimo. Kung gusto nimo, naog ka karon ug mag-uli kag imoha. Malipay jud ko kay wala na ko’y dala na samok…”)

Another lady on a bus alternated between telling her daughter to stop asking questions and giving her wrong, impatient answers. If I remember correctly, the girl just wanted to know why a chicken couldn’t hatch from the boiled egg they had purchased at a stop. I was sorely tempted to crane my neck and just answer her questions myself.

And, of course, there’s the man on a jeep that I nearly picked a fight with. He smelled strongly of alcohol and was swearing at his two children who were standing at the aisle because the jeep was full. He would occasionally hit one of them just because the poor kid wanted to sit down on his lap because he was uncomfortable standing on the aisle.

Early childhood learning is mostly monkey-see-monkey-do. That is, young children learn by example. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect children to grow up respectful and responsible if nobody bothers to respect -them-, explain things to them properly, and answer their questions.

I don’t subscribe to the thought that children always have to be obedient without question or else punishment. Or that children ought to be seen and not heard. I don’t believe “because I say so” either. I was a child once. It would be ridiculously simple for me to take five minutes of my time, sit down with my childhood self and give a simple and clear explanation or answer. And, failing that, is a simple “I don’t know” really that hard?

And then we, the “adults” expect to be listened to, to have our questions answered, to know why we have to do so-and-so and to be respected. Can’t we at least give this to others if we want it so badly?

So a big, big kudos to the young mother on the jeep this evening for being in control and, at the same time, being a good example on how to treat other people. May all the people responsible for raising our youth be more like you.

“Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.” – Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling)

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