He is all of 13 years old. He insists he is no longer a baby. He is away from us — all the way in China — for 6 weeks.
M2 is on a foreign study program — part of their school’s vision to bring their students into a keener awareness of their roots, appreciation for their ancestors’ mother tongue and culture, and a stronger sense of purpose. It is also a learning experience in more ways than one as these boys, many of whom are pampered with creature comforts at home, have to deal now with
- studying without a tutor;
- overcoming terrible homesickness;
- learning to communicate in the language of their ancestors in order to be understood;
- adjusting to living with other boys their age with different personalities and quirks;
- dealing with groceries, laundry and budgeting on top of coping with a demanding study schedule; and
- basically going through an accelerated “growing up” program.
We heard from him yesterday. He sounded OK, had no major concerns about food, accommodations or his studies. In fact, when he asked to speak to his older brother, we thought it was because he missed him….only to find out that their whole conversation was on the latest goings-on with the wrestling TV show they both loved to watch (he has no TV in his China dorm room). He also told me he had been doing his laundry by hand rather than use the pay-per-cycle washing machine so he could save up for pasalubong.
At the moment, my feelings are mixed. There is a part of me that terribly misses him but another part of me is happy that he is learning to fly using his own wings. A part of me wants to cry upon hearing about his method of scrimping to afford gifts to bring home; but the other part of me says this is a good experience so he will learn the value of money earned.
When our kids grow up, the process is not just an experience for the kids but probably more so for us, their parents, who have long cared and watched over them, and now have to slowly let go. In a sense, we are also “growing up”. The transition from a parent to confidante, adviser and friend is fraught with fear and pain; but when hurdled successfully, it can be very rewarding as a new kind of relationship develops.