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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Kuya.  It’s a word we use as a term of respect for a male older than us, whether they be our family, friends, relatives or strangers.  It’s a word that involves trust, especially when the person is considered family or a friend.

Kuya R.

Kuya R. was one of my first favorite Kuyas.  He was from Manila, handsome, artistahin, had a good sense of humor, & was kind.  I was a 10-year-old girl & felt comfortable sitting next to him listening to him joke around & tell stories to us, his cousins & our neighbors.

One afternoon while he & another cousin were watching TV I came into the room.  He motioned me to come over & he whispered something in my ear.  I didn’t understand what he said but the next thing I knew he pulled me closer & was kissing me on the mouth.  I was only 10 or 11 years old…it felt very awkward & uncomfortable, and I avoided him for the rest of the day.

Several days later, I was sleeping alone on the bed one night when I felt someone lie down next to me.  I think Mama was on vacation at the time in the province, so I was alone on the bed.  I didn’t feel alarmed because I didn’t find it unusual if someone slept next to me, & as I mentioned in a previous blog entry, there were always people at our house, banyo lang ang walang taong natutulog (the bathroom was the only place where there was no one sleeping on the floor).  But this time it was different.  It was Kuya R. who lay down beside me.  I had my back towards him, & the next thing I knew I woke up with him kissing the back of my neck.  I was in shock & could hardly move.  He tried to turn me to face towards him, while  his hand groped my still budding breasts.  “Kuya, huwag!”  I said, and that brought him back to his senses.  I avoided him like the plague ever since.  But there would be times when I would wake up from a nap & he would be there stroking my hair.   Good thing there were always people around so he didn’t do anything more than that.

Years later, when I was 18 or 19, & I told Mama about this, at first she got mad at Kuya R., but then later was mad at me.  She blamed me, then only 10 or 11, for what happened!  I was at a loss for words.

Kuya B.

Kuya B. was one of my cousins who lived nearby during the brief three years we were in Bulacan.  Kuya B. had a great sense of humor, was very good at playing chess, & worked as a bus conductor.  He was short, dark & thin, the physical opposite of Kuya R.

I was around 14 or 15 at the time.  One day, while we were all watching TV, he sat close to me.  I was wearing shorts, & I could feel him stroking my thighs surreptitiously from the side.  I moved further away on the sofa, but he just moved right next to me.  I got up & moved to one of the chairs at the dining table which was within viewing range of the TV & where he wouldn’t be able to follow me & stroke my thighs.  I knew he wouldn’t be able to do that in full open view in front of the others.

After watching TV, Kuya B. told me, “Den, punta ka sa bahay, turuan kitang maglaro ng chess.”  (Den, come to the house.  I’ll teach you how to play chess) “Sige, Kuya, mamaya.”  (Ok, Kuya, later.) I always wanted to learn how to play chess, & Kuya B was very good at it, but I knew he lived alone, & I dared not go there.  I knew teaching me chess wasn’t on his mind.  Over the next several days he kept coming over to the house insisting & asking when I’d come over, but I always said “Mamaya Kuya, marami akong homework eh.”  (Later Kuya, I have lots of homework to do.)  He finally stopped asking me, but from then on I always felt uncomfortable at the way he looked at me & whenever he was around.

~o~o~o~

I was lucky, although these incidents are considered sexual molestation, it didn’t go as far as rape.  And the only reason it didn’t go as far as rape was because I was informed.  But like most things in life, no one told me about these things, I taught myself.

I remember one time when I was around 10 or 11, I was at the library doing some research.  I finished my homework & started looking up things in the encyclopedia.  I was near the age of having my first period so I looked up menstruation.  You know how encyclopedia articles are, at the end of the entries they have cross-references to similar topics, so I read up on the female as well as male reproductive system, then sex, then sexual behaviors, then sexual deviations, & sexually transmitted diseases.  At the age of 10 or 11, I learned what all these things were, and I was grossed out to learn about pedophilia, incest & bestiality, and all the ugly STDs out there (AIDS wasn’t around yet),  but I came away that afternoon armed with knowledge about what is considered sexual behaviors & inappropriate touching.

I tell these uncomfortable stories to drive home a point.  If you’re a parent, you NEED to teach your kids what appropriate & inappropriate touching is, especially if you have daughters.  The overwhelming majority of people who are molested are females – girls & women.  The overwhelming majority of sexual predators are males.  And statistics say that in most cases, the molester isn’t a stranger, it’s someone the person knows & trusts, someone who’s considered family or friend.

So please, for your kids’ sake, don’t let what happened to me, or worse, happen to them.  Teach them what is considered appropriate or inappropriate touching & let them know that they can always come to you & tell you if someone has put them in a situation that feels uncomfortable for them.  To not inform your precious children, to me, is nothing short of negligence.

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There’s a saying that ‘knowledge is power.’  Here are five times in my life where I’ve proven that to be true for me:

1.  The encyclopedia — I remember one time when I was around 10 or 11, I was at the school library doing some research.  I finished my homework & started looking up things in the encyclopedia.  I was near the age of having my first period so I looked up ‘menstruation.’  You know how encyclopedia articles are, at the end of the entries they have cross-references to similar topics, so I read up on the female as well as male reproductive system, then sex, then sexual behaviors, then sexual deviations, & sexually transmitted diseases.  At the age of 10 or 11, I learned what all these things were, and I was grossed out to learn about pedophilia, incest & bestiality, and all the ugly STDs out there (AIDS wasn’t around yet).  But the most important thing I  came away with that afternoon was the knowledge of what is considered sexual behaviors & inappropriate touching.  That knowledge helped me rebuff the sexual advances of two older male relatives as a pre-teen & young teenager.

2.  The textbook —  When I was pregnant with my eldest, we were living in a house where the other rooms were rented out to college students and working people.  One of the rooms was rented out to three nursing students.  I borrowed their textbook on obstetrics & gynecology, & proceeded to take notes.  I carried that notebook with me all the way to the hospital a few months later, going over it, checking to see which stage of the labor process I was in  to see how much longer it would take before I saw my baby.

There’s a saying that ‘the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear of all.’  I conquered my fear of labor & delivery at the time by thoroughly going over that ob-gyn textbook & meticulously taking notes & reading those notes over & over again.  I think it greatly eased my fears, & contributed to an easy & relatively pain-free delivery.  I repeated the process again 11 1/2 years later when I was pregnant with my second son, but this time I bought a book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, & signed up for a weekly newsletter from babycenter.com, Your Pregnancy, Week by Week, that was delivered via email (which I still receive, but the email subject title is now ‘Your Big Kid’).

Although both boys were born at hospitals, I didn’t need to use painkillers, didn’t even need, or have the time, to be IV’d.  That’s how easy giving birth has been for me…I know, I’m really lucky!

3,  Personal finances — When I started working in the States, I had to learn how to use a checkbook (super simple, a matter of simple math) & was intrigued about this employee benefit called the 401(k).  So for about a year I was hooked on reading books & websites on personal finances.  I learned about stocks, bonds, mutual funds, indexes, how to ladder CDs (certificates of deposit)  if you choose to go this route, among other things.

Now I don’t have a clue about how the NASDAQ works or how the Dow Jones Industrial Average impacts the average citizen, but I think I do know enough about personal finances to handle my money wisely.  When I left the States in 2005, my 401(k) at the time I think was only $13k after 3 years of contributions.  I have not contributed a cent since March 2005, but last I checked my 401(k) is nearly $17k .

When I do get a full time job again, I will continue to do what I started – contribute the maximum allowed to a 401(k) (or IRA, if my future employer doesn’t offer this benefit) & live simply.

4.  UCMJ — Like I mentioned in a previous blog entry, the UCMJ is short for Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is the military law that governs everyone in the US military as well as those who receive military retirement pay.  Last year I had the unfortunate experience of having someone tell blatant lies about me.  Among other things, the lies included that I used him and that I changed the password on his wife’s yahoo email account.  This pathetic excuse for a man and a leader just happened to be in the military.  When I learned of the lies he told about me, I promptly looked up Subchapter X, Punitive Articles, which is the one that details offenses punishable under the UCMJ.  I went over each article listed, & found three articles  of the UCMJ that he violated.

He and his wife tried to humiliate, intimidate (“my cousin’s a lawyer”) then guilt-trip me (“kalimutan na natin ito, sobra nang naaapektuhan pamilya namin“) into not filing a complaint against him.  Unfortunately for them, emotional blackmail doesn’t work on me.

I eventually emailed the Legal Officer of his command, detailing the what, when, & where of the UCMJ violations, and attached proof (emails and phone records).  This guy has been dealt with accordingly.

5.  Parenting –  Those of you who know me or have read previous blog entries (here and here) know I wasn’t lucky with the parents I got.  So when I became a parent myself, I was a bit clueless how to go about it.  Granted, being a psychology major helped me, but what little I learned flew out the window as soon as I held those little bundles of joy in my arms.  So I set about learning as much as my sleep deprived brain would absorb.  Two books that I highly recommend include:

I am by no means the perfect parent, but any help I can get in learning how to become a better parent helps.

So go ahead, call me a nerd, I’m proud to be one 🙂

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I gave too much info

One of Ian’s favorite movies is Up.  He’s watched it countless times, & it has created some interesting conversations between me & my little one. 

A few weeks ago though, while I was tucking him into bed, he asked, “Mama, what happens to the body when we die, like when Ellie died?”

“Well, it depends on what the person’s last wish was.  But usually, most people choose to be buried in a casket, like you saw with Ellie in the movie, while a few choose to be cremated.”

‘What’s ‘cremated’?”

I then explain to him what cremation is. 

He pulls up the blanket, turns away from me.

“What’s the matter, sweetie?” I ask.

Ian turns around, sits up, faces me, with tears rolling down his cheeks, & says, “Mama, when I die, I don’t want to be cremated, because I know I will feel it.  Even if I’m dead, I know I’ll feel it.  When I die, I just want you to hold me & carry me.”

(Sigh).   My poor little one.  I ended up making him cry & anxious about dying.

Though later on during the course of our conversation I did talk to him about the soul,  my beliefs about it & the afterlife.   He seemed much more relaxed after I ended the conversation talking about the soul…but is still adamant that he doesn’t want to be cremated.

Me & my big mouth…but then again, I have to tell him how things are…so I hope I’ll do the best I can when moments like these pop up.

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