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Sweet sixteen

So my eldest kid turned 16 this week and now I feel so old.

He will be in senior high this school year, giving us just two more years with him before he goes off to a university which will preferably not be in Bacolod because that will be best, not only for academic purposes, but more importantly for his growth and development. The world will be more or less normal by then, having recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic. However, for our beloved Philippines, nobody knows if we will have caught up or be left behind even further.

As the parents of a 16 year old, there is now more urgency to help him find the right direction to start his life. My son loves history, and I’d like to say he is decent in math. We recently were discussing what academic track he will be pursuing in senior high and while his parents were gently pushing him towards the STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) or ABM (Accounting Business Management) tracks which we deem to be the more practical ones, he is leaning more towards HUMSS (Humanities and Social Sciences).

After much discussion, we decided to let him choose his own way for senior high, figuring that if he were more interested in what he is learning, he’d get better grades and that would pave the way to better choices in the university level. We can always revisit the discussion more seriously when the time comes to choose his major and where he will pursue it. As a parent who still sees his kids as little children, this is a talk that I could never fully prepare for.

Aside from academics, a kid turning 16 also means we will have to learn how to drive. In the past, male children would be bugging their parents to let them drive by now, but the thing about my son’s generation is that they don’t seem to be interested in driving anymore. In fact, I have to be the one to bug him about learning how to drive and the argument I’m resorting to is that it is a life skill he has to learn in case of emergencies.

My boy doesn’t want to drive. He says he eventually wants to live and work in a place where public transportation works (ergo not the Philippines.) He also says that tech solutions like Grab Car and Uber make driving unnecessary. Maybe he is right. Hopefully our government also has the same idea about the future of public transportation, private vehicles and personal mobility. In any case, I’m still going to make my kids driving lessons a personal project, just in case they need to.

Other 16-year-old issues that I will have to face eventually, after this pandemic is finally manageable, include love life, alcohol and drug use, and safe sex. Because our kids are indefinitely stuck at home, today’s parents are getting a major reprieve from these issues that usually come with the coming of age. There is no social life, there are no parties, no physical relationships and the temptations that come with it. My kids are now doing everything online, and as far as parents are concerned, it may not be as fun, but it definitely safer. However, the day will come when they will be unleashed into the world, with raging hormones and the inherent stupidity of teenagers and it is our responsibility to prepare everyone involved for that eventuality.

The last and most important issue I have to talk to my kid about now that he has turned 16 is his country. Although he will not yet be eligible to vote next year, now is the time to establish what kind of Filipino citizen he will become. Will he be like the sheep who believe everything their government tells them or will he be a critical thinker with high standards and expectations from his government and its elected officials? Will he fight for his country using whatever resources he has, or will he give up on it at the first chance? At this point in our history, I wouldn’t blame him if he bailed. Heck, I’d even consider encouraging it, especially if we get the same brand of low-quality leadership in next year’s elections. What is making me worry is that now that my kid has turned 16, he is now a part of the country’s future and how his generation looks at his country will play a major role in that future. As their parents, that is something we have to keep in mind during our conversations with our growing kids.*

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