By Henrylito D. Tacio
SIX years ago, I visited my sister Elena in Livingston, Montana, having moved from Hibbing, Minnesota. I told her before I left Davao to pick me at the Bozeman airport, more than an hour drive from her place. When she picked me, her husband, Daniel Chase, was not with her. But she brought along her two handsome kids – Erik and Phil.
“How are you doing,” I asked Erik, then five years old. A shy-type kid, he just looked at me and never bothered to answer my question. But his four-year-old brother Phil was quick to reply: “We’re doing fine, Uncle Henry.”
We were inside my sister’s car when I heard the song, “Father and Son,” being played. Like most Filipinos, I started humming and before I knew it I was already singing. Five minutes later, I heard Erik complaining. “Mom, please stop singing,” he requested.
My sister was caught by surprise by her son’s pleading. “I am not the one singing, Erik,” she told him. “It’s you’re Uncle Henry who’s singing.” I was so embarrassed. I turned back and said, “I’m sorry” to Erik. But it was turn to be surprised; I saw Erik pretending to be “sleeping.”
Children almost always surprise me to greater extent. They never run out of ideas and peccadilloes. Most of the time, they get away with their shenanigans. Film and television actor once said: “Children have uncanny way of reducing the unexplainable to their own terms.”
When I was still younger, I used to teach Sunday school in my church. From time to time, I asked them what they had learned about the previous lessons we discussed. Oftentimes, their answers were funny. I thought they were so hilarious until I read the written reports of some kids that were circulated through e-mail. Read some of them and laugh:
“Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt during the day, but a ball of fire during the night.” “The first commandment was when Eve told Adam to eat the apple.” “The seventh commandment is ‘Thou shalt not admit adultery.'” “When Mary heard she was the mother of Jesus, she sang the magna carta.” “The epistles were the wives of the apostles.” “Christians have only one spouse. This is called monotony.”
“Children are curious and are risk takers,” wrote John Bradshaw. “They have lots of courage. They venture out into a world that is immense and dangerous. A child initially trusts life and the processes of life.” However, “Children require guidance and sympathy far more than instruction,” to quote the words of Ambrose Gwinett Bierce.
Children are very fragile and there is a danger of overprotecting children, a tendency that parents should guard against. Parents, please bear these in mind: “If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn. If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight. If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive. If a child lives with jealousy, he learns to feel guilty. If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient. If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident.
Here are more: “If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative. If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love. If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself. If a child lives with recognition, he learns it is good to have a goal. If a child lives with honesty, he learns what truth is. If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice. If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith in himself and those about him. If a child lives with friendliness, he learns the world is a nice place in which to live.”
Parents should not blame themselves if their children don’t grow up what they expect of them. Listen to the words of Robert Hastings: “It is the sum total of a child’s experience that determines his destiny, including his heredity as well as his home life, his friends, his education, his church, his recreation, his job, his wife or husband, plus the books and magazines he reads, the films he sees, the television he watches. Our children are a composite of all these, some of which are beyond our control.”
Here’s another one from George Sweazy: “Children have not grown up until they can look at their parents as real people. Little children see their parents are paragons. Mother is the most beautiful woman in the world; father, the strongest man. Then comes the stage when everything is wrong with the parents. Maturity is being able to deal with parents as human beings; neither perfect nor impossible, but loved.
Encourage a child. That is one of the secrets of a life well-lived, according to Hollywood star James Caan. In 1981, at the height of his career, the Oscar-nominated actor decided to take time off. His hiatus lasted six years – until, he says, “one morning I woke up, the dog’s ribs were showing, and I didn’t have money.”
All told, Caan has appeared in more than 50 motion pictures. Still, he regards his impromptu sabbatical as one of the best times of his life. In an article which appeared in Reader’s Digest, we learned that at the time he was not making movies he coached Little League, T-ball, soccer – you name it. He started with his own sons, but his passion soon became all-consuming.
In the said article, Caan was quoted as saying: “People said, ‘Don’t you miss the creative process?’ ‘What creative?’ I asked them. With coaching, I created on a daily basis.”
But there was one boy – a nine-year-old named Josh – which he couldn’t forget. “The kid just couldn’t hit the ball,” he recalled. “You could see his head was down, and he was ashamed.” Caan started going over to the boy’s house to coach him one-on-one.
“The next-to-last game of the year,” Caan said, “Josh comes up to bat. The week before, he’d popped it up to the pitcher with the bases loaded. He felt terrible. Anyway, he gets up, and he just creams the ball. The kid starts running toward first and then toward second. I’m on the third, coaching the base, and he looks up at me. When he sees me waving him home, he looks at me – I’ll never forget it as long as I live – and there were tears in his eyes. Just before reaching home, he stopped, jumped up and landed with both feet on the plate. He put both fists in the air, and he looked up at God. The whole dugout cleared out to hug him. Nothing replaces that – nothing in the world. I mean, to literally change a kid. That was the best time of my life.”
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