THANKS to travel restrictions brought about by the pandemic, it has been a little over two years since our family of four has been altogether in one place.
The boys have grown much in those twenty-five months – life’s lessons have not been easy nor pretty. I wish I could say we are all none the worse for wear, but the truth is, we’re worn at the edges, frazzled some days, and numb on the others. To varying degrees, we’ve tried our best to cope with what life has thrown us.
We finally managed to get together, deciding on a trip abroad to spend time with the Older Boy as he wraps up his five-year stint in the US, and on a mission to bring him back to the Philippines.
One day during the trip, Younger Boy announced that he wanted to meet up with a friend. Thinking nothing was unusual, I gave permission but asked Older Boy to accompany him to the meeting place as he, being the resident, was most familiar with the neighborhood.
If I thought that a generation gap only existed between parents and children, I learned from Older Boy’s reaction that it could also be present between brothers born nearly six years apart.
Older Boy was incredulous that I would allow his younger brother to meet with someone he had only met online. “Sure she claims to be a musician, but she’s older, why does she want to hang out with an eighteen-year-old? Are you really okay with this?” Then turning to his brother, he lashed out like any good adult figure would: “This place is foreign to you, you don’t know this person, you don’t even have data on your phone, how can you plan to meet up with a stranger without any security measures?!”
His comments made sense, but part of me had also learned to trust his younger brother’s instincts about people. Maybe there was a sense of naiveté on our parts from how things feel easy and natural in Baguio. Socializing has been mostly positive, and when it’s not, it has become quicker for us to identify who we want to retain in our social circles. Younger Boy has met some great people, all creatives like he is, and (knock on wood) he has hardly ever broken any of our house rules when he hangs out with them, except for the occasional times he comes back late saying he was so deep in conversation with a friend that he lost track of time.
I also reminded Older Boy that when he first moved to the US, he was his brother’s age and didn’t know anyone and he himself needed to learn to distinguish between people he could trust and people to avoid. It can be hit-and-miss but it’s the only way to sharpen one’s people skills.
In the end, we came up with a compromise: Kuya would take his brother and read the room; if he felt that it was a safe company, he could leave his brother for a maximum of one hour. If he felt it was iffy, he would hang around with them. At the end of their third hour, both boys reported that they were doing well, the company was cool, the new girl they had both just met wanted to hang out again, and they both decided to stay long at the music studio where they met up because they were both enjoying themselves.
When they got back to the rental apartment, I had to ask Older Boy: “So, after spending time with your brother this afternoon, have you finally realized he’s no longer 12?” He had to admit he wasn’t used to perceiving his younger brother as a young adult. But seeing him hold his own in new company opened Kuya’s eyes to the fact that his brother had grown up, indeed.
Parenting never really ends, whether the kids are small or starting out in the adult world, whether they are living under your roof or making a go of life alone half a world away. But I was pleased to see how concerned Older Boy was towards his younger brother. I can begin to ease up on my own anxieties, and learn to trust not just the boys’ decisions but my own parenting journey all these years. Most enjoyable of all, it seems I can pass on a lot of my work to the brothers themselves. I hope they will continue to look out for each other while upholding what I have worked hard to teach them. Older Boy makes a tough parent figure. If I thought I was hard on them, it seems he will be even harder on his (no longer a) “baby” brother.