personal

The day my mom and I were at the Principal’s office

I was 15, a sophomore. I had always been a responsible student. In fact, I was President of my Freshmen class, and the following year, was Vice president of my sophomore batch. My teachers liked me and I was considered a model student. But on this particular year, I was called to the Principal’s office, together with a classmate. Both our mothers were also called.

It happened very quick. My classmate Jenny and I were crossing the street from school to get to this cafe in front, and I was holding her cellphone. I can’t recall what model it was (maybe a 3210?) but around this time, cellphones were very expensive and I believed this one cost about nine thousand plus. That was very expensive then. Jenny was just telling us that week that her mom brought her a new cellphone and she was very careful with it. Everyone in class wanted to borrow her phone and on this particular day, I had borrowed her phone to play games. Somehow it was with me as I was crossing the street. All of a sudden, somebody grabbed the phone from me and ran. Jenny and I saw the whole thing and we tried to chase after the robber, but we were more afraid than anything. We were both hysterical and it happened all too fast. All Jenny could say was that her mom would definitely get mad at her.

I remember also feeling very scared at the prospect of having to tell my mom about it when I get home. Jenny and I were “devising” a strategy of sorts, and all my responsible self was gone. I did blame myself. Why was I holding that phone out on the street? Why wasn’t it inside my bag? Why was I so careless? Why did I even borrow a cellphone? I knew my mom was going to ask me these questions and I really felt so sorry and ashamed. My mom, being a single mother, had already too much on her plate. She was paying for the tuition of all her 4 children by herself, providing for all our allowance, and I knew that this was going to be another expense on her part. Because honestly, how would I be able to pay for it?

At the principal’s office the next day, my mom and I sat down with Jenny and her mom. I vaguely recall how the discussion went between the two mothers. Both were of course trying to defend each other (why was it lent, why was it brought to school, who should really be at fault, etc). It ended with us, of course, having to pay for it –I don’t know if it was the full amount. My mom was very composed and apologetic but also firm. I couldn’t look at her directly. She needed to go back to her office so as soon as an agreement was reached, she motioned to leave, and I behind her. As we got out of the Principal’s office, I remember she turned to me and sighed, “What I go through for you.” The tone of disappointment was very evident and I knew I let her down.

Mothers would always defend their children, even when they’re at fault. I was just watching this video on Youtube about a man who had committed a crime, and even when everything was stacked up against him and he was evidently guilty, the parents stood by their son. That’s on the extreme case (and up for sorts of arguments) of course, and I wouldn’t consider my mistake as criminal, but you get the point. They stand by you through all your craziness, your mistakes and ordeals, and you don’t really appreciate this until you realize what they must also go through on your behalf. Because why should they pay for your mistakes? I don’t know how my mom coughed up additional budget for my “mistake”, but somehow she painfully did.

Someday, when I become a parent and my child disappoints me, I will look back to this moment and I would know exactly why a parent’s love is unimaginable and unconditional. I would know what real love looks like in the face of disappointment. And I would also know grace, undeserved merit. Why is it so natural for parents to claim responsibility? Aakuhin nalang. Why do they endure this much for us? Why do they love us this much? It taught me to be extra grateful to my mom because I know that some parents are not like this and they would let their children really have it. Now that I write about this memory and remember the words that my mom told me, perhaps it wasn’t disappointment that I heard. Perhaps it was the painful side of love, the honest and difficult part about being a parent: It can get tiring. Some things really just wear you down. Parenting, in her case, solo-parenting, might have been slowly wearing her down. I’m sure she struggled.

I see things in a different light now. You always do want what’s best for your children and you always want to see them in a good light. But when they do disappoint, how do you respond?

My mom showed me grace. She put forgiveness on display. She showed restraint but she was also honest in her feelings. She did not hold it against me, and she continued to trust and encourage me after.

What child wouldn’t be so blessed to have a mom like this?

Happy mother’s day, mama. Thank you for toughening it out, enduring, and showing us the example of grace and strength. I love you!

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