Last Sunday was Ate Kara’s elementary graduation. I woke up early so I could prepare myself and then put light make up on Ate Kara’s pretty face. As expected, after I made up her face, she was all smiles, which actually made her already pretty face, prettier. (Oh, btw, she liked my new L’Oreal Volume Perfect lipstick so much she asked if she could keep it, to which this very kunsintidorang mom agreed, with a reminder for her to retouch every now and then as it has a very light color which might not at all be visible in the cameras).
We then proceeded to Canossa for the graduation ceremony which was due to start at 8:00 a.m. Good thing we were there about a quarter before eight because in a very short while, they were cued for their graduation procession, which started backstage. Like most parents present, I only waited to see her coming down the stage to her seat before I really settled down myself.
The graduation went by in a blur. There were speeches, and then they were proceeding to the middle of the aisle with their parents in tow to go up the stage for their laminated certificates. In a short while, we were again lining up in the middle of the aisle to go up the stage for the medals. She received a bronze medal for essay writing.
Needless to say, I was very proud of my daughter. Seeing her with friends (I noticed how a lot of her friends lit up upon seeing her when we arrived for their baccalaureate mass last Wednesday) made me realize, no matter how trite it is, that time indeed, flies fast. I was witness to how much fun there was to something even as trivial as lining up before the start of the ceremonies. She and her friends were standing almost at the end of the line. I don’t know if the friendship was cultivated as they lined up for whatever activity they were about to embark on, but they were laughing, teasing each other good-naturedly, and just having plain fun. I was proud and happy to know my daughter gained good friends along the way. I remember how sad she would be at the start of the classes, knowing the “bestest” friends of the previous school year would no longer be sharing classes with her. But I would also tell her, that it was so, because she needed to gain more friends along the way, and that the friends she gained the previous years should always stay as friends, even when they’re not always physically near each other (but then, how hard could a few steps to the next classroom be, when we grown ups sometimes have to endure miles of physical distance from our loved ones and friends? Then again, I never expected her to understand. Yet.)
I was also proud that Kara has grown up to be a young lady with a good head on her shoulders, and an equally good heart inside. It was important for me that she developed both because ultimately, those are at the very core of her Canossian education.
Before we knew it, they were being asked to go in front. Some went onstage, some remained at the foot of the stage, to sing their batch graduation song, “Hand in Hand,” which was the Official 1988 Seoul Olympics song. While Kara was in front singing, Daddy Bong was in front taking photos of her. And while I was alone, I let some tears flow freely. I guess, when you’re a mom these things naturally bring tears to your eyes. Allow me the melodrama, but some eight years ago, when she was only three, I remember bringing Kara to her Nursery class. Outside the door of her classroom, her teacher fetched her. Without so much ado, Kara took the hand her teacher was offering, and without so much as a backward glance, she went inside the classroom. I remember feeling confused, thinking, don’t all kids have separation anxieties the first time they go to school? But there was my baby, with all the kids in class, and suddenly, I didn’t know if I would remain or leave and just come back for her two hours later. I realized I was the one having separation anxieties, and if not for the fact that my daughter was too cool for it, would hyperventilate in no time.
The next year, she entered Canossa as a junior kinder pupil, and for the next five years, I would accompany her on her first day in school. I would take a leave of absence to bring her to school myself, and wait there until she emerges from her classroom a few hours later. I only stopped doing this when she reached her intermediate level. I figured, nobody would want to see a mom waiting outside her daughter’s classroom when she was already big enough to be by herself (of course, she was brought to and fetched from school so she was just on her own during school hours.)
I also believed in teaching her myself. During her primary years, I would dutifully check her notebooks every night to see if she had any assignment left undone, or to review the ones she already answered herself. I would also make her reviewers (some of which I passed on to one of our company’s security personnel, who is a good friend of mine, and whose own daughter is also on the same grade level as Kara’s.) During these times, Kara would complain that I make exams which are much harder than the ones her teachers give them. But then, I would tell her that I make them harder so that it would be easier to answer her teachers’ actual exams. More often than not, her grades agree with me. Many a time, I would write her teachers for clarifications on some matters (especially with regard to English and Math), and I am thankful because all her teachers were nice enough to either provide explanation or correct their mistakes.
But most of all, I always tell Kara I would be happy with whatever she brings home, so long as she gave her best, and she did everything with integrity. Many times, when she went home unsatisfied or sad over a low grade, I would console her by asking her if she already gave her best. If she did, I would tell her that was enough for me. If she did not, then there will be a next time, and that she just has to make sure she was doing her best. It was also important for me that she was honest and that she did her work with integrity. I would tell her it’s better to fail at something and be able to look everybody in the eye, than win at something with one’s integrity being questioned. I don’t believe in putting too much pressure on my child because well, she is just a child. She should be allowed time to be one and enjoy the perks that come with it.
So while they were singing, “hand in hand, we stand, all across the land, we can make this world a better place in which to live…” I found myself looking at the faces of her classmates. They were all so innocent, yet so mature at the same time. Those kids in front of us, I believe have so much potential to make this world a much better place to live in, given the chance. And I know in my heart that they will do much better than the generations ahead of them ever did.
As they neared the end of their graduation song, I couldn’t help but realize that really, this is the time to let go, or at least, let go a bit, enough to let her experience life herself. At that point, I was asking myself where I should draw the line between being plain old motherly, and being a friend to her. I knew I needed to step back, allow her space where she would be able to discover things for herself.
And I knew I had to brush back tears lest she see me crying and tease me for being a crybaby. Then again, as long as I live, I would probably mother her, and to me, she will always be my baby.