On Discipline and Terrible Sadness

“So what happens when you make something illegal that is just a natural part of the world? You might as well make flies illegal or sweat or Monday morning. But that’s what the king did out of a terrible sadness.”

Dear Poj,

This is one my favorite lines from the movie adaptation of the Tales of Despereaux which I’ve probably seen six or seven times since I’ve discovered it. I love it because there’s such humanity to the line. And it reminds me that sometimes, it isn’t important to judge action from the morals of good and evil but by the side by which they were made from. I think that’s important for me to impart to you although I’ve yet to learn that lesson myself, that sometimes we are neither right nor wrong. We just have a side to consider,a value we subconsciously fight for that spans from a lifetime of influence and culture we know no other way of.

Like this morning for instance when you kept turning on and off the TV despite several reprimands from your Ama. And in my semi-groggy, semi-grouchy state, I abruptly cut off the plug while you stood there upset over what happened. Your side came from the need to explore your world, discover the cause and effect of things. Never mind that the button was about to shout bloody murder. While my side came from a sleepless work bee that slept at 4 AM in the morning looking for an instant solution to stop the ruckus. These are two sides. And I hope someday you develop the ability to see the one other than your own.

I’m telling you this now because I keep on doubting how to handle you, how to discipline, how to give you enough freedom to discover the world for yourself and yet save some for until you finally have the responsibility and initiative to handle it. I’m also telling you this because there might be times when actions that come from me come from a terrible sadness, a terrible anger, a terrible stress or a terrible fear of what you might do to yourself before you even have the chance to discover what you’re fully capable of.

How exactly do other mothers do it? They make it seem so easy trudging the black and whites of their child’s life. And I make it look so awkward. How are you assured you’re doing the right thing? How do you impart to your child only the good parts of yourself? And how do you give her foundation and ground and rules without taking away something that may be a natural part of her? Like your energy. Your tenacity. And your ability to hold your ground even with me.

It’s getting harder and harder to discipline you these days. You are more like me than I thought. You have a stubborn streak equal to the land mass of Siberia. I never thought I’d actually have to use that word for you. Discipline, I mean. Back in the days when your ninangs (whom I miss terribly) used to discuss this, I would say to them ‘Oh, she’s going to be a Bohemian Baby. She can do what she wants. I don’t want to trample her identity.’ Good thing they weren’t bringing a recorder then. Or else I’d turn red just about now for eating my words, bones and all.

I hope that you consider my side when I decide for you too. Someday, there will come a time when you will start to doubt what my absolute and unquestioned decisions for you were. Please do. There is nothing sorrier than a child who does not question. But that day isn’t today. For now, stop using that wire as a scarf, will you?

Walking on eggshells,



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