parenting

[OPINION] Teaching my child self-reliance early

Jared Formalejo
[OPINION] Teaching my child self-reliance early

Illustration by Guia Abogado

'I don't want to burden her and hold her back. I don't want to be that Filipino parent who reduces their child to an insurance plan.'

I’ve played multiple roles across my life. I’ve been son, student, PWD, and advocate. Above all are my roles as father and spouse. My family plays a key role in my life. They’re my source of inspiration and strength and they’re the reason I’m here now. I can only imagine a more desolate, lonely life without them. My wife’s central to why I’ve been learning how to be independent for years now. And I intend to pass this down to my daughter by teaching her self-reliance and how to live a life with wonder, empathy, and compassion.

I was coddled as a child — and it’s simple to understand why. Being born unlike others, I was shielded from the terrors of life in exchange for a convenient life in an inconvenient situation. The fact that life’s too troublesome already for a PWD is why they should be trained early on. And I intend not to pass this curse down to my daughter. She deserves to have a life that she knows how to navigate, with a headstrong spirit and a soft heart.

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Let’s not pass down curses

Being a burden to others has always haunted me. It’s not just because I’m disabled, but also because I have difficulty fending for myself. I support self-love, but with a disability inconveniencing others, self-hate frequently seems like the more convenient option. I’ll never be enough for my daughter — what father is? But I can’t help but feel disadvantaged. I don’t want to repeat the history I have with my own family. I’ve always felt shame for being the family’s curse or black sheep. And I refuse to pass that down to my wife and daughter. Which is why early on, I want my daughter to have the experience needed to explore the world without daddy having to hold her hand.

I’m not doing this to relieve myself of the responsibilities of parenthood. In fact, it’s excruciatingly painful for me to have to let go of my little girl. However tragic, it’s an essential expression of unconditional love. I don’t want to burden her and hold her back. I don’t want to be that Filipino parent who reduces their child to an insurance plan. I intend to learn to be self-reliant as well so my family need not worry about me anymore.

I only hope the example I set will be enough for her to pursue self-reliance as well. And I sincerely hope that having a disabled father softens her heart for others facing adversity. She’ll grow with a perspective unlike others and I’d like to stay optimistic that she’ll have a kind soul because of it.

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We’re pretty tough as parents

Many parents might think we’re harsh on our daughter. Some have even said that we’re OA — Over-Acting or overdoing it — but she needs it. She’s two going on three and already we urge her to do things on her own. She dresses up all by herself, and she’s completely potty-trained. She also cleans up after herself and she knows when to ask for help — which is quite infrequent. It’s funny to watch a kid go to the bathroom, ask you to step out, and close the door behind her — yet fail to wash her own butt after she does number 2.

She’s very self-assured and independent and I hope it stays that way. Sometimes, I worry we might actually be too harsh, though it’s gladdening to still hear her call out “daddy!” and still demand snuggles at night. She actually has her own bed, but I’d still occasionally wake up and see her tucked right beside me. These tiny days of unconditional love run by fast and it’s great to savor them. She’ll eventually grow up, have a mind of her own, and set out for the world. We only hope we remain consistent so she can be that kind, confident soul we hope her to be.

We all have to let go

I don’t want my daughter to need me; I don’t want to hold her back and I don’t want her to feel obligated to take care of me. I know I’ve done my job well if at the end of the day, she and I can let each other go and she can tell me, “Daddy, thank you for raising me. Be confident and know that I’ll be okay,” as I bid her farewell as she lives her life. – Rappler.com

Jared Formalejo is a father, husband, and person living with severe hemophilia and a seizure disorder. He aspires to raise awareness of disability issues by making known that PWDs are capable, active individuals with the capacity to succeed in many aspects of life