Monday, September 25, 2006

PBB, Parent Edition

EVERYONE, including Superman, reacts to Kryptonite: a moment or situation that reveals how little justified we are in claiming to be the intelligent species.

For drying out alcoholics, it is that one seemingly harmless drop of liquor; for serial adulterers and plagiarists, perhaps a computer with Internet connection.

Mine are grocery cashier counters.

After 14 years of doing grocery, my family is expert at picking slow days or zeroing in for the shortest or fastest check-out line.

But even if it were an automaton scanning, packing and wrapping up our transaction, I think I would still stage a distraction: hum softly and shuffle behind my boys, push under my husband’s nose a new brand of menthol-laced dental floss, and, while my unsuspecting family looked away, pounce on the glossies.

Recently, desiring to turn over a new leaf, I veered away from magazines whose advice on meals and exercise I have never tested anyway, as my sons and husband have pointed out.

During one grocery expedition, while the boys were unloading the items according to color and the hubby was investigating the fluorescent flexi-bristles of the latest oral hygiene handheld device (i.e, a toothbrush with a serious price justification complex), I slipped in a magazine for the family to enjoy: the “Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition Magazine.”

Everyone at home except I can tell Jamilla from Clare, Joaqui from Gerald.

But as the mother of a 12-year-old whose voice will soon deepen and a 7-year-old who sings along with Orange and Lemons and Bamboo, I’m anticipating their teens with an anxiety I didn’t feel for my own.

While the models on the cover were reassuring (the girls, not the boys, wore pink; no treacherous navels in sight), the cover liners were red flags drawing reactions no editor could have foreseen: “kilig moments” (does that rhyme with body contact? Which parts of the body made contact? Who contacted whom first?), “iyakan” (as a mature adult, how am I supposed to act when someone makes my sons cry, like how long can you torture the girl before grinding her into fish meal?), “pin-ups!” (do they have something other than a smile covering them up?), and “trivia… secrets” (when your children start holding secrets from you, that is NOT trivial; on the other hand, can this still be considered as concern, not intrusiveness, when your children turn 13 or 30?).

In the end, what clinched my P50 was the canary-yellow cover liner bordered with aqua: “get close to the teens!” (psychedelic color scheme, mag’s art director; punctuation mine).

Some magazines are print versions of TV infotainment. For not following any pagination and hardly carrying a full-length article, the “PBB Teen Edition Magazine” has an unstructured feel, like a scrapbook you can open on any page.

But in the mix-up of impressions and clich├ęs, this nugget emerged: about half of the 14 PBB housemates come from broken families. But whether their families were whole or dysfunctional, all of the teens said they were affected by their parents’ financial worries, their dreams for their children, their presence or absence in their children’s lives.

These 14 seemingly perfect youths give voyeurism a meaning, specially in the light of House Bill 4110, which will pass sanctions on parents who fail to provide for the needs and rights of children.

In the June 5, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dr. Zelda Zablan commented that parental failures should be placed behind bars. Zablan chairs the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network of the University of the Philippines’ Population Institute.

HB 4110 is just the latest to stoke the long-standing controversy over population and its management.

But aside from its spiraling effect on societal stability, parenting leaves its immediate and lasting effect on the most vulnerable. Who can choose one’s parents? Who would, if they could?

Who can be Superman in the face of one’s Kryptonite?

(mayette.tabada@gmail.com or 09173226131)

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