Category: Home and Family

Why Helicopter Parents May Be Putting Their Children At A Disadvantage And How They May Be Hurting Your Child

Do you suffer from parenting dilemmas? You’re not alone.Having written several parenting tips for clients just recently, I’ve come across the term, “helicopter parenting,”  After reflecting on indirect parenting conflicts we’ve had with one of my son’s classmate’s mom, I was able to detach myself from despising how this parent has been jumping on every opportunity, it seemed, to include herself in my son’s and her son’s affairs. Instead of indulging myself at pinpointing her every bad motive, I actually ended up asking myself, “Am I a helicopter parent too?”

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What is helicopter parenting?

Based on an account offered by Kate Bayless on parents.com, “The term ‘helicopter parent’ was first used in Dr. Haim Ginott’s 1969 book Parents & Teenagers by teens who said their parents would hover over them like a helicopter; the term became popular enough to become a dictionary entry in 2011.”

Helicopter parenting is when parents leave very little room for their child to experience the world on their own. Helicopter parents have made it their business to tell their child what to do and how to do things.

According to Bayless, one of the factors that drive helicopter parenting is when parents see other parents become overly involved with their respective children. “Peer pressure from other parents” is how Bayless terms this. Where my children are schooled, I’ve noticed too many parents become overly involved in children’s plays, science projects, and field trips. You know you’re a helicopter parent when your child is 10 years old and he or she is celebrating birthday in school with you present or, worse, you’re celebrating it outside of school with other over involved parents like yourself. Hmmmm…

In “The Effects of ‘Helicopter Parenting” by Joel Young, MD, published in psychologytoday.com, several studies that demonstrate the disadvantages of helicopter parenting to children were cited, among which was developing anxiety and depression. A study of 377 emerging adults aged 17 to 30 years old, published in the SAGE journals concluded that, “HP (Helicopter Parenting) was also associated with poorer functioning in emotional functioning, decision making, and academic functioning.”

“(Helicopter parents are) not allowing their child to become independent or learn problem-solving on their own, nor to test out and develop effective coping strategies,” says Naomi Ekas, the co-author of a study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies in 2017.

Helicopter parents can hurt other children too

I couldn’t find any study about how helicopter parents could be hurting other peoples’ kids. However, in my personal encounter with helicopter parents, I realized that here’s how helicopter parents can harm your child:

  • They can hurt your child’s self-esteem. Helicopter parents get themselves involved in group projects (seriously!), overthrow the leader who could be your son or daughter, and dominate the discussion to benefit their child (who suddenly becomes the group leader). This undermines your child’s leadership capabilities and it can hurt your child’s ego so much more when it’s his or her first experience to lead a team. Can you imagine how traumatic this could be to your child?
  • They can hurt your child’s feelings. Parents hate. I’ve heard how the same group of parents have gossiped about another boy, a class bully allegedly. While we’ve been teaching our son to make friends with this boy because he may be acting out for being left alone, these parents are telling their kids to stay away. It’s a pity how grown ups can act more like children than children, really.
  • They can hurt your child’s future. Helicopter parents brand children they dislike. Watch out, because they even brand the parents. They gossip about a child’s gender, parents who get plastic surgery, and families that are ‘dysfunctional’. They spread the malicious news around, destroying your child’s and, possibly, your family’s reputation.
  • They can hurt your child physically. I see a lot of close physical encounters between parents and children, and between different sets of parents in public play areas. Stay around to watch your kids but, don’t hover.
  • They can endanger your child’s safety. We’ve experienced how parents who are desperate to make their children get noticed in school mindlessly endanger our child’s safety and security. Our son has been repeatedly asked to go out of school premises  — without our permission — to meet with parents over some school project. We feel thankful that our son has been wise enough not to join them.

What’s the motivation? Helicopter parents want to become the “World’s Best Mom” or, the “World’s Best Dad”. Funny? Not at all. They do these things to show their love and support for their child, at the expense of another — possibly your own. In fact, I couldn’t care less if they like hanging around their child, fighting their battles on their child’s behalf but only as long as they keep my children out of it.

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How do you deal with helicopter parents?

  • Be vigilant. My son didn’t let us know that parents were becoming involved in school projects. That’s not because he doesn’t trust us but, because he thought he could handle it on his own. Our fault was that we didn’t think such parents existed and we weren’t able to prep him. When we learned about it for the first time, I made it clear that the next time parents got involved, it stops being his arena but, ours.
  • Be straightforward. Helicopter parents in my son’s school called a group meeting with us, parents — four children out of seven in the group. I saw that as an opportunity to make myself clear. I said, “They’re 10 and perfectly capable of handling their discussions on their own.”
  • Think before you react. When parents fail to get to your child the first time, they will take your child personally. Don’t be confrontational but, make sure to inform people on need-to-know basis, that includes teachers if you encounter helicopter parents in school or, operators if you encounter one at a child park. You should refrain from reacting over harmless situations involving your child and another for as long as parents are not involved. If you overreact, you lose your credibility.

I can confidently say that my children are growing up to be smarter, more mature, and more independent. I can also honestly claim that my son, who has become the victim of helicopter parents, has learned more than hurt about the experience. For that, I am thankful.

How we’re raising our kids

All good parents want only the best for their child. Sometimes, it’s never enough but, sometimes, too much parenting can also injure your child’s character, personality, future potential, and, worse, also damage another child’s spirits.

After reading Malinda Carlson’s “10 Warning Signs That You Might Be a Helicopter Parent (And How to Stop)” on afineparent.com, I sighed with relief. I am not a helicopter mom after all. How did you fare with Carlson’s 10 criteria?

I’m a parenting junkie. I guess every mom and dad is. After two years of making the big shift from being an absentee parent to becoming a work-at-home mom, this past Holy Week came at a good time for me to reflect on the kind of parent that I’ve become. So far, I’m happy that we’re raising good, little people in our home without having to fight their battles for them.

How do I say we’re on the right track?

  • Our children regularly share their day’s highlights with us. With or without us prompting them, our kids feel free to tell us how their day went. It lets us know that they feel free to communicate with us and to share what’s going on in their lives with us. The quality of communication always provides a good gauge of the quality of our relationship with our kids. When my son shared his frustration over parents meddling with school projects, that was how I learned we were dealing with difficult parents.
  • They take initiative. Our children are very independent. They get into their PJ’s by themselves, eat on their own (the youngest occasionally ask to be spoon-fed but she’s only 4), and pack their own bags when they’re scheduled for a sleepover at their grandparents’ home. This shows us that they are taking responsibility.
  • They make decisions. We allow our children to make decisions at a certain level based on their readiness. Just this morning, my husband and the kids played basketball. Our youngest wore a plain shirt, denim shorts, and long, colorful socks. Rather than getting into a dead-end argument with her, my husband tagged her along. She wore her sneakers and her attire didn’t really pose any safety risk.
  • They to do their homework alone. Our youngest, of course, requires more guidance but, we never do her homework for her. As for our eldest, we expect more. Even though I’m almost always at home and pick him up after school, I never made it my habit to peep into his notebooks. Instead, I ask him, “Do you have any homework?” or, “Is there anything you need to complete your projects?” Sometimes, he forgets things but, I’m not after him getting high grades only but, more importantly, I want him to start training to take responsibility for his own actions. When he asks for my help, that’s the only time I step in.
  • They help with household chores. They make the bed. We make our eldest take on more responsibilities now. We even let him handle the thermos with supervision.
  • They have honest-to-goodness fun. We refrain from hand-holding our kids at play. After all, it’s one of the few times that they are able to mingle with other kids from outside of school. We like exposing our kids to different kids — kids who have a lot, just right, and those who hardly have anything that they can call their own. It’s one of the best ways that we’re teaching them to respect people from all walks of life.

In short, don’t turn your children into oversized babies.

Are you a helicopter parent? Could this be your wakeup call?

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Entertaining At Home For The Holidays

Thank goodness for the Holidays! It’s that time of the year once again when we gather around for great food with our closest family and friends to celebrate Christmas. Tonight, it gets even more special as every home prepares the traditional Noche Buena feast.

In the Philippines, we are known for celebrating the longest Christmas season. The Christmas Fever begins September 1. It never fails to overwhelm my friends from other countries, really. If you are organizing a Holiday reunion, sometimes it takes an entire year to prepare it because everyone gets so busy around December, that it is best for you to block off everyone’s schedules months ahead.

Nothing Like Home

Most people these days will choose the convenience of renting a serviced residence or reserving a table at some cozy place over entertaining at home. The top consideration is cooking and cleaning up before and after the party. In many instances, travel time and space considerations also factor in.

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Generally, for Christmas Eve at least, Filipinos would gather at one home, usually with extended families but, more and more people stay home with just their respective family units. Here’s a quick checklist that you can use to  make sure that you’re ready to host Noche Buena and Media Noche at your place:

1. Clean your home. Where do you start? Good question. In general, start cleaning from the ceiling (make sure to dust off those spider webs!), then the walls and shelves, then down to the floor. The toilets in your home, not just the one that your guests will be using, need to be scrubbed. It pays for you to give more attention to this part of your house because you want your guests to feel comfortable when nature calls, not to mention, you want your house to smell fresh and clean, and bad smelling toilets can easily spoil that.

Add a bowl or hang a basketful of potpourri. In my toilets, I hang hand towels washed with fabric softener and then I spray just a little bit of a bleaching solution and fabcon. I use the same solution to clean surfaces and my floors. After that, the house smells wonderful! It is so much unlike when you just spray air deodorizer or place a gel freshner that dissipates in seconds, this one stays. I like spraying the same solution to my curtains, bedding, and rugs as well. I’m pretty sure when I get a sofa, it will get this same treatment too.

2. Decorate. The best part of home entertaining is bringing the Christmas spirit to your home. Of course it gets a lot harder and more expensive if you are decorating a larger space that includes both indoor and outdoor spaces. I personally like LED lights bright and white. This year, as we transition to a new home, I opted for a DIY, non-traditional Christmas tree. The kids and I saw this beautiful Eiffel Tower-inspired makeshift tree at the mall once — not for sale — made of silvery glittered strings that we tried to recreate it.

To do away with having to use steel to stand the tree, we opted for a thick silver insulation (cost: Php 150 per meter) which I rolled into a cone. I attached rhinestone bands (Php 150 per roll) to the outer side to make the material more shimmery. Then, I topped off with two 5-meter bright white LED lights with blinking functionalities. I must admit that it does not look much when the sun is up but, at night, it does feel like the stars in the heavens are gracing my home. I tacked some of the aguinaldos and bagged gifts on it to make it even more personalized.

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I almost forgot to rave about how wonderfully, flowers can instantly cheer up and brighten your home. Make that a must for your centerpiece but also add bits and pieces to the periphery. These beautiful gifts of nature will also make your Holiday photos prettier and cozier.

3. Wrap up the gifts. What is Christmas without gifts? The season gets even merrier with these surprises. If you have little children at home or, as guests, Christmas Eve becomes merrier with gifts tucked under the tree. Hunting for the right gift for the right person at your budget level can be pretty tough but, always exciting. Don’t feel pressured to give expensive gifts just get something your friends and family members can make practical use of.

4. Let the Holiday music play. Add more Holiday cheer to your home’s ambiance with cheerful Christmas singing in the background. I personally like our local chorales singing to popular and traditional Philippines Christmas songs but, I haven’t had the chance to get copies of these. I settled for another great musical genre — that of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and their contemporaries. Music sets up your and your guests’ Holiday spirits.

5. Make sure you can stay relaxed. Make sure that you can sit down and talk to your guests when they arrive. Here are some pointers:

  • Prepare everything that can be prepared ahead, ahead of time. From my in-laws, I’ve learned this cooking technique they call sinangkutcha (I’m not even sure I’m writing the term correctly here) but, the concept involves getting all the meat sautéd and boiled to your desired tenderness as early as the day before. On Christmas morning, you can just add in the sauces, spices and garnishing.
  • Consider disposables. Don’t keep yourself away from entertaining your guests because you need to do the dishes in between. The environmentalists will have a say but, if you’re entertaining at home without maids, it really isn’t practical for you to bring out the silverware. I personally choose paper or starch plates and glasses over plastic plates so that your disposables remain biodegradable.
  • Designate a trash collection area. This should be easily accessible to you and to your guests as well. Don’t  have to collect soiled dishes. Your guests will be happy to throw in their own trash.
  • Keep that toilet dry and clean. I regularly have a mopper in each of my bathrooms. I hate wet floors. I don’t remove those moppers from sight even with visitors. It’s sort of a cue for them to  leave behind the floors as dry when they got there. Make sure there’s liquid soap in the sink and towels to dry their hands with. Add in alcohol and lotion when you can. I also like dropping those blue solid detergents into the tank. They help keep the odor away and pretty much last until your party ends.

6. Cook hearty, festive Holiday dishes. The stars of the feast. We all love food and they make gatherings even more memorable. I like making Hors d’oeuvres for my guests — simple ones, nothing fancy that requires cooking. I cut up celery stalks and carrots. If there’s cucumber, cut them up too. I have chips ready and prepare a dip made with ginger, juice of a slice of lemon, hot chilis, basil, onion chives, and a sauce made from reduced fresh milk and melted cheese. Wines and liquors should also be chilled and ready to be served. These will keep early birds busy as you wait for the others and put the finishing touches to your dishes.

Check out the following Holiday dishes that we make in our home and that you might want to try in your own kitchen:

Roast Pork Belly

Beef Morcon

Arroz Valenciana

Callos

Chocolate Cookies

From my family and I to yours, Merry Christmas and cheers to a prosperous New Year! We hope you find warmth in this season of joy.

 

“Mom, Can I Have My Own YouTube Channel?” – Must You Approve Or Refuse?

Last night, my grade school aged son popped me this question.  Initially, I thought that he was being silly. My first reaction was a grin and a crisp, “Hahaha”.  Having realized that he was still waiting for a serious response, I said, “Why?”

“All Of My Friends Are On YouTube!”

According to the 2014 study, “Growing Up Wired: Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Psychosocial Development” published in the Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22475444>, young people say they want to be on social networking sites (SNS) “to stay in touch with friends, make plans, get to know people better, and present oneself to others”.

The researchers were able to find evidence that adolescents participating in SNS benefit from advancing their social skills. Nevertheless, the study also found several negative impacts concerning social media and children, that includes comparing themselves with others in their network.

I Said, “No”

My son presented me with 100 other reasons why he needs to be on YouTube but, in the end, I said, “No” and it was non-negotiable. Of course, he asked me back, “Why not?”

I gave him these Top 5 reasons why I wouldn’t let him have his own YouTube account:

1.  There are too many bad people in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t lost my faith in humanity. I teach my kids to trust people but, before I tell them that, I tell them to doubt others first. Unfortunately, there are too many bad people lurking online waiting for their next prey. Frankly, Internet privacy and security is not something most of us, not even our institutions including our children’s schools, are teaching our kids.

2.  There is an appropriate age to be on SNS.  Based on the US Children’s Online Privacy Act, that age is 13 but, in most territories, that’s really not defined. The bottomline is that, there is a certain level of maturity necessary to understand the benefits and risks inherent with having accounts on SNS.

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3.  The inherent risks are real security risks for children and your entire family. I told my son, “You’re simply too young to know what kinds of information you should be sharing online and not”. Can you imagine a public post that reads, “Gone for the Holidays. Off to Hawaii!” That’s the same thing as inviting burglars to rob you while you’re sipping your piñacolada, watching the sun set on the other side of the world. I see many adults continue to post such information so, how can we expect kids to do any better?

4.  Younger children must learn to connect with others in more traditional ways first. It’s harder to feel empathy when you’re online. Online communication makes your child miss out on most of the more important non-verbal cues which, sometimes, say more than what is actually being said or typed back. Succeeding in life is always linked to how well somebody is able to connect with others and genuinely care. My son needs to learn those values first so that, someday, he may be able to contribute to the good, valuable content available online.

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5.  Any information made available online becomes public property.   I don’t count on any SNS privacy and security policy because the truth of the matter is that we are all leaving footprints of ourselves whenever we are online. Of course, the audience settings on Facebook or, the non-public posts on YouTube videos are helpful yet, there is always the possibility of getting that “private” information out there, most especially when these are shared with others, even with just a handful of people very close to you.

Whatever my son posts on the Internet becomes part of his online footprint and can have an impact on his future. Before he creates his YouTube account or any other SNS account, therefore, I need him to appreciate the fact that owning and managing a social media account is a big responsibility he has to be able to keep for his sake and for the sake of others, including both the people he knows and not.

One thing is for sure, now is not YET the time for him to have any sort of social media identity. Well, but, that’s just me. Have your children asked you about creating a social media account? What’s your take on this?

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Top 5 Reasons Why You Must Teach Your Children Filipino

Okay, so after all these years, I’ve really had it with Filipinos who don’t know how to speak in Filipino. As Philippines celebrates Independence Day, and with more Filipino kids not even capable of understanding or speaking in Filipino, I think it is high time to make a case for our mother tongue.

A Parent-Inflicted Child Disability?

Well, we’re not talking about a disease but, a crippled sense of culture. No, we’re not even going to talk about their sense of history (not yet, anyway but, I will soon), we’re just going to tackle more about children whose parents don’t teach them how to speak in Filipino. I don’t mean to be critical of how these moms and dads are raising their kids but, it has become very disturbing why these kids, being raised by Filipino parents, living in the Philippines, and attending regular Philippine schools are only being taught English.

Where my children attend school, kids like my son who know, live and breathe Filipino, are already finding the fact that majority of their classmates cannot even understand the language, absurd.  A friend of mine who teaches in the same school has also been complaining about their students who are making their profession doubly hard by parents who aren’t teaching their children Filipino.

As I wonder why these parents put their children in such an awful situation, I can only think of 5 reasons why every Filipino child “needs” to learn to speak and understand Filipino:


Reason No. 1: They live in the Philippines.  In case you missed, Filipino is the national language. If you’ve been to southern provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao or, have been colleagues with people who were raised in these areas, they would sometimes even hesitate to converse with you in Filipino because of the regional accent. They probably wouldn’t talk to your son or daughter who only speaks in English, although they will perfectly understand what he or she is saying.

In short, you are gravely depriving your children of the opportunity to connect, socialize, and collaborate with his or her own countrymen.

Reason No. 2: Filipino is part of the educational system. There is, in fact, a compulsory subject in school which is “Filipino”.  Your child is guaranteed to fail it if he or she hasn’t been taught how to speak and understand the language.

My son who is in Intermediate School tells me that some of his classmates don’t even know what the meaning of very common words like, “paaralan (school)” or “tumatakbo (running)” is. He says, “kawawa naman (how pitiful)”.  Whenever they have drills or exams, the teacher has to translate every word to these children every time.  Indeed, it is a pitiful situation, isn’t it? Besides, children who perfectly understand Filipino have to put up with the burden of spending more than enough time on one topic to accommodate their classmate’s “parent-inflicted disability”.

Reason No. 3: It’s best that they are capable of communicating in both Filipino and English. Our culture has very deep links with the English language. Even today, older people who were taught in the American system of education back in the days when American soldiers and missionaries taught in public schools would beat a college student when speaking in English.

Too much Tagalog is not the reason why our English is of a poorer quality now than it was about two or three generations ago. Still, we are the Number 1 destination for voice-based back office operations (including call centers) because we are very adaptable when it comes to learning, not only English, but also other foreign languages in general. Those people who are thriving in the industry grew up in an educational system that had both Filipino and English in the curriculum — they didn’t have to be taught English exclusively since birth to speak the language well.

Reason No. 4: Filipino is a uniquely beautiful language. If you know your history well, you must know that Filipino (once called, “Tagalog”) is a hodgepodge of many local dialects and foreign languages woven into a meaningful system of communication. It has a unique brand where not every word can find a proper English equivalent.

To this day, we still use words with origins that can be traced back to the Sanskrit, Chinese, Bahasa, Español, and, yes, even English. If there is “American English” and “British English”, we have “Taglish (Tagalog and English)” which, more and more people, even our institutions, including the media, have learned to embrace over the years.

The regional dialects are just as beautiful. If you have the chance to teach your children Ilocano, Visayan, Chavacano or, something else, you should. People appreciate it when you take time and exert effort to learn to converse in their dialect. Your child will be able to more easily connect with others.

Reason No. 5: Your child is Filipino. Don’t you want him or her to love and appreciate our Filipino heritage? Even my relatives who grew up in the US and friends with Filipino parents who grew up elsewhere understand Filipino, most of them can even engage in ordinary day-to-day conversations in Filipino. It will be a shame for your children not to know how to speak it most especially when you are raising them in the Philippines.

Our Filipino language is alive and continues to evolve. As Filipinos, it is our responsibility to keep our heritage alive. Part of that responsibility is to make sure that we enrich our national language and make sure it develops further. It is one of the most important links that connects us to each other, and, as parents, it is our responsibility to our country to make sure that our children treasure it as well.

If you are raising your children to embrace Filipino as their own, Hooray! Otherwise, I hope you give it another thought. It’s not too late for them to learn.

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The most empowering firsts for women

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we might fear less.” — These words were spoken by Marie Curie, the Polish scientist credited for the discovery of two elements, polonium and radium, which became instrumental in the development of x-rays and cancer therapy. Her thirst for higher knowledge brought her to Paris because, as a woman, she was not allowed to attend the university. In 1903, she became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (Physics) and the first person to win a second Nobel Prize (Chemistry) — the only person by far to win the prestigious award in two different branches of natural science.

Five inventions and landmark policies that empowered women the most

The road to success indeed was not easy for us, women, to pursue. Other than our sheer commitment and dedication, there were also five major changes that allowed us more time to think about what we want, go after our wildest dreams, and be respected for doing so.

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1. Modern contraceptives.  It was not until the use of diaphragms and condoms in the 1800s that birth rates started to decline. At the same time, women married and had children at a latter age. Modern contraception allowed women to delay pregnancy under the principles of birth control, which was earlier termed “voluntary motherhood”.

In the US, Margaret Sanger established the first birth control clinic and was arrested several times for doing so as it was then prohibited under the Law. In France, the 192o Birth Law likewise prohibited access to birth control. It was not until the 1960s to early 1970s when prohibitive laws were reversed, favoring the wider distribution of birth control pills and devices.

2. Equality in the workplace. Before equality and non-discrimination in the workplace became a norm in modern societies, women were forced into slavery, some work for less compensation doing the same work as their male counterparts who earned more for the same level of effort, and women could not take on higher posts because they were not allowed to attend institutions of higher learning.

The founding of institutions that advanced women’s rights, such as the National Women’s Trade Union League in the US, then later, international institutions that advanced workers’ rights, most especially the International Labour Organization of the United Nations, set the standards for women to be able to access decent forms of employment that did not discriminate based on their gender. The subsequent attendance of women to earn university and post-graduate degrees later allowed them to move up to become leaders in their respective organizations.

3. The right to vote.  In the US, women’s right to vote was not granted until 1920. In the Philippines, following Independence and consistent with the 1935 Constitution, women were granted this right. Beyond being given the responsibility of choosing a leader, women could freely express their opinions. Soon after, women also pursued election for political office.

4. Trousers by Coco Chanel.  Trousers have been worn by women throughout ancient times but, it was Coco Chanel who popularized the use of trousers in modern societies, following the war. Chanel made trousers fashionable, and it became a style staple for working women. Trousers allowed women the freedom of movement. She was once quoted as saying in reference to pants, ”I gave women a sense of freedom. I gave them back their bodies: bodies that were drenched in sweat, due to fashion’s finery, lace, corsets, underclothes, padding.”

5.  Participation in the Olympics.  Though the exact date when women were allowed to join the world games is still widely debated, it wasn’t until 1900 in Paris when Olympic events, particularly in croquet, were opened to women.

A toast to women: International Women’s Day

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we celebrate the contributions of women to the world: from creating humble homes, raising respectable children, serving in wars and changing the course of history, women were in the midst of it all. Women worked behind the scenes, and were forced to exert more effort to become successful in their chosen fields because, in many parts of the world, women faced discrimination, many still do today.

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Finding LOVE at Age 46

“The best love is the kind that awakens the soul; that makes us reach for more; that plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds.” — Noah to Allie in “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks

Whether you are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a special someone or all by yourself, stories of love — all forms of it but, most especially the romantic kind — will keep being created. The best love stories will keep being told through the end of time.

It’s not hard to understand why we love ‘love stories’. They evoke so much human emotion, raw and pure, the only kind of truth that can only be spoken by our souls. It is the story that touches our lives or, at best, one in which we play the role of the lover, partner, friend, soulmate. The role is relative to somebody else and does not exist without the other — always remembered and never to be forgotten.

No boyfriend since birth

Is there a right kind of love? Is there a right time for love? This is the love story sought and now lived by Marifel Somera-Orden who, after all, did not “grow old alone and lonely,” her fears in her own words.

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Not so long ago, Marifel longed for her own romance too. She spent decades thinking to herself, “How come other women had men to call their own and I don’t?” Nobody courted her, and, in all terms, was living the life of a ’dalagang Filipina’ (colloquial, means ‘never been touched and never been kissed’) who was an inch close to becoming ‘matandang dalaga’ (old maid). “I started thinking that maybe something was wrong with me.”

“Who would comfort me in times when I feel miserable?”

Now married with a good man by her side, Marifel will finally be spending Valentine’s Day with her very own special someone. “There was a time in my life when Valentine’s Day was never a good day for me. I pitied myself as I envied the ladies walking down the streets, bouquets on one hand and chocolates on the other. That was why I would often just stay at home, watch anything but a romantic flick on tv, and binge on junk foods.”

Her plans for this year’s Valentine’s? “We’ll have a quiet dinner, nothing fancy. We’ve just recently spent for home improvements so we promised not to gift each other but, we’ll see if I get flowers for Valentine’s.”

When the love bug strikes

Marifel had a number of communities where she belonged to but, stayed put in the same place of work for decades. It was the last place she or anybody who knew her would have thought she’d find the one who would win her heart.

Marifel and, her husband, Erwin, were work colleagues. Erwin joined the same company in 2009. “I didn’t like him at first,” she confessed. “He seemed to me like he had walls built around him that nobody could tear down.” Both frequently argued over the stuff that mattered at work but, mostly, over little things that most people wouldn’t care about. Soon enough, their officemates began to notice their love-hate relationship and started teasing them.

“It wasn’t until 2011, during a business trip in Palawan, when I realized, that I was absolutely attracted to Erwin.” It was one of many work-related trips that they’ve shared before then. This one in particular allowed them to get to know each other better. “We stayed at a farm inside a rural university. We didn’t have tv so there was nothing else to do after conducting the trainings.”

So, they ended up telling each other stories night after night. “We’d lie down on the same bed, hands clasped and skin to skin.” “Nothing kinky happened,” she would immediately clarify, “but those moments made me feel electrified”. “Those were the first few moments of my life to be so intimately and dangerously close to a man. I remember feeling giddy and it felt good!”

“On the final night of our stay, I felt sad because that meant our evening conversations would be over soon and I’ve grown to look forward to the habit.” Habit it became. Once they were back in Manila, Erwin and Marifel would continue talking for hours every night.

The proposal

The two would spend many years and many other adventures together before they made it official that they were an item. “In March 2014, while we were off to spend time together at the Manila Ocean Park, he asked me, ‘Are you taking me seriously?’ and all I could manage to say was, ‘huh?’” Then Erwin told her, “Basta seryoso ako sa’yo at pakakasalan kita (Never mind, just trust me that I am serious and that I will marry you)”. Marifel’s breath was taken away, “Heaven!”

It wasn’t until December 2015 when Marifel got formally proposed to.  While the two were attending a Christmas get-together dinner, Erwin pretended to be sick. “So, I checked up on him, who allegedly was resting at an upstairs room.” She didn’t expect to find Erwin to be kneeling on the floor with three red roses in hand, red petals all around, asking her, ‘Will you marry me?’ “That was just the beginning of wonderful times ahead of us,” Marifel exclaims.

Asked about how it felt like to finally find the love of her life, Marifel relates, “I feel happy, content and at peace”. “I am finally home with my one and only.”  She says that she feels an unexplainable joy inside of her and she knows that it was God who answered her heart’s desires.

Life as a married woman

On 16 July 2016, Marifel and Erwin were joined in Holy Matrimony to their happiness and to the joy of their families and friends.

“Married life is blissful, exciting, comforting. It gives me joy and peace. I feel safe and protected.” “Some lust is a must,” she adds as she bursts into laughter. “It can’t be perfect though. We have those moments when nobody would want to stand down. We’ll wait until it’s calm to iron out our differences but, we never let a day pass by without making up.”

“My weaknesses are his strengths and vice versa.” Marifel and Erwin create more happy memories by taking long drives, out of town trips, eating in their favorite restaurants, and  just spending time at home seated close to each other while listening to good music and holding each other’s hands.

Finding true love

To women who feel stuck and are in the same place where she was before finding the love of her life, Marifel says to, “Pray for the man who deserves you. God hears your heart’s desires and will grant it in His perfect time. Keep believing even when it seems impossible.”

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“I had three wishes for my love life,” she recalls. “First, I wished to marry a best friend. Second, I wished for a man who will take me for what I am and love me for who I am — with all my bad moods and my excess cholesterol,” she says as she breaks out to a loud laughter. “Lastly, I wished for someone who will be proud of me and shout out to the rest of the world how much he loves me. I got all of it.”

After she accepted Erwin’s marriage proposal, Erwin let everybody on Facebook know that 2015 was the last Christmas he would spend as a single man. “He is not that type of expressive,” Marifel says.

Believe in the power of love

The famous classic writer, George Orson Welles once wrote, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” That’s why you must keep your faith and keep finding love in and with people around you. Romance is but a chance but to keep sharing your love will always be a choice.

What is your love story? Share your story with us by commenting below.

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Valentine’s Day dating ideas

Surprises! That’s why we look forward to life events and annual celebrations like Valentine’s Day.  Special dates such as these are proof that people enjoy being flattered, and I say that even for those who despise February 14 — you know, people in red, dating couples, cupids, flowers?

Top 5 dating ideas for this Valentine’s Day:

Feel like you’re stuck with the usual reservation at a formal dining or exclusive dating venue? Before expanding your ideas for your Valentine’s date night, there are some considerations you have to make. Consider the amount of time you have to execute your preparations, how much you are willing to spend over a date, and what your and your partner’s interests are.

These five suggestions are guaranteed to make you rethink your Valentine’s Day dating options:

Option No. 1: Head down memory lane. If you have been with your spouse, partner, girlfriend or boyfriend for a considerable number of years now, a look back at the good times and memories that you both treasure will create a different kind of Valentine’s Day experience.

Prepare a rough sketch, like a treasure map, of all the places you’re driving to for the rest of the night or the weekend. Make it more interesting by composing riddles or dropping hints of what each of those places marked on your map is. For example, you can just put there, “You had me at ‘Hello’” to indicate that that’s the place where you first became romantically attracted to your partner. Work from there: where you watched your first movie, where you became engaged, some secret place only the two of you know about, and so on and so forth. You’ll be surprised how those wonderful memories will rekindle your romance.

Option No. 2: Date like teenagers. Go to an arcade or the local amusement park. Play video games to team up or challenge each other. Shoot the most number of toy soldiers or toy Indians with a pellet gun or burst tiny balloons with darts to win prizes. If your heart health will still allow it, ride the roller coaster and scream at the top of your lungs. When you’re done with the rides, pig out on corndogs, pizza, fries and nachos. Top the experience with a shared cone of ice cream and seal the night with a kiss and a warm embrace.

Option No. 3: Set out on a road trip. It’s a great time to check out new places or, to visit some secluded resort you both love being to. Plan to see historical places, try local eats, party at local bars and dance the night away with total strangers and with only each other to trust. The beauty of travelling with your significant other is that it teaches you both to trust each other and have faith in each other because you don’t know anybody else where you are.

Make sure to make a list of everything you might possibly need on the road to keep your date comfortable and convenient. If you’re both feeling more adventurous, forget the reservations. Pullover whenever you feel like you need one — even for a hot booty call, just make sure nobody else is watching.

Option No. 4: Go stargazing. Check out local astronomy clubs. These orgs would often have special Valentine’s Day tour and stargazing offers. Sign up yourself and your partner, and prepare to spend the rest of the night out in the open and under the starry, starry night. Better yet, get a telescope and head outdoors — just the two of you (and kids, if you have little ones). Don’t forget to bring a guide of the constellation, knick knacks and some drinks. If you have space in your backyard, you can simply set up a mat or pitch a tent right there.

Option No. 5: Private movie viewing. How about doing everything right in the convenience of your own home? Have food delivered or cook up a beautiful dish and dessert for two. After dinner, cuddle up on the living room floor with a freshly and nicely popped tub of popcorn to share. You know what happens next.

The Dating Game

You can reserve a hotel room, even book a private jet to take you and your partner to a secluded island. No matter what dating option you choose, the point of dating remains the same: it’s spending a romantic time — not just any other quality time — with the person you genuinely love and who loves the best and the worst of you to the moon and back. Don’t forget to say, “I love you!”