Most of us perhaps feel that one of the most defining moments in our lives was when we braved our way to get home from school on our own. For those who were not well off to have a car and hire the services of a family driver, join the school bus even and just simply do with the help of a guardian, household help or a kind neighbor, that time will come when one just wished things will be different, that one will be allowed to take care of himself and not continue to burden anybody else. I remembered that day when I decided to take command of such things. Too clearly, that it was one of the most told stories I had shared with my kids.
I went to a school where my mom taught. It was an accident prone area were most provincial busses going to Olongapo and Bataan would pass by. During the 70's, the ratio of the accidents was one student a year but that had grown tremendously through the years. At that time my dad would not even entertain the idea of letting me or my siblings go home on our own. He may have been over protective but he did not care. Until that time when he did not have any choice, that is.
My mom was sent to the Division Office to attend a seminar. She asked a fellow colleague who was also an aunt and a neighbor to accompany me home. And since working mothers were good in multi tasking, my aunt went first to the market which was close to the school before we head home. Since there were a lot of people she left me in a stall and told me to wait for her when she was done.
A few minutes had passed while waiting for my aunt. Those few minutes lasted for half an hour, then for an hour. I was already bored and worried because it started to get dusk. The kind lady who was the stall owner happened to be my dad's relative as well. She told me that she will take me home because it seemed my aunt had forgotten me.
I felt terrible and rejected. Perhaps what happened was not intentional still I felt left out. Not only that but I felt helpless, alone and afraid. And as a kid that feeling stays with you for a long time. Later I learned that my aunt was preoccupied and was in a hurry to get home because one of her kids were sick. I had no choice but to understand.
I told myself then that I will not let it happen again. Strange enough it did but this time I finally had the guts to decide for myself.
When my mom had a miscarriage and filed for a leave, my dad had no choice to trust my mom's colleagues to see me off each time I leave and head home from school. I think that lasted for almost a month until I cannot take it any longer. One day I decided to take my own route, went home early and told my dad what I have done.
"Why did you do it?" "What had gotten in that stubborn mind of yours again? Have you not thought that something might have happened to you?" Concern was written on my dad's face. I almost regretted what I have done but I have to tell him the reason why.
I told him I did not want to be accompanied when I leave for school anymore and that I wanted to be with other kids when they walk their way home. I reasoned out that I did not want to be left out again after relying someone will be there for me, only to learn that I am alone afterwards.
He became quiet. Trying to understand what I said. Thinking if it was about time for me to take that giant step. Finally he said, "Starting tomorrow, you can go home on your own but understand that it will not be easy for me to get used and trust you to go to school by yourself. I do not want you crossing the street when some drivers think they own the road. I do not want to learn and wait for that day for somebody to tell me you are not going home anymore."
Those words had been etched in my mind until now. Now that I already have kids and all of them go to school. Except for my youngest who still needs my guidance, all of them have to rely on themselves, brave the streets and trust them enough that they know what they are doing.The story that I told them many times was done intentionally so that one day, when they feel that I had gotten used to their independence and felt I had cared less because I was swamped with the demands of my work, to always remember that each time they head for the door and feel their old enough to decide for themselves, that it will always be left open waiting for their return, hoping finally that they had found their way home.