That thing called ‘space’

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red line

By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

Just weeks after this year’s spring term had concluded, topped by commencement trimmings, a FilAm mother of five, contacted me, saying between sobs: Her oldest child had just moved out of their Los Angeles home because she needed “space.”

Lilly — affectionately called “Nanay,” by her household — requested me to talk to Gracia, her 24-year old daughter, to find out why she wanted to leave her home of 22 years. The departure seemed in haste because her graduation gown was still waiting to be serviced at the cleaners and a family picture-taking is yet to be scheduled. “That could wait,” Gracia stressed.

The mother, still sobbing, emphasized how Gracia served as the role model of her younger siblings. Lilly touched on the exemplary conduct her oldest child has shown among her younger siblings.

Gracia, far from displaying any resentment, agreed to come to my house to discuss her so-called desire for “space.”

She explained she had worked part-time since her senior year in high school, applied for a scholarship at a local nursing school where she earned a bachelor’s degree. The young girl talked about how significant it would be for her to maintain a sense of independence while she awaited responses from her applications for a nursing position at medical centers. She readily explained how she was feeling “suffocated,” because of her parents’ constant demands about helping them out, although they didn’t need any help. Her scholarship funds came to her rescue.

Gracia further stated how she wanted to go for a graduate degree without having to be “quizzed” every so often by her parents.

The desire to be independent, away from ‘suffocating’ parents, is that a need for space? Stock photo

The desire to be independent, away from ‘suffocating’ parents, is that a need for space? Stock photo

“All I craved for when I was still home, was an atmosphere where I could work and study in peace, on my own schedules,” she told me. “All I craved for while at my parents’ home, was their understanding that at 24, I wanted to be on my own, thinking on my own, no prodding from anyone who had little or no understanding about what lies ahead when one has a bachelor’s degree and finds a job in line with her future. When I was with my parents, I felt suffocated.”

An incident stood out which Gracia underscored took place during the close of the recent semester.

“An evening after our graduating class had a celebration of would-be degree holders, I gave a ride to a classmate who was an unwed mother. The barrage of scolding came immediately. Both my parents’ reaction seemed so cruel. According to them, I had exposed myself to questionable behavior and I could end up to be like that classmate,” she shared.

That very evening, Gracia moved out.

Her classmates were only too happy to welcome their friend. All three of them are Philippine-born, and knew one another since high school.

From talking to some parents who are “Philippine originals,” they volunteered stories about their own children who expressed their wishes in terms of “being on their own.” One couple in their early 50s firmly stated how a same, exact occurrence altered their lives away from the homeland.

“Children raised here are not within nodding knowledge of the value system we were familiar with from our childhood,” both remarked.

It was my turn to reflect on the practices in the homeland: How girls would continue living with their parents until they are ready for marriage. This writer can relate to the mind-set of the younger generation who left their family homes.

I distinctly remember when our only son moved out of the home where his father and I raised him and his two sisters. My son had just been admitted to the California State Bar that same year he received his Juris Doctorate from Boalt Hall, University of California, Berkeley. When he brought up the subject of moving out of his childhood home, he did not attribute his move to his desire for space. Perhaps, in the late ‘70s, “moving out of one’s home” was not a popular theme. Without any hesitation, our son informed his parents how he is now had a professional, and he needed to look out for himself.

Although his parents assured him he would be free to remain home, which would enable him to save rent money, he disagreed with his parents. When our son moved out with the few items he wanted to take with him, what stood out in particular, was how he wanted to include his desk from his Loyola High School years. Unconsciously, I found myself in tears. I informed our son he could “take whatever he needed.”

To this date, when that “departure” of our son comes as a reminder, tears never fail to come. And yet, he had moved only six miles away. It felt like he had moved to another continent.

Looking back, was that the transparent definition of “space?”

© The FilAm 2018

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