"Do we scorn these kids for disrespect, or laud them for their independence of mind?"
Ultimately, it’s not your constituents, not your handlers, not your political patrons, but your children who will hold a mirror to your face.
This was highlighted in recent days when children of two lawmakers who voted for the passage of the anti-terrorism bill (signed into law last week by the President) and the denial of the franchise renewal application of network giant ABS-CBN aired their sentiment on social media.
Kito Noel, son of Malabon Rep. Jaye Lacson-Noel, took to Twitter to express his disgust at his mother’s vote on the two issues.
“Damn my mom really voted for the terror bill AND for denial of franchise renewal for abs-cbn? Pick a struggle and go you fascist.” There were laugh/cry emojis, and then a plea - “someoneplsletmemoveinwthem.”
“She's the Lone District Representative of Malabon City so if u live in Malabon remember not to vote for a fascist,” he said in another tweet. He also made public his mother’s email address in Congress, presumably so that her constituents can write to her.
In another post, Kito said his mother sent a representative to vote on her behalf. That person voted yes to deny the network’s franchise renewal.
But this earned the young man’s ire even more. “So in this instance she’s just a coward who was scared of pressure from upstairs. Still voted yes on the anti-terror bill tho so she’s still a fascist.” The post was punctuated with emojis of holding vomit, and eventually vomiting.
As of this writing, however, Kito has deactivated his Twitter account.
Another congressional offspring, Mikee Defensor, daughter of Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, said on Twitter:
“To assume that we share the same opinion is unfair. I've had my own share of arguments and debates in my own home in order to prevent all this from happening. But at the end of the day, I'm not the one in Congress. And more importantly, I am NOT my father.”
“My heart goes out to those who are greatly affected by this, most especially the 11,000 workers who have lost their jobs in the middle of a pandemic,” she added.
Meanwhile, the daughter of Rep. Precious Castelo, Winona, was tagged by a social media user and challenged to air her mother’s side on her decision to vote against the franchise bills. Winona is supposedly a student of Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University. She has yet to respond to the challenge.
We can view these parent-shaming children in at least two different ways.
On the one hand, this may be seen as unacceptable in a society that places a premium on family and filial ties.
The sting of a very public rebuke from no less than your own child would be too much – a violation of family confidence, an ultimate show of disloyalty.
What ingrates, some would say of the children. They were raised, fed, sheltered and clothed by their parents. They were loved. In the case of the lawmakers’ kids, they were given a good education, and brought up in privilege, if not luxury. The least they could do is show some respect and restrict their opinion to the dining table, if they ever dared. Publicly disagreeing with their parents, and worse, rebuking them on social media, is simply inconceivable.
There is another school of thought on this issue, however. It is that we raise our kids, not by telling them what to think, but enabling them to think for themselves. It is emboldening them to stand for what they believe in, no matter whom it makes them go against.
Kahlil Gibran said in The Prophet: “Your children are not your children. They are the sons of daughters of life’s longing for itself.” Is that not why we try to give our children an education, and expose them to what is happening outside our secure homes, and nourish their interests? Do we not hope that they would arrive at their own conclusions, develop their own expertise, and find their place in the world?
Do we not accord them respect, not just love, by acknowledging that they have their own minds and that they are not our clones, and encouraging them to think critically?
Is it not a mark of success as a parent of we raise children who care deeply about society, who feel strongly about issues besetting the country, who try to keep themselves informed and who express their ideas confidently even if these ideas run counter to our own?
Then again, it is likely that the manner of expressing disagreement depends on the nature of the relationship between parent and child.
If, for example, if they enjoy a close relationship, the child’s natural recourse would be to talk to the parent behind closed doors and say directly that what the parent did, or did not do, is unacceptable. They might argue, but in the end, it’s a private conversation that would result in reflection, or a change of heart.
If this line of communication is absent in the home, however, through no fault of either child or parent, the child will find alternative ways to get the message across. Or, if the child believes that the stakes are just too high, he or she may resort to more effective ways to call out their parents.
People are complex. Some may be good and loving parents in the private sphere but they may not believe that what they do in their public life concerns their children.
And this is where the litmus test of public office comes to play. When in doubt on what the best thing to do is, perhaps our leaders can ponder how they could defend their acts to the human beings they are most responsible for: their children.
If their children question or despise them for these decisions – even if they didn’t talk about it to their friends or broadcast it on social media – and then as parents and public servants, they would have failed. Whether or not the public knew about it is immaterial.