When my son Eric first arrived in the Philippines about six weeks ago, he wasn't too excited. You see, my family there didn't have an HDTV, and Eric needed to hook his PS3 up to an HDTV in order to switch its output back to something that a regular television could process. Today, when I asked Eric on the phone if he'd been able to get his PS3 output adjusted, he said, "Um, no. Actually, I forgot I had the PS3."
I didn't let on, but I was pretty much floored by that reply. You see, when Eric was here with me, he was fairly addicted to Modern Warfare 2…and I wasn't much help since I enjoyed it too. But the part of me that cared the most about my son knew that growing up here in western Washington wasn't the best thing for him. There were seven of us in our household – my wife, myself, my 25 year-old son, my 15 year-old son Eric, and my two medically-fragile Foster children who are too disabled to really interact with the rest of the family. There are some other family members in the county, but we're really not that close to them. We see them twice a week at church, but not much more than that. In fact, a few months ago Eric told me that his friends are just as good as family. I corrected him, but I knew that unless he felt it firsthand, he'd never believe me.
My wife grew up in the Philippines in a group of ten brothers and sisters and had dozens of cousins nearby, and she often told me of the memories she had with her family. My grandmother had grown up in the Mississippi Delta in a group of thirteen brothers and sisters. Her experience was not as good as my wife's, but then my wife's not bipolar and/or schizophrenic as my grandmother was (life with my grandmother was never boring). But in any case, I learned from both their experiences that as a result of growing up among so many siblings, they had a better idea of what made other people tick, and how to tell what buttons to push to acquire the desired reaction. More importantly, they both felt closer to their families than I ever did, since (precisely like my son) I grew up in a house where my only sibling was a half-brother whose father hadn't been heard from in many years. I wanted my son to grow up in a place where there was lots and lots of family…and fortunately, I had the opportunity to do just that.
Please don't get me wrong – I love my son dearly. My heart aches not having him around, not having the opportunity to see him off to school each day, feeling my chest swell with pride that he's turning out to be a better young man than I ever did. What's more, I know that my family there in the Philippines is not perfect by any means. There's a couple of drug addicts, one of whom's a thief, and another who used to be on the wrong side of the local law and the local mob (which are not always two different things). But none of them are malicious – in fact, one of the lessons I want Eric to learn is that even though he knows their faults (and I made sure he did), even though he knows he cannot trust them with money or belongings, he can trust them with his safety…because I've seen how they reacted when my oldest son was in danger even when they didn't like him. Such is the importance of family.