THE report that one of my son’s best friends died after committing suicide hit me like a thunderbolt. I don’t know the details of the story but my son has obviously been affected, crying and keeping to himself. With my wife busy with her work and me tending to our little sari-sari store, we now hope that my son’s older brother will heed our admonition to monitor his brother’s movement and watch over him.
My wife checked my son’s cell phone for conversations he had with his friends, especially during the lockdown at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. That was when face-to-face classes were suspended and my sons were cooped up in their rooms with their gadgets.
My sons spent their elementary level education days in a private school but transferred to a science school in our place partly because we could no longer afford the tuition. I used to bring my sons to school so I knew their schoolmates and had their parents as nodding acquaintances. It was during their fifth year in school when my son forged a deeper friendship with some of his batchmates and they bonded by conversing using the English language. That bond was carried over to their high school years and even when they were no longer seeing each other physically. Their bonding had shifted online.
I knew my younger son was with his old schoolmates when he talked in English and laughed with his now changed voice in front of the computer or while in bed with his cell phone. At times, his voice could be heard by neighbors who may have found it strange because only his older brother was with him in the house and he was always in his room on the upper floor. But my son’s older brother was not also immune from these quirks. He plays his cell phone audio rather loudly and at times laughs hysterically too.
My younger son and his friends sometimes converse while playing online games. I would hear him shout, “I’m dead!” which attests to how brutal these online games are. Which remind me of my advice in the past to activists who seem to take war like it is a scene in a movie: “In a real war, when you die, you die.” You do not get a reprieve after the director shouts, “Cut!”
When my wife checked the cell phone of my younger son for old “convos,” she found out that suicide talk did intrude one time in it. And with their innocence, they talked lightly about it. It was what one might call “innocent banter.” Who would have thought that something tragic would happen days later?
I just hope my son would move on fast and in the process become more mature. He is a very sensitive child. I realized this when one time I reprimanded him and he took things deeply even as he owned up to his guilt. I have been careful in treating him since then. I did not want him to feel guilt too much. We want to discipline him, true, but we must also be conscious of how much he can take emotionally.
Especially during this pandemic when our kids are left in the house, sometimes on their own.