MANILA—I got scared out of my wits last Monday: my eldest daughter Katha turned 13.

Her birthday as much as chalked up a notch on my biological age, sending jolts of questions on where I have done right and where can I go wrong as a parent.

Parenting is not a walk in the park, mind you. It was not a subject they taught in my days at a Catholic school in Manila.

Although the concept of family was taught in anthropology, the polemics was only to meet academic requirements, if not intellectual stimulation, for a degree in Sociology.

There was no manual on how to raise daughters –I have two, the youngest of whom is five years old.

I tried books. Many were West-centric and only a few spiked the grey matter (like The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir).

None captured the intricacy of raising daughters in a social milieu born out of half-a-century of colonialism and shaped by five decades of patronage politics and blood-soaked democracy.

Throw in the latest heady cocktail of technological revolution and sophisticated tools of miseducation and I have reasons to be very afraid of the present as well as the future.

“Most of them don’t go out and play anymore like when our generation did,” a parent said.

I can relate with that. My daughter spends her free time on the Internet, interacting with people –who I hope are within her age range– on an online gaming platform.

I reckon, however, it’s still safer for her to socialize via a screen; at least she wouldn’t get physically hurt. And if she does, she can easily pull the plug or continue hiding behind anonymous digital lines.

I know my views may come across like a control freak. But these, nonetheless, allay the fears of a father of a child treading on the path of puberty.

It also reflects the tough job of raising children today.

It’s a daily struggle keeping their mind, body and spirit well-fed. It’s a nonstop task keeping them happily embracing life as life embraces them.

Having written these, I remain scared out of my wits today just like on the eve of my daughter’s birthday.

I know I’ll feel this way tomorrow as any parent of the seventies I think normally should.

The fear would hopefully keeps us on our toes against the rampage of time in this race for genuine human progress.

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