Wednesday, September 13, 2017


“Be thankful that your daughter is being unpredictably difficult to understand,” I said. And I could clearly see that look of disbelief on the face of the well-meaning Mom and Dad who came to me for advice because their once-sweet girl had turned into an unpredictable, sulky, moody, and hard to understand young lady. I could almost hear them say, “Are you out of your mind? You’ve got to be kidding!”

No, I am not. I am serious, as serious as a solemn ceremony, if you know what I mean.

Dear fellow parents, no questions asked, we do want our children to grow with a healthy personality. We hope to see them succeed in all aspects of their life. For this, we continuously send prayers for our children’s wellbeing … as well as for our sanity especially at this time of ‘turmoil.’ And if we are having difficulties understanding what is happening to them, they are even more confused dealing with things happening around them – those that they can control as well as those they have no choice but to comply.

Well, remember the ride along the highway with Buble singing Home from our car stereo system? And remember that blinding light that came out of nowhere? That sudden blinding light is the activated Gonadotropin-releasing Hormone (GnRH), without which our teenagers will not grow taller and bigger, they will not develop their muscle mass, they will experience pubertal failure and they will definitely have no functioning reproductive systems. So, it is that hormone that makes sure our teenagers have normal physical and sexual developments. It is also that hormone that makes our teenagers lose the directions with which they are familiar during the first eleven to twelve years of their life.

For one, the surging hormone necessary in this pubertal phase sends them into the world of dating and/or sexual exploration. Worrying as this may be, the phase is completely normal as it helps teens develop their sense of self as well as discover their own values, needs, and desires. However, it is also important to note that the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for decision making, controlling impulse, pondering over consequences, planning, and problem solving - does not mature until later in early adulthood. So, teenagers might rely heavily on their emotional part of the brain, the amygdala, when making decisions. This may lead to decisions made on impulse, resulting in aggressive, instinctive and emotional behavior.

The hormonal changes and the “slow” brain development are then faced with other factors that all of a sudden become the center of their being. What has been happening in the first twelve years of their life does not seem to matter so much now and they are drawn into other ‘big’ matters. The cute pink dress she used to love so much is now embarrassing because it makes her look fat and chubby. The T-shirt he would wear to any occasions despite our plea to choose another ‘more proper’ outfit is now prickly to his skin. The curly hair she used to be proud of is now the constant source of problem because those curls give her bad hair days everyday. Our constant nagging that he would at least brush his hair before going out has changed into our constant request that he would  stop meddling with his spiky hair just because he thinks it needs to be spikier.

The pressure to look good – whatever ‘good’ means in their mind – is starting to pull our kids away from the comfort of childhood. It seems so important for them to dress appropriately to be ‘accepted’ as members of the teenage community. As if this were not enough to put them on the constant ‘lookout’ for the latest trend, the desires to be recognized and to be the first to adopt the latest craze often drag our teenagers even further down the path towards the loss of identity.

What? Loss of identity? But I thought they were in search of their identity.

With the faster-than-light advance in communication technology, teenagers nowadays are facing pressures never before experienced by previous generations. Teenagers nowadays are presented with tons of medias to ‘help’ them not only find the newest fad but also express themselves. Unfortunately, with their lack of ability to make wise choices at this stage, there is a very big risk that they  might fall into the trap of following trends just to be recognized and not because they feel comfortable with the new trend. So, instead of finding themselves, they get lost in the identities of their idols. This phenomenon, that seems to happen earlier in teenage girls than their male counterparts, may lead to an erronuous belief that what they post in their Instagram or Path or whatever medias available out there is a way to express themselves. Is it really?

Some teenagers need ‘followers’ and ‘likes’ the way humans need staple food. The more followers they have, the better they feel. The more ‘likes’ they get for their posts, the more boosted their self confidence is. They post anything that may reap as many ‘likes’ as possible. More often than not, they fall into the trap of creating an idealized image that is actually far from their actual self. This creates a great gap between who they think they are and who they appear to be.

Even without the cyber stage, the adolescent years are actually the time when teenagers realize there is a big difference between how they want others to see them and who they think they are. Later as they get older, as they acquire more skills and are able to show real achievements of their endeavors, the gap becomes narrower. And now, before they reach that safe pitstop, social medias are creating more pressure for them to look better than they really are and, thus, they risk losing their own identity as well as self-esteem.

I remember this pretty fifteen-year-old who insisted on saying that she was ugly because she had pimples – on her face as well as on her back. She came to ask for advice on the best dermatologist to help her get rid of those annoying little things. The pressure for her then doubled because she needed not only to look stunning in pictures she would then post on her cyber stage but also to look good in her outfit that would not betray the accepted ‘standard’ of identity as a teenager. 

The need to belong to these accepted standards in their circle, along with the desire to be recognized, takes them to a new, even more alluring, ‘playground’ to explore. With facilities now readily ‘available’ for them to test and try, the choices (and risks) are endless. Skipping classes, ganging up on a friend, breaking the curfew, partying, smoking, vaping, drinking, speeding, sexting, porns, free sex … the list continues. Exploring and venturing out into the ‘cool’ stuff seem to be very hard for them to resist but, although it sounds grave and worrying, this exploring phase is in fact normal and necessary to help them discover their identity as well as develop their thinking and reasoning skills.

Hold your horses now! How do exploring and venturing into those (mis)behaviors help my teens develop their thinking and reasoning skills, let alone discover themselves?

This has a lot to do with how the human brain is wired. Studies have disproved that by adolescence, teenagers are equipped with a fully mature brain and it is the lack of experience that makes them behave they way they do. On the contrary, continuous researches and studies show that human brain is not fully mature until someone is in their mid twenties; girls’ brain matures earlier than that of boys.

As the brain develops from back to front, the pre-frontal cortex, the part responsible for examining choices, planning, and making judgments, is the last cerebral lobe to reach maturity. As the brain develops simultaneously with other changes occuring in their physical, emotional and mental states, each activity, experience, and pattern of behavior contributes to the brain development towards maturity. At this stage, experiences, both negative and positive, continuously alter the brain as it matures. Repeated stimuli strengthen the cellular connections in the brain and infrequent occurrences result in the pruning process of the cellular connections that are scarcely used. When it comes to brain development, it is ‘use it or lose it.’

It is clear then that in early adolescence (10-13), when the pre-frontal cortex is far from mature to be able to make sound judgments, it is easy for teenagers to give in to the urge to explore and venture into the ‘unknown’ because they want to experiment with different behavioral patterns. At a later stage, in the middle adolescence (14-17), they start to venture even further to risky behaviors. Part of it is because they want to belong to their community and another part is because they are on the path to discover themselves and their values. Nevertheless, still immature at this point, the pre-frontal cortex is still unable to help them control impulses and stop them from adopting inappropriate behaviors. It is only in the later stage of adolescence (17-19) that teenagers learn to assess their own risk taking.

Those experiences - the experiences of trying out new things and the experiences of accepting the consequences of their behaviors - contribute to how the brain matures: the experiences without which the brain does not have enough data to develop and mature.

Isn’t it clear, then, that ‘letting go’ of our teenagers and accepting them they way they are, is in fact necessary to help them grow up to be functioning adults? 

And isn’t it clearer that it is at this time that our teenagers need us most to be present – not as helicopter parents but as their stronghold to instill values with which they can fly and soar while their wings are still not strong enough. 

Coming soon: what parents can do to help

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Tahukah Engkau, Tuhan?

Kalau Tuhan mengenal setiap ciptaanNya bahkan sebelum mereka dikandung, apakah Dia juga tahu bahwa Adam dan Hawa akan jatuh dalam dosa? Tahukah Dia bahwa akan ada seekor ular, yang merupakan ciptaanNya juga, yang menggoda Hawa hingga Hawa kemudian mengajak Adam untuk mereguk 'kebahagiaan' bersama? Apakah Dia tahu bahwa ciptaanNya yang paling sempurna akan mengkhianatiNya?

Tuhan mengijinkan adanya hal buruk karena dari hal yang buruk akan ada hal baik yang muncul. Akan ada kemuliaan yang menyeruak keluar dari kumpulan dosa dan kesalahan. Apakah ini berarti Tuhan memang menciptakan sebagian makhluk ciptaanNya  untuk menjadi martir? Menjadi alat agar kemuliaanNya bersinar dan dapat dirasakan oleh banyak orang?

Saya belum menemukan jawaban atas pertanyaan-pertanyaan itu tapi saya belajar satu hal. Di antara selaksa ciptaanNya, hanya ciptaanNya di hari keenam inilah yang diciptakan serupa dengan Allah. Manusia diciptakan dengan kebebasan untuk tetap setia dalam persahabatan intim denganNya atau akan mengedepankan kepentingannya sendiri di atas keberserahannya akan kehendak dan aturan Allah. Kebebasan ini merupakan elemen bawaan yang sepertinya merupakan konsekuensi dari menjadi serupa dengan Allah - kita diperlengkapi dengan self-knowledge dan self-possession. Proses pencarian diri menjadi sangat berarti dalam kehidupan manusia karena proses inilah yang akan menjadikan manusia makhluk yang bertumbuh dan mendewasa dan dapat mendekatkan diri pada panggilan yang sudah Dia tetapkan.

Masalahnya, setiap manusia, dengan dosa asal yang diwariskan oleh Adam dan Hawa, memang akan menua dan kembali menjadi debu. Namun proses menua ini belum tentu dibarengi dengan proses mendewasa yang dibutuhkan untuk makin mendekatkan diri pada hakikat kemuliaan kita sebagai makhluk yang diciptakan sesuai rupa Allah.

Celakanya lagi, kecerdasan tingkat tinggi yang Tuhan berikan pada setiap dari kita seringkali membuat kita malah merasa menjadi tuhan. Tinggi hati, merasa diri paling pintar dan paling benar. Orang lain hanya makhluk-makhluk kacangan yang mengganggu stabilitas kehidupannya. Sok tahu, merasa mampu membuat kesimpulan untuk masa depan dengan berdalih analisa logika. Sok kuat, merasa punya otoritas atas masalah yang datang tanpa mau berserah pada kehendak Sang Pemberi Kehidupan. Besar kepala, menilai segala sesuatu dari ukuran intelektual sehingga lupa bahwa sebagai makhluk yang diciptakan serupa dengan gambar Allah, manusia diberikan tugas untuk berelasi dengan sesama dalam tataran kasih dan pelayanan.

“Sebelum Aku membentuk engkau dalam rahim ibumu, Aku telah mengenal engkau, dan sebelum engkau keluar dari kandungan, Aku telah menguduskan engkau, Aku telah menetapkan engkau menjadi nabi bagi bangsa-bangsa.” (Yer 1:5) Maka tahukah Engkau, Tuhan, apakah aku akan melangkah menjauhiMu atau akankah aku setia pada panggilanku seumur hidupku?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Time God Saved Me In United Kingdom by Nicholas Budiman

I was exhausted. I finally reached United Kingdom. I looked around and smelled the fresh air. I could feel the breeze blowing. It was an awesome holiday. Until last night.

Last night was very scary. It went like this.
I got ready for bed after a long trip from Jogjakarta. I brushed my teeth, did my "business", and changed my clothes then I jumped to bed and turned on the TV. I watched BBC and fell asleep. I woke up three hours later feeling very cold. The lights were off, the TV was off, and the AC was on. I didn't remember doing all these stuff. It was very creepy and scary. I pulled the covers and tried to sleep. Well, I couldn't sleep because I felt something weird.

I couldn't sleep because I felt something watching me from the corner of the room. I tried to ignore it but I couldn't. Suddenly I was surrounded by a thick white mist. I wasn't on the bed anymore. I was on plain ground. I looked around and saw a big shadow coming closer to me. I screamed and prayed numerous times until the mist dissolved. The big shadow wasn't there and I was back in my room in the original state, light on, TV on, and AC off. Since that night I never went back to that room. I changed rooms with another customer.

I walked into a book and movie store. I asked the owner about horror books and movies then I found a book entitled "The Ghosts of The United Kingdom" and I also found a movie entitled "The Black Shadow". I bought both the book and the film and brought them home. At home I started to read the book and I realised the story was like my experience. So I stopped and watched the movie. Halfway through the movie I saw the black shadow and I froze. The black shadow was the shadow from my experience five years earlier.

The End


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Time I Went Camping - Part 1 by Nicholas Budiman

It was dark when we reached there. The boat rocked when it hit the side. I woke up from my dreamless sleep and looked up. We were on a misty island with a small red brick house, a bed of dead flowers and mist beyond the flowers. We walked up the island and set camp in the red brick house.

I woke up because I heard a sound. A strange, yet familiar sound. I took my flashlight and walked outside. I walked slowly out of the red brick house and looked around. I saw something bright in the lake. I heard the familiar sound again. I looked to the left and walked slowly to the bed of dead flowers. There, the sound was so clear I could feel it in my body. Then I realised it was my dogs howling. A shower of relief washed over me.

I walked up to the red brick house and slipped inside. I was shocked because suddenly the red brick house was full of weird animals running around. 

I shot up in the tent and looked around. I realised that it was only a dream. Suddenly, I heard a strange yet familiar sound. 

~ to be continued 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

I Love You As I Love You

It's funny that time and time again people should feel the need to elaborate and define the kind of love they have towards someone. It's true that 'love' has a lot of different meanings in different contexts but when two people truly love each other they should readily know the kind of love that they both share. There should be no need for elaboration.  

To me, love is unique. 
It's unique for each individual that becomes the object of my affection.
I love different people in different ways, at different depths. No two people get exactly the same kind of love; simply because love is as unique as the people feeling it. Thus, love speaks for itself and needs no explanation. 

For me, love goes beyond mere reasons.
At one point in my life, I came to realize that I don't need to have definite reasons for loving someone the way I do. Love exists because of love itself. I don't love someone due to particular qualities that they have. I may like someone because he's kind. I may like someone because she's smart. I may even like someone because he looks stunning. But when I love someone, it's just because I love them. 

The way I see it, love is everything that is not. 
It's almost impossible to define what love entails. Happiness, content, passion, serenity, calmness? Or sadness, wishful longings and hopes, uncertainties, nerve-wracking anticipations, anxieties? Love is everything that is intoxicating, and yet everything that is disconsolating. Because one cannot exist without the other. 

And to me, love is love. 
I don't love someone as a lover.
I don't love someone as a child.
I don't love someone as a parent.
I don't love someone as a sibling.
I don't love someone as a friend.

I love someone as an individual that completes me.
I love someone as they are.
I can't define who and what they are to me because love goes beyond who and what.

Oct 18, 2015

Also dedicated to a friend who's in a dilema ~ love is bound to bring confusion ☺.

Monday, August 3, 2015

I Am Letting You Grow

"Can I go to school by bike, Mom?" Nick has been asking that question for months now and the thought of my 11-year-old boy riding in a 'wild and scary' traffic was enough to make my stomach churn. It was not so much because of the distance, but, in my opinon, the traffic was really unbelievable. "Not yet," was the only 'logical' answer I could give him. Until one day he changed his request. "Tomorrow, can I go to church by bike, Mom?"

It's only about 1km from home to our church but, again, that's not the point. I didn't know what to say but I knew I had to make a decision.

His adamant request brought me back to the time when he insisted on going camping with Woodcamp. It was a hard decision for me to let my then 8-year-old boy go on a camping trip to a place I hardly know. I remember clearly how worried and uneasy I was before he left. I remember even more clearly how I felt during the time that he was away. Lots of "what if's" came rushing into my head in torrents. I also remember that in the end I surrendered in continuous prayers, asking God to stay with him every single second.

Did he come back fine?
No! He didn't come back fine. He came back wonderfully. He came back a new person - happier, more mature, and more confident than he was before he left. Proudly, he told us all. He told us that camping was fun. He also told us, with immeasurable pride, that he was worried at night but he could conquer it. It was then I knew that my little boy, my little Eaglet, had grown up. He was ready to soar. And I, too, should be ready to have an empty nest soon.

"But him riding a bike on the road by himself is a different matter," I heard myself say. Going camping is a lot safer because he is never alone. He has companies. Should anything happen to him, there would be his buddies and coaches to help him. But riding a bike on his own? What if? And there I was with fears and worries running through my head. I could hear myself saying "I know I have to let him do it. It's just not now."

His Dad was more at ease with the idea of Nick riding to church, though. "It's not that far," he said. And, I guess, the fact that he started going places by himself on his bike at the age of 12 made it easier for him to say yes. Still, I was not very sure. As the day came to an end, I still couldn't make a decision, but I was not as adamant as I was before. I still had a few more hours to think and consider but I knew I had to decide soon.

The next day, before the break of dawn, some very strong words hit me. "You have to let him grow. Just believe in God's grace. In the name of love for Nick and his future" a friend told me. It was spot on.

If I truly love him, I have to let him grow.

In the morning, his Dad and I had the "final" talk. We agreed that our decisions about his camping trips had been fruitful for Nick and it was all because we had given him a chance; a chance to prove himself and a chance to grow. So when he said "If you didn't give him a chance, he wouldn't grow," my mind was made up.

I am letting you grow, My Li'l Eaglet.
Fly! Soar! My prayers are always with you.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

7 Signs That Your Relationship Is For Real

How do you know that he/she is the one for you?
Can you tell whether your relationship will last a lifetime?
For those looking for definite answers, this is NOT the place. Sorry…
Because the answer is: You can’t!

However, there are 7 signs that you can look out for to see whether your relationship stands a chance of weathering thunder and storm.

1. Understand That You Have A Baggage, And So Does Your Partner!

Unless you were born yesterday, you certainly have a baggage from your experiences. It can be an ex (or a series of ex’s, for that matter), a traumatic experience, unresolved issues, and other skeletons in your closet that you are not too proud of. You certainly will not like it when your partner makes a big deal out of your past. There is nothing you can do about it, is there? For one, you cannot erase history. And another thing, which is more important is that, it is those experiences that shape you the way you are now.

So, when you are busy spending time dragging your partner’s baggage, stop it! And when your partner is busy dragging your baggage despite your pleas for her to stop, it’s time to reconsider the relationship. She may not be the one that you want to hang on to! 

2. Acknowledge Differences And Respect Them

Let’s play a little game here.
Think of your favorite color! Now imagine the world in that color. The trees, the flowers, the buildings around you, the tables and chairs, the computer in front of you, the gadget you’re holding right now, the clothes that people wear around you, everything… every single thing around you all comes in your favorite color. How would you feel?

I can think of only one word: BORING!

For life to be interesting, things have to come in different sizes, colors, and shapes. For our life to be interesting, people around you have to be different in characters, thoughts, and interests, among other things. Otherwise, you would be dating yourself. You would be spending the rest of your life with you. You would be interacting with you. Interesting? In the beginning, maybe (although I personally doubt it.) After one month? You’d be screaming your lungs out so that you could get out of this weird relationship.

So, if you consistently acknowledge your partner’s uniqueness and differences, and vice versa, as something you can respect, you are on the right path to a healthy relationship that may last a lifetime. There is no one who is better than the other. We are just unique.

3. Control Is A Deal Breaker, So Don’t!

When you see point number two in your relationship, this one will come naturally. Once you can understand that people are unique in their own way, you will never want to control and change your partner the way you want them to be.

This one is often overlooked and, many times, I have seen friends having false beliefs that “once I marry him, I will make him stop spending time with his buddies,” or “once I marry her, she has to stop working and be a stay-at-home mom.”  Changes have to be made from within because you want to change and not because other people ask you to, not even your partner. 

When you feel like controlling and feel the urge of changing your partner, this shows that you have not chosen him because of who and what he is. And this of course shows that he is not the one you will be happy spending the rest of your life with.

4. Have Different Interests

Contrary to what some people say, I believe that when people have a lot in common (a tad too many), things will soon be out of date. This includes the romance and sparks that your relationship offers in the beginning.

While having some similar interests is a must, having different hobbies and pastime activities is a compulsory if you want your relationship to last a lifetime. By having time to do things as an individual, you will definitely have stories to share. And by spending time separately to pursue your own interest, you will be able to respect the time you spend together even more.

Another reason is more personal. Just like how shared hobbies and interests can glue the two of you, some different pastime activities serve as a media for you to relate to your own self. You need to build a relationship with yourself, too, so you can always grow and be a better you - for your sake, her sake, and for the sake of the relationship.

So when your partner gets angry because you spend a fair amount of time doing what you like, it’s probably time to have that talk about where your relationship is going.

5. People Change, Otherwise They Became Obsolete

“You’re different now. You never call during lunch time as you used to do!”
Well, when you see changes in your partner, it’s good! It’s good that your partner is different. That means that she is a healthy individual. She grows and improves.

Now, more than ever, our world changes continuously in a rate that we could only imagine 20 years ago. Information comes in torrents and we would be lucky if we could absorb half of it. Therefore, when we do not change the way we think and behave to adjust to the changes and improvements around us, we are facing extinction.

This applies to relationships. As a relationship matures, the people in it have to adapt and adjust; otherwise, the relationship could never be expected to reach a higher and stronger level. So, if you find yourself asking your partner to stay the same after a year of going out together, you may want to reexamine yourself and your thoughts about your relationship.

6. No Pretense

If you were an introvert, how would you feel if you had to relate to a lot of different people in many different situations 24/7? I bet sooner or later you would have one of those anxiety attacks. Now, imagine being in a relationship where you have to pretend about mostly anything, 24/7, 365 days a year, for the rest of your life. How long do you think you will last?

This is a strong sign. If you cannot be yourself and have to act the way he wants you to act because you want to make him happy, it’s time to abort ship. You have to be safe and comfortable in your own skin. You have to be you because, as Oscar Wilde once said, others have already been taken.

If you can be yourself, talk about anything without worrying about what he might think about you, do crazy stuff without worrying that he might think less of you, you are in a relationship worth fighting for. 

7. You Feel Complete

Apart from having your own activities, interests and hobbies that you can do separately, you know in the back of your heart that at the end of the day, it is your partner that you want to come "home" to. You know that when you are with him, you are complete. You feel comfortable, safe, and secure.

When you feel content and happy with him, then he completes you. You don’t have to think about what activities to do when you are together because even when you are not doing anything, you don’t feel bored. You don’t have to make an effort to find things to talk about because when you’re together, even silence is comforting. You don’t have to worry about what he may think about you, because what you are not, he is. With him, you are complete!