Roque, my four-year-old, has been extra clingy lately. He would insist on lambing time with Mama in the morning between his morning milk and bath time, and again at night between dinner and bedtime.
He was adamant as to where the lambing should take place: always upstairs in his room in the morning, and on the sofa downstairs at night.
Given that we also have a very demanding 9-month-old and no extra help at home, it’s difficult to indulge him every time even if I wanted to. I tried to introduce the idea that lambing can be present anywhere, regardless of what you were doing. This was met with resistance.
Last night, as I went up to put the baby to bed, Roque made me promise to come back down and lambing with him on the sofa after I had laid Cortez, the baby, in his crib. Super tired and sleepy myself, I absently agreed and promptly fell asleep, Cortez on the bed by my side.
Tired of waiting, Roque soon came upstairs to get me. Thinking to get out of my promise (and really, a bit annoyed and not wanting to get up from the comfy bed), I tried persuading him to just lambing in bed with me, which caused him to start tearing up in frustration because ‘we had a deal, Mama! You said you were going to go back downstairs and lambing!’
Muttering and grumbling, I finally made it back to the sofa. Snuggled up to me, he softly said, ‘Mama, I want to tell you something.’
‘What is it?’
‘Diba when Cortez does something wrong, you don’t get mad at him. You comfort him right away…’ He trailed off and his earnest face dissolved into tears.
Roque is by nature a playful and energetic boy. He is almost always on the move — dancing, singing, running, jumping, laughing. Because of this, it is inevitable that days with him are filled with warnings being given and admonitions being yelled. And because of the baby, oftentimes the yelling becomes the priority and the hugs take a back seat. To him, it seemed that all Mama did was get mad at him but never at Cortez.
My heart broke as I realized that this was the cause of his recent clinginess; my sweet boy was feeling sad and neglected.
I hugged him tightly and explained as well as I could the difference between how a baby understands things and how a bigger boy does. I squeezed him tight and assured him as well as I knew how that Mama and Dada love him so so so so so much and that he gives us so much joy.
He clung to me and cried and cried, and I marveled at how lucky I was to have a child like him, who continued to treat his baby brother with sweetness and kindness even as he felt unfairly treated.
We cuddled a bit more and stayed up later than we should have on a school night, but exhausted or not, I was determined that he got his fill of lambing.
Every day, I realize more and more that I learn from my kids more than they could ever learn from me. In the four years that I have been his mother, Roque has taught me patience, kindness and empathy, among other things. He has forced me to pause and take a long, hard look at how I treat others, at how I view the world, at how I live the values I claim to espouse.
I’m convinced Cortez arrived to make sure I don’t get smug about the lessons his brother had taught me.
Roque starts kindergarten in exactly 10 days. I am both excited and terrified. I’m not really worried about him not wanting to go to school, because I know that he enjoyed the one month of summer class we specifically enrolled him in so ‘real school’ won’t be too much of a shock to his system, but the idea of my baby being exposed to the world without me there to hold his hand and explain unfamiliar things to him is giving me all kinds of mixed emotions.
I know that he needs to learn to digest and cope with new experiences on his own. I know that only by being allowed to work things out for himself will he be able to know what he is capable of. I know that he needs to go out of his comfort zone so he can stretch and grow and transform. More importantly, I know that I’m not the first parent who has overthought this particular phase in their child’s life.
Still, despite all this knowing, I have yet to be completely okay with the idea that a month from now, I might not be the biggest influencer in my son’s life anymore.
I became a biological mother when Roque was born, but everything I now know about parenting day-to-day, we learned together.
I honestly believe that being a parent to my son has forced me to become a better, more empathic person. Pre-Roque, I’ve never really thought of myself as selfish, but, like most people who don’t have children are, I was. I’m not saying this is something childless people do on purpose, or that they are bad people because of it. It’s just that, by default, yourself is the primary person you think and take care of, so most of the time, your happiness and well-being are what you are concerned about.
Having a child and choosing to take care of that child compelled me to take a hard look at myself and my values. Raising a child necessitated for me a kind of soul searching like no other and with every new situation I am thrown out of my comfort zone yet again.
Do I insist that Roque hug and kiss relatives because polite society dictates it or do I teach him to listen to what his inner voice dictates about personal space? Do I teach Roque to be obedient and do what his teacher says or do I teach him to question and risk being labeled a difficult child? How do I explain to a 4-year-old that fighting is wrong but that he needs to fight back if somebody is being mean to him?
Do I even want to introduce the idea of meanness into his fresh, unsullied world? Is it smart not to?
Often I worry that my son will suffer the consequences of my being a newbie parent; that my making a wrong decision in his upbringing now will taint how he sees the world and interacts with people and makes decisions later in his adult life.
It’s a long term case study and, unfortunately, it would be impossible to erase the slate and start anew if the definitive results show I had fucked it up.
So far, the kid seems to be doing all right though, and I am always amazed at how intuitive and kind hearted and resilient he is. And how funny! Roque genuinely makes me laugh with the things he says and does, and I can only hope he survives childhood with this quirky sense of humor intact.
Almost four months ago, our family dynamic changed when Cortez arrived and Roque became a big brother, a role he enthusiastically embraced (sometimes too enthusiastically, haha!).
In ten days, his life is going to change again, and though I know that Roque doesn’t realize just how big this step is, I do, and I will do my best to be a good parent by stepping back and letting him go.
Hello, it’s been a while. I’ve popped out a whole new human being since I was here last, and we are now a family of four!
Roque is now 4 and starts Kindergarten in two weeks, Cortez is semi-brand new at 3 1/2 months, and Alvin and I are trying our best to remember what babies need and when they need them.
It’s amazing how much a person forgets in four years! When I was nine months pregnant and almost ready to pop, I frantically tried to recall all the things we had to prepare for the baby and all I could come up with were tie-sides, milk bottles, and mittens; I had to Google ‘newborn checklist’ and ‘what to bring to hospital for delivery’.
The first day Cortez was given a bath at the hospital, Alvin and I watched how it was done as if we had never bathed a newborn in our lives.
Having a second child feels very different from having the first. Yes, I’m more physically tired because there are two to take care of, but, somehow, it’s not as mentally exhausting because even if I had forgotten the little everyday details needed to care for an infant, I feel that I am a more capable mother now than I was four years ago.
When I was pregnant with Roque, one of my sisters and I gave birth within a few weeks of each other. The big difference was while it was my first pregnancy, it was her third. I remember Roque and I visiting her and her baby, and being amazed at how calm she was while her tiny daughter bawled her lungs out.
Now with Cortez, I get it.
When I had Roque, I spent the better part of my 2-month maternity leave trapped on the sofa, unable to even put him down to pee because I was too scared to wake him up. The slightest whimper sent chills down my spine and I ran as fast as I could to his side, afraid something was the matter. Before he left for work, Alvin would make and leave sandwiches for me because all I could manage come lunch time was a quick sprint to the refrigerator to get them.
While I certainly can’t claim to be supermom, I can safely say that with Cortez, I am a more relaxed one. Babies cry, that’s what they do, and I have learned to be okay with that. I am not as anal about feeding times and nappy changes and poop color, and these days, I only worry about ruining my kids’ lives a couple of times a week instead of every day.
I am also more optimistic about being able to blog again, which I really missed. I know this sounds strange because how could I possibly find time to write with two kids when I couldn’t with one? But I feel like a part of my brain that had been holding its breath for the last four years was finally given permission to exhale.
Cross fingers that my optimism holds and translates to actual paragraphs.
i am in a contest with my son’s nanny. the contest is to see who can make him love her more and it has been ongoing for the past year. the reason i only bring it up now is because i feel i am finally winning.
i took it for granted when i got pregnant that i would work until i gave birth, go on maternity leave, then go back working. being a stay-at-home mom was never an option, both for financial reasons and to keep my sanity.
when we hired our nanny when roque was three months old, we had misgivings about her age (she was then 15-going-on-16), but when we saw how capable she was, we considered ourselves lucky. it’s been a year and she’s still with us, a feat considering all the nanny horror stories i’ve heard. understand that she’s not perfect and i do have moments of wanting to scream in frustration, but all told, she takes good care of roque and seems genuinely fond of him, and in a world full of viral videos of nannies hitting babies they’re supposed to take care of, that is more than enough.
on average, they spend ten hours a day together, and those aren’t just random hours, but the best part of each day. i only get to spend time with my son early in the morning and during the evening, when i am either rushing to get ready for work or tired from work.
logic tells me that all that time spent in each other’s company will, of course, foster closeness, but when i saw how they played and giggled together, and how she seemed to know exactly what he needed, my heart ached.
he kissed her cheek before he would mine.
because i cannot not work, i do everything i can to make the most of my time with him. roque would start calling out at around 5am and my body would automatically get up even as my mind desperately pleaded for it to stop and stay in bed. part asleep, part irritated, part resigned and plenty tired, i was also infinitely grateful that i am able to start my day with him.
we have our little routine: after his morning milk and diaper change, i would gather him in my arms and we would stand by the window and look out into the quiet of the early morning. we would spend endless minutes turning the light on and off, and he would smile proudly when he’s able to do it on his own, something that happens more and more often now. he would insist on leaving the bedroom and going to the bookshelf, where we would get his favorite book and look for the tiger yet again. his eyes would light up and he would smile and excitedly say ‘tiger!’ the moment he sees the vivid orange color of the animal that fascinates him so much.
when we go out as a family during weekends, alvin and i leave the nanny at home, opting to take care of roque on our own. we’ve received confused reactions about this decision, but we wanted roque to know that when mommy and dada are around, we take care of him.
now, he turns to us first when he needs something and when he has an interesting discovery he wants to share. we are his first choice as playmates. he kisses us for no reason, then smiles shyly when we express happiness at the show of affection.
i know that time-wise, i can never win over the nanny, but i am determined to make my few hours with my son count. i am determined to make him understand that being physically there is not the only way to show how much he is loved.
now, i know that this contest is probably just in my head. my nanny would probably just as soon leave if she could afford to, and it is unfortunate that she had to leave her home and work so far from it, but sometimes, a mother’s heart doesn’t process reason very well, and so i silently keep tally: one point for her, one point for me. no matter that i am the only one keeping count.
i don’t want to boast but i think it’s only fair to say that i’m winning in the food war against my one-year-old. turned out, the reason why roque wouldn’t eat during meal times was because we’ve been stuffing him with milk!
in the early food war days, his average daily food schedule went something like:
6am – 5oz milk
8am – breakfast
10am – 5oz milk
12nn – lunch
1pm – 5oz milk
3pm – snack
5pm – 5oz milk
7pm – dinner
9pm -5oz milk
that’s a lot of milk, i know. no wonder the kid didn’t have room for solids. he probably thought i was crazy whenever i tried shoving food into his mouth. we got the go-ahead from his pedia to lessen his milk intake and justlikethat the kid started eating solids like crazy. like crazy, i tell you.
this is how we divide up his days now, food-wise:
6am – 6oz milk
9am – breakfast
12nn – lunch
1pm – 6oz milk
4pm – snack
7pm – dinner
9pm – 6oz milk
the longer breaks in between meals (milk or solids) really made a huge difference. where i used to employ any and all tips and tricks i could think of just to get him to eat, now, i can’t get the spoon reloaded and into his mouth fast enough. often, while readying the next spoonful, i would feel a little hand tapping my arm impatiently and look up to an eagerly open, empty little mouth. it’s been almost a month of happy eating and roque’s cheeks have already gotten fatter, like a chipmunk’s with a mouthful of nuts.
now you know it can’t be all good, and this is the part where i warn you that poop will be discussed.
the downside to my victory is that he’s had toddler’s diarrhea since a few days after we changed his diet. it’s actually gotten better now, but there were days when we had to wash and change him *every* *fucking* *hour* (the only silver lining in this cloud was that those days coincided with his diaper brand going on sale, so heart attacks over how much all this pooping was starting to cost were avoided).
it’s hard not to worry when your toddler poops at least four times a day everyday but i’m doing my best because everybody (and by that i mean his pedia and people on the internet, collectively) says toddler’s diarrhea is normal and it’s supposed to clear up on its own. also, roque’s as happy and energetic as usual, which does a lot to quiet my fears.
on second thought, abundance of poop or not, for this round, i think everybody wins.
‘aaa.’, i told roque, a spoonful of warm oatmeal poised to enter his mouth.
‘EHH!’, he answered back with an impatient dismissive wave of his hand, then turned his face away for good measure, just in case his message was unclear. bloodcurling screams ensued when i insisted.
more and more, this was how our meal times went: me cajoling, entertaining, tricking, pleading with him to eat, and him refusing. each meal ended with me either triumphant but exhausted from my for-roque-only-one-woman-show or exhausted *and* frustrated, his food practically untouched.
I’m not sure when my good eater became this exasperating little tyrant, but I’m feeling more and more helpless, and less and less a good mother, with each bowlful that goes uneaten.
just let him go hungry, my husband says, he’ll eat more at the next meal.
but i can’t.
i can’t not do everything i can short of clamping his mouth open and shoving food in (i admit i’d probably do that if i found a way to) because the thought of my son not getting enough nutrients drives me completely batty.
there’s nothing roque does that gets to me quite like not eating his food can, and, believe me, he’s been a whirlwind of naughty activity ever since he learned to walk.
he grabs and drops my phone. he toddles off with the box where i keep my rolls of thread, scattering them in his wake. he insists on investigating electric sockets. he opens and closes random cabinet doors. he wraps his little hand around my finger, tugs and tugs, and if i refuse to let myself be dragged to wherever he wants to bring me, well, the whole building floor becomes privy to fits of screaming so passionate you would think i announced he couldn’t have ice cream for the rest of his life.
the kid guzzles 25 ounces of milk a day and is hardly emaciated, so I’m not sure exactly why i think his brain cells would stop developing if he missed a couple of meals, but I’m a new mother and therefore exempted from the rules of logic.
i try. at the start of every meal i would take a deep breath and pray for patience and the ability to let go. but by the fifth spoonful i could feel my temper rising and all i want is to shakeshakeshake him until he eats. the fact that i don’t counts as a small victory.
what i don’t understand is why he won’t eat. it’s not like i stuff him with snacks and ruin his appetite, and he can’t not like the taste of every single thing i give him. he used to be such an enthusiastic eater, mouth eagerly open, happily gumming whatever surprise his spoon held, then suddenly, inexplicably, ‘EHH!’
today. screamy toddler – 1, exasperated mommy – 0.
roque turned one over the weekend and because alvin and i wanted to get as far away from the horrors of planning a children’s party as possible, we tempted a-ko, mommy and tanya with visions of pine trees and escaped to cool baguio.
in between braving tourist-filled mine’s view park, hoarding fresh vegetables at la trinidad and stuffing ourselves silly with yummy, yummy(!) food all over baguio city, we celebrated roque’s birthday with a family photo session at fog photo, the highlight of which was a delightfully messy cake smash. 🙂
photos by adrian dungo – http://adriandungo.weebly.com/
fog photo – https://www.facebook.com/FogPhoto
custom cake by vizco’s restaurant and cake shop – https://www.facebook.com/VizcosRestaurantandCakeShop