Lessons I learn from my son

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.


Mood Swings

zen

Om

I’ve heard how one supposedly mellows with age, how time puts things in perspective and allows a person to focus on what’s really important in life. See the big picture, if you will.

Well, the opposite seems to be happening to me. I’ve always thought of myself as easy going and prided myself for being adaptable, but I’ve noticed that the older I got, the easier my temper flared over the tiniest thing.

I used to just mentally shake my head at people who pressed the elevator DOWN button, for example, when they, in fact, wanted to go UP, but these days, I have to almost-physically restrain myself from shoving them in the elevator car going down when it arrives.

There are other things too: Husband forgetting to empty all the trash bins on trash collection day, preschooler defiance, surprise, unfair bank charges(!).

Oh, and people cutting in lines! In public rest rooms! At building lobbies! At MRT stations!!! Yes, this might just be the thing that pushes me to finally go berserk.

Understand that I don’t mean just annoyance here, I’m talking about rage. Body-trembling, mentally-picking-up-offending-person-and-slamming-them-on-the-wall, needing-to-pause-and-take-deep-deep-calming-breaths rage.

I’m a bit anxious about this life development because, at this point, I maybe get one stable week a month. A week and half, tops. And so I’ve been trying to observe myself  to hopefully figure out where this sudden anger has been coming from. Could it be leftover pregnancy hormones? Mid-life crisis? Perimenopause?

Is it just me who’s going through this phase? Somebody please reassure me that this is just a phase and things will eventually calm down.

 


Fed is Best

We went to the pediatrician’s this afternoon for Cortez’s monthly check-up, and I expected to be in and out after the routine length and weight check and vaccination. To my surprise, I was stopped at the hospital entrance and asked to surrender the milk bottles I had with me.

Apparently, the #OurLadyOfLourdesHospital (#OLLH), where my kids’ pedia holds clinic, has been accredited by the #DepartmentOfHealth (#DOH) as a mother-baby friendly hospital and as such, cannot have milk bottles brought inside its buildings.

I explained that my 5-month-old son was due a feeding in about 30 minutes and asked if there was a waiver that I could sign. The answer was no.

I was told that I was, of course, free to come to the lobby to retrieve my child’s food at any time and feed him outside the hospital.

I began to seethe.

Now I purposely waited several hours before writing about what I feel about this unreasonable, illogical, stupid and discriminatory directive, in the hopes that my rage somehow dims. It hasn’t.

This mother-baby friendly hospital only welcomes mothers who directly breastfeed their babies.

No, it doesn’t count if you express milk and have your child drink it from a bottle. And God forbid that I actually feed my child formula. Without a doubt, I must be the worst kind of mother there is! I should be grateful they let me in at all!

Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to question the pros of breastfeeding. I am all for it and have great respect for mothers who breastfeed. I would do it if I could, but unfortunately, my breasts refused to cooperate.

Hardcore breastfeeding advocates can argue until next year about how anybody can produce milk if they only try hard enough, and they may even be right, but the fact remains that one can hardly will one’s empty breasts to produce milk on demand.

I would like to believe that each mother does the best she can for her child, and at the top of the list is making sure her child does not starve.

Yes, direct breastfeeding is ideal, but guess what, ideal is not always doable for everyone.

Ideal is not always doable for mothers who work, and the next best thing may be expressing milk and having their babies drink it from a bottle. 

Ideal is not always doable for mothers who, like me, have little to no milk at all and so must supplement with formula which their babies drink from a bottle.

Ideal is not always doable for mothers who, for reasons known only to them and we must respect, choose to feed their babies formula from a bottle.

Ideal is not always doable for mothers who have had double mastectomy, OFW mothers who have no choice but leave their infants, and fathers whose wives died in childbirth.

I can go on and on, but I guess mother-baby friendly hospitals would rather babies starve rather than have them feed from milk bottles.

They wanted me to feed my child outside, like it was something dirty, lest I taint their mother-baby friendly image with my evil milk bottles.

Milk bottles aren’t the enemy here, it’s small minds who think up these blanket discriminatory rules and laws that pass judgment on people.

UPDATE: Apparently, and somebody correct me if I misunderstood, this law under the Milk Code is an old one and it is in accordance to the #WorldHealthOrganization (#WHO) policy under the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes wherein the Philippines was one of the signatories. [Please read: http://www.wpro.who.int/nutrition/documents/docs/wpro_breastfeeding_obstacles.pdf ]

I don’t think anybody is disputing the fact that breast milk is best. It is. But it is also a fact that it is not always doable to breastfeed, directly or indirectly.

I think we can all agree that DOH’s interpretation is extreme. What they should do is strengthen their campaign so mothers can make informed choices, not force everyone to comply regardless of circumstances.


There are Days

There are days when I understand why mothers walk out on their families. Get up, pack their bags and not look back.

My heart is not big enough to contain the love I have for my children but there are days when the crying and whining and demanding become too loud and too much and I have to stop and close my eyes and take deep, deep breaths. And in that moment I see myself in my mind’s eye getting up, packing my bags and walking out the door.

There are days when I understand why mothers smack their children to near-death. Lift one hand and slap slap slap them silly.

My heart aches with each heartbreak my son goes through and I would give anything to take the hurt but there are days when the stubbornness and tantrums and outright defiance get the better of me and I have to stop and clench my fists until they stop shaking with the desire to spank, smack, slap.

There are days when the 4-year-old complains about every little thing I ask him to do and the 4-month-old starts crying as soon as I put him down. Days when the house is dirty and filled with crying and whining, and my head throbs so hard I am sure it would explode. Days when I start running around as soon as I open my eyes trying to take care of two kids and trying to finish chores, and the only time in the day I get to sit is when I pee.

There are days when I can feel everything and everyone clawing clawing clawing at me from everywhere and the hardest thing to do is stay.

But there are also days when the little boy is extra sweet and the baby wakes up smiling. Days when the sun shines extra bright and a soft breeze blows through the house. Days when I have to pinch myself and ask how I got so lucky to have the life that I have.

And so on these days, the good ones, I find quiet moments to stand back and just watch, and remember, for when the bad days come.


boo!

i am sleepy. but there’s nothing surprising about that, i am always sleepy. my normal state is somewhere between smothered in just enough cotton to still breathe and feel emotion and floating above everybody else just low enough to still catch the gist of whatever’s happening.

so far it’s worked for me: i don’t get too affected by everyday bs and therefore carry minimal baggage around. admittedly, there were times when i’ve wondered how it would be like to actually be one hundred percent present in every situation i was in, to feel happiness and sadness and anger without mental cloudiness.

i tried to get more sleep, i took vitamins, i pinched myself. sometimes it worked, most of the time it didn’t. life went on.

lately though, i’ve been feeling the urge to nudge my brain into full wakefulness again and so i decided to take on the sangobion challenge and see if it works. the tvc promised results in 15 days. we shall see.

sangobian challenge

day 1 of 15


keeping count

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.


encore

if i were to pinpoint when i began longing for a second child, i would have to say about a year ago. in the time between then and now, despite my attempts to stamp it out, the longing slowly turned into yearning; the ache to hold a second baby in my arms at times so strong i found it hard to breathe.

madness.

i wasn’t sure i wanted to be a mother in the first place and now here i am, wanting to be a mother of two. everybody i know must either be laughing their heads off or have fainted in shock.

all phases of motherhood are hard — from pregnancy to childbirth to child rearing, but these same phases also bring with them a certain kind of happiness i am incapable of explaining. the best way i can put it is like suddenly having access to a supply of love so abundant it can’t help but overflow and forge new paths to travel on.

universe, know that if one of those paths lead to a second child, i would be very grateful.