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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
let me start with the disclaimer that i love my son. i love him with such intensity tears literally fill my eyes when i try to put what i feel into words because my heart is unable to contain the emotion.
i am grateful every day that i am his mother.
given that, today, mother’s day, i miss *not* being a mother.
i miss not being responsible for another life. i miss the luxury of dawdling over dinner with friends after work. i miss having adult conversations.
i miss watching movies with my husband. i miss eating a meal *with* him (no, being at the table at the same time while one of you feeds the kid does not count). i miss actually having sex when the urge hits.
i miss sleeping in. i miss sleeping through the night. i miss going to bed when i want to.
most of all, i miss not being so emotionally full all the time.
i miss not wanting to burst into tears every time i see a homeless child. i miss not wanting to commit murder each time i hear about an irresponsible parent. i miss not being consumed by paralysing fear when i think about not being able to provide for my son.
i miss not needing to hurry home because my heart hurts to be away from him. i miss not having my happiness hinge on hearing his delighted laughter.
i miss not needing to feel his weight on my arms, to breathe in his scent, to constantly reassure myself that he is real.
i love my son with such force it reduces me to a helpless ball. but i miss.
‘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.