By Jing Lejano
On the way home with V the other night, she asked, “You don’t wake your kids up in the morning?” “No.” “Who wakes them up? “They wake up by themselves.” “Who makes their breakfast?” “They’re old enough to make their own breakfast.”
V gave me a look of utter surprise, as if I belonged to some other planet. She goes on to tell me that her mom still wakes her up in the mornings and fixes everybody breakfast. V is in her twenties.
D, who is in his thirties, also once told me that his mother makes sure that breakfast is ready for everybody. And I gave him a look of utter surprise, as if he belonged to some other planet.
Well, apparently, I am the one who belongs to a galaxy far, far away.
I don’t wake my kids up in the morning, but I can stay up with them all night. I don’t do breakfast, but I can cook Lasagna, Sisig, Pata Beans, and Chicken Pickle whenever I have the time and the inclination. I don’t do the laundry, but I work–although my work is on such a crazy schedule that it might see me wracking my brains one day and sleeping all day the next. I may not be able to attend each and every school-related activity but when I do, I am my child’s loudest cheer leader—much to his consternation. I may not be able to help them with all their schoolwork, but I hyperventilate whenever they get sick, and could hardly sleep unless something happens in the middle of the night. I can’t iron but hey, I can sing and I can dance.
There are all sorts of ways of being a mommy; this is mine.
By Jing Lejano
Every so often, my sister M and I would have these marathon phone sessions. She lives in Canada, you see, and we try to squeeze in several months of our lives into several minutes of talk. Our last conversation was a wild one and peppered with much laughter.
While talking about the many shades of dating these days (casual, complicated, what-have-you), M blurted out, “Hindi na ko cool!” (“I’m not cool anymore!”) I replied right back, “Matagal na tayong hindi cool!” (“We haven’t been cool for a long time!”)
I’ve never been cool to begin with, if your definition of cool is an au courant hipster. I’ve always seen myself as some kind of geeky cowboy. My sister M, however, is “cool.” She will forever be an artist with that “tortured soul” vibe about her.
When I became a mom, however, I was suddenly cool. When I get to meet my children’s friends, they’ll always tell me afterwards that their friends thought I was cool. Huh? Me? Cool?!
Is it because I knew how to take care of myself while the mommies of my kids’ friends started going losyang? Or is it because I was open to the idea of them participating in field trips, going on parties, or meeting up with friends? Or is it because I still liked hanging out with my kids? Or is it because I talk with their friends?
Maybe it’s all of the above or maybe it’s none of the above. But one thing’s for sure, I chilled out a bit because of all the things I learned from having kids. And I’m not just talking about their taste in music, which I make a point to listen to, or their sense of fashion, which I always take note of, or their passion for games, which I occasionally try to play.
No, I chilled out because I learned to relax. The obsessive-compulsive in me learned to let go because, really, how can you control everything when you have four different lives to think of? You can’t. And so I rock, and so I roll, and at the end of the day, I can sleep with my sanity intact to face another exciting tomorrow.
By Jing Lejano
When I first took a vacation with my sisters many, many years ago, I had to be persuaded. At the time, the idea of going on vacation without my children was foreign to me. We always went everywhere together, which meant, of course, that I was never able to have a proper vacation.
It starts with the packing. I had to make sure that everybody had the appropriate number of shirts and shorts and jammies and undies. If we were traveling somewhere warm, then swimsuits and towels and sunscreen and burn ointments must be taken care of. If we were traveling somewhere cold, then jackets and pants are mandatory. We’re not even talking about their vitamins and medicines, and when we still had a baby, diapers and bottles.
I remember running after them on the beach, making sure they didn’t go too far from the shore. I remember walking behind them as they ran through hills, making sure nobody loses a footing—and being there if by chance they do. I remember feeding them, bathing them, and then putting them all to sleep, and remembering that hey, we are actually on vacation. Or at least, they are.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized that I needed a break—badly. And that’s when it dawned on me: I have to go on vacation, a real one!
On our first day out, I was so happy not to be bothered by the knock of little fingers while I was in the bathroom. It was an absolute joy not to have any itinerary or any real agenda. I slept. I ate. I swam. I lied down on the sand, and made castles. It was glorious!
Today, I know better. Whether it’s a three-day trip or a two-hour appointment at the spa, I know that the best way that I could take care of my children is to take care of myself first.
By Jing Lejano
The other week, I had dinner at my friend Janice’s house. I’ve known Janice and her husband Gary for years. And I’ve always looked up at them as an ideal couple. They not only love each other to bits, they also work very well together.
Janice and I were at the living area talking when Gary said an inviting “Kain na.” When nobody seemed to pay him any attention, he barked a more commanding “Kain na!” And, as if on reflex, I stood up straight and realized that there was a man in the house. It was kind of disconcerting.
I’ve been a single parent for years and years now. There is no man in my house. I’m the boss of the house. I spend time with my kids and take care of them when they get sick. I pay the bills and run the household. If something needs to be done–paint the walls, change the light bulb, tile the bathroom floor, whatever–I do it. If I can’t do it, I pay someone else to do it for me.
I admit that it’s not the most ideal of situations but I make the best of it because I have to. I just have to.
Sometimes, I feel guilty about the whole thing. When they were younger, I noticed how my boys got so easily attached to my sisters’ boyfriends. I knew they were just hungry for a father figure, and unfortunately, that’s something I couldn’t order online.
But when I see my boys today, taking care of their niece Sophie, going out with their barkada, laughing at reruns of How I Met Your Mother, washing the dishes no matter how reluctantly, and occasionally, fighting over the computer, I tell myself, “We’re doing fine.”
Photo by Aswin on Unsplash
By Jing Lejano
At 43, I never thought that I’ll be singing ABCs, reciting 123s, and wondering what all those twinkling stars are doing tonight. But here I am doing nursery whatnots 13 years after my youngest son was born.
I was already on teen mode.
I am way past the sleep-deprived mommy phase of the baby years when you can’t get four straight hours of sleep because your little one is hungry—again. Today, my kids would eat just about anything. And fortunately for me, they know their way around the kitchen. No need for mommy to get up early in the morning to make breakfast.
I am past all the angst and agony of separation anxiety when your preschooler grabs your knee every time you step out the door. Today, my kids are all too happy when I have to go out of town. If I’m gone for just two days in fact, they’d even ask, “Back so soon?” Those rascals!
I am past the stage where I worry about meeting development milestones, height averages, and weight standards. Today, my kids are healthy and strong. And my boys are all taller than me—which doesn’t mean I can’t raise my voice and stand my ground when they don’t come home on time or they don’t wash the dishes when it’s their turn.
And so, when I became a grandmother at 41, I had this very scary nightmare that I’d have to go through all those things again. I actually lost sleep thinking I might not get enough sleep—again.
I needn’t have worried. My daughter is a good mother, and she’s an even better daughter because she didn’t ask her mother to do the mothering for her.
What I like best about being a Lula at 43 is that I get to do the fun part of mothering. Sophie and I eat ice cream, sing with Barney, and dance to Sheryl Crow. In the mornings, she greets me with a big fat kiss. In the afternoons, we cuddle up on the couch, watching Mickey Mouse. In the evenings, we play ball under the moonlight. I have so many other things that I want to do with her, so many things I want to teach her. I can’t wait!
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash