My mom, I, and all things imperfect

My mom, I, and all things imperfect

When I was younger, I would sometimes wish I have a different mother, far from the one I have. I envied my friends who have a “perfect” mother — prettier, smarter, kinder, and richer. I remember praying to God before sleeping, asking for a replacement. But when I wake up, she’s still my mother, and I her daughter.

When I was about five or six years old, I remember saying that I wish I had my bestfriend’s mother instead of her – straight to her face. Back then, I did not understand how painful it must been; but I remember her telling me, “Can you promise not to wish that again?” I did not know why she told me that, but I know better than to argue. I saw her shed a tear or two and thought, maybe I did a bad thing.

I did not like her very much when I was growing up. Sometime she’s so strict and mean; but sometimes she’s so calm and peaceful like she’s a different person. How can I describe my mom? She has a short temper and has tendencies to become violent. But, at the same time, she is the most loving, caring, loyal, honest, helpful, and most importantly, strong woman I know. Of course, I did not see these good traits of her before; I was too occupied dreaming about a perfect mother I would never have.

When I was younger, I felt like she finds satisfaction embarrassing me in front of our family members, my teachers, and my friends. I felt like she always needs to look out for me, meddle in my life, decide for me, and save me in every dilemma even if I don’t want or need her to do so. She does not want to leave me alone and it made me angrier and angrier.

Over the years, our relationship had been tested countless times. I would cause her pain, she would cause me pain. We would make one another cry. Sometimes we would cry upfront; sometimes, we would cry behind each other’s backs, when we think the other one would not notice – and that’s one of the worst ways to cry.

When I graduated from High School, we were told to write letters to our parents and tell them what we want to say. I wrote my letter and gave them to my mother. In that letter, I told her, “I forgive you.”

But, it did not end there. Our fights continued. Things have worsen, before they got better. But in each and every fight, she will always tell me, “Someday you will be a mother, and you will finally understand.”

As both of us grow up and as more years pass in our lives, we learned to understand one another. I saw my mother in a completely different light, or maybe I saw her for who she truly is all this time.

We discovered how we truly and deeply loved one another all along; we just didn’t know how to show that love. And, we just didn’t know how to receive one another’s love.

For my mom, her love was about waking up early to cook breakfast and pack my lunch, skimping so she can buy me decent clothes and some toys, pretending to be Santa Claus and leaving chocolates in my socks during Christmas, attending parents-teachers association meetings, never missing a school activity, selling different stuff to get me to school, and kissing me when she thinks I’m sleeping.

For me, my love was about studying hard to get good grades because I know she would be happy to see I excel in class, massaging her body when she’s tired, not changing the television channel when her favorite shows are on, helping clean the house, and not eating all the food so she can have something when she’s hungry.

Little by little, I realized everything my mother had done for me. When my anger turned to gratitude and joy, I stopped looking for perfect, because there is nothing greater than what I have in front of me.

I asked my mom a few times if she ever forgave me for all the pain I caused her. She told me, “There’s nothing to forgive because she never held a grudge.” I asked her, if she ever regretted me or wished she had a different daughter. She told me, “I never did. You are my daughter. Someday you will be a mother, and you will finally understand.”

I may not understand everything, but I know better now.

We are two women with similarities. We are both beautiful and smart, passionate and courageous, loving and giving, and strong and determined.

We are also two women with differences. We have different preferences, ways of thinking, opinions, principles, experiences, and beliefs.

We are two women – both imperfect, but never less.

My Boxing Life

My Boxing Life

By Tet Defensor

There is something about the sound of boxing gloves hitting the punching bag in steady rhythm; even more exciting is throwing a strong jab or hook that lands right smack on your coach’s training mitts. Tiring? Not at all! Despite the strenuous physical movements, a boxer magically feels stronger after every hit. The adrenaline rush is endless; there is no stopping the fist from hitting the target. A boxer only feels tired when everything stops.

Boxing is the perfect sport for working mothers. The movements are strong and heavy. And five minutes into the sport, you are sweating like crazy. It is also the best way to unleash pent up frustrations.

I started boxing when I was working for a public relations agency. Those of you with agency experience know that there is truly no end to the task at hand. I think the whole idea of multi-tasking came to be because that was the only way to survive in such a competitive work zone.

Without my regular boxing routine, I probably would have hated all my colleagues. But since I was able to release my stress, every day was a renewed opportunity. I may leave the office angry, but once I start punching away, all feelings of anger and frustration are thrown out the window. Of course, I feel tired after a two-hour workout, but I also feel refreshed and energized. The next day, I am eager to go to work and finish my tasks.

I’ve been boxing twice a week for more than five years now. It has become so much a part of me that I am beginning to enjoy the boxing fights of Pacman Manny Pacquio. I’ve been so religious with my routine that my coach even asked me if I wanted to take part in a friendly match. As much as I was thrilled with the idea, I decided to pass. Nope, I am not interested in boxing in public. Training with a coach regularly is one thing, but getting hit in public is another. Besides I don’t think my father’s heart will be able to take the sight of me being hit by a stranger.

Like any fitness routine, I started boxing because I wanted to lose weight. Surprisingly, I began enjoying the sport. I even managed to maintain a healthy physique. I think I have reached a plateau, however, and have started alternating my jabs and hook  with running and brisk walking. More than losing weight, I wish to live longer and enjoy a good quality of life in my old age.

Of course, there are days when I am too lazy to get out of bed, much less wear my trainers.  On such days, I imagine the energizing feeling I get after a workout and that springs me out of immobility.

Although I am basically a cheerful person, I attribute my bright and positive outlook to my active routine. We all know that exercise releases seratonin, triggering off feelings of happiness. On occasions when I detect signs of some kind of hormonal imbalance, I cling to the possibility of bliss, and run off to the boxing gym.

Photo by Vinicius “amnx” Amano on Unsplash

Riding in Cars with Boys

Riding in Cars with Boys

By Maridol Rañoa-Bismark

What do you do when you have to rush to work in the morning, beat deadlines in the afternoon, and get home ready to drop at night? Certainly not end the day without checking on your child whether he’s a tyke, a teenager, or a college-age young man like mine.

Sharon Cuneta’s commercial about coming home at night and checking on her sleeping children still strikes a chord in my heart, even if it’s been off the air for quite some time. It’s not that I harbor any illusions of being a Megastar; certainly not. It’s just that it paints the perfect picture of my life these days, so crazy that I can’t even catch my son while he’s awake.

How do I squelch the guilty feelings threatening to kill me with visions of a youth gone wild? By driving my son wherever he needs to be, that’s how.

In the mornings, I drive him to school. On weekends, I repeat the ritual when he has to go to a debate tournament or a required school event.

Trapped in the confines of my trusty vehicle, I strike up a conversation with my son. The poor guy—even if he’s about to nod off to sleep—responds. Never mind if it’s a vague “It’s OK” to my question about how the school fair went. That’s enough for a mom like me who’s anxious to connect with her son.

When I’m lucky, my son’s sentences are longer; his replies more colorful. He lets me into his world—a world where an older cross-enrollee acts like a know-it-all, making everyone snicker, and where teacher jokes rule. I feel like I’m part of a secret society where sorrow and laughter are shared. For a while, looming deadlines recede and the pressure of having to deal with rushed ideas fade. I am in a faraway land with my son—a land where life is simpler and I don’t have to deliver numbers to survive. It’s a breather in my hectic pace, a good rev-up for a brand-new work day.

Now you know why I won’t give up those morning drives for anything in the world except, perhaps, for a big breaking story. Our moments of bonding moments make me more human in the dog-eat-dog world I step into every working day. I remember what life is all about: feeling, sharing, being human.

Thank you, Ben, for making your harassed mom less of a monster and more of a human being through the years.

Featured Photo Courtesy of Cars Website

Animal Adventures

Animal Adventures

By Romelda C. Ascutia

Father and son were squatting in front of their gate, hunched over black dots on the ground that as I passed by took on the shape of adorable ducklings.

Children and animals go beautifully together like coffee and cream, and my two sons had their own share of animal bonding while they were growing up.

A long list of pets became transient visitors in our home over the years. During mall visits, a stopover at the Bio Research store was a must for the boys, who wanted to admire all the animals on display. Sometimes my kids would succeed in convincing their parents to make a purchase, promising to take good care of their wards. We were naïve to believe them.

One time we bought hamsters, which came complete with a convoluted cage that had all the works including spinning wheels, tunnels, and turrets. For weeks the boys would rush home from school eager to check on their pets, feed them, caress them, and clean their cage. But as time passed, the boys, with the typical short attention span of children, lost interest and moved on to the next attraction, and I was saddled with the care of the abandoned creatures.

The parade of critters in our house included turtles, tropical fish, and white mice that my kids snuck into school, kept hidden in their breast pockets to be shown to their classmates during recess.

The school was another rich source for acquiring pets. Ambulant vendors outside the school premises would entice the pupils to buy goldfish contained in little plastic bags filled with water. There were also chicks and ordinary brown birds given a makeover and dyed garish pinks and blues and greens. My children never let any of these opportunities to bring a surprise pet home pass.

At one point they brought back ducklings, and had a merry time being trailed everywhere by the baby ducks that had mistaken them for their mothers. Unfortunately, the ducklings would later be accidentally squished underfoot.

Of all the animals they had, my children were most obsessed with, to my dismay, spiders. They used up their school allowance to buy spiders locked inside matchstick boxes. These were not regarded as pets, but as combatants to be placed on broom strands and pitted against the spiders of peers. I was glad when they outgrew that phase.

Two particular pets stand out in my memory. One was a pair of outrageous quails which had the most eardrum-splitting squawk I ever heard. Like roosters with a sore throat, they woke us up in the morning with their hoarse noises, and curious neighbors would come by and ask us what those horrid sounds coming from our house were. We grew fond of those awkward fowl which, sadly, met a horrible end in the jaws of the neighborhood cats after my sons forgot to bring them inside the house one night.

The other unforgettable pets we had were hermit crabs. These creatures were sold by pedestrian vendors then, but recently they have found their way into malls. Their shells have been painted in bright colors or cartoon designs and they come housed in proper cages. Of course, they also carry a much fancier price tag.

Our hermit crabs resided in a cardboard box and were actually a breeze to care for. But when my children got tired of them as usual, the neglected crabs escaped from their box, and I assumed they had died from lack of food. Then one day, like Sigourney Weaver in Alien, I saw a strange form dart from behind the refrigerator. It was a hermit crab. The hardy creature had apparently survived for months scavenging on its own (which probably does not say much about my housecleaning skills).

My kids no longer ask me to buy all sorts of pets for them. But they have learned the valuable lesson of taking responsibility for other living creatures they take under their wing, and they now help me feed and care for our pets. They have also learned to respect the right to life of all animals, and during heavy rain would catch frogs that cross our street to put them back safely in the vacant lot where they came from.

Photo by David Jusko on Unsplash

Swimming Lessons

Swimming Lessons

By Lyra Pore Villafana

Every weekend I drive to the nearest aquatic center to take swimming lessons with other adult learners. My classmates are all parents to young children: one is a mother to a sixteen-year-old girl and a seven-year-old boy, another has three children all in grade school and yet another has a two-year-old son.

“I’m doing this for myself,” the mom to the two-year-old said last week.  “I work and look after my family, but I need to get away from it all every now and then.”

“Me too,” the mother to the three kids agreed.  “I don’t work but I need a bit of time for myself so I don’t go crazy.”

“I have the same reason for coming here,” I revealed. I work full-time and do my best to look after my young family too. It reinvigorates me when I am able to spend even just two hours a week doing something for myself.  This is my “me time.”

The mother to the teenage girl and grade-school boy listened intently.  She had told me on a separate occasion that she enrolled in swimming class to help her manage her asthma.

My swimming buddies and I are all Asians who have migrated to Australia with our families. None of us is really aspiring to become a strong swimmer. Of course, we want to be able to survive should we fall into the water but to us, it’s not simply about the swimming.

Life overseas is so different to what we’ve all been used to. We don’t have extended families to support us, we and our husbands have to do all the house work ourselves as there is no domestic helper who can do the cleaning, washing, cooking and other chores for us, and none of us has the benefit of live-in nannies. Amidst all these, many of us strive to hold a job as well.

But doing something for oneself isn’t unique to Asian moms coping with the stresses of building a new life in a different country.  A few weeks ago, my family was invited to the home of an Australian family ― well the wife was Australian while the husband was British. They had a twelve-year-old daughter who’s been born and raised in Australia.

Every week the wife, who’s an operations manager in a chain of nursing homes, attends piano lessons. “I do it for my brain.  I have to keep it working,” she said. So once a week, she spends an hour improving her piano playing techniques.

I do not view these one- or two-hour excursions without husband and children selfish at all. A busy mom has to take care of herself too. It does the whole family a lot of good when the mother takes a bit of time to do something that will help keep her mentally, emotionally and physically healthy.

Photo by Serena Repice Lentini on Unsplash