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.

Surviving the Internet Age

Surviving the Internet Age

By Maridol Bismark

How does someone born at a time when computers were still unheard of survive in this techy world?  Bombard your child with questions, that’s how.

I work for an online entertainment portal. Every day, I am exposed to words and phrases that are just starting to make sense to me: URL, landing page, sites, chatting, etc. I even get my pay through a system that at first, I couldn’t make heads or tails of: sending a vendor summary form through the magic of Excel.

So I holler at my son, not once, but many times over, and ask him to take a look-see, fast! He looks up reluctantly from his books, rolls his eyes, and does as he is told. It helps that he’s still in school and relies on me for his tuition and daily allowance. In other words, he has no choice.  LOL (That’s laugh out loud!)

“Mom, just check what you see on the screen!” He tells me, half-pleading, half-incredulous.

I point to the button that says, “Do not click this Web site.” He clicks it while I watch with bated breath. Voila! The screen starts to respond!

Next, I point to YM (Yahoo messenger) and wail that I can’t see my previous messages. He clicks on the “show recent messages” part and everything appears right  before my eyes. I could have kissed his hands right then and there except that he’ll find it corny and laugh his head off.

Why, I can’t even get my pay if  not for his know-how of Excel!

Ah, the  joys and pay-offs of motherhood!

I hear the same story over and over again from classmates caught in the same situation. This doesn’t only apply to computers but to cellphones as well.

My editor sends me a text: “What’s the model of your cellphone?”

I text back: “Let me ask my son when he comes home from school.”

She replies, “I do that, too!”

I look at my son straight in the eye and say, “What will I do without you?”

I feel like a child lost in a newfangled world, groping for a hand to guide me. Fortunately, the hand belongs to the boy who appreciates everything that I’ve done and will still do for him.

So let the new jargon come, full blast. I will not be afraid. I have my son’s hand to hold when the going gets tough.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Revisiting College

Revisiting College

By Maridol Rañoa-Bismark

“What do you like more? High school or college?” I ask my son, who’s on his third year at the university.

“College,” he replies, without missing a beat.

In college, he tells me, you get to meet more people from all walks of life. You also have more freedom, the freedom to choose your teachers, your schedule, and your extra-curricular activities.

If high school is the time to form cliques, then college is the time to widen one’s social circle, and to create as many of those circles as one can. No longer bound  to one section, your teenager can hop from one college to another like a butterfly flitting from one flower to the next. He may make friends with schoolmates who are so unlike him, or who come from a province or a country that he has never been to.

I myself am fascinated at the big university my son goes to.  When I enter the building, the guard greets me “Good morning,” thinking that I’m a professor. Since my age and eyeglasses allow me to assume another identity, I get to enter different school buildings and walk through an ongoing exhibit or diorama. Why, I even get to know about job openings for students. They’re posted all over the bulletin board!

Another big bonus: finding out what events my son has signed up for the month, at least we have something to talk about at the end of the day.

I pepper him with questions: Did you find the career talk useful? Are you joining the college fair? Did you meet anybody interesting in the outreach program?

It’s a great way to bond with somebody who’s turning out to be harder and harder to catch up with.

School activities are generally safe subjects to discuss; he won’t recoil when I ask about them. Sometimes, when I’m feeling lucky, I segue to more delicate matters like grades, teachers, and girls. I step on the brakes when he suddenly turns quiet or starts answering my questions with a standard, “It’s okay.”

It’s his way of saying, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

I’ll just try another day. He’ll ask for my opinion when he needs it.

For now, I enjoy the sights and sounds of the university. I walk around the campus that it is my child’s second home and try to see it through his eyes. And here’s what I saw: all these young happy people, eager to learn, eager to grow, and excited about all their tomorrows. I am instantly filled with joy and say to myself, “Wish I were in college too!”

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

A Different Kind of Mom

A Different Kind of Mom

By Leslie G. Lee

I became an aunt almost a decade ago, when my older sister gave birth to her first son, Nathan, who is now nine years old. At that time, I had no inkling that my life would change upon the arrival of this little boy. Sure, I was excited about the newest addition to our family, but what I didn’t expect was just how much I would grow and evolve as a person by being an aunt.

Pre-aunthood, I was a driven, workaholic advertising account executive. I’d put in long hours in the office and obsessed about work day and night, so determined was I to climb and claw my way up the ladder. My life was centered on my career and nothing else.

Nathan changed all that.

I remember when my parents informed me that my sister was in labor in the wee hours of the morning. That day was a particularly busy one for me, as I was juggling various accounts and neck-deep in paperwork. I wanted to be with my parents in the waiting area but since I couldn’t, I arranged for flowers and gifts to convey my congratulations. My sister had to stay in the hospital for two more days after giving birth, and I wanted more than ever to visit her and go to the maternity wing to get a glimpse of my first nephew.

But I couldn’t, because I was buried with work.

When I saw the baby, however, it was love at first sight.

My obsession with work was replaced by my passion of seeing my nephew grow up. I grew resentful of my work since the long hours meant less time with him. Finally, I decided to quit my job in advertising and sought another job that would offer a more balanced work-life.

Apparently, I had made the right decision, for I now have three precocious nephews, and among their slew of aunts, I am the one whom they see most often.

Just as every person has his or her own style of parenting, I too have my own way of being an aunt to these three little ones. I’m a hands-on aunt: babysitter, caregiver, and surrogate mother on call. My family knows that I would cancel or postpone meetings or plans with friends at the drop of a hat, should my sisters and their husbands require someone to pinch-hit as a parent. I spoil them rotten with gifts almost every month and always buy them souvenirs whenever I go abroad. In fact, in one of my business trips, I bought more stuff for them than myself! I indulge their whims, understand and love their quirks, and bond with them at every opportunity.

Everyone gets a glimpse of parenthood one way or another, but for me, being a hands-on aunt not only gives me that, but also provides a good training ground for future parenthood. I’ve picked up a lot of tips and skills in my 10 years of being an auntie: from the practical and technical (changing diapers, cradling a newborn, putting a baby to sleep) to the emotional and psychological (dealing with three very distinct personalities, instilling good manners and virtues, satiating their curiosity with truthful yet carefully crafted answers).

And more than just learning the ropes and prepping myself for future parenthood, my “auntie” style has given me an idea of how I would be as a mother. But then again, we will never really know, not until I have a child of my own.

A recovering workaholic, Leslie G. Lee is a staunch advocate of work-life balance. Her passion for words has led her to work for and contribute to a number of publications in the Philippines and Singapore. Currently, she is taking a break from the frenetic world of publishing, in order to rejuvenate her creative juices, focus on her personal growth, and, most importantly, spend more quality time with her three adorable nephews.

Photo by Joshua Reddekopp on Unsplash

Growing Old in the Philippines

By Julie Javellana-Santos

Two weeks ago, my brothers, sisters and I threw a big bash for my mother’s 75th birthday. It was not a surprise party since we took turns trying to convince her to come to the Philippines for the party with her American husband. Nevertheless, she was surprised, and so was her husband.

Talk about the party actually began in 2010 when my mom came to the Philippines for her annual Christmas vacation. “Why not have a 75th birthday party in September?” we asked her, pointing out that the fare was half what they usually cost at Christmastime.

One of my sisters already said she would spend for my mom’s fare. Still, it took some time for her to agree — only after my other sister in Singapore said she would fork out the fare of our new stepfather.

We prepared a buffet party for her complete with two lechons (roasted pigs) and several birthday cakes. Drinks were overflowing and the atmosphere was not dampened even by the threat of a typhoon.

There were even dance instructors (my mother’s request!) to help my mom and her guests boogie the night away. Her grandchildren also prepared an enjoyable song number for their lola, complete with specially mixed minus one music.

To cap it all, we helped my brother put together a special audio-visual presentation, complete with pictures of her before she was married and bloopers!

For several Sundays we got together to take videos for the AVP and so that the kids could practice. The party was not a surprise, but this was!

I hope that when I am 75 (or around that age anyway), my daughters will treat me the same way we did my mom. She was so touched with the attention we showered on her, throwing her a themed party and all. But surprisingly, her American husband was even more touched.

In America, when kids grow up they move out of the house and seldom visit their parents at all. Most actually send their parents to an old folks’ home. My mom met her new husband when she was vacationing in Florida ten years after my father died. He has several children who are all married and have their own families, whom he never sees.

Little wonder he was amazed that we get together a lot, and that my sisters even spent for his and my mom’s airline tickets. That’s something quite rare, almost unheard of, in America.

Unlike most people, I do not dread growing old. Children follow the example set by their parents, and if the party is any indication, my children will treasure me as much as we brothers and sisters do my mother.