By Romelda C. Ascutia
Come to my house on a weekday morning, and you’d think it has been the site of a police raid. You know the aftermath of such an intrusion: The place is all topsy-turvy after investigators have combed it inch by inch in search of contraband. That’s how our house greets me when I come down from the bedroom in the mornings. But the culprits are not the search authorities; it’s my two boys.
My children, a college freshman and a high school sophomore, have convinced me that they are old enough to take care of themselves and don’t need my help to prepare them for school in the morning. This is not an act of total altruism on their part, mind you. Truth is, the boys don’t want me hovering over them because I drive them nuts. I nag them to hurry up, to take a bath already, to brush their teeth properly. I pester them with questions. Why didn’t you tell me you have a button missing from your polo? Why don’t you ever bring an umbrella (or at least a jacket) when it’s raining? Why won’t you get a haircut? Why do you ignore the fruits I place on the table?
Because our mornings have become a strain on both sides, we have agreed that I will get all the boys’ needs ready the night before—the hot water in the jug, the cereals and milk in the jars, the bread for toasting snug in the bread box, uniforms hanging neatly in the cabinets—and they will do the rest. The next morning, my duty is to simply call out to the boys when the alarm sounds off, and I go back to sleep when I hear them stomping downstairs.
This arrangement has worked well for all of us so far. I believe this setup teaches the boys to be more independent and self-reliant. If I’m around, they treat me as a convenient lost-and-found center: Ma, did you see my ID/belt/notebook/toothbrush/watch? Can you please go upstairs and get my P.E. shirt? I’m already in the bathroom so could you throw me my towel?
As for me, as a night person, I am not at my best at dawn. I become more energetic as the hours pass and get my second wind late in the night, when everyone is asleep. That’s when I whirl about straightening things, sweeping the floor, cleaning the bathroom, folding the laundry—all those things other moms normally do in the first light of day. Before I head upstairs, I survey my handiwork with a little smile, knowing that everything is in its proper place.
So there’s been a wonderful truce in my household ever since we hit on this morning deal. But I am still far from completely content. After they leave I survey the “damage” my independent young adults have inflicted: beds unmade, dirty clothes and wet towels on the floor, cabinets hanging open with folded clothes in disarray, used plates on the dining table, toothbrushes by the sink, pools of water near the bathroom door for me to slip on. Books and notebooks that are not scheduled for use that day sit in chairs. Receipts, tissue paper, and other whatnots lie on the floor, having missed the trash can.
And so the next hour or so is used to clear up the trail of mess my boys have left behind. But like any hopeful mom I truly believe that with time—and more nagging on my part—my mischievous raiders will become better behaved. Until then, the morning raids will continue.
Featured Photo from Mrs H’s Favorite Things
By Gina Abuyuan
Many people find it strange—nay, downright unbelievable—that my ex-husband and I are on good terms. As I wrote in one of my old magazines, it’s almost impossible to salvage positive feelings about a person who has caused you unimaginable pain.
For a time, even my fiancé, believing that it would be in my best interest, thought I should cut off all ties with my ex-husband.
It’s impossible, of course, considering we have twin boys between us, and I’d like him to be a part of the twins’ lives and vice versa. Besides, there’s the practical stuff like tuition fees, medical expenses, and extra-curricular activities to discuss—so wouldn’t things be easier if everyone just got along nicely?
I quote Brooke Burke of ModernMom.com when she talks of her own relationship with her ex: “We decided to take the high road for the kids.”
Two years ago, I coined a term for this sort of relationship: “co-parenting.” Does everyone believe in this? No. Is it for everyone? No. But if you’d like to try and make things easier for you, your ex-spouse, and your kids, here are three jump off points:
Get third party help. Both of you should see a psychologist, therapist, counselor, or join a self-development workshop or seminar (don’t get addicted, though, or else the seminars will drive your life, and leave you dependent and disempowered). I recommend Bicbic Medez of the RCW Foundation (which also has short courses on re-grouping and getting clear on where you want to take your life). Call (2) 436-0710 or 426-6832or visit www.rcwfi.org for more details. Maribel Dionisio of The Love Institute (loveinstitute.multiply.com) can also help. As the organization’s name connotes, it helps couples and families heal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll try to get you and your ex back together. Just be honest and open about what kind of relationship you’d like to re-create.
Take charge of the transformation. The real change has to come from within you. My ex-husband and I had countless fights and misunderstandings before achieving this sense of harmony and peace. Those blow-ups began because we felt the other was over-stepping boundaries, assuming the worst of the other, and thinking the one “should’ve known” or “should’ve known better.” Remember, the issues you’re supposed to be focusing on now aren’t about the two of you: they’re about your kids. Let me be extreme about it: Talk like you’re talking business, but learn to negotiate nicely. Get sticky issues like expenses, schooling, schedules/holidays out of the way. But learn to be flexible too.
Agree on the non-negotiables. Here are some things you can let slide: what foods they’ll eat, what they wear, what sports they take up. Here are some of the things my ex-husband and I will not budge on: a holistic, exceptional education and life experiences, their freedom to explore their spirituality later on, addressing immediately any circumstance or individual that hurts them (e.g., on two occasions, I let go of two drivers, on the spot, within minutes of learning they made my kids cry—the first, by driving too fast and the second, by cracking a cruel joke. I didn’t even allow them back in the house or subdivision to pack up their things). Harsh? Maybe. But we want to reassure them that though Mommy and Tatay are no longer married, we’re still part of the same team when it comes to them.
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 Gina Abuyuan
A friend and I got into a pretty huge argument a couple of years ago when she kept on insisting that I was a solo parent, while I felt the total opposite. Well, technically, I was—I was recently annulled and living alone–but the support group I had from family, my partner (who at that time was working abroad), loyal househelp, and friends made me more equipped at parenting from all fronts than most moms who were married.
Perhaps what irked me most was how she categorized or described kids of solo parents. They had issues, she said. Special issues that needed special attention. And that I, being a solo parent, would not be able to best handle such issues.
Not to say I’m turning a blind eye towards situations that may indeed need intervention, or that I’m in total denial about issues kids raised by one parent may have (believe me, I’ve seen and heard quite a few), but the scenario isn’t as bleak as she wanted to paint it to be.
In fact, kids of solo parents can be intrapersonally healthier than kids of partnered parents. Of course it depends on the environment in which the child is brought up. It goes without saying that if a child is brought up with respect, attention, and a fair amount of discipline, he or she will turn out ok.
Here are other things single parents may be doing that help in producing more well-grounded kids:
* Single parents have a more solid view of reality. It may sting at first, but there comes a point when every solo parent realizes that they’ve “missed the bus” in the fairy tale life department. Therefore, solo moms and dads are more conscious of bringing up their kids with a more balanced and sober view of disappointment and unmet expectations. Whether one turns bitter and cynical, or hopeful—but not naïve and psycho—is up to him or her. What every single parent should watch out for though is the syndrome called “parent-child,” wherein the child takes the role of the parent. The child may feel he or she should take upon the role of an adult, or even take care of mom or dad.
* Without meaning to, single parents teach their kids to be more understanding and responsible. Those family weekend trips to the mall, the church, the on-the-dot family dinners? Sure, a two-parent unit can fulfill those easily most of the time, but when taken up by a solo parent, schedules tend to get moved around. There’s work to be done, errands to be run, tasks that have to be completed that would be much easier if mom/dad had a partner. Kids of solo parents learn to deal with unexpected glitches early in life, and therefore become more understanding. If you’re lucky, your kids will also take it upon themselves to bring to the table—whether it be a particular behavior, or duty—something uniquely his or hers, in order to make the family function better.
* Kids of single parents communicate more and better. Again, provided he or she has no deep emotional or mental issues, single parents seem to make more efforts in communication and keeping connected with their kids. Heck, who else do they have to talk to anyway? Likewise, who else can you turn to to learn about what they’re going through? You don’t have a spouse, and a yaya isn’t exactly the best source of information. I may be wrong, but observation has shown me that kids of solo parents are more bonded with their mom/dad on deeper levels.
And, oh, in case you’re wondering, my friend doesn’t have kids. Neither is she married.
Photo by Randy Rooibaatjie on Unsplash