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 Tina Arceo-Dumlao
The realization that I was truly and absolutely responsible for someone else’s life came without warning one quiet morning in 1996, a few days after my son, Miggy, was born.
My mother had left that day for work and left me home alone with my two brothers with the firm instruction that we should give Miggy – who was a little over a week old at that time – a nice, relaxing bath as soon as he woke up from his early morning nap.
She neglected, however, to tell us exactly how to do just that.
Because I delivered via caesarian section, it was my mother who had been giving Miggy a bath since we came home from the hospital, and I did not see for myself how she transformed the little life form into a sweet smelling baby since I was mostly in bed recovering from my operation. My husband, Jerome, who was an executive at that time in an office in Makati City, was not around to help because he had left early for work.
And so there we were, three siblings without any idea how to give a fragile, crying baby a refreshing bath.
We argued over options: Should we just put him in the tub? But he might drown! Do we just put him on the bath mat? But we might miss some spots! Should we use a sponge or a small towel? But it might hurt him. How much pressure do we apply? Will he get scratched?
There were too many questions and just us three loudly arguing over what is the right thing to do.
In the end, I took over and made the final decision. I was the mother after all and the call was mine and mine alone to make. Talk about responsibility on a young and first time mother’s shoulders.
And so I told my Kuya to carefully hold him over the bathtub while my younger brother and I took turns soaping then rinsing him.
Of course, it was the wrong and inefficient way to do it, but he did end up smelling like only newborns can – a faint mix of milk, baby powder, and baby soap. I came out feeling oh so proud of myself because I, who was 24 years old when my son was born on Feb. 2, 1996, had made my first major decision for the good of my son. I had become a mommy!
Armando Miguel Arceo Dumlao is 15 years old now and in his final year in high school at La Salle Green Hills, and it has been one decision after another since that time I gave him a bath for the first time.
Some do not require much brain activity: Mom, can I go to the party? No. Mom, can I stay overnight at a friend’s house? No. Mom, can I get a new pair of shoes? No. Others you have to agonize over: Mom, can I ask somebody to be my date to the prom? Ummm….Yes (Sigh). Mom, can I start driving soon? I’ll think about it.
But through everything, I was guided by the same overriding, singular thought that crowded my head that time that I was splashing water on my baby’s tiny, wriggling body: What is the best for my son?
My decisions are not right all the time, but I rest easy knowing that right or wrong, I tried to do what is best for him – always for him, not about myself. And that sacrifice, that heroic act of putting my son’s interest before my own (even if it kills me) is, for me, what motherhood is all about.
Tina Arceo Dumlao is a multi-awarded journalist and desk editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. She has a Journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.
By Regina Abuyuan
My friend R, who partnered with D and me on this new venture of ours, a pub in Cubao X, has an ingenious solution to the never-ending quest for work-life balance and spending time with his kids even when he’s at work: letting his kid work alongside him.
For two weeks now, his son R2 has worked Fridays and a couple of Sundays waiting and clearing tables at the pub. Unlike most teens, he’s not into video games and girls (thanks to his ultra-sensible, well-grounded parents). However, R thought he could use some boosting in the get-your-nose-out-of-your-book-and-relate-to-the-world department. Don’t get me wrong—R2 is no sullen, emo-type nerd. He’s always smiling; chatty when he wants to be. But parents like to push their children’s potential, so here we are.
The first night, R2 was learning the ropes, trying to gain his footing. And he did—fast! Now he automatically hands guests their menus, knows how to serve beer, and wipes down tables after.
“It’s about building confidence,” his father likes to explain to people, after joking about child labor, when they inquire about the bespectacled lad handing them their drinks. “How to relate to different kinds of people—people skills.”
The best feedback I’ve gotten from R about his boy waiting tables, though, is this: “Papa,” R2 told his father after one (his first!) particularly busy Sunday. “I will never get irritated at waiters again.”
And what about my kids, you may ask? Why haven’t I asked S to join in? I don’t think it’s for her. I’ve asked her to serve customers a few times, but I know she wouldn’t be the eager learner like R2 is. Instead, I let her watch and witness how hard D and I work at the kitchen and bar—and her reaction has been just as rewarding.
“Are you sure you’re OK?” She texted last pay day, a Friday, when she learned D was going to be late for service and R wasn’t around. I was basically running the whole show, with the crowd growing bigger by the minute. “Yes, I’ll be OK,” I answered.
“Uhm, well, at least you’re earning…and you like it…I hope Tito D comes soon so he can help you.”
I rediscovered what I taught myself and S when she was little and would sit beside me while I wrote: If you can’t bring your kids to work, or have them experience what you do, at least make them understand what you do, how much you enjoy it, and how much it means to you. That way (hopefully!) they won’t resent your work—or at least resent it less.
By Catherine Deen
Like most first-time parents, my husband and I were extremely protective of our firstborn. During his first three years of life, he slept with us in the master bedroom. From a crib, he graduated to our bed, then later on, to a small fold-out bed of his own. While he had a room of his own, which housed his toys, books, clothes, and other items, his bed was stored and used in our room.
Although not uncommon, this is a less-than-ideal sleeping arrangement for many families. Yes, we may have saved on electric bills since we only needed to use one air conditioner, but it did not create an independent spirit in our son. This sleeping arrangement also resulted in our personal loss of privacy and couple time. As you can imagine, neither my husband nor I appreciated this.
When our son turned three, my husband and I discussed how to transition him into sleeping in his own room. We were very concerned about separation anxiety and thought carefully about how to implement the transition. Ultimately, we decided to turn the experience into a “surprise,” hoping that the “fun factor” would assist in the transition process.
First, we cleaned his room. Second, we secured his bed prominently in his room, strategically placing some of his favorite toys on the bed. Third, we put up educational posters—numbers, letters, good manners, parts of the body, and others—around his room. When the room was finally ready, we called him up and nervously announced, “Son, welcome to your room!”
We were busy preparing a surprise but the surprise was on us! Imagine our amazement when our son responded, “Oh my! I had been dreaming of having my own room!” He then proceeded to enter and OWN his room!
My husband and I looked at each other, dumbfounded. The whole time, we thought our son would have a hard time, but as it turned out, he had been ready and waiting for it for a long time.
That evening, our son slept in his room all by himself and without supervision. There was no need to even stay with him to lull him to sleep. Our little man was ready to be by himself. Throughout the night, we found ourselves a bit lonely in our room without our son. Laughable as it may seem, we found ourselves going back and forth from our bedroom to his to check on him several times that evening.
In this scenario, who had separation anxiety?! Ironically, it was not the son but the parents!
This significant parenting experience taught me one of the greatest lessons in parenting that I still practice today. Indeed, our primary role as parents is to prepare our children to face life on their own and not to overprotect them. Many times, we fear for our children’s safety and security. But, can we truly guarantee that? No. Cliché as it sounds, parenting is truly like a slightly open palm—not too tight to become stifling overprotection, yet not too loose to develop irresponsible freedom.
By Rossana L. Llenado One of my most vivid memories of my son Nicolo happened when he was just three years old. We were admiring the blooms at a flower shop in SM Megamall. And behind us was a bunch of other mommies looking at the beautiful floral arrangements. I must have looked so pleased because after some time, Nicolo said, “When I grow up, I’m going to buy you all these flowers!” My heart jumped to my throat. Like most three-year-olds, I knew that mommy was still the center of his universe. Nevertheless, his words filled me with joy. He said, “I’m going to buy you all these flowers!” I’ve been given flowers before but nothing beats the promise of my young beloved. Today, Nicolo is 15 years old. And true to his words, he has given me flowers through the years. He would give me bouquets on Mother’s Day and on my birthday. Once, he even gave me a bunch of roses. Put together, his gift of flowers would not be able to fill up a floral shop. But still, I am very happy. Next month, Nicolo will turn 16. Yes, my once sweet toddler will soon become a full-fledged teenager. And already, he’s talking about going to a soiree—an impending event which has brought me a bit of anxiety. Because after the soirees will come the crushes, and then the group dates and the prom, and soon, my once sweet toddler will be giving flowers to someone other than yours truly. I knew it would happen someday soon. And when it does, I will not cry. I will not shed a tear. I will be happy for my son Nicolo as he experiences the first throes of young love. But till then, I have the memory of this handsome three-year-old who made my heart jump with joy.