20 March 2013

my negative one thousandth friend

Parents often paint sibling-hood too romantically or comically, so much that the apparent cuteness  tends to conceal its real picture. I am talking here about the reality that stares elder kids in the face, like the one that Kuya Bugey had to come to terms with shortly after Ading came. Sure, he bugged us for a baby brother for months with no end, but I do know that at some point in this hullabaloo over the newcomer, Kuya must have felt that he made a big mistake.

I could tell through that smiling face how much envy was being masked as it watched Ading  enjoy mummy's milk, her lullaby, her tickles, her overindulgent attention.  As if that was not painful enough, he found that he  had to give up so many other things to adjust to the needs of the other being. His gadget time was reduced in proportion to Ading's wake time. His well-loved jumping-on-the-bed was totally banned because of his mindlessness (There was a time when Baby Boo was on the bed when he jumped). Our Friday movie night which we religiously followed is no more, thanks to Ading's sleep schedule. This list can go on.

Lakay and I take this as a chance to teach him a sense of responsibility. You can tell by this often repeated scene how he enthusiastically took on this: Daddy hears Ading crying, so he asks,  "Kuya, are you taking care of your ading?" The big brother looks up from his book/ doodle board/ iPad with a mechanically sang "Ading!, "  addresses  the little imp with the fastest "Peek-a-boo!" on record,  then gets back to his business. 

We of course know too well that this is just a phase, and that the day will come when Kuya will brace himself up to the challenge of big brotherhood. But it's also heavenly to have sneak previews of that time-to-come, such as this one night, when Mum and Dad couldn't think of a way to keep this strong-willed little urchin fastened into his seat. Lakay threatened my Baby Boo that we would put him in his "cage" (the crib) if he did not keep still. To that the 11-month-old only smiled, naughtily. 

Now when Lakay was busily putting Ading in his place, the Kuya said while holding back  tears, "I don't want to see Ading being punished. It hurts me. He's my negative one thousandth best friend!" 

I turned to Lakay to tip me on this one, and thankfully, he knew how to decode his first-born. "Mum, it means that Ading is more first than the first of his friends, like negative one comes even before zero and one. 

"Aaaahhhh!" I said.  And then "Auuuuuuuw," I said again. 

Sibling-hood may not all be heaven, but perfect lines like this can easily overwrite its hells. 

11 March 2013

Philosophical wrestling with my 2nd grader

Over breakfast one day, Bugey told his Dad the following remark, "Mum is a lot stricter than you, but you are much more scary when you get angry."  And then he went on thinking aloud, "When I become a parent one day, I will not make any rules for my kids. I will let them do whatever they want!" These words were followed by a premise that worried me a bit : "I will let them do whatever they want because I love them." 

And so while walking on our way home one night, I asked him, " So anak, what do you think will your house be like if it had no rules in it? Don't you think it would be more difficult for you if you tell your kids to do whatever they want to, like play all day,  make a big mess, pup anywhere, (then the Dad added in the background hoping to make the 'argument' I was building up more provoking) yeah, do whatever you want like eat your pupu....eeeeuw. " 

And then this boy just blew us away with an answer that made me curse my genes:  But Mum, if I tell them to play all day, make a big mess or pup anywhere, I will be making rules again! (Hint for the clueless: if you don't follow the logic behind this argument, read on the debate between absolutism and relativism - hee! ) 

The Dad then raised his eyebrows and challenged me with, "That's right Mum, so what do you say to that." 

Still recovering from that flabbergasting reply, I thought to myself, So this smart aleck is challenging the philosophy teacher. Hmm. Let's see. 

"Anak, don't you also see that when you say you will not make any rules for your kids, you are already making a rule?" 

Silence. Then heaved a sigh. Till he finally said, " Hmmm. You smarty pants!" 

To that the Dad and I laughed, not triumphantly, but out of wild surprise over how this boy  really  got my argument and saw that one can hardly refute it. For seriously, what would you say to that right? 80% of my junior college students would have left it at that. How much more my second-grader? 

Again I totally underestimated this wonderful child. For it didn't take long before he said, "But Mum, I don't really have to tell them, 'Do whatever you want' like its a rule. They'll just do because they were born that way." 

Now if this argument doesn't knock you spinning down, please look up "the ontological argument on freedom."  

06 February 2013

Won a ticket today

Because this is my last year for my PhD, things have been very very very hectic for me. It's been so stressful that one night I just suddenly burst into tears. Lakay held me, while the boys just looked on. I was sorry to let them see me like that. But I think there's also value in letting them see that mum's human too.

I was extra mindful of de-briefing my eldest son on this, he who is so perceptive now. I explained to him that I was just tired and that crying doesn't make one a weak person. In fact, crying made mum even stronger after.

Today, while I was working, Bugey entered the study and played "quietly". He took some pens then started to doodle something down. Then he exclaimed while giving this note to me:

"Congratulations! You've just won a ticket - free break from work. Take a break now!"

Then he said, "I can't spell congratulations correctly, mum." Hmm. It's amusing that he was aware it was wrong when he didn't even  know the spelling. But apart from that, there's something about the way kids write in this misspelled way that I love so much. I think it's how it shows their pureness and spontaneity, writing words as they hear it from their lips.

I'd treasure it this way -- messy and unevenly written by the hands of the sweetest, most intuitive and understanding boy in the world. Thanks Kuya. Will keep getting back to this every break time. 

05 February 2013

"The center of our lives...

...lies outside of our selves." - Gabriel Marcel, The Mystery of Being

A high school friend once remarked that I don't seem to have a sense of self apart from my loved ones. And I grew up thinking that that was a bad thing. Until I realized after a while that she had it all wrong.

We live weaving ourselves from the threads of love that surround us. Those who pretend that they can subsist without this love really in the end "are consuming themselves like lamps without oil."

My husband usually complains about how I can't seem to smile naturally in solo pictures. This only underscores my point. Only true love can draw out my smile from within.

04 February 2013

The globe

To motivate Kuya Bugey for his math exercises at home, I came up with a point system that would let him earn up to 100 stars which he can use to claim a reward. I had to think of a really to-die-for kind of reward to keep him sustained. And so I thought of a globe.

It was the perfect choice. It got him focused and determined. Earning as high as 5 stars a day is no joke if you have to save it up to a hundred. That's with a scale- for a perfect 80 points, he gets 10, 79- 5 stars, 75-78 -4 stars and so on. He didn't get it that easily of course. It was anything but a smooth ride. But with a little strictness from tiger mum, he stayed with it. This was really my main aim- to get him to stay on something even if it's not that easy.

Of course he tried to outsmart me with it by asking for the globe from Santa for Christmas. But Santa was on mum's side so he gave him something else and told him to keep working on his globe. :)

After 3 long months he finally earned it, but it was too soon that Santa wasn't able to order it from Amazon on time :).

He was surprised to find it on his bed this morning, with a note that said:

"Dear Kuya, this globe is your gift to your self because you worked hard for it. Now since you have been a very good boy to your mum and dad and to your brother, I'm giving you a real treat- your favorite PS3 game! Have fun! Love, Santa! "

I think when he was reading it aloud, he choked a little, trying not to cry.

I'm proud of you, Kuya. Now, on to the next level. :)

28 January 2013

Hanging on

This is me, literally hanging on to the sky of Grace. Please don't let me go.

27 January 2013

Split parenting personality

Having two boys seven years apart is like having a personality split in two directions.

For instance, when your baby drools on your phone, drops the tv remote or tears your favorite book, you just pull him up, pinch his cheeks, tickle him like crazy with "You are sooooo cute."

But when your 7-year-old does the same, you give him the dagger look, put him on the corner, lecture him on the value of money, or, on will-power-depleted days, yell at him.

The harder part comes when you have to react differently when they cry. For baby, you can be your natural soothing and protective self. For Kuya, you have to put up a hard Stoic front, even if your heart breaks in between his quiet sobs.

The day goes by with all this shifting back and forth between monster mum and likable mum. It can be very very draining.

But I guess that's how it should really be.

My only consolation is that at night, while watching them both sleep, I get to see two babies again, breathing your love in, and breathing their understanding, growing, forgiving love back to you.