Friday, April 21, 2017

Ten



The double-digits age is finally here for my only child—my son—and as it settles, I am forced to welcome it like a permanent guest in my home, wreaking turbulence in my predictable day-to-day.  There is a distinct politeness to this permanent house guest that no parent ever misses. It makes sure you are slowly acquainted with it even before its official arrival. As a mother, I have seen its shadow peeking every so often in the past six months. At first I was in denial of it but the more I recognized it, the stronger I fought knowing full well this is a futile battle. 

He’s starting to look a little different. One moment I was straining my neck to look down at him when we speak, and the next I notice his head right by my chin. I still can’t adequately describe what I felt—a mixture of panic, confusion, and sadness—the first time I saw my boy reaching for his glass from the cupboard’s upper shelf without asking for any help. My arms that have always lifted him so willingly have now been replaced by his hardworking toes, balancing and holding his weight while his arms stretch to reach some coveted trophy.  

He’s starting to sound a little different. I can already hear the tone of defiance, though I’ve made sure he understands the difference between defiance and disrespect. He is wise enough to know I can tolerate one and not the other. 

The jokes are changing, his vocabulary beautifully expanding especially when he expresses his frustrations with me and my rules. If he only knew how I vacillate between hurt and awe when he shows me his capacity to use his words in expressing his anger towards me. 

His needs and preferences are evolving. His excitement was immeasurable when we finally agreed that he can do away with his booster seat in the car. And he couldn’t be any more proud when he proved to us he is now more comfortable riding MY bike than sticking to his smaller one. 

Mention of friends’ names are also becoming more frequent, affections more sincere, and the desire to spend time with them whether face-to-face or online playing games is stronger.

His self-conscious version has definitely arrived. Hair styling products in my cabinet are no longer just mine, and he has found his own voice when it comes to deciding on haircuts. He now also seems to care more about his outfits and how certain shirts hug his body, when before he couldn't care less if I put on him a shirt two sizes too small. 

Ten. It has been ten years since I gave birth to this wonderful spirit, this most beautiful child in my world who never ceases to overwhelm me with love and joy. Ten years of watching him grow and making me proud every step of the way have spoiled me into believing I will always be number one in his life; that, in spite of my exhaustion and complaints, I will always be needed and be the sole source of his comfort. 

But change is here and has been here though I refused to give it full attention. I've reasoned that I can keep deceiving myself for as long as certain habits remain—his need to still be tucked in at night; his need to twirl my hair so he can relax and fall asleep; his desire to be held tight and carried even though his feet dangle and reach inches beyond my knees; or his willingness to let me sniff him and still call him 'baby', though never in public. 

I'm fully aware that soon even these habits will end. Soon, he may become unrecognizable and I may find myself arguing with someone who will almost feel like a stranger to me, as I utter to him these words most parents with teens and pre-teens have said over and overWhat have you done to my child? Where is he, and could you bring him back?
  
As my son opens his arms to welcome 10, I simultaneously feel his grip loosening on mine. I expect at some point he would no longer be able to hold on tightly to both my grip, as well as the double digits. He will choose and it is my grip that would have to let go. It will tear me inside but I know it’s the most loving choice any parent can make. 

My home and my heart are ready for this permanent guest, the double digits. We are both strong-willed, we will clash and both of us will insist we only want what is best for my son. It will take my son farther from me, mentally, emotionally and physically. But I’ve been here far longer than this guest. What I need my son to realize is that no matter where the double-digits take him, Mommy and Daddy will always be home to him. He will become strong enough, tall enough to reach for the stars on his own, but he will always know that his parents' unconditional love and faith in him are what gave him wings. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

What Is Your Afterlife?




As Easter approaches and I'm reminded of the hope carried by Christ's resurrection, I couldn't help but be equally occupied by thoughts on death. I've had loved ones die, friends and acquaintances living with terminal illness, and all this with my own changing and aging body reminding me constantly of my own mortality. 

What happens to us when we die? Certainly the answer depends on your own belief system. Beyond that, I've also realized that much of our answer is shaped by our age and life experiences. The young, highly-Catholic version of me believed we either go to heaven or hell, and of course the comfort of the idea of purgatory in case we are not quite worthy of heaven and yet absolutely not deserving of hell either. 

But as I aged and preferred to see a God that is more forgiving and definitely not simplistic, I've settled in a belief that the afterlife shouldn't be that scary as long as you know you've lived a life of meaning, of mostly kindness and certainly Love. I now choose to believe that perfection has never been the objective, but rather growth and spiritual evolution. As Paul Kalanithi eloquently put it, "You can't ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving". (When Breath Becomes Air)

Recently, I heard something utterly beautiful and comforting from the Netflix hit show Grace and Frankie. I know you're probably thinking it's a strange source of wisdom, let alone beliefs on the afterlife, but I'm sure you'd appreciate it too—

"The afterlife is how you're remembered by the living."

It erases the idea of a non-forgiving, simplistic deity, while at the same time puts emphasis on how we ultimately live our lives and touch the lives of others. It's not focused on perfection or the idea that flaws or mistakes permanently stain and define us, or lead us to eternal damnation. Instead, it makes us view our lives wholistically and puts in perspective the value we've added to this earth and others' lives. 

Are we loving enough to be remembered that way?

Are we generous to others that we shall be remembered as nurturing, selfless and kind? 

Are we forgiving so that others think of us as one with an open and humble heart? 

Have we been patient, gentle and wise with our tone and words so that people we leave behind remember us with joy and as a source of comfort? 

Do you make enough space in your heart for others such that they make space for you as well in their hearts and will remember you when you die?

The answer either brings you peace or disquiet. But each moment you have left is currency you can use wisely. Each moment is a reminder that this life we have is not meant to be lived selfishly; that our life is defined by the connections we forge and the positive difference we make in those we meet in our journey. We are irrefutably connected and so the salvation we offer others is as much our own. 

As the Christian world celebrates the resurrection of Christ, may we also reflect on how each moment offers us hope to resurrect ourselves into a life worth remembering and celebrating. 










Friday, April 7, 2017

The Stay-At-Home Mom Look



My son announced to me that his friend Josh (not his real name) was going to stop by in less than an hour. I didn't panic over how the house looked since I knew that, (a) our house is tidy enough, and more importantly (b) 10-year-old boys don't really care as long as you have video games and toys to play with. What concerned me most was how I looked. I haven't had the chance to shower that day, my short hair was pulled back by a headband that made all the ends stand up towards the back, and I was wearing an old tattered shirt and yoga pants (not the fashionable, expensive type, I assure you). 

"Dude, I look like garbage! I think I should at least change," I said to my son, while moving my finger up and down to point at how I was dressed. 

With undeniable sincerity he responded, "I'm sure Josh would understand, he knows you're a stay-at-home mom". 

What the hell is that supposed to mean? Is he saying that stay-at-home moms look like garbage?!

If you try to Google 'mom clothes', 'stay at home mom house clothes' or any variation of that, you'll see images that are still not half as bad as how I normally appear on a daily basis. I guess it's because no sane person would actually photograph themselves as how they REALLY look like and then post it on Google. Duh!

Anyway, I've always wondered about other moms and if I'm the only one who secretly looks like garbage. Actually, I take that back. I don't secretly look like garbage because I've overtly looked like garbage. I have stepped out in said garbage attire for the quick morning drop-off, appointments at the allergist after school and quick trip to the grocery. Granted I opted for a hat to cover my awful hair and made sure holes on my shirt were covered by a sad looking hoodie, although I'm sure the dark under eye circles are permanent accessories that stay unconcealed 80% of the time. 

On days when I wait for my son at the bus stop, I spot some of the other moms waiting and they all look 'nice'. It doesn't help that these are younger moms with well-toned bodies. Heck, they look like they've just stepped out of a LuLaRoe catalog, although I can't really claim to have seen one. I'm too cheap to pay for those, truth be told. And so I'm left secretly wondering if I'm in dire need of a daily schedule make-over and include 'dress up nicely or at least be public space worthy' as a top-of-the-list daily task, right up there with 'brush teeth and face'.

If you're a stay-at-home mom, how do you look like at home? What's your go-to outfit?