Tag Archives: Parenting

Wake-Up Call

20 Oct

I didn’t realize it was Wednesday all over again till I sat down and found corned beef at the breakfast table. Corned beef is always Wednesday morning’s breakfast, the same way tocino (sweetened cured pork) is on Sundays, or boneless tinapang bangus (smoked milkfish) is on Saturdays. Everything is downright predictable in this household, save for some rare days when someone wants French toast made from old raisin bread with a generous dollop of apple cinnamon marmalade (that someone is usually me), or a less imaginative but always hungry young man wants fried crisp Spam with garlic rice. Regular days with regular schedules keep this household running smoothly… until something goes wrong, that is.

I wanted to share the details of Alphonse’s most recent misadventures, but on advice from my better half, decided against it. A feels that Alphonse deserves a bit of privacy to his life and that as Alphonse turns older (he will be 16 in exactly 14 days) I will have to be more discreet about the things I share about him with the public. I should have realized that much earlier. That Alphonse has autism and that he still is very much a young child in terms of cognition and experiences should not take away his right to privacy. This is most important now that he is on the cusp of manhood and on the brink of a new self-discovery and voyage. Some things- not all- will have to be just among the family.

I write about my children often, that cannot be denied. When they were smaller and my world revolved around parenthood, every single moment of my life was about them. It would have been impossible then to separate the writer from my person as a mother, seeing how my history and experiences of the world were almost always seen through this particular perspective. And yet, now that the kids are beginning to pull away from my apron strings, I will have to let them speak of their own lives themselves and choose what they want to share with the world or keep to themselves.

The truth is, it’s difficult not to see Alphonse as a baby, not when he is dependent on us for almost everything. From morning till night, his world is the world we built for him. Even as we help him discover new things in the world, this home, this life, and this family are the things that keep him grounded to us. We look at him and still see a child when the whole world already sees a young man. I guess that’s where the lines are sometimes crossed, when I share too much of his life that may not be mine to share anymore.

I won’t stop writing about my kids, but I will be more discerning when I do. I will keep in mind that these are young men, who regardless of their abilities and/or disabilities, must always have a choice on who and what they want to be. It won’t be long now before they test their new wings. As a parent, all I can do now is to let them fly.

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Parental Intimacy 101: PDA

7 Sep

It was one of those rare nights when we were all done with chores and homework early. It was time to relax and unwind from the long day. My husband and I wanted to catch a show on television and my son asked permission to use the brand new desktop (mine! all mine!) in the room.  

My husband and I lay in bed, watching, when I moved nearer to my husband to cuddle. He welcomed me into his arms. During a commercial break, something struck me as funny and I whispered this nonsense to my husband. We started whispering to each other some more, and after a while, we were giggling like crazy kids.

Alex suddenly turned his head to us, a look of sourness crossing his face. “Guys, go get a room! Please!”

My husband and I burst into laughter. “Son, this is OUR room. Why don’t you go to YOUR room?”

Then we started laughing again. Alex stood up to leave, muttering a loud “Rats.”

In son’s words, PDA in Parents. Ewww.”

Freedom from Hello Kitty Oppression

23 Mar

Hello Kitty Hell had another hilarious post last Thursday (March 18) and it reminded me so much of my eldest son’s relationship with all things Hello Kitty that I simply had to write about it.

It used to be that I got the run of the house as far as decorating was concerned. Our bedrooms were filled with girly things and the boys – all three of them – endured this mixed explosion of pinks and Hello Kitties without complaints.

As Alex grew older, however, he began to express his displeasure at having to sleep on Hello Kitty sheets or even wear Keroppi pajamas to bed. At six years old, he insisted on blues instead of pinks and willfully demanded Pokemon instead of Hello Kitty. My husband, perhaps seeing his chance at a Kitty-free zone, seized on my son’s demands and negotiated a treaty we all had to agree to. No more Kitties for the boys (except Alphonse, but only if he wanted to) and no more Kitties in the bedrooms, except for a small designated space by my side of the bed. Hello Kitty in the bathroom was a last concession, and Alex, in particular, seemed to find it funny that Hello Kitty stays with his poop.      

Freedom from Hello Kitty Oppression,” my smart aleck son calls this movement, and his reluctance to have anything to do with Hello Kitty has only grown stronger with time. When he was younger and I could still force him to accompany me, he always showed his disapproval by standing in protest by the nearest escape route. He was immune to Kitty’s charms and not even Hello Kitty Café and its food could entice him. If you look closely at the picture below of him and me at the Café (Alex was only eight then), you will see that I had to hold him by both arms to keep him from breaking free. Today, Gift Gate is still the last store he would be caught alive in.

Son: "Let me go, Mama!" Mom: "Not before a picture, son. Now hold still."

These days, even Alphonse seems ready to break free from my Hello Kitty strings. One minute he’s cuddling my Hello Kitty dolls, the next, he’s decapitating them. He’s also given up the pink Hello Kitty comforter in favor of his red Spiderman blankie. As much as I wish otherwise, he’s starting to exercise a little bit of independence from my Hello Kitty influence. He’s not totally there yet, but one day soon, I fear that he will be.

Ah, these are the times I would have really wanted a daughter. Sigh.

When You Say Nothing At All

28 Feb

In the car tonight, on the way home from picking up a new rice cooker*, I accidentally dropped my PSP and it slid right to the back of the front passenger seat.

Surprised, I blurted out  “Son, can you hand me my PSP?” before I realized that it was Alphonse, my son with severe autism, I was talking to. 

“Oh, well,” I thought to myself, “I’ll just get it when we get home.” I was already feeling a little cross at my carelessness. I was also worried that he might accidentally step on it.

A few seconds later, I felt a light tap on my right shoulder. Alphonse’s hand silently reached out to me from the back and handed me my PSP.

I flipped the mirrored visor to look at him. As our eyes met in the mirror, I thanked him for his unexpected kindness. He nodded his head and smiled at me.  

Always presume intelligence (even when it is not apparent). People with autism will surprise you, if you just give them a chance.

 ~0~

*Why do we need a new rice cooker? A masterfully executed roundhouse kick led to its untimely demise. This is our third rice cooker in as many months. Alphonse obviously hates them.

Prom

17 Feb

Published in Herword.com on February 16, 2009

Saturday night, the 13th, was Alex’s Junior Prom and I had butterflies in my stomach. I guess it really is different when things happen to your child than when it does to you. My son was as cool as a cucumber the whole day, lazing in his bed and reading a book, totally self-assured and confident. He was completely oblivious to the stress I was feeling. I was the one who was a wreck. I worried about his clothes, the shine in his size 11 shoes, his untamed unibrow, his hedgehog hair, and the wrist corsage and bouquet of flowers his father ordered for his date. I even worried about the little skin imperfections that marred what used to be perfectly flawless baby skin.

I envy the confidence of teenagers. Adolescence is the time when the whole world lies perfect and open and ready before you. It is an age of optimism and hopefulness. It is a time when all your potentials and possibilities seem endless. I guess I used to be like that, too — full of dreams and imaginings, unscarred and unscathed, unafraid and unbowed. And now, here I am, inching my way through midlife, and I can’t imagine how it is to be a teenager anymore.

I attended my Junior Prom 26 years ago, in 1984. I have one picture from that night, the only one I could still find. In it, a slightly overweight, long-haired young girl in a purple dress smiled shyly for the camera, a bright-eyed, shiny-faced adolescent boy in a gray suit, most probably borrowed from his father, standing beside her. I was 16 in that picture, too young to have ever had my heart broken (it would be a few more months before that happened). The young man beside me, with pimples and sculptured bangs, was my best friend. He would become my husband.

I look at that picture now and wonder: what was I thinking then?  What was he thinking in that picture? And how did we get from there and then to here and now without falling into the crevice of unalterable life-dooming mistakes? I close my eyes and try to put myself back in that particular point in time, without success.

And this is where I find my worries multiplied a thousandfold today. For even now, as I write this, I am planning days and months and years ahead, trying to make a life plan for a child whose desire to coast happily along life is perhaps equaled only by his carefree, laid-back ways. My first born, at 17, is clueless to the pitfalls and snares of this cruel life, and I am afraid to let him go.

Were it up to me, I would put Alex in a bubble. I would shield him from mistakes, screen him from pain, and protect him from anyone who would damage his heart and spirit. And yet, I try to remember that in a distant time, I was once young too. And perhaps, having made the mistakes I did — of falling too fast and too hard, of rushing headlong into decisions, of being impulsive and reckless as only the young can be — and facing the consequences of my actions, whether good or bad, squarely, I am all the wiser for it.

I can’t stop time, no more than I can stop my child from wanting to grow his own wings. And so I resolve to embrace it, trepidation and fear giving way to a brave hope that my husband and I have taught our son well and the lessons we have passed on to him have taken root. It’s the only way a parent can survive growing-up and growing-old pains. I am afraid still, but I am always hopeful.

Balloon Love

23 Sep

balloon love

This is the balloon Alex brought home for me a week ago. It’s a little deflated now and needs a little propping up to stand straight but I still like to look at it every day. Alex had gone to afternoon mass with the other boys of Dulaang Sibol at the Dela Strada Parish that Wednesday. On the way back to school (where he would be fetched by his dad), he bought one for me. He held it in his hand the whole time – from Katipunan Avenue through Miriam College, all the way to Ateneo High School.  He got a lot of goodnatured ribbing from his friends along the way, but he was always quick to say “This is for my mother.”  This from a boy who does not set foot inside any Gift Gate or Sanrio store. What an absolutely sweet gesture. 🙂

It wasn’t actually my first HK balloon. I had gotten one like it a few weeks agoballoon love and son, an after-mass gift from A. Here we are, mother and son, in a picture with my first Hello Kitty balloon. Alex must have observed me prancing happily back to the car.

This unexpected gift was truly a very pleasant surprise. Alex and I have been working through some issues together over the last few months. I know he and I  have not been the best of friends for a while now. I know too that sometimes, he chafes under my strict rules and the limits I set for him. But I also know that whatever happens, there is always, will always be, love between us.

A love that endures all. A love expressed through a simple toy balloon.

Thank you, Alex. Mama loves you always. ♥

Honesty Is The Best Policy

9 Sep
Smiling his way out of trouble

Smiling his way out of trouble

A few nights ago, before bed:

Mama: Alphonse, were you a good boy today?

Alphonse shakes his head “No,” then giggles loudly.

I had been gone almost the whole day that day. My errands took longer than expected and he was left home with his nanny. That evening, Nanny Lyn had told  me that Alphonse had grabbed her shirt a few times in the morning.  

Mama: Did you pull hair today?

Alphonse: No (still giggling)

Mama: Did you throw your toys?

Alphonse: No (snorts loudly)

Mama: Did you grab yaya’s shirt?

Alphonse: Yes (smiling broadly)

Before I could say another word, he puckers his lips and peppers me with kisses. How could you get mad at that?

You’ve got to hand it to him. Honesty is ALWAYS the best policy. 🙂