“I don’t love Mama”

Warning: Super emo post

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Dear Niko,

The other night, you told me you like Papa better. Last night, you said you don’t love Mama.

I wanted to leave. Just walk away. Show you what life would be like without me. Some people might say, he’s just a child. He doesn’t know what he’s saying. But you do know. You can tell that I am too busy or too tired to give you the attention you need. You see me as the mean parent because I am the one asking you to do things you don’t like most of the time – potty train, change clothes, clean up, sleep. I am not the fun parent because I can’t make your toys do funny things.

I cried when you said it. I am crying now, remembering it.

But I’m still here, while you are sleeping beside me. Son, this is love. Staying even when you’re in pain because you are not loved back or appreciated.

I hope that tomorrow, when you wake up, I can repair whatever parts I broke in our relationship. I hope that someday, you can fully understand why I ask you to do or not do things. I just want you to be safe and grow up to be a good person. I am trying to do what’s best for you.

You’ve told me many times that I’m your best friend. Even if you stop believing that, even if you stop loving me, with my broken heart, I will still care for you. I will still love you.

Damn. You’re not even a teenager yet.

Love,

Mama Bear

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Remembering how to play

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Dear Niko,

It’s been a long time since I wrote.

Truth is, I’ve been overwhelmed. By a career path I’m good at but don’t love. By a dream I need to pursue even if it means facing the truth that I’m not good at it and may never become better at it. By being away from you, physically, mentally, emotionally. By recurring health issues in mind and body.

I’ve had a rough past year. I’ve made a lot of drastic changes but I’m still adjusting. One of the changes: stay at home to care for you full-time.

I thought I would be awesome at this. I thought I would be on top of house chores. That I would be exercising Zen like patience when you don’t listen, when you lie, when you hurt me, when you forget to say you’re sorry. I thought your potty training would be a breeze and that I would have your home schedule all figured out, along with my efforts to care for my health and follow my other dreams.

I thought I’ve had some challenging roles. But this is the hardest role I’ve had thus far. Every day, I’m still winging it. Sometimes, I feel so blessed I get to spend so much time with my sweet, smart, talented child whom I love with all my life. Other times, I wonder: what the hell was I thinking? What made me think I could handle this level of responsibility?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve realized – I’ve forgotten how to play. As a child, I used to play pretend with my sisters all the time – with or without toys, inside or outside. I played multiple characters – protagonists, antagonists. I developed exciting plots – tons of humor, action and drama. Then, I grew up… got busy with school then work then life and slowly, I forgot.

But you’re teaching me. You’re helping me remember. You’re helping me find my inner child beneath all my hardened and broken pieces.

I’m not sure when I’m going to find things easy, I’m not sure if I ever will. I can’t promise to always be fun and not have any down days. You will likely still catch me off guard when you ask, “Mama, what are we doing today?”

I will never be perfect. But for you, I’ll keep learning and re-learning. I’ll keep working to find balance. To care for myself, too, so I can be my best at caring for you.

I love you. We’ll figure this out together!

Love,

Mama Bear

Second Birthday Blues

Hi Niko,

It’s your birthday.

You turn two today.

Time goes by so fast. I’m happy you’re growing into a smart, handsome, kind (sometimes crazy) boy. But at the same time, I feel bad that so much of your life is passing by without me at your side.

I often wonder how other moms do it. How do they go about with barely any sleep, cook all the meals for the family, keep the house clean, do the laundry, do budgeting, spend 50-60 hours working and still care for a young child?

Truth is, without your father and Tita (and/or Grandma) – I really don’t believe I can manage. I either go nuts trying to get work done or I feel extreme separation anxiety when I am unable to spend more time with you. So yes, the house is constantly a mess and the next meal is always a mystery. For someone who plans ahead and manages a lot of projects at work – I just plain suck at managing a home.

Often, I come from work tired out of mind – that I am not even able to give our family quality time.

But know that if I had a choice, if we can afford it (this state, and country in general is insanely expensive), I will leave the corporate world in a heartbeat to care for you full-time. I am not sure if I will be any better at keeping up with chores but I know I’ll be the best damn mom that I can be, not half-assing like I am right now.

Know that I keep working not only because I want you to have a better life, the best life. I also keep working because I want to excel at something (in addition to being your mom). So that when you grow older, you’ll know that at some point, in some other way, your mother rocked. Then, maybe, I could hope to inspire you like you continue to inspire me.

I love you, Son.

Hope you have a happy birthday!

Love,

Mama Bear

On Material Things

Dear Niko,

When I was in grade school, I had a yaya (house maid) – several yayas in fact that took care of me. I would buy a new stuffed toy almost every week, thanks to your grandpa, and I would often go clothes shopping with your grandma. We weren’t rich but I thought we were doing very well.
And then, at some point, we weren’t. Money was really tight. I remember getting teased at school because I only had enough cash to buy my favorite sour cream Vcut chips but then, the price went up from 10 to 12 pesos so, I couldn’t even afford it anymore. I was also made fun of for wearing shoes that weren’t branded. Hey, at the time, I thought they looked pretty cool. Then, when the hippest phone was a 3310, I still had a 5110.

I was very envious of other kids for not needing packed lunches, having cash to spend, wearing expensive brands and owning the latest devices.

That was high school. But through college, followed by a few years of work, my financial status kept shifting and ultimately, my thinking changed. I mean I still like having nice things but even if I don’t have them, I’m okay.
Right now, we are not rich, quite far from it. But we are blessed. Childcare is too costly but your Titas (aunts) have been helping us out. We have a roof over our heads, food in our fridge (after we do groceries soon) and our friends and family have gifted you with a constant supply of clothes and toys.

Sometimes, we will have nice things, sometimes, we won’t. I want a nice, comfortable life and the best things for you, and I know that growing up, you will still want what you don’t have. But Son, I hope that when you get older, you realize that the best part of life is enjoying what you do have.
Right now, I don’t need to tell you that. But when you start experiencing teenage angst due to material things, like your mother did, I might have to show you a photo of your toddler self, enjoying a laundry basket more than your actual toys.


Love,

Mama Bear

How long is a year?

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How long is a year?

Long enough for me to watch you with joy, pride and wonder as you aced each milestone – smiling for the first time, holding your head up, saying your first words, eating solids, sitting up unsupported, sleeping through the night, crawling, standing, walking and getting your first tooth.

Long enough for me to continuously question my capabilities as a mother. Many days, I’ve run on empty but because I love you and because I am accountable for your wellbeing, quitting is not and will never be an option.

Long enough for me to experience “too many cooks in the kitchen” where there are too many opinions on how to raise you. Although suggestions are highly valued, your father and I must still aggregate and filter all available information, sometimes making mistakes in our decisions, so that we could find our own way.

Long enough for me to deal with bouts of anxiety and depression while I struggled to balance family, health and career. Only to realize that things will never be perfect across the board and that I can be happy just from doing my best to get by.

At any other point in my life, a year would have felt like such a long time and yet, it feels like it was only yesterday that I first saw you, held you and heard you cry.

I love seeing you grow and become more independent, and yet, I already miss you being so tiny and fragile. I already miss you asking to hold my hand with every step you take.

The first year went by too quickly and yet, it was long enough for me to feel all the beautiful, scary, all – enriching things you’ve made me feel.

I love you so much, Niko… Although you are officially a toddler now, like I’ve said many times before, you will always be my baby boy.

Happy First Birthday, Baby Bear!!!

Mama’s Boy

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Dear Niko,

You are currently at an age of extreme attachment to me. During your earlier months of life, you seemed more like a Papa’s boy. But recently, what a big Mama’s boy you’ve become. It fills me with pride when your eyes brighten whenever you see me. You probably just associate me with food, milk, clean diapers, books and sleeping time but I manage to convince myself that you must love me.
I have to admit though that as much as I love you and as cute as I’m finding all this, it’s been a struggle to do anything other than attend to your needs. Every time you spot me, you reach for me… and every time I walk away, in the absence of distractions, you cry for me. My heart breaks each time you cry for me. I tried the whole saying goodbye properly thing with you and it didn’t work. So, on weekdays, I’ve had to revert to wishing you don’t wake up around the time I leave for work.

I know this is just a phase. There will come a time when you will no longer ask me to hold you, when you will no longer jump with excitement at the sight of me, when I’ll be gone and you’ll no longer look for me. It makes me sad thinking about how someday, you will outgrow needing me – the same way you outgrew your clothes, your jumparoo, your carseat…
But until then, I will enjoy this moment. And even if you forget/deny ever being a Mama’s boy, I will always remember. And even if you reach a point in your life when loving your mother so much is not as cool anymore, I promise I will still love you.

Love,

Mama Bear

Your Anxious Mother

Dear Niko,

People tell you many things before you become a parent. But there are things people forget to tell you or intentionally don’t tell you, perhaps, because some topics are deemed too grim. So here is one of the most commonly skipped topics.
Long before you decide to be a father, I want you to know that until you become a parent: you have never known fear, not like this.

I have always been anxious regarding a lot of things growing up. I get scared by potential sources of conflict, failure, helplessness and loss. So, believe me when I say I have never been this scared before. Why?
I worry about you, your health, your safety, your development, your future… and most importantly, I worry about the possibility of losing you.

You got sick when you were 2 weeks old and to be on the safe side, the doctors did a septic work-up on you – which was apparently a series of tests that required poking a baby all over, even taking spinal fluid from you (to rule out meningitis). You were admitted and confined in a hospital on your first Thanksgiving. So, imagine me and your father clinging miserably to each other because we couldn’t bare to see you suffering… and quite spectacularly on a night when our family should have been celebrating. I wept, wondering what we could have done differently – maybe we should have waited longer to take you out of the house, maybe we didn’t keep you warm enough or cool enough, maybe my breastmilk was not giving you the antibodies you need…image
Thankfully, on the third day, you were cleared of any concerning infections and we were able to bring you home. I can see why people don’t like talking about this. Up to now, thinking about this event brings me to tears.

You’re a week away from turning 5 months. You’ve had 2 sets of vaccinations already. You’ve maintained a healthy weight (consistent 90th percentile). I’m still paranoid about you catching sickness, but I gain a little more confidence every time we go out on an excursion with you. However, I’ve gotten myself a new fear to face… every night within our home.

You’ve been rolling a lot and you’ve discovered the comforts of sleeping on your belly (I was also a tummy sleeper before I got pregnant with you). That’s fine although what’s terrifying is how I’ve been catching you sleeping face down. I’ve lost plenty of sleep, pondering if you would always wake and turn your head without fail in case you had difficulty breathing. You see, Son, your mother sometimes gets over-educated by the Internet which worsens her anxiety. As an example, I learned the meaning of rebreathing.
Hence, I did some more research and purchased you a breathable mattress pad and breathable sheets. Even with all the positive reviews for these products, I’m still afraid. I still regularly check-in through the night to make sure you’re breathing and to turn your head as needed. I hope that in just a couple more months, the worries about safe sleep would go away like the forums say they would.
I can tell though that there will be another cause for fear after this and that my list of fears involving you will just keep growing and growing.

Now, I have heard people say that nothing can make you appreciate your parents more than becoming a parent. Based on my limited experience, I find this statement to be true.
I want to thank my parents, your Grandma and Grandpa. I’m just in the early stages of motherhood and if I’m already frightened by so many things, then, I can’t even begin to fathom how scary it must have been to raise me and my two sisters over the last three decades.

Ma, Pa, for all the times I scared you and still scare you, I’m sorry. For all the things I was too little to know or recall and for all the things I do remember – like when my head got stuck between the balusters of our balcony as a toddler, or when I stayed out too late without bothering to give a heads up as a teenager, or when I went to the emergency room multiple times as an adult.
I want you to know that I love you and that I appreciate all the fears that came and come with caring about me. I could only hope that someday, Niko will see all the love behind my fears and appreciate how scared I am, too.