When a young heart grieves

My 10-year-old is grappling with a very personal loss. A house fire had claimed the lives of two young children, one aged 11 and another aged 5, and the older one had been a very close friend of his. They had known each other since kindergarten and had been classmates throughout except for 2nd and 5th grade. Last year, they proclaimed each other as best friends. My son has a very wide circle of friends, but his friend John was sometimes made fun of for being bigger and a year older than most of the kids.

I liked John. He was always nice and was courteous. I knew his mother, too, having seen her in many of the school events when both Angelo and John were in the same class.  In the coterie of wannabe friends of my little boy, he was one I didn’t mind having around him.

I came home to a letter from the school giving instructions on discussing the topic with the children, assuring me that they, too, were dealing with it in crisis mode. Angelo looked fine for the most part. He told me had cried when they broke the news to the class – and that he had refused to make something for John’s mom, as that was probably too emotional for him. The Dad finally arrived from a business trip and had started to ask him about it but he turned to me and started to tear up, shaking his head, telling us he didn’t want to talk about it. I quietly signalled the Dad that Angelo was not up to talking just yet. 

How does a 10-year-old deal with such a loss?

He woke up this morning looking okay. There was still something about the fire in the news, but he nonchalantly just mentioned to me that it had been mentioned in passing. I look at him and I wonder what’s going on in his mind and his heart.

I have been fortunate to have raised a sensitive and compassionate boy. Easy to laugh and carefree, very sociable and at times shy. He has my heart, I think. (And I don’t know if that’s good or bad. =) I never lost a bestfriend who was in my life at the time of her passing. Once, Lilay went to heaven, but at that time, we had long been out of touch because she started a family and I was in college. Still, I felt that loss very deeply and it brought tears to my eyes. (And I don’t cry very easily.)

I’m trying to see if we can go to John’s wake so that they can say a proper goodbye. I just think that would be important for Angelo given the loss of such a close friend.

The thought of losing my child is heart-wrenching even in the hypothetical sense. Imagine losing the two most precious boys in yours. I pray that their mother finds strength to overcome and deal with the grief of losing her babies. How do you deal with such a loss? I am at a loss for words.

Grieving, they say, never really ends. You just learn to cope with it better.  I still grieve for my Dad who passed many years ago.  When I “talk” to him, I find myself lost in an emotional pool that usually ends up with me crying.

It’s still too early to tell how good my son is coping with his grief.  I just know it’s best to let him be and let him process his emotions.  If he needs help, he’ll call me and then we will talk.

Last night as we lay in bed, I told him to say a prayer for John — he is now with Jesus, I told him.

How you have grown

Blog graphicToday was the first day of school in New York City.  As always, we packed the school supplies, labeled and ready for turnover to his teacher.  In the morning, we went to the assembly yard and found his new class and lined up.  We waited.

In previous years, we would then trek to their classroom and deposit the additional supplies, listen to some welcome remarks from the teachers and then hurry back out and on with our day.  Today, the teacher did us a favor and told us it didn’t make sense for us to go up to the third floor just to deposit what the kids  could easily carry.  She then instructed the children to take the extra shopping bags of supplies from us and off they went.

My boy is now in Fifth grade.  Wow.

Of course, it’s not lost on me that he no longer wants to hold my hand nor kiss me or be kissed in plain view of his schoolmates.  This, even as he refused to let me go when I had him in line with his friends.  I guess there’s still that part of him which actually can’t let go of Mom.  Thankfully.

He called me (one in around 5 calls before I finally reunite with him at home) and calls me”His delight.”  Sometimes he’d say, “Mom, won’t you be a dear..” followed by some trivial request.  He knows how to butter me up even if he knows he really doesn’t need to. It’s just the way he is.

I’m having one of those “I wish you wouldn’t grow up so fast” evenings.  I’m really exhausted after a long day at work and I have forms to fill out for school.  Later.  Or tomorrow if I manage to haul myself off the bed early enough.  (Where there’s a will, there’s a way.)  Maybe it’s the glass of wine I had while having my spicy steak dinner.  Whatever it is, I wish he’d always stay a boy… alas, that’s yet another facet of life I have no control over.

I must give in and relent.  Go with the flow.

I was watching him watching something on his iPad earlier and I looked at him viewing it with rapt attention.  Until he noticed me looking.. he thought I had said something and he took off his earphones. Nothing, I said. I was just watching my little guy and saying out loud, “Oh, how you’ve grown.”




My Future History Professor

My ten-year-old and I have two favorite mommy-and-me topics: first, he enjoys hearing about how he was when he was much younger, and second, how things will be when he grows up. Somewhere between that is “the now” of my soon-to-be fifth grader and mommy trying to keep him from growing up too fast.

I am just grateful that he never passed the “I want to drive a dump truck/garbage truck” stage which my youngest brother, Nikki, swore to in his early years. (And we were all relieved that he eventually did become a licensed Physical Therapist now working in one of the bigger hospitals in Manila!)

These days, my little boy is fascinated with Social Studies and the American Revolution in general. At the end of his fourth grade, he got the Social Studies Expert award with matching cheers of approval from the rest of his class. We, as the proud parents, beamed with pride, but he glowed with the recognition of his expertise and that was the most precious of all.

You can imagine how heartening it is to hear him say he wants to be a History Professor when he grows up.  He wants to study History and teach History.

I’m trying very hard not to let my dreams and aspirations get in the way of him forming his own. I want him to set his own goals in life– and I want to just be on the sidelines cheering him on. I want to see him get himself to a university of his choosing and pursuing his dreams to fruition. I don’t want to be the parent living her dreams through her child. That would be most unfair because we bring our children up to be their own person and not to be who or what we couldn’t be. If we couldn’t live our dreams, we should make new ones for ourselves instead of burdening our children with the pressure of succeeding where we failed.

We always want what’s best for our children, of course.  Well, most of the time.  I don’t want to be that parent who pins their future hopes and dreams on their children’s success.  I want to stick around for as long as I can and maybe watch him become a family man eventually.  But I see myself growing old around him, but not being a burden on him.

It would be great to hear him say “I want to be a lawyer like you, Mommy,” but for now, the fact that he is thinking of college and doing something fruitful afterwards is good enough. Maybe in time he will think of the legal profession.  That would be nice, but it wouldn’t be the death of my hopes and dreams if he chooses to be a rock star instead.  (Well, he doesn’t have the rock star voice although he has the swag.  Plus, there’s the prerequisite that a rock star career be preceded by a college degree.)

I was never goaded by my parents to pursue a legal education.  The one and only goal was to go through and finish college.  That I landed in the University of the Philippines was an added plus but would not have been the be-all and end-all of my post-high school life.  The choice to go to law school was totally mine, and a dream I had set my heart on as early as I was choosing my college course or the university I was going to attend.  At that point in my life, I was going to college with the end in view of eventually going to law school.

I have come across many young people who had thought about law school much later, or not even with such a long thought out aspiration as I did — and that doesn’t surprise me, and that doesn’t make it any less a valid dream or goal to aim for.  We go through life learning about what we can do and what we want.  These things change as our personality changes through our life experiences.  Sometimes we grow in ways we never thought we would, and we find ourselves suddenly thinking of things we never thought we would consider, like being a lawyer.

I’d like to think that my own life experiences will have some bearing on my little guy’s own life choices, but when it comes to the career or direction he will want to take when he is older, I’d rather leave the decision to him.  I won’t try to influence that one way or the other, except perhaps to convince him staying closer to mommy instead of moving to the other side of the country would be just as good.  (I’m trying to bribe him to actually stay here until he is ready to stand up on his own two feet AFTER college.. wishful thinking, I know.)

I would be on cloud nine if one day he tells me he wants to be a lawyer, too.  But that’s many years away, and I can wait.  For now, I’d be happy to encourage the dream to be a History Professor. After all, History is a good pre-law degree.  =)

Related posts can be found in the blog section LAWYER WANNABE which can be found in the navigation bar.

In his eyes

In his eyes

Parenthood changes an individual in a myriad of ways. For some and for the most part, the changes are positive. We become better persons. We grow up. For others, the responsibilities of parenthood and family skews their world in ways that they find hard to cope with or accept. It is not the same for everyone.

I’d like to think that parenthood, and motherhood per se, have changed me in very positive ways. I have literally put another human being’s life and welfare before my own. Through all the effort it takes to love and nurture a child, if I were younger and I had the means, I’d have wanted to have more. But I have been blessed a hundred-fold with the only one I have. I could not ask for more.

Just when a personal crisis came into my life some months back and anger and pain was gripping my heart, I received one of the best words of advice from a former boss who, even when I was working under her, had always been like a mom to me. I was in a state of confusion and I was plotting and desperate to react and retaliate. My options ranged from insanely hilarious pranks to devious and evil plots. I was ready to go on a crazy rampage — and I just wanted to get even. I laughed and cried through it as I poured my heart out. She calmly looked at me and told me to consider my options carefully, but that in the end, I should measure the wisdom of my actions by the simple test of whether or not I would be able to look my son in the eye if it comes to the point that he asks, “Mama, why did you do it?”

That put most of my evil scheming to rest — mostly. And to this day, when I look at the things I want do or ought to do, I ask myself if I can stand my son’s judgment after all is said and done. I try to see the world through his perspective and hope that even if the world should belittle me or declare me an outcast, that I would be able to stand proud in front of my son. How would I stand in his eyes?

It’s a simple standard to live by but not always easiest. We all come to a point in our lives where we say we don’t care what other people say, or what anyone thinks. Yet at the end of the day, there are certain people’s opinion who matter to us even when we declare war on the whole world. And when anger or even when common sense tells us to throw all care and caution out the window, it helps to have an anchor to tether my senses to and I’m forced to see the thing I want to do from his perspective.

I try. And I will keep trying because I want to be able to look him in the eye to the day I die. For now it keeps me in check.. And I hope it will continue to help me steer clear of things I might end up regretting later on.

Morning walk to school

It’s one of those days when I have to bring Angelo to school, and it wasn’t a bad day for a walk despite the allergens that caught up with me just as I got on the bus. That 7 minute trek is always a refreshing way to start the day, whether it’s trudging through the snow, fighting off the wind and parrying the rain or just a regular walk like today.

Sometimes it makes me wax nostalgic as I recall how different he was in previous years. How he wouldn’t let go of my hand before and how he would rather just walk beside me now. Or how we used to stop periodically so he could get a kiss from me and how he now prefers to get his kiss from mom a few feet away (the farther the better) from the school’s front door.

Our talks have changed dramatically except that our conversations are still peppered with “I love you, Mama.” No matter that he no lingers turns around to give me one last look as he goes into the school, I continue to make sure he gets inside the building before I turn and walk away.

Time flies by so fast. I count the days and see him changing day to day. I’m glad that I’m able to savor every little bit of my little guy — from his funny wit to his never-ending demonstration of affection. We celebrated his 10th birthday last week with a simple cupcake party and I recall the other years we did it. The glow on his face afterwards on the way back home was so precious — he was smiling from ear-to-ear and he said “That was a good birthday, Mama.”

I look at him as he sleeps at night and I see that everything I have done in my life is worth it as I have been rewarded with his unconditional love and devotion. This Mother’s Day he gave me a handwritten card. Among other things, the most striking thing he wrote which I hold as forever precious is “Nothing will tear us apart.”

I feel so blessed. Why am I grumbling about what pain I feel or what burden I carry? At the end of the day, it’s his love that matters, and I know I have that.

Art Journal Every Day: My little guy turns 10

I’ve been struggling a little with getting on with the art journaling. It’s mostly been sitting on my bedside table untouched the last couple of days, so I had quite a bit to catch up on. The weekend somehow gave me the chance to do an entry and a half (the other one still in progress), and I’m happy to be art journaling again.

This page had a totally different background before I started working on it again. I wasn’t quite happy with a white page I had stamped on primarily because the pigment ink was “staining” the opposite page.  Gesso to the rescue!  I put on a thin layer to cover the previous watercolor/stamping, and although some of the blue on the right hand page seeped through, I think it covered it pretty well, allowing me to use ink spray to create a totally different background.  It was “muted” by the gesso and the direct application, but I like the effect after everything had dried.

It made the masking tape holding the page together more obvious — I needed to do some book first aid with the binding falling apart on me, but I think that added to the layout’s charm.

Art Journal Every Day: Celebrating my boy’s 10th birthday by doing a spread with his traced hand on one side and mine on the other. Still a work in progress. I haven’t been too good with the “every day” part of the project but trying to catch up.

With my little guy turning 10 last Thursday, I’ve had a very busy week.  Goodie bags had to be packed, the cupcakes bought, and then I hied down to school for a 20 minute appearance that saw him beaming.  As we walked home together, he proudly told me it was a good birthday.  That was precious..

His birthday will always be very special to me because it marked a very big change in my life.  While I wasn’t even aware until the last couple of months of how much more profound that change actually was, I cannot be more grateful for the blessing of having this little guy as my son.  He truly makes everything worth it.

I’ve tried to make it a habit to do outlines of his hand through the years just to show how he’s growing, and I journaled within the outline of his, and zentangled mine.  (Yes, all patterns were taken from official patterns for zentangling.)

I have only a few copic markers which I used to write the text around the actual journaling,    and while I was reluctant to “fill up” the page, it felt quite bare without the other text.  I wanted it to be busy and “full”…An entry all about my little boy who isn’t so little anymore. The palm of his hand is almost the same size as mine — but I like the feel of holding his tinier hand because it still makes me feel like the mom holding that hand in mine.

Time flies, indeed! I keep telling him I wish he wouldn’t grow up so fast. I feel like the passing of time will see him drift away as he grows up and joins the world out there. That is both frightful and terribly exciting for me as a mother.

He has been such a gift to me. Every day, I thank God and I pray He keep him safe.
Art Journal Every Day- in sequenceMeanwhile, here’s the half-done (not quite) page I’ll be working on next.  There was a three-inch gash tearing through the binding, so I thought I would remedy that by pasting these paper pieced doddled flowers I had inserted into the back of the book for use somewhere within the journal.  And here they are. More on this journal entry later.

Mother's Day layout


Parenting a 9-year-old in the age of “Falling Skies” and “Walking Dead”

I thought that would make for a catchy title — and a meaningful one at that since these are the two favorite shows of my little tyke.  Well, he’s not so little anymore.  I’m 5’2″ and the top of his head is as tall midway between my chin and my lower lip.  The pediatrician said he grew 3 inches from July of last year to this one.  I am counting summers now until I will end up looking up at him when I talk to him.  Before long, I’ll be the smaller member of the family.

School just started and the state test results have come out, and related to that, we got a note from the school office requesting he do two days of extended classes a week.  I didn’t see the letter until he was asleep — as I went through his notebooks and homework and planner to make sure he had done them all, and that he did them correctly.  Check.

I read the letter.  I read it again.

I was alarmed.  It wasn’t so much that he was being asked — his results surprised me more so since he got higher in Math than in English — but it was because I knew he would be disappointed.  I didn’t expect he would be so emotional about it, though, when I told him the next morning.  There were tears.  I felt the heaviness in his heart.  It was one of those moments when a parent wished he or she could be the one to suffer instead of the precious child.

I let out a deep sigh.  I tried my best to sound positive.  We walked to school with the same casual banter and laughter the three days before.  But as we entered school, I could see the heaviness in his heart.  I waited for the Vice-Principal and we discussed my concerns.  His grades were more than just good, but his test results took them by surprise.  He wasn’t one of those they expected to perform below par.  I told them that wasn’t what was bothering me.

My son was very disappointed and depressed.  He was sad.  I didn’t want him to be overcome by frustration.  He asked me, “Am I not smart, mommy?”

I told him it was precisely because he was smart and the results didn’t show that that is why the school is trying their best to figure out how to help him best.  It turns out that the extended day was mandated by the school board.  Although it was “optional” according to the letter I was given, the state was going to require it moving forward.  (Apparently, that memo hadn’t been sent out yet.)

How do you tell a 9-year-old boy that he’s doing more than just fine — that he was no less smarter than he was for being asked to do the extra hours — and that he could do better?  He told me he teared up in the boy’s room in the middle of the day.  He was tearful again when he called me when he got home.

My heart is breaking into pieces.

This evening we spoke again, and he put his arms around my neck in a tight hug.  Although that would normally comfort me, I sensed it comforted him more to hold on to me.  I told him it might not even last half the year.  They just need to assess where his needs are.

I tried my hardest to explain that the kids in extended day were not dumb — they simply needed a bit more help at times.

I could have said no and declined the offer.  But that would be the easy way out and might end up as a disservice to securing a good future for him.  This was one disappointment I knew I needed to let him face.  We always want to protect our children — that’s why we often end up spoiling them.  But he needs this if only to see how much better he can do — and that is something I need him to discover for himself.

It’s going to be a long weekend as I know he’ll be asking more questions.. seeking more reassurances.

I’m trying to convince myself he’ll be fine.  As a mother, worrying is second nature to me.  Another audible sigh.

There are obstacles that we need to hurdle and journeys we need to take to get to our destiny.  That’s a tad bit too profound to tell him right now.  But in 9-year-old speak, it can simply be said with an “I love you.”  It gets a bit complicated when the 9-year-old gets to ponder the implications of a zombie apocalypse or an alien invation. Somehow something as simple as extended days in school can be too emotional a hurdle for him to get over.  But that’s what moms and dads are for — we lift them up over the hurdle and get them running again.

That’s me doing a “Rick” or a “Professor” — leading the charge, inspiring the troops on.

Spring as it unfolds

Spring 2013: The tree by PS213

One thing that has always had me in awe year in and year out since I moved to this side of the world is how dramatic Mother Nature’s changing of the seasons happens.  Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall — each season is marked by very pronounced changes that serves as a reminder that time will stop for no one.

Even as the trees shed their blooms, the carpet of petals that gather on the ground directly under it is yet another statement of constant change.

Twenty minutes to midnight and I can hear my boy snoring ever so lightly.  He’s a big boy and has always been a big boy.  When he was a baby, my mother used to get worried that his snoring might not be normal.  (Apparently, none of my siblings nor I snored when we were younger.)  The doctor assured me it was normal.  Besides, it wasn’t a real snore — you could just hear him breathing more audibly.

I can’t believe we’re halfway through May now.  Spring has taken a step back yet again with our temperatures dipping to 40.  I wish the weather would make up its mind temperature-wise.  I felt the heater and it’s on again.  And to think I was getting ready to wear my summer clothes already.  I guess not yet.

I spent the weekend creating necklaces — for myself.  I managed to finish five necklaces in all — including the one for Lou and a friend.  I revised the necklace for Lou to have a pendant of Our Lady of Lourdes as its focal point.  I made one for another friend who is a devotee of Our Lady of Guadalupe.   I have been on a creative streak, yet I have managed to botch up my necklace for the wedding this weekend.  I had initially bought 4 strands of gorgeous pearls and bought an additional 2 strands last Friday, but when I put them side-by-side, they were of different shades.  I will go and check out which shade has additional strands I can get to complete 6 strands in all.

The good news is I might eventually get the chance to do a photowalk through Bryant Park — maybe tomorrow on the way to my pearl supplier =)  I actually did manage to stop and take some macro shots of tulips that had already bloomed and opened.  There’s more in the park.  Tomorrow, it is!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mama

My Mother and I

Mother’s Day is special to me because of the person who molded me to be the mother that I am now and who makes me worthy of being celebrated as a mother myself.  47 years ago, she gave birth to me and even though we are 10,000 miles apart, she continues to hold my hand.

We love you, Mama.  Even when you feel like we have grown up to be very different people from the children you once knew, your heart is very precious to us.  It is your love and strength that keeps us all up even now as we have our own families.  Thank you for blessing our lives with your love.

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