Sunday, September 30, 2012

Piqueing his interest in books

I want Zohan to be a voracious reader - whether through e-reading or the old-school flipping the pages kind. Just as long as he reads, I really won't mind. I firmly believe that one can get a lot from reading - he can be transported to places without having to spend a dime (well, except for the price of the book); his vocabulary will widen; his horizon will expand; and his knowledge will be vast. He can even be an author, a poet, a writer/journalist, or an editor. Endless possibilities! He can be like his father who breathes reading.

Early on, we try to introduce him to books. The first step is pretty boring because seriously, how will you expect a baby to take interest in books, except perhaps to tear the pages or nibble on them? His first book is the cloth type, with a funny story here

As he grows older, I start hoarding the board types, which are sturdy enough to withstand being thrown about. 

His Tatay usually comes home with Jumbo Books. You know the types offered by sellers who occasionally drop by government offices - alongside with merienda and Avon lipsticks and tocinos? Yeah, that one. 

I think our perseverance paid off because now, the moment Zohan wakes up in the morning he usually sits on the bed and point to his stack of books. Before bed time, he will point to them again and request either me or his Tatay to read to him. At his age, reading means pointing our fingers to the printed characters on each page. He knows how to flip the pages, and when he's not feeling lazy, he points to the characters himself.

Interestingly, at this age, he has already established his preferences. His favorite book is this - 8000 Awesome Things You Should Know. 

Tatay decides to get this in anticipation of the time when Zohan will be in pre-school and hopefully, he will be interested enough to learn about random facts. Well, curiousity comes early.

It doesn't have to cost a fortune to stimulate a child's interest in books. As I said, his Tatay buys from the walk-in offers from his office, which is usually not more than a hundred per piece. As for me, I buy from BookSale whenever I chance upon one. 

The other day, Tatay and I went on a dinnerdate and instead of spending for an overpriced coffee, we ended up spending almost a thousand on pre-loved books sold at the ground floor of Glorietta. (Not really equivalent to the price of a coffee for two, but I don't mind.) The name of the store is "Books and Mags". Their supplies are a little expensive compared to BookSale, but they sure look almost brand new. So far, that's been the most that we have splurged on Zohan's books.

When he's a little older, I vow to scrimp on toys and clothes, but never on books. In fact, up to this day, I don't remember buying a single toy for him - only books. I look forward to the day when he'll ask for a "bookstore date", when he can pick all the book he wants. 

In one of the blogs that I'm reading, I take particular interest in Mothering Earthlings' rules. She only buys toys on birthdays, Christmas and extra special occasions, but she buys as many books as wanted by her earthlings. I can be pretty envious of ingenuous motherhood rules, so I think I'm imposing that one, too.

I purposely limited the title to just "piqueing" Zohan's interest in books because, really, who's to tell? 

He can be surrounded with books now as he sleeps, but when he grows up, he might turn out to be just like me who always ends up reading blogs than actual books. I gave him the first step, it will be up to him to persevere.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just Keep Nursing

A friend asked me the other day, "Until when are you going to co-sleep with Zohan?" I was caught off-guard because I hadn't really given it a thought. I said, "Well, I haven't reached that part yet! Haha." Then I added, "Same with breastfeeding. I've been asked several times until when am I going to breastfeed him. And to be quite honest, I haven't really considered giving it a time-limit."

Zohan turned one year and one month old. He is still exclusively breastfeeding, by his own choice. He wouldn't take any kind of milk aside from mine. We tried NanPro, EnfaPro, Similac HW, even Cowhead (all these brands upon Dra. Vienne Saulog's advice, given after he turned one year old) but he wouldn't take any of it. We tried giving it by force, by stealth, by intimidation and undue influence (okay, lawyer talk!); we tried giving it while he's awake, he's asleep, he's in play - but no, he just wouldn't budge. 

Before you judge me with my uncanny attempts to give him formula, do know that I've been exclusively breastfeeding him until he reached age one. (Save for some very few instances in the past that he had to be formula-fed, but those times are in a scale of one to a thousand ounces!) With my very demanding day job, that meant I had to express milk at work so I could sustain his daytime feeding while I was away. Heck, I even had to bring the entire paraphernalia to out-of-town works! 

At the beginning, I was very eager and patient. You know, first time mother caught up with breastfeeding pride, with new gadgets (aka breastpump) to work on, and a steady supply of milk, with a resultant healthy baby - it was all good. But after a year and a thousand milk-pumping sessions, I just grew tired. Whenever I saw my bag of breastpump paraphernalia, I literally felt weak. I could puke at the sight of it. That kind of tired.

So when Zohan was about to turn one, I decided that I shall mix-feed him - meaning I would directly breastfeed him if and when I was around, i.e., at nighttime, after work, before work, during weekends. And at daytime on weekdays, he shall be supplemented with formula milk. That way, I wouldn't have to express milk at the office anymore. Sounded like a nice plan, wasn't it? Well, until the sneaky boy decided he wouldn't take any kind of milk save from those that leaked from his mother's breast.

To solve that problem, I had been advised by well-meaning relatives to wean him altogether. They said he turned one and he's healthy, it was a job well done insofar as they're concerned. And, they noticed that I'd been loosing too much weight and they believed breastfeeding was the culprit. (I eat A LOT, and while I know that breastfeeding made me burn a lot of calories, which could be attributed to the weight loss, it was not entirely appropriate to blame it on the breastfeeding.) But I just chose to shrug it off and told them, "I'll see." I love my relatives and I chose my battles. I knew they meant no harm.

But in reality, the reason why I just couldn't get myself to force-wean Zohan from my breast was because I was not yet ready. Other breastfeeding mothers would probably agree with me on this one, but there's just an unexplainable feeling of being needed and loved, (actually, needed is just the right term. Loved is too big a word!) when you breastfeed your child. 

When he was less than a year old, his health and his nourishment were the primary reasons I was breastfeeding. It also gave me enough perseverance to bear the tedious work of expressing milk at the office. But after he turned one, I came to realize it wasn't only his health that made me keep nursing- now, it was more of my maternal attachment to him that sustained me. It made me feel that no matter what Zohan was doing, or whoever was holding him at the moment, when he saw me or when he felt hungry, he would come to no one else but Nanay. Okay, that sounded like a budding mother-in-law from hell, but really, it's a  selfish reason that kept me going at this point.

Right now, I didn't express milk anymore so there's no milk for Zohan at daytime. But that's okay - I spent more time at home than at work, so that gave Zohan more nursing time. And while I was away, he thrive on solid foods. I was very keen that he gets enough fruits, vegetables, and other sources of calcium at daytime. My nugget of confidence that there was actually no need for me to insist on giving Zohan formula milk at daytime was thoroughly explained here by Jenny Ong of Chronicles of a Nursing Mom, quoting Dr. Francis Tatad-To,

"Formula is unnecessary in children who are older than 1. At this age, children are expected to have a full/complete diet which may or may not include full cream fresh milk.
Fresh milk is the standard dairy recommendation for children older than 1 who are no longer breastfed, and the American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends low-fat milk for ALL children (Except malnourished ones) older than 2. "

Mothers have varied reasons why they breastfeed (or why they don't.) And I have learned to respect each of their choices. We all have the best interests of our children in mind. And I kept nursing because, well, I had my personal interest in mind, too. Spare me the judgment, and let's just keep nursing, shall we?

*Incidentally, last August was Breastfeeding Month, so this post came a month late. Nevertheless -- Hats off to all breastfeeding mamas around the world!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Excited About Something!

I'm moving to Legal "Corporate". It is a big move and a huge leap of faith, but after sleeping on it and discussing it with the husband, I jumped right in.We both think that it is the best decision for a starting family, and while there is no assurance that it is indeed for the good, I just have to just "keep swimming" until the Universe unveils the results to me.

So the other day, I tendered my resignation in my lawfirm, and bidded goodbye to court hearings.

But no, that is not what I am excited about! (I am terrified about moving in to a new job, to be honest.) There's going to be a "window" before I begin with my new work, and I worked it up to be a good fifteen days! Yes baby, fifteen-plain-housewife-days! I will send our companions home, so it's just going to be me, the husband, and Zohan. And that's what I'm utterly excited about. 

I hate to burst your bubbles but the husband doesn't feel the same way. He said he's "afraid" that I will be left alone with Zohan when he goes to work at daytime. I know, the nerve of that guy to tell that to the mother of his child. He's wondering how will I be able to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner, go to the market, wash our clothes, tidy up the home - all that while taking care of a cranky baby. Well, sweetheart, I just signed up for the baby-part. The rest is yours. Kidding.

Seriously, I told him, why will you be afraid?! That's exactly what I signed up for when I married you and when I allowed myself to be pregnant. That's exactly what his and my mother did when they raised us up. Mothers are supposed to mother, not just get up in the morning and hit the road to work.

I've been thinking a lot about this "window". I realized that a husband deserves an opportunity to go home to a dutiful wife, and a son deserves a mother that doesn't just give goodbye kisses in the morning. I have no plans of being a stay-at-home mother, at least not anytime soon. But I figured I can take a leave from work for two golden weeks, a month if I'm lucky, and do just that. And do it every year. 

It's actually a me-time, but with a purpose. For instance, it is my opportunity to discover that the rust creeping in on the shower caddy is too stubborn to be removed. Instead of yakking to myself that somebody is not doing her job right, I will know that somebody tried but to no avail - the darn caddy just needs to be replaced! 

It is my opportunity to "mother" completely. You see, when I get home from work, Zohan is at his happiest. Usually, he's been fed, bathed, and changed to his pajamas. So what's left for me to do is just to play with him, read to him, then nurse him to sleep. All the fun part. But what about the part where he's cranky and sleepy for a mid-day nap? Or too stubborn to stop splashing water when bath time is up? Or too active to be followed everywhere he goes? Or pooped too much that your stomach is tied in knots when you smell it? I don't get to experience all of these on a daily basis, and a two-day weekend is not enough. But these are the things that make motherhood complete - you take the good with the bad and you deal with both. 

It is my opportunity to serve the husband. So 1970's, but yes I still want to do it. Two weeks will not hurt. I can cook, wash and iron his clothes, the works. I remember asking him one time if he would rather have me waiting for him when he arrives from work, offering his slippers as he settle down on the sofa. He said, not really, but that he's also curious how it feels like. So, there.

There's no assurance that all these opportunities will come to fruition. For all I know, I will just resort to food deliveries and just send our clothes to the laundry. But, let's see. It's going to be my two golden weeks for the first half of October. I'm going to fill you in, assuming I won't die in the process. 

Exciting, exciting times! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Happy Grandparent's Day

They spoil your child without bearing the guilt of raising a brat. 

They give your child chocolates and ice creams and candies, and by the time the tonsillitis attacks, the kid is all yours.

They do not give "no" for an answer, which generally makes us parents the "bad guys".

When you were a kid, a simple wish of having a "brickgame" must first surpass a series of questions ala-thesis defense.  But now, when your kid wants to buy something and you decline (for valid reasons, of course), all that is needed is a simple "911" call to the grannies  and you're beaten (and your kid gets to keep the change,too!)

Yes, life is not always fair.

Happy Grandparent's Day! We love you Nanay and Uncle, Daddy, Mama and Papa! Thanks for loving the boy! :) 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What the untimely death of SILG Jesse Robredo has taught me on Parenting

Photo from Aika's Facebook Page

The dust has settled and the discussions quietly subsided, but the legacy of SILG Jesse Robredo, as a parent, has made lasting impact on me. 

I'm sure most of you have learned from the news of his untimely demise. On 18 August 2012 (incidentally, it's my son's first birthday), the piper PA-34-200 Seneca I aircraft carrying Sec. Jesse, bound for Naga City, crashed off the shore of Masbate. Three days after, his body was retrieved 800 meters from the shore and 180 feet below sea level.

The nation mourned frantically, but his family - the widow Atty. Lenni Robredo, and their children Aika, Patricia and Jillian - had taken the ordeal with so much grace and equanimity.

Prior to his death, I only knew Jesse Robredo to be the Secretary of Interior and Local Government. I had no opinion of him and I couldn't care less whether he served with dignity or he belonged to a multitude of our traditional politicians.

But when news of his death broke out, several stories of him being a true public servant surfaced.  Accounts of his humility, simplicity and dedication, both as a statesman and a family man, created ripples in the midst of every Filipino.

Prior to his stint as a Cabinet Secretary, he served as a mayor in Naga City for 18 long years. Despite his rise to power, he and his family continued to live in their three-storey apartment. He took the bus in going home during the weekend. He knocked to his neighbor's door, barefoot, to invite them for a simple meal to celebrate a daughter's birthday. He lined up, together with the common masses, in taking the elevator. He dirtied his hands as he shovelled the mud out of the city after the floods. He helped his kids with their homework. He took on the plumbing works and defective doors at home. He felt most comfortable in shorts and rubber slippers, and at daytime, he wore the city government uniform to work. When his wife prayed that his appointment as Cabinet Secretary be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments, he shrugged it off and said, “Ipagdasal mo na lang ang midterms ng anak mo.” When his body was recovered, he was sporting a simple Timex watch. The list goes on..

Here was a man, who had every opportunity to live a grandiose life, but preferred to keep his feet on the ground and live simply. I was put to shame. I, who was given just a window of chance to earn well,  scrumpled in the ratrace to live a grandiose life. And I was in such a hurry as if there was a deadline to reach the top and live the life. Every weekend, I always asked the husband if we can bring Zohan to the mall, allow him to look around, and eat out at the latest restaurant raved about on Twitter. The answer was almost always no, and I took it badly every time. Every special ocassion, there always had to be a new dress, or new shoes. I always had a nagging feeling that the pasture was greener on the other side of the fence, and it made me move around at work more often. If I stripped all the sugarcoating and defensive mechanisms, there were no other explanation for all these things save  materialism and pride.

Here was a man, with so much responsibilities on his plate, but still managed to be a father to his children and a husband to his wife. I was put to shame. I, who was given an opportunity to make a career, always felt like I had the most important job in the world and I couldn't be bothered, even for a minute. I could not even recall the last time I cooked a decent meal for the husband. I was a good mother, but not a very good wife. I put too much importance on what I did, that I considered other people's work less meaningful. If I stripped all the sugarcoating and defensive mechanism, there were no other explanation for all these things save self-importance and laziness.

His career in the government cannot be belittled, but more than that, I was more drawn to his character as a family man.

Sec. Jesse Robredo, as a father, was mirrored immensely by Aika Robredo. The latter's character, hinted by her TV interviews could only be achieved by parenting premised on humility and simplicity. When everyone else was lamenting about how her father's death was a great loss to the country,  Aika believed he lived a full life, and that his death might just be the perfect ending for the life his father wanted to live. While everyone else was insinuating his father's death may have been prevented if his aide had performed his job, she recounted how his aide had been a brother to them and how they were all grateful that he was alive. While everyone else wanted to go into details why the plane crashed, perhaps in attempt to put the blame to something or someone, she said their family was not interested to know what happened between 4:40 and 5:00 PM. According to her, it wouldn't change a thing.

Aika had taken this ordeal with so much strength and grace. (That is not to say that every untimely death should be dealt without showing tears and shouting invectives. There is no right or wrong way to deal with death, really. And unless I am at their shoes, I am not one to discuss how to cope with it.) What Aika Robredo showed was not only a strength of character. To a mother's eyes, she showed me exactly what parenting should be.

Even if I was not a privy to how Aika and her siblings were raised, I was certain that it took a humble parent to have a chance of having a humble child. Raising a humble child required a parent who did not expose the child to consumerism and materialistic tendencies.

And that was not easy.

I lived in a time when grace before meals meant taking a photo of the food and whoring it on Instagram. I lived in a time when playtime meant paid-time in Gymboree. I lived in a time when every inch of success was announced on Facebook and Twitter.

But surely, Sec. Jesse and Atty. Lenni have had a more difficult time parenting their kids when the father was in power. Their children were exposed to entitlement, privileges and reverence. And yet, Aika, even at the tender age of fifteen, was humble and unassuming. Her winning piece for the high school category of the Ramon Magsaysay Student EssayCompetition in 2003 gave us a glimpse why:

“His decision to continue serving his native city and resist the lure of national prominence, which a higher elective post could have brought him, had the deepest impact on me and imparted to me life-long lessons: that no deed is too small nor too big if it makes other people’s burden lighter and their lives better; that greatness of spirit can be achieved not through wealth, power or popularity, but by living your life with quiet dignity and by becoming a man for others.”

Sometimes, I get too overwhelmed by everything that I read on parenting. But the life of Sec. Jesse had simplified it for me now. Tips and advices and whatnots were good – but they can be superficial.  At the end of the day, all I really need to become a good parent was, first and foremost, be a good person. And it took a Jesse Robredo to teach me that. 
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