Friday, June 10, 2016

Star Player

My sister-in-law asked if I wanted to sign A up for a summer football clinic. I was unsure about it, given his previous experience in a sports-oriented class (the coaches couldn't really rein in my hyper little man), but his dad was all for it. So we signed him up, and—true to my mantra of "If you can't perform, japorms"—got him a pair of cleats and some knee socks.

He and his cousin (a week younger than him) were the youngest ones in the group, and the others had already been exposed to football before. It was the first time for my son, so he lagged behind when it came to following instructions. Although I suspect that had more to do with the instructions being in English; he was, after all, the only Filipino-speaking kid in class.

Coach Ricci: Who wants to run?
Other kids: Me! Me! Me!
A: Ako din.
(By the way, Coach Ricci was awesome. It amazed me how A actually listened to him. Kid probably recognized that he wasn't the alpha in this group!)

As the days progressed, I became increasingly frustrated, seeing A run off somewhere, or be more interested in playing with the dirt than in scoring a goal. He probably spent more time eating on the sidelines than actually joining the scrimmage (or what counts as scrimmage for three- and four-year-olds).  

(From top) Eating a cookie during drills; having some taho; snacking on cereal. He is his mother's son.

Babycenter sent me a relevant email ("Should you sign him up for an organized sports team?") a few days too late: "Watch a little-tot soccer game and you're apt to see a child or two off picking dandelions and another in tears on the sidelines." That's my son! I thought. Except he's pulling up grass and playing with rocks.

On one particular day, my competitive spirit was getting the better of me. All the other kids were eagerly chasing the ball around, trying to score, while A was busily knocking over cones. I kept calling out to him, but he was off doing his own thing. And then as he ran across the field, laughing his hearty, infectious laugh, another soccer mom remarked, "He is such a happy kid!"

And that's when I caught myself.

My son is a happy kid. He laughs so easily, and he would crack up whenever they would do new things (like heading, which he thinks is the most hilarious thing). He would run around the field pretending to be Spider-Man until a bunch of other kids also started pretending to spew out webs from their wrists. Who cares if he wasn't quite living up to his Messi jersey just yet? He was having fun! Besides, he's three—there's loads of time for him to grow into an athlete.

And even if he doesn't, that's fine by me. I used to joke that he would be the next Lebron (same birthday, also raised by a single mom), but I've realized: I'd much rather have a son who's watching from the sidelines, but who's bursting with joy over the simplest things.

Friday, January 15, 2016


Two weeks ago, my little boy turned three. And I've been wanting to write something to mark the occasion, but I just couldn't figure out what to say.

The milestones: He was potty-trained by two and a half, and he self-weaned from the bottle shortly thereafter. He speaks fluent Tagalog, and has a thick Filipino accent when he tries to speak English ("One, two, three, pour, payb"). I think it's some sort of cosmic joke that I have a son who says things like "iskol bus" (school bus) and "kohkies" (cookies). He says the funniest things, and I have a collection of much-Liked Facebook posts to prove it. He eats like a champ--the first thing he does when we get home is open the fridge to see what he can munch on. And while he does love ice cream and chicharon, he will sometimes ask for vegetables for breakfast (!). He throws a tantrum like a pro, but also knows how to go up to the people he hurt and say sorry once he's calmed down. He loves to pretend to cook, and also helps me bake. He has blue-collar aspirations, pretending to be a taho vendor one day and a bote-dyaryo buyer on another. He's obsessed with construction vehicles (especially backhoes) and security barriers (which he calls "up and down")--it was a dream come true for him when a security guard let him assist with raising and lowering a barrier.

And while it's easy to describe those things, I can't put into words just how overwhelmed I am when I look at this boy, my boy. How my heart breaks when I watch him play because I wonder just how many more times I'll be able to watch him like that, content in his own little world where his imagination rules--no barkada, no crushes, none of the emo-ness of adolescence. How he infuriates me with his stubbornness, and yet I wouldn't trade this spirited, strong-willed kid for anything in the world. How he makes my heart swell so much when he smothers my face with kisses that it feels impossible, impossible to hold all the love I have for this little man.

In the morning, one of the first things he asks me, with a hopeful look in his eye, is "Mommy, hindi ka aalis?" ("Mommy, you're not leaving are you?") He just wants to be with Mommy, so much so that I sometimes can't even go to the bathroom without an audience. And it makes me a little bit sad when I have to tell him that I have to go to work, or that I have to run some errands--but I'll be back, I say, Mommy will always be back.

And sometimes, I want to ask my little boy the same question, "Hindi ka aalis?" Because part of me wishes he could be like this forever, that he didn't have to grow up and eventually go out on his own. But I understand that that's how things work, that's how things are supposed to be. I just wish with all my heart that when he's all grown up, he'll also feel like he has a compelling reason to go back, to always go back home.