LALA, OUR CUM LAUDE!

We already had two sons when Lala, the youngest and the only girl in our brood, came along. I’m not sure if it’s the same with other parents, but there was something about the arrival of a daughter – our daughter — that instantly inspired a farrago of emotions in me.

I was, of course, ecstatic for being the recipient of such an amazing divine blessing, and excited to take on the challenge of raising someone who could be a little version of myself. However, I was also anxious knowing that the world she was about to open her eyes into was not an ideal place for what the society calls the “inferior and weaker sex.”

And that was when my protective instinct as a mother started to kick in.

I know that this sounds a lot like stereotyping (I didn’t feel the same way with my boys, after all), but I’ve always had this irrational notion that our daughter was as extremely delicate and fragile as my grandma’s fine China. In fact, when I first heard her cry and felt her warm body comfortably nestled in my arm, I had an instantaneous desire to pull her into a tight embrace and never let go. The urge to shield her, to protect and defend her, was so strong, so immediate and so unbridled, it was almost stifling in its intensity. I had to make a conscious effort to remind myself that no harm could possibly come to my precious one — especially since we were still at a hospital at that time and were closely surrounded by family and friends.

She was a crybaby as a toddler, so I expected her to be whiny and petulant. As the youngest in the family, I thought she would develop a sense of entitlement. Being the only girl among all the cousins in her father’s side, I was expecting that she would be vain, frivolous, and superficial, and would grow into a temperamental prima donna. Her brothers were already academic achievers even then, so I was already preparing myself if ever she would turn out to be an academic non-performer and a quitter.

Growing up, though, she proved to everyone that she was made of tougher stuff.  She did not only defy my expectations; she managed to surpass every one of them.

She would display fierce independence early on. I could still remember this one time when, as a 3-year-old toddler, she stubbornly refused the hand offered to her by her ninong while we were all climbing the unfamiliar stairs in the latter’s new house. We were worried because even a single misstep could be fatal. But, she kept going — slowly, painstakingly, resolutely. And when she reached the top of the stairs, she faced us and beamed with utter pride and an undeniable sense of accomplishment.

She had been like that ever since.

AQUINO, LORIELLE ANN - Copy

As a schoolgirl, she was competitive yet accommodating to her classmates who would approach her for help. She was focused and driven, and she knew her priorities. Her perseverance and diligence were admirable. She would have her notebook/reviewer with her all the time in case there was a lull in her busy schedule. But when, finally, she was able to tick off every single item in her to-do list, she would relish the time she spends with her family, friends, and orgmates. For her “me time,” she loves to bury herself in her novels.

As a friend, she is amiable, forgiving and easy to please. She has a ready smile for everyone and is loyal, even to a fault. Don’t be fooled by her small frame, though, as to attempt to intimidate her. She could hold her own and could even be a merciless bully to someone twice her size when provoked.

She is so simple that she doesn’t see the need for any makeup, accessory, jewelry (even a wrist watch) or perfume. The only indulgences that can bring a spark to her girly eyes are clothes and shoes. But even with those, she is never impulsive. She knows the style and color that she wants, and she sticks with it.

She is self-assured and confident in her own skin, and is fair in all her dealings. She is morally upright — hating shortcuts, quick fixes, and palakasan system.

She is beautiful, both inside and out. She is compassionate and empathetic to the plight of others. Secretly, she has a dream to change the world for the better, or at the very least, to be part of that change.

She may not look it, but she is a voracious eater. She eats almost anything except those with mayonnaise and ketchup.

She is politically aware and socially conscious, and is a girl of principle and conviction. Whenever her schedule permits, she goes with us to talks, rallies, and other protest actions.

She is an amazing ball of contradictions — demure yet tough, soft-spoken yet assertive, and gentle yet fierce.

Now that she is growing into a young woman, we are discovering, much to our delight and surprise, that the two of us have much more in common than we previously thought. I used to think that all those talk about mothers and daughters growing into best friends is just romanticized. But, not anymore. Increasingly, we find ourselves giggling at the same girly stuff, swooning at the same gorgeous hunk, crying at the same scenes of some telenovela or movie, smiling conspirationally at some naughty idea, and getting enraged by the same societal injustices.

The moment she smiled at us for the very first time when she was a baby, she had us completely wound around her little finger. She was like a warm ray of sunshine on a chilly morning, a cool breeze on a humid afternoon, a glimpse of heaven here on earth, and a reminder that there is still hope, after all.

Today, she still continues to amaze us. As if all her academic achievements were not yet enough to make us eternally proud as parents – she was accelerated and conferred with the second highest honor during preschool, she was hailed the batch valedictorian in grade school, she passed the Pisay entrance test joining the company of 239 other academically-gifted high school students who bested 20,000 examinees all across the land, she managed to get into the University of the Philippines with a quota course of BS in Biology, she bagged a DOST academic scholarship, she earned a 99+ percentile rank when she took the National Medical Admission Test, and she was accepted to the medical school of her choice—, she has recently managed to surprise us with yet another accomplishment.

Our daughter is graduating Cum Laude!!!

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A LIFETIME’S WORTH OF LESSONS

“Sometimes, I open my mouth and my mother comes out.”

I guess that just like most growing-up daughters, I had a love-hate relationship with my mother when I was younger.  I thought that she was out to ruin my life when I was a teen. When I was a college gal, I thought that I no longer needed her guidance; that I already knew everything there was to know about life. When I was a young adult, I thought that she was holding me back from fulfilling my dreams. And when I decided to marry young, I thought that she was not being as supportive of my choice and decision as she should be.

However, when I became a mother myself at the age of 22, things changed.

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My mother with all her daughters and daughters-in-law

Before, I used to wonder why my mother would cry at the slightest provocation. Motherhood made me realize that childbirth has left me with hyper-active tear ducts, and worse, that having kids marked me with an emotional wound so raw that could permanently make me vulnerable.

I used to wonder why she worried so much and would make a fuss over seemingly harmless and inconsequential matters. Now, I cannot read or listen to the news without agonizing over the thought “What if that had been my child?” Every house fire, every mugging, every kidnapping, every rape, every calamity makes my heart skip a beat.

I used to wonder why the sight of starving children or of children caught in a cross fire during an airstrike or of abused children or of children abandoned by their own parents would send her to her little corner to whisper a short prayer. Now, I cannot bear looking at those same images without grieving for those innocent souls and for the bright futures that they should otherwise be enjoying.

I used to wonder why a simple statement, “Nanay, napingot po kami ni Teacher kanina” could instantly put her in a combative mood. Now, a mosquito that committed the grave mistake of landing on my child’s face could be at the receiving end of my legendary wrath.

I used to wonder why she would leave her classroom of fifty students to run to our house only to check if my temperature had gone down. Now, an urgent call of “Mommy!” could cause me to drop anything without a moment’s hesitation.

I used to wonder why she could have the nerve to simultaneously send two kids in college when we were barely scraping by on the meager combined salaries of two government-employed parents. Now, my husband and I have three college children with only one wage earner in the family.

I used to wonder why she would always tell my father, “Mali yata ang sinabi natin sa anak mo kanina.” Now, I have come to realize that however tough and aggressive and authoritative I may be when dealing with the other aspects of my life, there’s always that part of me that doubts my competence as a mother.

I used to wonder why she would have opted to stay in our small, sleepy town and do the donkey work to feed six hungry mouths when she could have easily embraced her city life after college and lived there more comfortably. (That was, definitely, the smarter thing to do.) Now, I cannot bring myself to think of a life without my children. All the sacrifices I had and would have to make for my family are just a drop in the bucket compared to all the joy and satisfaction that motherhood brings me.

I used to wonder why she would not quit and just pack her bags when the going would get tough. Now, I realize that my children’s welfare and well-being will always far outweigh my personal needs and wants.

Over the years, motherhood has further brought me and my Nanay closer with each other. Being able to understand the woman in my childhood has completely healed all the wounds of my past. Amazingly, I often catch myself delivering the same lines, assuming the same stances, and wearing the same facial expressions that I notice my mother was using while raising us. I just hope that, with the lessons I learned and still continue to learn from being her daughter — the lessons that I would always carry around with me –, I could be to my own brood even half as the nurturing, fearless, compassionate and devoted mother that she is to me and my siblings. Then and only then could I finally declare that I have done a helluva job of mothering my kids. 🙂

P.S. Here’s something I just chanced upon the web.  This is a funny take on the lessons we all learn from our mothers. Enjoy!

 

Things My Mother Taught Me

  1. My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE.

“If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning.”

  1. My mother taught me RELIGION.

“You better pray that will come out of the carpet.”

  1. My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL.

“If you don’t straighten up, I’m going to knock you into the middle of next week!”

  1. My mother taught me LOGIC.

“Because I said so, that’s why.”

  1. My mother taught me MORE LOGIC.

“If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you’re not going to the store with me.”

  1. My mother taught me FORESIGHT.

“Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you get into an accident.”

  1. My mother taught me IRONY.

“Keep crying, and I’ll give you something to cry about.”

  1. My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS.

“Shut your mouth and eat your supper.”

  1. My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM.

“Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!”

  1. My mother taught me about STAMINA.

“You’ll sit there until all that spinach is gone.”

  1. My mother taught me about WEATHER.

“This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it.”

  1. My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY.

“If I told you once, I’ve told you a million times. Don’t exaggerate!”

  1. My mother taught me the CIRCLE OF LIFE.

“I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.”

  1. My mother taught me about BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION.

“Stop acting like your father!”

  1. My mother taught me about ENVY.

“There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don’t have wonderful parents like you do.”

  1. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION.

“Just wait until we get home.”

  1. My mother taught me about RECEIVING.

“You are going to get it when you get home!”

  1. My mother taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE.

“If you don’t stop crossing your eyes, they are going to freeze that way.”

  1. My mother taught me ESP.

“Put your sweater on; don’t you think I know when you are cold?”

  1. My mother taught me HUMOR.

“When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don’t come running to me.”

  1. My mother taught me HOW TO BECOME AN ADULT.

“If you don’t eat your vegetables, you’ll never grow up.”

  1. My mother taught me GENETICS.

“You’re just like your father.”

  1. My mother taught me about my ROOTS.

“Shut that door behind you. Do you think you were born in a barn?”

  1. My mother taught me WISDOM.

“When you get to be my age, you’ll understand.”

  1. And my favorite: My mother taught me about JUSTICE.

“One day you’ll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you!”