Squishy’s First Day Of School

Dear Max,

Today is your first day of school. How did we get here so quickly? I can still remember the days when the hours would go by so slowly, and yet here we are. It’s your first day of Pre-kindergarten 1.

Pre-kindergarten 1. Is that even a thing? Honestly, if you were a bit more like me, I would’ve kept you at home for another year or so. But you’re 100% you (and a little too much of your Papa).

You’re the little boy who would run up to kids you’ve never met and try to play with them. You’re the little boy who would cry when I would pull you away from them. You’re the little boy who would tell me that you want to go home with strangers. You’re the little boy who’s more excited to play with the kids at Adventure Zone than go on their fancy slides and playhouses.

You *are* a little boy. As much as I’d like you to be, you aren’t a baby anymore either. You have your own thoughts and preferences. And Papa and I see how you light up when you’re around other kids. You’ve also told us many times how much you want to go to school.

While this day came sooner than we expected, we can’t deny how excited we are for you. Your dorky parents are teachers and lifelong learners. So for us, school is magical and ordinary at the same time. We hope that you embrace the regularity and routine that comes with schooling. At the same time, we also hope that school becomes a catalyst of many mind-blowing and life-changing experiences.

You’re only 2 years and 11 months old. While it would be great if you end up mastering your phonics and learning all your numbers, we’d rather you learn how to:

  • securely get along with different people
  • joyfully share what you have
  • patiently wait for your turn
  • confidently explore the world

It’s not always going to be fun. There are times when you’ll be asked to do things you don’t really feel like doing. There may also be times when you won’t get along with a friend. But that’s OK because you’ll learn so much from these instances.

We believe in you bud. You’ve totally got this. We love you.

Love,

Your dorky and sentimental parents

P.S. Don’t grow up too fast

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I’ll Do Better Next Time

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Over the weekend, we went to the Greenhills Shopping Center in an attempt to fix my broken iPad. While Mikey took care of the tech stuff, Max and I explored the shopping stalls in the bazaar area.

Max has been such a great trooper lately. We’re so amazed at how far he’s come from the last few months since we’ve weaned. Nap time isn’t a struggle anymore, he’s sitting in his car seat without any trouble (I can finally sit in front with Mikey again!), and he’s slowly learning to regulate his emotions with the help of words.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a willful (and many times a disobedient) toddler, but he’s trying so hard. We’ve also been “working” long hours lately and I can see it take a toll on him. So, to pep up the trip to Greenhills, I told him that he could choose one toy from the bazaar. He was so excited!

We walked around for a bit before we found stalls selling toys. When we finally found one, Max zeroed in on a Frozen themed toy gun. He pulled the trigger and the gun began signing the first two lines of the Let It Go chorus. Over and over again.

I started panicking internally. I didn’t want Max to have access to Elsa singing two lines of Let It Go on demand. I was also pretty sure that Mikey would hate it. So I tried diverting his attention to the other toys. He would look, but he’d keep coming back to the Frozen gun. It didn’t seem like he wanted anything else.

Desperate, I said: “But Max, that’s only for girls.”

I regretted it the moment I said it.

We make every effort to ensure that we don’t develop any gender stereotypes in our home, and certainly not in any toy stores. We know that social biases are already a strong enough influence, and this is why we try to offset this with our own influence on Max. So when I said it, shame washed all over me as my toddler looked at me in confusion.

I try to backtrack and I tell him that he can totally have it if he wants it. While I was trying to get the foot out of my mouth, the sales lady offers Max a similar gun, but this one was Captain America themed.

Max loves the MCU, so he was pretty happy with it. Instead of Let It Go, it made random laser noises when you pulled the trigger. We bought that toy instead.

Max seems really happy with his Capten ‘Merica shooter, but he still talks about the Frozen one. Max likes re-telling stories. So, more than once he’s said: “Maxie play with Frozen shooter, sing Let It Go. Maxie boy, buy Capten ‘Merica.”

I’ve apologized and I told him that I was wrong. I tried explaining that both boys and girls can play with both Capitan America or Frozen.

Unfortunately, the memory of picking out the toy is stronger than my postmortem dialoguing. So, he remembers it more.

My words matter, now more than ever. I’ll try to do better next time.

We Went Up The Mountain Again!

This year, instead of our annual trip to Davao, Mikey’s family spent Lola’s birthday in Baguio City. I have to admit that I was one of the few only people who was happy about the change. I love Baguio. And I love any reason to escape Manila’s dreadful heat.

Traveling to Baguio is trickier now that we have a toddler. I have to say though, going up to Baguio was the epitome of a great how to article. On the other hand, our ride back to Manila was the perfect what NOT to do article. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. Hahaha. Here’s what we learned from our trip!

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Napping at the hotel after a 5 hour road trip.

How to Survive a Road Trip with a Toddler

1. Prepare Your Toddler

A week or so leading up to Baguio, we started telling Max about the trip to get him excited. We explained that we would be going up the mountains and he could ride the horses when we got there. We also told him that the roads were zig-zaggy and he would need to stay in his car seat to keep safe.

This worked out like a charm because we had no problems keeping Max in his car seat for most of his waking hours during our ride up to Baguio. Max sat quietly, asking us questions about the trees, the Hulk, clouds, Spider-Man, and birds.

I think it really helped that Max knew what was expected of him. When he would fidget, I would remind him that he needed to stay buckled in because of the zig-zaggy roads.

2. Leave Very Early!

I convinced Mikey to leave by 7:00 AM. I wanted to leave much earlier, but Mikey refused. He was driving, so there was no arguing with him. I thought I would wake Max up when we were about to leave, but he woke up as soon as I got out of the shower.

It was perfect because he got to have a quick oatmeal breakfast before we left. Initially, I thought Max would end up asleep in my arms for the first few hours of the trip and we would feed him breakfast on the road. This was much easier. We didn’t have to worry about getting Max breakfast anymore, so he could just snack on the things we packed if he got hungry.

The best thing about it is, he fell asleep as soon as we hit NLEX and didn’t wake up until we were about to hit Marcos Highway. He slept for the longest driving stretches, and woke up in time to see our ascent to the mountaintop!

3. Take Pee Breaks While the Toddler Sleeps

I forbade Mikey from stopping before Max napped. I knew that it was wonky/sleepy-ville and if we stopped, Max would want to go down with Mikey. It would’ve been difficult to get him back into the car.

So Mikey was more mindful of his liquid intake so he wouldn’t have to pee a lot. We didn’t stop until Max was completely asleep. It worked pretty well. By the time Max woke up, Mikey only needed go on one pee break and it was right before we hit Marcos Highway. Max happily sat in his car seat again because we told him that we were finally going up the mountains.

4. Exchange Screen Time with Window Time

We loaded our iPad and phones with all sorts of shows and movies to keep Max entertained on the trip. We were so surprised that he didn’t need any of it during the ride up.

He’s interested in so many things these days, so it’s getting easier to keep him entertained without screen time. We kept him engaged by pointing at stuff outside. We also sang a bunch of songs that he knew to help keep him engaged.

Neither of us wanted to mention it incase we would jinx it, but Mikey finally mentioned it when we reached the city proper. It felt like a huge achievement on our end!

5. Pack A LOT of Food and Water

I went overboard with Max’s snacks and drinks for our ride up. But it turned out to be really helpful! Max wanted a snack as soon as he woke up and he got to have some milk and cheese.

It turns out, Max doesn’t mind hanging out in his car seat as long as he has something to munch on. When we got to Baguio city and traffic was slow, Max kept himself busy by peeling out the whites of his oreos.

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We made it! Someone’s ready to run around.

How to Barely Survive a Road Trip with a Toddler

1. Don’t Have Your Car Checked

This was our biggest mistake of the trip. On the day we left, we noticed that the aircon wasn’t really working. Actually, it started acting up the day before, but we didn’t really notice because it was so cold that we didn’t really need to turn on the air conditioning.

At first, I didn’t think it was a big deal. I thought, at worst, it meant that it would be a warm ride home. But it turned out to be such a huge safety hazard.

It was raining really hard, so we couldn’t open any of the windows without getting soaked. When we kept the windows closed, it would get all fogged up because it was warmer inside the car compared to the outside.

So we ended up having to hit an air conditioning repair shop before we could drive back to Manila. When the repairmen filled our air conditioner with freon, they warned us to be careful. If there’s a leak, it meant that we would be able to smell the freon through the air conditioner. And if we did smell it, it could be harmful to us, but most especially to Max. So they advised us not to drive or to turn the air conditioner off.

Needless to say, it was a stressful drive down the zig-zaggy road. I’m just grateful that Max was asleep for all of that. We’ll definitely have our car checked before our next trip.

2. Make Lots of Long Stops

We “wasted” Max’s nap by making lots of stops on our way down. Mikey needed more cash because of the air conditioning system repair, so we needed to look for an ATM. And then we were at the air conditioner repair shop for a while before we could get going again.

By the time Max woke up, we had just gotten off the zig-zaggy roads. That was his only nap during the trip. So I had to entertain him the rest of the way.

3. Take the Wrong Route

Because we had to look for an air conditioning repair shop, we ended up at the other end of Baguio. So when Mikey used Waze to course our route back at home, we didn’t realize that it would take us through the small town route instead of the major thoroughfares. By the time Mikey realized it, it was too late.

This added 1-2 more hours to our travel time. Next time, we’ll make sure to double check Waze’s suggested route before heading off.

4. Feed The Toddler A Lot of Junk Food

Admittedly, Max was pretty well behaved during our long trip home. The great thing about this age is that you can talk to him and he’s really more likely to obey if he understands why. And if he can’t seem to understand, it’s also pretty easy to bribe him.

To keep him in a good mood, I presented Max with my bag full of snacks. Max was so excited. He ate for an hour straight. He had chips, milk, water, cookies, and crackers. Welp, any mom reading this can probably tell what’s going to happen next.

Max threw up. He threw up big time. And I caught it with my hands.

Miraculously, Mikey and I were as calm as a pickle. I think we were in such a pleasant mood because we managed the stressful zig-zaggy road drive. We just kept saying, “That’s OK buddy. You’ll be OK.” Mikey stopped on the side of the road while I cleaned Max up.

It was pretty drama-free, and apart from the hint of puke smell that lingered in the air, it was almost like it didn’t happen. Next time though, I’m packing more cleaning supplies in the car! And maybe a small can of air freshener too.

5. Screen Time

I had to find ways to keep Max entertained, so I succumbed to his request for screen time. He had A LOT of screen time during this trip. This is the first trip where Max finally discovered the wonders of cable television. He spent a lot of time hanging out in our hotel room, watching Cartoon Network, The Disney Channel, and Nickelodeon.

He missed it almost as soon as he woke up and asked to watch videos on my phone. I think this may have contributed to him throwing up. I wish I had tried to engage him in other ways instead. He gets really wound up when he has too much screen time.

6. Pack the Extra Diapers in Your Suitcase

I’m not sure if Max picked up something viral while we were in Baguio. Some of his cousins had a cold, so it’s likely that he got a bug of some kind. On our way down, Max pooped three times.

By the time we got to EDSA, I had changed Max’s diaper 5 times. I had finally run out of my reserve stash and the rest of his nappies were packed in our big suitcase. Fortunately, I had some of his potty training underwear in an accessible bag. And even more fortunately, he didn’t poop again for the rest of the evening.

Next time, I’m keeping all of his diapers in an accessible bag!

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Let’s go back?

Baguio will always have a special place in my heart because that’s where Mikey proposed almost five years ago. I love taking Max there and sharing our story with him. I’m also very partial to cooler weather. This isn’t the first time we drove up with Max, and I’m happy to report that it is getting easier! Hopefully, we’ll be able to head up there again soon.

 

Fenk You

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Mikey and I are allergic to entitlement. And we’re not saying this from a holier-than-thou perspective, but a very real, we-were-those-kids one. As much as we’re trying to make sure that Max grows up to be a kind and respectful young man, we’re also not blind to the fact that Max is at risk for an entitlement complex.

Max is an only child, and if everything goes according to plan, he’ll be an only child for the rest of his life. So, he doesn’t really have to share his parents with anyone else. Max is also the only grandchild on my side of the family and he’s the first grandchild in over a decade on Mikey’s side of the family. So, in many contexts, he’s the only little person around.

While I am grateful for all the love that my son is showered with, I’m also painfully aware of how it’s a breeding ground for self-centeredness and entitlement.

I’ve been there. I was the only girl in a family of boys and my father doted on me. I got everything that I wanted, and I thought I was better than most people. It took me years and years to unlearn horrible, entitled behavior. To this day, I still struggle with it.

There’s an 18-year gap between Mikey and his next older brother. Mikey’s mom would proudly tell us that she spoiled Mikey silly and that he had a new toy every single day. Even as an adult, there were many things Mikey had to learn the hard way because of his privilege.

So, please believe us when we say that we’re not trying to show that we’re better than anyone else. And we’re not trying to be woke either. We’re desperately trying to make sure that Max doesn’t make the same mistakes we’ve made.

But how do you battle entitlement? How can we make sure that Max doesn’t grow up thinking that he deserves all the privilege he’s been blessed with?

Max is two years old and, developmentally speaking, he’s a pretty normal toddler. I’m fully aware that ego-centrism is a cognitive feature of this stage. He sees the world through his own eyes and it’s hard for him to understand things from anyone else’s perspective. Right now, he’s the center of his universe and everyone else is just orbiting around him. That’s fine for now, but we’re constantly trying to change this perspective.

For now, we’ve learned that Max can actually act on his empathy. We just need to help him out a little. If we take the time to relate a situation to something that he’s experienced, then he’s more willing to adjust his behavior. He knows what it’s like to feel sad or hurt. He knows what it feels like when somebody grabs his toy. If we remind him of that, he’s more willing to apologize or even avoid certain behaviors.

That’s a more responsive strategy that we employ when he misbehaves or displays entitled behavior. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out how we can proactively veer away from that horrible, cancerous attitude. And then it hit me—GRATITUDE.

Max needs to grow up in a home that’s overflowingly grateful. Grateful for all the things that we have, all the opportunities we were given, and for each other. We don’t deserve any of it, therefore, we’re grateful. We’re trying to be more mindful of this as we move forward, but so far, here’s what we’ve been doing it (some of it unintentional):

  • Providing Max with literary examples of gratitude.One of Max’s favorite books right now is called Bear Says Thank You. It’s a simple story about a bear showing his Mama some gratitude. He also loves How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food. In this book, the dinosaur says “please” and “thank you”. He actually learned how to say please and thank you by copying us when we read this book out loud.
  • Modeling gratitude. We try our best to deliberately express gratitude to one another. And now that we have some help at home, we make sure that we always say thank you to our household help. We also make sure that Max says thank you whenever he’s assisted in any way.
  • Evening prayers. One of our nightly routines is saying a quick prayer once the lights are turned off. Before I start introducing the asking part in the prayer, I wanted Max to get used to the gratitude part. So every night, each of us shares three things we’re grateful for and we say “amen!” together.

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So far, we’ve seen it have an effect on Max. He says thank you spontaneously and without prompting. Although, there are still instances when we have to remind him. Other times, he’ll say thank you for things that we don’t even expect him to.

One time, he got hurt and I put some ointment and a band aid on his wound. He looked at me, gave me a hug, and said: “fenk you, Mama.” It was the sweetest thing and I was so proud of him. And honestly, right now, I’m OK with Max learning how to say his pleases and thank yous over his ABCs.

Banzai Drops

Mikey wrote about what it’s like to father our little tornado toddler. Read all about it over here!

I’d like to share my favorite excerpt:

He’s right: he is, in fact, a big boy. He’s bigger than many his age, and he’s strong, and he’s forceful. And he’s a boy in the most stereotypically predictable ways—he’s rambunctious, he’s feisty, and he’s a little bit naughty.

But he’s also very wrong, because he is absolutely still a baby. He’s gentle, and sweet, and cries when gets a boo-boo.

Sometimes I don’t know how to deal with him being all of those things at the same time.

Same. It seems like such a strange balance that we have to strike these days.

It worries me sometimes because Mikey can and loves to roughhouse with Max. And if I’m being completely honest, I don’t enjoy it. Not anymore. Not since his playful hits started resulting in very real bruises and, at times, blood.

I definitely don’t want Max thinking that men are stronger than women. But I guess we’re going to have to expand his definition of strength at some point.

Maybe, some day soon, we’ll be able to impart that a hug is just as strong (if not stronger) than a Mjolnir smash.

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He’s getting really heavy.

 

 

I’m A Big Boy

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Silly Butts

One evening, I was working and Mikey and Max were watching The Incredibles. I took a quick break to plant kisses on the toddler and to catch one of my favorite scenes (Edna slapping Elastigirl).

Before I turn back to my laptop, I say “Maxie, look! Papa is Mr. Incredible, Momma is Elastigirl, and Maxie is Jack-Jack!”

Max ignores me and I go back to work. A few minutes later, Max looks at me with a serious, almost angry, face and says, “Maxie big boy, not baby. Maxie Dash.”

Mikey and I were stunned in that did-that-just-happen kind of way (this happens a lot now BTW). We were silent for a while and then we started laughing in disbelief. Did our two year old really just say he was a big boy?

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He’s Dash.

Yes, he did. And he’s been saying that a lot. Max is starting to develop his self-concept. Mostly, I’ve observed that he’s been able to articulate his categorical self. He can tell us what he thinks he is or isn’t. It’s so fascinating.

Here are some phrases he has said relating to his categorical self:

  • Maxie not baby, Maxie big boy
  • Maxie not scared, Maxie brave
  • Maxie so funny

Aside from this, he’s also getting better at recognizing others’ emotions. Whenever he does something to upset me, he’ll say, “Mama no sad. Mama happy please.” And he’ll literally try to turn my frown upside down with his tiny (usually sticky) fingers.  

Or, when Mikey was upset because the internet went bonkers during WrestleMania, Max went up to him and said, “Papa, no more sad! Papa smile! Papa happy!” And he ran back to me and reported, “Mama, Papa smile! Hooray!”

Beneath his tornado tendencies, Squish is really such a sweet boy. ❤

After Max started self-identifying as a big boy, we noticed that it got easier to get him to do certain things.

For example, it’s no longer a struggle to get him to sit in his car seat. We explained that all big boys (like Papa and Mama) have to wear their seatbelt in the car. After we said that, he quietly accepted his fate for the rest of the car ride. The first time though, he asked me to sit next to him and hug him while he was strapped in. But the next time, I got to sit in front with Mikey. That was a huge breakthrough for us!

We also use the “big boy” argument to get him to walk or sit in his stroller. We told him that since he’s a big boy, he’s getting too heavy to carry. So he has the option to either walk or sit in his stroller. He usually sticks with whatever he chooses and it means a lot less drama for us.

I’m 90% amused and loving this phase, and about 10% (maybe 15…or 20) sad and nostalgic. I can’t believe how this little human is unfolding before our eyes.

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But you’ll always be my baby. ❤ 

Last Thoughts On Breastfeeding (for now)

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I make breastfeeding look sexy, don’t I?

When I was pregnant with Max, I was so sure that I wanted to breastfeed. I tried to prepare by attending classes, reading articles, and watching videos. Looking back, I wish they gave us a more balanced perspective on breastfeeding.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, there was a lot of fear-mongering on both sides (breastfeeding advocates and formula companies). Each time they would make an argument for their cause, there was always this subtext: do it our way or you’re a bad mother.

Now that I can say that I’ve successfully breastfed my child (honestly, it didn’t feel like a success until we weaned), I would definitely recommend it to any expectant mom who is open to giving it a shot. I didn’t love every moment of breastfeeding, but, for us, the magical moments and health benefits outweigh the challenges.

So, if you’re a momma who is interested in breastfeeding her baby or if you’re in the midst of it and in dire need of support (even from a total stranger), hit me up!

I think it’s equally important for me to say that I would never try to change someone’s mind if they choose not to breastfeed their baby. Breastfeeding can be freakin’ hard and moms should exercise their agency and free will if they decide to commit to it.