We recently had a surprise 4-day weekend (class suspension on a Thursday and a holiday on a Friday). Holidays are great, but class suspensions are the best! It’s like finding an extra P500.00 in the bottom of your purse (or in my case, the baby’s bag). I was all pumped up and high on family love, so we made this as a joke. This is our first attempt at podcasting (well, mine. Mikey’s a pro).
Our chaotic little home is my favourite place on earth. ❤
Max is growing at a ridiculous rate, physically, mentally, and even emotionally (dude cried at the beginning of Up and it freaked us out). Among my favorite milestones of his growth is his rapidly developing vocabulary. Below are 11 of my favorite words that Max can now speak:
noun | \bə\
: “The Incredibles”—referring to the characters from the 2005 Pixar film, the film itself, its 2018 sequel, books that feature characters from the films, action figures of the characters, or just Mr. Incredible.
e.g. “Buh!” (while pointing at a Mr. Incredible action figure)
noun | \bə\
: “Ball”—a ball. Any ball. But maybe not an American football.
e.g. “Buh!” (while pointing at a ball)
noun | \bə\
: “Bus”—a bus, coach, van, or any large public transport vehicle found on the road, including jeepneys. Pronunciation is usually accompanied by a “vroom vroom” or “bbbbbbrrrrbrbrbrbr”.
e.g. “Buh?! Brbbbrbbbrrrrbrbrbr.” (while looking out window of car, pointing at a bus, and then mimicking the turning of a steering wheel)
noun | \bə\
: “Buzz Lightyear”—the character Buzz Lightyear from the 1995 Pixar film Toy Story, action figures of the character, pictures of the character, or any TV show, mini-movie, or film from the Toy Story universe.
e.g. “Buh!” (while pointing at Char’s iPad, requesting to watch Toy Story for the nth time)
noun | \bə\
: “Book”—a book. Any book.
e.g. “Buh?” (while presenting a book to be read to him)
noun | \bə\
: “Button”—any belly button, or any pressing button (i.e. those found on toys, remote controls, and car stereos; not clothes buttons).
e.g. “Buh?” (while lifting his shirt and pointing at his belly button)
noun | \bä-bə\
: “Bubbles”—bubbles from a bubble blower, bubbles made from soap suds, bubbles from milk foam.
e.g. “BABBUH!” (while pointing at bottle of bubble fluid)
noun | \bī\
: “Goodbye”—bye, goodbye, farewell. Usually accompanied by a wave. 👋🏼
e.g. “Bai!” (while waving at a security guard as we exit a shopping mall)
noun | \bē\
: “Bird”—“any of a class of warm-blooded vertebrates distinguished by having the body more or less completely covered with feathers and the forelimbs modified as wings” (Merriam-Webster), or any image or video featuring such a creature.
e.g. “Bee!” (while pointing at a bird)
noun | \bē\
: “Bed”—any surface meant for humans to lie down on, or, pillows.
e.g. “Bee!” (while picking up and then tossing a pillow at me)
noun | \bē-bē\
: “Baby”—an infant, toddler, child, or any non-adult human.
s.g. “Beebee!” (while running in a shopping mall alongside what appears to be a 9 year old boy, and pretending to be a part of their family)
At the parking lot, walking towards the Insular Life building, the venue of the final show of Rude Mechanicals’ and Tuloy Foundation’s rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar, I told my son: “Max, Papa used to call this place his battlefield.” I was thrilled—not only because I was going to watch a live performance in a theatre with my 17 month old that night, but because he was going to watch a show in the very same theatre I performed in for the first time as a professional actor.
Insular Life Theatre was my battlefield, and walking into it that night was as nostalgic an experience as I’ve ever had. The place looked the same. It smelled the same. And while it felt different since I was coming in as a spectator rather than a performer, all the old feelings stirred themselves up all too easily.
As we shimmied to our seats, I knew that Char was thinking of something else entirely. I, on the other hand, couldn’t help but tell Max about my very first performance, as Nick Bottom, in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. I told him that I was scared and that my I was sipping short, shallow, and nervous breaths. My dear friend and co-actor Chino came up to me, rubbed my shoulder, and said: “Just enjoy it, brother.” It could certainly have been condescending, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.
I wish I could’ve told Char something with the same effect to calm her nerves about Max. But if I told her to “just enjoy”, she would probably give me the evil eye. Instead, I assured her that if anything went wrong, I would simply take Max outside the theatre and walk around.
It turns out, though, that I didn’t need to. Max, like a trooper—like the most amazing trooper in the history of troopers—like, I dare say, a stormtrooper—sat through the entire first act. Like a cultured stormtrooper with his father’s theatre DNA. He sat and he watched, over pursed milk-ingesting lips, as Judas and Jesus and the Disciples and the Jews sang about God and their fates. And then at the end of Act One, he clapped and clapped, as if he knew what he was doing. I was so very proud.
During intermission, I carried him out and took him to the front of the stage. (He kept pointing there after the applause simmered down.) When we got there, he motioned that I place him on the stage itself. I told him that I can only put him there after the show, because the stage still belonged to the performers, and we must respect performers. Part of me felt like he understood, but he was probably just distracted by the audience milling about behind him. I couldn’t help but feel proud, though.
After the show, during company call, I took him to the stage, as promised. Max stood alongside proud and exhausted actors, and he looked delighted. And then the actors all crossed to stage right to listen to their director, and Max ran with them—this tiny baby, alongside dozens of happy sweaty actors. It looked like a happy Lion King stampede. I freaked out and jumped on stage and caught him, thanks to one of my friends who stopped Max, making sure he wouldn’t get Mufasa’d. And then Max became sad.
Maybe it was because he was prevented from doing something he enjoyed. Maybe it was because a stranger made physical contact him. I’m not sure. Part of me is worried that picking him up snuffed out a just-kindled desire for being onstage in front of an audience. But if this whole experience has taught us anything, it’s that I shouldn’t underestimate Max.
Our family had a breakthrough! With encouragement from our friends, Mikey took Max out with him to run errands and I had almost 2 whole hours by myself at home! It was the first time I was home alone since Max was born. I was nervous, but Mikey’s blood pressure was up the entire time! We survived! He got all the errands done, Max wasn’t that difficult in the car, and I had some alone time. Mikey took a bunch of videos while they were out and with my superior editing skills, I put it together and made our first ever Squishy Days Vlog! Here it is:
Meanwhile, here was what Momma was up to:
Worry that Mikey left Max’s jacket on the bed:
Text Mikey and check on them:
Call Mikey when you don’t receive a reply:
Put on Madmen:
Put on a face mask:
Sort laundry (no photos because Madmen was getting interesting, hehe).
I missed my boys though! When they got home Squishy gave me a nice big hug! I think me missed his Momma. Mikey had his I’m-the-champ-face, but he needed to sit down to normalize his blood pressure. We survived! Yay! The possibilities are endless! ❤
It’s 2:00 AM one night. Max is tossing and turning. My left eye is half-open. I see that Max sits up in what seems like a drunken stupor. “Drunk Fu”, we call it. He looks like an old Shaolin Master trying to recover from a concussion. Or The Undertaker trying to get up from an F–5.
I pretend to be asleep (even though I practically am).
Char wakes up from her own half-sleep. It seems to be the only kind of sleep she gets these days. Max sees that she’s awake—“awake”—and snuggles up to her chest.
“Okay, okay,” my wife concedes. She picks him up, pulls up her shirt, and Max feeds.
I go back to sleep, relieved.
It’s 11:00 PM on another night. Char has just “tagged” me—it’s my turn to step in and watch the baby. She just finished breastfeeding Max, so she’s supposed to be done for the night. I carry Max and sing to him. Dear Theodosia. It’s Quiet Uptown. There’s a Little Wheel a-Turning in my Heart. Max struggles with his sleepiness. He loses, and falls asleep. I take quiet little steps to the bed, when suddenly, Max wakes up again. He looks at me, looks around, and then looks at his Momma, and lets out a cute little whimper.
Char gives me a blank, defeated stare. I smile, sheepishly. I let Max down on to the bed, and he turns and crawls swiftly into his mother’s arms.
I go to sleep, relieved.
It’s 10:30 last night. Max is asleep. I had dozed off without brushing my teeth. Eventually I couldn’t stand it, so I quietly slide off the bed, sneak to the bathroom, and I brush and I floss. I sneak back to my bedside and plug in my chargers. Then–smack— I accidentally tip over a bottle of Lavender and Peppermint linen spray.
The sound wakes up Char, and then slowly wakes up Max. Char destroys me with an optic blast gives me the evil eye. She picks up Max, and breastfeeds again, and then says, begrudgingly, that I should go to sleep.
So I do, relieved.
If I was asked what I think about when I think about breastfeeding, I would be lying if I didn’t first talk about the absolutely selfish relief I feel whenever Char has to breastfeed. Look, I try very hard to share responsibility with Char in caring, protecting, and raising Max. I am absolutely allergic to the thought of being a deadbeat Dad, or a lousy Father. It’s 2017: old ideas about stereotypical (read: irresponsible) manhood should be dead and buried. I believe real men should do chores, cook, wash dishes, and put babies to sleep. Real men should be able to—and be glad to—do anything and everything women can do for their families1. So, that’s what I try to do for Max—I should be able to do anything Char can do for him.
But I can’t breastfeed. Unfortunately, Max also absolutely prefers direct feeding over bottle or cup feeding: it’s the most foolproof way of putting him to sleep. If Max refuses to sleep in my arms, and he starts showing signs of wanting breastmilk2, really, what’s a man to do? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I have to admit that the relief extends to the fact that I literally can’t breastfeed. But I do hear from very excitable breastfeeding social circles that men can actually do it. There isn’t any scientific material, though—or at least, no guides or workshops or YouTube tutorials that can teach me how to do it. Of course, if such materials were in fact available, it would be my moral obligation to actually try to learn it so I can share in the responsibility along with my wife.
But those materials are not available3. I guess I can just go back to sleep, relieved.
For the record, I believe women should be the same. ↩︎
These days it’s a short whimper, and a yearning glance in his mom’s direction. ↩︎
Please do not reply to this post with links to these materials ↩︎
I love that you are my son; I love that my son is you. Because I am your father, I can promise you a few things: I will do everything to take care of you, and teach you life, and guide you towards wisdom and kindness and love. I promise to teach you to be a Man, and you will learn that being a Man means being a Person—who loves and who is kind and who has a strong backbone.
However, because you are my son, there are some things I cannot promise, and it hurts me so, because you are my son.
I will do everything I can so that you will be happy. But, try as I might, your happiness is ultimately, simply, not up to me. This breaks my heart, and I am so, so, sorry about this.
Your mom sent me that photo above, and I was darned near moved to tears. I am moved to tears, right now, as I write this while sitting in my office. In that photo, it looks like the characters in the story are talking about you. You, my happy, hungry, poopy, perfect little boy.
Indeed it is a tragedy to be clever and not happy. But it is also, as I have seen, far too common among the witty, the brilliant, the clever. And it tears me up that you might just be born into that tension.
Because of course I want you to be clever. But, dear God, above all, I want you to be happy. More than anything. This is a new desire, birthed in my heart the moment I saw you. And so your mother and I stay up late and wake up early and wipe off poop and clean up sheets, every day, because that is all we want: you, our son, happy and healthy.
And yet I cannot promise happiness. So all I can do is raise you, and guide you, and teach you to be clever. We will read to you, we will feed you, we will show you art. One day, you will read to others, and teach them to read; you will feed others, and you will teach them to feed themselves; you will make art, and you will make art with them. Maybe you will make others happy; maybe, dear God, you will be too.
For now, your mom and I will keep feeding you and wiping your poop. And we will pray.
Thankfully, our God is a God who can dismantle binaries. The prayer of my life, Max, is that you will find joy and remain in it—and that you’ll be clever, too.