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.
When I decided that I would be a stay-at-home parent for the first few years of Max’s life, a few people commented “sayang”. Sayang, I suppose, because I am an able bodied adult who could have a job. And maybe because they thought that I was wasting my (relative) youth as well.
At first, a part of me felt bad. I was also afraid that when the time came for me to go back to work, I would not be able to keep up with my peers. I thought about all the conferences, seminars, and projects that I usually made up my time—these professional development opportunities that I would now miss out on, and how this inevitably meant that I would be behind.
Ultimately though, those fears weren’t enough to change my mind. I wanted to dive into motherhood and focus on that for a few years. Again, I’m very fortunate that Mikey and I found ways to make this work. And I completely understand that our set-up isn’t for everyone.
Soon enough though, it became clear to me that I had so much to learn. That the time that I’m spending at home with my child isn’t a period of stagnation. It was actually a season of unbelievable stretching.
You know how they say that a baby grows at a tremendous rate in their first year of life? I think this kind of carries over to their parents.¹
Being the primary caregiver of an infant (and now toddler), has taught me so much and I’d like to think that I’ve grown in ways that I’ve been able to avoid in my carefully curated career.
I’ll admit that in the past, I’ve been lucky enough to pick and choose career opportunities that have kept me well within my comfort zone. But you can’t do that as a mom. Your child’s need will fling you into many unplanned uncomfortable zones and you just have to go through it because it’s not just about you anymore.
And now that I’m slowly easing my way back into the world of employment, even if it’s mostly work-from-home gigs, I can already tell how motherhood has impacted the way I work.
Most glaringly, I’m just more grateful. And it makes a world of difference. I didn’t realize how entitled I used to feel in the past. Even if I didn’t express it to others, if I felt like something was unfair at work, I would let the negative feelings fester and marinate in my heart.
Now, it’s so much easier to overlook imperfections because I’m just grateful for the opportunity to contribute to something and earn money AND take care of my kid at the same time. I found that feeling bad and ranting is a waste of energy and mind space. For as along as I can continue working, I am grateful.
I’m also more mindful of my time. Because any time I spend working is time away from my family. I force myself to focus so that I make the most out of it. I really can’t believe how much time I used to waste at work. I could’ve gotten more things done.
And soooooo, as my son unlatches and I’m finally able to get back to the work that I’m ever so grateful for, I’d like to say to this my imaginary audience:
If you choose to stay at home with your child, it is not wasted time—not for you and definitely not for your kid. And if or when you feel like it’s time for you to work again, you may need to learn new things but don’t be surprised if you find out that you’re a better version of yourself. And that’s not something that’s easily gained from a conference or week-long seminar.
1. I think this is true for all parents—regardless of their employment set-up.
You are now one year, eight months, and twenty-one days old. I have been a Momma for that long (plus forty weeks). You won’t remember this, but to this day, I have never been apart from you for more than four or five hours. On most days, from 6:30 AM – 4:45 PM, it’s the Momma and Squishy show (and then we hear the jiggling of the door knob and we squeal with excitement when our favorite person walks through the door—Papa!).
I love being your momma. And I am utterly grateful that your Papa makes it possible for me to stay with you all day. Selfishly, it is the best. I get to watch you become you. I get to hold you while you sleep and I get to wake up to your smiles. I still can’t believe that you are our son and that I am your momma.
While most of our days are joyful, there are days when I look at you and all I feel is guilt. I was given this wonderful, funny, silly little boy, while you were assigned to me—a mediocre, at best, momma.
A momma who resorts to screen time more than she should. A momma who has never learned how to properly feed herself and is probably passing on her weird eating habits to her son. A momma who spends a substantial amount of time looking at her phone. A momma who doesn’t know how to wean her baby. A momma who has lost her temper over the silliest things. And a momma who hasn’t figured out how to discipline her kid.
I’m sorry, Squish. I’m sorry that I don’t have it all figured out yet. There are days when I feel like I lose every single battle and I’m officially a bad mom. But I’m not going to stop trying to figure it out. I’ll always try to do what I believe to be the right thing. So hang in there, okay? I promise to never give up. I promise to admit it when I”m wrong. And I promise to not freak out the next time you spill all the gold fishes’ food. (And if you want to help momma, maybe you can start sleeping for longer stretches at night? Please? But if you can’t help it, I’ll make it work.)
I love you, kid.
P.S. If there’s one thing I’m sure that I got right, it’s your Papa. I’ve already given you the best gift by choosing Mikhail Mahatma Y. Llorin as my husband (and consequently, your father). He’s the bomb.
When Mikey and I got married, I knew I wanted to be with him forever. But I was still wary about the idea of growing old. I was terrified of aging and becoming slow and weak. But all of that changed when Squish came into our lives.
I know that I keep expressing my heartache over how quickly time is passing with Squish. And that’s still all true. Time IS going by so quickly. I still remember when we brought him home from the hospital and he was this tiny little thing that would just stare at me. Now we have a happy, walking running, and babbling one year old!
But many times at night, I find myself looking at my husband from the far end of my side of the bed (there’s a tiny human occupying a lot of space in between us) and missing him. I just miss him. Even though Mikey spends all of his non-working hours with us (and I bet we used to spend more time apart before Squish was born), but when we’re together now, our couple-hood is rarely the center of attention. Thankfully, it’s usually eclipsed by something amazing—parenthood. The best example I have is when Squish sees Mikey and I cuddling, he runs to us and tries to squeeze in. Please don’t get me wrong. IT’S WONDERFUL (and oh so very cute). I get to cuddle with my two favorite people in the world on a daily basis. Life is good. And I really believe that this is how it’s supposed to be right now.
So now, there’s a part of me that’s really excited to grow old with Mikey. I see us alone in bed again, a bit greyer…maybe less agile, laughing our heads off or stalking Max’s Facebook (or whatever it will be by then) page. I see us going on road trips and buying pasalubong for Squish and his family. I see lazy, long brunches with our friends. I see our apartment morphing back to all its pre-Squish glory. I see us babysitting our grandchildren so that Squish and his spouse can take a breather.
I never would’ve thought that the answer to my fear of growing old was to have a baby. Hahaha. Oh well. Now I can go back to savoring the present (right now, a baby napping in a shirt that I should really retire).
Mondays-Fridays, at around 5:30 AM, Mikey’s first alarm goes off. Sometimes, I catch it while I’m half asleep and nursing Squish. Most of the time, Squish and I are asleep. I think Mikey gets up at around 6 to get ready for work and he leaves by 6:30. He always, always gives me a kiss on the cheek and an ‘I love you, see you later’ before leaving (and one for Squish too if it seems safe).
Squish usually wakes up at around 9:00-9:30 AM (depending on his last feeding-while-sleeping session). We say our good mornings and cuddle. I change his nappy and we have breakfast.
After breakfast, Squishy plays for an hour or two. By 11:30 or 12, he will ask to breastfeed and fall asleep. Squish will sleep until 1 PM (or 2 PM on good days) and then we’ll have lunch.
When I get lonely at home, I’ll send Mikey a silly text or photo of us and he’ll message me back when he’s free. He never makes me feel like we’re bothering him. He always makes it seem like he’s delighted to hear from us.
After lunch, Squish usually plays until 4 PM. Mikey gets home between 4:30-5 PM. Sometimes, he’ll catch Squishy in the middle of breastfeeding or playing. If Squish is awake, he stops whatever he is doing to reach or crawl for his Papa. If Mikey has to leave the room to put is bag down first, Squish will cry out for him. ❤
As soon as Mikey gets home, he takes over Squishy patrol. He changes his nappy and has merienda with him. He’ll hold him or play with him while I attend to other things.
These days, we spend a lot of time sitting in Sqush’s play area. We watching him play while Mikey tells me about his day or I update him about Squish’s tomfoolery.
Mikey will allow my first hands-all-to-myself meal of the day over dinner by feeding Squish in between his own bites. He will give Squish a bath, put him in his PJs, and dance with him until he’s almost ready to sleep (and then I take over for his last feed of the night).
Sometimes, when I’m feeding Squish, I’ll wiggle my toes and Mikey will massage them for me and indulge my need for pillow talk.
Lights are usually out by 10:30 on an easy night and 11:30-12 when Squishy is especially playful. And then just like that, Mikey is up again at around 6 to start his day.
Mikey goes to work all day to provide for us, but he comes home happy and ready to spend time with us. He never makes us feel like a burden or that he’d rather do something else with his free time. I may stay home all day with Squish, but Squish has a full time dad just as much as he has a full time mom.
We won the Papa lottery. We’re so lucky. Happy Father’s Day to all the hard working Papas out there!
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 ↩︎
April-May was eventful! Squishy had his first bout of diarrhea. Apart from the frequent wet poops though, he generally seemed like his normal self. Of course, as newbie parents, we were beyond stressed. We’re not really sure how he got it. We think it may have been some soup he had at a restaurant. Or it may have been related to his teething? He started eating his fingers more during that time.
The worst of it happened the night before we were set to leave for Davao. We had just come home from his doctor who assured us that Squishy was fine and that we were doing everything we could to make sure he stayed fine (hydration drinks, probiotics, zinc drops, and diaper rash cream).
As soon as we got home (it was around 8 PM, our flight was at 4:30 the next morning, and still we had A LOT of packing to do), Squish pooped again and this time we noticed red streaks in his poop. We assumed it was blood and freaked out. After consulting with his pediatrician, we went back to the hospital and had a fecalysis done and waited. It was the longest one hour of my life. (The whole time though, Squish was acting completely normal). The results came back and his poop was completely normal except for the fact that it was softer than usual. The pediatrician said that it might have been some irritation in his butt hole. My mom says that it might have been fibers from the red couch we were sitting on (and he was happily licking) in a restaurant earlier that day. We were relieved. It was almost 11 PM when we got back home, put Squish to sleep, started packing, and had a hurried dinner. Mikey took a quick nap (I couldn’t sleep), and at 2AM we left for the airport.
Squish was such a trooper! He was his usual cheerful self throughout the whole trip! His first plane ride went well. I breastfed him while waiting for take-off and he was asleep before we were in the air. I held him the whole time and my arms were like jelly after, but I’m so glad that he wasn’t irritable or in pain. The plane ride home was more challenging because the flight was delayed, he didn’t fall sleep right away, and he even pooped at the beginning of the flight. He didn’t seem to be irritated by the air pressure when he was awake. He was just really hyper because he was so sleepy. But as soon as I breastfed him after changing his nappy, he fell asleep and it was smooth sailing from then.
Squish had a great time in Davao! He loved swimming! And Mikey loved swimming with him too. He said that it reminded him of when he used to go swimming with his Dad. ❤ Squish liked splashing in the water and he loved playing with his floaters. I loved Squish swimming too because he would sleep so soundly after! In fact, I spent much of the trip eating dinner in our room because Squish was fast asleep and I had to watch him. Our room had cable and Mikey would send plates of food. I was a happy camper. Hehehe.
We got to spend time with more kids and babies while we were on vacation. Squishy loves watching kids and interacting with babies. Sometimes, he just watches them quietly. He becomes really happy when he gets to sit next to his cousin who’s just 2 weeks younger than him. It’s fun to see them interact and discover each other! We have to watch them though because Squish likes to pull hair and his cousin likes to scratch.
We noticed Squish becoming more and more clingy with me this month. He’s still a happy baby, but there are times when he won’t want to go to anyone else—even Mikey. But as soon as I have him, he’ll happily interact with people. This becomes a bit problematic at night when I want to rest a bit and Mikey’s supposed to take over. But I noticed that his clinginess is directly correlated with his crankiness, so I just try to make sure he doesn’t get overly cranky.
Squish’s sleep is also evolving. He normally has two long naps (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) and one short nap in the evening. But there are days when he can stay up all day and then he passes out at night. Hahaha. It’s getting harder to put him to sleep when there are other people around. When it’s just us at home, all I need to do is breastfeed him and he falls asleep. When there are other people around, he fights it. But as soon as we’re alone, he’s knocked out.
Squishy can stand without holding on to anything now! He starts off sitting up and then he tries rocking himself forwards and upwards, until he’s able to rock strongly enough to get on his feet. He looks so pleased with himself when he does it. He’s more confident on the bed, though—he stands up really fast, and he’s not afraid to plop back down on his butt. But when he’s on the floor, he stands up very carefully.
I think Squishy inherited his father’s musicality! Last month, we noticed how obsessed he was with the Gilmore Girls theme song, Carole King’s “Where You Lead”. (The show is perpetually on in our home.) When the intro would kick in, Squish would stop whatever he was doing and start dancing! His dance consists mostly of arms swinging up and down while he grins toothlessly. Eventually we realized that it’s not just “Where You Lead”, but almost any theme song of a TV show (we’re currently marathoning That ’70s Show and he stops when that familiar guitar riff plays), or any song he’s already familiar with. He still loves the Hamilton original broadway cast recording too!
Squishy is finally big enough to sit in shopping carts! He likes dancing to grocery store music, attempting to grab things off the shelf, and occasionally making random shouty noises. It’s nice because it’s almost as if Max is adjusting to our lives now. Going shopping isn’t as much of a production number as it used to be!
Squish is a tall baby! The doctor said that he’s in the 90th percentile for his height. This is why he doesn’t look as chubby as he used to. Breastfed babies also tend to be leaner. There’s been some pressure from others to put him on formula, but two of our doctors assured us that he was healthy and encouraged us to continue breastfeeding if we can. But it’s hard not to compare your baby with others. Our doctor said that for as long as Squishy is happy, alert, engaged, and healthy, breastfeeding is the best for him. Besides, he’s already started eating solids (which is going well!) and that’s another source of nutrition. Hopefully we make it to one year! After that, we can re-evaluate. Maybe by then I’ll start pumping more seriously and we can lessen the direct feeds.
I can’t believe we have an 8 month old baby already! I miss blob-on-the-bed-Squishy!