Thursday, February 22

Shadow Child

Oftentimes I feel guilty about not having enough time for Gabriel. Sure I’m physically there, as I have devoted most of my waking time to him and Sophia. Our weekends have been relegated to caring for them, above other things. But after having Sophia, I have almost completely forgotten that Gab is first and foremost the little baby that gave me a profound sense of joy and the reason to explore a wealth of other maternal temperaments I haven’t known. I had many times deliberately lingered on the thought of him, and wrote about him at length in my other journal. Back then, I had all the time in the world for him. We played games, read books, sang songs and did many things together. Gab was everything you could have for a docile and lovable child. I could not have been any happier.

I thought that I could simply jump back into being a cool mother with him after I am done with the nitty-gritty of rearing Sophia in the first few months, but I was much too wrong. Apparently, I was not ready to act my part as best I could, in Scene II of my Motherly Life.

Juggling time with work and raising up two kids was more than I could bargain for. To begin with, there is a conflict of trying to discipline Gab, while being indulged in, on the other hand, by his dad. We have different methods in trying to create an air of authority as parents to him, I being the more unyielding of us, and the dad being a bit of a spoiler. Now that seems to confuse the child, and you could imagine how two little tots competing for notice all at once, made us lose focus. Non-plussed, we thrash about trying to get a grip of it, making the effort to be nice and low-spoken, and yet enormously struggling to otherwise keep our sanity in place.

Gab has begun to be misunderstood and mistrusted by us, and vice versa. At this moment, his point of contention and envy is the little bundle of only 9 months. We could only do so much to protect the baby. In his effort to curb a part of our attention from Sophia, he does everything to make himself felt, physically or in some other ways. He would complain of non-existing pains from cuts, or stomachache, or earache. And if that wasn’t enough, he would “punish” his little sister with surreptitious attempts of tugging at her hair or shoving her from the crib. It’s horrifying, especially that I know he lies in wait to see if we’re watching, and would pounce on her, every chance he gets.

That fleeting feeling of enmity seems to lurk from somewhere like a shadow, and it is his form. You know it's not consciously what he is, but the distress grows in uncontrollable proportion that you forget who you are and who he is, and you lose sense of it all, and the only easy way to fumble out is to be angry at him. Sad that you hate in the way you love.... But I came to think of it, he’s just a child. And he must have a hell of a time trying to cope with this business of new STRANGER in the family, an entirely new landscape where he has been reduced to a bit player. Not being in the center of it all anymore has caught up with his childish ego. He could only cling on to Mommy’s little kisses and embraces, to reassure himself he still reigns supreme. The last thing he needs is all that cooing and indulging on the little stranger.

To make matters worse, I became a bit worried that Gab may be a little slow, not being able to speak in straight sentences at age 3. There are clear words in sporadic flashes, but still, I incongruously try to compare him with other kids, when deep inside me I know that I should not. Gone were the days that he would beckon for book after book, although rather petulantly, if I didn’t come huffing at once. Lately, he’s an android sitting in front of Disney Channel all day long. Hard to admit, but Playhouse has become to him a surrogate parent, as we struggle on to care for the other kid, day in and day out. There’s no one take blame or credit, for anything, except us, his parents. However I am always determined to make it better, If only I could try more, now that many realizations have come to languish in the background for many months and I yank back in sonic speed.

Last night, we congregated inside the bedroom, and even if I was dead tired from all the household uproar of not having a yaya for a fortnight, I asked him to get a book. I was a little apprehensive to find out what (little) he knows. But, reading Robert Louis Stevenson, we browsed through pages and pages of shadows, and rivers, and cathedrals and minarets, and beaches and horse-drawn carriages, and storybook fairylands. He points here and there. He asked me to name things, and he gamely volunteers answers on my made-up ignorance. Just then, I discovered that my little boy has many words to say in his heart. He knew that the wind can blow the leaves off trees, and shadows can grow bigger than we are….

And I could only listen, listen, listen.

written 08.14.06
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