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How I Raised My Mom While She Raised Me

Whether she likes it or not, Mom needs to see the world outside our home. And whether I like it or not, I am destined to be her guide.

    May 22, 2018

    How I Raised My Mom While She Raised Me

    Whether she likes it or not, Mom needs to see the world outside our home. And whether I like it or not, I am destined to be her guide.

    Time check: it’s past midnight. I’m still out of the house and, as expected, I receive a barrage of texts. My mother has not yet gone to bed, just to look for me, to look out for me. This has always been the case. We’re two different people who have two different ideas of fun. Hers has a curfew while mine seeks no limit.

    Growing up, I began to recognize how different my parents are with their good cop-bad cop tandem. Mom often assumed the latter role. She was also a housewife. Hers was a 24/7 job that didn’t give me and my siblings the freedom to mess around. She was particular about order in our house, from her high standards of cleanliness in every corner, to the commandment that I stay out of the kitchen for fear of burning down the house.

    When Dad passed away in 2006, I didn’t know how I would keep up with a bad cop for the rest of my life. Dad had been our source of joy and laughter. Mom would tell an anecdote or two about him at times from his lakwatsero days and late nights in college, his pun-filled songs, to his dreams of winning the lotto. Mom still misses Dad to this day. We all do.

    It’s in reliving those memories Mom can take a second look at things she’d always question. She despised going out of her comfort zone, learning new things like the internet, and having fun. She says it’s because of her busy schedule; she must tend to our needs. So I tend to hers; after all, she can spare a few minutes for some lessons in fun. It can make all the difference. The universe agrees to this. Whether she likes it or not, Mom needs to see the world outside our home. And whether I like it or not, I am destined to be her guide.

    Whether she likes it or not, Mom needs to see the world outside our home. And whether I like it or not, I am destined to be her guide.

    Her first lesson: the World Wide Web. Mom had no time for the internet. During my childhood, she would reprimand me with the usual, “Ayan, kaka-computer mo,” when I couldn’t do a chore well. The internet, in her eyes, was a distraction from mastering home improvements like decluttering a room and assembling an electric fan. She used to hate the fact that Dad kept a stash of internet cards in their drawer and how I’d always get a ‘yes’ from Dad whenever we needed to load up our dial-up connection.

    Dad always encouraged us to expand our point of view. He wanted us to play around and go with whatever interested us. While the internet piqued my curiosity, Mom just wasn’t sold on the idea of being fixated on a computer screen every day. I couldn’t blame her; Mom liked being practical. She couldn’t blame me either; I was a kid bursting with imagination. While I tried to push Mom’s buttons, it was not because I didn’t like her. We just didn’t like the same things.

    It took awhile before Mom decided to make peace with the internet. She complained how there was nothing good on television, especially when her then-favorite teleserye ended. And so I introduce her to our Wi-Fi connection and install YouTube on her phone. She makes her first video search: On the Wings of Love. She then clicks on an old JaDine clip, ushering the beginning of her nightly binge-watching. Now, when Mom stumbles upon a video she likes, she cuts my own binge-watching session just to show me a compilation of funny celebrity fails. My Mom is becoming like me as we start to get hooked on the same things.

    Hopefully, she’ll soon enroll in a meme curriculum under my guidance. As of this writing, she doesn’t know that I write for BuzzFeed. I’m still debating on whether or not I should teach her about social media. My worst nightmare is seeing her comment on my Facebook posts with words “Baba ka na, magsara na tayo ng tindahan.” Mom may go unfiltered online, the same way she can spill our embarrassing day-to-day moments (e.g. wearing mismatched slippers in public) during family reunions.

    Her second lesson: texting. Teaching her how to text brings me back to the time when she first taught me how to write. Mom held my hand as I worked on my grade school penmanship. I remember when we pulled an all-nighter to finish a cursive handwriting workbook, as required in second grade. We were able to do all exercises only to find out we got the wrong workbook. Apparently, it was my classmate’s. I accidentally brought home two copies. Mine was untouched. I was scared she might reprimand me for my carelessness. But Mom didn’t get mad. Instead, she let me rest when I was too tired to do the writing exercises all over again. She did the whole workbook and assured me the next day she made the handwriting a little less perfect so as not to cast any doubt from my teacher. Even when Mom played the bad cop, she could still break the rules out of selfless love.

    Even when Mom played the bad cop, she could still break the rules out of selfless love.

    Years later, I hold her hand as she fumbles with a cellphone keypad. Her non-stop complaining tests my patience. But I explain to her how texting can be a life skill. It’s a way to keep in touch with everyone, especially with me and my sisters. It’s just the four of us now and we all have our own lives. A simple text can keep us together. So Mom is determined to send her first text message to me. It simply says “Hi.” Once we move the conversation to our family group on Viber, Mom also improves her responses. When my elder sisters send in photos of their children, my mom’s grandkids, she replies with stickers.

    Her third lesson: go out and play. When he was alive, Dad never got to experience traveling for leisure and we never had the chance to go on vacation as a family. Once my sisters and I finally have the means to live a little, we make sure Mom gets a shot at enjoying life outside her parental duties. And so, for her first trip abroad, we take her to one of the happiest places on earth, Disneyland in Hong Kong.

    Mom panics at the thought of amusement rides. The Big Grizzly Mountain roller coaster is one for the books. As we scream out of excitement, Mom roll calls all the saints and curses my sister's invitation to join the ride. I know, for a fact, Mom lives in the moment with Katinko on standby. So it’s a relief to help her take her mind off who’s taking care of the house while she is having the ride of her life. Later, she worries she might not be able to enjoy the same adrenaline rush when she gets older. To see her put on a brave face on during the tour is unforgettable. It’s not everyday I see Mom genuinely happy to experience new things outside her comfort zone. I am glad to have lived through that moment with her.

    Her fourth lesson: have friends. Months after Dad's passing, Mom finds the need to reacquaint herself with other people so she can divert her attention from the longing. She reconnects with old college friends. Before Mom goes out, I give her tips on where to eat, where to watch movies, and where to buy tickets. She and her friends often end up at church on a weekday, head to the mall for a movie, go on lunch dates (like real titas would), or even watch concerts of their favorite Pinoy love team.

    After all the gimmicks, Mom returns home and opens her sari-sari store the next day. Her social circle used to be limited to the neighborhood. She is the resident tita. When neighbors see her manning the store again, they would drop by and tell her how they missed her even if she was only gone for a day.

    As Mom breaks out of her shell, I see the bad cop I grew up with in a new light.

    Who my Mom is to other people says a lot about who she is as a person. As Mom breaks out of her shell, I see the bad cop I grew up with in a new light. Beneath the strictness, Mom can be a friend too. She begins to understand the fun in spending time with people outside the family, outside the neighborhood. She also allows me to go out more often with curfew extensions, depending on her mood and if she thinks I’ll be home on time for once. As Mom and I go on different gimmicks, it’s good for the both of us to have our own stories to tell. We’re no longer stuck in the moment, clueless on how go on without Dad. We choose to move forward because that’s what we can all agree on at the end of the day.

    Her fifth lesson: always look on the bright side. This is not something I can fully teach her because I also need to teach myself this lesson. It’s something we’ve been working on since the day we lost Dad. I can give Mom some ideas on how to be happy, but it is up to her how she wants to welcome the feeling into her life.

    Through the years we’ve tried dealing with our differences, Mom has not only evolved into a fun parent. She has become a fun tita, a mother-in-law, and even a lola. I feel that Dad’s humorous, kengkoy spirit now lives in her. I can imagine my Dad watching over with a laugh and a sigh as Mom brings her own quirks to the family table with sarcasm and frankness. You’ll hear the words “Eh di wow!”, “Ganda mo, teh!”, and “Bruha ka talaga.” as her new terms of endearment. Humor not only relives a memory of the person we all love, it also inspires us to share that same level of happiness with the people we meet.

    Mom begins to teach me this when I get overwhelmed by the changes that come with growing up. I learn how to be resilient like her as she reassures me things will be okay. We will be fine. Isn’t she supposed to be the bad cop? The tables must have turned. Or maybe she has now embraced both roles of being a good cop and a bad cop, just to balance out the parental love that keeps my sisters and I grounded no matter where our lives take us.

    As I found the good cop side to her, the bad cop reappears every once in a while.

    Time check: It’s way past midnight and I am in trouble. I go through the texts. Mom is mad, not just because I’ll be coming home late, but also because she needs help figuring out how to operate our old DVD player. Sorry, Ma. Pauwi na ako.

    For over a decade, Mom and I have been teaching each other lessons we wouldn’t have any other way. While we have gone through a lot together, truth be told, we still have a lot to learn.

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