Tag Archives: parenting

A new beginning.

Two weeks after the beginning of a new year, and everything is already very different… and yet completely the same. I’m sitting in the bedroom, watching mosquitoes hover in front of my cat-eye frames, and blaming myself for not remembering to close the window screen after Riley opened it to make sure I heard him yell, “Mama! Mama! Mamaaaaa!!”

That was his greeting when I got home from school. 

I’d come home early because of a headache and my body’s need to relax, and there he was, happy to see me, positively radiant and beaming in his I-LOVE-my-mommy!-ness. Micah was in the bath, and when he saw me, he lit up like a firecracker and I swore I saw heaven. 

And then I remembered that Rob’s mom had passed away from lung cancer and that she’d never see my babies’ smiles, and I wanted to smoke and eat and shop and act out every other vice I have. 

It’s been a hard year so far.

I miss Rob’s mom. There are money issues plaguing me. My extended family is showing itself to be more and more bat-shit crazy. Rob and I are having a hard time being Rob and I. And in the midst of all this, I’m tentatively putting one foot in front of the other, making my way towards something better than what I’ve got, and mindful that everything could blow up in my face at any moment.

 

Interpreter wanted.

This is what I dreamt two nights ago: A humongous tidal wave was coming toward me, and sharks were the masterminds that created it. Their goal was to submerge all of the land underwater, so that they could kill all the mammals. I swam to meet with the leader, who was this guy:

Bruce the shark, from Finding Nemo.

I asked Bruce, the animated shark from Finding Nemo, why he wanted to kill all the mammals, and he told me it’s because he’s jealous of the immense pleasure that we get from having sex.

And somehow, this made sense to me, and I pretty much resigned myself to my fate. From now on, Sharks are going to try to kill me and my loved ones because of our capacity to find pleasure from sex. No big deal. We can swim really fast.

I kind of shrugged it off and thanked Bruce for the information. Then the dream ended.

Now, somebody tell me: What in the flying fish was that all about? I mean, other than an obvious indication that I have to stop reading Finding Nemo books to Riley before bedtime.

Here comes the rain again… Wait. That’s not rain!

Since school let out a week ago, Rob and I have been going through some hard times, and they’ve all had to do with one thing: BLADDER CONTROL.

You see, we got a new puppy* back at the end of September, and only after my semester ended was I free to paper train him.

And also?

Riley started showing signs of potty training readiness.

So we were faced with a question: paper train the puppy or potty train the toddler? And me being me, I answered, “We’ll do both!” Of course. Because I’m masochistic that way.

We spent several days getting Riley used to his potty. Then, for two days, without a hitch, whenever he had to “go”, he’d do a pee-pee or poopie dance as he ran to us, and we’d bring him to the potty so he could do his business.

On the third day, I had to run errands. I’m not sure what Rob did with Riley while I was out of the house, but by the morning of the fourth day, Riley was all about the diaper again. (Much to the dismay of our maid, Joy, who’s been washing sheets by hand for a week straight.)

Now, it’s touch and go. If Riley and I are home, he might run to me and gesture that he’s about to poop or he might just sit there and grunt one out into his pull-up.

I’m disappointed and kind of frustrated. While I’d love to be a manic micro-manager and see this thing through to the end, there are too many things** that I have to physically take care of – and they all involve going to Manila, aka leaving the house without Riley.

And as much as Rob’s on top of things and Riley loves his father, I just- I-I-I- don’t have the slightest clue what’s going on with that. I just don’t. The simple fact is, Riley learns more easily when I’m around. He’s more apt to want to do what he’s supposed to do. He’s quicker to learn things.

I’m just chalking this all up to the fact that Riley’s 14 months old and Rob’s keen on doing things his way, aka the way that Riley’s not used to.

We’ll try again in another 6 months. As for now? At least the puppy’s paper trained.

* He’s the house’s dog. As in, we won’t be taking him to live with us back in NYC.
** Legal-type stuff. Student visa, foreign adoption, lawyer meetings… Fun!***
*** That was sarcasm, by the way.

Finding joy AND fun as a parent.

We used to go out every night, get drunk and high, fuck strangers in strange places, and meet up for breakfast or brunch after taking our respective walks of shame. Now we talk on Skype every chance that we get:  she, with her eyelids droopy from staying up late, grading English 1 and English 2 papers; and me, seemingly always energetic, even after the grind of school/family/work/dream-job-chasing.

“Holy fuck,” she always says. “Your life is so different now.”

“Yup,” I say, as a grin spreads smugly from ear to ear.

She sees the look on my face, the one that’s a step away from being condescending and holier-than-thou, and she pouts before laughing. “Fuck you and your perfect life!” she bellows before exploding into a tumult of contagious merriment.

I find freedom in her howls of joy and allow myself to feel whatever is in me to feel, and at this moment it’s a split-second of self-righteousness. I feel like I’ve won the greatest prize ever, like no one has ever reached the kind of perfection that I’ve achieved, like I have all the answers. Like I’m God. It’s taken me almost a year to reclaim this feeling, and just as quickly as it appears, it’s gone. I feel the change and am grateful. Luckily, in that same year, I also learned to be gracious; to let the feeling recess into the last fat folds of my ego and dispense into a calm pool of confidence.

She watches the changes take place: The overwhelming surge of bravado, the back-straightening confidence, and the tranquility of inner peace. “Good,” she says as she earnestly  nods her head. “You deserve every bit of this.”

*****

There’s an eye-opening and controversial article making the rounds in social media, and when I read it last night, a zillion ideas for blog posts came to mind. Because, yes, I totally understand the feelings brought up by the writer. The thing is, I can’t really relate to them.

The title says it all, All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting. I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t done so already. If you’re a parent, you’ll most likely find yourself nodding your head in agreement; if you’re not a parent, you’ll most likely learn something that will help you relate to your friends who are parents.

Reading this article reminded me of chemistry class: the comparison of known values to unknown values often shed light on subjects I’d previously considered myself an expert. I’d feel my base of knowledge expanding, expounding, becoming more brilliant and yet, somehow, also sinking back into itself as the thing that I’d always known.

To be clear: I loved the writing of the article, but I didn’t find the subject at all groundbreaking. The studies, though important, simply corroborate what I’ve always known to be true, and are therefore far from shocking. Of course most people are let down by parenting. Most people have no idea what parenting is like until they’re a parent.

*****

Riley turns 1 year old in less than a month, and though I won’t say that this leg of the parenting journey has been easy, I have to admit, it hasn’t been as hard as I was expecting it to be. Everything from the actual labor and delivery; to the decisions of not circumcising Riley and of anointing him in a spiritual/non denominational ceremony as well as a Catholic one; to the processes of finding childcare and making baby food from scratch; to being able to provide everything I want to provide have been a walk in the park. Riley’s an easy baby to take care of: he hardly ever gets sick, he has a loving and good-humored disposition, and he’s been ahead of the curve, developmentally, pretty much since the day he was born. Maybe my case isn’t the norm, or maybe the first year is really the easiest, or maybe my approach to parenting is somehow different from that of most other parents. All I know is, I’m always finding joy and fun in every sphere of my life – including parenting.

*****

How can this possibly be the case? For one thing, though I always miss my son, I don’t ever feel like I’m missing out on anything concerning him. I take active participation in everything about his life, and I don’t get all up in arms about the small stuff. To me, what matters is that he’s happy and healthy, and that I’m providing the best life possible for him.

Obviously, best is a subjective term, and though I can’t tell you directly what my idea of the best parenting style consists of, I can tell you what it doesn’t consist of: doubting my instincts and my self, hovering, over-planning, lack of common sense, and lack of hard work. I find that a pragmatic and knowledgeable approach makes life a hell of a lot easier. For example, I’m a nursing student, and as such I know more about diseases that I’d care to know. So I take every single precaution necessary to keep Riley safe and healthy, and after I’m satisfied that I’ve done everything I can possibly do, I relax. Because, sure, inevitably shit will hit the fan. But preparation doesn’t mean worrying – and it sure as hell doesn’t do anyone any good.

Another thing the article talks about are strains in a couple’s relationship, and how couples with kids inevitably have more stress than their childless counterparts. Again: Duh! Take two people and give them a big project – say, raising a child – and it’s inevitable that the stress pile gets bigger, if only because um, did you not read the part about having a big project? Likewise, take two classmates who are having a blast while their teacher is away, then pair them up and assign them a term project, and I guarantee you that their levels of stress will also increase. Why? Because no matter how compatible their views, the very fact that there is a new task raises points that have never before been posed, and simply having those questions is stressful, let alone having to cooperate and act on them.

It’s the cooperation and acting part, though, that I think Rob and I have got licked. The great thing about Rob is that he comes in two settings, Completely Involved and Leaves It All Up To Me. For the most part, he’s the former, but for things like Riley’s baptism and lack of circumcision, aka Things of Great Importance to Me That He Can Go Either Way On? It’s the latter. And this system makes it a hell of a lot easier to cooperate and act.

Of course, it also helps that I’m feeling nurtured – not only by Rob and my parents and brother, but also by my friends and extended family and even the students and faculty at my school. They are sources of great strength, love, faith, creativity, hope, understanding and solace. They are accepting of who I am, and give me many homes at which to lay down my problems. They make it possible for me to give my all as a mom and a partner, and as a friend and a sister and a daughter, et al. I get so much in return, and I haven’t had to give up anything that I wasn’t willing to part with.

*****

Becoming a mom has been the single most life-altering act I’ve experienced, and yet for all the change and turbulence it’s caused, fundamentally, things are still the same. I still love to work and party harder than anyone else. I always find time and energy for my priorities. And I have a million things coming at me from all angles, some of which are issues I’d never even thought of. Maybe the contours of my life have changed a bit, but the process? The giving of my all? The knowing full well that it might all be for nothing, and that that’s okay? That’s the same.

Hello. My name is Maria and I am a parent who loves parenting.

Hodgepodge: Counting my blessings, and what goes up may go higher.

Things I’ve been doing that are paying off:

  1. Scheduling time to write. Every morning for the last month or so, the first thing I’ve done when I start writing  is blog. I decided to do it that way to clear the cobwebs, purge myself of any subconscious issues, and empty myself of the run-off, so that when I’m ready to really write, I get only the good stuff. Now I’ve reached a stage where I can tackle fiction-writing straight from the get-go, and it feels fluid and natural.
  2. Practicing guitar and singing. Mistress Mom Fact #958: I used to front a band called Ruben’s Daughter. It was a stereotypical band experience: I dated the guitarist; we had a mad and passionate affair that can only be described as winding; then when things stalled with our band, he upped and left for Cali and later died of a drug overdose. It’s one of the stages of my past that is so different from my present experience, a slight tinge of disbelief coats my tongue whenever I talk about it. Anyway, I used to have a kick-ass singing voice, and lately I’ve been learning guitar and trying to pick up the pieces of my smoke-stricken voice. And just when all this is happening, the band’s only fan one of our fans found me on Facebook and messaged me. “I know I’m really late on this one, but have you heard of Kings of Leon?” she asked. “I swear, the second I listened to their album, I thought of you and Ruben’s Daughter.” I’m thinking about putting away funds to record a few of our old tracks and maybe even pen a couple new ones, even though truth told, I read some of my old lyrics and physically shuddered. God, I was young then! [Says the 25-year old.]
  3. Job hunt. The thing about finding a telecommuting job is that not only are they hard to come by, but finding a decently paying one is crazy-difficult. I mean, not only are there a zillion and one people applying to the same position, but really, what’s to stop someone from just not paying you? Luckily, I’ve found a handful of places that are the real-deal and *enter trumpet* I’ve had my first big cumulative pay day. Here’s hoping this is steady and reliable work, and that the things that Rob has in the works (that have been paying off already!) continue to do well, too.
  4. Exercising. Remember when I said that I wanted to re-sculpt my body, and that I was willing to try stuffing my face in order to achieve that end? Yeah, that wasn’t such a great idea. My gut and ass ballooned, and my boobs didn’t. (Boo! Yay! Boo!) The really awesome thing about working out, though? It put me back in touch with my body, which was really hard for this yoga aficionado after giving birth. Something about running three miles in the blazing tropical sun makes me feel like G.I. Jane, though, and I gotta admit, going all boot-camp on my own ass fulfills a long-held fantasy of mine.
  5. Keeping in touch with my parents and my in-laws. I’ve had a really rocky relationship with my folks, but no matter what, they’ve supported me. They’ve never questioned my decisions and have always respected me as an individual, and I’m getting to think that it was my judgmental mentality that really fucked things up in the first place. Now that I’ve gotten to my judgment-free happy place, all of that has lifted, and oh-em-gee, I’d forgotten how funny and wonderful my folks are. Rob’s parents are a different bag altogether, which I hear is the norm when learning to deal with (might as well be) in-laws. I keep in touch with his mom’s side of the family via Facebook and email his mom frequently. There’s so much about Rob that can be explained by talking to his mom, and I love that just as much as I’m perplexed by it. His dad and I have always had a really great relationship, and I love Rob’s little sisters (half-sisters, via his pops) like my own. Thinking about all of this gives me the warm and fuzzies.
  6. Keeping in touch with my friends. I have a lot of friends. Got that? Not acquaintances. Not people I only know via social networking sites. Not friends of convenience. Actual friends. The kind that will bail me out of jail at 2 a.m. even though they have to get up for work in two hours and their kid has the chicken pox and holy fuck, what was I doing getting into a fight with a group of thuggettes on the train anyway? My friends pretty much span the whole spectrum of varied and awesome. They are corporate lawyers and slam poets, bartenders and military moms, party-hoppers and fashionistas, etc., and holy crackwhore, it is hard keeping up with what’s going on in all of their lives. Somehow, though, I’ve managed to do it, and the feelings of being immensely adored by such amazing individuals and being able to immensely adore them are sometimes more than I can stand.
  7. Bonding with my extended family. Something happened when I became a mom. All of a sudden, I felt an incredible urge to connect with everyone who might have a chromosome or two in common with me. It’s been a hard-won and completely worthwhile experience, with lots of set-backs and drama thrown in for good measure, and I recently exchanged emails with folks on my mom’s side and had a coffee-cum-martini-fest with a few cousins on my dad’s side that confirms my suspicions: awesome runs in my family.
  8. Bonding with my brother. He and I joke that he’s my first kid. After all, if you ask him who he was raised by, he inevitably answers with my name – even though I’m only five years older than him. Watching him make the same mistakes that I made was really tough for me. Every time he fell down, I felt the overwhelming inclination to run to his side, coo at him and dust off his knees. But I caught myself. Stayed on the sidelines. Watched him pick himself up, dust himself off, learn better for the next time around. It was heart-wrenching and completely frustrating, but now that I’ve found my cool, I’m dealing a lot better with it. We understand each other in a way that is so amazing, it compels me to make sure Riley has multiple siblings because surely this kind of love can only grow exponentially with size.
  9. Making it work with Rob. There are times when I’m sure things just can’t work out between us, and then something happens to reaffirm my belief in Rob and our relationship. It’s not just the fact that we have a baby together; truthfully, Riley in and of himself doesn’t justify staying with Rob. It’s the random texts to tell me about something only I would understand. It’s texting me little poems about how much he misses me. It’s emails with obscure music videos and being able to vibe about the most seemingly unimportant tangents. It’s taking the time and energy to work through our misunderstandings (and excusing my short fuse when I ultimately get frustrated and angry). We come from such different lives and experiences. We see things in such different ways. We talk such different languages. And with our well-meaning parents whispering in our ears, it’s hard to avoid getting suckered by a Jedi mind trick. And yet, somehow, in each other we find home. Fuck, we’re lucky.
  10. Being a mom. I watched Riley chase our housekeeper as his nanny held his hands and he kicked his feet with the power of a tiny stallion. Later that evening, as he practiced standing on the couch, he bent down to kiss me, then got up again, then bent down to kiss me again, again and again, making me absolutely surge electric with all that is good in the world. Then he repeated the same action, except instead of kissing me, he held his face in a way that suggested, “Mommy, my turn! Kiss me!” And of course I did. Again and again and again. Eight months old, and his love fills me with an intensity I never thought possible.

Rereading this list gives me the feeling of being stuffed by a really delicious holiday meal. Pure wonder how all of it is possible! *content sigh* It’s 12:45 a.m. Now off to edit fiction…

“If I’m not overwhelmed with cooking, cleaning and child-rearing, I don’t feel like a *real mom*.”

I wrote that as a Facebook status, then took it down three minutes later. That’s how long it took for me to get over that particular sentiment.

I’m sure I’m not the only mom who’s ever felt that way, and 180 seconds after the thought entered my brain, I was thinking: That’s just silly. Being overwhelmed has nothing to do with being a real mom, or even a good one (whatever the fuck those mean in the first place). Damn all of these judgmental pricks. Damn all of the media hype about moms being too busy to cut their hair or buy a decent pair of heels. Just because I have time to do both, does it mean that I’m not doing a good job? (And for that matter, just because I’m able to run around while wearing 3-inch heels, and I like doing so, does that make me less of a feminist?)

Nope. Of course one doesn’t have to do with the other, just like the facts that I feel free to smoke; my wardrobe choices are singled out as “questionable” (tank tops, V-necks, shorts, skirts, tight jeans, high heels, platforms, etc.); the neighbors see Riley with his nanny more than they see him with me – those have nothing to do with my mothering skills, either. But people think they do. And that fact is something that I’ve simply learned to ignore. Truth: generalizations and stereotypes are unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean you have to try to fit them.

It’s become second nature to not become fazed by other peoples’ criticisms, expectations, or opinions. When someone voices their thoughts about me, I coolly drag on the conversation for however long I’m comfortable, then change the topic. Fact is – and I don’t mean to sound like a superior bitch  – it doesn’t matter. I’m not saying that I’m perfect, and I’ll definitely engage in intelligent discussion/debate, but at the end of the day, more often than not, my perspective won’t be moved. Because, ya know what? Me and my life might sound crazy to you, but believe it or not, I’ve thought long and hard about the shit I’ve done before I’ve done it, and I’m damn proud of the road I’ve traveled and the person I’ve become.

Along with this renewed sense of calm and confidence is a definite identification with social liberalism, which to me basically means “I may not get you, but I respect and appreciate you and whatever it is that you’re about – up until you molest a kid/rape someone/etc.”

Social liberalism, to me, means a suspension of judgment [up until a point; see above]. It means not having double standards. It means that when you say you’re okay with a lifestyle, you’re really okay with it. Not any of this, “It’s okay to be [insert profession/sexual preference/race/ethnicity/nationality/age/etc.] just as long as you’re not [a person of social status/my loved one/romantically involved with my loved one/etc.].” Point blank: If you say you’re okay with people being gay, but you have a problem with your kid being gay, then you’re not really okay with gay people in the first place. You’re faking it – most likely because it fits in with the ideals that you’d like to espouse – but you really see being gay as inferior, and that just ain’t cool.

I identify with people who are offbeat, unusual, misunderstood, and queer (sexually and just plain strange). I’ve battled my own demons, taken paths that were right for me, and fought for acceptance, respect, and legitimacy – and I deserve all of the acceptance, respect and legitimacy that I’ve gained. For every part about me that soothes the majority’s worries about my identity, there are a million other parts of me that make the average Joe raise a judgmental eyebrow. And although I will play to the sympathizers, I will also acknowledge that that’s what they are: I appreciate their kindness and empathy exactly because this isn’t their fight, and they’ve chosen to take up arms. Thank you, sympathizers. But also: Be weary of claiming possession of this fight because it isn’t really yours. You may only help where permission is granted.

And if you choose not to heed my words, that’s fine, too. Because, really, what the fuck do I know? Keep on pushing, and you’ll eventually find a niche that fits your groove. Just because it ain’t my niche doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong. Even if I think it is…

Maybe this is inner peace or freedom or simply not giving a fuck. All I know is, it works for me. My competitive streak has disappeared. Now I just feel… complete. Like a force of nature. A force to be reckoned with. A force that’s completely blessed. I’ve come to the conclusion that I may never know the *right* answers, but I know which ones are definitely *wrong* for me, and that’s all I really need to know. I’ll grant you the respect to go about living the best way you know how; I’ll never look down my nose at you or expect you to do anything than what you’ve promised; I’ll engage in heated discussions with you and will be quick to apologize if I come off as offensive in any way; I’ll be honest with you – and I’ll even try to be honest with myself. And all I ask of you is the same.

Brownout, blackout, burnout. (Part 2)

black·out (blkout) n.

1. A cutoff of electrical power, especially as a result of a shortage, a mechanical failure, or overuse by consumers.
2. The concealment or extinguishment of lights that might be visible to enemy aircraft during an air raid.
3. a. The sudden extinguishment of all stage lights in a theater to indicate the passage of time or to mark the end of an act or scene.

b. A short, comic vaudeville skit that ends with lights off.
4. A temporary loss of memory or consciousness.
5. a. A suppression, as of news, by censorship.

b. Restriction or prohibition of telecasting a sports event in order to ensure ticket sales.
Synonyms: blackout, faint, swoon, syncope
These nouns denote a temporary loss of consciousness: suffers blackouts at high altitudes; fell in a dead faint at the sight of the body; sank to the ground in a swoon; was taken to the clinic in a state of syncope.
The air condition is lulling Riley into a deeper sleep in the downstairs living room. I should be taking this opportunity to look for work. Instead, I sit next to his play pen and inhale his cookies and lavender scent.
It’s just past noon on a weekday and Cecil and Joy have the day off. I hear my brother’s dogs shuffling their feet in the driveway as they search for shade and lap up water from their bowls. My brother is sleeping upstairs in his room, and will likely continue to do so deep into the day. As I sit here, staring at my baby’s chest rising and falling, I can’t help but think of how immensely lucky I am, and how thankful I am for my parents.

For a long time, I weaved the mysticism of my parents’ pre-family lives with grim tales of our family struggle. I had no idea where fanciful fairy tales might give way to real life, and if I’m honest I can tell you that I still don’t know. Did my father really stab a man? Did my uncle really kill people? Did my grandfather really have the ability to talk to bees and an amulet that kept him from getting shot by bullets? Historical accounts, exaggerations and whimsy – they are all mixed up into one gigantic mass of maybe.

In the transcript of life, these accounts are not italicized, omitted, or blacked out in broad strokes of ink. They sit side by side on a page, claiming equal importance and validity, as if memoirs of a girlhood among ghosts.

*****

It is warm when I realize that the power has shut down. Lost in my thoughts, I must have missed the collective groan of my neighbors and the expected declaration from the man across the street. “Brownout!” His announcement ushers in a collective sigh: not just of acquiescence, but of relief. It’s okay, we paid the electricity bill.

I open the windows and front door, pick up the wood and cloth fan, and try to stop Riley from sweating. There are already droplets on his brow, which doesn’t surprise me since he can sweat even when the air conditioner is on full-blast.

As my arms take turns swathing Riley in the cool breeze of broad strokes, I remember the last big black out of New York City. According to the internet, it happened in 2003, but my memory places it much earlier, to a time when my brother was not yet a ‘tween and I had barely entered my teens.

It was summer: humid, sticky, and oppressive. The workday was almost done, and inexplicably, the power had gone out. My parents were home with me and my brother, and having grown up in the Philippines, were old pros at dealing with electricity outages. They bought take-out and set up foldable tables and chairs in the backyard, and we all talked and laughed as we ate dinner and complained about the heat.

Mom dug through the bottom drawers of the china cabinet for candles and matches, and while she was bent over, examining her finds in the diminishing sunlight, she muttered to herself, “Geesh. I thought this only happened in the Philippines.”

Dad talked to us about looters. He was sure they would appear. How many and in what neighborhoods, he couldn’t say for certain. But a crime wave would pop. He swore it was unavoidable. (It didn’t happen.)

Later, as my family and I sat on the front stoop, I thought about the Summer of Sam. One of my favorite pastimes was imagining what I would do if faced with historical drama: would I cower in fear, or would I stand up for something? Would I fade into the background? Would I die?

The older men of the block congregated to the side of our house, exchanging news of how long the blackout was expected to last and where else it was happening. I watched it all – the terror, the fright – and felt as if the beginning of a horror movie was unfolding before me. A high-pitched shriek of fear and adrenaline ripped through my body. What if this was it? What if all hell broke loose in New York City on this particular night and hordes of people mobbed the streets, flipping over cars and tearing through houses in order to steal and satiate their primal need for bloodlust? Should I sleep with my shoes on and a small bag of necessities packed and ready to go? Should I tell my parents about the escape routes I had planned? Who were our allies? I never trusted the mechanic on our block…

My father turned away from the other men and stubbed out his Marlboro Light with the seasoned efficacy of a man who’s been smoking since his early teens. Despite his chain-smoking, his chest seemed puffed up. He had the air of no-nonsense, been-there-done-that. Other times, his display of machismo would signal to me a superiority complex, and my need to rebel against the existing patriarchy would rear its head. During the blackout, though, I was grateful for my dad’s leadership and charisma.

When we went back inside the house, I noticed that my mother had washed the dishes and tidied the house more than usual. This confirmed my fears of a raid, and my paranoia was only assuaged by the knowledge that with everything in its right place, there were no impediments to our speedy escape. I wondered if my mom had the same thoughts. I also wondered if she equated “robbers” with “guests”.

My senses seemed to be working double over-time, and the night was loud with static: summer, sex, and police sirens; an audible but obvious awareness of the blackout’s effects and implications; heightened energy; anxiety; urgency; danger; lust. I couldn’t help but wonder how many people would get high off of the warm warning signs of war, and succumb to sex. Or violence.

It was darker than I thought New York could ever be, as if the city’s parents had come home early, kicked out the party people, and sentenced its offspring to steep in dark solicitude and worry. There were plans brewing beneath the blackened streetlights. Moon-made shadows faded into the all-consuming blanket of darkness. Party people were dispersing the streets and congregating in other strees, possibly forming lynch mobs and riots.

The darkness was thick and black as a cauldron as all of these sensations bubbled to the top of my skin. I felt like I was watching from behind the curtains of my own eyes, as if the magnitude of reality was too much for me to stand. I saw my dad bring our dog, Kato, into the house, and that’s when I knew my dad meant business, and that my paranoia was well-founded.  Kato, was a chow-chow/collie mix with the ferocious heart and golden fur of a lion. He was loyal, obedient, and house-trained, and the only reason he stayed outside was because of my mom’s fear of him.

That night, after my mom had gone to work and as Kato kept sentry in front of the master bedroom door, my dad fanned my brother and I with a copy of The Daily News. The heat was flying off of us in huge waves. Sweat must have been pouring from his forehead and armpits.

As I stand over Riley’s playpen and dutifully fan him, I see myself in my dad and mom: responsibly taking charge of household tasks then shuffling to work; never complaining or making us feel inept or unloved; feeling one with the role of parent. They have instilled in me not only the capacity to act in this loving manner, but also the desire to do so, if only to prove my love.

So easily, as my back becomes sopping wet, other parallels dawn on me. Rob was 27 and I was 24 when Riley was born: the same ages as my parents when I was born. I spent the first few years of my life shuttling between New York and the Philippines, a lot like Riley’s doing. And my parents, even though they saw warning signs of hardship and difficulty, surged on with their relationship because it’s the only thing they knew how to do.

The other parts – my angsty teen years, my parents’ dysfunctional marriage, mine and Rob’s many problems, etc. – are conveniently blacked out from this version of my story as I stand over Riley’s playpen and ensure his comfort and good health. Most cleverly, my brain has wiped clean all of the assumptions and generalities that one could draw from my life and experiences. They are reduced to a loose collection of acts as the actors fret about on stage: my parents, me, Rob, my brother, Riley, Rob’s parents, friends, etc. Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it… Learn from others’ mistakes. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.

Perhaps, if I was smarter, I’d pick apart the pieces, overturn all the parts, and find a spine of meaning connecting it all and shining some reason onto the whole ridiculous and amazing affair.

In due time, perhaps that’s exactly what I’ll do.

Right now, I just want to experience the play-by-play as it’s happening and trust that it will etch itself onto my soul so I can share it after I’ve had my fill.

Blackout.