My husband and I held hands and tip toed quietly to take a sneak peek at Keaton while he was sleeping peacefully. It was surprising for us to see him fall asleep so early after arriving home from Kong Ma’s (my parents). After screaming in the hallway three times — it seems to be his tradition to tell the world that he, the Little Lord, is home — he fell asleep on his daddy’s shoulders shortly after he picked him up from the stroller. This was so uncommon for us because we expected him to grow fussy and cry for milkies, since it’s often the case that he gets overtired after a long day of fun with his grandparents, and therefore cranky at home.
But tonight was different. He accepted his daddy holding him, and even cuddled against the nook of his neck and shoulder. “Is he okay?,” we pondered. And for good reason: earlier today, he fell face forward at the park and hit his face on the cement. His forehead was badly scratched with spots of blood; a little bit of blood trickled from his nose; and later, a big bruise ensued in the middle of his forehead. When I saw him fall and heard his harsh cries, I wanted to die. I felt the rush of anger towards myself and the self-blame, while lovingly and gently patting him on his back, dancing with him, and assuring him that he was OK, all the while also pointing to his beloved plants and trees so as to distract him from his current pain.
I wish I hadn’t taken him to the park today. After all, it was a rainy day and perhaps we both needed a break, since I do already take him out on walks or to the park daily, sometimes for hours on end. So a day like today would’ve been ideal to just go to my parents’ and nestle inside. But therein lies my weakness and downfall as an individual, and therefore, as a parent: I refuse to take a break or let things go. If I hadn’t taken him to the park and just accepted that today would be a day to rest, he wouldn’t have slipped on the slippery cement. But it was my obsessive thought that he needed to be outdoors every single day, which stemmed from a place of fear, that, in the end, hindered my judgement. If I may psychoanalyze myself, I’d say it’s a major source of anxiety and stress in my daily life.
The greatest hardship right now for my husband and I is seeing him hurt. Yesterday, he also had a rough fall off the wagon in the playground, that ended in him falling forward and banging his chin and jaw — his head jerking back. The scene is still fresh in our minds — a nightmare. “What if he’d broken his neck?,” my husband cried. As parents, we always blame ourselves, even if 99% of the time we’re present and with him. With Keaton, however, we can never drop our guard — not even for a split second, because he’s scarily explosive and quick. All it takes is one second for anything to go wrong. I’m a walking tremor for this reason. Every day my mind is filled with constant worry. My husband and I joke that it might be genetics, for his mother also had to put him in a harness when he was a toddler. We laugh about it, but I do feel a lot of empathy for her and for all parents whose children are the Usain Bolt(s) and David Blaine(s) of toddlerhood.
Little Keaton has experienced many falls on his head and face over time — almost daily. His face is constantly covered with cuts and/or bruises, and often times in the same location. I worry that all the hits and falls might cause damage to his brain over time. So far, though, I feel it’s safe to say that he’s never displayed any symptoms of abnormality. In fact, even after having experienced hard blows, he’d continue playing and smiling. He even hugged his Kong Kong (grandpa) today when we arrived at their house, as if life for him was all sunshine and rainbows. It was an endearing sight and such sweet relief to see him act like himself. I’m always in awe of how resilient and mentally strong he is. Yet there’s something sad about this powerful sight: that even a little toddler has the will to go on, when we adults sometimes don’t. There’s much wisdom in it.
Our little Keaton is a tornado of sorts, on all levels. He’s physically agile and explosive; he’s mentally sharp with an impressive ability to problem solve and utilize his wits; and he’s also very caring and loving. He’s a lot to handle in a small package. In fact, I’d often faint when I was pregnant with him. There were times when I fainted on the street or in my office at work, and those around me had to call an ambulance. As expected, all hospital results turned out normal. Back then, I made a joke to my husband that his energy level in my belly must’ve been so high that it was causing me to faint. Lo and behold, my assessment was quite accurate. After his birth at the hospital, the only cries that the staff and floor heard, were his. No other baby was as vocal as he was, and thus I knew: this child of mine would turn out a tad extra. And every day after that day has been a testament to it.
I’m oh so tired. Sometimes I secretly wish he was more calm like other toddlers his age — whose parents have the freedom to actually talk to each through dinner or enjoy a coffee — but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t appreciate his very essence. I love him so much, more than life itself. I’ve gone through much pain to see to it that he’s healthy and thriving. The mastitis was the worst pain of my life — worse than labour itself. I felt like my breasts were being cut and sliced open with knives, over and over again. I cried breastfeeding him and scrunched my toes and bit my tongue throughout those days and nights. I also grew a debilitatingly high fever that left me feeling lifeless — I felt like I was going to die. All during a time when the pandemic had just begun and hospitals and clinics were in a panicked frenzy. At a time when I had absolutely no help. No physical or moral support. It was my husband who fed me back to life. But I kept going and going, and never gave up on breastfeeding. When I looked at my son, I knew there was no pain in life that I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, endure.
And 16 months later, today, I feel no different. There’s nothing in this world that could weaken my knees when it comes to my son. Sometimes there are days when little Keaton makes me want to bang myself upside the head with a frying pan so that I could perhaps see stars and retire from life for a brief moment, for want of peace, if anything. There are also days when he exhausts me so much that I want to just hide in the closet and sleep, and not come out for another three decades or so. But as difficult as he (and parenting) can be at times, when I see him sleeping peacefully or smiling at me, I thank life and the universe for this blessing. I feel so incredibly in love with him. And the sweetest blessing is knowing deep in my heart that he was born mine for a reason.
Being your mother has been, by far, the most difficult yet joyous feat of my life. You’ve shaken me from the inside out, and in the process, you’ve brought me forgiveness, strength, and healing. I smile in the midst of it all because I have a very cute little teacher by my side, and every day I feel humbled that you have the power to transform me, just by being who you are. The unwinding road of motherhood and of self can sometimes be unforgiving and ruthless, but never unfair. Don’t you agree? Thank you for continually bringing me back to myself.
With your innate perceptivity and compassion, you bring healing, growth, and love to all that cross your path. I hope you’ll grow to honour your light and soul’s purpose; the world needs it. It’s already more colourful and vibrant with you in it.