Rawr! Here’s to 18 months of tigredom

“Go get em tiger” pays tribute to Keaton’s orange and vibrant tiger summer hat. Every time I see it, I’m reminded of him.

It was with a heavy, yet loving and trusting heart that I painted this rock for Keaton the other night. It was the day when he’d experienced his first heartbreak at the park — my first heartbreak as a parent, too. When he went to explore his usual playhouses — they’re his favourite, as there are sit-in kitchens and doors that he loves to open and close — another little boy, perhaps two to three years old, claimed his territory and angrily told Keaton to “get out,” and even gestured repeatedly for him to leave. Keaton stood there, looking confused and sad. I could tell that he knew in his sentimental heart that it was a different encounter. It was his first experience with an unkind situation, and seeing the sadness in his eyes and him not knowing what to do, broke my heart to pieces.

I felt paralyzed at that moment, too, as a parent who’s new to a situation like this. Thus, I led Keaton by the hand elsewhere. But my heart wasn’t, and couldn’t, be still. I couldn’t allow a kid who was still learning about social interactions himself, to get away with his unkind act, especially when his parents only paid lip service and took no concrete action to ensure that their son was mindful of other children. (I see many of those at the park.) So I took Keaton back to the playhouse to stand our ground, and rightfully so. The little boy was enraged that my son was back; but this time, I told him calmly yet firmly that the playhouse was public, and that my son could be there too. It was only then that the little boy felt himself unable to intimidate and began telling me about his imaginary coffee machine, which I played along with to normalize and de-escalate the situation. I didn’t like the kid, and I sure as hell didn’t like the parents.

As a parent now, I’ve learned that the park isn’t all that much of a fun and innocent place; it’s also imbued with its own dark moments. And jeebus, can it be a dog-eat-dog world there. I’m taken aback by how brutal it can be, especially for young ones who are just starting to explore the world and social dynamics. Right now, Keaton is still so young, so it’s important for me to support him at all costs, especially at a time in his infancy when he doesn’t have the tools and skills to support himself yet. It’s equally important that he knows that his mommy and daddy will always be by his side, and that he mustn’t ever back down in life because of others’ intimidation. While the situation broke my heart — frankly, I wanted to cry that night because Keaton’s eyes told me everything I needed to know — I was also glad it happened. Life’s not all roses and will always be full of paradoxes. Thus, it’s important for Keaton to learn as much in order to develop his character as he grows older, because there will come a time when we won’t be there for him any longer and he’ll have no choice but to fend for himself. And I trust that in due time, he’ll have the tools and wisdom to do right by himself and his loved ones.

This is why I painted him this rock. He’s a little tiger. He’s our little tiger. It’s in his nature and blood. He’s strong, brave, perceptive, and instinctive. And insanely quick at prancing at his target (why we’re exhausted to pieces). This rock is dedicated to him. It’s a reminder to him that he’s a tiger, and that he has the innate skills and strength to channel his experiences wisely and compassionately, and with conviction and courage, if he so chooses. To experience fear and uncertainty, yet to charge forward boldly in the midst of it, with the utmost bravery and spirit… this is the philosophy of a warrior of life.

Keaton enjoying his playhouse the morning after it was built.

It’s kind of funny how life plays out. Perhaps it’s synchronicity, but his daddy happened to order him his own playhouse; and it arrived just a day or two shy of the unpleasant encounter. It’s as if the universe was on Keaton’s side and nudged to him that all was fine — that he’d have his own little playhouse, in his own safe haven where he knows that he’s loved and cared for. Having this playhouse in our abode is also healing for us; we know the universe has balanced itself. It’s universal and karmic law. And Keaton is so happy in it, too. It was so sweet to watch his reaction when his daddy started assembling the pieces. He was also trying to help his daddy build it. And best of all, Kong-Ma were there to witness it all. The joy and love.

What’s new in our household besides my usual contemplation on ‘parks and parents’, as my husband would sarcastically put it? Rocks, of course. When life is tough and the future is unpromising and unpredictable, and hope is bleak and forlorn, sometimes, it’s the little things that sustain an individual. For me, my happy place is currently painting rocks, a simple activity that’s amazingly meditative and that brings me so much peace and happiness.

I painted this one recently. I love the starry night sky and I long to witness it atop a mountain, surrounded by the shadows of sleeping trees. I’ve always wanted to witness the Aurora Borealis, too. So this painting is a reminder to myself of where my dream lives. The three figures in the middle symbolize my husband, myself, and our son; we’re all holding hands and looking at the sky. I look forward to experiencing this sightly moment with my family.
My husband painted this one. This is the front side.
Here’s the back side! When he found this rock with a crack, he knew exactly what he wanted to paint. I also knew. It turned out so cartoonish and artistic, haha! I love how he’s an explosion of ideas and creativity. I can’t for the life of me come up with creative ideas; it takes me a whole astronomical light year.

Besides painting rocks, I’ve been finding pleasure in decorating our abode with autumn and Halloween decor. (It’s September, guys. No judgement, please. I have every right here.) I’m also enjoying wearing cardigans, pant leggings, and my Converse shoes. There’s something comforting about sweater weather: I feel safe in my clothes, like I can hide in them as if they were a big blanket. Unlike summer, I feel every justified reason to be cozy and comfortable, and I’ve always loved that; and as a mom now, I love that more than ever. I’m looking forward to transitioning from my colourful feminine summer dresses to wearing my all-black attires. “I like them dark like my soul,” I tell my husband. Whereas summer garnishes smiles and laughter — even then I’ve always felt a large discrepancy between the clear sunny skies and my own internal landscape — autumn nudges me towards my introversion and to retreat and look within myself. Autumn feels honest, raw, and wholesome. The leaves never hide their true colours, nor does one’s soul.

Keaton now calls the cat “mew mew” to repeat after me. But he only says words once, so we always have to listen carefully. He likes to keep us on our toes.
My kitchen table can’t stay organized for more than a deep breath… here’s to the only time it’ll look this cute.
Our basket of painted rocks. The other ones are already washed and awaiting painting!

Also, a very happy 18 months today to our dear Keaton-ai! 18 months of pure growth and learning and exhaustion. And a boy so energetic, meticulous, perceptive, sensitive, and atypical… we consider ourselves blessed. There’s no other version of him we’d choose to have. We love you, our sweet love.

Bubbo & Paint

Keaton loves exploring toy cars at the park. Always gotta check the wheels and the mechanics of all the parts to make sure that they work!

We discovered a new park recently, and so far, it’s our favourite park. (We’re park hoebeans.) Not only is this new one close to our home, and the walk there a quiet and pleasant experience without heavy traffic, but it also has all the kiddie fun of a park, plus more. Besides the usual play structure, this park also has many car toys and trucks that littles ones can ride or play with. There are even bubbles on the picnic table for kids to enjoy. (This is how Keaton learned how to say ‘bubbles’, or what is actually ‘bubbo’ to him.) I’m not sure if all these additions were left as donations to the park from families or the community, but I’m very thankful. They make the park ever more vibrant and exploratory for kids, and my son loves them. For myself, I also love that the park has wood shavings instead of sand. I’ve lived my whole summer in a hot sandbox, so this is such sweet relief for my tired toe beans.

The park is also imbued with nature’s gift: rocks. It looks as if the park rains rocks, because there’s just so many all around; and they’re all so shapely, smooth, and lustrous. Almost idyllic. One day, my husband picked up a few, popped them in the stroller, and came up with the idea of painting them; and thus started our journey towards rock painting.

Keaton’s first painted rock! I’m so proud of and in love with it, because it’s him and it’s his first. I guided his hand a bit, of course. Otherwise, he would’ve painted everything but the rock itself.
This one is my first painted rock. Featuring daddy, mommy, and Keaton-ai. These are the same little fur characters that I’d draw on my husband’s lunchbox napkins back when we started dating. I painted our family over a rainbow here because in the midst of eighteen months of memorable yet gloomy times, we fought with strength, togetherness, and will. There was no other way but to appreciate the joyous fleeting moments that made life more bearable. And this was our family’s journey with all its imperfections — yet sealed with love.
My husband painted me a lady turtle. She even has a red bow. Super cute because she also reminds me of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” — a true homage to our first dates. We painted our rocks together at the dinner table when Keaton fell asleep one night. It was a simple date night, but through painting and the creative act, we were able to connect with each other and with our own soul.
This one turned out spontaneously Christmas-y. Perhaps subconsciously I was craving the colder winter months. “You skipped on Halloween!” my husband roared. A true betrayal on my end.
Our painted rock collection, so far.

I’ve already had so much fun painting the few, and I can’t wait to paint more. I think rock painting will now become my new hobby. It’s quick and easy; it’s mediative and creative; and the rocks add so much colour and happiness to our home. Mama here is on cloud-9! I just have to be mindful not to steal all the rocks from the park.

I painted this one for my parents. It’s Kong-Kong (Grandpa), Keaton, and Ma-ma (Grandma) together, holding hands. The balloon that Keaton’s holding, as well as the colourful birthday ribbons and decor, all symbolize the times when Kong-Ma would sing “Happy Birthday” to him. It’s their theme song together.

Besides my new interest in painting rocks, we’ve also started introducing Keaton to painting in general. I must admit that the set-up takes more time and effort than the painting itself, which is frustrating because he only plays with the paint and for one minute at a time, and then resorts to throwing his brushes and paper on the floor; but nevertheless, I enjoy these moments very much. He’s such a contrarian; there’s no other way with this kiddo but laughter.

Keaton’s first official painting. My father had always kept our art work and scribbles and dated them since we were mere nuggets, and now, I’m doing the same with my son. I’ve stashed it away safely, and I look forward to the day when he’s old enough for me to show it to him and for us to look back at his childhood with nostalgic warmth.