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.
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.
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.