My Little Big Ate
Last night, I had a hard time when I was reviewing Alia for her Final Quarter Exam in Math. It was a struggle for me because I know that Math has never been her favorite subject in school plus I observed that she was not in her usual good mood to study. I tried to be calm and extra patient but she didn’t buy it.
Although, I realized that I must have been putting unnecessary pressure on my 5 year old daughter, I still insisted on her. In my mind, I thought that she had to benefit from the review because she didn’t make good enough on the two previous long tests in Math. This final exam is her last chance to maintain her grade in Math at least.
She recalled most of their lessons from first to third quarter but she seemed confused with adding and subtracting although I explained to her several times. As I repeated further, all the more she got puzzled. Finally, she put her pencil down, looked intently at me and said:
“Ma, did your mommy teach you your lesson when you were going to school?”
I was shocked, but before I could answer her, she said, “Ma, I already learned this subtraction last week from my teacher…and now, you got me all confused!” Then she sobbed.
It broke my heart seeing my daughter so upset (because of me). I hugged her tight and explained to her that I was only trying to help her so she would do well on her exam.
She looked at me again, and said, “Okay, you want me to get good grade… but how will I remember all these things when I am so tired and sleepy and you are shouting at me at the same time?”
I was dumbfounded. Boy, how could I be so naïve?!
I stood up and told her I would get her a glass of milk from the kitchen. It was more of an “escape’ than a temporary relief for me.
When I got back, Alia had composed herself back (or was it I who did so?). I tried to be more relaxed with her. I gave her more time to think and do the practice tests mostly by herself.
It has been a rough week for us since our housemaid unexpectedly left. Since then, we were trying to get a replacement but we were not lucky.
For me, it means a heavily taxing week: laundry, cooking, cleaning, babysitting, tutoring Alia (thank God it’s her last week at school this week), plus plus plus. It also means no badminton, no brisk walking with friends, no workout, no malling, no shopping. To top it all, I have a regular 8 hour work in the office and a two hour part time work every other day. Somebody up there might as well turn me a Superwoman soon!
So, early morning on weekdays, while Alia goes to school, we drop Aisha to a day care/ babysitter. She never liked the idea and so we had to force her to stay there. Alia joins her at the same place after her morning class. I spared myself from having to go through this dilemma so I asked Eric to drop Aisha by to leave her.
Yesterday, I decided to leave work early and go to the day care/ babysitter to check on Alia and Aisha. They were both asleep when I reached the place. I counted 11 kids in one room. Four of them were older than Alia, five were almost in the same age as Aisha. I saw one boy locked in a seat carrier which was tied up near a huge cabinet. I asked the girls why the boy was placed like that and one of them told me that he is naughty and that is punishment for him. I witnessed how the little boy tried to squeeze himself out from the seat carrier and he stumbled many times, hurting himself. I tried to help him but the rope was tight. Then I asked the attendant to release him (as he was obviously hurt and very uncomfortable), but she just shrugged it off. She said that indeed, the boy is very naughty and if he gets free from the chair, he would mess up with other kids.
So I sat in the corner of the room. Although Alia and Aisha were still sleeping, I wished Eric would come to pick us up immediately but he was busy at work.
While other kids were playing in and out of the room, Alia woke up. When she saw me, she rushed towards me and hugged me. She asked if I’m done from work and if I came to pick them up. I told her yes and she said she wanted to stay for another 10 minutes to play with the other kids. I nodded at her.
Then after a while, Aisha also woke up. When she saw me, she run towards me and cried. In between sobs, she told me that her Papa left her in that place since morning and he didn’t come back to get her. She asked me if we could then to go home.
Suddenly, the other kids, came inside the room carrying some toys. They wanted to play restaurant make-believe. I noticed that the boy (who was tied up) struggled to stand and reach a toy-ice cream which one of the older girls were holding. Immediately, the girl kicked him. In disbelief, I stood up and pulled the girl’s hand.. but another girl beat the boy’s head and the other kids followed. The poor boy covered his face with his hands and started to cry.. but the other kids continue to hit him. I heard Alia shouting: “Hey!! Stop, stop! (she pushed the other kids away from the boy)..Don’t hurt him!” She shouted.
The other kids stopped and looked at her, puzzled. I saw Alia reached for the boy and put her arms around him, as if trying to protect him. “He’s just a baby! Don’t hurt him!” she told the other kids.
Sounding irritated, one of the girls blurted, “HMP! (pointing her finger at Alia) Jan ka na nga! Wag ka ng makikipaglaro sa min!!!” (“You stay there, don’t play with us anymore!”)
Then she stormed out of the room and the other kids followed behind her like an army.
Although Alia looked upset (upon hearing that the older girls told her she could not play with them again), she tried to comfort the little boy. I noticed that Aisha had clutched herself beside me more tightly. She looked at me and then to Alia, but she didn’t say anything. I knew she was as shocked as me and confused…
I often think that Alia is tougher than any girls her age. I mean for a girl, she’s not as refined as my family thought I was when I was little.
But this girl’s heart is amazing. Her compassion exudes from her small built and would inspire any adult she gets a chance to talk with- that is, of course, when she’s in good mood.
While I was forcing her to get good grades at school, I may have missed my daughter’s sensitivity and sometimes, her right of being a child. I always need to be reminded to let her take her time and develop her skills, academic and otherwise, at her own pace—no forcing—because I, for one, was never forced in any way to do what I don’t want to do—neither at school or at home.
At the end of the day, I realized that my daughters, with the special bonding we have right now, share with me the burden of us living abroad apart from most loved ones and family. We all get tired, stressed, upset, and reach almost- giving up -moments at certain times. But standing for what we think is right, and carrying on the values we learned from our family and the generations before us, no matter if odds are against us, would definitely be a great advantage as we meet and deal with people of all races, ages, and religion in this foreign land—for only God knows until when our stay here lasts.
What makes me happy?
People. Everyone around me who believes and inspires me- my family, my husband, my two beautiful girls, my friends and colleagues.
Life itself is a happy experience. The world is a happy place.
I had my own share of struggles, life was not easy for us back then but my Dad taught me how to believe in myself, work hard , be kind and to be strong. He inspired me to go out of my comfort zone. He used to tell me that the possibilities in life are endless and so I believed him.
l Iost him quite a few years ago but he has left me with so much inspiration to follow my dreams - to visit places I have only dreamt of or have seen in the movies when I was little and to do things I thought were only for the privileged few.
Wherever I go, I always remember my Dad, wishing he could see me from afar and somehow be proud of me as I have always been so proud of him. Life is short and I promised him that I would make the most of mine.
Travelling makes me happy and in all other things, I choose happiness. We all should- always..