Monday, September 7, 2009

The Other Woman

In his sleep, I heard him call out another woman’s name.

No, this is not a tale about a spouse’s infidelity. This is about my son and the time he called out to Yayay, not Mama. My own flesh and blood. The feeling of betrayal was indescribable.

OK, it was not half as dramatic as that but the incident did tug at my heart at the time.

Let me backtrack a little. When my daughter was born and all throughout her toddler years, I had a job that saw me home before the sun set and left me with a great deal of time in my hands. As a result, she grew up seeing me around almost all the time.

It’s a totally different world that my son was brought into. It’s a world where I have a job that is as demanding as it is exciting. A world where going home early has become so rare, you’d have to squint your eyes to get accustomed to the light when you get the chance to leave the office with the sun still up. My boy ended up seeing less of his Mom, more of his Yayay.

I have long since acknowledged a possessive streak in me when it comes to my tribe. An officemate once shared how her daughter had fallen, scraped her knee and then plaintively hollered “Manang!” instead of Mom. I recall thinking that if it had been me, I’d have probably wailed miserably. I never expected that the opportunity to check my reaction would come up so soon.

With deliverables at work and the infamous EDSA traffic, I got home slightly later than usual that evening. I was met with the news that my son was asleep but had fever. So before going to bed, I made sure I had everything within reach --- the thermometer, basin of water and face towel to wipe him with in case he gets too hot, medicine and dropper--- and prepared for a sleep-deprived evening ahead.

My boy stirred in his sleep after midnight and just as I was about to reach out to check on his forehead, he started to cry and then wailed “Yayay!”. Of course, I figured he hadn’t seen me come home earlier so the poor boy must be disoriented. I picked him up, cradled him in my arms and whispered, “Mama’s here, baby.” In my mind, I expected, of course, that the sound of my voice and the loving warmth of my embrace would miraculously soothe him into silence and he’d sleepily mutter “Mama” before falling back to sleep upon my chest.

But no!!!!

If anything, he cried even more loudly, started thrashing wildly and called out to Yayay even more desperately. At the back of my mind, I wanted to go “Cut, Direk! Wrong script! Wrong Scene!”.

We had no choice but to summon Yayay. And she must have performed some witch’s spell because my traitor of a son was soon back to comfortable slumber.

If this had happened years ago, I would have dealt with a jealousy attack so strong I would have wallowed in guilt, in self-pity, in misery. But the world has changed. Times have changed. The situation has changed. So, my reaction was that of acceptance. Not exactly the cheerful, open-arms kind but peace-filled acceptance.

Because no matter how everything else has changed, nothing can change the fact that I am, will always be Joseph’s Mom. Yayay may have advanced to an expanded supporting role but I will always play the superstar title role in this movie entitled "Jxxxx"s Fabulous Mom!". And if he calls out Yayay's name, it does not mean he loves her more. Neither does it mean he loves me any less.

It just means he is calling out to a woman into whose care his mother has entrusted him. And it’s a trust very well placed upon this "other woman" who has been with my family for decades and with me since my first child was born. A woman whose selfless loving service to my family has allowed us to leave the house to go to work with complete sense of peace. A woman who loves my children ALMOST as much as I do.

My possessive streak is still there somewhere. But it has no reason to come into bud when it comes to my son and Yayay. He knows who his mom is...and even if he does not see too much of her during weekdays, he will grow up feeling, knowing, believing that no one in the world can love him more than his Mama.

Yes...that includes future girlfriends. But that's an entirely different story.