In one conversation with the husband, we noted how our neighborhood was sprouting more children every month. We’re often deathly scared of running over tiny toes whose owners were never taught to step aside when a car is coming along. In the afternoons, we see fathers or mothers dragging a child by the arm with the child crying wildly. Coming home close to midnight, we wonder why 6- and 7-year-olds are still at our driveway playing on their own.
The solution, my husband claims, should be licenses to become parents.
Licenses are issued to professionals – the more difficult the skill, the longer the education and the more difficult the exam to get the license.
Doctors go to school longer than accountants who go through their education longer than drivers and plumbers. All of them are issued licenses to say they are competent and skilled enough to do their work. For that matter, note also that we need licenses to get married!
I wish I had a parent license!
These days, I’m at my wits’ end trying to figure out my kids. I wish there was a parenting school where I could go and a “professional teacher” with whom I could consult when my girls are screaming at and hitting each other over a plastic ball.
I need a parenting textbook which will tell me what to do when one sister snatches a toy away from the other, and then they both refuse to talk to each other.
I have written about sibling rivalry, but sometimes, what I research do not come close to reality. It is a long way from reading about it, and actually using my own advice.
I also want classes on how to combat the summer-time “Nanaaaaaaay, I’m boooooooored” whine. I have been looking online but most of the advice available are for parents who can be with their children full time.
There are many sites that give parenting tips and tricks to make a mother’s life easier. I find that a lot of them make sense, but cannot always apply to Tsinoy parents or households.
Without any licensing involved, there are ways parenting can be a bit more manageable. Here are some quirky tips and tricks that have worked for me so far.
Because I’m a nanay
I have fed and nurtured in my children the delusion that all mothers are omniscient and omnipotent.
When I arrive home, and they tell me about school, they usually skip the bad parts. Their teacher would have texted me about a school incident already, like when Achi spat on her classmate (which she claims “I was just blowing at him but there was laway!”).
I would then ask, “So why don’t you tell me about this classmate and what you did.”
Their large eyes would stare at me as if I grew another head and the inevitable question would come, “How do you know?”
“Because I’m a nanay, so I know.”
The downside is that because they believe I can do everything, Shobe expects me to bake! Both girls love cake and cookies; even their games on the iPad are all about cooking and baking. Ouch. I cook quite well, but stay well away from the oven. A friend is currently teaching me to figure out how to bake in a toaster oven. Or horror of horrors, I have to learn to bake.
Achi is starting to figure out that the line is a joke. Sometimes, when I tell her “because I’m a nanay,” she’ll smile and agree. Sometimes, I catch her saying the same thing to her Shobe, tongue-in-cheek… “don’t do that. Nanay will know, because she’s a nanay!”
Arts and crafts
Because Achi and Shobe like decorating and painting stuff, I have been letting them paint whatever I get my hands on. Even their playmates who do not like art, as their parents claim, delve into finger painting when given a large piece of paper to paint on.
I think a lot of us have found the benefit of using toilet paper tubes to store cables and chargers. These days, I have been asking mall custodians for the commercial toilet paper tube. They are wider than regular tubes and fit the larger-headed chargers.
The kids enjoy painting them or decorating them with glossy magazines or glitters and sequins. The girls also decorated the main box used for all the chargers and cables.
Bottles are now another “in” thing for our arts and crafts projects. Achi can now hold the glue gun and press the trigger to let the glue out.
She puts random designs on a glass jar, usually because she cannot control the flow of the hot glue yet. I spray paint on the bottle afterwards and voila, we have an instant gift for someone. (Unfortunately, my friends are now inundated with craft jars for which they really have no use.)
My kids are now six and four so they now understand not to waste water. When in the past, they would let water keep flowing in the sink, they now know to turn off the faucet when not in use. That does not mean they cannot still have fun.
Summer time also means stinkier dogs. Our pets get baths three times a week rather than their usual once a week. The girls both enjoy shampooing and washing the dogs off. All four (humans and dogs) take their baths at the same time. The play time is really doing the household a great service.
Even Shobe is now balanced enough to help wash the dishes. A lot of nights, Achi soaps the dishes and cups, Shobe rinses, I put them away.
Another water game is to help do the laundry. Our helper does the laundry twice a week, and on those days, the girls help her sort whites from coloreds; take out all the underwear and put them in a bucket to soak; load the washing machine, rinse the smaller items that they can carry.
The perfect bonus – suds, lots and lots of suds that they smear all over themselves. It is just a really long bath with not much water wasted.
Tools of the trade
And then, there are the little things that make parents smile.
Oral syringes. If you have relatives in western countries, they can get oral syringes for you at the local drugstore with their own kids’ prescriptions.
Here, I just buy regular five milliliter syringes and make do. The main difference is that oral syringes have a longer tip, making it easier to get medicine from a bottle. They are perfect for giving bitter tasting medicine to babies and toddlers.
As they grew older, my girls still preferred the syringe to the little medicine cup. With the syringe, I can insert the tube in the mouth near the throat so when the medicine is squirted, the child immediately swallows and barely tastes the bitters.
Faucet extensions. I cut off the bottom of a plastic juice bottle whose head fit our faucet quite neatly. The kids can now wash their hands without having an adult help them reach the water flow. They step on a squat stool and use the plastic tube to lift the faucet handle to turn it on, insert the extension, and wash their hands.
I got the idea from an online page my cousin forwarded to me (I can’t find the page anymore, though). Sorry this does not work with faucets that have to be turned. Bring a smaller extension like a water bottle to malls and they fit most public toilet faucets.
Plastic bottles with squeeze-out caps. I don’t really know what these caps are called or if they even have names. But bottles with flip top caps that open to reveal little holes are my friends.
An old squeeze-type ketchup bottle is for cooking pancakes. I put the pancake batter inside the bottle, and the kids can squeeze out the batter onto the non-stick pan. The kids can design anything with the pancake bottle, although, I am getting tired of flower and heart pancakes.
Achi likes her pancakes a bit toasted so she makes thin lines that make for the crunchier crusts she likes best.
This adds to the nanay delusion that I’m so great because I can design pancakes.
Gravy for chicken and fish are put in smaller squeeze-type bottles. Gravy is squeezed out straight into the meat, ergo one less sauce plate for washing.
Plus, all the leftover gravy can stay in the refrigerator for close to a week, ready for another meal.
Boxes. Shoe boxes, cereal boxes, moon cake tins, tea tins and every other box I can find. The kids’ toy closet is easily fixed and organized. All boxes are labeled for easy organizing. Packing away is not as difficult as daunting as before because the items fit the boxes quite well.
These are very simple things that save time and effort on the parent’s side because they don’t have to watch their kids every second of the day. The girls are entertained but not by all the gadgets lying around the house. Kids are happy; Nanay is happy. — First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 27, nos. 1-2 (June 17-July 7, 2014): 18-19.