Why Motherhood is Like Playing Dominoes

Contributed by Marlene Legaspi Munar


Photo courtesy of Ruth Livingstone

Not all of you may be mothers, but definitely, you all have mothers. Some of you may have pleasant memories of your mothers, some may have forgettable ones. It may not be Mother's Day, but it's always timely to hear a story from a mother.

I flagged down a jeep to take me home. After attending a two-hour PTA meeting, I squeezed my way through the crowd and boarded the jeep so I could reach home by 6:00 P.M. For sure the children were already waiting for me and I didn’t want them to be anxious.

After a while, a familiar face stepped into the same public vehicle and greeted me as soon as she recognized me. Her slender figure was clothed in a lilac blouse and a slightly darker pencil-cut skirt. Though smiling, she was obviously tired.

"Hi Ma'am!" I smiled back at my son's former teacher. "Going home?"

"No, I'm going to tutor one more student. Just one more…" I learned that after class, she tutors a pupil and now she’s on her way to one more tutee before she heads back home.

“You’re so hardworking,” I remarked.

“It would be a loss if I don’t work as hard. The fees also help augment our income," she said, referring to her and her husband's earnings.

I wondered if she still had the time to prepare dinner for her family. On my part, I had pre-cooked our dinner and all I needed to prepare was the rice. "Actually, I have no more time to cook for my family,” she said. My mother-in-law cooks for us. After eating, I just go to bed."

"Do you have kids?" I asked. This is the first time I had talked to her lengthily about her family. She nodded. "Sometimes I feel guilty because I no longer have time to teach my first born who is in Grade One." She seemed embarrassed by her confession. But I sensed pride in her voice when she added, "Surprisingly, he's on top of his class!" I congratulated her for her son's achievement.

"You know what my son told me? He said, ‘Mommy, you teach other kids but you don’t teach me.’”

I tried to imagine what that boy must have felt having a teacher-mother who could not be by his side all the time to help him with his homework. I know there are other boys and girls like him whose fathers and mothers are so busy working that, even if they would like to, their tired minds and bodies can no longer bear another task. Or whatever energy that's still left is, unfortunately, reserved for an extended work at home. That's what happened to me and my son Ephraim.

Later that night, I was so engrossed preparing for my Research Methodology class in a seminary where I teach part-time. It was my first time to teach the subject so I really needed to study hard. My eyes were already drooping. Imagine, I did the usual household chores in the morning; I taught half of the day; attended the PTA meeting in the afternoon; and I dropped by a friend’s house to borrow an electric drill—and now I had to prepare a lesson plan.

That's why I barely noticed Ephraim playing with his dominoes, not until I asked him to go to bed. He was lining up his dominoes, spacing each black tile so that each one would lean and topple the one next to it in perfect motion and timing. Probably because he was rushed into finishing his project, the black pieces didn't collapse thoroughly. He didn't succeed at completing a domino effect. Frustrated, he cried, buried his head on the bed and whined, "That's because you didn't help me!"

Initially, I defended myself. I reasoned I was busy working so I wasn't able to help him set up his dominoes. Then I softened as I recalled that when I was also in elementary, I cried once because my mother could not help me with my homework because she was busy with her business. I felt deprived, and I think, even unloved. I forgot what my mother told me to appease me the night I cried. But I do remember that she hugged me.

And so I hugged Ephraim. I felt sorry and asked him to forgive me. He did. With a promise to help him next time, he went to bed.

Most of the time, being a mother is like playing dominoes. I hope I could get the exact white dots that could fit perfectly into my children's dots. Now as a working mom, I always hope that my work schedule would jive with my children’s school program, sports fest and other activities. But, as in a domino game, sometimes I have no choice but to "pass" and just get back in the next round. Sometimes I wish my two kids could connect with me. I wish they could understand my dreams as well as my fears, my struggles as well as my victories. I am thankful when my children don’t make huge demands; when they understand and cooperate with me. But when they can't, I must give them the chance and the right to say "pass". After all, they too can run out of the right piece.

Making the rectangular pieces stand next to each other and toppling them by just one tap of the finger is fun and exciting. Once they've collapsed, you start all over. But it's not exciting when my children's trust in me collapses. Unlike a few minutes' task of setting up the dominoes for a rerun, rebuilding my children's trust in me may take a longer time, even a lifetime.

I'm thankful that God knows how to reconnect with me. Not that He is at fault. He is the perfect Father in heaven, and I am the prodigal daughter. But even while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me and reconciled me to God the Father. Through His Holy Spirit now dwelling in my heart, I can be in touch with God. As I walk closely with God who gifted me with two children, I understand more clearly my priorities as a mother. I am humbled when I realize that sometimes I also fail, yet the grace of God prevails. I start again, with God's help, determined to be connected with my children again.

Question for Reflection: Our desire to be connected with our heavenly Father should be greater than our desire to stay connected with our children. What steps or adjustments do you need to do to be closer to God?

Marlene Legaspi-Munar has notebooks full of reflections on her experiences with her two children (actually, they're now teens!). When not writing, translating, or conducting writing workshops, Marlene cooks meals for her family or dreams about going on a family vacation. Read some of her articles on parenting, relationships, and writing in her blog http://www.yahmunar.blogspot.com.

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