“Mama, jangan pergi Jakarta!” (Mama, don’t go to Jakarta!)
Twin1 greeted me with these words the moment I reached home yesterday. He was smiling his usual cheeky grin so, for a moment, I thought he was just pulling my leg, especially when he added, “Don’t go anywhere farther than the airport!”
But later that evening, when he barged into my room wailing “Mama, jangan pergi Jakarta!” once again, it just broke my heart. I braced myself, knowing that I had a lot of convincing to do.
I couldn’t blame him for being upset; I’ve been traveling way more than usual for the past month — to Dubai and Oman on the last week of September, followed by a short jaunt in Jakarta the following week, then to Shanghai last week, and now, yet another trip to Jakarta.
But how do you explain adult concepts like ‘work’ and ‘commitment’ to a 5-year old? The easiest thing would have been to say “All right, I won’t go” just so he’d stop crying. But then I knew that I’d still have to fly anyway and that just might only make things worse for me in the end.
So I sat down and took him in my arms. I looked at him in the eye and told him as gently but as firmly as I could, “Abang (Big Brother), Mama has work to do in Jakarta. Mama does not want to go but Mama has to go.”
As expected, that made the wailing rise to a crescendo. But I persisted. “But next week, I promise I won’t go anywhere. I will be home the whole week next week.”
The tears just continued falling. “Jangan pergi Jakartaaaaaaaa….”
At my wits’ end, I held him tighter and decided to go with the truth.
“Abang, Mama has work to do in Jakarta and Mama has to go tomorrow. Would you rather have me lie to you and say I’m not going but go anyway?”
Tears streaming down his face, he shook his head.
“But can you come home Wednesday?” he sobbed. Ahh…finally! A glimmer of hope.
“My plane ticket is for Thursday but I will try to come back Wednesday.”
At this point, his younger twin piped in, “Because sometimes there is no aeroplane, right, Mama?”
And just like magic, Twin1 stopped crying altogether and switched back to his usual exuberant self, asking me to read the two of them a bedtime story.
This morning, when I dropped them off at school, I hugged each twin tightly one by one. After Twin2 skipped away to his class, Twin1 lingered behind for just one more hug. I embraced him fiercely and reminded him that I’m off to Jakarta today, would try to be back Wednesday but if I can’t make it, will be home by Thursday. Beaming, he turned to me and whispered in Tagalog, “Mahal na mahal kita!” (I love you very much!)
Moral of the story:
1. Children are capable of understanding more than you think they can.
2. The truth really does set you free.
3. But the guilt that a working mother has to deal with? It never gets any easier.