Vito immediately dropped his Legos and hugged Piero, gently covering his brother's ears. "Don't listen to her, Piero. You're not bantot." Then he turned to me and said, "Don't be mean, Mama."
"I wasn't being mean!" I protested. "I was just stating a fact."
"It's not nice to call him bantot," Vito insisted. "That hurt his feelings."
I couldn't think of any comeback to that save for an apology to Piero and also to Vito. Then I stared at this little boy who is more adult than the one adult in the room—his own mother!
There have been many times my husband Vince and I wonder about our eldest son. He's so responsible. I mean, why would a tiny child be responsible?!
Perhaps the best example of his being responsible was when we didn't have a yaya and maid and I was pregnant with Piero. It was early in 2014 and I was suffering the sleepiness and fatigue that come with the first trimester. Vito was 3-and-a-half, Iñigo was 1-and-a-half. They wake up at 6 a.m. and I would rise with them, prepare breakfast, and do our morning activities while Vince, who works late at night after a whole day taking care of his young sons and pregnant wife, slept.
One morning, however, I nodded off for around 10 minutes on the sofa. I snapped awake, in a panic, realizing that I had two toddlers in my care, and found Vito preparing bread for Iñigo's breakfast. When I started getting up, almost in tears from guilt and terror, Vito said, "It's okay, Mama. You sleep. You're tired. We'll watch TV. Then I wake you up when Iñigo poops, okay? Sleep na."
He was 3-and-a-half.
The memory of that morning still makes me cry. I feel guilt for falling asleep. I feel relief that nothing bad happened in the few minutes I was asleep (thank You, God!). I feel wonder and gratitude that I had a son who took care of his younger brother and his pregnant mother (he takes after his Papa!). And now that he's 5, he has an even more tender heart—always the big brother doting on his two kid brothers, always the one who runs to the door and kisses and hugs everyone who leaves and arrives, and always the one who asks God at night to "please bless everyone in the whole world, especially those who don't have mamas and papas anymore."
I don't really take credit for his being so wonderful. I think Vito really was born that way. I always felt that he was better than me or Vince, that his soul was brighter, and that I'm just lucky enough that God chose me to be the mother of this incredible boy. I never think he's the lucky one. I felt as soon as he came into the world that I was given a privilege, and that I... I mess up this privilege many times. So Vito is amazing not because of me and how we're bringing him up. He's amazing because he's teaching Vince and me how to grow up.
I don't know how such a little body can contain all the goodness in the world. And for the last five glorious years, Vince and I have been the grateful witnesses and recipients of that goodness. Our world is a better place because of our Vito, and one day, the rest of the world will see what we see and be all the better for it. I can't wait for that day!
But for today, I wish my first boy a happy birthday!
Vito, may your life be a blessing to others as it has been a blessing to us. May you grow in wisdom, health and love. May your compassion strengthen your heart when you face the world's cruelty, and may you always turn to Jesus when the days grow dark and evil. May you always say the way you do today, "Jesus is in my heart! I'm not afraid of anything!" May you always walk in light and courage and faith, finding favor in God and with every person you meet. God bless you, my darling boy. Happy birthday!
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