ANY number, multiplied by zero, becomes zero.
This zero property of multiplication applies as well to mothering, an activity where the female of the human species pours out love for all infinity, and her offspring respond with something not entirely expected.
Perhaps mother’s milk, after it leaves its pure containers, curdles during the transfer.
The breeding colonies of bacteria must be the reason why all mothers can tell their children apart by the extent they disappoint us.
My mother nursed me for less than two months as she had to report back to the 24-hour chaos of an emergency room in a government hospital.
This early deprivation has not left any deep-seated trauma except for a minor glitch in our bonding. Where my mother is perfectly groomed, I test the limits of makeover miracles.
Recently, after telling my mother that I was going to a Very Important Event, I waited for her to drop one, two or, more typically, 100 hints about my jeans and rubber shoes.
Strangely, no peep came in any of our daily phone conversations. Only after my trip was cancelled did I learn that my mother had enlisted our helper in hiding the rattiest of my old stuff just before I packed.
As I would have gone to that Very Important Event naked rather than dip into my book budget for clothes I did not want, the cancellation was timely.
Though its fruits are at times sour, mothering is far from waning because its practitioners believe pure intention is superior to spotty outcomes.
When I became a second-time mother, I made sure I nursed Juan until he was nearly three years.
Aside from striking against multinational milk-formula makers, this gesture required single-minded commitment to a son who seemed at times to be an adversary, armed to the milk teeth and trained in hand-to-hand combat and squeeze tactics.
Today, the bond between Juan and I is unique in all the world, requiring the negotiation of mutual deterrence at sunrise and the declaration of armistice by sundown.
When I stopped working to be with him, my former officemates told me he would still sometimes call and look for me, no doubt nostalgic for the good old days when mothers were too busy to meddle.
Yet, on the day I went back to working full-time, I got a call from the school nurse, saying Juan, after his dive from the monkey-bar to the hard-packed school grounds, sustained a fracture.
Rather than soft and squishy, mother love would be more useful in gaseous form. You can just inflate your offspring so they will bounce away from harm the moment you’re not looking.
But as math and nature are irrefutable, expect the unexpected when you mother your own.
My older son Carlos, nursed for less than two weeks, mothers me better than I do him. He cleans up my email inbox of spam, gives me a running update of the number of my necks, and teaches me how to operate the printer by pushing the power button on.
One afternoon, after I removed a painful toenail, Carlos said he wanted me to go on trimming his nails even when he lived on his own.
When he saw me blink back something in my eye, he hugged me. “It’s alright, mom,” said this fruit of my loins, heart of my heart. “I’ll pay you.”
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* Published in Sun.Star Cebu last Jan. 7, 2007