the other night, i came home very late at night from the week-long trainers' training my PJ colleagues and i were conducting. i was hungry and tired and sleepy, and after a quick dinner and shower, i was set to retire for the day.
as Bea dozed off beside me, Paolo rummaged through my bedside drawer to look for some stuff of his that he placed in there. i was also dozing off too when he nudged me to ask what the thing that he was holding in his hand was.
it was a sealed box of condoms from long ago.
i mumbled something like, "ohhh... it's for my health, palangga (dear). let's go to sleep." and i took it from him and put it inside the other bedside drawer by my side of the bed.
knowing Paolo, he didn't let me off the hook. "yes, but what does it do for your health?"
after a careful pause, i sighed and said, "it's so babies aren't made before we're ready for them."
me: let's talk about it some other time... when you're more grown up and ready."
paolo: i want to talk about it now. i'm ready!
me: i don't think you are. you're only 9 years old. you have to grow up to be a young man, at least, to understand these things.
paolo: i am grown up now! and i want to understand now. try me. you said im a smart boy!
me (after a very loooooong pause): ok. you already know how babies are made, right?
paolo: yes, when the sperm and the egg meet.
me: okay, good. and you know where the sperm and the egg come from, right?
paolo: yes, from the penis and the vagina. when a man and a woman have sex.
me (a longer pause): okay. that's right. so the thing in the box that you saw is used to wrap the penis in so the sperm doesn't come out to meet the egg.
paolo (long pause too): so why do you have it with you still? are you having sex?
me: nope, not right now. you see how it's sealed? that means i haven't used it even.
paolo: but why do you keep it still? do you plan on having sex?
me (really long pause): i wouldn't call it just sex, palangga. ... i call it making love. someday, when i fall in love again and marry, i would want to make love with my husband, too.
paolo (loooooong pause, and when he spoke next, his voice was breaking, and he was starting to sob): i don't like it. i don't like it at all.
paolo: why do you have to make love to your husband?
me (sighing): it's one special way that a man and woman who love each other show their love for each other.
paolo: can you not show it some other ways?
me: of course, palangga. you can, and you should. but when you love your husband or your wife very much, you want to share your body with them too, not just your heart. you feel it in both your body and your heart. it's as natural as breathing and eating.
paolo: where will you do it?
me: in the privacy of our bedroom of course.
paolo: what if i want to go inside your bedroom? and where will i sleep?
me: you will have a room of your own palangga. if you want to go inside, you can just knock.
paolo: and you will stop having sex?
paolo (long pause): ok.
paolo: i'll just make another bedroom for you that says "do not disturb". you can do it there.
me: ok. thank you.
paolo: what if i don't want you to have sex?
me: i'm sorry, then. even if im your mom and i love you very much, it is my body and my heart. it's my choice on whether id want to share it with a man again, and with whom. love means respect, too. if you love me, you will respect my choice, as i respect yours. don't i respect your choices and not force you to do things you don't want to do?
me: let's go to sleep, palangga...
paolo: what if your husband does not want to have sex but you do? will you force him?
me: no palangga. i will wait for him. in the same way that he cannot force me too if he truly loves me.
paolo: i heard that in Sunday School! Love is patient.
me: yes. that's right.
paolo (really long thoughtful pause, but his breaking voice was becoming fuller now): now i know why Manang won't tell me about it.
me: about what, palangga?
paolo: about the thing i just saw.
paolo: but i understand now, see? after 5 minutes, i understand!
me (smiling now): yes, palangga. come here and give me a hug. i am proud of you. you're growing to be a fine little man now."
paolo (hugging me back): and i know what a prostitute is, too!
me: what is it, palangga?
paolo: it's someone who shares their body in sex so they can be paid with money.
me: yes, you are right there, too.
paolo: why do people do that?
me: because it's a way for them to earn the money they need.
paolo: why can't they just work for it some other way?
me: i don't know palangga.... maybe no one will give them work, and they need the money bad. maybe they haven't gone to school and they can't work at other jobs..."
paolo: when you have sex with someone you do not love, you're like being an animal.
me (long, amazed pause): ... yes. you are right, palangga. and it's not a good feeling, too.
me (getting a better grip): " ... and men who have sex with prostitutes; they make the prostitutes even more helpless."
paolo: so love is about respecting choices and being patient.
me: yes, palangga.
paolo (long, thoughtful pause then gives me a tight hug): "good night, ma. i love and respect you ma!"
that was quite a surprising and dangerous call for me!
one never knows when the really important moments and opportunity to mark a young soul's life comes.
children do keep you on your toes.
oohhh, thank you God, i believe i navigated that one well, huh?