What the kids have to say

Most husbands want at least one son. You know, someone to carry on the family name. If women are forever looking for the fountain of youth, men want sons so they can feel immortal. It’s like trying to prolong one’s existence — not physically, of course, but for some twisted reason, most men think that as long as the family name survives, so will they.

When I was old enough to know that at some point in the future I would become a mother, I never doubted that I would have a daughter. Don’t ask me how I knew. I just did. I knew I would have a daughter and she would wear pretty clothes and people would gush over her as I smiled like the perfect stage mother.

Sam and Alex VeneracionIt happened. Twice. Because I became the mother of two daughters. They wore pretty clothes like I knew they would. Sam turned people’s heads even as a toddler because she had this head full of thick jet black hair that women spend thousands for in shampoos, conditioners and all sorts of hair treatment with nothing much to show for except badly damaged hair. And when she talked, people listened because before she was two years old, she was talking in complex sentences and arguing. Yes, arguing.

Alex was a different story. She was very fair skinned with brown-reddish hair. Strangers might have found it hard to believe that Speedy was her father until they looked at her chin closely and all doubts were erased. The Veneracion chin. She was such a pretty child that a month before her second birthday, at a Christmas party of the Masons (my father-in-law was a Mason), someone’s young son followed her around, went down on his knees on the dance floor and kissed her feet repeatedly. The boy’s older brother decided that was cool, went after Sam, tried to kiss her feet and she kicked him. He never came near her again for the rest of the night.

Alex and Sam VeneracionWe’re happy with our girls. We made a conscious decision that two were enough. There had been times though when I wondered if Speedy did not have regrets about not having a son. This is the Philippines, after all, and after two daughters, it was not uncommon to hear relatives and friends joke that we should take another shot at parenthood and maybe we would have a son next time. But Speedy does not think like that. He always says if it’s a matter of the “family name”, his oldest brother already has two sons to carry on the name and that was that.

Still, over the years, I would ask him occasionally if he ever thought about having another child. See, when I was pregnant with Alex, despite numerous ultrasound tests, we didn’t know if we were going to have a son or another daughter. Alex was so uncooperative during those ultrasound sessions so we prepared two sets of name — Mikhail Anton, or Mikki, if it was a boy; Arielle Alexandra, Alex for short, if it was a girl. Even years later, we would say the name “Mikki” with fondness — a sort of nostalgia for someone that never was. Because we had a name for a son, it was like “Mikki” was actually a child that had been born.

Christmas eve 2002There were times when I had false alarms and Speedy and I wondered how Sam and Alex would accept another child in the family. Just in case, you know, we did talk to them because we wanted their honest feelings on the matter. During one of those “maybe pregnancies” when Sam was in the third or fourth grade and I was in the midst of reviving my legal career, we called them in for a serious talk. A very serious talk. They listened intently as we explained and, after a pause, Sam said with equal seriousness: “Okay lang kung baby sister, pero, pag baby brother, hay, naku, pagdating nyo galing sa office, may ribbon na sya sa buhok (A baby sister is okay but if it’s a baby brother, when you get home from the office, he’ll be wearing ribbons in his hair).” We got the picture.

These days, when we broach the subject of having another child, the standard answer is “Pusa na lang o aso (Let’s get another cat or dog instead).” Again, we get the picture.

If Speedy were the kind of man who won’t feel complete unless he had a son to carry on his name, our girls’ feelings about having a baby brother would be cause for serious worries. For me, especially, because I would be caught in the middle in trying to reconcile the wishes of both camps knowing that a compromise was next to impossible. I guess I’m lucky because Speedy is perfectly happy with being the father of two girls. As I am.