• Summer Diaries: Our First Family Vacation Without My Son's Father

    After the end of 13-year relationship, a mom takes her and her ex's son to the sea and unexpectedly finds healing.
    by Tisha Alvarez .

  • Photo from Pixabay

    Almost every year, I go to Boracay for the annual Boracay Open, a Frisbee tournament that attracts teams from all over the world. Last year, I decided to take my 15-month-old son along. It was his first plane ride, his first trip outside Luzon, and our first family vacation.

    While I struggled with a fussier-than-normal toddler at the airport, the rest of the trip was much more enjoyable. It was fascinating to see my son pick up handfuls of fine white sand, letting it run between his tiny fingers. I marveled at how someone who loved swimming pools and bath time so much could run away in alarm as small waves washed up against the shore. It melted my heart when, in the middle of playing, he would run up to me and throw his arms around my legs, a look of pure joy on his face. And it was a treat seeing him charm all my friends with his bag of tricks: “pogi eyes” (his version of beautiful eyes), “tiyanak” (he would growl like a little monster), and all his other funny little antics.

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    However, the trip was bittersweet. Less than a year before, my son’s father and I had parted ways, and I was still getting used to the new dynamics of our family. My ex would come to visit regularly, but I realized that this was how our “family vacation” would be from that point on: me, my son, and his yaya. I still hadn’t fully recovered from the separation, and I still had so many questions and apprehensions about raising a kid on my own, but there was nothing for me to do but soldier on.

    On our last morning on the island, my son and I spent some time on the beach. There weren’t a lot of people around, and Yaya stayed some distance away, letting my son and me enjoy some quality time together. I watched as my kid, entranced, repeatedly dipped his little bucket into the water and let its contents fall back and merge with the sea. He would call out “Mommy!” just to make sure I was still there. In that quiet, fleeting moment, I felt at peace.

    There’s a quote that goes, “The cure for anything is salt water—sweat, tears, or the sea.” I had spent the previous months running when I needed to clear my head. I cried for weeks, mourning the end of a 13-year relationship. And now the sea was doing its work. I had my son by my side, and we had the whole world in front of us; he and I were going to be okay.

    This article first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Smart Parenting magazine.

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