Joy Sotto, a mom to four boys and a girl, would rather have her kids play with each other than with gadgets. In fact, she highly encourages them to play at the garden outside of the house, and no she doesn’t worry about the dirt and sweat on them once they go back inside. Joy believes it's part of growing up and quite beneficial for their health.
“Kasi they need to release their energy,” Joy explains to SmartParenting.com.ph at the Johnson’s "Play Days" event last April 15 at the concert grounds of SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City. “Kailangan mo din silang pagurin para matulog agad 'pag gabi. Kailangan ma-knockout sila.”
At the event, Joy and her her husband, actor Gian Sotto, who’s also on his third term as councilor of Quezon City’s third district, brought along their kids, Hugo, 13, Edrico, 10, Sandro, 7, Rossano, 5, and Amari, soon-to-be 2. She and Rossano competed in a game that had them try all the play activities, such as the swing, foam pool, seesaw, and dunk slime bucket. The rest of the boys also played, while the youngest and only girl of the brood, Amari, watched in the sidelines.
Amari will turn 3 years old on May 11, and pretty soon, she’ll join her brothers running around in the garden. Joy and Gian say they apply the same playtime rule with their daughter. For now though Amari enjoys being treated like a princess by her kuyas, whom Joy has observed to be quite protective of their little sister. For instance, when Amari cries, the boys will instinctively ask, “What happened? Who made her cry?” They also willingly help out their mom in caring for their little princess.
Joy and Gian didn’t plan to have five children exactly, but they did try to plan her pregnancy for each child. Joy explains, “Actually, we wanted a three-year age gap, except for my third and fourth. ’Cause my third and fourth, well, I was clueless. I was breastfeeding, and I didn’t know I could get pregnant while breastfeeding. So it was a shock.
“So it’s a myth to say you can’t pregnant while breastfeeding. You can [get pregnant] as my ob-gyn told me. You have to be careful after that second or third month, even if you don’t have your period. So, that’s what happened with my third and fourth. My third child was 11 months, and then, I was pregnant again. At first, I cried, but then, I knew it was God’s blessing na you know, it was all God, who wanted us to have another child. So, I embraced it naman wholeheartedly.”
(While breastfeeding acts as a natural contraception — exclusive breastfeeding delays the onset of menstruation after giving birth — it doesn't guarantee that you won't get pregnant, as Joy experienced. As mentioned, it only works if you're exclusively breastfeeding, your baby is less than six months old, and your menstruation hasn't started yet after birth. You need to meet all three conditions to make it an effective birth control method. Read more here.)
Joy admitted that she wanted to stop at Baby Number 4, even if he will be a boy. But Gian suggested they try to have a baby girl. And God once again guided her to the right path.
“Though I was praying to God, I was asking him na if it was the right thing to do,” she said. “’Cause I was scared na magka-boy ulit. There’s so much pressure on me, na what if mag-boy sa fifth ko. So I was just praying. Sabi ko, ‘Lord, I’m happy with four, but I still have that desire of having a girl. If You’re gonna take away that desire of having a girl, I’m okay with four boys.’
“But He never took away that desire of having a girl. So, sabi ko, ‘You know, You must want me to have a girl.’ So, I was believing na talaga that God is gonna give me a girl kasi nga sabi nila, He didn’t take away the desire in my heart. So, ayun, the first moment that I knew I was pregnant, I already knew it was a girl. I really believed na talaga na it was a girl.”
In the Sotto household, there are five rules that Joy and Gian that have taught their children to follow: respect, obey, no hurting, no lying, and share.
The first rule means respecting Mom and Dad, and everyone around them, including their yayas, and those older than them. They have to respect each other as brothers, too. The second rule teaches their children to follow what they’re told to do — at once. Joy points out, “delayed obedience is already disobedience,” and the kids know this so well that Mom and Dad don’t have to count to three before they obey.
The third rule reminds the kids not to harm one another. The fourth rule tells them to be truthful at all times, and white lies are still lies. The last rule teaches them to be generous by sharing their toys among themselves and with other kids, too.
Joy admitted she and Gian struggled in imposing these house rules. “But we try to be as consistent as possible,” she added. “Kasi nga, di ba, they say consistency is the key for the kids to follow, even if you sound like a broken record already.” Breaking the rules has a corresponding disciplinary action that the couple have learned from the parenting seminars that they’ve attended in their church.
“We discipline then by using a rod,” she explained. “We buy our rod in our church. There’s a rod that we get in our church. They say we can’t spank with our hands because hands are used for loving and caring.”
Gian is tasked to do the disciplinary action, but in his absence, Joy takes on the responsibility. And they have to do it right away, otherwise, the erring child will forget about the wrong he’s done. The couple also make it a point that they’re not driven by anger “kasi pag angry ka, talagang mapapalo mo nang sobra, and makikita ng child.” Then, they take the erring child to the bathroom, which has become the designated place for the punishment. They ask him the rule he’s broken and why he has to be disciplined for it. Lastly, they remind them the teachings from the Bible.
“So they know already na Jesus disciplines those He loves,” she said. “So we always remind them that Mommy and Daddy are the instruments of God… We always have to put the ‘I love you’ part because that’s where the security of the child comes from. So we always tell them that we love them. And then, we hug and we pray together.”