Marriage used to be the farthest thing from my mind, let alone motherhood. I thought I’d become a lawyer with no time for kids. Life certainly changed its course when I did not only marry and become a mother, I had three kids with shockingly advanced mental capabilities—one who wrote a book on hieroglyphics at five, another who could talk at two months, and another who could complete jigsaw puzzles before she turned one. I decided that there was no other way but to embrace this new calling. When people ask me whether my kids took after me, I tell them what I’ve been told—that giftedness is hereditary. Perhaps it is, but all I know for sure is that ever since I can recall, I always had an insatiable thirst to learn.
I remember being a voracious reader at the time, wanting to learn new things. Save for reading books on pregnancy, I barely prepared myself as I awaited the birth of my first child. I didn’t attend special classes or eat a special diet. In fact, I was still signing checks hours before the delivery. On January 17, 1991, I gave birth to Cy. I was back at work five days later.
Cy was outstanding as a toddler. At just three months, he responded to action songs with great enthusiasm. At six months, he’d watch the National Geographic channel for hours. At a year and a half, he devoured science books. We never really thought of Cy as “gifted” until his school called our attention—he slept in class every day! He was four then. We were very worried and sought the help of clinical psychologists. They told us that Cy slept through his classes because he was bored—he had mastered the lessons ahead of time. That’s when he was diagnosed as “gifted.” At five, Cy amazed us when he created a book—a manual of codes that integrated morse code, military numbers and hieroglyphics. At age eight, he wrote the lyrics and libretto for the musical The Magic Staff, and appeared in the production when it was staged at the Meralco Theater in 1999.
While pregnant with my second son, Yosh, I found out more about the Philippine Association for the Gifted (PAG). I attended seminars to augment what I knew as a psychologist. I corresponded with experts abroad, and researched to guide me in raising Cy. When Yosh was born, again, there was almost no preparation for his birth, and I had a full plate at work. Two months later, I was shocked when Yosh started to speak. He knew how to say “yes,” “no,” “milk,” “Mama,” and “Papa.” I was quite alarmed by this, even as a psychologist. I was scared. At nine months, Yosh could count up to a hundred. He could tell time when he was two, watched the Erap impeachment trial every day when he was three, and joined his first art exhibit at four—he was the youngest participant.
While pregnant with my third child, Aya, I was again busy, this time preparing for my cousin’s wedding. Aya spoke much later than her two brothers, at nine months old. At first, my husband and I were worried she might be autistic. But while Aya learned to speak later, she compensated by being very good at mathematical and geometric puzzles. I learned that people who are intelligent visually and spatially tend to speak much later. This was true with Aya. When she was barely a year old, she could complete jigsaw puzzles, and she would surprise me by quickly identifying exactly where a piece fit. Later, to get more of a challenge, Aya would turn the whole thing upside down, finishing the puzzle without any image as a guide.
I’ve learned that if your children have a passion for something, they will be the ones to push for it. They will learn it by themselves. As a mother, I’d like to think that I do not expect very much from my children. All I really want is for them to live good lives and be happy in whatever field they pursue. As I cope with the rapid mental pace of my kids, I think I will grow old a little bit later than most because I see to it that I keep on learning new things from them. Whenever I have problems at work, I sometimes consult my children. Talking to them makes me realize that, often, the solutions to my problems are simple things I have overlooked. We adults can be so complicated, we forget that solutions can be really simple.
Many people ask me how I managed to raise three very unique and gifted kids. I just tell them I’d like to think I didn’t raise my kids—it’s really they who are raising me!
(First published as "I Gave Birth to Three Geniuses" in the "Features" section of Marie Claire Philippines' February 2008 issue. Adapted for use by Female Network. Recounted to Arlene Sy. Photo from the San Jose Library via Flickr Creative Commons; used for illustrative purposes only.)