Young Blood

Tapping into my mother’s mind

My mother and I were in the car. The traffic had come to a complete stop; in front of us was a long ribbon of taillights flashing red and white.

Tap, tap, tap.


Tapping my fingers on the brown envelope that sat on my lap, I unconsciously produced a rhythm, each beat rushing after another in an attempt to fill the silence that brooded between us.

Tap, tap, tap.


There was something important that I wanted to ask her. This question had been lingering inside my head; voicing it out could confirm or disprove the elaborate theories I’d spun in my head, and perhaps finally unravel the truth that had been hidden from me for 18 long years.

Just the thought of me finally knowing his identity somehow excited me. I could already imagine myself sharing the information with others instead of smiling awkwardly in response, parading my knowledge instead of writing “N/A” whenever I had to fill out any forms. Or maybe, just knowing it for my own peace of mind. I had no plans to look for him. I just wanted a proper answer.

Tap, tap, tap, tap.

Still, even though I desperately wanted to know the truth, there was a feeling in my gut that told me not to do it, though there was another part that urged me, almost begging, to just ask her.

Tap, tap, tap, tap.

As if on cue, all the reasons to not do it suddenly came flooding in, as if an outside force had sent my mind a blanket invitation. The more I thought about it, the more pronounced the fear I felt about how she would react. Would she lash out, ignore everything I say, or just cry? I was definitely terrified of the last one. I did not want to trigger her in any way.

Tap, tap, tap, tap.


I was trying to sort the arguments I had made in my mind, desperately attempting to convince myself by imagining a positive outcome from this situation. I knew it was better to try now than to have to regret it later and think of the “what ifs” again. And I also knew I was old enough and mature enough to know. I had been deprived of knowing this part of my life for too long.

Tap, tap, tap.

“Who is my father?” I mouthed to myself silently. I found myself practicing how I was going to say it.

Tap, tap —

I shook my head. I didn’t want my thoughts to swirl into a vortex of guilt and doubt anymore. I knew I needed to calm down, to let my thoughts leak into the ether, to snap out of it and regain control.

Then — “Can I ask you a serious question?” I said, finally breaking the silence between us.

“What is it?” She replied casually. She didn’t look my way though; her eyes remained glued on the road.

I opened my mouth to speak, but no words came out. I took a deep breath, trying one more time.

“Who is my father?”

The moment those words left my mouth, a flood of emotions rushed into me — doubt, confusion, curiosity and, most surprising of all, relief. It was as if the years of tension and confusion finally drained out of me in one big rush.

“You finally want to talk about it?”

Her tone was calm, though there was a hint of shock in it. I noticed that her fingers had started to tap lightly on the steering wheel as well.

Tap, tap, tap.

I nodded in response, and with that, she gave me a summary of how it all went down: the disappointment of her parents, the pressures of being a single parent, and the difficult choices she had to make for me.

She also revealed to me my father’s identity, and explained why his absence in my life was something she decided on and was initially very firm with.

“I honestly don’t know now if I made the right decision. I didn’t want you to experience the trauma of living with an unreliable and inconsistent parent.”

Her voice was laced with her barely hidden self-doubt and sadness as the pace of her tapping increased. I shook my head. I started to feel silly for having hesitated to ask her this question in the first place.

Her reaction was not as bad as I had imagined, and she even had self-doubts about the situation as well. I started to think that maybe, if I had asked earlier, she wouldn’t even be feeling this way right now.

“You made the right decision,” I told her.

As I said those words with confidence, her tapping abruptly stopped. The car began to slow down, until the traffic caused us to come to a halt again.

“I am happy with the way things are,” I added.

“Really?” she asked in disbelief.

I nodded in reply, a small smile spread across my face.

I looked down at my hands; they lay flat on the brown envelope. My mother’s hands, meanwhile, were lightly gripping the wheel. Both of us had stopped tapping.

Suddenly, everything just made sense to me — his absence in my life, my mother’s parenting style, her protectiveness toward me hanging out with boys, her temper and even her maturity.

Though I never met my father, I have her. Life caused me to have a single mother who made me the strong person I am today. It was always hard for my mom to keep up with other parents, but she still somehow managed to get me everything I wanted, and more.

She was only 23 years old when she gave birth to me, and because of that, she had no choice but to grow up fast. At a young age, I saw the effects of being a single parent, and the ways they changed my mother. She not only had to be a young mother, she also had to find a way to replace the void of a father, or a father figure, in my life.

I’ve always seen my mother as strong, independent and courageous. Growing up watching her live her dreams, in the face of all the circumstances she faced, made me want to strive for a better life for myself.

At the end of our talk, dusk was already gathering; the sun shone a dull glow in the overcast sky. My mind was clear.

Tap, tap, tap.

I turned to look at my mother; her eyes still looked straight ahead and were focused on the road, while her fingers lightly tapped the steering wheel.

“Mom,” I said, trying to catch her attention.

Tap, tap, tap —

“You’ve done a great job, you are a great mother.”

And with that, the tapping stopped completely.

* * *

Natalya Patolot, 18, is a senior high school graduate from St. Theresa’s College, Quezon City, and an incoming college student.

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TAGS: Natalya Patolot, single mothers, Young Blood
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