Today, I went for a course at work, one that was mandatory and which I wasn’t looking forward to because, hello, I had a crapload of work to clear. I had brought along my iPad, thinking I would be bored out of my wits and would require some form of online consolation.
But it turned out to be completely different from what I had expected. I ended up NOT falling asleep and I left feeling more empowered and inspired than before.
Let me backtrack.
Ever since I went back to work after my maternity leave, I have felt like I no longer exist as a whole but in pieces. As the responsibilities and making piled up at work, I started feeling as if I was in a constant juggling act. I rush to work in the mornings after dropping off Aidan at daycare (and Zac at my in-laws’ on certain days of the week), and then I work, work, work. Come evening time, I rush to pick Aidan up before zipping home. Then comes dinner, bath and bedtime. Before you know it, it’s late and I am so exhausted, I fall asleep in my son’s bed or on the sofa.
Then, there’s the boys’ constant battle with the bugs, which is so, so, so draining. If you think it’s hard to see your child falling sick, try having two kids taking turns to be ill for eight months in a row. Also, try leaving your sick child with a caregiver so that you can go tend to other people’s children. It is a rotten feeling.
I’m in pieces, barely whole.
And of course, something’s gotta give. I made a mistake at work, which was picked up by a senior member of my team. She chose to escalate it upwards to the directors, even though the mistake was not even close to being grave. Thankfully, my boss stood up for me and told me I was doing great and that there was nothing to worry about. (I love that woman and I will forever be grateful to her for believing in me.)
I don’t care for politics. I don’t care for climbing that ladder. I really don’t give a fuck when it comes to things like that. I just want to work, earn my keep and then go home to my boys. And yet I find myself being embroiled in such petty power play again.
That incident planted a seed of something in me.
Over the course of the next few months, I worked my ass off but there was a sense that I no longer knew what I was working for. Call it an itch that could not be scratched, put it that way.
And then, at today’s training, we were asked to think about the different roles that we play in life – mother, wife, daughter, teacher, employee etc. Then we were asked to think about what we would want the important people in our lives to say to us when we are celebrating our 80th birthday.
I thought hard about that one. What would I want my loved ones to say? What would I want to say to myself, when I am wizened and wrinkled and (hopefully) wise?
Suddenly a light went off in my mind.
I know what I want to do with my life, I just never had the guts to try because, gawd, I have a mother to support financially and my kids and the house and insurance and things like that. I have obligations and people with obligations work so that they can fulfil these obligations.
But what if I never tried to combine everything that I want and need? What if I never tried to have my cake and eat it too? What would I say to myself when I am 80?
“Happy birthday, Me. I wished you had done more yoga, shot more pictures and used your words to earn your keep. I wished you had spent more time with your children. I wished you had been a wife, mother, daughter, friend who connected.”
So, I am trying. I have found a co-conspirator, we are having fun hatching ideas and plans. Maybe this won’t work, maybe it will. Maybe I will continue being a rat in that wheel for another 10, 20 years.
But damn, I will try.
And just like that, my first-born is fast approaching his third birthday. I know, I know, we all say the same thing but honestly, where did the time go? How did he go from a pipe dream to a newborn to a chubby baby to a funny toddler to a precocious preschooler in so short a time? I look at photos of him when he was littler and my heart goes all funny: a mix of intense love and bittersweet wrench.
If Zac is my redemption at motherhood, then Aidan is my miracle. He is the child that almost never was, the one who came into our lives so shockingly when we were expecting nothing. And he is the child who made me a mother, who taught me what this motherhood gig is all about.
He amazes us every single day. He says the darnest things, this boy, and every so often, husband and I would exchange incredulous looks of “did you hear that?!” over his head. We are just so fascinated by his development and personality. I mean, when he was a baby, he was a happy, chubby little thing (we are very blessed in that both our babies are happy babies) who was so very easily loved. But now, the nuances of his personality are slowly emerging and it’s pretty exciting to witness it.
For instance, he is not very good with new people. When we go to birthday parties, he’s the kid who hangs with his parents and doesn’t want to join the other kids initially. He’d rather play by himself, which is exactly like me. I hate parties and I hate being in an environment where I am the new kid. But, like me, once he warms up, he becomes the ringleader, everyone’s friend. That’s pretty evident from his progress in school. According to his teacher, he loves to chat with his friends, even if his friends are not capable of responding verbally to him yet! And everyone knows Aidan – whenever I pick him up from school, I always get little kids pointing and shouting his name at me. It’s hilarious!
He’s mostly a happy chappy who loves to sing – just like papa and mama. He comes home warbling new songs, which are mostly tunes that we know, and he loves it when we sing along with him. We’ve been meaning to enrol him in music classes, hopefully once the transitions at home have settled.
One thing that we are so very thankful for is his acceptance of his little brother. The first few weeks were tough, undoubtedly, as he struggles with the knowledge that the attention of his parents are being diverted. But now, he is a loving brother who is just as affectionate with Zac as he is with us. He would reach for Zac’s hand and say, “Zac, hold hands, Zac.” Or he would pat Zac when the latter is crying. Or he would console Zac in the car seat with “don’t cry! We are going to NTUC, Zac.”
There are times when he drives us absolutely nuts, of course. But it’s your typical toddler will, trying to assert his independence. And we get that, so we try to remain patient and calm. It doesn’t always work, of course, but these incidents are far and few these days. (Let’s talk when he enters disequilibrium again.)
So there you have it, my almost three-year-old in a nutshell. There’s a whole lot more, of course, but these days I find myself writing less and less about him. Well, I am just writing less and less in general but I am also a little more mindful about putting my kid out on the inter webs now that he’s no longer an itty bitty baby. There are some things that we can share and then there’s stuff that should firmly remain offline.
We are still not too sure how we are going to celebrate his birthday, to be honest. Big parties with fancy food and entertainment are not quite our thing. But one thing’s for sure, we will be celebrating as a family of four.
I love my little man.
Happy eight months young! And wahey, mama is actually on time with this post. But seriously, bubba, what’s up with you growing so fast? I was just telling your papa that I cannot believe we are already at eight months.
This month has been pretty amazing for you. We have witnessed so many moments of you doing big awesome things, and I cannot recall just how many times I thought to myself, I need to include this in the post.
For starters, you actually started crawling. Like, belly crawling proper. It’s pretty cool because your brother would NOT crawl despite us tempting him with all sorts of things, until he was nine months old. He would kind of roll his way around like a fat sausage. But you, on the other hand, are pretty motivated by material things. We’d put something you want – a toy, our phones – in front of you and you’d drag your body determinedly towards it. You don’t do it for fun though, it’s almost as if you don’t know that you are now certified mobile.
It probably stems from the fact you managed to pull yourself up to a sitting position from lying down. It’s really cute, actually, the way you do it. You’d go into the downward dog position and then somehow shuffle your limbs until you can sort of flop sideways onto your bum. It’s just too damn cute seeing that little butt in the air and those delicious thighs standing up.
You are fast becoming a chatty one and your squawking soliloquy usually takes place in the car. One day, you started babbling in the car. And then it happened again, the next day. And then the day after. It’s a good thing, because it means you have stopped crying in the car seat! Fist bump! You have no idea how much of a relief it is to drive in absolute peace.
There are times when I wonder if you are not given as much attention as your brother. I really try, my squishy one, I do. I treasure the moments we have in the mornings, just you and me. I hate that I have to rush to work and cut short those times when you are smiling sweetly at me and babbling in your breathy baby voice. I love to haul you into my arms and squeeze you tight, even though you usually try to wriggle your way out.
My favourite way of spending time with you, however, is when you are snug against my chest in the wrap. I love baby wearing you. I love looking down at you and seeing you stare up at me. I love it when you snuggle against me as you snooze. I love that I can simply tilt my head to give you a big smooshy kiss just like that.
(I think your papa feels the same way, I have to fight him off during the weekends because he is absolutely insistent on baby wearing you too. Hah!)
Okay bubs, mama’s gotta go. You have been ill for the past week or so, you and your brother have been taking turns spiking strange fevers that disappear in the day. I didn’t sleep well last night because you didn’t sleep well last night.
Dear little man of mine, remember that we will always have your back, no matter what. Love you to the moon and back.
Today, my very sweet husband drove me from my office in the east to a tiny showroom all the way in Alexandra, just so I can check out a sample sale. As I browsed through the racks, he stood outside and waited patiently as I stood in line to try out the clothes and then to pay. And then after that, we went for lunch together.
Just us, hand in hand, in conversation and with much mirth.
Now, this is not a post bragging about my amazing and wonderful partner. Oh, he is amazing but seriously, he has his flaws (as do I) and sometimes he is quite the arsehole. But oh well, for better and for worse and all that jazz, right.
What I am trying to say is that I had a lovely time and I loved connecting with him. And it was a good break.
Truth is, we are in the midst of a transition around here. It’s not something that I want to talk about publicly but let’s just say that it kind of rocks the stability that I am used to. And I am someone who needs stability in my life.
There’s a fair bit of uncertainty hovering around us now and I am not used to that. I am not someone who can jump off a cliff without knowing that there is firm ground beneath me – I have not been brought up to take risks. I couldn’t, not when I had to be accountable for my mother.
So this is making me feel unnerved. I’m frankly a little worried and anxious but it’s also something that is beyond my control. I can only go with the flow and try not to be in the way.
But yes, I worry. I worry about living life in Singapore, where the sandwiched middle class such as us is constantly struggling and fretting. I worry about my kitchen, which is slowly falling apart after six years (the developer clearly did not use good quality materials). I worry about my kids’ education. I worry about our retirement.
I worry, worry, worry.
Late as usual, I know. It’s not that I don’t love you or care less about your milestones, it’s just that the time seems to fly by so much faster when mama has two littles in the house.
Every day and every evening zips past us ever so quickly. You wake up at 530am, 6am and fuss, I nurse you and then you fall back asleep. Sometimes you wake up at 7, sometimes 8. And then I watch as you roll around the bed and try to bat at the IP camera. On some mornings, you just would not let me sleep. You’d roll up right next to my face and thump your fists on my cheeks or on my body. When you see that I am finally awake and ready to play, you break into a gummy smile and kick your arms and legs like crazy.
It is the cutest thing in the world, seeing those limbs of yours move so vigorously.
And come evening, we’d all have dinner together. You, my little chubster, DEMOLISH FOOD. You are So. Good. At. It. We’ve been working on baby led weaning with you as well and you are excellent at sticking the food into your mouth and gumming everything off. Sometimes, you even cry in frustration, because WHERE DID THE FOOD GO? Oh, it’s dropped into the space between you and the high chair, bubba. And when we are just a wee bit slow in spooning the yogurt into your mouth, you get all sassy with us with that OY PAPA! cry.
Thankfully, we seem to have put all the illnesses behind us. Both you and Aidan have been well for a while now and let’s hope you stay that way. It helps that Aidan’s immunity is probably strengthened by the assaults from the bugs and he’s not falling sick as much. You are also bigger and so are your airways.
You have no clue how hard it was when you two were taking turns to fall sick. It felt like we could never catch a break and it was so exhausting, between medicating and nebulising the two of you, and heading to the paediatrician’s. And it breaks our hearts whenever we see you coughing till you turn red or having problems breathing because of a stuffy nose.
You were so little when you fell ill and yet look at you, all sturdy and strong. In fact, you put on 1kg in one month and the doctor was marvelling at your progress. I’m just glad that we have put all that behind us now. Please don’t scare your parents like that ever again, mmmkay?
Okay bubbie, I gotta go. You are crying in your sleep and papa’s gone in to soothe you. Mama’s pretty tired from all those night wakings (and late online shopping). I’ll go in and sleep and then you’ll wake me up, I’ll put you back to sleep and then hey, it’s 6am. And then we wake up, prepare to leave the house and then I say goodbye to you for a good 10 hours. It breaks my heart sometimes, kissing those bouncy cheeks and walking away, but mama’s gotta do what mama’s gotta do. Hopefully, I’ll eventually find a way to combine all my needs and wants and be able to spend more time with you and your brother.
In the meantime, remember that I’ll always love you, right to the moon and back.