I have been your mama for 11 months (well, more if you consider that I became your mama from the day you were made) and I really should not be surprised by the notion of speed when it comes to you. And yet you take me by surprise all the time.
After all, it seems like we merely blinked and you changed from that tiny little mewling newborn to this funny, feisty not-so-little fellow. We laughed and there it was, your very first step. It feels like you are dashing through life, eager to experience anything and everything that it has to offer.
And I can’t slow you down or slow time down.
Let’s talk baby steps. One evening, you were pushing your way up to standing. I smiled at you and you smiled back at me, and then you looked like you were going to take your first step towards me. I screamed “no!” and you plopped back down on your cushy bum, nonchalant and as if nothing had happened. My heart pounded a little, as the first sprigs of realisation that you are zipping towards your first birthday took shape.
A few days later, there it was, your very first wobbly step. And then a few days later, a few more wobbly steps followed the first.
You may not quite know the significance of your first step, bubba, but oh how they mean the world to me. It represents the start of your journey away from babyhood, 11 months after your birth. I am still trying to come to terms with how fast time seems to fly by with you and here you are, walking towards me with that impish smile on that face that I gaze upon every night as you sleep. Your first steps signal the first of many more to come and from that moment on, I will forever be chasing in your footsteps as you grow up and away from me.
How I wish I could keep you in this moment forever – always my baby, always little and always so joyful, always untainted by the world, always unscarred by the challenges and rejections that life has in store for you and everyone else.
But I know I can’t, I have to let you go. All I can do is to prepare you for the road ahead, hold your tiny hand in mine until you are ready to walk on your own, and then let you find your own way. That’s the best present that I can give to you as your mother.
Right now, I am your favourite person. Every evening, I look forward to coming home and calling for you, and hearing the series of loud piak piak piak that signals your arrival at the door. Your excitement at seeing your big brother and me home is so infectious and so amazing to watch – you love to sit on your butt and bounce up and down. And then I’d step in and there you’ll be, at my feet and tugging at legs, asking to be carried. And once you are in my arms, you’d gaze upon our little world, as if to say that everything is right, now.
The other morning, you woke up earlier than I did. Oh heck, you wake up earlier than I do every morning. Anyway, the other morning, you were sitting there grumbling about being the only one awake when you caught sight of me sneaking a look at you. Your face broke out into the biggest grin and you immediately leaned over to give me the sweetest open-mouthed kiss with an exuberant “mmmmm”. And then you did it again.
Oh you just know how to melt my heart.
So, a couple more weeks till you turn one. We’ll be celebrating, loudly and joyfully. For you, my darling Zac, are turning ONE!
It’s going to be one helluva ride, my littlest man.
Love you to the moon and back,
I am currently typing this while sitting with my ass half out of my chair. Because my fat cat is occupying my chair and I decided not to move her out lest she starts her caterwauling outside the bedrooms again. She does this yowling thing almost every night, it drives us bonkers because, hello, SLEEPING BABIES.
Anyway, life is pretty much tiring these days. I am doing a lot at work and coupled with the lack of sleep, my brains are pretty much fried. Seriously. I wrote “Newspapers is not dead” in my lecture slides the other day and my kids laughed at me.
AND THEN I REPEATED IT ON ANOTHER SLIDE.
In a bid to prevent my brains from atrophying further, I am going to force myself to write. Write, write, write.
Well. Just the other day, we spent pretty much most of the weekend doing nothing much. We probably hit the supermarket and a park, and that was it. The rest of the day was spent at home. We had breakfast out and then I cooked lunch and it felt pretty good.
The thing is, when Aidan was a bubs, he hardly napped. Story of my life then. The only way to get him to nap was to baby wear him. And so, we went out. Every single weekend. We went out so that we could take turns to wear him and put him to sleep. And when he woke up, he was usually a delight and we would do stuff together. It was exhausting but that was our solution.
It has become our way of life. Come weekends, we’d pack our baby bag and hit the road. Sometimes, we go to the gardens, sometimes to the museums. Or a park. Or a mall to get my eyebrows done (do you really think I’d go to a mall to shop? C’mon!). Or a playground with a sandpit. I think we have forgotten how to stay at home.
But now that Aidan doesn’t really need a nap – although he does crash in the late afternoon for a short while – and Zac is pretty good at taking naps at home, I think we need to shift our way of living a little. Stay in, enjoy our lovely home and just be. There are recipes I want to try out and my three-year-old has his imagination to tide him through the day. The littlest is perfectly happy exploring the house and the man, well, he can survive happily on a deserted island as long as it has power and wifi for his gadgets.
Funny thing is, I actually love staying home. Don’t tell my kids but sometimes, I would take half day leave just to come back to an empty home while they are at daycare/grandma’s. I enjoy the quietness, the solitude, and the comfort of being, well, home.
Home is really where the heart is.
How odd! Just as I was starting to pen this letter to you, you woke up and started bawling. It’s almost as if you knew. Well. I wouldn’t put it past you actually, you and your brother both. Every time your papa and I make a secret pact to do something together after your bedtimes, one of you would do something to delay bedtime. Like refusing to sleep. Or cry and wake up. We wouldn’t even talk about our plans, instead, we would exchange knowing glances but you guys just know.
Anyhow. Papa is off soothing you now so I shall continue slouching in the sofa and typing this.
Now. As you can tell from the header, this is a combined letter. Terrible, isn’t it? The thing is, I have no excuse. Other than that I am massively exhausted from work and the nightwakings (thanks to you). Words come up empty. I could not write, there was this huge mental block standing in my way. So here we are today. But it’s all good.
I cannot believe that you, my little squishy pie, is all of 10 months now. WHAT DID THE TIME GO?! Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was inhaling in the breathy newborn scent of your tiny being? Why are you suddenly this funny and adorable product of a garden gnome and a potato?
And you are funny! You are at the age where you are actively communicating to us now. Whether it is to express your displeasure at your brother snatching your toy away (your face crumples and you bawl) or to show your joy at having me back in the evenings (you sit and bounce on your cute little butt while flapping your arms vigorously) or to get me to hurry up and feed you your favourite yogurt (again that bouncing on your butt thing with impatient “EH EH EHHHHHH“).
Oddly enough, your favourite book is this Winnie the Pooh board book that I had carelessly tossed into our shopping cart at the supermarket a couple of years back, out of nostalgia (I used to love Pooh so much). It’s an action book that involves some pointing, bouncing and stretching. And you LOVE it. L-O-V-E. You now lift my hand up to point at the Pooh, flap your arms excitedly when it’s time to bounce and can pull yourself up onto your feet with my help when I tell you to stretch to the sky. And then you’d turn to look at me with this “HOLY CRAP WOW” face.
The other day, I came home during lunch to help por por fix the remote control. You were lying on the mattress, drinking your milk. You didn’t pause when you caught sight of me, but you looked at me and tapped my hand with yours. Once you were done though, you launched yourself at me and leaned into my face with your mouth wide open. It took me a split second before I realised that you wanted to kiss me on the mouth! And then you did it again. And again! I love baby open-mouthed kisses.
Also, this shows how much you love your food. You. Love. Food. You eat so much and are always asking for more. And you eat practically everything. I love seeing you wipe out your tray every evening. It could be creamy broccoli pasta or meatball pasta or pan fried salmon or toast soldiers. No worries, everything gets wiped out eventually.
(So your father’s son.)
On the flip side, you think that everything is food, from the soil in the flower pot to the cats’ litter.
You are also a pro at crawling now, although you don’t do it with as much fervour as your brother did. But you do it so very fast. Some days, I would turn for a heartbeat and then you were gone. There are also times when I would find you in the room, in front of the bookshelf and flipping a book. Oh, you have destroyed a book or two, but I have to say that you are pretty good at flipping pages. You have no idea just how much that makes my nerd mama’s heart melt. I hope you will learn to love and appreciate the beauty of words.
You’ve also started cruising (!!!) and you are constantly lunging for something. This evening, it was my dinner (I was sitting at the coffee table). Other times, you’d be grabbing my phone. And all of a sudden, I see that you are not holding on to any surface and standing up on your own. As quick as that moment began, it was over in a flash and you plopped down on your diapered butt, so gleeful.
Look, bubba, which part of “TOO FAST” do you not get? Did you not receive the memo that said you need to remain mama’s baby for a whole lot longer?
Oh and guess what is your first spoken word? That’s right buddy, it’s MA. Atta boy! And for the record, I am pretty sure you are referring to me and not to food (“mum mum” MY ASS CAN) or any other riff raff person. I am still your favourite person although it’s a close fight among your por por, papa and gor gor for second place.
Your papa and I were just remarking one morning that it feels like a shock to know that you are already 10 months old. Maybe it’s a second-born thing but we feel like we haven’t really enjoyed your babyhood properly. I feel slightly panicky at the thought of you turning one. You can’t, you simply cannot. I refuse to have a toddler in my household. WHERE IS MY BABY?
I love you so much, my littlest man. Every day, I am thankful for you, thankful that I wished and hoped for another child of my own, thankful that you came along the way you did, thankful for the way you complete our family.
We may not have any money, we may not live in a swanky condo with a fancy view, we may eat simple meals. But you are worth more than anything money can buy.
We love you to the moon and back, bubba, and we will always have your back.
We finally sold our dining table today.
For a few reasons – space being one of them – we decided that our current table was not right for our needs and we decided that it had to go. And silly me, I sat on it for the longest time because I felt, well, sentimental.
It’s a good table. It’s a beautifully made one. We fell in love with it once we saw it and decided it was worth all that money to buy it. It’s seen us through several Christmas dinners, and New Year’s Eve dinners and birthday celebrations. We thought it was going to last us forever for it didn’t look like the sort of table that would be ruined that easily or quickly – it was sturdy, reliable and hardy.
But it had to go. And so I finally put it up for sale.
A lovely couple came by today, said they liked it and paid for it immediately. And when they left, I felt odd. Like, hey, my table was finally sold. Amid the sadness though, was also a tinge of relief. It was sold. No matter how hard it was for me to part with it, it had become dead weight, something that was dragging us down. We could not move on with our plans without it being sold, everything else was centered around it.
So yes, goodbye to my dining table. I feel a little silly writing about it but I told you I am a sentimental fool.
When I was six, my father died.
I remember every single detail of his funeral.
Most adults would be surprised that my memories of his wake are so vivid and real. I remember not wanting to see my papa’s body because I was scared. Scared of what, I cannot tell you now, for it was something I could not articulate then as well. I remember fooling around with my cousins, jumping around like there was an invisible hop scotch engraved on the ground. I remember bursting into tears and bawling non-stop, and being passed around by the adults as there was no one who could console me. I remember the white tee shirt and little piece of straw token pinned to my sleeve.
And the most lasting memory of his funeral, that stayed with me all these years, was the tune that the awful marching band played during the procession: Auld Lang Syne.
This morning, as I woke up to the news that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had passed away, it was Auld Lang Syne that surfaced in my mind immediately.
Funny how some things never leave your subconscious.
When I was a kid, watching the NDP on TV at home was a must. My mother and I would seat ourselves in front of the telly after dinner and watch the entire programme in its entirety, year after year. The only times I missed doing this was when the man and I were camping out at some field somewhere, hoping to shoot the fireworks.
“Every year also the same thing,” my mother would tsk as the contingents marched across the screen. But it never stopped her from watching anyway.
But the moment that we were both waiting for was not the fireworks, but when Mr Lee appeared. We would clap and cheer loudly, as if he could hear us.
“My hero!” my mother would exclaim.
And year after year, it started to become apparent that he was getting on in years, especially after the death of his beloved wife. He looked frail and papery thin, almost as if even cracking a smile was costing him some effort.
The man and I would murmur something along the lines of “look at him, he’s getting so fragile now” and we knew he would die one day.
But we never thought that the day would come. Ever.
You know how we think that some people will never die and they will always be around by the sheer power of their strength and determination?
That’s how I thought of him.
I must confess that as I became a young adult, I stopped idolising Mr Lee and took a harder, more critical view of my government’s policies. The truth is, I do not agree to many of them. But this does not mean that I lost my respect of the man.
His methods may not work for this generation, this era, but the turbulent times probably needed someone as decisive, unapologetic, combative and single-minded as him. I will never understand fully what it was like to live in those uncertain times but seeing how I am a product of his legacy, his methods must have worked.
I am an educated woman with a family of my own. We have a roof over our heads and decent jobs. My children receive subsidised childcare, which allow me to go to work. Our transportation system – say what you will – is stable, reliable, clean and efficient. I never had to worry about the colour of my skin or my gender hindering my progress in school and at work. I have access to delicious, cheap and hygienic food. When I take my boys out for walks, we can duck under the trees for shade. My estate is clean and safe for my kids. I speak two languages fluently. My passport allows me to travel freely and it is highly sought after.
Coming from a single-parent family of a low-income earner, I reckon I have done pretty good, thanks to Mr Lee and his master plan.
This morning, as we watched PM Lee deliver his speech in three languages, I choked back tears. Here is a man who had to put aside his grief as a son to address the nation as an office holder.
“So, so sad,” I muttered to myself repeatedly.
Aidan, the sensitive child that he is, caught on that mama was feeling low. “What’s wrong, mummy?” he asked. How do you explain a death to a three-year-old?
So I said, “Mr Lee Kuan Yew is the founding father of Singapore, he created Singapore. He has died. He was somebody’s papa and somebody’s gong gong, just like how you have your yeye and nai nai and por por. His grandchildren have lost a gong gong and his children have lost a papa. And it’s very sad. He is gone and no longer with us anymore.”
Bless my child, he probably did not understand most of what I had said, but he repeated solemnly after me, “Oh, he is not here anymore.”
Today, I realised that my boys will never know a Singapore that is so infused with the life of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. To them, he will be but a character in the history books, someone they read about during history or social studies lessons. They will never have the privilege of seeing him walk up the stairs of the National Stadium, clad in his party white and waving to the crowd.
And so I write this, in the hopes that they will one day read my words and see that he was not just a man in the story books, but someone who had meant a lot to their mama.
Dear sir, I am sure you did not go gently into the good night, and you probably fought a good fight. Your work here is done and your beloved wife is waiting for you on the other side. Farewell, be at peace, and know that your presence will be sorely missed. Thank you for all that you have done.
Photo shamelessly taken from iheartapple.