“Five years ago, at this very moment, you were trying to come out of mummy’s tummy but you couldn’t. So the doctor had to cut me up to take you out.”
“When you were a baby, papa could carry you in one hand, just like that.”
“When you were a baby, mummy carried you everywhere in the wrap and you would fall asleep in there.”
“When you were a newborn, you were so small and slept so much. Until you turned two weeks old and stopped sleeping.”
We were regaling the firstborn with all the stories of his babyhood this afternoon. Oh, there were plenty to share. Of all the times he refused to sleep and drove us nuts. Of all the times he giggled at us and brightened up our world in that nanosecond. Off all the times we rocked him gently in our arms, crooning lullaby after lullaby in the darkened room. Of all the times he fitted so neatly into the crook of our arms, his head floppy on our chests, his hair carrying that whiff of baby scent that we had so desperately wanted to bottle up and keep forever.
It then struck me how fast time was. Five years it had been since he came into our worlds and turned us into parents. The road has been equal parts acknowledged privilege, unbridled joy, sheer exhaustion, internal frustration, quiet retrospection and oodles of humility.
But most importantly, it has also been pure and utter love.
It’s not just the love that we have for our child, our beloved boy who came at a time when we were despondent and clawing so determinedly out of the barren pit we had found ourselves in. It’s also the love that he has for us, this unconditional and unselfish love that he has for us, and taught us about.
We are far from perfect, and there are times when we regret not being able to hold our tongues or keep our tempers in check. And yet, his love never faltered.
Every day, I look forward to waking up to his little voice going “good morning mummy”, before he plants a quick peck on my lips. When I drop him off in school, we hug and kiss for just a moment, enough to let us know that we love each other and that we will be waiting for that time when we are done for the day and can be together again. And when I finally rush off from work to pick him up, he never fails to fly towards me with the biggest of grins and the most exuberant of hugs.
He talks of growing up, of going to primary school. He wants to be a big boy. And whenever I sigh at this, he would ask me, “Why are you sad for me to grow up, mummy?”
Oh baby boy, it’s because you are fast outgrowing me. One day you will no longer want to nestle into my arms during music class. You will not want me to lie down with you at bedtime. You will not want to “cook” for me with your toy kitchen. You will not need me to read you books. Your hand will be bigger than mine, and no longer in mine as we walk. You will be too heavy for me to carry, and you will no longer lay your cheek down on my shoulder.
But grow up, my little man must. I do not have the power to hold back time and I shouldn’t want to. That’s not my job as a mother. I have to let him soar into the sky, in his own time, and learn to be his own person.
In the meantime, we will keep creating beautiful memories of even the seemingly most insignificant moments. And we will keep it in our pockets till the time comes when our children are off to explore the world on their own.
Happy fifth birthday, my darling. You are our dream come true.
The husband flew off a couple of weeks ago and needless to say, I have been solo parenting.
It hasn’t been too bad, really, I am enjoying my time spent with the littles. They have been rather generous in proclaiming their love and adoration for me over the past weeks and I will gladly take all of that. Bad moments, yes, there have been some raised voices and frayed tempers, but generally these come and go and are easily resolved.
I am lucky in that sense, these two are rather good-natured and love their mummy so.
What really struck me, over the course of the past two weeks, was just how much Aidan has grown.
We were strolling along the airport this evening – one of our favourite haunts because aeroplanes! Food! Caffeine! – and as he walked next to me while I pushed Zac in the stroller, I suddenly realised that he’s a bona fide boy. He’s mature and rational and logical (MOSTLY) and I can reason with him. He’s going to be in kindergarten next year.
But his growth is not just measured in numbers.
Last week, his school celebrated teachers’ day and I prepared some gifts for his teachers. For the past few weeks, the school has been hosting some polytechnic interns and he has been interacting with one of them in particular.
As I was packing the presents, he suddenly asked, “Do we have a present for Teacher Edward (the intern)?”
I said no, we didn’t because he had not joined the school when I was purchasing the gifts.
“Can we get something for him? Otherwise, he will be sad,” he said. “Mummy, can we give him something?”
Earlier today, we had lunch at my in-laws’. On the drive back, Zac fell asleep in the car and I gingerly carried him back to the flat with Aidan following close behind.
As I moved swiftly into the boys’ bedroom, I instructed Aidan to stay outside so that I can transfer Zac to the floor bed. To my surprise, he continued following me into the room. I was all ready to raise my voice at him when he dashed into the room and said, “Mummy let me help you.”
He then proceeded to position the mattress in the right way, and he even arranged the pillows all around the bed, the way I usually do. All this while, I was standing in the room with a sleeping Zac in my arms. Once done, he zipped quietly out of the room and closed the door gently.
When did he grow up into this thoughtful boy without my noticing?
All those times when I wished for him to grow up and out of that horrible infancy period, when he woke up a million times at night and I cried in frustration, when he clung to me as he drifted off to sleep – that’s all gone now and in its place is a little boy armed with his future in his hands and a long road ahead of him. Right now he is walking hand in hand with me but I know that it won’t be long before he lets go and goes off without me.
It makes my heart swell with pride and yet there is a tinge of sadness at all that has come and gone. While each moment had felt so long and never-ending, it’s really been just a blink of an eye.
Exactly four years ago, I was having the worst night of my life in the hospital. But that turned at 4am, when you arrived into this world and it became one of the best nights of my life. Because once I held you in my arms, I knew that I would love and protect you with every cell of my being until the day that I die.
You know exactly how loved you are, since that early morning of March 5. You know it, because we tell it to you every day and every night. You know it because we make it a point to hug you and shower you with kisses. And you know it because even when you are less than delightful, when you are not a happy child, you understand that we will never abandon you and we will never reject you.
For the past few months, you have been longing to be four. You ask me if you are four yet and when I say no, just a bit more till you are four, you get upset and insist that you are already four. Why the hurry to grow up, my darling? You grin when I say that you are my baby Aidan, and proceed to inform me that you are no longer a baby but a big boy.
And so you are.
The four-year-old you is so incredible to behold. You are sassy, no doubt, and says the darnest things to me. It never fails to make me smile when you say “yes, please”, the way I do. And you love to sing to yourself, when you think nobody is paying you any attention, when you are focused, the way I do. You love your brother and tell me to “play the music” of the baby monitor when he is crying at bedtime. You love to hold my hand and when I have your little hand in mine, my world is a happy, contented place. You remind me to use my hot water bottle whenever my bad back acts up and it hurts to walk. You love yogurt and fruit and have no qualms demolishing three plums after dinner. You have a thing for shoes and socks. Every night, you fall asleep with your head on my stomach. When I ask you why, you just smile shyly and say you like to do that. I can and will never understand why. In the morning, you tell me that you are off to breakfast when you wake up before I do. And when I say good morning to you, you say it right back at me with the sweetest voice, before giving me a gentle kiss.
Now, that’s not to say that you are an angel. There are difficult days and there are difficult moments. But it’s not because you are a difficult child – far from it. You are a really fun little person to be with, most of the time, and I think your papa and I lucked out in that aspect.
And the best part is how much you love us. I know you love me by the joyful way you yell “mummy!” when I pick you up after work. I know you love me from the way you zip out of the holding area into my arms with that big grin. I know you love me when you wrap your arms around my legs and nestle into my body for comfort. I know you love me when you cuddle up next to me and ask me to read you a book. I know you love me when laugh so gleefully when I tickle you.
And I know you love me when you say to me before you drift off into slumberland, “Goodnight mummy park kor*. I love you.” (*He loves to make up names!)
Happy 4th birthday, my boo boo boy. You are our dream come true.
Love you to the moon and back,
Over the weekend, we attended the year-end concert put up by Aidan’s childcare operator.
It was the first time we ever attended such a concert, the first time that Aidan was involved. And we had absolutely no clue what to expect. Maybe a group of children singing and dancing?
“Wonder what they are going to do for two hours,” mused husband. We asked the star, who gave us absolutely no clue, except that he was singing “I Like to Teach the World To Sing”.
Were there dance moves? Yes, he said. Could you show us? He ignored us.
On a sizzling hot Saturday, we trooped off to the concert venue with both sets of grandparents in tow. The concert began and then we realised just why it was slated to run for two hours. First, they called all the K2 classes across the different branches onto stage, individually. Then there was a video montage of, again, all the graduating students from all the classes.
Now this sounds really boring on paper but I gotta tell you, I FREAKING CRIED!
Seriously. Those were not even my kids graduating AND I CRIED. As the video rolled and I saw pictures of smiling children flash across the screen, I thought of how proud the parents must be and, oh, how their hearts must be aching. And if their kids had been in the centre since they (the kids) were 18 months old, how bittersweet this moment must be for both the teachers and the parents.
I mean, that’s such a large part of their lives. Just like that, one chapter closes and another begins. It must mean so much to the teachers, seeing their charges grow from tiny humans who can’t talk to independent little people. And I imagined my Aidan being a strapping six-year-old boy, no longer my tiny baby, and tears welled up in my eyes.
After the montage, the first performance begun and it was my little man and his friends! So they were supposed to be performing to a Hawaiian theme and as they trooped out, my heart burst. The boys were wearing floral shorts while the girls were wearing shimmery green grass skirts. All had luau around their necks. They started their dance and MY GOSH IT WAS SO CUTE.
Imagine tiny little people clapping, twirling their hands, shaking their bums, all in two rows. They were so earnest and for three-year-olds, they DID SO GOOD.
Here’s my little fellow, after more than a year of being in daycare, performing independently with his friends. He did not miss a beat and was so, so great.
Silly me, sitting there in the dark, beaming like a monkey and wiping tears from my eyes. Silly, silly me.
But oh, what a proud mama I am.
One day, he will be that six-year-old graduating from kindy and one day, I will be proudly cheering as he goes on stage to pose with his friends. One day, I will be bawling at the thought of him being all grown up and entering primary school.
No matter what, though, I will always be his proud mama.
Another year, another round of HFMD.
Yes, the three-year-old is down with this dreadful illness again. Poor baby has ulcers at the back of his throat and isn’t eating well at the moment. When he gives up three quarters of his chocolate biscuit, you know he is in great pain. He would never have given it up willingly in healthier times, hah.
The silver lining is that he is still, pretty much, himself. He’s happy and playful and still singing away.
Right now we are concerned with separating Aidan from Zac. The last thing we want is for the baby to get it too. And that’s where it turns dicey. We now have to activate our parents’ help – I can’t take leave because of classes and assessments while the man is juggling several projects. The logistics can be a challenge and this is frustrating for two parents who are working full-time.
At the same time, I am terrified of getting HFMD too. My last experience was nasty, I could barely eat or drink for seven days. It felt like I was swallowing shards of glass whenever I tried to ingest something. And then, miraculously, the ulcers disappeared on the 7th day.
Yup. HFMD as an adult is a terrible experience.
It’s been tough for the past year because we have been bouncing from illness to illness. It’s frustrating that we can only catch a short break before the next wave of illness comes, we are talking in terms of a week or two, at most a month. This is something that we accept as part and parcel of daycare life but it’s still difficult to live through. I’m tired of being sick, of my two babies being sick, of having to wake up a gazillion times at night to an angry, crying baby who cannot breathe through his congested nose, of having to clean snotty noses and rub phlegmy chests.
Well, everyone tells me that the first year of daycare is usually the toughest on the kid’s health. Fingers crossed that their immune systems would be strengthen soon as we inch towards that one-year mark.
Little man turns three. I cannot believe it. Whatever happened to my baby? Suddenly, he is all long limbs and sinewy muscles. The baby fats have all but melted off his frame. He is all boy now, running here and there and everywhere.
And yet, he is still very much our little boo boo. Every night, he tells me that he wants to “sleep with mummy”. Before he falls asleep, he must, must put his hand on my belly button and then lie his head on my lap. When papa teases him and calls him “baby”, he retorts that he is NOT papa’s baby but he is “mummy’s baby”. He lets us hug and kiss him silly. We play fun little games and sing songs with lyrics that we make up on the spot. He “cooks” for us. He likes to ask me to feed him his yogurt even though he is perfectly capable of feeding himself. He only wants papa to open the car door for him. He says “thank you” and “sorry” in the cutest, sweetest manner.
I still cannot resist kissing his cheeks, even though they are no longer deliciously juicy. I still love to carry him and have him nestle against my neck. I still sniff at his sweaty noggin, pretending that he still retains that sweet baby scent. I still love it when he calls me “mama” every once in a while.
I wish I can bottle up every moment with him. I wish I can remember every single funny thing that he says, every single new thing that he does which astounds us. I wish I can keep him at this age forever, this delightful age where he constantly amazes us with the little facets of his personality.
Three years ago, my life changed. It was turned topsy turvy and I found myself crying and laughing at the same time, as I cradled the tiny little being whom we had made, and who was irrevocably connected to us.
My son was born and he taught me what unconditional love is all about. I thought I knew everything but I was wrong.
Everything is still work in progress, of course. We are still figuring our way around this parenting gig. I still wonder if I am doing the right thing. I still wage battles to protect my family and to bring up my children the way I want to.
But then, I look at my little man and I think, I must have done something right. I must have done something good in order to have him in my life.
Once upon a time, he was but a mere flicker of hope. Today, he is my son.
Happy birthday to my boo boo boy. We love you madly, to the moon and back.