Dear Aidan and Zac,
Before the two of you came along, there was the two of us – me and Papa.
We met in 1998, got together when the new millennium rolled in, broke up a couple of years later, realised that nobody else measured up to each other, got back together again (it’s all been recorded down for posterity here), and then recited our wedding vows to our family and friends on a rainy September 14 evening in 2008.
After the wedding, we made a home and decided it was time to have children. We tried, failed, went for numerous IUIs, took the plunge and went for IVF, failed and then were pregnant by surprise – twice. That’s where you two come in.
Six and a half years of parenthood have flown by. We fought, cried, sunk into our beds each night in sheer exhaustion, drank copious amounts of caffeine, laughed at every antic you display, burst with joy at every milestone that you hit and drove our blood pressure sky high whenever you did something that made us mad. We stopped holding hands because we had to hold yours, and then started holding hands again when you decided you no longer needed ours to keep you steady. We kissed you, and we kissed each other just to make you squeal.
That’s your papa and I, in a nutshell. That’s 10 years of marriage summed up in a few pithy words. These words, of course, are not quite enough to encapsulate every moment, every tear, every smile, every angry thought, every loving gesture, every frustrated silence, every (temporary…trust me) murderous intent.
Oh yes, anger and frustration and sadness. There’s definitely some of those in our marriage.
Because you see, my dear littles, our marriage is not perfect. We have highs and lows. There are times when we love each other dearly but dislike each other intensely concurrently. There are moments when we would rather be alone than with each other. There are times when we want to spend time with others, away from each other (and you…but you’d probably cry if I tell you that so oops.)
And you know what? That’s absolutely fine. I’ve only been married once in my life but I reckon that no married couple go through only the highs and never the lows. At the end of the day, if there is anything that you learn from our marriage, it is that we make our choice. Every. Single. Day.
We choose to love each other. We choose to let each other have that last piece of chocolate. We choose to let go of our individual pride and be the unit that our family needs. We choose to walk our own path together, away from the naysayers.
We choose us, over and over again.
Remember, our marriage is a choice made by two individuals to commit to each other. We are still individuals but we are also equal partners.
And so it has been for the past 10 years. And for many more 10 years, hopefully.
You always tell mummy that you don’t want us to die, you want us to stay with you forever. Well, my darling boys, you know that is impossible and that’s okay. Because I am pretty damn sure that when papa and I are dead and gone, we will still be together. If not in your hearts and memories, then probably in the afterlife, roaming the world together as we have always intended.
Here’s to many more wedding anniversaries celebrated with the two of you, the greatest gifts of our marriage.
Exactly three years ago, at this very hour, I was trying to sleep. And failing. Terribly. Because you were then in my womb and you were preparing to make your appearance into this world. And boy, did you make it known to me that you were READY. TO. BE. OUT.
The contractions, oh, the contractions. They came in waves and robbed me of my sleep. I breathed and dozed and cringed and groaned. Goodness knows where I got the strength to withstand the never-ending torrent of pain. But I did. (And those people who talk of forgetting the pain? LIARS.)
12 hours after you started making your descent, out you came. But first, you had to tear the walls of my interior while you were making your grand appearance. And this, my darling, is our first taste of your personality.
At almost three (because it isn’t the hour yet), you dictate your own pace. You are such a little individual, you refuse to live by our hour. Instead, you choose what you want to do and when you want to do it. Nobody can force you to do anything, instead, you will go about it your own way.
Take a simple task such as getting a shower. Even after numerous warnings in advance, you do not comply. Instead, you will tell me, “I am practising the piano, Mummy” or “I am still building my ship/airplane/train/X-Wing fighter/whatever mode of transport”. I will leave you be and true enough, when you decide that it is time to shower, you will waltz into the bathroom.
It can be extremely frustrating, especially on days when I have to attend to my lessons after you go to bed and things are running behind schedule. But at the same time, I know that I have to let you go your own way. I shouldn’t clip your wings and confine you to a rigid world when you are still in the midst of testing the boundaries of your independence. And in time to come, this streak will serve you well as an adult. In the meantime, I just have to be patient and heave a big sigh inward.
Pace aside, you also have this complete and utter disregard for your safety. You just MOVE, no matter how, no matter what. There are times when I wonder if I had birthed a tornado instead of a child. You are always tearing around the house and I know I should stop you but then you are so freaking cute as you run around on your chubby little legs.
Oh yes, the chubs. Let’s talk about that. I love, LOVE that you are such a squishy pie. I love to hug you, to squeeze you tightly in my arms, to kiss your bouncy cheeks. You are my baby bear. I love that you still fit so snugly into my arms and you still allow me to kiss and snuggle up to you at bedtime.
But do you sleep? Hell no. Again, this thing with going at your own pace. You have perfected an elaborate dance which I have to adhere to. First, you tell me you want to nurse. And then you say that you are done and command me to lie down with your brother. But you will not sleep. Instead, you talk and sing songs and recite rhymes and talk some more (and your grandmothers thought that you were mute at two?!). Finally, you command me down to your bed, tell me you are thirsty, run out to get water, run back and ask to nurse before you drift off to sleep.
Really, I could go on and on about the things that you do and the things that you say but I daresay a post on my blog will not suffice. Nothing but seeing you in person can capture the kind of personality that you are. You are extremely annoying but so damn cute. You are extremely stubborn but so damn funny.
I mean, you are the kid who bursts into our bedroom at 6-freaking-AM and shouts, “I am here! Wake up Mummy! The sun is up!”
But you are also the kid who still wants mummy to carry him, and wraps his arms around my neck so lovingly. You are the kid who rolls on top of me to say “good morning” and to give me my good morning kiss. You are the kid who, when I pretend to be sad, will grab me by the neck, kiss me soundly on the lips and say, “I kiss you! You like?” You are the kid who chuckles so infectiously at the silliest things in the world. You are the kid who is ever so generous with your brother when he demands something that you have (although you are also the kid who will bop your brother on the face like a thug when you are pissed off with him). You are the kid who can play nicely with your brother without us actively supervising you. You are the kid who dances like nobody is watching. You are the kid who eats like a champ and tries everything. You are the kid who sometimes wake up and say, “Mummy I wake up already.” (You are also the kid who wakes up, talks up a storm LOUDLY and demands that we all wake up with you, unlike your brother who could quietly babble to himself until we were ready to be awake.)
I could go on and on but oh there aren’t enough words to say how much you mean to me. I love everything about you, from your smelly, sweaty head to your delicious little toes. From the moment I knew of your existence as a bunch of microscopic cells, I have loved you with everything that my fragile human heart can muster and more.
I don’t know if you will ever understand the depth of your mother’s love. But remember that no matter what, no matter where you do, our arms will always be a safe, open harbour for you to return to.
To my baby bubba, I love you to the moon and back. Stay fearless. Stay joyful.
Another year, another birthday for you, my beloved homeland.
We watched the parade in the comforts of our own home. This time, Aidan is old enough to be captivated by the proceedings while Zac dozed off midway through the parade. While I can’t say that I cared much for the legend of Badang storyline, I will admit that it’s always the same old things that bring a tear to my eye – the patriotic songs of yesteryear, the enthusiastic performances by all the participants, the pride clearly shown in the spectators and the gorgeous fireworks bursting in the night sky.
This year, however, something else made me almost weep with pride. And that is the inclusion of the special needs Singaporeans in the parade, as well as the signing of our favourite National Day songs. There was something electrifying in that segment, something heart warming. It made me feel like we are taking a huge step forward in becoming an inclusive society.
And yet, I could not help but feel resigned that this took 51 years in the making.
But as I’ve said before, life in Singapore can feel like a complicated cha-cha. We move one step forward and then three steps back. A whirl and a turn later, we are back on track. It can be immensely frustrating and yet hopeful at the same time.
Hopeful. Not quite a word I would use on 2016, frankly. It’s been crazy and weird and downright depressing. Sometimes, I wonder what the hell we are doing and what kind of world we are leaving behind for the children.
But it is precisely the children who gives us hope. Who makes us feel like giving it our all even if we are not sure our best is good enough.
On Monday, the school that the littles go to had a National Day celebration and the parents were invited. Amid the various activities and shows and games, there was one thing that stood out: the simple, pure joy and enthusiasm of the children.
They sang this year’s theme song, Tomorrow’s Here Today (a rather catchy and fun tune, I really love it!) with much happiness, were loud and proud when reciting the pledge, and belted out the national anthem with gusto. There was so much love for the celebrations, for the country. And as the proud parents watched them do their thing, we couldn’t help but feel inspired by and smile at their positivity.
At some point in time, they will lose this simplicity. They will lose all the sense of wonder that they have for their country. They will be critical – and rightly so too. But at that moment of watching them take their pledge seriously, that was when I came to the realisation that the children are our future. And how they will be in time to come will be the results of the seeds that we sow today.
And that’s why the segment with our special needs people is important. It may have taken 51 years for us to get here but it isn’t too late. We still have time and hope. We cannot give up, we must not. We have to do our best today to lay the foundations for our children, to ensure that the future for them is an inclusive, gracious, open one.
Happy birthday, my birth country. I am proud of how far we have come but there is still much to be done. I don’t know if I will be here when you celebrate 100 years of existence but I do know that we can weather the storms of today to build a home that we will be prouder of for our children.
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,
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.
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.