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.
Today, my bubba turns two.
Two years on, I still recall every moment of my labour and his birth in great detail. The contractions that came in waves, the nausea that had me running to the bathroom again and again. The relief that flooded my every fibre when the nurses at the delivery ward told me that I was 8cm dilated. The confusion that ran through my brains when I was asked to push. The quiet determination in trying all ways and means to get this baby out of my body. The bubbling joy that removed all traces of pain when they told me it was a boy. The contented love in seeing husband cuddle his newborn. The sense of completion when I held his tiny pink body in my arms and said, hello Zac.
This littlest one of ours, ah, he is everything that we have wanted and yet completely unexpected. The greatest beauty in parenting more than one child is in seeing how they develop and blossom into their own individual identities, despite coming from the same gene pool. Needless to say, Zac is so different from his brother and yet so alike.
And just like that, another year has passed. If your first year seemed to have zoomed past at scarily great speed, then this second year has been so much more FUN and ridiculously hilarious.
You, my darling boy, are the cheekiest little person in the world. I cannot believe the things that you get up to – jumping on papa and mummy’s bed as if it’s a trampoline, trying to sit on the cats, tossing your bowl and spoon off from the table when you are bored at the dining table, blowing raspberries with oodles of saliva, demanding more food in your bowl. And yet when we tell you off sternly, you simply crack us your sweetest grin, so wide that your eyes literally disappear into slits. Sometimes, I have to turn away so you cannot see me laugh. You are my THUG BABY, the one whose DNA is devoid of FEAR.
It’s of no wonder, then, that the teachers at your daycare are so in love with you. Yes, that was one of the things that we did, placing you in your brother’s daycare when you turned 21 months. You cried and cried in the first few weeks, and it broke my heart to see you sobbing away when I returned to pick you up.
But you know, we all expected you to be a trooper and you did so good. By the end of a month, you had more or less adjusted and while you would cling to me at drop off, you seemed to be enjoying yourself.
So back to the teachers. They gush about you all the time, and they would tell me how your smile melts their hearts. Once, your teacher Lina told me incredulously that you ate four servings of lunch. I burst out laughing. You do make it my money’s worth, I dare say.
School has been good for you though, despite my initial reservations at putting you there so early. Your vocabulary has increased tremendously and you come home humming songs. When we sing to you, you try to chime in, complete with actions. Even your skeptical grandmothers can see how school has helped you in becoming more verbal – they who were worried that you hardly spoke a word at home. You are such a funny little person, stringing words into short sentences like “I want do!” and “Papa wake up” and “Thank you mummy” and (more frequently) “sorry Aidan!”
You are my little tornado, my little bull. You have so, so, so much energy every single day. From the morning you are up, you are on the go go go. It’s so amazing how much zest for life you have. I wish that you will always have that joy for living, the tremendous love for doing. And that’s one thing I hope we, as parents, won’t go wrong.
I know that we are constantly on the sidelines saying, “No Zac, don’t do this and don’t do that.” We worry about your safety, worry about you getting yet another bump on the head. And yet at the same time, I try to remember that this is what will get you through life, this desire to try new things, to push boundaries and see what you can get out of it. It’s an important trait to have in life, and I never want to see you lose it or be forced to conform.
Parenting is a strange journey – there is no instruction manual, there is no pause button and more importantly, there is no way that we can ever go back to right the mistakes that we make. With you, we have the benefit of hindsight gained from the experience of parenting your brother but that doesn’t make us perfect parents, because you are so different from him. I can only hope that the seeds that we have laid today will form the foundation of a future for you – one where you are a good, kind, loving, empathetic man with that cheeky sense of humour and crazy love for living that you have today at the grand old age of two.
Ah yes, that’s where we are today. The age of two. You are my squishy bear, the one whom I am still nursing to sleep every night (you will now dictate which side to start first and when you are done). The one whom I am still baby wearing in my wrap. The one who doles out hugs and kisses, and has “conversations” with me when wrapped. The one whom I squeeze and kiss to death every single day because you are just so delectable. The one whom I will gaze upon in the quiet night after you have drifted off into slumberland, listening to your even breathing and then gently kissing your bouncy cheeks while sniffing your hair. The one who makes me smile as you zip down the corridor in typical Zac fashion. The one who is my last baby, who is showing me that the very last set of firsts should not be a source of sadness but a thing of impermanence, ready to be celebrated and cherished.
When you are older, all these may not make any sense to you or mean anything much. But know that these memories matter to your old mother, they will be what keeps me going when I am silver haired and have nothing to live for.
And right now, these are the memories that keep me afloat when times are hard – and they do get hard – and during moments when I feel like I may have failed as a mother.
Because these are beautiful memories that tell me that no matter what’s been said and done, you are happy and laughing and that’s all that is important.
Happy birthday, my darling Zac. I love you, baby boy and know that we will always have your back.
Stay fearless. Stay joyful.
My dear son,
When you were born, we went to the fortune teller to pick out a Chinese name for you. He looked at your ba zi thoughtfully and said, “This one will be active.” I groaned a little and said, “Another active one?” He looked at me knowingly and replied, “Not just active, but very very very active.”
True enough, you have turned out to be a very active baby, and an impish, tenacious one at that.
At the grand ‘ol age of 11 months, you decided that you wanted to walk. By then, you were already pulling yourself up to standing position and cruising quite effortlessly. And then one evening, you were poised to take a step. My heart nearly stopped. But you didn’t. Instead, you continued trying and trying and a week later, when I came back from work, you took your first wobbly steps towards me.
Since then, you have not looked back. You walk everywhere. You hate it when your big brother is running around and you aren’t. There is a reason why babies at this age are called toddlers, because they look so damn cute toddling around. You, my darling boy, look like an adorably drunk penguin. You always walk with that little smirk hanging on your lips, as if to say, hey check out me walking.
With your brother, we went through a long period of practising with him. Those were the days when we had creaky achy backs because he wanted to walk and he couldn’t and so we had to bend over to hold his hand or arm. We let him use the walking wagon quite a fair bit and it took him a while before he finally had the confidence to walk unaided. On hindsight, he does have a cautious streak in him.
You, on the other hand, went from cruising to walking just like that. No help, no extra cheer from us. You just walked. And you are so bloody good at it. So much so that you hate it when we stop you from walking and carry you (when you are dying to walk).
And that’s so telling of your personality. You just grab life by the horns and move, with scarcely any regard for your safety. You just do it, with no hesitation, no fear, no thought. And now that you are mobile, you are almost always mobile. It’s rare to see you still, except during bedtime when you are happily flipping the pages of your board books. And thankfully, you do love your books.
Right now, you are in love with The Very Hungry Caterpillar. You can sit and listen attentively as I read, and then poke your fingers in the little holes. That’s when you are still. For the next nanosecond. And then you are grabbing the book to do this on your own. No help please, thank you very much.
Other things that make you happy are bubbles during bath time. When I carry you into the bedroom and say BUBBLES, a delighted grin spreads over your face and you go AHH. We really need to film it down, it’s quite entertaining.
The person that you adore most right now is mama. And it’s so nice to be so loved by you. Every evening, when we arrive home from school, we’d call for you and you’d clamber over to the door in a heady mix of glee and excitement. Then you’d demand to be carried and you’d nestle your (smelly sweaty) head into mine.
Oh how I love that baby noggin!
I just have this feeling that you are going to be challenging us quite a fair bit. Your brother has an awareness of boundaries but it looks like you have no care for them at all. I am not sure how this is going to pan out but I am pretty certain that it involves us chasing you down and losing weight in the process.
So you, in a nutshell, after twelve months. A most joyful, curious, determined, affectionate little fellow. It’s going to be so fun watching you grow.
We love you, little bubba, right to the moon and back.
Exactly one year ago, I was trying to fall asleep as wave after wave of contractions assailed me.
After 12 hours of labour, Zac arrived and stole our hearts forever and ever.
My second-born has been everything I had hoped for and more. He makes me laugh every single day and makes my heart sing. Every night, I settle into bed next to him and give his noggin’ a little sniff before I drift off into sleep. And in the mornings, I wake to his loud and vociferous complaining that he is the only one who is awake. He sees me crack open my eyelid and bursts into the biggest and brightest smile.
You know how some women wonder if they would be able to love their second-born as much as they do their first? I never had that doubt. From the moment I knew I was pregnant, I was already in love. I knew that I would love him the same way I love his brother, and that I would love him in different ways too.
With Aidan, I approached his first birthday with a sense of relief that we had somehow survived parenthood. His birth had been a huge shock to our systems, our lives, and we had gotten through a year without killing anybody.
But now, with Zac, all I can feel is a sense of wistful nostalgia, that time had passed by so quickly. He’s also my last baby so this feels extra poignant.
Tomorrow morning when he wakes, he will be One. Wow.
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.