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.
Every single day, every single night, I look at these two and all I can think of is how much love I have for them.
And yet, there are moments on this motherhood journey when I feel completely spent, lost and doubtful. When I feel like I am simply making things up as I go along. When I am not completely sure and can only cross my fingers and hope that what I am doing is the right thing.
Maybe I will sound like a wuss for saying it but man, life with two little people as a full-time working mother is freaking tiring. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, I love them, I love us. But that’s not to say that this gig is not hard.
It’s not even the fact that I wake up two, three times a night that makes this tiring. There are some evenings when I feel like I have given everything I have got left after a day’s work to them and it’s still not enough. My boys are blessedly not difficult children, they are funny and cute and loving. But they are also very physical and their physical need of me can be very overwhelming, especially when the introvert side of me is grumpy and needs a recharge from this noisy, intrusive world. So I heave a huge sigh of relief when they go to bed and I can retreat into the sofa with my laptop. Or ice-cream. Mostly the laptop though.
That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate their physical side though. These two can be so endearing and affectionate in showing their love, I think we lucked out in that respect. Aidan is so generous in doling out hugs and kisses to his sappy mama here, while Zac is a little more reserved, saving these mostly for mama. But the littlest loves to toddle over to me, tug at my shirt and go “eh eh eh” – his way of asking to be carried. And woe betide me should I dare to put him down before he is ready to go!
But I am…tired. I know the days are long and the years are short, I know all that. In the meantime, I am looking forward to NOT feeling so exhausted one day.
We’ve entered June and the weather’s officially turned. Which means it’s hello to scorching days and sweaty humidity, hello to shorts and tanks and sandals, hello to escaping to air-conditioning.
We marked the first day of June by going on a ride down Lorong Halus to Punggol. Crazy, really, considering that we started so late (the littles took a late nap) and it was blazing hot. When we first started pedalling, I thought to myself, this is going down as one of those mistakes. Yup, we have had plenty of those. You know, when you do something which you thought was a good idea and then once you are in it, you kinda go, Hmm, yeah, NO.
Like when we thought it was a good idea to nap the boys in the car and go check out Some Random Place but the boys didn’t nap and they ended up overtired wrecks once we were out of the car. Or when we decided to go Somewhere Nice for dinner and they were slaying us with their worst behaviour.
I really thought it was going to be a disaster. Plus, Zac was screaming the entire way to Punggol. Don’t ask me why, I think he was just in a snitch. Sort of like, Dude, I was perfectly happy to toss toys all over the house and you strap me into this thing for what?! He wanted me to carry him but clearly, I had my hands full.
So there we were, pedalling furiously and there he was, yelling his lungs out, equally furiously. It was HILARIOUS. I was cycling behind husband, who had him in the bike seat, and I could see the heads of the passersby swivelling towards us to check out the screaming baby.
But other than Zac’s vocal exertion, it was a pretty fab ride. The moon was hanging low in the bright, clear blue sky, which thrilled the three-year-old to no end. And then on the other side was the setting sun: a glorious, majestic ball of fire. We quickly made our way to the beach, just in time to see it disappear over the horizon. The boys ate some banana pancakes that I had whipped up just before we set off, we rested our aching legs and we were quietly relishing the moment.
As the sky darkened, we made our way home. By this time, the heat had dissipated and the wind was rushing in our ears. Our legs worked extra hard so that we can get back as quickly as we could, since Zac had resumed his pissed off yelling. To placate him, we started singing as we cycled and so we became the band of singing cyclists. Only, our choice of songs were limited to Aidan’s repertoire and we were warbling, loudly, tunes about children rolling out of bed and Old MacDonald’s farm. And once we were home, the littlest one was quickly put to bed while the rest of us feasted on frozen pizza while catching the SEA Games on the telly.
So it didn’t turn out to be a disaster after all. And as I rode, all I could think of was how this is home and how these are the memories that I want my kids to have. We may not own anything fancy but these rides with mama and papa, these are the things that they will remember. Not the expensive toys or beautiful clothes.
I hope that one day, when my boys are all grown up and perhaps fathers themselves, they will recall that once upon a time, their parents took them cycling and they caught beautiful sunsets and they felt free, happy, contented and so, so loved.
(Okay, maybe Zac won’t remember that he screamed for most of the ride. He did feel loved and happy and free after we took him out of the seat.)