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.
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.
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.
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.)