Category: Parenthood

Letter to My 6 Year Old Daughter

Darling Megan, 

Your 6th birthday came and went in a flash. Has it only been 6 years since you joined our little family, making it a fantastic four? It seemed like you’ve been with us forever, because I cannot remember how life had been before you arrived now. 

I loved the Powerpuff Girls when I was in my teens, watching the cartoon with your BaBa, my boyfriend then, cooing over the oh-so-adorable and colourful little girls with super powers. I could never decide if I was more of the tomboy and tough Buttercup, or the calm and composed Blossom, but had never identified myself with the sweet and sensitive Bubbles. You, my dear girl, are a great 3-in-1; I finally understood what Professor Utonium meant by “sugar, spice, and everything nice”. He was talking about you. 

I know it has not been easy growing up in our family. BaBa, GorGor and I are all the typical first borns – we exhibit very strong personality traits of first borns. Although you are the first born daughter, you are technically the second born too, and you again have a mixture of traits of both. It must have been tough on you, constantly struggling to fit in with us, yet your independent streak is extremely strong. You fight for our attention, even if it means using frowned-upon methods. 

You are a great individual, strong-willed and determined, and I’m extremely proud of you because of that. Once you make up your mind on some thing or task, you have the tenacity to see it through. But darling, this part of the world we live in values compliance more than do-whatever-I-wish. For the sake of your survival, until you become powerful enough to manage your own destiny, please pretend to be more compliant and less willful. Connect your natural sensitivity to your instinct to act; create the necessary synergy for these 2 talents of yours to work in your favour. 

In other words, stop banging your head against the wall cos the wall ain’t gonna cave in before your head does. Choose your battles, darling. There are more than enough for you to win later in life. 

You have also taken an interest in boys. It is okay, you don’t have to hide your embarrassment behind a covered mouth, limp waves of your hand in denial and girlish giggles in front of me. I understand perfectly; my first interest in boys started when I was seven years old. I might have been 1 year older than you then, but there have been lots of changes in technology and society between my generation and yours, so we are probably on par after adjusting for the differences. 

After a few samples, I can more or less determine the type of boys you like by now. And it’s pretty easy – the type I don’t like. The type who is as far away from your BaBa’s type, physical appearance wise. Or your GorGor, to a certain extent, for the matter. A pretty boy is okay, my dear girl; but his values, quality of his mind and heart, must matter much more than the physical grandeur that will definitely fade with time. Choose wisely, for a heart broken by a boy not compatible to nor worthy of your time and love is one too many. I may have to start chanting this every year from now though. A nag, you have turned me into. 

MaMa only has 1 final wish for you this year – be wise. Use your gift of wisdom, be it to choose your battles, or the boys. Love you to infinity and beyond. 

Lots of hugs and kisses, 

From MaMa to you, my little Sunshine-Pirate-Princess

  

 

In All Fairness 

It was past the kids’ bedtime as I returned home, trying to open the doors as quietly as I could, and tip toe-ing into the darkened house. 

Before I could close the door behind me, I saw a little head full of hair spying at me from his bedroom doorway. Ah, the little one who places a great deal of emphasis on quality time.

“MaMa! I have been trying to keep awake to wait for you! Can I tell you about my day?” Matthew was all smiles as he whispered loudly, remembering to keep his voice down because MeiMei was already asleep, and loud enough because he knew his mum was a little hard of hearing. In all fairness.

Could I say ever say no to this request of his? Never. I pushed aside my desire to crash out on the floor and followed him into his room. And I listened as he recounted his whole day at my parents’, this week being the 1-week March school holidays. 

As the story unfolded, I was reminded how important fairness is to my boy. He explained why he tried to spend equal time with his GongGong; he realised he had been spending more time with PoPo, and not enough time with his grandfather. In all fairness. 

“I have to be fair, if not I won’t be able to remember their names next time, right?”, was his (a little strange) reasoning. 

But I understood. Quality time with family, no matter how briefly, counts. Every little bit, and as equally apportioned as possible, matters. Powerful reminders worth paying attention to, especially coming from a not-yet-8-year-old boy. Have to hand it to him. In all fairness. 

A Special Love Note

14 February holds only brief moments of significance in my life – I can count them with the fingers on my hand. I believe it has a lot to do with my (un)popularity with boys and having my birthday 3 days before the V-day.

After the first or second anniversary with the Man, he had very practically (and justifiably) combined my birthday and Valentine’s Day presents together every year since. Not that I minded much, as the price hikes and crowds have totally turned me off the idea of venturing anywhere or doing anything “special” on the actual day.

This year, however, thanks to the thoughtful teachers who planned the curriculum at Matthew’s school, I received something special from him – a love note from my favourite boy.

As part of his schoolwork on Saturday (14th February), Matthew had to write a note of love to either his dad or me “on any piece of paper”, and “of any length”.  He chose to write to me, on a very small piece of note paper containing just 3 lines of words.

The Man thought he didn’t do his schoolwork properly enough, given the really short lines and small piece of paper, and made him re-write a longer note on an A4-sized foolscap paper. He did it again because he is a really good boy, but the new note was mere schoolwork; I thought it lacked the genuine meaning in his original note.

But I am glad he re-wrote the note, because that meant I got to keep his original little note of love:

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Coming from a boy who has not been big on showing his love (but gradually becoming more loving), his little gesture of love becomes so precious, despite it being a by-product of schoolwork. Combined with his genuine full-of-love bear hug after giving me the note, I could not have asked for anything more. This is truly a special and significant Valentine’s Day for me. How I love him so …

Owe Hug, Pay Hug

I have heard numerous times that as kids get older, they will resist and even reject affection from parents. On the contrary, now that my kids are older, they appreciate hugs and kisses more than when they were toddlers. The Man and I are always very conscious of showing affection to Matthew in public, like hugging or holding his hand now he is almost 8 years old. But he has assured us that he doesn’t mind; he even initiates hugs and slips his not-so-small-anymore hand into ours. Perhaps things will change in a couple years’ time, when he reaches his tween years.

When the kids were younger, I was affectionate but I kept my distance. I used to cringe when Megan plastered herself to me for no reason. Maybe it is because I know I don’t have many more years before the kids reject my affection, I have become more generous with my hugs and kisses. I even welcome Megan sliding onto my lap nowadays.

Matthew recently complained I did not give him his morning hug one morning, and was so upset he remembered the incident till the next morning, when he made sure I gave him his hugs to compensate for the missed one.

And this morning, Megan complained that I did not keep my promise of giving her the hug after certain time, and ensured I gave her one big hug and kiss before letting the matter drop. The Man chuckled and described the kids as “Ah-Longs”.

When “Ah-Longs” (illegal loansharks) are mentioned to people in my generation and older, we usually conjure up images of red paint splashed everywhere onto the doors of people who fail to pay up, together with the words “Owe Money, Pay Money”,  a direct translation from the four words in the Chinese language, written across the white walls.

It seems I have 2 hug loansharks now, for they make a lot of noise, loiter within my field of vision and pester me until I do not owe them any hug and kiss. Will I ever pay back my “Owe Hug Pay Hug” “Ah-Longs”? Then again, do I really want that day to come? Maybe not. Happy to be in this debt till as long as I live …

Mummy’s Guilt, Me?

It’s been 4 weeks since I started attending classes 3 weeknights a week. By the time I drag my tired body home after class, the kids are already asleep. I can only show how much I miss them by covering them with as much blanket I can extricate without stirring them from their slumber.

I have no classes on Wednesday evenings however, and I make sure I have dinner with the kids. Perhaps absence makes the heart grow fonder, for they fight for my attention the moment I step into the house. They talk non-stop, over and on top of each other. And they would resort to mischief just to get my attention. I catch up with my dearest mum and sister too, so it is pretty difficult to have to split myself into 3 or 4 at once.

Once we are back at our own flat, the same story repeats itself. The kids vie for my attention, “MaMa this, MaMa that”. I try my best to respond to them positively. I am after all trying to make up for lost time, and they use that to their full advantage.

The bedtime ritual becomes draggy. One more hug and kiss, one more flying kiss, one more anything to get MaMa to pay attention to them, whatever works. My nerves get frayed from the repeated shout-out for affection. But guilt and the need to make up for lost time make me hang on, to my detriment.

A stroke of luck saw my class end earlier for once on Tuesday night, and I got home in time just as the kids settled in for the night. To witness the kids “fly” out of their bedrooms to envelop me in waist-high bear hugs when I was barely in through the door lifted my weary spirits and brought smiles to all our faces in the dark. This ‘lucky break’ comes with a price.

Matthew tried a new tactic yesterday night. “MaMa, can you go to school tomorrow and tell your teacher to finish class early, so you can come home earlier to tuck us in bed?” I didn’t know to laugh or cry over his theoretically simple solution – Mummy needed, Teacher, you know what to do. End the class early!

If only.

I do need to get a grip on my guilt though; else I risk getting run over by the kids’ demands and lose my time and myself in the process. In the paraphrased words of The (wise) Man, “Keep to the scheduled bedtime, regardless of the kids’ demands. Teach the kids to respect your time.” Timely advice indeed …

What if I Forget You?

Recent lapses in memory triggered me to pose this question to Megan when we were lying side-by-side on her bed, having our girls’ talk on Saturday night in the dark, “What if MaMa falls sick one day and forgets who you are, Megan? What will you do?”

Knowing that it would be a difficult question even for an adult child to answer, let alone a soon-to-be 6yo, I still wanted to hear her answer.

I loved every bit of her honest response. She giggled nervously, erm-ed a couple of times, and then said, “I don’t know how to answer that, MaMa. I don’t know what to do.”

I persisted, and rephrased my question, “Is there anything you would do to help MaMa remember you, if I really forget who you are?”

That was when Megan hugged me really tightly, and grabbed my hand. She said, “I will draw a picture of me on your hand here, MaMa (tracing the back of my hand with her finger), and write ‘Megan loves MaMa’ so you can remember me.” With that, she planted a kiss on my hand, exactly where she last traced her ‘drawings’.

All the love I have for her rushed into my head and heart, and I swooned with the intensity of the emotion. She really loves me! And I prayed really hard that night; that my memory stays with me even when I grow old and sick, for I never, ever want to forget her…

Smell This, MaMa!

Warning: This post may be too graphic in the description of body fluids to be comfortable for some

I have been living with a perpetually blocked or runny nose throughout my life until I became pregnant with Matthew. Overnight, my blocked nose cleared up and I could smell many things that eluded me most of the time, when my nose was blocked. And of course, that was also when the problems started.

Ask the Man and he will probably tell you that I react dramatically to odours. From cigarette smoke, distinct metallic smells in perspiration and blood, to a particular strong odour some shops that sell clothes emit. It’s always that one smell that suddenly makes breathing difficult and my eyes water, and I will most definitely gag and cough. (And the Man will look at me as if I have gone mad, but he will never understand.)

I can also smell coffee and the sulphurous odour, after one has consumed asparagus, in the urine. And don’t get me started on how adverse I am to the various odours I can pick up from poop. (The Man is probably rolling his eyes as he is reading this)

With my ‘heightened’ sense of smell, I was suddenly disadvantaged to be a hands-on mother. I gagged at the sour smells of vomit from the babies – Matthew regurgitated lots of milk when young, luckily Megan hardly any, and my little niece Natalie did some. But poop smells really torment me – back when the kids were babies and soiled their diapers several times a day, to now when I enter the ‘fragrant’ toilet to help wash their bottoms after they are done cleaning up after themselves (just to be doubly sure).

So you can imagine I am extremely skeptical, cautious and wary when someone asks me to smell something, especially when I don’t know the source of origin, or the smell has not reached me yet.

Megan and I were walking hand-in-hand along a familiar path we have walked so many times I did not even realize when I had let go of her hand. Suddenly, she stopped in her tracks and with her quick reflexes lifted her little hand almost to the bottom of my nose, while saying something to me. With my almost-equally fast reflexes, I recoiled from her fast approaching hand, while saying “What?! What?!”, almost in panic. Oh please, not something smelly she has touched and asking me to share it too!

Oblivious to my physical rejection of her hand, she brought her hand to her nose, smiled her pretty smile and then stretched out her palm again towards me. I forced myself to calm down and listen carefully to what she was saying. “MaMa, you smell my hand. My hand now smells like you. Mmm, so nice. I love it!”

I relaxed, and embarrassed of my rejection, brought my nose to her hand. True enough, her hand smelled exactly like my favourite rose-scented hand cream. Through holding hands, we shared not only a mother-daughter bond, but also our smells.

And the Man, who had witnessed the whole scene, was rolling his eyes and chuckling to his heart’s content. Glad I brought some comic relief …