Dear Ethan: Two Too Soon

Dear Ethan,

They say that the years pass us by as the kids grow older, and I thought I understood that full and well having watched your sister sprout much too quickly from an infant to a toddler to the preschooler she is today. But, oh are the years really whizzing past with you in the mix! How did you grow from that scrawny little orange kampong chicken that you were to the strong-willed, fearless, active, snail- and dinosaur-loving, conversing boy with a cute tum-tum that you are today? It’s as if you have decidedly stepped up, just so you could catch up with your sister, who sings, talks and plays with you everyday.

Now, I know I said in my previous letter to you that you would wait in the wings for Mama, no matter how badly you wanted me. Well, I take that back. Nothing’s too urgent for you now, my son. “Mama, I want eat dinner.” “Ethan, I still need time to cook. ” “NOOOOOOOarrrrghhhh!!!!!” ” Mama, play big piano.” “Ethan, please let me finish up my dinner.” “NOOOOOOOarrrrghhhh!!!!!” “I want Mama play wif meeee.” “Okay, please wait for a while.” “NOOOOOOOarrrrghhhh!!!!!” When push comes to shove, you vent your frustration and smack the floor, table or even your poor sister right on the head if she happened to be the one who was, intentionally or not, in your way.

I’m not sure if this is what comes with being two, but to be honest, your sister was not as insistent at your age. This is somewhat new to me and it is proving to be a real challenge managing your big emotions whenever we have to say no or have you wait. You can’t take no for an answer, and wouldn’t have things any other way, and you certainly make yourself heard a million miles away if we don’t accede to your demands. There lies the dilemma, of whether to take the easy way out of giving in to you and risk having you learn that all you need to is scream to get your way, or to take the long, hard road of talking things out and teaching you to regulate your emotions. It’s so easy to give in to you though, your big Bambi eyes are my Kryptonite, and the smiles you flash melt everyone who has laid their eyes on you; but in the bigger scheme of things, I know better than to pander to your every whim, because I know that it’s far more important to nurture your strong-willed nature into something that will take you further in life. You must find it difficult to understand why Mama and Papa have to be firm and stern with you, and I don’t blame you, you are after all only a little more than two years old, but I hope that you will appreciate our thoughts by the time you are able to read this letter.

The wonderful thing about that titanium will of yours is that you are determined to complete any task (dangerous ones included) once you have set your eyes on it. You will not budge or give up, much less succumb to temptations that we toss your way in an attempt to distract you from whatever you are bent on doing. It is an impressive trait to see in your cherubic self, and it is my greatest wish that you will grow up pivoted on this and channel it to doing good.

As much as I look forward to seeing you grow and mature into a fine young man, it is bittersweet to watch you shed that baby-ness with each day. You started school at 23.5 months old, 4.5 months later than your sister did. I was torn between keeping you home so Mama could have you all to myself for a little longer and having you learn to interact with others, hence the delay in putting you in school. You would think Mama would be all heartless as I have accumulated a wealth of experience in dropping your sister off since she was 19 months old, but I remember being nonetheless anxious and tearful when I said goodbye to you after sitting in with you on your first day of school. Three weeks were all it took for you to stop crying (and me, in the car) at drop-off, a lot sooner than your sister did, but my heart ached much more this time round and I’m not sure why. Perhaps, it’s because I have learnt to be less hung up about the minute details of parenthood and to simply relish in you littles being…little, and I knew that dropping you off in school means you will grow to be independent of Mama that much sooner. Indeed, just slightly more than three months in, you have grown so much quicker than what Mama’s heart can grapple with. I peek at you from outside the classroom and I see you reading books aloud to your new friends, singing songs and growling as you plonk the safari animals around, truly enjoying social interaction and chatting with your teachers and friends. These are all good things, incredible milestones to celebrate, don’t get me wrong, but I sometimes wish…that you could stay a baby, my baby, forever.

These days, you run into my arms whenever I pick you up from school and you rattle on and on about what went on throughout your day. “Mama, I sing Happy Burfday.” “Mama, I eat cake today. Nice.” “Mama, I go playground today. I like (b)icycle.” “Mama, Teacher (Di)ana read book.” “Mama, Archie bite me.” Each time you do that, it strikes me (hard) that you are creating memories of your own without Mama in them, and my heart breaks at that thought. And when you beckon me over as you say, “Mama, come, come play, come ON” or when you lecture, “Ethan no beat Jie Jie, no shout people, not nice, hands are for sayang, right?” I wonder if you are a big boy trapped in a toddler’s body, and I dread what’s to come. Is Mama too selfish to want to be your only world? Is Mama…foolish to not want to lose you to time?

While I pray that you do not slip away into adulthood without me noticing, I shall relish in you being little. At two years old, you may no longer fit into my arms, but I will cradle you. I will blissfully sink into the pillow propped up on the daybed in your room, cuddle you close and listen to you read your favourite bedtime stories (Time For Bed and Shhh, We Have A Plan). And we will clap spiritedly as you finish narrating (and asking me a thousand questions, “Mama, why so many birds?”). Then I will ask if you would like Mama to carry you to sleep; you would hop onto my lap with a big smile on your face with your tongue wagging, and you would make yourself comfortable in the cradle of my right arm. Then I will ask you if you are happy, and you will tell me all the things that delighted you that day.

“I like Mama. I like Jie Jie. I like Papa.”

“I eat fish. I like fish.”

“I like playground, and and and dye-o-saur.”

“I see (ptero)dactyl today. I touch dye-o-saur leg. SO BIIIIG! I not scared.”

“I like snail. Mama, why Papa Snail go home? Where Baby Snail? Baby Snail die??”

“Mama, Papa bring me play rock today. I like rock. I like running.”

“I like swimming wif Papa, Mama and Jie Jie.”

I will do all of the above for as long as you let me. And perhaps, one day, at bedtime, when you are old enough to ask Mama what makes me happy…I’ll say,

“I like you.” And you will know how much you delight me everyday, too.

Don’t grow up too quickly, but if you must, let Mama hold your hand for a little longer, okay?

Love always,

Mama

 

 

 

 

 

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