I am not sure why but I feel like the mother of the bride on the eve of the wedding. As I put you to bed this evening, I struggled to hold onto your last night as a three-year-old. Tomorrow, you will be four and my heart aches a little at the thought of that. I am pining for you already, like a mother missing her newly-married daughter. Yet, I am looking forward to see how your growth might lend you room to embrace and explore this world, to experience joy and all that life has to offer (even amidst trials and tribulations), much like how the mother of the bride yearns for her child to experience and contribute to the joys of marriage and life after that.
The past year has zipped by much too quickly for my appetite. Your little brother, Ethan, was only a little over four months old when you turned three, and I have been spending a lot of time taking care of his needs, making sure that we are all fed and alive. I am sorry that you had to spend the same amount of time pottering about on your own, telling stories to your bears, singing to no one in particular, waiting for what must seem like an eternity when I ask you to hold on as I hastily complete the tasks at hand and generally, growing up so that I can cope with two children.
As much as I have noticed your new quirks this year and caught on the most astounding conversations with you, I am convinced that I have missed out as many precious moments and I hope that if you have ever resented me for not being there 100% of the time, that you would forgive me. Because I have tried my best to be as present as I could be, my love, and I will strive to do that for as long as you want me to.
Speaking of those moments that I have had the privilege of sharing with you…there are so many quirks of yours that I wish I were the most prolific writer to document every bit of you as a three-year-old, because you are worth celebrating over and over again.
You’d surprise me with the passionate and incredibly cheeky girl you have become (a far cry from the shy tot you once were), parading traits which are reserved for us and only us. Like how you would suddenly drop your toys, run towards me, cup my saggy cheeks in your tiny hands, grit your teeth and exclaim, “Arrrgggggh, I love you soooooo much!” And when I ask you how much is much, you’d shout, “TWENTY TIMES!” (If you must know, twenty is the largest number you can understand in the concept of math right now, and I know that you are trying to tell me that you love me with everything you have.) Or when you shake your booty in the most comedic fashion (like a waddling duck!) whilst wearing a duck face complete with slitty eyes to make your father and I choke on our laughter, before you collapse in giggles. Or when you ‘host’ TV shows and insist that Papa and I watch you whilst you cue us to applaud or laugh hysterically at the most appropriate moments.
At times, you’d show maturity beyond your years and lead by example on how we should live. Like when you chide us for wasting water because you have been designated a part of the ‘water police’ in school, and “Mama, it is very important, you know!” Or when you remind me firmly that I mustn’t shout when I lose my temper at Ethan because, “Shouting is wrong, Mama. You must talk nicely to Didi, just tell him not to do it anymore.” Or when you use your smarts to sneak into our bed more than once a week. “But Mama, Papa is working late again, so I can sleep in your bed tonight, right?” Or when Ethan screams in the car seat and as I check on how you are whilst I drive amidst the ruckus, you calmly announce, “Mama, I am being patient.” And then there’s the bedtime prayer, which you lead every night. “Dear God, thank you for the food. Thank you for our home. Thank you for Papa, Mama and Didi. Please take care of us, keep us healthy and safe. Please take care of E from N1 (your schoolmate who has leukaemia), Teacher J (who is pregnant) and baby, Teacher N (who is also pregnant) and baby, and Aunty S and baby F. Amen.” And your empathetic heart would always make special mentions of people whom you think need God’s help depending on what has happened on that day.
Of course, there are those tender moments that tug at my heartstrings when you remind me that you are really just a three-year-old and still my baby deep down inside. Like when you get awoken by thunder and lighting, and cry inconsolably for us to comfort you before winding up in our bed so we can cuddle you to sleep and make you feel safe from the storm brewing outside. Like when you insist that you don’t ever want to get married and have babies because “I only want Mummy, and I want to be a baby.” Or when you insist on reading the same bedtime story (It’s Time For Bed by Mem Fox) even though we have been putting you to bed with the same lines since you were nine months old, because it makes you feel safe. I, too, recall on many occasions that you would sob quietly in a corner after you spot my white hairs, “Mama, are you going to die? I don’t want you to die, Mama. I don’t want you to die…” How about the nightly requests you make of us after we turn off the lights? “I want bubbles and (to go to the) playground and (to go) swimming, I want Papa Mama (to) come. I want chocolate milk and chocolate bread and cornflakes and milk. Goodnight! 我爱你，爸爸。我爱妳，妈妈。”
All these moments, told and untold, are slipping away as you approach the grand age of four. And my heart…I am not sure if I am ready to let it all go just yet because I haven’t had the luxury of savouring every moment with you this year.
But I know this. That I yearn to make new memories with you and I will hold on to them as tightly as I can until the day I draw my last breath. That I will try my best, however daunting it is, to help you make sense of and navigate the world that can be at times cruel and brutal like the thunderstorms that strike fear in you at night. That I will live out my grey hairs loving you and watching you blossom, if God would give me the time and opportunity to do so. Time and tide waits for no man. Yes, you will be four tomorrow, and we will say goodbye to the years behind us and look forward to what’s to come; it’s not going to be easy on my heart but I think I am feeling a little braver because we are doing this with your not-so-little hand in mine.
I love you twenty times, darling. Until you know what thirty means.