And you are 3.

Dear Elliott,

I have been a bad mummy. A very very bad mummy.

I was supposed to be writing you a note every month since you were born but I fell off the wagon after the 32nd note. I meant to write you notes until you turn 36 months so that you’d have 36 notes to read, but I fell short of…4 months. And this eats me up because your mother here is obsessed concerned about keeping to my words, deadlines and the such.

However, as the months whizz by, I stopped beating myself up. I may be taking a lot less photos and videos of you now as compared to your first year (have you seen how many photos you have?!) but I tell myself that it is ok. Motherhood does take up a lot of energy and time, and typing on a laptop is really the last thing I want to do at the end of each work day.

Yesterday, you turned 3 years old. That’s 36 months of you. It’s cliche but one moment you were a tiny ball of cuteness in our arms and suddenly, you’re an individual with your own (chatty) personality and quirks.

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These days, I find it hard to remember the newborn days. I think this is what people call ‘mumnesia‘ where we block out the crazy newborn days from our minds like those crazy moments didn’t happen. It is hard to remember because these days, you are truly a toddler with a mind of your own. Let me count the ways (as much as my hazy brain can remember).

You say the most hilarious things. Like that day when we stopped at the lights beside an ambulance with its lights on but no siren.

“Ambulance! Mummy look ambulance!”
“Yes that’s an ambulance! See the flashing lights?”
“Yes! But why no sound? Who take out the batteries, mummy?

You left me speechless with that question, my dear son. And I laughed. I laughed out loud as the lights turned green and we continued on our journey home. At this age, you say the funniest things (without meaning to, I’m sure) and I wish I can record every single funny quip because they are oh so fleeting.

At this age, you have a strong idea of what you want. Or don’t want. Like how you have decided that you only want to wear t-shirts (not shirts) and ‘soft’ shorts (not pants or proper ‘going out’ shorts). You also get obsessed about shirt labels and will insist that ‘Mummy cut’ if you spy the offending pieces of tags on your clothes. You also tell us that specifically that ‘you don’t want this green thing‘ (vegetables) or ‘no chicken, mummy. Only noodles‘.

Speaking of noodles, you have been in a noodles phrase. Before each meal, I get hopeful and ask: Elliot, would you like RICE (emphasised for effect) or noodles for dinner? You pretend to think for a bit and then say with conviction: Hmm, NOODLES! I am just glad that you are not too fussed about the type of noodles we give you – pasta, bee hoon, kway teow, mee tai mak, mee sua, yellow noodles, udon. You are good with all of them. You love them with soup and will always ask for more soup.

We have also, in recent weeks, switched you to full-day childcare. Your Ah Ma worries constantly about whether you are getting enough sleep and food as she thinks that you are such a “poor thing” to be in school for the entire day. The thing is, the majority of your classmates are there for the entire day. I’d admit that for the first week or so, you were constantly on my mind as I was also concerned if you were adapting well to the change in routine.

As it turns out, I am proud to say that you are adapting better than us adults. Other than the first few days of taking a while to fall asleep on your own at nap times, you have managed to fall nicely into your new routine without much drama. Oh, your teachers tell us that you do ask them wistfully if mummy is coming (my heart!) when your friends are picked up earlier but you do understand when they tell you that mummy is coming. And yes, my sweetie. Mummy will always be there to pick you up from school. It is always the highlight of my workday and I drive and walk a little faster just to get to you.

So as I was saying, you turned 3 yesterday and what a well-loved boy you are. You had 3 birthday cakes (THREE!) and received so many presents, I lost count. The day before your actual birthday, we celebrated it with your friends at school for the very first time. I was worried that you’d freeze up or cry when you see us but instead, you did very well! For the record, you told me repeatedly that you want a “chocolate cake with blue car” so we got your school cake from Prima Deli and topped it with a vehicle set from Toys R Us.

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You were a little stunned to see us but realised soon after that we were there to celebrate your birthday with your friends. It was wonderful to see you interact with your friends as it is not something we see everyday. I have a video clip where you are telling your friends excitedly “See? Car, truck, helicopter…“. Aiyo, everyone was so darn cute. I cannot.

The same evening, we headed over to Ah Ma and Ah Gong’s house for your 2nd birthday celebration. I am not sure who was more excited, you or them 🙂 And yes, you got a Paw Patrol cake (Bengawan Solo) and 2 fat ang baos from your doting grandparents.

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You asked to go to the zoo on your birthday and so we did. We’ve done so for the past 2 birthdays so it is a bit of a birthday ritual now. We also became Friends of the Zoo so hopefully, we’d be making many trips to the zoo this year. We only managed 2 exhibits (the sea otters and the Zoo-Rassic Park) before the rain came down in sheets. Pfffft. Never mind. Another time then.

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Plan B was to head to Future World exhibition at the Art Science Musuem but 2 of the exhibits were closed for renovations so we were done pretty quickly as well.

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In the evening, Yiyi and Popo came over for your last celebration at home. You were really thrilled to see them. I ordered a bunch of Paw Patrol balloons but you took one cursory look at them and erm, that’s about it. Tsk. Never mind. They made for a nice photo backdrop.

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This year, you sang your own birthday song with gusto, insisted that we all sit beside you for a photo and gave everyone big hugs. You also ripped your presents apart on your own. 3 seems like a terrific age to be and we can’t wait to see what the year has in store.

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Happy 3, dear Elliott. May you always  be joyful and healthy. We love you very much!

Love,
Mummy xoxo

And then it was 7.

Truth be told, I almost forgot about our wedding anniversary. It was only when I was punching a new entry into my calendar on the phone did I realise that our 7th wedding anniversary was round the corner.

7 years. We are 3 years away from being together for 10 years. Officially, on paper, that is. I don’t exactly remember how long we dated for, to be honest. There was no real date that we got together officially as a couple. We do not celebrate ‘monthsaries’ or even our dating anniversary because honestly, we don’t remember.

I read an interesting blog entry about an imperfect husband and found myself smiling at certain bits because I could relate to it. Like how the boy does not celebrate Mother’s Day for me because (quote) “you’re not my mother” (unquote). I especially like this line that says:

“The fact of life is, when life overwhelms, we become careless, thoughtless, mindless.”

How very true.

When we were just us, it was easy to carve time out for ourselves. To go on dates. To watch movies. To dine with each other leisurely. To binge-watch HK dramas till our stomachs growl and we had to get out of the house to get some food (at 3.30pm on a weekend). As many parents will attest to, life takes a huge change when a child enters the picture. Each day become routine. Each day becomes a matter of completing one task before starting another – wash clothes – hang clothes – shower child – dress child – make milk for child – read to child – wash dishes – pack child’s school bag…you get the picture.

And sometimes, it does get overwhelming. Even boring, mundane. Day in, day out, on weekdays, we are going about our tasks like clockwork.

Also, according to the 5 Love Languages, I am pretty sure that we have different ones. I am taking a wild guess here but for the boy, I believe his Love Language is ‘Acts of Service‘ and ‘Quality Time‘. I just did the online test and this is my top 3 Love Language:

  • Acts of Service

Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter. Finding ways to serve speaks volumes to the recipient of these acts.

  • Quality Time

In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there – with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby – makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful. Quality Time also means sharing quality conversation and quality activities.

  • Receiving Gifts

Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous – so would the absence of everyday gestures. Gifts are visual representations of love and are treasured greatly.

Anyway.

I know I speak for the both of us when I say that even though we know that couples need to have their “own time” and to go on “date nights”, we both want to spend our non-working hours with Elliott. We barely see him for a good part of the day. I find it almost mean to not hang out with him in the evenings.

This is where our “couple time” takes a backseat. A far far backseat.

Sometimes, it is easy to get disgruntled amidst the humdrum of daily life. It is easy to get frustrated with the boy when things are not “going the way” that I want it to. It is easy to lose my temper over seemingly “small” issues, like having a crazy-loud alarm ring out loud at 6.45am, shocking me awake.

Then I stop.

I stop and remember that the alarm goes off at 6.45 am because the boy wakes earlier to boil water for Elliott’s milk feed. He wakes earlier to change and take Moon for her morning walk and to feed her first meal of the day.

I also stop and appreciate that he helps out with housework, like ensuring that we have clean underwear by doing the laundry. He also takes care of Moon by ensuring that she gets her weekly shower on Sunday evenings. When the pile of dirty dishes get a bit too high, he helps by washing them.

I also stop and remember that he struggles on a crowded bus on weekday mornings and evenings to get to/from work, while Elliott and I take the car and get to school/work in comfort.

I also remember that at meal times, he orders food that Elliott can eat so that I get to eat what I really feel like having.

There are too many to list and sometimes, it is easy to forget so I’d like to make a note here that I appreciate them all.

Of course, he’s not perfect la. But neither am I. I am sure there is a whole laundry list of things that I do (or not do) that annoy him. But that’s marriage, isn’t it? To accept each other, warts, imperfections and all.

Happy 7th anniversary to us!

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PS. Last year, we had a lovely dinner for 2. This year, we had to bring along a very happy and cannot sit still 电灯泡 to dinner.

A special Mother’s Day celebration

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Elliott’s school organised a Mother’s Day Celebration at school on 6th May, Friday. It was going to my first “real” celebration because for the past 2 years, there was no “official” celebration. Check out the cute invitation card.

It was actually a work day for me but I managed to take some time off from work (with the blessings of a very understanding boss) to run off for the short celebration.

There was a crowd of excited mothers waiting outside the school gates at 5-minutes to 10am and we were ushered into the classrooms by groups. I was lucky that I got a second row seat and it was really cute to be sitting on really tiny chairs.

There was a cloth separating us from the kids on the other side. I could hear excited chatter, as well as teachers trying their best to keep them quiet.

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I knew that it was going to be an emotional affair but I did not count on being this emotional! The teachers got them to rehearse some of the songs that they were going to perform and the moment I heard them singing the “I Love You” song, I couldn’t stop crying?!!?

So there I was, a slobbery mess, before the program started. Sheesh.

When the curtain eventually came down, it was very cute to see all the excited children straining to spot their mothers in the crowd. I spotted Elliott in the far distance and at first, despite my frantic waving, he did not spot me. It wasn’t long before he realised that I was there in the crowd and his face wrinkled up,  before bursting into big fat tears. We were instructed before we entered the classroom that they will keep the kids separated from the mothers to be mindful of the feelings of those kids whose mothers were not present.

I saw his kind teacher put him on her lap to comfort him but the tears continued to flow. It was as if he was upset that I was in the same room but he couldn’t come to me. Awwww.

The morning’s program was made up of various mothers given “5 minutes of fame” where they could perform anything that they liked. Some demonstrated taiji, some danced, others made balloon sculptures. The finale was of course the kids singing and performing for the mothers.

At this time, his teachers asked that we comfort our crying children so E was sitting contently on my lap. When it was time to perform, he simply refused to join his classmates and continued to cling onto me like a koala.

In the end, I did not get to see his performance which was a song about Mother’s Day. He did present me with a cookie that he made himself (according to his teacher) and we took this lovely photo against the backdrop that was prepared by the teachers. The school Principal shared with me that due to manpower shortage, the teachers stayed back after school just to make the props, etc. That’s really sweet.

It wasn’t a fancy celebration with elaborate costumes or well-choreographed dance steps. In fact, it was a little rough around the edges and far from perfect. However, it was full of heart and I greatly appreciate the lengths the school went to, just to make the mothers feel appreciated and loved.

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No-tears dropoff

This is a quick blog entry to remind me that there were no tears or sobs of “Mummyyyyy!” at school drop-off this morning.

Altogether now: Hip hip HOORAY!

So my child decided to do a big poop on the way to school this morning so I had to walk him to the school’s bathroom to wash him up. He happily showed me where he washes his hands (part of the morning routine) and after I dressed him, I was half expecting the tears to flow but instead, he marched happily towards the breakfast area on his own, leaving me slightly gobsmacked.

There was a bit of whining at the start but no tears. He also insisted to take his trucks along with him to school and I have learnt to let him be. Better than a crying fest/meltdown, I say. Besides, it was easy to hide the toys once he was suitably distracted (the school does not recommend bringing their own toys).

I wanted to do a little victory dance on the spot but instead, I smiled at his teacher and took my leave quickly. I have to admit that I peeked in at him from the outside and saw that he was taking a cautious bite into what looked like a piece of kueh.

And for the first time, I walked out of the school feeling joy in my heart.

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Starting school

I used to read the blog entries and Instagram posts of mothers who would wax lyrical of their child’s first day at school.Many of these mothers who write sound extremely emotional and teary, and I used to wonder why. “It’s only school what, so emo for what?“, I’d wonder.

Today, Elliott started playgroup for real and I can now fully understand why ’em mothers were “so emo”. I started feeling emotional from the moment I started to tag his belongings with his name stickers a few WEEKS before he started. For a seemingly mundane task, I was feeling heavy-hearted. My baby is all grown up and starting school. FOR REAL.

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Gulp.

The night before his first day at playgroup, I packed his school bag with a heavy heart. Again, I could not explain why. It’s just school, isn’t it? But I felt…a little sad. That night, I tossed and turned in bed, unable to sleep. I blamed it on the iced milk tea I drank but who was I kidding? I was nervous that my little baby will be alone for the first time, in the company of strangers. He has never been away from family since birth…until now.

A million questions and scenarios ran through my head as I laid still in the dark. Will he like school? Will he take to his teachers? Will he make friends? Will he like the environment? How will he cope at bath time? Will someone comfort him when he cries? Will he eat his meals?

Needless to say, it was a fitful night.

Dawn broke and for the first time ever, I changed him into his brand new uniform (that is slightly large for him despite it being size “S”). I want to put on record here that Elliott is a late sleeper and this sleeping late business needs to end because he’d be exhausted on school mornings!

I carried my still-sleeping child to the car, strapped him in, and off we went. I was glad that the boy took the day off for his little boy’s first day at school. Check out my sleep-deprived eyes and eyebags.

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After getting his temperature checked, Elliott put away his own shoes in the shoe cabinet (clap clap) and it was time for breakfast. It was a bowl of dry cornflakes. I chuckled to myself because I knew it was something he wasn’t used to and I was right – he took a small spoonful, then shook his head and left his bowl largely untouched. He did smile shyly at the rest of the little people at his breakfast table which was very cute.

After breakfast, he showed Daddy to his classroom. I took him along when we went to register for school and he did spend a bit of time hanging out with his new classmates but I was still surprised that he remembered.

It was time for assembly and by that, it basically means everyone sitting cross legged on the floor and listening to a teacher read a story or sing nursery songs. Elliott looked curious in the new environment and when familiar songs were sang, he smiled shyly but did not participate.

When it was time to head off to their classrooms, we watched on as our little boy carried his own school bag to his classroom. When he was suitably distracted by a random toy, I gestured to his teacher that we will take our leave, and slid away.

The boy and I headed to a kopitiam for a hearty breakfast then spent the next hour or so traipsing around the area. It was pretty funny, to be honest. It’s like…we did not know what to do with ourselves! When it was close to lunch hour, we picked up my MIL before heading for lunch.

At lunch, I barely could stomach any food and I think it made the boy laugh. I’m not one to refuse food so this phenomenon was pretty…odd. It must have been butterflies in my stomach because OMG MY POOR BOY IS ALONE AT SCHOOL! WITH STRANGERS! HOW IS HE COPING? CAN WE GO PICK HIM NOW NOW NOW NOW?

After what seemed like an eternity (it was more like 4 hours), we drove back to his school to pick him up. He came walking out of his classroom with a rather lost expression but when he spotted us waving at him cheerfully, he broke out into a shy grin.

I was so glad to have my baby back in my arms again.

We took a couple of photos at the school gate for remembrances’ sake and in those photos, all 3 of us were grinning happily because WE SURVIVED DAY 1 AT SCHOOL! Woohoo!

I am convinced that the next couple of days will be challenging because I am positive that Elliott would have wised up to the fact that this school-going business is not a one-off.

I just hope that this mummy’s heart will be strong enough to withstand all that crying that will ensue. Gulp.

Wish me luck.

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I asked “Take photo with Mummy?” And my dear boy leaned in, placed his hand on my shoulder and arm gently, and smiled the sweetest smile ever. This was taken the evening before he started school.