Dear Ethan and Maya,
It has been three months of us being mother and two children, brother and sister.
First of all, let’s talk about your screams, Maya. I understand you babies communicate when you cry, whine or scream. But your scream, does it need to be that loud? No doubt you have inherited this specific trait from your grandma. She has a natural born amplifying vocal cord that whenever she talks, her volume will gradually go higher and higher and higher, so infinitely high that someone has to yell out to retrain her from going any higher. On some unavoidable situations that we have to be in the same vehicle with her, we will try to not talk to her, or the echo of her deafeningly loud voice inside the car will go against the windows and punch the heads of other passengers for the whole ride. I’m glad that your father didn’t grow up with brain damage.
I completely forgot what it was like to deal with your brother’s screaming when he’s still a baby. But babies are different. Maybe you are sick of having only milk, but no steak, for your three months of life, maybe you hate seeing me laugh at the indentation around your mouth after I take away your pacifier, maybe you will start your period soon. Who knows? Your grandma thinks I eat too much spicy food, and that gives you bad temper as I’m breastfeeding you. Your aunts think you are one high maintenance chick. And I think this may be the first instance where I take a stand as your mother, the one person who knows you the best, and declare that the only reason you are screaming is because you are tired. Your little body needs rest. I’m glad I figured it out finally. Because before that, there were some miserable occasions that I wanted to call your father in the afternoon, and ask him, “Why she’s doing this to me? She doesn’t even look like me!”
One evening last week, for some reason, you became so cranky that you kept on crying and yelling. We tried to feed you, change you, burp you, swaddle you, sing to you, put you in a swing chair, bring you in our arms. You were so hysterical that nothing could stop you. So I thought I would try something new: I brought you into my bed with me, and shushed you into calmness. As I was rubbing your head and getting you to stop wailing, I thought, “See, we are bonding. Who said you are daddy’s girl!” Then, after five seconds of silence, that little imaginary bubble exploded with some even heavier crying. I ran out of energy and just passed you to your father. As it was way pass your bed time, your father put you in your crib to see if it worked, and you were asleep within 10 seconds. All along you wanted us to stop holding you and put you down. I was wondering does this mean that you are not going to tell me when your period starts? Will I even be invited to your wedding?
For the past two weeks, you’ve started to sleep through the night. The whole process went perfectly well as we DID NOT DO ANY TRAINING AT ALL. Seriously, it simply came automatically. One night, you decided to not wake up in the middle of the night, and sleep tight until the next morning at, not 5am, not 6am, not 7am, but TEN FREAKING O’CLOCK! And then you keep on doing it. And that’s when I totally forgave you for your countless attempts to break my arms.
I don’t know what I should do to build sibling relationship between you both. Not that you hate each other. Just the fancy picture of brother playing with his little sister has never turned up in our house. And Ethan, the closest scenario of interaction would probably be you to grab Maya’s pacifier out of her mouth and make her cry. And I don’t blame you, because it’s a maniacal habit of you that whenever I set you anywhere the first thing you do is look for something to grab and make noise. Anytime your butt hit that changing pat, you whip around and grab that box of Kleenex, pull out the tissue and tear it into pieces. You grab your fork and knock the table whenever you are put on your chair for meal. And we are obliged to keep the house THING-LESS. So LESS that sometimes you run out of things to grab and you will stare at the fireplace figuring how to start a fire.
For two years since we have been dealing with your eating problem, or your NOT EATING WHATSOEVER problem, we worked so hard to get you to enjoy eating by letting you feed yourself at the table. However, over the time you spent at your grandparents, they broke the routine, they broke you. Your grandmother has a habit of feeding you all the time, even when you are pooping. And she has no concept about how crucial it is for you to stick with the rule of “eating at the table”. She just chases you around the house, in the backyard, on the road to stuff you with food.
One evening when you return home from your grandparents’ house, you refused to eat at the table at all. Then you didn’t eat anything the next morning. After you came back from the daycare, you didn’t have anything for dinner. I made you food for each of those meals that you refused to eat, reasonable meals that months ago you would have eaten ravenously, like chicken and sausage. But, no, you didn’t want to touch them now. Then we broke out an old standby and let you have some leftover penne. At first you got so excited at the sight of it. You grabbed the fork to play with it for five minutes while we were begging you to take one little bite. Finally you lifted one piece of penne with your fork, took a reluctant bite as if to say, “If I had to eat it, fine, but you’d better not expect me to enjoy it.” We have come to realize that food is an area in your life where you are trying to exercise control and the best way to deal with this is to make it a non-issue. So we give you options, and one of those options is always the choice of not eating. If you don’t want to eat then I’m not going to make you eat although I may grab a fork and jab it into the flesh on the back of my hand.
One of your new ways to demonstrate your outstanding retention is to identity everyone by names. You know everyone’s name in the family. You will point your right index finger to a specific person and say his/her name when we ask you to. And it’s so cute when we ask you what your name is, you ponder a few second before pointing your finger to your chest and say Ethan mischievously. You also know the names of Elmo, Thomas the Train and their friends, James, Emily and Percy. Except that you say Pussy all the time. And of course, because you are a guy.
Early this month, we took you both to the doctor’s. Maya, it’s the second part of your torture session where you were injected another set of vaccinations. As it turns out, you don’t seem to have inherited my aversion to pain as much as your brother did. You started crying when the needle was yet to inject into your thigh. You screamed for the entire car ride back home. Probably because of the side effect of your immunization, you were whimpering and aching all night long. I had to take you to sleep with me in my bed, comforting you by resting my hand on your chest to feel the rise and fall of your breathing.
And Ethan, you saw the doctor because you had eye infection that you might have caught from the daycare centre.You’d gotten two huge watering mucous eyes, running nose, sore throat and a cheerless face. You became so miserable and abnormally quiet all day long. And it broke my heart when I saw your failed attempts at eating as you have difficulty swallowing.
The whole situation was nothing fatal, but I don’t think there is any difference to any mothers between “slightly uncomfortable” and “will totally kill your baby” when you see your children aching. I was so sad, so worried, so hopelessly wrapped up in you two.
And I wanted to apologize to you both badly that we brought you into this insane world where there are dangerous diseases that you have to be protected against. I’m sorry about the discomfort that comes from the sickness. I’m sorry that your father keeps having the golf channel on TV all the time. I’m sorry that I dressed you in that outfit that was too small but was still so cute that I wanted you to wear it one more time. I’m sorry that we live in a culture that thinks being gay is criminal. I’m sorry that one day you will need to pay your own tax, and we will not pay it for you.
I’m sorry that one day you will be old enough that I won’t be able to hold you and soothe you when you are sick. I’m sorry that I don’t even want that day to come.