Dear Ethan and Maya,
I believe God has finally listened to my outcry about my constantly not-eating son, and gave me a constantly wanting-to-eat daughter.
Ethan, your desire to eat has never grown any bigger. We may have some occasional success, but most of the meal time is us fighting a grueling battle. And I think the word that you’ve heard from me the most in your life so far is SWALLOW, or OPEN, or a word starting with F that you haven’t heard but you could have probably felt it from my shivering lips. And that’s when I look out to your sister to calm myself — I simply feed her, which cannot be more effective. Maya, I’m sure you instinctively know that it comes with FOOD PRIVILEGE when you are over six months old. When we put food into our mouths we had better be prepared to share that food with you as you accost us with an open mouth, like a hungry baby bird. There is not one second you don’t want food. And your passion for it has grown remarkably over the past month.
It’s started with your never-ending bawls even after you are done with your own food. When you are eating almost every hour, be it a bottle of milk or a bowl of porridge, I’m pretty sure the portion that you had should be fine. So, I didn’t attempt to up the amount of your food, instead I gave you SNACK! The first time I put a piece of Cheerios on your highchair tray, the joy on your face told me that you’d found your long lost friend. Oh, the chunky, oaty, lovely friend! You leaned your body closer to the tray, reached your hand to grab that Cheerios and put it in your mouth. FLAWLESSLY DONE! I could only believe what I saw after I was convinced that you must have eaten a lot of Cheerios in your previous life. I had a hard time figuring out why you would be drooling that much wanting to gobble that cake that you were not supposed to know it’s edible. When you realized that I was going to leave the cake on the kitchen counter, and not cutting you a piece, you barked in a shriek, “No No No No No, how dare you! Not getting me a piece?!”
The only exception was the two erratic days that you were suffering from teething. I had no idea what those four teeth could do to a perfectly calm baby like you — YOU DID NOT WANT TO EAT AT ALL! You shoved off every spoon and every bottle that we tried to put in your mouth. You were only drooling and moaning and being grouchy and more drooling. The only way we could calm you down was to stick our hands into your mouth hoping they wouldn’t come out missing a finger or two.
One summery evening after dinner, your father shared his strawberry popsicle with you. You licked all over that cool sweet treat with sheer delight, making JAAP JAAP sounds and lifting you hands wanting to grab the popsicle out of his hand. I know that your grandma is going to accuse me of feeding you something this COLD and this SWEET, because you are not supposed to eat anything below room temperature in your first ten years of life. Maybe it will turn you into a chubby butterball. But oh how I will love my cute little chubby butterball.
Ethan, your language skills have taken another leap lately. And you’ve started to communicate with us in complete sentences. You begin every day by telling us the things in your mind — I want brush teeth, I don’t want underwear, no mommy pee pee, I want Thomas, park, shopping bag, backyard, NO TOAST! I DON’T WANT YOGURT! NO BREAKFAST!!! It’s always before I’ve even brushed my teeth. For so many months of your life we struggled to understand what you wanted, what you were thinking, and now that you can communicate your needs, we often ask each other if it was really worth it to teach you this skill. One morning you woke up demanding a popsicle. “I want possicle. I want blueberry possicle, not mango possicle.” And I knew within days you would be asking me for a glass of whiskey, Chivas, not Crown Royal.
Then I told you we could have a popsicle after lunch or dinner, but not in the morning. Once I mentioned we should have breakfast in the morning, as usual, you went completely uninterested. You wandered around the kitchen playing with the alphabet magnets on the refrigerator. Suddenly you said, “Hey, mom?” with a look of concern on your face. I replied, “Yes?” wondering what could have possibly happened that could make you so serious. You glanced over to my face to make sure I was paying attention, and you said, “So, I think we need a really special idea.” I wasn’t sure if your special idea was to have popsicle for breakfast. But seriously I was very close to get one for you from the freezer just because I wanted to do something to thank for the gift of language.
Ethan, just because you’ve started to master your ability of communication, it doesn’t mean you are any communicative! This month marks one of the many months that you are at the peak of throwing a whole bunch of crap around. There was not one single day you didn’t make a big deal of absolutely nothing. One evening last week, after a big protest of not wanting to go to bed, you made a huge fuss over the fact that your father didn’t let you have any more toothpaste as you had almost eaten the whole tube. For a whole ten minutes, you were stomping your feet and arms in anger, screaming deafeningly screams. Usually it would be your father who lost his cool over this kind of situation. This time, he gathered as much strength as he could to remain calm. IT WAS ME. I got to the end of the day filled with complaints about food, the way you play with puzzle, the music in the car, the way Maya touches you, I was like, “Really? Haven’t you had enough? Why you have to make everything so hard?” My patience went paper thin. I completely lost it, rushed into the bathroom, grabbed you and took you out to the sundeck, closed the door and told you to stop crying cause I AM SERIOUSLY SICK OF IT! Crying even harder, you kept banging the door begging me to let you in. There. A totally irrational scene which I didn’t even realize until now. After a couple minutes, I let you in, and tried to make sure that the whole punishment was working. I made you say, “Ethan, no more crying.” At first, you glued your lips so tight that even air wouldn’t be able to go in. Then you mumbled some “Ya Yum” to yourself with your shivering lips as I threatened putting you out again.
Say “Ethan, no more crying.”
You want to stay outside, Ethan?
Then Say It!
GOSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My nostrils started to blow fire. Standing there not knowing how to intervene in this arduous battle between the two most stubborn creatures in the planet, your father was only able to sigh about the fact that he’s going to face this for the rest of his life. I walked close to the door sending an ultimatum, not until I was about to touch the door knob, you roared NO MORE CRYING. I am sure you were swallowing blood from tongue biting. No proof could possibly be more powerful than DNA that you were born from my egg.
Over a chat with a friend in Hong Kong, she said to me that when I write about parenthood, it sounds like I am trying to convince myself that everything will be fine. And I told her I thought that’s what all parents did to keep themselves alive, cause this new way of life is so freaking hard. However, I’ve realized that in fact it is not too hard to tell myself things will be better, because THEY ARE BETTER! Just today, you both look more charming. Ethan, the thing you say is more outrageous and hilarious. Maya, the giggle you make is more heart-melting. And that’s what keeps me feeling better. Whenever I talk about you to other people, I always feel inadequate to communicate how lucky I am to know you, because you are the most amazing persons I have ever known.
And every time when I look back the last time that I lost my patience with you, I want to punch myself.