Dear Ethan and Maya,
Happy birthday! You are so going to have a joint birthday party until you are allowed to protest for your own individual birthday parties. Not happening for the coming 20 years.
Over this year, your relationship as siblings has made a huge transformation. And Ethan, it’s mostly from your side. At first, you didn’t seem to notice there’s another human being called “baby” in your life. Everyday you lived in your banging and screaming world as usual when we tried so hard keeping our hair from falling, because the noise when that hair hit the floor could totally wake up your light sleeping sister. And at the beginning, I was completely convinced that the possibility of you getting along with Maya seemed totally unlikely. You are the most physically destructive human being I’ve ever witnessed at your age — we have to constantly beg you not to shove your legs over to our faces even when we are supposed to be quietly sitting on the couch and watching your favorite shows, because more than once after you got your leg on me, I felt like being knocked out with stars floating around my head. And seriously even now we’ve still been trying to not let you throw Maya off tall furniture or stuff her into a box and drop-kick her from upstairs. You often thrust her out of the way when she’s approaching ANYTHING! Anything she does seems unacceptable to you, even breathe.
Maya, we thought you might be intimidated by his size and roughness, but just the opposite was true. Because he’s always your hero, since the day you came to this world. You are excited when you hear his voice. You want the book that he always picks up. You blow that whistle because you saw him blow with it. You follow him around the house. You laugh when he laughs. You come back to him even when he’s rough to you. I believe you have transformed him. Ethan, over the past few months, you’ve slowly learned to be gentle and delicate when playing with Maya. “Slowly” because it happens rarely, but not impossibly. When you are in good mood, you will engage Maya into singing and playing, mostly your favorite game WRESTLING! Occasionally when you are willing to share your favorite food or show her your toys, Maya will be all brightened up with smiles and grins like you are showing her the world.
And the most fascinating moment in this house is when you both engage in a “conversation”. Ethan, I can’t recall since when you’ve started to have a hard time closing your mouth. You do a lot of talking, a lot of describing how things are going to play out. A typical morning goes like this:
You: I WAKE UP! It’s not dark.
Me: What do you do now?
You: Pee pee and brush teeth. I want Sponge Bob toothpaste, not Lightening McQueen toothpaste. Okay?
Me: Okay, let’s go.
You: Then, I have cheese. I want big piece, whole piece and small piece together. Okay?
You: Where are we going today? It’s sunny day. We go to park. Who is coming? Oh, whose car outside?
Me: No body is coming, Ethan.
You: What is Maya doing?
Me: She woke up already. Because when you wake up, nobody is allowed to stay in bed.
Now, Maya, since you’ve also started to shoot words in machine-gun style out your mouth. The “conversation” between you both is completely nothing but a running commentary.
Ethan: Maya, you want this? Hold this! This is brown ice cream.
Maya: Mum mum……
Ethan: Now, this is green ice cream, you want it?
Maya: Mum mum……
Ethan: Are you done? You are done. Now I put it together. Okay? And, tell me what is it, Maya?
Maya: Mum mum……
Ethan: Maya, this is a DUMP TRUCK!
Maya: Duck! Duck!
And this is where your father and I realized we’ve never laughed so hard or been more aware that there is nothing in life more wonderful than this, OUR FAMILY, you both who have truly made us one.
During the recent Hong Kong trip, I was frequently asked if I would move back. And already, Ethan, I couldn’t handle the thought of you being teased for the fact that you are not even able to hold a pen without getting pierced into your palm at the age of three. Because at this age, you are required to be able to write a dissertation in order to survive in Hong Kong schools.
Growing up in Hong Kong takes a completely different set of skills — surviving as a kid with NO FUN. And I can’t even recall that my childhood was this hard. Since when getting into a school has become such a dreaded test to kids and parents? Not only you have to admit into a prestige school, you’d better get it done before you are even conceived. Otherwise, you are determined to be school-less. CERTIFIED.
Being adults totally sucks. You have THAT much inevitable life pressure to face every single day. I would never let you deal with it when you are still young where you should be having fun exploring the world. You both are lucky that somewhere on the other side of world, kids your age are bombarded by their parents to work their ass off for college. And you are still cluelessly smacking your face in the wet sand, shuffling through fallen leaves, testing the hardness of the rocks with your teeth. All because I hope you can have as much fun as possible when you still have this privilege. The other day when I was about to take a shower, I found some sand and a tiny piece of leave inside my bra. I remembered we spent an afternoon in a park, and Ethan, maybe you shoveled sand in my shirts because you never thought my boobs were big enough. I DON’T KNOW! I only know that I might be sacrificing the chance to groom you academically as all day long you are SHOVELING SAND. But I would never sacrifice any silly moments like this one that we can look back to and laugh at it.
Just one night, before we both fell asleep, your father turned to me and said, “I want white cheese. I want big piece, whole piece and small piece together.” We bursted into laughter. Then we realized it’s our way of reminding each other of what we have to look forward to, of the reason our lives are really quite wonderful.
Ethan and Maya, I have been trying to keep up with all the changes going on in your lives, but even in the last 24 hours you’ve learned something new, and I can only type so fast. This is one of those moments when I wish I could rewind you, press pause, and replay you over and over again so that I don’t miss anything.