Dear Ethan and Maya,
The past month started the cruel transition – No one is allowed to wake up later than 6am. Not even on weekends. It’s like we are being forced to give up pain medication, and the withdrawal is unbearable. Everyday both of you will come over to our room around 6am. “Both of you” because either one of you wakes up, the other follows suit. Some days we still make you lie down with us together hoping you will fall back to sleep, but NO, it’s just a nuisance. Maya, you will reach your hand to my bedside table, grab a tissue and use it to tickle my face. I consider it not a bad torture because, Ethan, sometimes you like to bang my head with your head. You both will just do anything to indicate the fact that YOU. ARE. NOT. TIRED. And then it’s, can I have some milk? Where is my bear? Why is it still dark? Why is daddy downstairs? Until I’ve had it and I’m all BECAUSE HEAVENLY FATHER MADE IT THAT WAY. NOW SHUT UP.
We can blame this on school. In fact we can blame a lot of things on school. Like Maya, how you were acting okay at the beginning, that suddenly you suffered separation anxiety when I sent you to preschool, anxiety so bad that you refused to change or brush teeth, you didn’t even want to leave your bed because once you realized that it’s a school day, you totally lost it and started brawling right there in your mouth full of toothpaste foam. It broke my heart every morning when I dropped you off. You were terrified when you saw me walking away. And I know you didn’t understand why I had to do this to you. And there’s nothing I could say to you to calm you down, you’re not going to hear it. You couldn’t hear anything over the deafening pitch of WANTING MY MOTHER.
Every morning after I dropped you off, I had to call your father for some consolation. Because it was really hard for me too. The anxiety not only attacked you, but the night before every school day I already started to worry. I started to wonder how many times I had to coldly leave you crying at the school house door.
One morning, you woke up to the fact that you were going to go to school again. You refused to leave your room, and stayed there playing the jewellery box that your grandma gave you. Inside that box, there were 600 rings that I think your grandma has been collecting from various thrift stores since she was five. I helplessly walked in your room knowing another struggle had started. I put my hand on your back and told you to get ready for school. Although I said it very gently you became so upset. So my brain instantly flipped through a rolodex of possible solutions, and I told you, “Hey, guess what? If you want to, you can wear one of these rings and show your friends at school.” And seriously? You would have thought that I’d just let you sleepover at your boyfriend’s, because your eyes got so wide I thought your eyeballs were going to plunk out of your head.
And ever since then you have loved going to school. That’s all it took. Done. I tell you it’s time to go to school and you scream I CAN TAKE MY RING? PINK ONE? OR PURPLE ONE? It’s a total miracle! I called your grandma to update her about this incident. Although it hurt her to think about what you were going though, I could hear a sinister satisfaction in her voice, like NOW YOU KNOW MY STUFF ARE NOT GARBAGE. Now the next thing I know is another 10 million tons of junk are in the making.
We can also blame school for letting you know too much too soon, sometimes too wrong. Like Ethan, the other day you came home from school. When playing with Maya, you pointed at her chest and told me it’s her vagina. I wasn’t surprised that you would learn about this word. But I was seriously disappointed that you didn’t get it right. Your friends at school? NOT COOL.
I remember one day I was driving you home from school. You were abnormally quiet, then I asked you if you were okay, you said yes. Then you started throwing me questions.
You: Mom, are you afraid of dying?
Me, carefully weighing my response: Everyone dies. Eventually. I don’t think I’m afraid of dying. But I don’t want to die now.
You: But if you become very old, you will die.
Me: Yes, exactly.
You: What about grandpa? Is he going to die?
Me: Grandpa is old, but he’s still strong and healthy. He’s not going to die.
You: But my another grandpa died already. You told me that.
Me: My father died because he smoked a lot. And you know smoking is bad for you.
You: Is guu guu going to die? Because she smokes.
Me: Ahem…maybe we could tell her to not smoke anymore.
You: But why does she smoke? She will die.
Me: Because sometimes adults do bad things. They shouldn’t. But sometimes they do.
You: But smoking is wrong!
Me: You are right, Ethan. Smoking is wrong. But people are flawed. Humans are fundamentally flawed, and I can’t believe I’m having a philosophical conversation with my five-year-old.
You: Mommy, is grandma going to die?
Me: NO! Grandma is NOT going to die. Everybody is going to be fine. I think you need to forget about all this right now and go play. Go be a kid. Let me worry about it for you.
Sometimes I can’t answer myself what I enjoy more. An adult conversation with you kids? Or an elaborated make-up stories.
Like, Maya, last time when I picked you up from school and realized your pants were different.
“Where are your yellow pants? I asked you.
“They are wet,” you answered.
Me: Hmmm…why didn’t you go pee in the potty?
You: Because Barney said no.
Me: So, you met Barney at school?
You: Yes. And Baby Bop.
Eventually you came up with a story about playing with another girl and too busy to go to potty. Arrived home, you requested to watch Barney on TV. I responded, “No. Maya. Because Barney is still too busy cleaning all the wet pants at school.”
I will look back on this month of my life as The Month of Wanting to Throwing My Kids Out of the Car. We all know that you both are notoriously bad passengers. What is wrong about being in a vehicle? Why every car ride with you both is such a torture to us? Once you get into the car, you both are all, do you know how hard it is to be sitting here for 15 minutes? It’s never fun because two minutes after we take off, you become so incredibly grumpy. And you start to request to play music, drink water, have a tissue, get your stuff back because it has dropped on the floor. Recently, you love to scream. It doesn’t matter how many times we assure you that we are going to grandma’s house, you will yell from the backseat, “WE’RE GOING TO GRANDMA’S HOUSE, RIGHT?”
Your father and I try to remain silent, not because we mean to, it’s just the screaming doesn’t sound so much like screaming anymore as it does background noise. I think this is called COPING.
Same mentality applies to most of the school mornings. Lack of sleep. Rush schedules. Your uncooperativeness. I have to admit that it has caused me to act a bit immature in certain circumstances, many if not all of them involving you kids. Sometimes I will take a second or two longer than you prefer to pour you a glass of milk or retrieve a book that is on a high shelf, and you will scream, “NOW. DO IT NOW!” The logical, unemotional response to this behaviour is to pick you up and lock you in the garage, because hello, you do not talk like that to anyone. But maybe I am too tired being mad or just feel sick about yelling, my response might be to stick my finger in my ear. Or maybe I will just walk away. The other day I grabbed a brunch of color pencils trying to snap them into halves. I am not proud of myself.
Sometimes between these chaotic moments, Maya, you will come over and asked, “Mommy, are you happy?” And I really don’t know what to say. Because the fact is that I AM NOT HAPPY. But your question has made me realize how miserable a mother I am. I worry that the most vivid memory you are going to have of me is the scowl on my face. You deserve better than this. I should be more playful, sing more songs, color more pictures.
You change my world every hour. And yes. I am happy. I am happy to be on this roller coaster.