Dear Ethan and Maya,
We spent the last month in Hong Kong seeing my mother, my side of family and friends of me and your father. When the idea of this trip in its early stage, it could have been pulled off easily by merely the thought of flying 13 hours with two young kids. Here I admit it – I do not enjoy traveling with young children. I know it’s great fun for kids, a memorable family adventure. But if I had an option to choose my own adventure book, I would choose the option of being awake while a grizzly bear slowly gnawed off the lower half of my body. In fact I would hand the grizzly my intestines.
I remember when I was young and single, whenever I was traveling and I saw a baby my first thought was, “OH GOD NO!” But now my reaction is, “YAY! IT ISN’T MINE!”
Clearly you both are not even capable to sit tight for a 15-minute meal at home. We knew that 13 hours in a confined quarter of a plane would be a pain in the ass. FOR US. So we packed a full luggage of stuff to entertain you on the plane, except eventually you both were hooked to the in-flight television. Not watching any of the hundreds of the shows, but nagging about the millions of the shows that it didn’t have.
Five seconds in everything you had selected to watch, you started to scream and kick. Where is Spiderman? I WANT BARNEY! No, my color pen dropped again! I’m hungry, mom. I NEED CANDIES NOW. And that’s what we did – spending the entire flight shoving candies into your mouths thinking PLEASE DON’T SCREAM PLEASE DON’T KICK PLEASE DON’T SCREAM PLEASE DON’T KICK. Besides the fact that we didn’t get any sleep, I considered it a pretty good flight.
Hong Kong is nothing new to you, Ethan. We bought you there two years ago. And you didn’t like it. Too crowded, too polluted, too loud. You didn’t seem to enjoy going anywhere. This time with Maya coming along, we thought it might be fun to visit some theme parks that we wouldn’t go normally. Except finally we didn’t go to any. Why? I won’t go any further about the fact that Hong Kong is no longer the city that I recognize growing up. I just felt exhausted going anywhere packed with nothing but human beings. Every time we took you on a public transit, we had to spend so much energy to sneak through the mazes of people. At one point, you both became so tired that you kneed down on the ground refusing to inch further. And I knew no matter how much my mother wishes it could happen, it won’t happen. We won’t be moving back.
Considered that we avoided going out, plus your grandmother had to stay home taking care of my brother’s twin babies, we did spend a lot of time together. And that’s exactly what we wanted, although you both turned out to be doing nothing but playing iPad or smart phone. Every day you woke up and you started to bug your grandmother for her smart phone, download new games and play until…when? Until we got on the plane coming back, I think. That’s how much you had played with that damn thing. And I didn’t blame you because you both were bored. And when you are on the edge of that famous bridge called Boredom Bridge where down below is an ocean of sharks, and if there is NOTHING TO DO OR NOWHERE TO GO, those sharks will actually jump out of the water and swallow you in whole. The blood. You know.
Hmmm…not totally nothing to do I think. One of your most engaging activities was to take elevator. Why? Because there are BUTTONS. You both would fight over who gets to push the buttons and suddenly you’d hit six different flours in the process. And I would be standing there thinking, how many 4-hour elevator rides I will have to take during this trip?
Everyday your grandmother would hand you her phone when she saw you around and go like, “Your mom will be very mad at me. But it’s okay.” Then she would give me a glance like “I could see one of the sharks about to leap out of the water.” You woke up in the morning wanting candies, she would open a cabinet loaded with candies and let you pick. When I started to complain, she would go, “They are not spoiled, no, I am just selfish. I just don’t want them to wake up the babies. Threaten my rest time and I’d hand them both over to the Russians.”
Oh, the babies! So we stayed home most of the time, and one of the reasons was I wanted to help my mother with the babies. I wanted to spend time with them. I know you both are adorable and lovely. But baby cuteness is totally another thing. It’s mesmerizing. It was my first time meeting my nieces, I had a hard time believing how many milestones they had passed, how they quadrupled in size over time, how heart-melting it was when they stared intently at me when I talked to them.
Maya, you would keep eyeing me, watching me coo and make faces to the babies. Sometimes you would want to hold and kiss the babies. But one morning, you came over to the living room where I was holding one of them as she wanted to stand up. You said, “Let her go! Hold me!” And I knew you were jealous. All my attention being poured onto someone else who was not you, and apparently you did not have any idea how to process it. Except wait. You did actually.
“Mom,” you said with as much enthusiasm as you could muster. “Yesterday Jessie pulled my hair, and you can’t tie my hair now.”
“Really. And it really hurt. I don’t want to hold the baby anymore.”
Good job at reclaiming my attention.
You both liked to come to me and showcase your ability to accomplish a certain level of the game that you were playing. You both would go, “It’s too difficult for you, mom.” Or “You know Dr Zomboss? That’s the bad-est zombie at Plants VS Zombies” Sometimes I had a hard time hearing you because you could barely talk with that drooling sugary sticky mouth. And I wanted to tell you that I once saved the princess in Super Mario Bros., you know. I might not have been holding the game in the palm of my hand BUT IT EXISTED. Here, let me show you the permanent muscle damage done to my right thumb from aggressively pushing the A and B buttons on the Nintendo controller that was wired to the box. WIRED. We had wires and WE LIKED IT.
No question you love my mother dearly. Love her so much that for those few weeks, she was able to make you sit tight to finish your every meal. EVERY.SINGLE.MEAL. I think I will have her start training you guys to scrub the bathroom and do the laundry. Some mornings I woke up and Ethan, you would already disappear. Not that you normally sleep in, but if you wake up, nobody is allowed to stay in bed. Turned out you would wake up at around 6am, go to my mother’s room, not trying to wake her up, but climb in bed with her!
Here is where I apologize to my mother for taking the joy out of owning her own bed and sharing it with me when I felt like I wanted to sleep with her when I was a kid. I am so sorry, mom! You didn’t deserve to be pummelled in the chest with my random limbs. And I am so sorry that my five-year-old totally inherited this trait.
We all woke up after two more hours sleep. Your grandma would start mumbling things to me. Without having clearly heard what she said, I knew what she was going to say. Ethan, it must have been your rotating legs that perpetually walloped in her face, or your fierce tosses and turns, or your furious burrowing. She would go, “Your son! Sleeps like you did. You were a boxing gym. But Ethan, he’s a construction site!”
I replied, “At least you are able to blink the sleep out of your eyes. If I spend a night sharing my bed with your grandson, I won’t be able to sleep, and next morning I can’t even blink because that will require the energy that I won’t possess.”
Another reason why this trip was worth it is that our friends had a chance to see you both. Our kids meeting their kids. Parents talks. Playdate at the beach. Old pal dinners. And Ethan, I believe one of your special memories is your first taste of Coke. WHOA. AM I A COOL MOM OR WHAT! The truth is I’ve actively avoided introducing you to soda. But apparently kids in Hong Kong start drinking Coke when they are…BORN! Like, do you want your bottle or Coke, son? When we were having dinner with our friends, their kids would order soda. So to assure you that we were going to have A LOT OF FUN for this trip, I let you drink Coke. I don’t think you’d ever had a sip of soda. At least not in front of me. So if you were lying to me you deserve an Oscar for your reaction when you took that first swig. There was puckering and gagging and then your eyes bulged out of your head and smoke billowed out of your ears. And then there was the belch that deafened the entire restaurant.
If we totally disregard the theme parks that we didn’t go, and highlight the number of occasions that you’d rather stay home to play iPad, I am sure that you both had the best time ever. At least until you have one of the many candies that your grandma made us take home. But only if a really challenging level of Plants VS Zombie doesn’t come on first.