Dear Ethan and Maya,
Last week, your father and I flew back to our home town, Hong Kong, to see friends and family whom we hadn’t seen for six years. And Maya, we are taking your brother with us while you are staying. You probably won’t understand why until you become a parent yourself. But believe me, this is the best arrangement we could come up with. And only the thought of not seeing you this long has already made me feel breathless. I’m not even sure how much longer I can survive that.
So, Maya, you are staying at your grandparents, aka all-you-can-eat cafeteria. Except they serve spoonful, sometimes handful of food to your mouth directly when you are free to explore all sorts of hazards in the house. To add onto this fun adventure is the fact that you’ve started to pull yourself up and take steps by holding onto the furnitures. You know what this means? Oh God, I can’t even handle the thought. It means that you are able to move from Hazard A to Hazard B until you get yourself killed because at your grandparents’ house, there is nothing but FOOD and HAZARDS!
When your brother was about your age, we were pressured about the fact that he’s not cruising much as some other kids had started to walk. And we were convinced that he would not be walking until he’s 30. But God! I seriously wish he didn’t start walking. Because all the walking, running, chasing, collecting my breath…… I only want to call my 26-year-old body, and ask “Where the hell did you go?” Now I have hard time digesting the fact that sometimes I have to check around the house to locate you. And one time I found you hiding under your changing table trying to gobble your dirty diaper that your stupid father forgot to put into the diaper genie. I wasn’t sure if it’s environmental-friendly for you to “compost” your feces this way, but the thought of cleaning your mouth afterwards got me to promptly take the diaper away from you. What a dumb thing I did — take away something from a baby without replacing it with something else, and what came next was your furious screaming! And I’m sure if your grandmother was with us, she would do that annoying grandmother thing – walk over to comfort you because I was simply too mean to not let you eat your own feces. And you know what you would do? You would reach your arm out to her showing that you wanted her and not me. Now because you do this all the time, you are not allowed to date until you are 50.
Speaking of your screaming, over the past month you’ve been obsessed about screaming. Not only when you are stressed, but now you scream because you seem to like the fact that you can actually make such an annoying noise. You do this CONSTANTLY, and I think I’m pretty much immune to your noise now. Your favorite is to scream when you are in the car with your fussy brother. Few weeks ago when we were getting ready to start the car and you both sat in the backseat. Your brother was yelling and requesting us to turn on Metallica which we had listened for the past 400 car rides. As the music was on, you started to scream for no reason. Well, if you didn’t notice yet, NO SOUND IS ALLOWED in the car when your brother is listening to his Metallica. And you scream? ARE YOU CRAZY? So he got extremely irritated and kicked your car seat trying to stop your screams, and you screamed even louder. I think you both almost gave your father seizures.
Ethan, morning is your most talkative moment. Your first words out of your mouth every morning is, “I want cheese. Not Mozzarella cheese. I want Havarti cheese. I want big piece, whole piece and small piece together.” If I cut your cheese in the wrong way, like NOT SQUARE ENOUGH, you become so unnecessarily delirious that you will refuse to even touch that IMPERFECT piece of cheese, and order me to cut you another piece. Sometimes I will try to FIX the cheese by cutting the edge out to make a better square shape, but it simply looks more infuriating to you, like only a perfect square-shaped cheese will not clog up your throat. Seriously, if I were your server in a restaurant, I would secretly spit into your drink.
The maddening situation also happens to your Cheerios. It’s unavoidable that certain pieces of Cheerio in the box stick together, like two water tubes stacked together. Normally you are not happy about that, and you will yell, “I want open” and try to separate them. Except you will usually break one of them. What follows is that broken Cheerio starts to eat your face off and wrestle you to the ground, because it’s so damn wrong that they get stuck and then shattered. Another bloodshed! What kind of mother would ever think about every single piece of Cheerio in a box needs to be inspected to make sure none is sticking with another?
Recently, you’ve become one little helper. Any time your father has to take out the toolbox to fix some household items, we cannot keep you away from it. You want to get involved and use that screwdriver or drill. You always want to do laundry, make the bed, vacuum the floor. Except you don’t help anything. Give you a vacuum cleaner and we will have to fix the walls.
One evening, your father was carrying your sister when I was working in the kitchen. It was about time for Maya’s last bottle before bed. Your father came into the kitchen, asked me to hold Maya so he could have two hands to prepare her bottle. With two hands busily involved into dishes cleaning, I became immensely impatient and said, “Do you want me to show you how to prepare a bottle with one hand and hold your baby with another? Cause I DO THIS ALL THE TIME. Does it amaze you? Maybe I should perform at a circus.”
Yes, I do this all the time. Except there was one accident: I was putting the formula powder and water in the bottle. Before putting the lid on, your sister’s wavy arm shoved the bottle off the kitchen counter, and the milk splattered all over the kitchen. I ran and grabbed a big roll of paper towel. However the splash was so furious that I literally needed to sanitize the kitchen. Enter: you the little helper.
You wanted to jump head first into the big puddle of milk and said, ‘I want to help mommy.” I screamed to you, “GO OUTSIDE, ETHAN.” You just stood there staring blankly at me and tried to inch closer and touch the milk puddle. That’s when your father came to the crime scene, picked you up and moved you away. Struggling to come back inside, you fought your father so hard that he had to set you down harshly. Then you started to collapse into tears. And I know it’s not because you didn’t get your way. It’s because your feelings had been crushed. You just wanted to help. Eventually I didn’t try to comfort you and let you wipe the mess a little bit. But I did dig down deep to find the patience to explain to you,”Ethan, only mommy and daddy get to clean up the messy shit.”
Ten years ago, a terrible tragedy happened in the States. Then, earthquake, plane crash, tsunami on the other side of the world. They took the lives of thousands and thousands of innocent people. The lives of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. It’s impossible to digest what happened and the suffering that so many people are going through. My heart broke when I saw that mother crying to the sky for the return of her child. And it has made me feel overwhelmed with my love for you. I cannot imagine ever losing either one of you. I would search the world over for you. I would hold you to my chest until my hands bled. I am so thankful to have you here, to have your giggles and cries echo through the house.