Ethan (4 years old)

Dear Ethan,

Today you turn four years old.

As I think over the last year that we’ve spent with you, I will have to say it hasn’t been the easiest, yet also the most inspiring so far. It’s difficult because you are so much more verbal and have very specific ideas about the way things should be. Every day there are so many little things that we have to fight you over. Everyday your father and I look at each other like, can we make it through another day alive?

Always when you are being unreasonable, and I fail all attempts to calm you down and calm me down, the grunting demon inside me will start to tear its way out from my chest to corrupt my emotion, and eventually corrupt yours. I hate myself for the fact that I look like a bully hurting your fragile spirit. And most importantly, it never works for you. I KNOW THAT!

Our normal morning is you don’t want to brush your teeth, refuse to eat breakfast, won’t take away those 400 workbooks from the table so we can eat our breakfast. And you will start your workbook marathon. Ethan, I swear I have never forced you, but you would prefer to stay home instead of going out to the pool or park, just to write your workbook for HOURS. You LOVE that! Like “mom, Disneyland is so overrated. I find staying home to do matching and logic ALL DAY LONG way more fun!” And it is nearly impossible for you to understand how to accomplish something in a normal pace. Always we have to sit beside you to help you with your workbook because you desperately want to finish all pages! And I’m sure you got this personality from me. Both of us don’t care how things work. We just want the damn thing to work. Sometimes I want to spank myself when I tell you to slow down and explore how something works. Because HELL, IT’S SO HARD!

But because you’ve become so full of ideas, and because you are stubborn. We’ve realized that fighting you is not going to get us to live any longer. So after the San Diego getaway, I decided to try to take it easy, which in fact takes more effort and WAY MORE EQ. Dealing with you is all about EQ. Yesterday morning was one of the those mornings when you decided that my life is not yet full enough of discord. And you wouldn’t want to touch the water because you thought you had a cut on your finger which I could barely see. And you wouldn’t wash hands after you peed. Usually I would have subtly informed you to suck it, or cut your hand off with a sharp knife so I could wash it for you. But I let go and suggested to fix it with a band-aid, and that suggestion alone turned the entire morning around. Small victory, yes, but you perked up and called it “Oh, this is a nice band-aid!” and then ran to wash your hands. Squeamishly but willingly. I felt like I had just bent steel with my mind.


Around a year back, your teachers at daycare suggested that you might need support in your behavioral development. They found it challenging because you had frequent tantrums, difficulty eating and communicating with other children. You had a hard time to cope when frustrated and disappointed. I remember when the behavioral therapist came to our house to go over some of your developmental milestones, we both agreed that you were fundamentally organized and neat. You had strong connection with music, numbers and alphabets, something that you were reacting at a staggeringly advanced pace. Besides that, however, our discussion concluded that AS PARENTS WE ARE TOTAL FAILURES. At your age, you were an impossible nerd who had serious emotional issues which needed intervention FAST.

As a new mom, I was anxious! I couldn’t help myself, but ADHD, AUTISM, OH! ARE YOU RETARDED? came to my mind all the time. Since then, your teachers at school would start to brief me how your day was when I came to pick you up. You played on your own, didn’t like to touch sand and water because you thought they were dirty, unable to focus, you loved crashing and banging. We were told that a full developmental assessment was necessary for you. Did I not trust them? Well, they deal with kids all the time. They should know if you are really retarded.

Every one in the family thought you were fine. You are a BOY. Boys never behave. Deep down inside I thought the same. I thought I was frightened about the fact that you were a little challenging compared with other children. But I KNOW YOU. I know you more than any prestigious professionals do. They believe that it’s crucial for any kids at certain age to achieve certain things. I believe you will get there when you are ready. You are unlike any other kid because you are more stubborn and more cantankerous. Maybe only now I’ve been through all these frights and I am able to realize it’s also because you are smarter, more intuitive, and often more sensitive. Do I have a more difficult job as a mom? If so, I want you to know that I’m honored.

Finally, you’ve come to preschool this year, and it has been a fantastic addition to your life. You love the idea of heading out to see your friends. You have identified your best friends whom you talk about at home all the time. And you constantly acclaim that you don’t like to play with girls. When I pick you up, you can’t wait to show me and tell me the stories behind the drawings and projects you have done. By the way, remember how you hated to touch sand because it gets on things? Now it will take me a while to clean off the sand and mud all over your jacket or in your shoes after school.


Recently, your teacher have also mentioned more than once that you’re a great kid, that you’re smart and sweet. And you are one of the sentimental kids they’ve ever met. And I know that when you read these letters you may not believe that you’re sentimental, but there’s no truer word to describe you. It seems to go against every story I have to tell about you. But that is the impression you leave with people when they get to know you. You have a softness about you that almost startles people, because it’s very different from the loud and often rough side of you. So I want you to know it, from me, the one who takes notes and writes about all your other faces, that I love the sentimental one the most. And I know that it is the real you, even when you kick and scream and fall apart.


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