Dear Ethan and Maya,
How busy we have been! And finally I have time to sit down to write you this letter. New year has gotten me to start this letter with a question – Do I want to go back and relive last year with you? There were happiness and frustration, and then more happiness, even more frustration. I look back at what I wrote last year, about hoping for fewer struggles and more sleep, and well, those things did not happen.
But what’s so great about this question is that I am looking over everything and have realized that we all had fun. We are all alive, no one is going to bed hungry, and the world didn’t end. Right this second I am looking on the bright side. Watch: You guys fought over a bowl of cereals in milk about an hour ago, and it ended up dropping on the kitchen floor and not on the rug. Blessings!
Ethan, this was your first school holidays last month. And IT.WAS.TOO.LONG. I started to panic weeks before the holidays. Because you know what’s worse than first world problems? LITTLE KID PROBLEMS. BOREDOM. I’m constantly bombarded with Where Are We Going Tomorrow, Mom? And Staying Home is not a correct answer. Not because you don’t like to stay home. In fact you are pretty fine with it, except staying home means a lot of NO. STOP. THAT CANNOT BE. You are letting Maya sit in the middle of the couch and not me? I HATE YOU. And I’m going to die.
But unexpectedly we attended more activities than we had planned. And every night before we put you to bed, we couldn’t wait to tell you what we would do the next day. And this seemed to be our triumph of the day: we wouldn’t spend the rest of the night panicking about your boredom tomorrow. And the best part of this holiday was we stayed up late and the next morning we got the chance to sleep in. Until 9am. No big deal, I know. You will probably refuse to leave your bed before dinner when you are 15, because teenagers don’t function under the daylight. But I cherished those few more hours of sleep. Just this morning, you both went to my bed before 6am, and started to molest my face. You were ready to party and you wanted me to party with you. I know I should be more forgiving because you are kids and one day I will have a hard time getting you out of your beds and blah blah blah. But NO! I will not be more forgiving. Not even if the world was ending. Nothing. There is nothing that you should be waking up this early for!
A few months ago we subscribed to Netflix. One of the many reasons is apparently we hate our lives and wish only to suffer endlessly by letting you watch more TV. Maya, I can’t explain what the noise of Barney does to me. The songs and the dialogues I hear every time you watch it…it all sounds like it was written by someone who was having too much drug and thought a 9 feet tall dinosaur with a voice so high it makes dogs howl at a 5-mile radius was a good idea.
Last week when you were watching it, I asked you to tell me who each character was in the show, and you obliged, “The purple one is Barney, the yellow one is B.J., he’s seven years old, and the green one is Baby Bop.” I asked, “Whose baby is she?” “Barney’s baby!” “Who’s Baby Bop’s mom?” After hesitating for a few seconds you said, “B.J.!” Oh my god, so that’s what happened? All along Barney is a child molester who had a thing with a seven-year-old, and now it came a baby? I KNEW THERE WAS SOMETHING CREEPY ABOUT THAT BIG FAT PURPLE BLOB.
You love to tell stories about Barney, and I get the feeling that your Barney obsession has only just begun, along with my slow descent into hell. It’s recently become so bad that you refuse to tie up your long hair when you are eating “because Baby Bop doesn’t like it.” What? I’m sorry. I think I’m going to take that creature out back and say a few things about the thing that she doesn’t like, because do you know how many times a strand of hair will get caught in your meal or your mouth, and then your hair tangles in a bunch of mess, and when I try to clear it out, there’s AHHH! DON’T PULL MY HAIR! SCREAM. SCREAM. SCREAM. TEARS, THUNDERSTORM, TORNADE, EARTHQUAKE. Sometimes my entire existence is reduced to PULLING YOUR HAIR. Or TOO LITTLE TOOTHPASTE ON YOUR TOOTHBRUSH. Or THE PANTS WITHOUT POCKETS. Your typical end of the world scenarios.
On Christmas Eve we sat around the kitchen table and had lunch before we headed out to spend the following evening with your father’s family. Before I tell you what I was going to say, let me back up a second and relate a conversation we had over the lunch:
Me: What do you want for Christmas?
Maya: BARNEY! A REAL BARNEY!
Me: You want a living and talking Barney?
Maya: Yes. And dancing and singing!
I looked at your father wondering about how do we break it to you guys that Christmas is going to suck.
Ethan: I want Spiderman Lego.
Me: But you already have like 600 sets of them.
Ethan: Hmmm…Angry Birds…Star Wars…Life Saber…iPad…Hmmm…Nononononono…
Then you paused, lowered your voice and continued, “But it’s supposed to be a surprise, right? So DO NOT TELL ME!”
Your father and I immediately burst out laughing which is the last thing you want to do to a five-year-old who has been looking forward to that evening and was extremely serious about the surprise. Because right then Ethan, you gave us a look that said YOU’D BETTER SURPRISE ME OR I WILL BURN DOWN THIS HOUSE.
Just then I heard some sound from you, Maya, and when I turned to look at you, you were doing one of the things that I hate most – blowing bubbles with your mouth full of water. I’m awful, I should be laughing about it and joining in, but I will not support this behaviour and I will not join in. Because now if I have time to put water in my mouth, you know what I will do? I will drink it, cause for the next 30 hours I will be busy wiping the wet floor, thanks to the water that you spill from your mouth.
I admit that I did that too when I was your age. And every time I did it, my mother would say, “You know what? If you keep doing this and someone comes along and hits you on your forehead, the bubbles will stay in your mouth forever.”
I told you the same thing, because nightmares aren’t going to create themselves. You immediately closed your mouth, still not swallowing the water.
“Is that true, mom?” Your brother asked, his eyes bigger than your puffy face.
I shrugged and said it was what grandma said to me.
“Well, then…I am not going to do that again!” This is your brother who could identify all the alphabets when he was 18 months old, the one who prefers staying home to do math than going to Disneyland.
You, Maya? The one who once told me she killed a worm and showed me the yellowish inside of your mouth? You lowered your head a little, but instead of swallowing the water, you lifted up your head, started bubbling again while hitting your forehead with your palm.
Obviously, if you don’t want to have children in the future, you should reconsider.
That night, you both received way too many presents. TOO MANY! Too many that I started to wonder how my parents was able to raise me and I turned out fine without Angry Bird. Or iPad. If I tell you that I had to manually rewind cassette tapes or call the DJ at our favourite radio station in order to hear our favourite song, you might thank god that you don’t have to live through that – less time on the phone to radio and more time to focus on TECHNOLOGY!
When we were loading your presents in the back of the car, your father and I became very silent. Our heads were wandering about the next morning and the next few days and the next few weeks. That you would want to play all these 400 different new toys at the same time, and you wouldn’t have enough time to play all of them, and then your frustration would lead to paralysis and it would totally obstruct the joy that these presents were supposed to bring. Another suicide attempt in the calling.
We buckled up and got ready to drive home. It’s almost midnight, you two exhausted spoiled kids about to pass out. I closed my eyes and tried to get some rest. “Mommy Daddy?” Ethan, you called, “Thank you.” I opened my eyes, your father and me looked at each other trying to make sure if we heard the same thing. Then I turned around, you were already asleep. I know it’s just a Thank You. And we have all the rights to be thanked. But from your tired voice, I could hear the rare moment of calm, like finally you are truly thankful for something. And it hit me so hard, right in the throat, and then it travelled down and filled my lungs. I wanted to stop the car and hug you.
Last week I had a chance to go through all the photos I’ve taken, and I realized that the happiness of the last year was making way more noise in my head than the sadness. I captured over 3,000 photos of our family, that’s how much beauty filled my life in 2013. I also found that I took so many photos of you both together, more than I ever had before. I feel lucky that I have these things to give to you, these portraits of you embracing at ages two and four, that I have this record to remind myself of all the wonderful things that far outweigh anything that has caused me pain last year.