And so your third birthday came and went, my dearest firstborn son. Amidst the daily routines of rushing (you) to school and heading to work, rationing energy for the next day ahead, I missed the moment to record my memory of you at this age.
But now I’m putting aside my marking and my lesson prep, my sleep and my own thoughts, because I know there will be a day when I miss the small blessings that are in such abundance now: The sight of you racing around on your little tyke bike, causing passersby to nod and smile as they see you ride by. The way you mirror my naggy tone as you tell me that ‘Nooo … it’s not like that. Let me show you”. A few days ago you even managed to apply this tone in mandarin, saying “Buu …..” in a literal translation of “no” from the isolated “bu” in a way it’s never actually used by proper speakers of the language. I can’t help but rejoice at the way you’re falling head-first into learning this second language, probably prompted by the need to play with all your chinese-speaking classmates at school.
Conversations with you make me catch my breath, because you note the smallest details, chew on them, and surface them later. You love your meimei so much, and she returns the love, choosing to smile and laugh readily at you above all others. Oh, how you take delight in acting silly and jumping around just to make her giggle. You love sticking your face right up close next to hers, nuzzling her head and cheeks in a way that makes this first-time mum of a baby and toddler nervous! You look so big and strong next to her. Yet she always crows in glee even when I pull her away from you when things get too close for comfort! You have bitten her only once, in a moment of fatigue-induced folly, and till now, I can see that you remember how bad it felt when you caused her pain.
At age three, your love of mummy has intensified and is all-consuming, even as you continue to develop independence in your interests and tasks such as eating and dressing. A few days ago, I laughingly let you try putting on your long pants by yourself and was amazed that you actually succeeded – though the pants were on backwards! We high-fived and I made a big deal of it – and yes, I let you go to sleep that way. Why mess with a perfect pants-putting-on attempt by a three-year-old, right? Each morning, my name is the first one on your lips and you stumble out of bed looking for me. In the middle of the night, mine is the warmth that you look for, and a touch of my hand can cause you to settle back into your dreams.
Little boy, I know the day will come when you will live a life almost completely apart from mine. I thought it would come sooner, as you grow from a baby, into a toddler, and now into a little boy with lanky legs. I didn’t know that three would bring the surprise of your intense need for me to be the centre of your world even as you learn to out-cycle and out-run your mama.
It’s getting harder to put my memories of you into words. Our lives are getting busier now that I’m back at work, and you’re up to so much more as a growing boy. We no longer take endless photos of you and marvel over every little thing you do and say as we did when you were a baby. There are more moments when our tempers clash and I find myself snapping at you in real annoyance, because you are “old enough to understand” now. But I need to remind myself to keep taking those deep breaths so I can slow down, listen, and hug and kiss you as I did when you were littler. You may be a boy but inside there are still moments when you just want to be my baby, and I will let you be.
I’ll round up this post with a few borrowed words that are the refrain in my heart for you in this season:
My dearest Enyi-enyi, I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be!