Memories are made of this…by Meng Fong
Memories are made of this…
8 months old: He hasn’t started crawling. He shuffles on his butt. Like one of those dogs in a doggy wheelchair. I keep wondering if he’ll ever start to walk.
12 months old: He’s not really walking. He’s darting away. Imagine one of those little wind-up toys, with wheels for legs – all wound up, ready to go. The minute we take him out of the stroller, and his feet touches the ground – he’s off. For some reason, he’s always running off in the opposite direction from where we are.
For the next 4 years, I don’t ever wear any heels or a skirt when I am out with him. Only pants or shorts. Only running shoes and flatties. That sounds pretty un-sexy and un-feminine – yup, that’s how it was.
Just call me Toddler-Mom – by day I masquerade as Professional Working Woman, by night and weekends – I turn into Always Tired Bad Hair Day Toddler Mom.
13 months: His first real words are “AHH PICK” for “APPLE” and “DAY-DOCK” for “DIRTY”
1 and half years: “Mommy, nurse. Mommy nurse”, he says holding both arms so he can be picked up. Yes, we are still breast-feeding. Only comfort feeds now. 6 months later, I decide to wean him. He’s getting to big to be picked up.
2 years: I trace the word “condensation” in the steamed bathroom mirror. He pronounces the 3 syllable word perfectly. I think I may have given birth to a genius! ( ..just like all mothers do)
3 and half years old: We are in the swimming pool. Tomorrow – we are due to fly to England to visit his Grandma and he will see his dad for the first time in 3 months. I know I have to tell him that his dad and I are separated.
I say,”Sometimes adults grow apart and fall out of love.Then they can’t live together.”
“Mommy, does this mean you are getting un-Married?”
4 years old: I am in the car, driving, getting the back of my head pounded by the head-rest (… this is not the first time). He is strapped to the backseat of the car in his child seat, kicking it as hard as he can with his feet. To this day, I can’t remember what we were arguing about. But I do remember being very, very angry.
I take him out of the car and put him on the pavement. I tell him that he has to calm down and apologise. Or else, he will have to stay here and not be able to go back home. I walk about 20 feet away from him. Far enough for him to feel a distance, and close enough for me to spring back in case he tries to run onto the road. I disappear behind a car for a few minutes and wait.
No one around except cars and strange houses on a strange street. He looks tiny, surrounded by cars, on a street with strange houses. But he doesn’t budge nor does he cry for me. After 15 minutes – I walk back to him and don’t say a word to him. I pick him up, all arms and legs and practically stuff him back into the car seat. In the car, I ask if he is ready to apologize or else we stay here and wait.
“Sorry Mommy…” he says softly.
“Sorry for what?”
“Sorry for kicking the car seat.”
We drive home in silence.
6 years old : The first day of Primary(Junior) school. I watch the kids assemble, there are about 300 Grade 1 kids. The Grade 1’s are so little. I wonder if he will get trampled during recess by the older kids. But they tell me that there is a buddy system where Grade 3 kids take the Grade 1 kids to recess. When the parents have to leave, some of the kids cry. Mr I-am-a-Big-Boy is wearing his new school new uniform, new school bag, new everything. He’s trying so hard not to bounce around the floor because of the excitement of this brand new adventure.
8 years old: A year ago, he got selected into the junior team after 3 months of being in the “for fun” classes. He is one of 3 boys in his age group that is selected to make team for the gymnastics club. Training is tough, the boys are on 6 hours a week. 3 hours per session
This is our second year and he has been testing his boundaries with the gym coach. I also think he is getting bored because of the rote nature of the training sessions. The gym coach comes up to me and he (the kid) yelled back at him (the coach):
“If you push me too hard, I am going to tell my mom and I will quit gymnastics”
Our gym coach does not know what to make of it. Such a patient man, the gym coach is China born and started training in gymnastics since he was 7 or 8. He explained to me that kids are selected at an early age and sent away for training while their parents get a stipend from the government. The kids just do whatever the coaches tell them to do. He says – the system is different here (in Singapore). The kids speak their mind, and the parents pay for the gym classes.
Yes, a few months after that – I let him quit gymnastics. He just didn’t want to do it anymore. And it didn’t matter how many medals he had won.
The same thing happens to swimming, then soccer and then violin.
I hang on to dear life to piano classes because he has a good ear. Our compromise.
10 years old: He writes me that little note that you see at the top. I have it saved on the fridge and decided it was a great picture to use for my first post here. We had sold our large apartment facing the pool and moved into a smaller state-built housing. And I just didn’t have it together, yet. Even though it was much closer to school now – I was always sending him to school a little bit late. And Mr.Fussy Eater hated that I would give him the same thing for breakfast twice in a row.
He decides to write me a menu that I can follow. And he makes sure that I sign it – the kids have just learnt about contracts and signatures.
12 years old: 3 weeks ago today, I drop him off to school in the morning. It’s his Math exam day – part of the Singapore’s Primary School Leaving Exam (PSLE). This a huge exam – all Grade 6 kids take it. Their grades determine which school they go to for Secondary School or if they have to stay back and repeat the year.
Some parents start preparing their kids for PSLE at 5 years old, sending them – every weekend – to countless extra classes.
The rationale is the higher your PSLE grades, the more choices you have for the “better” school. Yes, those “quotes” on better is quite cheeky of me.
I didn’t come from this school system, so I don’t really get it or want to for that matter.
I figure my kid has another 6 years of Secondary School. And then 4 years of college (fingers crossed). That makes a total of another 10 more years before he becomes a productive citizen.
So….I am thinking that choosing the “right” school at 12 should not be a defining factor in my kid’s life. Plus as a single mom, I am on a budget. Plus the school started giving the kids extra classes after school hours from Grade 5. It seems they have a standard to upkeep. That works for me.
As he turns and walks into the school gates. I watch that strong diffident walk. He’s hiding his nervousness by putting on his extra confident face. But I could see him chewing on that lower lip earlier.
Suddenly I am reminded of that first day in school – him trying to hold in all that excitement. Where did the time go?
12 years old: Two days later, he comes out of his bedroom, and says to me thoughtfully: “Mommy, you’re not giving me enough Vitamin A in my diet.”
I am struck speechless…
These are the little gifts that I have received – simply by being a mom. His mom. Every time I waiver and wonder about my life decisions – I play back these little vignettes. You will see me with a silly smile on my face and then maybe sometimes a quick tear (very corny – even I have to admit it). I am working really hard to sear them into my mind and I am going to hold on to them for as long as my brain lets me.
Happy Rest of the Week!