Saturday, November 10, 2018

A Letter To My Daughters on Their Fourth Birthday


I realize every year, my birthday letters to my daughters are getting longer and more detailed. Although that may sound like a good thing, I'm worried that it will translate into a snooze-fest! πŸ˜΄πŸ˜…

If you are checking out my blog for the very first time, let me give you a head's up that writing these birthday letters is a self-initiated annual tradition. I wrote letters to my twin daughters on their first birthday, second birthday and third birthday. I promised myself that I would document their early years to the best of my ability at least till they were five years old. I'm glad that I've stuck to my guns because reading the earlier letters gets me misty-eyed and brings back memories that were buried somewhere in the depths of my perpetually foggy brain. The realization that I would have forgotten many of those precious details if I hadn't painstakingly extricated from my memory every year, makes it a worthwhile endeavour.

As I had expected, succumbing to peer pressure, the twins wanted a princess-themed birthday party this year. We decided to organize a party next year marking their fifth birthday and instead go for a family beach holiday to Thailand a few days prior and celebrate their birthday at pre-school followed by a fun activity of their choice. It didn't take any persuasion to get them completely on board with the latter idea! The fact that preschoolers are notoriously fickle comes in handy at times like these πŸ˜›




To be magnanimous, I did consult the girls on what kind of cake they wanted. Unsurprisingly, they both wanted a "pink" cake with cream and flowers so I chose a simple vanilla cake with whipped cream with rosettes and sugar flowers. I had taken the day off to be able to pull of this cake (simple as it was) because let's face it, I am no cake decorating whiz and I need time to be able to do a decent job.


The previous day of the birthday passed by with a fun-filled celebration at school among their classmates in the morning and a visit to the temple in the evening. On the big day, we headed out to one of their favourite indoor playgrounds where they spent the entire morning followed by lunch at a restaurant. Dinner was spent with relatives who chipped in to make the girls feel special. And there were birthday cupcakes to be enjoyed by all. All in all, I'd say it was a memorable birthday!

And now for the letter which captures the essence (or maybe a bit more!) of everything that took place since their last birthday....


Dearest Anvitha & Navitha,

Your birthday marks the number of years your daddy and I have become parents. The number of years I have been a mother. 

Before I became a parent, in my head, I had it all figured out. It is like the running joke goes - "perfect parents are the ones who don't have any children"! How incredibly naive I was not to realize that it would always be trial and error with the two of you. Not having witnessed any babies growing up and becoming a first-time mom to twins meant that I never had any awareness or experience handling babies. And little did I know back then that with twins, you have to have a truckload of patience and be able to ask for help when needed. You are probably old enough to figure out that patience is not a virtue I possess and I have the bad habit of seldom asking for help (even when overwhelmed). Through the past years, you have put up with my screw-ups and unrealistic expectations. And you have tried to make motherhood as smooth a journey as you could have. From difficult newborns you transitioned into manageable infants, followed by good-natured toddlers and have now blossomed into effervescent and amicable little girls. Every time I look at your dimpled cheeks, soft curls, infectious smiles and hear the sound of your sweet-sounding voices, I realize just how blessed I am.


The two of you are generous with your hugs and kisses and tell the people close to you that you love them sometimes several times a day, completely unprompted. You have limitless love to give and are remarkably social by nature and those are, by far, your best qualities.  

Your eating habits have improved so much that it honestly no longer remains a nagging concern. I do wish you weren't as barfy as you are (which is a LOT of the time) but I know now to reign in my expectations. 

I am nowhere close to being a perfect parent (does one even exist?) but I am a real one and each day, you inspire me to be a better person and a good role model. I love you more than words can say and I am so proud to be your mother. My darlings, I did not give you the gift of life - life gave me the gift of YOU.


The best news is we have actually manage to save money this year! πŸ˜‚ Your third year appointment at your pediatrician was the last of the scheduled routine appointments. You eat almost the same food we do so the need for a separate grocery list has been close to eliminated. Earlier this year, we said goodbye to the last of baby stuff - diapers, training pants, lotions, sleeping bags, baby monitor, formula, bibs, baby cutlery and beakers. You still use your high chairs during meals although I can see the enthusiasm waning. You haven't outgrown your humongous double stroller yet but I foresee it coming to the end of its use as you clearly prefer to walk everywhere. The usage of wet wipes has been slashed by more than three quarters. From an elephant-sized ugly baby bag I used to lug with me wherever we'd go, it is now a water bottle, a small pack of wet wipes and tissues that I need to accommodate in my (small & trendy) handbag 😝 Whoop whoop!


This year began, as always, with a holiday to India. It turned out to be the most fun and relaxing home trips we took as a family of four. From sightseeing to shopping malls, eating out at restaurants to social visits, you had a blast through it all. But most of all, you enjoyed playing with our family pet dog Marley and of course your cherubic little cousin D. 



After we got back to Singapore, you started a new pre-school. With new teachers, an unfamiliar environment, new classmates and a changed routine, I expected initial settling in adjustments but you adapted to it at lightning speed. 

You have picked up a fair bit of Mandarin this year (which is more than I can say for your native language Kannada πŸ˜’). 


Going to the pool, indoor playgrounds, parks and water parks still tops your list of favourite activities to do and we do at least one (if not more) religiously on a weekend basis. 



This year marked you maiden trip to the movies where we watched Peter Rabbit as a family. The experience was overwhelmingly positive and it surpassed all my expectations! I promise that I will take you to the cinema to watch more animated movies this year. 


In the middle of the year, we traveled to India again for a short trip to attend two family functions. You were so thrilled to see your grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousin and Marley again. You experienced your first meal served on a banana leaf (you were very concerned that you had to eat the leaf too!) and you did us all proud 😊






Soon after we got back, your school holidays began and your beloved ajja and ammamma paid us a visit making the holidays enjoyable for you (and liberating for me)! 


You had your first outdoor barbecue experience at West Coast Park in June with a group of our friends and you enjoyed it so much that I think we have to do it more often 😊 


The next few weeks were frenzied for me with your Daddy away on business trip for more than two weeks while I was on the brink of changing jobs and neck-deep in job applications and interviews but you were as good as gold so my sanity remained in check. I did try to make it up to you by arranging several memorable mother-daughter outings which helped us both! 



We took you to an ice skating rink for the very first time this year. I don't have any good pictures from it though because your dear old mum was too preoccupied with trying not to fall down and embarrass herself in front of little kids who were gliding across the rink like figure skaters! One of you turned out to be a trooper and seemed surprisingly at ease (and even excited) on the ice whereas the other one spent all of two minutes and started screaming her head off πŸ˜†

You took part in your first ever competition at school this year on Children's Day. It was a creative costume which was to be made with recyclable materials and considering you both co-operated and went on to win the prize, I'd say we all did good! 😊


This year marked another first - you went for your very first proper Halloween trick-or-treat experience with some of your classmates to Woodgrove. One of you went as Supergirl and the other as Elsa from Frozen (how predictable πŸ˜›). You came back with your pails full of candy and were on a sugar rush for the next few days after that! 


Just before your birthday, we went on a fabulous family holiday to Koh Samui in Thailand. You came back unwillingly to Singapore black as ravens after the unlimited fun in the sun, sand and sea! 


Like I said before, your actual birthday has been low-key this year but I have fun plans for your fifth birthday next year so wait and watch!

My sweethearts, I'm glad that so far, you have the kind of childhood that I had hoped for in this digital age. I want to preserve your innocence for as long as I can which, to me means keeping your exposure to cinema, the internet, social media influences, electronic gadgets and the ugly excesses of the world as minimum as possible. I'm not paranoid or anything but you must understand that I get only one shot at this and there are no do-overs. We do video chat with your grandparents back home, I show you photos of your adorable cousins on my phone and for kicks, I grant the occasional request for goofing around with Instagram face filters but apart from that you are still blissfully technologically challenged. 


When you are not at school, most of your time is spent in long afternoon naps, riding your scooters or bicycles outside, in the pool, playground hopping with your friends, drawing and colouring, playing with play doh, going through books and watching selected cartoons on TV (Baby Looney Tunes being your current favourite). 



The simplest of things make you happy - popping bubble wrap, finger painting, digging for earthworms, scouting for sticks and stones, prodding snails, chasing after birds and butterflies, eating popcorn and popsicles as well as touching (make that annihilating!) the mimosa plant whenever you spot them. You are pretty old-school that way πŸ˜„


Since your last birthday, you started art classes and swimming lessons which help keeps you engaged during the week. We still do a lot of reading together and I've introduced Indian mythology to you. You are intrigued by Kali, love to hear stories about Krishna and Ganesha, repeatedly ask to hear about Ramayana and you even deduced all by yourselves that Rama and Hanuman are, in your words, "BFFs"! πŸ˜† 

You stand 102 cm tall which makes you on par with your peers but weigh only 12.3 kg which is hovering around the 5th-10th percentile. Going by your previous birthday letters, you should know that it has always been that way right from the very start. I have done absolutely everything in my power to change that but your lack of weight gain remains my life's biggest challenge. 

On the bright side, your resistance to illnesses has improved drastically (touch wood!) with only a few instances of being sick this year. Compared to last year, the difference is astounding. I just realized I actually haven't taken any childcare leave this year (gasp!). I have been (mostly) stress-free in that area and I am so relieved that you are gradually building up immunity.


My dear Anvi, you are my adventurous, fearless, artistic and sassy little drama queen! You have oodles of patience because of which you are very good at colouring. You align stickers perfectly in your activity books and you have also started assembling complex jigsaw puzzles. Your current favourite toys are your miniature Shimmer doll and your little orange car. You continue to like the colors pink and purple, anything sparkly and anything excessively girly. 

You are quite the diva. When you want to wear something in particular you emphatically insist of how it is your favourite thing in the "whole wide world!'" You often go to your daddy with a big sigh declaring "I need a massage". You once handed me a replica Oscar trophy  and said - "And the Oscar for the most annoying person....goes to....Amma!" πŸ˜‚ The goofball that you are, a few weeks ago you came to me with a grim expression and your hand over your chest exclaiming "I think my heartbeat is spoilt!" πŸ˜†

You have the habit of saying "right?" after most statements as a way of reaffirmation which is adorable. You love to use "maybe" and "actually" in your sentences (and use it out of context most times!). You also chirp in with a "Hi guys!" or "What ya doing guys?" to me and your daddy and a "Hey there little guy" when talking to a particular toy in your trademark mellifluous voice. 

You don't like my giving you excessive instructions and will roll your eyes at me and say very sweetly - "Amma can you please stop talking now?" When angry, you can give me the silent treatment. You cross your hands, pout, turn away from me and let out an audible humph! But this little scenario plays out exactly for 5 seconds as behind that little serious facade is a wide mischievous grin always ready to show itself! You my little one have even learned exactly what to say in order to emotionally blackmail people! And your crocodile tears....they are hilarious πŸ˜† But  having said that, you are not as intense as your sister - your moods are more predictable and you can be easily consoled. You also compromise easily and can be coaxed and convinced to do something that you don't feel like doing. You are a good sport and are willing to try anything (case in point: the ice skating experience). But you can also be whiny and sensitive, getting easily upset if scolded. 

You eat better than your sister but have a marked preference for fruits compared to vegetables (unlike her). Rice is still your favourite food but you are more open-minded and interested to trying new foods. On the flip side, you are a complete sucker for junk food and I think I need to keep a close watch on your eating habits in the future!




My dear Navi, you are my sweet, mature, innocent and stubborn little one. We have labelled you the queen of pouting. You can seriously give the Kardashians a run for their money! 

Babies and dogs still remain your favourite of living creatures. You are captivated by flowers and have a compulsive need to pluck them and give them to everyone around you (whether they want it or not). You like playing with sticks, hoarding weird stuff like 'poison berries', weeds, twigs and pebbles. You are obsessed with matching clothes, accessories and shoes. You are excessively attached to your stuffed panda, octopus swimsuit, toucan skirt, sleeping bag, cupcake blanket and your Hello Kitty tee. 

You are a total cleanliness/neatness freak - you can't stand anything being dirty, not aligned or in a place it shouldn't be. It is quite evident to me when I routinely see you arranging your friends footwear in a straight line at the playground, or give people (even complete strangers) instructions to keep things in their "proper place" or when you keep picking minuscule particles off the floor and passing it to me or promptly wiping spills at home (whether or not you are responsible for it). You are your daddy's daughter by all accounts 😝 It is also no surprise that you freak out at the sight of bugs. You are scared of the dark and you convince your sister to enter spaces that you deem perilous! 

Your facial expressions and the things you say are quite funny. Your nonchalant shrugs, wild gesticulations, puzzled frown, the sing-song way of saying "okay" and "nope" are adorable. You tend to giggle after most sentences which reminds me of....well....me! You constantly keep bumping into things after which you promptly proclaim "I'm okay!" with a little chuckle. You start most sentences with "I think....and end most sentences with "you know?" or "but". And you love saying "absolutely" to a question that ends with - are you sure? 

Being the more mature and obedient of the two, you are very popular with your peers and teachers. You are also very generous (especially with food) and will willingly share whatever you have with others. But you have a tendency to be finicky, impatient and insecure. And the concept of compromise has no place in your world. 

Even though you are a picky eater, you like vegetables and eat everything (except bell peppers and cabbage). But your absolute favourite is broccoli which you can eat every single day. And you still continue to be my champion milk drinker. You have a huge sweet tooth and if you had your way, sweets, candy, desserts and ice-cream would replace your regular meals!



Your interaction with each other has evolved significantly this year. There is definitely more cooperation and sharing. We see you engage in imaginative role-playing games frequently. You play hide and seek quite nicely too (although you aren't very innovative when it comes to finding new places to hide!). Bath time always translates into sisterly bonding and you make up wild scenarios such as there being a shark in the bathtub and your frantic attempts to escape from it or else swimming with imaginary dolphins. You also like to play the doctor and patient game with each other, us and your line-up of stuffed toys and it is of no surprise that most of your "patients" seem to have vomiting as a symptom! You defend each other fiercely at the playground and do not let anyone mess with your twin. And there are so many times when you colour/paint together, play with stickers and play doh in perfect harmony. 

But that my pets, is only the rosy side of the picture. The fighting is less of issue but still there (especially over clothes and accessories) and by the sibling laws of nature, I'm guessing it will last a lifetime. Even though we employ neutrality, negotiate reasonably and enforce a zero tolerance policy towards physically rough behaviour, disagreements still pop up on a daily basis. I'll level with you girls - the petulant quarrels can be exhausting to deal with at times and the job of a referee is not one I particularly like. I know for a fact from your teachers at school and from our domestic helper at the playground that you do seldom fight with other children and are (almost always) lovely towards them. It appears like you show your aggressive side only to each other which is a pity considering how in sync you are with each other when playing together agreeably. I understand that the lack of a birth order dynamic has not established natural boundaries between you two but I hope that moving forward that will sort itself out. As built-in buddies, it seems like you are destined to be each other's best friend until the very end. All I can say is - no one will be there for you quite like your twin....probably not even me.


This is an interesting age - you are articulate, opinionated, defiant yet at the same time innocent and gullible. On one hand, you amaze me when you seem to remember stuff that I myself have forgotten, have a strong sense of autonomy, demonstrate empathy and are mastering the art of manipulation but on the other hand, you insist that you want to be a 'unicorn mermaid' when you grow up, till quite recently thought that people are actually living in our tv and still believe in the concept of a 'baby jail' πŸ˜‚ 

When it comes to talking, I think it is fairly typical of a 3-4 old to say a lot of funny/ embarrassing things on a daily basis, in our case - "Amma, I'm not pointing at that bald man" (in a voice loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear) or, signalling to an unsuspecting elderly woman carrying a little extra weight around the middle - "is there a baby in that aunty's tummy?" or staring wide-eyed at a young woman with an gothic fashion sensibility and blurting out - "is she a witch?"  or when you find yourselves near the alcohol section of the supermarket and point to the stacks of beer crates and excitedly shriek "that is my daddy's favourite juice!" πŸ˜† Methinks is a mixture of this naivety coupled with awareness that makes this age unique and special.

I can't wait to see how the coming year is going to unfold. As you have gotten older, you have become easier. I think I've finally gotten the hang of motherhood and am even managing to wholeheartedly enjoy it now. I am embracing my career, have gotten into the groove of reading, have been able to prioritize my wellbeing this year and we, as a family have been able to enjoy (for the most part) travelling together. It can only get even better from here and that makes me look forward to what is in store for us.

As for the pearls of wisdom that I typically give you at the end of your birthday letters - this year I just want to skip the ramblings and just say one thing - I won't give you the moon but I sure will help you build your spaceship!

Happy birthday my darlings! I'm going to make sure you enjoy your day 😊

Love,
Amma

P.S.- I am not "fat" as you helpfully pointed out to me earlier this year. If diet and exercise doesn't work, I'm working on convincing you that it is an excess of my sublime personality overflowing 😝



5 comments:

  1. Wow!! That is d most detailed letter ever! N I read every line of it 😊

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! You may just be the only person who would read it fully hahahah!

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  2. I read it too! :-) Very detailed and expressive. Hope do you remember all the details? Do you journal?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Rosh :) Yes I do journal....otherwise I tend to forget a lot of stuff :P

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