Sunday, November 10, 2019

A Letter to my Daughters on Their Fifth Birthday


*Exhales deeply*....okay....this birthday letter is going to be the hardest one yet! I have so many things to say (as usual) and yet so ill-prepared. I should have learnt my lesson from two years ago where I found myself in a similar predicament. But back then, I pulled through just in the nick of time (or so I think!). It'll be interesting to see how this birthday letter is going to fare in comparison πŸ˜›

You know the Hindi movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai? The one in which the dying mother left a bunch of letters for her baby daughter and then years later, the daughter had those precious memories to remember her mother by? Now, don’t get any morbid ideas....I’m not going anywhere (I hope! 😝) but that gesture moved me to my core even though I was just a teenager back then.

But on a serious note, we are all living on borrowed time aren’t we? Nobody knows how long their journey in this world will last. Nobody knows if they have enough time to make sure their loved ones know just how much they are cherished. In the end, it is only the experiences and lasting relationships we form with people during the course of our lives that matter.  

Birthday letters to my daughters have come to mean much more than a mere tradition. Each letter is a tangible expression of my love and pride, my reflections combined with my hopes and dreams I have for their future. It serves a reservoir of memories and my emotional constitution locked in passages of time. The most heartfelt emotions can be conveyed more meaningfully in writing rather than everyday spoken words and stories have the ability to communicate actions and events in a way that is more valued than any singular compliment. We prudently think about taking out a life insurance policy to ensure our children’s financial future is taken care of but how about setting aside an “emotional insurance policy” that may cover their emotional needs? To convey those things one might forget about as time goes by or have trouble verbally expressing or the little things that might otherwise go unsaid while children grow up.

I want my children to have these letters so they can feel like they are close to my heart even when I’m not around and to be reminded of their importance in my life. And it is not just the highlights of their early childhood years but my own experiences on motherhood, being a twin mom and the challenges with choosing to be a working mom that I have painstakingly documented so that they can see my life as it has unfolded so far and view me as someone other than just mom πŸ˜€

On this sunny Sunday, my girls turned FIVE.

Five, is a milestone that in my opinion, merits a celebration. This is the first birthday that a child will probably remember!

This year, for the twins birthday, we planned to throw them a Shimmer & Shine themed birthday party with their friends at one of their favored indoor play areas in Singapore followed by a trip to Disneyland in Hong Kong. The latter plan had to be postponed (you know with Hong Kong being recently rocked by a spate of mass anti-government protests and all) but the party went on as scheduled.
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On Friday, we put together goody bags for their classmates but unlike the previous two years, skipped the cake cutting ceremony at school.

The party at the indoor play area took place yesterday evening. I didn't trust myself to bake the birthday cake for the party so I outsourced the job. With some of their favorite people in attendance, the girls had a marvelous time and true to their nature, were still full of beans hours after the event ended!
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To keep the birthday cake baking tradition alive, I baked a no-frills vanilla cake with white chocolate buttercream and fresh fruits this morning and as a bonus, made the girls best-loved poori-chole for lunch. Today on their actual birthday, it is going to be just the four of us. Dinner will be a casual affair at a cafe that the girls love but they don't know that yet!
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As I'm editing this post, there are two little (sorry I meant big) girls with wide grins, full tummies and contented hearts, gleefully ripping into yesterday's birthday loot πŸ˜€


So, with that, here are my musings from the year gone by,
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Dearest Anvitha & Navitha, 

Today you turned FIVE. The other day someone asked me if I have children to which I replied, - “yes, I have twin girls…they are almost five”. And then I paused, and thought to myself – wow!….five….that's a whole handful of digits! 
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At the start of each of your birthday letters I’ve typically expressed my amazement at how much has changed over the course of one year and lamented about time flying by too quickly but at the risk of sounding redundant, it is true and can’t be emphasized enough!  
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I get pretty emotional around the time of your birthday. It brings up a lot dormant memories that make me reflect on our journey. 

I haven't mentioned this in any birthday letter so far but my pregnancy with the two of you was fraught with worry right from the start. After suffering two consecutive early miscarriages, I began to wonder if I would ever be a parent. While your daddy assured me that he could make peace with that, somewhere deep inside my heart, there was a gnawing emptiness that just wouldn’t go away. I decided that I was not going to accept that scenario so easily. After multiple hospital visits, a battery of tests and many frustrating weeks of waiting, we found out that I had an uncommon autoimmune disorder that was the culprit. The doctors gave us a 70% chance of a successful pregnancy with a treatment of blood thinners. When I discovered I was pregnant for the third time, I must confess that the first emotion that surged through me was panic. We rushed to the hospital and I was started on treatment immediately. My hormone levels were skyrocketing which prompted an early sonogram and to our utter disbelief - a twin pregnancy! I clearly remember the faces of the doctor and your daddy – they looked positively alarmed. I tried to be as optimistic as possible but then we dealt with a terrifying scare at week 8 in which it looked like one of you wouldn’t make it. Through a lot of prayers and god’s grace, we overcame that ordeal only to contend with severe gestational diabetes a few weeks later. After a remarkable journey of innumerable hospital visits, a frantic trip to the ER, daily medication, 350+ injections, dozens of sonograms, a 20 hour unfruitful labor with a failed epidural and a C-section under general anesthesia, you came squealing into our lives. 

You became the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel; the double rainbow after the storm. God forbid, if at any point in your life, you begin to question your worth, please revisit this story πŸ˜€
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Girls, I want you to know that I never gave up on the desire of having you and I hope that if there is something you desire greatly in your life, you will go after it with everything you've got too. Always remember that true strength often stems from struggle. 

Another point of telling you all this is that when I think that I almost didn’t have you, it strikes my whole being with an icy chill. I sincerely believe that a woman doesn’t need marriage or motherhood to feel whole and complete but from an individual perspective, I needed you to fulfill that niggling longing. No matter how challenging it got, I’ve never had any regrets (okay, except for that one time when I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown from the severe sleep deprivation and stress of keeping two constantly screaming newborns alive πŸ˜†). Please don't hold that against me okay?

Looking at how much happiness you bring to us and the people around you, all the anxiety, tears and pain was completely worth it. My darlings, you have and always will be worth fighting for and I will never stop trying to live up to the privilege of being your mother. 
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Moving on to less serious stuff - as I think about your transition from age four to five, there are a few things that come to mind. Much to my satisfaction, you two are still as active and playful as ever (if not more so!). In this digital generation, I’m so glad that you enjoy plenty of play time everyday. As repetitive as it may sound, going to parks, playgrounds, water parks, indoor play areas and on play dates are still your most preferred activities. It doesn’t look like you will get bored of them anytime soon! 

Running, skipping, hopping, falling, sliding, rolling, climbing, jumping.....you are like two little monkeys on Red Bull! The word "tired" has no place in your dictionary. I'm guilty of googling - "is it legal to tranquilize your kids?" πŸ˜‚
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You can manage a whole lot of daily tasks and chores by yourselves, have a vast vocabulary, are able to articulate more complex thoughts, have a fairly good sense of right and wrong, put together your OOTDs pretty well πŸ˜„, can write neatly, can do jigsaw puzzles without any help from me, are starting to read and have just learned how to swim. 
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Next on our agenda is getting those training wheels off your bicycles! 
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This year has been an eventful year indeed! Soon after your fourth birthday, we traveled to India for the year-end holidays. We attended family functions, went on a trip with extended family to Kerala, spent time with family and friends in Mysore & Bangalore, fulfilled our quota of checking out new restaurants and shopping, went to visit your daddy's ancestral house in Sirsi, stayed at a charming farm retreat in Sagar and checked out a few tourist attractions in the area. 

It was a wonderful trip indeed! 
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After we got back to Singapore, we went on a staycation at D'Resort with a couple of our friends (whom you adore and I think the feeling is mutual!). 

With a water park, park and beach in the immediate vicinity, you had the full fun-package you at your disposal! I can't forget the wonderful evening we spent enjoying a barbecue outside our room in the resort and you being the social butterflies that you are, went around making friends with another set of twins and their rather large family. 
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In March, we possibly discovered your favourite place in Singapore (that is not a playground or park!). You absolutely love going to the Singapore Turf Club Riding Center where you love to gawk at the horses endlessly, run like the wind without a care in the world, often interact with other animals like dogs, cats and birds and tuck into munchies at the cafe Cheval which is located in the premises. 

We go there whenever we can and it is something you look forward to very much.
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From June onward, visitors started streaming in at a steady pace. 

First we had one of our cousin's visiting from Bangkok followed by a group of eight family members from Mysore and Udupi (including your beloved Ammamma). It was an eventful time for you as you got to go sightseeing all around Singapore with them. You spent time with your littlest cousin D and played the part of doting big sisters exceedingly well. 
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In July we went to India again for a short trip. We got to witness your great grandmother's last rites, attend your cousin's birthday and reunite with family and friends. 
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While coming back to Singapore, we brought your Bangalore Ajja and Dodda with us and they stayed for five weeks. Needless to say, you love having your grandparents staying with us and we all had a lovely time together.
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After that time whizzed by with another family member visiting from Kuala Lumpur and catch-ups with some of our friends living in Singapore. 

It really helps that you love people  in general and so you look forward to seeing faces of not only the familiar but unfamiliar kind as well!
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This September and October, we had two more sets of family visiting from India and again, you got a chance to go touring places within Singapore along with them. 

Honestly, at this point, I think we should be appointed as Singapore tourism ambassadors!

You had a cracking time with one of your second cousins and in the subsequent week, your cousin D.  
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You had a memorable Deepavali that was spend in the midst of more family and friends. You love the whole mehendi ritual, dressing up and most of all, lighting up sparklers (accidental burns notwithstanding!).  

For Halloween you went trick-or-treating as a "nice" witch and Rainbow Dash (from My Little Pony) along with one of your friends. You looked so cute 😊 You brought back two whole pails of candy (which will probably last us till the end of the year πŸ˜€). Next near, one of you has asked for a cat suit while the other one wants to go as a "cute baby duck". I'm pretty sure you will not be dressing up as the above by the time Halloween rolls around next!

Your birthday was an enjoyable affair indeed! Being one among the last of your friends to turn five, you had been looking forward to it for months. I wanted your birthday party to be special and so I chose a venue that was familiar yet exciting and would be ideal for doing the thing you love most in the world which is to "play!". You had all sorts of ideas and even wanted me to arrange a "pile of presents that have teddy bears in them" at the top of the slide so each one of your friends could pick up a present and slide down with it You stated that they would open it, be "amazed" and declare -  "this is the best birthday ever!" πŸ˜‚ That would have indeed been a fun idea girls but keeping in mind the rules and regulations at the indoor playground, I had to pass up on it πŸ˜› 
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My dear Anvi, your personality has remained largely unchanged since last year. But there are a few things I have noticed about you this year. For example, you love relaxing on your daddy, getting massages, bossing google home and sticking stickers over everything (including yourself!). I've realized that you dislike the cold (a visit to snow city did not go as well as I had hoped!). You are definitely the sassier twin - "Don't make me angry Amma!", "This is going to be epic!", "Amma, stop messing around!", "I'm not your friend ANYMORE!" (accompanied by a death glare) are some of your typical phrases that come to mind πŸ˜† It is important to you that your parents and teachers be proud of you so you put more of an effort into homework. You are more of a "Mummy's girl" and will look for me over anyone else when you are upset or need something. When you are bored, you go around hugging people (and by people, I mean literally anyone!). Your current favourite stuffed toys are your weird unicorn-cat Mr Jingles and Ottie the Otter. Your favourite movie is The Lion King (you have watched it over a hundred times). Your favourite song started off being "What makes you beautiful" from One Direction but then changed to "Mahi Ve" from Kal Ho Na Ho and right now is something else. Unlike your sister, your preferences keep changing every couple of weeks!
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My dear Navi, you have also not changed significantly since last year in terms of personality. I've noticed that you like dancing. You repeatedly watch certain zumba kids videos and copy the moves quite well. You have a funny hoarding habit of stuffing a bunch of random small objects into your purse/bag (and it doesn't help that you have a dozen purses!). You make my job of sorting out your toys quite challenging! You also don't like the cold but you also cannot stand anything that is supposed to be dry, being damp/wet (it drives you absolutely crazy!). You still are quite fastidious - the buttons on your crocs have to be aligned properly, if you don't think you have folded your clothes neatly enough, you will do it repeatedly until satisfied, you absolutely have to eat and drink using your own cup and plate, there cannot be any excess/loose thread hanging out of your clothes and your socks have to fit absolutely snug with no extra fabric protruding anywhere 😁 You are an emotional TV viewer just like me. I remember that you burst into tears at the cinema when Dumbo's mother was sold! You love animated movies with The Lion King, Moana, Aladdin and Tintin at the top of the list. Your favourite toys are your pink flamingo Lulu, your bunny Floppy Hoppy and your Shine doll. You keep rotating your toys during play and snuggle time so that none of them feels left out. You love listening to stories and your current favourite book is Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. Your taste in music is exactly the same as your sister's πŸ˜€
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You know something girls? I am your top fan. I admire you for your pizzazz, your spontaneity, adventurous spirit, your affectionate nature, your generosity and your ability to forgive and forget. I admire you for your maturity and wisdom (the other day you earnestly told me to check for the "healthy symbol" before buying any groceries at the supermarket and you had once told me that if a visiting younger child spoils any of your toys, you won't be upset because they are small and their brain is not "ready" yet πŸ˜†). Most of all, I'm blown away by your ability to live in the moment. The way you get deeply attached to family and friends, makes me worry how upset you may be when they leave, but that simply has never been the case. You may feel a little sad for a short while but then go right back to being the bright and cheerful girls you normally are and move on to the next best thing that catches your fancy. It is the same if me or your daddy have to be away from you. You don't seem to have any kind of separation anxiety or fear of abandonment. That way, you come across as extremely secure and confident. You seem to understand that your safety and well-being does not depend on people you love being around you all the time, so you tend to live each moment to the fullest. 

Where do you get these enviable qualities from? (I know better than to believe that they are from me! 😝). You are oblivious to how easy you have made my life with your sanguine personality type. 
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At five years old, you stand 109 cm tall and your weight is hovering around 14 kg. The first half of the year saw 2-3 bouts of minor ailments but the second half of the year has gone by without so much as a hiccup! Touch wood! πŸ˜…

I am not a free-range mom by any account (my parenting style is unapologetically authoritative) but let me tell you that when it comes to schooling and education, I'm pretty laid-back. Right now, I'm not bothered about how well you can read, write, draw or color. I don’t like you getting any kind of homework and would rather see you engage in physical play with your friends or dabble in self-initiated arts and crafts. I believe you should enjoy your childhood to the fullest, test your creativity, develop an active imagination and learn basic life skills before you can master multiple languages, recite poetry, do advanced math and ace school tests. I get that modern society is a very competitive place but I want to nurture your strengths and aid your weaknesses instead of forcing attributes upon you that prescribe to societal conventions. It is upsetting to me to think that schooling may squash the individuality out of you until you are "standardized" so I will play no further part in that. I have seen it all too often during my time so even though times have changed, I constantly remind myself to never turn into the stereotypical Indian parent who forces their choice of career or lifestyle on their kids. I do have high expectations from you but trust me, it isn’t to win any rat races. I plan on giving you the freedom to fulfill your potential, no matter where your interest and aptitude lie but I do expect that you give your absolute best and not give up. 

You recently said to me with absolute conviction that you want to grow up and become a "sea doctor" (apparently one of you wants to be the doctor and the other wants to be the assisting nurse). I'm not sure where that came from but considering your opinion keeps changing every few months, we can wait at least a decade to cross that bridge πŸ˜‚
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This year, our family is at a major crossroads in life. We need evaluate our choices and make some important decisions that may significantly alter our lifestyle as it is currently stands. I don’t know about myself but I have no doubts in my mind that you will adapt to them just like how you adapt to any changing circumstance. I’ve never been worried about how change affects you because you have proven time and again how resilient you are and like I said before, you tend to live in the moment. But no matter what decision we make, I want you to understand that your welfare is of paramount importance to us and we will do everything we possibly can to make sure your childhood is as happy, care-free and wholesome as it has been so far. 
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At this point in time, I don't know if this will be my last birthday letter to you. Only time will tell!


Happy birthday to the happiest girls in the world! 


I love you more than you will ever know


Amma




P.S. - The two of you freaked me out when I asked each of you individually (out of earshot of the other) as to what you wanted to gift your daddy for his birthday and you both said - "a blue card with gold stars and 12 dollars". 
I know you are twins and all but this psychic telepathy can sometimes be unsettling πŸ˜†

2 comments:

  1. Finally got to read this over the Thanksgiving break, and I would like to say kudos girl! You are one strong Mom! HUGS!

    I love reading these letters and thoroughly enjoy them :) I know how hard it is to commit and deliver this year after year!

    ReplyDelete

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