Letter to Olivia: The eve of your third birthday

My dearest Olivia,

I can't imagine that another year has passed us by and you will be three years old tomorrow. As I put you to bed tonight, I reminded you that you will sleep as a two-year old for the last time and that you will be three tomorrow! You told me that you don't like being two and that you prefer to be three. Whether you are two or three, we love you all the same, my dearest.


For some reasons, you were a lot more challenging today and truly you tested my patience several times. I needed to be firm and set boundaries with you even as you said goodbye to terrific two. I never thought I'll say this but I love you being 2 years old. In fact I started to mourn the loss when you were 2.5 years old. I told you as much and that's when you replied that you prefer to be three.


While it had been a super intense and emotional year with more frequent outbursts, meltdowns and tantrums, I also get to experience the pure joy of your unconditional love. Furthermore, you truly come into your own this year, and even as I struggle with your challenging self I enjoy discovering who you are. It has been an eye-opener and I learn so much from you. I know that I am the most important person in your life at the moment and you want me so much that at times I feel suffocated. However, I remind myself that it is a stage that will pass and to relish it while it lasts. Thank you for making me feel so so loved and important, darling.


You are a funny, loving, caring, easy-going, creative and lovable child. Your social and emotional intelligence are rather impressive as you are generally good with people. That doesn't mean that you're always friendly. You choose your audience and when you're comfortable you reveal your true self. I am so thankful that I get to see all sides of you - your lovable and funny side as well as your difficult and dark side. I am consoled that you feel safe enough with me that you can freely expressed your dark sides as well. I promise that I will always accept who you are and that you will never fear being the real you when you are with me.


I love to hear you speak and have conversations with you. Your vocabulary has practically exploded sometime around 2.5. I can't quite remember. Suddenly, you spoke in full sentences and your comprehension was superb. You say the funniest and random things at times. I wish I could remember every single thing that you have said but it's simply not possible. I tried jotting them down and after a while I just couldn't keep up. Instead, I try to savour them as you say them.


Still there are days (like now) where I wish that i had better memory. You are eloquent and articulate for someone so young. Sometimes, you talk like an adult and I guess that's the consequence of being surrounded by adults. Your arguments are pretty sound most of the time and your comments are usually appropriate and spot on. We love how expressive you are. When you're happy, it's written all over your face. And when you're down, I'm thankful that you have the vocabulary to express the feelings adequately. It makes it so much easier for me to tune in and understand you.


You have adjusted well to school and we are grateful for that. The only downside from it is that you've been sick so often and so have I. It's a terrible cycle that we keep passing germs to one another. Mama certainly hope that your health and immunity will improve as you grow older. While you are a real trooper even when you're sick, it just breaks my heart to see you suffer.


You have a sensitive and loving heart. I have experienced empathy from you numerous time. I remember once I had a bandage on my finger and you wanted one on yours as well. When I am angry, you can usually tell me why I am upset. Your childcare teacher told me recently that she is thankful to have you in the class as you took upon yourself to take care of a younger new classmate. You watch out and comfort her when she's crying and also inform Miss V when something is amiss. Remarks like that always make me swell with pride. I too have observed how you are thoughtful towards younger children, in particular. Once we were in the mother's room and a baby was sleeping in the pram. Another older child had gone near the baby and fearing that she may disturb the little one, you held her hand, made the sign to keep quiet and led her away.


Ah, you love hotels and travelling, specifically being on the plane. You love Singapore Airline and will proclaim it loudly. Just recalling this made me smile. You've shown more awareness and you are quite a pro in terms of travelling as you are familiar with the steps; for example the luggage will be checked in, then we will go through immigration, boarding and so on. I love how adaptable you are and thus far, we have not had major challenges. Even when you were ill, you were still a trooper and enjoyed your flight most of the time. One of the things that impressed us is how you can generally self-entertain (and entertain us) with your own songs, "musicals" and stories. I love how creative you are and this is something that we really want to harness and cultivate in you.


Something that I want to record is the pride and joy I felt when I saw you overcome obstacles. We were in a children's playground in Shanghai and I witnessed your persistence, courage and grit. Mind you, you were in four layers which made it much harder for your mobility and yet you managed. I was most impressed when you persevered to get to the top of a slide. It was literally going against gravity and with the thick attire, you kept sliding down. Interestingly you went back to that particular structure after playing with other items in the playground and in the end your persistence paid off. When I saw you at the top of that slide i couldn't contained myself and jumped up and down in joy! I must have looked like an idiot. You looked equally pleased and accomplished yourself. That day, you overcame your fear and succeeded in climbing/playing 3 structures. So so proud of you!


I feel equally pleased and proud when i see how you show kindness and compassion to other people. Again we witnessed this when you spontaneously gave up your seat on the train for two elderly aunties in Shanghai. They were so full of praises for your thoughtfulness. Indeed, it is important to be gracious and kind, to be mindful of  people who might be in greater need than us. In our modern hectic life, what I fear is when we stop observing and being mindful of the needs of others because we are too engrossed with ourselves and/or our devices.


Speaking of devices, you have repeated told me to put down my phone when we are together. While it's somewhat embarrassing to talk about this openly, I want you to know that I will work on it. Thank you for being so patient with me. Some days, i can sense your frustration which is totally legitimate. I hope that I will change this terrible habit soon and that in the coming days, there isn't a need for you to even verbalise that to me. I am sorry if I had made you feel that my phone is more important than you. However, there are times when mama really need to work and I hope you'll be forgiving and understanding about it.


What a significant year the past year had been. I know as we journey along this year, there will be more challenges and wonderful experiences in store for us. I hope to savour and embrace all of it; that I will slow down and cherish the moments that we spend together. I feel so blessed that I can spend significant amount of time watching you grow and to be the first teacher in your life.


Motherhood is very hard on so many different levels. I have doubted if I am cut out for it in the past and I am so thankful that God has blessed us with you. You have helped me grown into my role with your unconditional love, examples and patience. And I grow to love being your mother. Each day, I thank God for choosing us to be your parents. What a huge responsibility, honour and trust that He has placed in us.


My dearest Olivia, it saddens me at times when you show little interest to pray or when you refuse to pray with us. Beyond raising you to be a flourishing adult, my ultimate goal is to raise you to love God. You are God's beloved child and that's your identity. Faith in God is the most important gift that my parents have given me and in the same way, that is what I want to pass on to you. I sincerely hope that in the coming year I will do a better job in modelling and sharing with you the love that God has for you and for each of us. Your godparents are here to journey with you as well.


Happy birthday, my love! You are three!!! Always remember that nothing can separate you from our love. There will be times when we fail and fall short but my promise is that I will strive to do better. Please continue to give me time and opportunities to be a better parent to you. Don't stop teaching me, okay?


Love you to the moon and back. "My delight, you are my delight. Think about you day and night. You are my delight. You are my delight." (This is our song that we've been singing together.)


Always loving you,

Your imperfect mama


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