Dearest Clarissa

Today, after three days of mini-celebrations, you turn two years and a day old.

Today, it's back to business as usual.

We dropped you off in school, you waved us goodbye and we said our "goodbye, see you tonight, and love you"s.

You've started school since five months ago, and just this morning, one of your teachers told us how happy she is with your progress, when she saw you happily dancing and singing along at assembly yesterday.

Sending you to school wasn't an easy decision.

The first few months were the toughest.

We got questioned a lot, and we questioned ourselves too, especially during the times you fell sick, and the times you cried, clung onto me and refused to go into the classroom.

Yet you have been such a trooper, our brave, positive little girl.

You've progressed from telling me, every weekday morning, that you are scared, just as our car turns into the school's carpark..

To insisting on carrying your security water bottle or duck duck or both before we even step into the school..

To these days, you simply say to me, on our way to school:

Yaya, Ah-geum tik ka?

And I'd say, "Yes, Yaya and Ah-gong would pick you up later."

"What must you say when you see Ah-gong later?"

You'd wave your little hand and say, " Hi! Baby say hi."

And you'd go through the health checks without any fuss, even if it wasn't done by a teacher you're familiar with, before walking into the classroom with another teacher.

It's like you have managed to reassure yourself that you'd be alright in school, on your own, because someone close to you would always come and pick you up.

It takes a lot of effort and courage for a less-than-two or two year-old to do this, but I know you do it not only because you enjoy going to school, but also because you know we love you and you trust that we are always here for you.

You remain very shy and cautious around people, and take time to warm up.. it's your personality trait and I want you to know that it is OK.

What matters most is that you are kind to people, and that you treat people, close or distant, with courtesy.

Just yesterday, as we walked to our lift lobby, you saw a cleaner pushing the trash bin and immediately you stopped to smile and greet him with a cheery "Morning!"

It didn't matter that it was in fact closer to noon.

He, too, stopped whatever he was doing, smiled back and waved hello to you.

This is something Daddy always does when we walk past the cleaners on our way to get breakfast every weekend, and you have learned from him to be friendly and nice to people.

It might not seem like a big deal to others, but it is a big deal for you and to me.

I want you to know that I love your cheery self as much as your cautious self.

The world has become quite a scary and sinister place, but we can choose to inject some warmth and happiness in it when and where it is needed.. but we have to learn to walk away at times, to protect ourselves and the ones we love.

I enjoy talking to you about your day in school, watching you recount accurately each of your friends' names or demonstrate the new songs or dances or moves you've picked up. this mouth-wide-open expression, I'm sure you learned it in school. 😅

It used to be just "eat rice" and "eat apple" a few months back whenever I asked you what you did in school that day.

Still, it's a joy talking to you and watching you try to find the words to say.

And nowadays you tell me so much more!

You chant "Mummy, mummy" whenever you are surrounded by many people, when someone approaches you, or when you are in an unfamiliar environment, or all of the above.

I secretly love it that "Mummy mummy" is your answer to all sorts of situations like when people say "Hello Clarissa!" and to all sorts of questions like, "How are you, Clarissa?"

I know there'd be a day when "Mummy mummy" stops being the answer to everything, and I'd have to learn to be ok with that.

So I cherish every "Mummy mummy" moment, whether you say it 5 times, or 500 times.

Yesterday your Yaya and I folded up the playpen and kept it away.

I cannot remember the last time you willingly stayed in it; you used to be ok playing in it while we went about our chores, as long as you could still see us.

It's been unused for the past few months because you've refused to be put in it.

So it has to go, to make space for your new toys and for you to zoom around at home.

The same with the sarong. I can't even remember when the last time you slept in was.

It's like one day you simply decided, nah no more sarong for me because I'm a big girl now, and then you simply refused to be put it in.

So we dismantled it some time back in June and lent it to a little Didi.

One thing I've learned about motherhood and from motherhood, is that sometimes, you've just got to roll with it.

There is no time, and no need, to be sentimental about the end of a milestone or phase, because it's often the start of another exciting one.

Like.. the "terrible twos" people speak of.

One moment you are happy and jumping around, and the next moment you are unhappy and screaming and crying.

But you've always had a mind of your own and your quirks, so it's not like you've suddenly entered the terrible twos phase.

You've thrown tantrums, gone into meltdowns.. but it really isn't too terrible because most of the time, we are able to reason with you.

And when reason fails, we simply wing it and do whatever is right at that moment.

I see tantrums as a way for you to express yourself and for us to understand you better.

Most of the time you'd tell us "I don't like" or "I don't want" very clearly, sometimes more than we'd like you to, before you refuse to do something.

Sometimes you'd scream in frustration.

Sometimes you just keep talking like you are complaining about something.

But mostly you are simply, adorably trying to tell us about the birds that flew by and the ants that crawled past.

Although we sometimes say you are naughty and cheeky, you are in fact more than equal parts sweet and loving.

Just the other day, you refused to get wiped down despite Yaya's repeated attempts.

You made her so exasperated!

But when I told you, "Please go and get changed now, Yaya is angry", you immediately walked over to her, "sayang"-ed her on the back of her hand to tell her you're sorry.. and stood there to let her wipe your face and change your clothes without further protest.

You have a big heart, too.

You very willingly let other kids play with your toys, even your favorite ones.

I try not to tell you to "share", because sharing should be only when you have the capacity to; it is not the same as having to split or give something up.

Yet you do it so willingly, that sometimes I wish you'd stand up for yourself when the kid snatches your toy away.

You sometimes get angry with me when I travel overseas for work.

I guess it's your way of telling me I'm important to you, and it matters to you that I'm not at home with you.

Yet you forget all your anger the moment you see me back at home, with you.

Thank you so much for being so loving and understanding.

It is very hard for me to leave you at home while I travel for work, but it is a choice I've made and it is a choice you'll have to make in future.

I sobbed while watching "Finding Dory" on my way to London, because that little fish with big eyes, looking for her parents, reminded me so much of you.

Thank you for always welcoming me back wholeheartedly.

Sometimes you'd scroll through the pictures I took while at work and say to me, "Mummy working!"

Like you truly understand why I need to be away from home sometimes.

You probably don't, but that's OK.

Please know that I'm always thinking of you, whether I'm miles away or sitting right next to you.

You must know by now that Mummy can be very long-winded, because this is becoming a very long letter.

But take heart, that I love writing much more than talking.

So I *don't think* I'd be that naggy, at least not the talking nonstop kind of naggy. 😂

Thank you for bringing so much joy to me, to us and to everyone around us.

You've given us more than what you've given you.

I hope you stay as curious..

And cautious..

As you are adventurous..

And imaginative.

(And yes, please poop well, for real.)

Stay bright and clear, just like the name we've given you.

And more importantly, please stay healthy so we can let you go swimming more often.

Always the apple of my eye.

Mummy mummy.