Today would be one of the last times that you’d sleep beside me. I know, many times I’ve complained of my inability to get a good night sleep with you kicking me every three or four hours. But now, as I sing you to sleep (and yet you still refuse to close your tired eyes), I begin to feel a pang in my heart.
Today would be one of the last times that I’d get to sing you to sleep.
It isn’t even me who created the song. It’s your other auntie, the one who is a doctor and staying in Melbourne. When you were merely a few months old, she sang the song to you and you liked it, so I adapted it.
Now, you sing the song together with me. It’s no longer a lullaby, but our secret way to communicate. I’d stop singing after a few words, then you’d sing some words, then it’s my turn again. You’d giggle in the end, as if asking me to sing the song over and over again.
This time, I sing the song for seven times, and you’ve grown quiet. So I close my eyes and stop singing, in a hope that you’d fall asleep. Alas, after ten seconds, you move on to your next giggly activity: making animal noises and forcing your half-awake auntie to play guess-that-animal game.
I am not sure whether to keep playing with you, or to stay silent in a hope that you’d go bored and get to sleep, so I try a little bit of both. But after being silent for another ten seconds, you move on to your another giggly activity: creating animals, alphabets, or words using hand gestures. In this game, I am guilty. I have not yet watched the YouTube video your Mommy shows you about the hand gestures (the one she said you love). So auntie has to guess for real this time.
After a while you grow bored as well and move on to play peek-a-boo, stopping after saying “peek-a” to get a kiss (our little tradition, again, your Mommy doesn’t have to know how many times I kiss you in one day) before auntie finished with saying “boo”. You laugh, before saying “peek-a” a dozen times (and getting a dozen more kisses) and wait for me to say an animated “boo”.
Then you go back to playing guess-that-animal sound game.
Other days I would complain and doze off to sleep. Other days, I would silently sulk inside on why wouldn’t you want to go to sleep. You have school in the morning, and everyone’s tired and ready for bed. Everyone, except you.
Other days I would love to send you to Grandpa and Grandma’s room, to ask your Daddy to play with you (even though he would doze off halfway through), or to get your Mommy to use some magic wand (that doesn’t exist) to make you sleep. Other days.
But today as you play guessing games and sing your own lullabies, I can’t help but shed a tear. Today would be one of the last days I get to sleep beside you, little one. And it doesn’t matter how many sleepless nights you’ve given me before, auntie would still gladly get you to sleep.
I know, you’re not even my little one. But I’ve carried you from when you were little(r), only weighing 3-ish kilogram, until you were not so little, like, 20-ish kilogram big. You’re the first baby that I’ve rocked to sleep, spoonfed smashed banana that reinforced my hatred in eating banana in general, changed diaper and overcome my reluctance in smearing rash cream all over your bum, bathed you with warm water in a small tub (which always ended up with me needing to change my clothes-although after some time I think I just wore them and let them dry).
You’re the first baby that naps on my chest for two hours every day, because if I made the slightest move, you’d wake up and cry. Remember? You were probably only a few months’ old then. And you always, always wanted someone to sleep with you.
Of course, you’re also the first baby to bite me and leave such horror teeth marks on my shoulders. (They had faded, thankfully.) You’re the first baby to leave nail-scratch marks too (mostly in the upper arms), as well as countless bruises from your over-energetic play time. You’re the first baby that makes me unable to sleep throughout the night.
Then you grow bigger and bigger—from the perfect cuddling size to a strapping three-and-a-half-year-old that wears size six for clothes. You still ask for bao time once in a while, usually when you’re tired, but I can no longer carry you for longer than a few minutes. You’re getting much bigger, little one, and honestly, I wish time could slow down a bit.
Today would be one of the last days that I get to sleep beside you. You are still playing the animal guessing game, and I start to say, Be a good boy. You know that auntie’s going back to Melbourne next week, right? Then auntie will get married, and no longer able to spend time with you like now. Be a good boy, little one, listen to Mommy, Daddy, Grandpa, and Grandma.
Then my voice cracks, and you sense something—you probably don’t understand yet what I’m saying, but I think you know that I’m upset. You start to sit upright on the bed, refusing to lay down, and I have to persuade you to put your head on the pillow. So I start singing our song again.
Remember the last time I went back to Melbourne? Auntie was selfish, wanting to get one more kiss, to say one more goodbye to you before getting inside the car and going to the airport. I lingered a moment longer, and in that time, you knew.
You started crying—your Daddy had to carry you inside the house, where you kept on crying and throwing tantrum for a good few minutes before being successfully distracted with other toys. I knew—I saw the videos your Mommy sent. I’m sorry, little one. I was selfish. I didn’t want to go quietly.
And now I’m about to leave again, and I’ve started crying. I was there to see you wear your first uniform and go to school, but I know I wouldn’t be there for your next milestones. Your fourth birthday. Your first soccer game (your Daddy insists on teaching you soccer. Auntie would want you to play tennis instead). Your first day in primary school. And so on. After this, your life would go on with occasional auntie inside it. Soon, you would forget me, our singing ritual, and other ‘games’ that are exclusively ours. Soon, you would tiptoe around me, probably too old for hugs and kisses, hiding behind your Mommy and Daddy whenever I come to visit. Soon.
When auntie is thinking this, you are still playing your hand-gesture game. Then your Mommy comes into the room.
You sit upright once again and get off from the bed, taking your Mommy’s hand. She asks you whether you want to sleep with them, and about to carry you to their room. You respond by laying on the bed again. And you stay still.
After asking a few more times, your Mommy decides to give you milky and let you sleep with Auntie.
Auntie Ella, who is soon going to leave you once again.
In the past few weeks, auntie tried to sleep with you as little as possible. One reason is because I become very busy in doing last minute wedding preparation that feels never-ending, as well as catching some much needed beauty sleep. Another reason is this: When a child cried because you left, it stays with you. It’s such a raw emotion. If you’re too attached to me, only for me to leave again, you would cry. Of course, your cry seemed very temporary, and after I left you didn’t even search for me anymore (I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a sad thing). But probably, if I’m honest, it’s also for me to not become too attached to you.
Because little one, you’ve stolen my heart. Even uncle Tjok realises this. When you come to auntie’s room in Melbourne, you would see that I have photos of two boys: you and him. I’m not even sure if I have more of his photos than yours!
Oh, and did uncle Tjok ever tell you how he proposed to me? He chose a few pictures of us and wrote some words that would convince me to marry him (such as your auntie was very pretty inside out—wonderful things like that). Then he picked one photo of you and him (you were about a few months old), and he wrote, “Nevertheless, I still lose to Papoy’s cuteness. And now before he steals your heart I want to pop the question if… [you will marry me?]”
Your uncle Tjok knows me too well, little one. And he knows that you’re his real contender in getting my attention. Don’t worry, you don’t need to give him a death stare, he’s going to take good care of me, I’m sure of it.
On a second thought, do give him your deadliest death stare once in a while.
Little one, auntie’s little Poy, you’ve brought so much joy and happiness! You’ve taught me a little bit about what being parents are like, and given a glimpse of the future when I have children of my own (I would totally smother their cheeks with even more kisses). You can be really handful (and naughty, and downright annoying, and exasperating, and even frustrating), but you really are God’s gift. All children are, I realise that. You’ve allowed auntie to see you grow from #babyjeshuel to #jeshuelboy, and although I wouldn’t be there for all seasons in your life, I know you’ll continue to bring joy and happiness to everyone around you. Thank you for letting auntie to give you bear hugs and devouring your cheeks with kisses every day.
Today would be one of the last days that I get to sleep beside you. So let me hug you a little tighter and hold you a little longer, little one. One day, you’ll be little no more. And I know that one day will come way too soon.