Early Sunday morning, my firstborn, Phoebie, woke up before anyone else. She came over to my bed to squeeze between husBenKoh and I, just like her younger brother. She was probably so used to waking up early by now that she couldn’t sleep in.
Shortly after, I woke up and decided to bring her back to her room so that I could spend some time alone with her. I thought it would be nice to cuddle with her and hug her for a while. With two children in the house, it can be hard to find time alone with each child, and I thought this morning was a good chance to do so.
Phoebie and I hugged for a while and I stroked her hair gently. Sometimes I still cannot believe that my firstborn is already in primary school. When did she grow?
“Phoebie,” I said as I looked at her, “What do you like about Mummy?”
“I like that you sayang me,” she replied softly.
“What else?” I asked.
“I like that you are gentle with me and you cook for me and take care of me,” she answered.
“I see. What do you not like about me?” I asked a little more.
“That you scold me,” Phoebie’s expression changed a little.
“Why do I scold you?” I wanted her to reflect.
“Because I do naughty things,” was her answer.
“I scold you when you don’t behave because I don’t want you to be a spoilt brat. That is not what I teach you and I know you can do better,” I explained.
“Okay…” said Phoebie.
“Now, can I tell you what I like about you?” I asked Phoebie.
“Mm hmm…”said Phoebie.
“I like that you are a wonderful sister who loves your brother. I like that you care about him and always looks out for him. When we go out, you will remind us to buy things for him. I also like that you are caring and you share with your friends. I like that you are just like what your name means – bring light into this world. I like that you always pray for people, just like what your chinese name means,” I told Phoebie.
Phoebie was quiet.
“Now, do you know what I don’t like about you?” I asked.
“You don’t like my whining…” Phoebie looked glum.
“Well, there is nothing I don’t like about you,” I said.
Phoebie must have been confused. I could imagine her running all the scolding moments through her head, how she hears “I don’t like it when you are like this” or “I don’t like it when you do that”.
“You see, Phoebie,” I started to explain, “I know that you whine sometimes because you are trying to tell us something. There are better ways to tell us than by whining and I know you are learning. I have always taught you to say it when you don’t like something, like when someone is rough at the playground or when someone is not being kind, and you are always able to tell the person how you feel. There are some things that you already do very well and I know you will keep doing well. There are some things that you will just learn to do better, like to tell us things properly instead of whining.”
I could see tears in Phoebie’s eyes.
“There are many things you are learning to do better and I know you will continue to learn,” I said, “But I want you to know that there is nothing I don’t like about you.”
With that, I gave Phoebie a big hug.