To my beautiful princesses,

Last week you both celebrated your birthday. Happy birthday my girls! I pray that you both grow up successful, happy & fulfilled. I pray you both will be the pride of Islam, our family and the nation. I pray that you both will be the reasons both me & your father enter Paradise, with a grateful heart that Allah has given us the opportunity to raise you well.

Letter to my daughters
My beautiful girls

As usual, my letter will be addressed to each of you, starting with my forever baby girl, Khadeeja.

My dearest little Khadeeja,

The pandemic has been a blessing in disguise because over the past 2 years I learned a lot of things about you which made me realise that I am still far from being a good mom.

When school moved from classroom to online, I saw how you struggled with even the most mundane thing - communicating. At first I thought you were being stubborn because I know you don't like learning Chinese. It turned out you were so overwhelmed with fear, that you were not able to utter a single word because you couldn't understand the language.

Occasionally I 'forced' you (by force I mean I clicked 'raise hand' button despite your protests during online class) to speak up in class and I saw how you froze and couldn't utter a single word until your teacher had to guide you. I did it because I naively thought I was helping you to realise there's nothing to be afraid of to speak up. The truth is, I am just escalating your fear.

I brought you to see a psychologist and learnt about selective mutism. The session made me realise what a domineering mom I am and left me feeling awful for ignoring your anxiety. There I was at work, advocating mental health at workplace and listening to staff when they spoke of their mental health, but I failed to do the same to you. I heard you when you begged to change school but I did not listen properly to your fear. I just assumed you will overcome it without realising that I'm making you reject the language harder. When I tried to encourage you to converse in Chinese, you fought back, 'Why do you want me to be good in Chinese? I don't like to speak Chinese!' It took a psychologist to validate your feeling for us to believe you but it shouldn't be that way. I am so sorry, my love.

Letter to my daughters
Sometimes in class, you draw an unhappy face or monsters 

Now that we finally understand what you were going through, we have agreed to take you out of Chinese school and to an English medium school much to your joy. I think the most heartbreaking moment to me was when you came up to me and whispered, 'Thank you Mommy. I hope I can answer teachers' questions in class after this.'

Letter to my daughters
You wish you can find your voice in an environment that doesn't frighten you

Khadeeja my love,

From the day you were born, you have this indescribable determination that I most often mistaken as stubbornness. Did you know when you were days old you cried until your face turned blue because you did not like your pacifiers and wanted the real deal? My most fondest memory of the stubborn you is of your two-year old self trying to push your own tricycle up the steep driveway. The tricycle was as big as your petite body, but with a loud scream and the determination of Hercules, you managed it. You also managed to drag the red rubber pony toy that matched your size up the staircase because you wanted to.

As you grew up, this trait continued. When you wanted something, you set your mind to get it no matter what it takes. There was a time when you wanted to buy a toy but when I asked if you have the money, you decided to sell snacks to us so you can raise enough fund to buy the toy.

In the midst of playing video games, I caught you psyching yourself up, 'Come on Khadeeja, you can do this!' which is both endearing and exasperating as well - why can't you show the same grit and courage when it comes to studying?

Letter to my daughters
Once in a blue moon when you focused in your class 

You are also super funny and you love making us laugh. Telling jokes and making funny faces are your favourite gimmicks to crack us up. You love teasing Bapak, and then running screaming and laughing when he tries to catch you. Who does that remind him of, eh? 😜 (ahem... throwback to the early days of marriage when we used to played chase around the house!)

Letter to my daughters
Always the funny one

My amazing daughter,

You resemble me in more ways than I expected. One thing that I noticed is you are also a Timekeeper (someone who writes for the future self) like me. While I writes in my diary, you write letters to your future self. You remind your future self to not forget about the past, to cherish the memories and that's basically me.

Letter to my daughters
When you wrote a letter to your future

You also take after my love for cooking and baking. You even requested me to make videos of your cooking tutorials. Lately I'm into baking bread and buns, which you love as you get to help me to knead the dough. I hope one day you look back at this memory of us baking bread, bun & cakes and cooking our favourite meals, with love and nostalgia.

Letter to my daughters
Showing off your first bun to Makyeng

Now on to my firstborn daughter, Khayla.

To my pride & joy Khayla,

Once I cannot imagine having a baby. Now, I can't imagine the baby grew up so fast and she's now almost a teenager. You are now in the in-between phase of a little child and an unknown entity that all parents dread. Frankly, I don't know how to deal with that. I have not updated my parenting manual to include raising a teenager. I heard it's going to be a rough journey, but I hope it won't be the case with you.

Letter to my daughters
Already dressed up like a teenager

My sweet little lady,

You used to be a bossy big sister with a loud voice and a happy go lucky manner. You cheered us up with your singing, your bright smile and your sweet nature. As I watch you transform from that cheerful little girl to a young lady, your voice has softened and you are pretty much a more mellow personality. You remain the sweetest girl who always has a positive outlook, who is always careful when choosing your words to express your opinions so as not to hurt the other person.

For example, when I ask whose porridge you love either mine or Makyeng's, you would reply that you love both but you would eat Makyeng's porridge more. This diplomacy of yours shows maturity beyond your age.

Letter to my daughters
Always with a half-smile on your face

My beautiful girl,

There are certain characters of yours that I admire and wish I can be more like you too. For example, you always take things easy. Unlike myself and Khadeeja, you don't get stressed out or ruffled easily. Online class can happen while you lounge on the bed or the sofa. Sometimes when I lecture at you, you smile and agree with me. There was a time when I scolded you for forgetting Khadeeja's name card when fetching her from school and you just smiled and replied apologetically. I wonder what have I done to deserve such a sweet daughter?

Letter to my daughters
Sometimes the sight of you so chilled while attending your online class makes Khadeeja envious

You are also super friendly with others, be it someone you know or total strangers. The strangest habit of yours is waving at strangers and they often wave back with a puzzled expression  (they must be racking their brains trying to recall if they knew you). You greet the security guards and the makcik cleaners cheerfully, and you make friends with other kids as easily.

Letter to my daughters
Making new friends while playing ice skating

You make me proud in so many ways but the one I'm proudest of is how you have become independent in your daily life. Perhaps this is something you learnt when one parent was far away and the other parent was busy working. You learnt to look after yourself and adik during school holidays when I had to work and leave both of you alone at home.

Letter to my daughters
You don't need telling to wash your own beak, do your homework,  iron your school uniform and even make your own breakfast

Khayla my love,

I know entering teenage years can be difficult. The raging hormones can turn your mood upside down. Already you prefer to alienate yourself in the room either listening to music, sketching on my iPad, reading your favourite Cat Warrior novel or just texting your friends - rather than spend time with us. This really hurts Khadeeja because she does not have any friend except you and now you are starting to ignore her requests to play with her. 

You also hate taking photos even family photos so it's always a hard work trying to get you to participate in a family photo.

Letter to my daughters
Bapak has to put his arms around you to stop you from running away during photo session

There are times when you start to get moody over simple things we ask of you like joining us on grocery trips, or taking a shower etc. It's like you want to exist in a world of your own, away from other people - which I get it because I too was there. But family's important, ok? These years with mommy, Bapak & Khadeeja will pass in the blink of an eye, and someday you will miss it. That is why I always insist for you to be in the family moment despite your protests and sulks.

Letter to my daughters
Sulky mood

Letter to my daughters
You normally balk when we ask you to join us for cycling around the neighbourhood but will be back to normal after a while

I am scared to be honest, that I won't know how to raise a teenage girl. People said at this age parents should treat their teenage child like their best friend most of the time while also establishing authority in certain areas. Often times I still treat you like a little girl, giving out instructions and reprimanding you if you don't do it as per my expectations. You seem hesitant now to make your own decisions because I have always dictate everything from what clothes to wear to how to do house chores, and will scold you if you make a different decision than mine. I am sorry Khayla for treating you this way. I promise to allow you to make your own decision, so you will learn to be more independent when it comes to decision-making.

Letter to my daughters
When I allow you to express your fashion sense even though I have to hold my tongue

One thing though, I am grateful is you still love to be cuddled and kissed. I know some kids your age feel it's not cool to hug and cuddle with parents but you are not them. Both of you are still very manja with us, and mommy & Bapak cherish this while it lasts.

Letter to my daughters
You look so grown up despite being just 11 years old

Finally my darling daughters,

Let's talk about the bond between you both. I just want to say how proud and happy I am that you both have gotten very close in recent years compared to when you were smaller. You both are like best friends, always playing Toka Boka game, sketching and playing Sylvanian Families together.

Letter to my daughters
Back when you were smaller, you were always competing with each other. This photo taken by Makyeng is a rare moment indeed

Our love for you both knows no limits. Know that your father & I will always support you both as best as we can. You both have given us so much love and happiness, more than we ever deserved. Thank you, my darlings.

Letter to my daughters
The loves of my life

Yours Until Forever & More,

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