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Mummy Musings is a fortnightly column where Elisabeth Lee navigates the ups and downs of bringing up her daughter.
We have only a few more sleeps to go before we leave on our semi-annual trip to Singapore and little A is wild with excitement. She peppers me with questions daily: Are we going on an airplane? Yes! Many! Where are we going? To Singapore, where mummy grew up! Will grandma be there? Yes – and grandpa too!
We have talked incessantly about the trip – A is at her best when she can collect as much information about new experiences so that we can anticipate what is going to happen, what her choices are in responding and how she can troubleshoot any problems. I don’t mind doing this sort of pre-planning with her; I tend to be slightly neurotic and anxious myself, so it helps us all feel more prepared for such a big trip.
Indeed, this is the biggest trip she’s been on. While we have visited Singapore once when she was an infant, this will be the first trip that will survive in her adult memories. Other than the usual stress of catching our flights and connections and making sure I don’t forget to pack essential items, there is an additional layer of worry – what if she doesn’t like Singapore? What if she hates the food? What if she gets homesick halfway through?
Singapore, I remind her, can be very hot. “Yay, so we can swim all the time!” she chirps. Her response is reassuring – clearly, A is a glass-half-full kind of thinker. This bodes well for the trip. I make a mental note to remember to pack her water wings.
A few days ago, we began to say our goodbyes to our friends here. I think it is important for A to know in advance that each playdate with each special friend would be the last for the year. “And then I won’t see them until after Singapore?” she asks. Yup. She gets a little sad sometimes, thinking about what she will miss.
Going through this ritual of saying goodbye has been really interesting. It’s fascinating what A thinks she will miss. Some are obvious – best friends. Others less so. “No more McDonald’s, mummy?” she asks, looking worried. I hurriedly reassure her – “Don’t worry, there are so many McDonald’s in Singapore. And they have McDelivery too!”
It’s also testament to the rich life we’ve built here, full of laughter and friends and fun. While I’m looking forward to seeing friends and family, and inhaling hawker food by the bucketload, I’m also sad to miss out on the festive rush of Christmas – the carolling, the raucous house parties full of feral children, our Boxing Day walk in the snow.
I wonder if A will feel the same when she grows up – caught between two diametrically-opposed ways of life. Longing for both the pleasure of street food and the reward of eating from local bounty. Missing the hustle and bustle of a city of five million people from all over the world, while also learning to savour the pleasure of a solo walk in the forest.
I never managed to put down enough roots in Singapore. I wonder where A will put hers down.
Elisabeth Lee is proof that it is never too late to consider a second, third or even fourth career, having come to both motherhood and writing late in life. She occasionally freelances and can be reached at bethgoeswriting.com.