Sustainable living: Birthday grinch

Dearest T,

Has it really been 20 months since I last wrote you a letter? Mama is such a terrible mummy blogger. Sorry sweetheart, I was busy earning money for your day care. Lame excuse, I know.

But it’s time for another one, which you will hopefully appreciate when you can already read, or when you already understand the concept of love. Because right now Mama is overflowing with love for you.

It took a long time coming, didn’t it? Two years to be exact.

I had been very forthcoming about my struggles with motherhood that it might seem like I didn’t want you, or that I have regrets about having you.

But that’s not true.

I think I was just overwhelmed, overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity of this new role as a mother. I didn’t quite anticipate the struggles that came with it. And to be quite honest, I was afraid of this powerful love for another human being, which only grow stronger by the day. It’s so powerful that the people closest to Mama said that you made me – a nicer person (their words). I’m sure you know the gravity of that because you’ve seen my many outburst.

You’ve changed me. And I don’t like change. I loved who I am, or who I was before you. I didn’t expect that I could be a better person. So thank you anak. The cliches are true after all.

You’re two now. And birthdays in the Netherlands means a wish list, preferably updated every year.

You know I dislike materialism. While I don’t fit into activism anymore like I used to do in university, Mama is trying to lessen the impact of your birth to the environment. I’ve been so enthusiastic about it that it seemed like I’m depriving you of thing. I avoided so many baby trends, which for me were not just unnecessary but also a waste of resources.

But going back to your birthday. Oma asked what present should she buy for you. We said we don’t want any. You already have an abundance of things you need – clothes, toys, books. We said the same to your aunt.

And while planning a small get-together for your birthday, I asked that there be no balloons or festoon (conveniently ignored.) I don’t find it necessary to burden the environment with more waste just to make the celebration appear festive.

I think it has come to a point that our family considers me a birthday Grinch.

Anyway, Oma insisted on giving something so we opted for a new pair of shoes to replace the pair you’re outgrowing. But that wasn’t enough because it wasn’t something fun. So two nights before your birthday, she came with a beautifully wrapped box

Sensing that it probably did not sit well with me, Oma said that kids should get something nice on their birthdays. I did not argue.

You screamed cadeau (gift) when you saw the box. Your face lit up and your eyes twinkled. Then you said “T… cadeau” (gift for me). Oma was very happy with your enthusiasm. Together with Papa, you opened your gift, a set of the most gorgeous bowling set, six velvet pins in different colours and a red ball. You immediately played with them (and completely ignored them a week after.)

I watched this in silence, and in my silence I realized something. Maybe it is wrong for me to take moments like this away from you, or from your grandmother.

She finds joy in giving you gifts. (In fact, if she had her way, she would buy you something every week.) And obviously you are now old enough to appreciate receiving presents.

I still maintain that happiness doesn’t come from material things. I still frown at the cost of production and the environmental impact of this gift. But this time I succumbed to the very wrong notion of “it’s better to be happy than right”.

When you’re finally able to understand logic, I want you to realize that this parallelism is completely flawed. You can do the right thing and be happy. Oma knows that.

But she is a mother twice over, and she probably knows too, more than I do, how opening a present brings magic and happiness to a child. I think she just wants to give the same to you.

Your birthday fell on my “mama dag” so I was able to spend the whole day with you. Despite the stormy weather we still went to the park, jumped on puddles together, soiled our coats in the mud, ate cake and drank apple bubbles (in real champagne glasses) with Tito A.

So you see, this early on I am already exposing you to enjoy the good things in life, particularly including champagne.

Happiest birthday my dearest T! I hope to raise you as a feminist but most of all, I hope you will become a good person.