We decided to head into Saigon after almost a week back at my uncle’s mansion in Long Khanh. My uncle’s household is always bummed when my kids leave. Everyone says the mansion feels empty and lonely without them. My kids are the popular kids. They’re favorites among the younger cousins, even though they seem to prefer playing with each other over playing with their cousins. They’re beloved by and sought out by their playmates, even when they don’t reciprocate those feelings. They definitely have their annoying moments, but on the whole they’re better behaved than their VN cousins. They don’t scream and shriek the way one cousin does, nor do they bully others the way another cousin does, nor are they disrespectful like a couple of their cousins. They’re so beloved because they’re sweet, lovable children. Obviously my judgment is suspect, but when I observe my kids interacting with others, I’m usually filled with pride and only occasionally disappointed or ashamed. They’re kinder, more courteous, and less selfish than their peers. They don’t hit (at least, that’s not how they automatically react). They come when they’re called. They *generally* do as they’re told (which sometimes requires coercive persuasion). They pick up after themselves (with reminders and guidance). They’re smart, incredibly verbal, fun-loving, and almost always in a good mood. Sometimes too good — their constant giggling and horseplay can grate on your nerves when you just want some peace and quiet. But that’s a minor complaint considering how well-mannered they are at ages 3 and 4. They’re not perfect by any means; sometimes I worry that we’re conditioning them to be too submissive and they won’t be able to stand up for themselves or resolve conflicts without running to us and whining about every grievance. They tend to whine a lot. But more than once I’ve felt justified in whispering to their father, “Our kids are better than everyone else’s.”
I tend to whine about taking care of them, but I wouldn’t want anyone else doing it. Childcare isn’t exactly intellectually stimulating (sometimes it’s just plain boring), but its rewards are so much richer, so much more worthwhile than drafting a contract. Spending so much uninterrupted time with them, including our forced co-sleeping arrangement, has bonded me to my children more deeply and powerfully than I can describe. I will never regret this time with them; I’m lucky to have it. For the rest of our lives my daughter and I will be able to tell people that I taught her how to read when she was four years old. It’s such a special experience and I’m so proud of her and so proud to be a part of it. My son is not quite as teachable. He’s very emotional; quick to anger but also quick to forgive and forget. Even while he’s being disciplined, all he wants to do to is kiss and hug and make up. He can’t stand feeling unloved. It’s exhausting and endearing how much my kids crave my love and attention. They love me so unconditionally and they are so precious to me that sometimes I feel like my heart cannot contain my love for them; it’s fit to burst.
Tom and I joke about being terrible parents but the truth is we must be doing something right. I have faith and every reason to believe that my children will grow into kind, loving, and good people, because that’s who they are now. If I can just keep them that way and not mess them up too much then I’ve accomplished something meaningful with my life.