Ottawa, October 2015
Ottawa, October 2015

Mark didn’t turn three—he turned fourteen. Or so it seems.

Gone are the terrible twos and the months of provocative behaviour followed by loud and desperate tantrums. Mostly gone are the months of pitting Feng against I, or saying “no” while doing the very thing he said he wouldn’t do.

Now, Mark is sullen, argumentative, fiercely convinced he can face the world “all by himself”.

Dealing with a toddler is a bit like arguing with a drunk friend. They don’t make any sense yet they are convinced they are right and completely fine. Now, dealing with Mark is like interviewing Kurt Cobain at the height of teenage angst.

“I do it myself!”

“Then do it. Oh come on, I’ll help you.”


“Fine, get stuck in your t-shirt then. Just don’t fall down the stairs because you can’t see anything.”




“Yes, Mark. Of course, Mark.”

The very same kid who wailed loudly when I dared to take a five-second bathroom break and had to put him on the bed (I never quite master the art of peeing with a newborn strapped to my chest) just doesn’t want me around anymore. See, I’m not entertaining enough. Well, not as much as TV.

“We are going for a walk outside. Come on, go to the bathroom and put on your jacket please.”

“No, you go. Bye bye. Go away, now.”

“You’re coming. Let’s go.”

“No, I go home and watch TV.”

“No. Again, you’re coming. Daddy and I are going out.”

“It’s dark outside. It’s raining.”

“No, it’s sunny, which is precisely why we want you to go outside for a walk while we still can.”

He looks like Feng when he watches TV. Completely engrossed in the latest adventures of the Minions or Buzz Lightyear, he couldn’t care less about the fact I asked him three times already to come to the kitchen and have dinner.

“MARK! Eat, now.”

“I don’t want it.”

“You’ll watch later, you eat now.”

By the look of deep annoyance on his face, I gather that if he had the vocabulary to tell me to go to hell, he would.

But he settles for the usual “GO. AWAY.”

Slightly more acceptable but again, we are talking about a three-year-old and a not-so-patient mother who, at 6 p.m., just want to get over dinner, lunch box prep and kitchen cleaning with minimum hassle.


“I made rice. With veggies and spring rolls.”

“I want pasta.”

“That’s unfortunate because you’re eating rice.”

“I don’t want it. It’s yucky.”

“You’re half Asian. You’re eating rice. Period. You’ll get pasta another day. You had pasta at noon, anyway.”

Arguing with Mark is exhausting because I shouldn’t have to argue with a three-year-old kid. Nor that I want to. I respect his opinion but as free-spirited as I am, I firmly believe that if you need help putting on your shoes and if you have yet to understand that Dollar Store monsters aren’t real, you need to listen to your parents.

“I’m the boss, Mark.”

“I don’t think so.”

Fortunately, he is also highly quotable. May as well get something out of him, right?

He also has cute moments.

The other day, we walked home from the daycare. It was warm by Canadian standards (8°C, no wind). We walked by a house where a landscaping project had just been completed, and Mark pointed to the fresh soil and grass seeds.

“What is that?”

“Seeds,” I said. “Like baby grass. After many days, they will grow and turn into grass.” I left out the part where there was little chance of the poor seeds surviving the upcoming winter weather.

“See that tree?” I continued. “It started as a tiny tiny tiny seed as well. Then it grew to become a tree.”

“It’s a small tree.”

“Because it’s still growing. And maybe one day it will be as tall as this other tree.”

I looked at Mark walking beside me and felt suddenly lyrical.

“You started as a tiny tiny seed too,” I said with tremors in my voice. “Daddy and I planted you. Then you grew in my belly.”

I knew Mark was listening. He glanced at my stomach and frowned, like when he tries to assemble two mismatched pieces of a jigsaw.

“It took many months, but you grew in there… and then, when you were big enough, you came out. And at first, you were a tiny tiny little baby. And look at you now, so tall!

“Like a tree. You started as a seed, and you’re growing. One day, you will be as tall as mommy and daddy, maybe taller!”

Mark paused for a few seconds. Then he looked at me with a look of sheer disbelief on his face as if I had just said chocolate bars were falling from the sky.

“Nooo…. I don’t think so!”

“Yes,” I insisted. amused. “You were Mark-the-little-seed. And baby Mark. And now you’re a little boy.”

“Mommy,” he scolded me. “Noooo…! That’s funny.”

One day, Mark. One day you will read this. And this day, I want you to say it: “Mommy was right!”

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  1. Jeruen November 23, 2015 at 11:16 am

    This reminded me of my first memories. It was 1985, I was 3, in Denver. Somehow I remember these long eating sessions with my mom. Dad was a graduate student, mom was just staying at home taking care of me and my sister who was born that year.

    Anyway, I remember these marathon eating sessions, me versus my mom. Your description of Mark not wanting to eat sounded like me. I remember filling my mouth with food, but since I didn’t want it, I didn’t swallow it. I just stored them in my cheeks, underneath my lips, everywhere, such that I looked like a blowfish. My mom wouldn’t let me off the chair, so I just sat at the table with my filled cheeks, for hours, until the next meal came, and my mom would let me spit out whatever I had remaining in my mouth, and the whole ordeal would start again. 😛

    1. Zhu November 23, 2015 at 3:09 pm

      Do you remember why you didn’t want to eat? Was it the food, the fact you had to sit down at certain times…? And do you remember when you turned into the foodie you are now?

      1. Jeruen November 24, 2015 at 1:46 am

        Haha, I honestly don’t know why I hated eating that time. I had plenty of food-related problems back then, not only on the intake, but also on the outtakes if you know what I mean. As an adult, I just somehow transitioned into a pragmatist when it comes to food, and only when I met my partner did I somehow become a foodie. 😛

        1. Zhu November 24, 2015 at 1:09 pm

          It’s funny! Apparently, Feng was very picky when he was young too. He can’t explain why.

  2. Holly November 23, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Ha ha! Mark is hilarious! I feel your pain but the tales do make for a great read!

    1. Zhu November 23, 2015 at 3:10 pm

      I can’t want until he reads all these articles when he is older… 🙂 He’d better give me many food massages then!

  3. Colleen Brynn November 23, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    I love watching little minds developing… it’s so fascinating. My little niece is only 4 months old, and in this short time, she’s already changed so much. It’s going to be so crazy when she starts talking and voicing opinions!

    1. Zhu November 24, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      This is why I was looking forward to Mark speaking. Suddenly, you are forced to see the world from another perspective!

  4. Lynn November 24, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Aw, love the seed story …but also I feel your pain dealing with a 3 year old. Three is the WORST – the push and pull of what they want, versus what they are allowed. It’s a very tough parenting year. Hang in there!

    1. Zhu November 24, 2015 at 11:00 pm

      They are bossy too, aren’t they!

  5. Cynthia November 25, 2015 at 5:15 am

    Aww so cute 🙂

    1. Zhu November 25, 2015 at 12:45 pm

      That’s to make up for the annoying moments!

  6. I Say Oui November 29, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    What are dollar store monsters??

    1. I Say Oui November 29, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      Maybe that was a silly question… they are monsters that live at the dollar store, I assume.

      1. Zhu November 30, 2015 at 12:13 am

        Santa “ate” them now 😉

        1. I Say Oui November 30, 2015 at 11:46 pm

          Ha ha ha… cheap meal.

    2. Zhu November 30, 2015 at 12:13 am

      😆 Around Halloween, the Dollar Store had shelves and shelves of monsters (because people tend to go a bit crazy with Halloween decorations). Not a silly question at all!

  7. Lexie November 30, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    It’s cute! I love when they try to make two things match and understand how it works (but usually i’m quite impress of their understanding). We just jump in the beautiful world of “why” … The perfect dead-end street 🙂

    1. Zhu November 30, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      The way they look at the world is fascinating, I find. One of the good parts of parenting!


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