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Dear Ammu and Kuttan,

You turn eight today. EIGHT! That means, five more years before we hit our teens. And, ten more years to college. Scary, ain’t it? Very; at least for me.

Last year was very special for us. You know why? Because, that will forever remain the year when I changed from being your ‘mother’ to your ‘friend’. The ‘because I said so’s have considerably reduced (or so I think!) This was the year when we had many many conversations. We continue to speak about religion, feminism, God, food preferences, respect for others, freedom and so many other things. These conversations are so important to me not because I am imparting my beliefs and wisdom (whatever little I have of) to you; but because, while talking to you, I learn a lot about where I stand on these things. Thank you for that!

During the last year, we continued to follow our usual school changing, state changing, house changing, friend changing routine. And you dutifully fell in line with these massive changes despite your difficulties. Every day I learn how to cope with change and live happily with it from the both of you. Thank you for that!

You guys have moved from being whiny travelers to happy backpackers over the last year. We did quite a bit of traveling last year and you guys have enjoyed the travel more than ever. You don’t bother much about skipping a meal or sleeping in a small motel or complain about being tired (well, mostly!) and it makes me immensely happy to just be around you.

This last year is also special because you converted (okay, I converted you) into avid movie buffs. Every Friday, we watch a film (language, no bar!) and enjoy it. You wouldn’t have seen me happier than the day you guys enjoyed and laughed out aloud at MMKR. You have your preferences leaning towards Vijay which I am hoping against hope changes in due course.

While on hoping for a change, I am desperately hoping your music preferences evolve from Anirudh and Justin Beiber to much better options. For now, I am glad you let me listen to a couple of Raaja and ARR songs before changing to Anirudh screaming ‘velai illa pattadhari’.

We are still working on our pleasure reading and I am hoping eight is lucky enough to kick start it for us. Your love for water comes through with how quickly you get ready for your swim classes. Your love-hate relationship with chess continues; while your experiments with ballet and soccer have ended up in dislike. I am glad you have the opportunity to experiment with finding your passions. People were created to find our calling; so never ever stop the searching and learning in life.

Kuttan, you continue to be the little Buddha of the family. You are the sanest member of the tribe next to your dad and I am ever thankful for that. Your questions astound me. ‘Ma.. What’s the difference between heaven and hell?’ ‘Ma.. Do you believe in God?’ ‘Ma.. do I already have hormones?’ ‘Ma.. Did you have boyfriends before Appa?’ ‘Ma.. You are the one who said asking questions is okay, now why are you tired of answering me?’

Kuttan, your biggest achievement this year was conquering your fear of heights and speed. We tried doing it with the Shamu ride in San Antonio but to no avail. Then, it was with snow boarding that we tasted success. When we said we are going to Disney, you vehemently refused to get on board. You reason was ‘school’ but we knew you really meant ‘fear’. But then, after the first ride, you just went with the flow and really enjoyed it. A part of the reason was the company we had but that is not to take away the credit from you. Well done, boy!

Kuttan, you provide the much needed humor quotient to this family. You make us laugh with your intelligent wit. ‘Ma.. I got into trouble at school today. My teacher warned me that she’ll write a note to you if I do it the next time.’ ‘What did you do?’ ‘I made A laugh, Amma. Is it wrong to make others laugh? I didn’t hurt him!’ There.. You did make me laugh with that but there’s a time and place for everything. You’ll learn. But just don’t let go of your humor; that’s the only thing that will get you through tough times. That, and your love for music (even though I don’t approve of your choices, yet!)

Ammu, what can I say about you? Other than that I want to be you when I grow up? Yes, I do. Ammu, you are courage personified. You’ve been battling so many things (bullying, reading, bad health) this last year but the way you are facing them all makes me so proud. You are a fighter, Ammu. And, a happy fighter at that. Nothing comes easily to you. That doesn’t mean you let that go either. You girl, are my star.

Ammu, you are the little helper anyone would love to have. The other day I cut my finger while cooking. The wound was quite deep and Appa was traveling. No one said anything but you just jumped into the act. You washed dishes and peeled vegetables, just like that without asking. You always have known how to help when others are in need. You always have known how to hug when others are in need. You always have known. Be that way; don’t change.

Ammu, I am proud of you. But I am prouder when someone tells me that I have the best behaved and kindest kid. That happened during your mama’s wedding last year. You were the toast of your two perimas who kept saying what a kind, independent and helpful kid you are. Whenever we go through tough times together, I think of that day and tell myself everything will be alright.

Ammu, you want to be an actress one day and play the role of a space werewolf. You want to be a singer. You want to be a teacher. You want to go to culinary school. You want to have a Christian wedding and then have kids. ‘Can I do all this, Amma?’ Yes, you can, Kannamma. All this and more!

Kuttan, you remember the other day, when you walked down from the school bus but Ammu took a long time to come down. I was worried what she was doing in the bus when I found her and her friend N talking to the driver. Immediately assuming that some trouble was brewing I went to her. She came down seething with anger. ‘That boy J was troubling and teasing Kuttan, Amma. N and me tried to stop him but he wouldn’t. So we complained to the driver about J. Are you okay, Kuttan?’ Kuttan, you are blessed to have a sister like Ammu. And so is Ammu to have you. You children make me happy!

Kuttan and Ammu, you have your own interests and yet, complement each other well as a team. You come to each other’s rescue when one is in the line of fire. That doesn’t mean my refereeing skills have gone redundant now; they are pretty much alive and kicking every day. (very much, pun intended!)

Every day, both of you motivate me to be a better parent and to be a better human being. Thank you for that!

Happy eighth, my little darlings. May this year bless you with only happiness and joy. Go conquer the world with all the kindness you have. Let nothing stop you!

Lots and lots and lots of love,