The day my son wrote me a letter

Proud mother Vicky with her three sons (from left) Aaron, Ivan and Andreas, at Ivan's BMT graduation parade on 8 Apr.
Proud mother Vicky with her three sons (from left) Aaron, Ivan and Andreas, at Ivan’s BMT graduation parade on 8 Apr.

Vicky Chong, 46, is a homemaker who blogs at vickychong.wordpress.com.

Her eldest son Andreas is waiting for enlistment while her second son, Ivan, just completed his Basic Military Training (BMT). Her youngest son, Aaron, is a secondary one student.

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I was looking forward to it, but the letter took longer than expected to arrive. It was a letter written by my son, Ivan, to his parents while he was on a six-day field camp.

When Ivan arrived home on the weekend after the field camp, he asked excitedly if I had received his letter, and was disappointed that I hadn’t.

I was amused. Like most men, Ivan is not known to express himself emotionally. That made me even more curious to know what he had written to his parents about.

Mothers I know whose sons have done their National Service (NS) told me gleefully of one of the positive changes they witnessed – the sons became more appreciative of their mothers.

Their sons were also more forthcoming with helping around the house. One would volunteer to mop the floor, perhaps to show off the new domestic skills he had acquired while in camp.

They warned me about the piles of laundry though. A mother helpfully suggested that I pack laundry powder into a beverage carton for Ivan to do light washing in camp.

My neighbour saw my laundry rack one weekend and laughed. She had been through the same experience. She shared her son’s NS stories as we admired the new pixelated uniform like they were the latest fashions from the runway – her son had worn the old uniform.

She reminisced about her son’s NS days like she missed them. I guess it’s a milestone too for mothers when their sons enlist for NS, much like seeing and supporting them through PSLE or the ‘O’ levels. 

Ivan had proudly announced to me that he is a bunk leader. His role is to clean the beds.

Well, if I had expected Ivan to help me with some domestic chores, I would have been disappointed. The only domesticity I’ve witnessed since his return is that he sometimes puts his laundry into the washing machine and starts it as soon as he arrives home. Otherwise, he is still the same boy I waved goodbye to at Pulau Tekong.

Ivan’s letter finally arrived three weeks after his field camp. By then, both he and I had forgotten all about it. Thus, it was a nice surprise when I saw the “On Government Service” envelope addressed to “Mum & Dad”, with my name and my husband’s scribbled on top as an afterthought.

In it, he wrote:

“Thanks for washing my clothes whenever I book out, no matter how smelly they are. When I come home from field camp, they are even more smelly. I haven’t changed clothes for three days already. Changed underwear, of course!” 

He added:

“Thanks for taking care of me for the last 19 years, and looking after all my needs.”

And somehow, this letter made all the frustration I had mothering this teenager disappear as I remember the joy of mothering again.

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