Savouring moments with my child before she grows up

The innocence and excitement with which a toddler views the world forces this parent to confront her world-weariness

Just a few days ago, I had a revelation, thanks to my 20-month-old toddler.

My husband was wearing a new singlet with the Superman logo printed on it.

"Fish," said my daughter, pointing at the logo.

"No, darling, it's the letter 'S'. 'S' for Superman," I corrected her absent-mindedly.

"Fish, mama! Two fish," she insisted earnestly.

I looked at my husband quizzically.

Then it clicked.

If you look at the negative spaces surrounding the "S", there are two stylised-looking yellow fish swimming in opposite directions around the red letter.

My husband quickly Googled "Superman two fish" and we were amazed to find that the American comic-book artist John Byrne, who helmed the Superman titles at one point, was said to have visualised the emblem that same way.

I am all too familiar with the symbol, but my keen-eyed child was able to show me something I had never noticed before.

Since striding into toddler-hood, I find that she is increasingly able to point out things that capture her attention, but which escape me.

It doesn't matter that these observations are usually inconsequential: A child drinking from a water bottle that looks similar to hers; how the curved hooks of two hangers form the shape of a heart when held together; or the facial expression of a stranger (she exclaims loudly about the "happy man" each time we drive past the neighbourhood's posters of our beaming Member of Parliament).

Her genuine excitement over spotting something mundane is so infectious that even on the most I-am-a-jaded-parent days, I cannot help but break into a smile.

Her little discoveries force me to confront the world-weariness that sometimes creeps into my life.

Parenting is tough and trying work. I want to be genuinely positive about all that parenting entails, but this is usually easier said than done.

Because of my child, weekends are now never dull. There's always a new indoor or outdoor playground to check out, a family-friendly mall to hang out at or a kid-focused museum exhibition or event to visit.

I diligently plan these activities and places for us to go to, and I constantly engage her in speech.

I do not want her appetite for exploration, play and discovery to wane because to witness a child's wonderment at the world is a beautiful thing, and you want that never to end for your child.

But going out with a toddler is tiring and I need to work up the enthusiasm before we leave home.

"Are you ready for another manic weekend? Woo hoo, let's go," my husband will say, in an attempt to pump us up.

Sometimes, it all falls flat.

The possibilities for disaster are endless. Everything can unravel with a single event: Child suddenly vomits her lunch in the car, parents start playing the blame game over how that happened, child is inconsolable, everyone's frazzled - the list goes on.

And when things don't go according to plan, the result is tired and frustrated parents who feel stupid that they even bothered with planning for the weekend.

On days like that, I feel absolutely defeated and I rage against my life.

I feel trapped by parenthood - this full-time, no-pay job that you can't even quit.

My thoughts wander back to the cafe-hopping, shopping and just-chilling-with-friends type of weekends of my distant past and I heave a sad sigh.

World-weariness envelopes me easily on such occasions. But then I try to reach for a silver lining and my cloud of dark thoughts dissipates.

In my attempts to let my child experience the fullness of life, even if the day results in a mess, there has been something in it for me.

In my giving, I always receive - I just need to choose to see that.

Parenthood has gifted me the opportunity to experience the joys of childhood afresh. It grants me the generous licence to be silly and to take myself less seriously.

As my daughter charges into water jets at water playgrounds and lets out shrieks of pure joy, there I am, this woman-child, squealing along and enjoying the cool spray of water on my face and clothes.

As she climbs ropes, dodges obstacles and dives into ball pits, there I am, this woman-child, reliving my own memories playing at Fun Dazzle and QuestZone - the indoor playgrounds of my time.

Because of my child, I have visited more playgrounds, sat on more see-saws and swung on more swings in the past 20 months than I have in the past 10 years.

My eyes are able to swiftly detect joyrides in malls as though I have some kind of ultra-sensitive radar that draws my attention to them.

I now know the various key characters in children's cartoon series Peppa Pig and am familiar with the songs by Australian children's group Hi-5, both of which were non-existent during my childhood.

In fact, I've memorised the lyrics - and can even do the accompanying actions - to some of Hi-5's top hits.

Lest you judge this 30-year-old mother-child, my justification is that not allowing my toddler screen time means I have to be the performer while the music plays in the background.

After one such high-energy "performance" recently, I slumped on the sofa in exhaustion and declared: "Oh, parenthood!"

So sapping and taxing, but oh so fun too.

As I read, sing, dance and chat with my daughter, I feel young at heart. I remember what it means to be worry-free.

I should bask in having free rein to do childhood all over again, I think.

But my husband's response breaks my reverie.

"You know, this time of innocence for our daughter is never coming back. She will never be this age again," he says.

I did not expect that.

He was right though.

As soon as he uttered those words, I found myself wishing I could hold back time.

It's a bittersweet feeling, knowing that while she is at a "fun stage", our daughter is growing up fast.

This period in her life - and mine - will never come back again.

She will outgrow Peppa Pig, she will roll her eyes at Hi-5 and there will come a time when she will be heart-breakingly defiant and refuse to go anywhere with us.

She may also grow world-weary, become cynical of people and sceptical of things and cease to gaze in wonderment at the world.

But I should not think about those days to come.

Instead, I should savour these fleeting moments and score the precious memories on my heart.

I must remember how my toddler teaches me to do away with wallowing in the dreary and to rejoice in the everyday and in everything.

And the next time she has an observation akin to the Superman one? I will celebrate it.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 11, 2017, with the headline 'Savouring moments with my child before she grows up'. Print Edition | Subscribe