A few evenings ago, the family watched bits of Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (a Steve Martin comedy) on TV, which ended with a baby born to the movie family.
My youngest, Joy, aged 4 and a half, turned to ask me some life questions.
"Papa, did you marry Mommy?"
"Of course, Joy," I replied with firm conviction. I didn't exactly want her to think we had them all out of wedlock.
"Did you make Mommy pregnant?"
"Yes, dear. We made all three of you, starting with your Cheh-Cheh Faith."
"Did you go to the hospital?" she continued.
"Why of course, I wouldn't miss it for the world," I smiled.
"Then how come I did not see you in the photos?"
That stumped me for a bit, a question like that coming from a 4-and-a-half-year-old little girl who can walk around all day wearing a princess' tiara. Then I gathered my thoughts and replied.
"That's because Papa was behind the camera, taking those photos, Joy."
She seemed satisfied with my answer and my interrogation ended.
I have been having long conversations with my littlest one. Most of them happen in the mornings, when the wife is getting ready to go to work, and I am still in bed trying to sleep in a little longer.
Joy has kindergarten that starts at 11am but she still manages wake up early enough to invite herself to our bedroom and jump into bed with me, messing up my sleeping plans.
Our conversations meander from one topic to another. I usually ask what happens at school.
"Yesterday, I brought my Barbies to school," she announced.
"But teacher said they were the wrong toys. So I changed. I am bringing cars today."
"Why were they the wrong toys?" I asked, curious.
"Teacher told us to bring toys of the road. Barbies are not road toys."
I suppose if you put Barbie in her pink car, she would qualify but I never bought Joy that expensive accessory, what with the ridiculous COE prices these days. No point giving Joy any unrealistic expectations of car ownership from an early age, I reason.
Other times, she tells me about her dreams. She told me she had a few bad dreams involving a monster once. I never had this conversation with my two older kids before. Faith can't speak and Isaac's dreams involve becoming a tiny person and entering his sister's belly button, and fighting robots.
I gave Joy my best fatherly monster-dealing face.
"Papa will help you pray those monsters away from your dreams, ok?"
She nodded with gratitude. I roped my 6-year-old boy into the monster elimination process too, and we said a little prayer together.
Most times, Joy just jumps into bed to enjoy the warmth of the blanket in our air-conditioned room. Followed by jumping up and down on me, shouting, "Papa! Wake up! Time to go to work!"
As a result of her clockwork morning visits, I hardly need to set the alarm clock on my iPhone. I retired the clock radio too. Nothing wakes one up better than being treated as a human trampoline.
My wife tells me her morning ritual now includes a chat with her new fashion consultant.
Joy tells my wife if her chosen outfit is nice enough, and my wife, believe it or not, listens.
"You let a four-year-old tell you what to wear in the morning?" I asked her incredulously.
But she seems to know what works, my wife said, trying to justify it.
Next my kid will be telling my wife she is getting fat, I thought.
Sure enough, Joy did. And Mommy believed her too. I spent days trying to convince her otherwise.
I am now having second thoughts about letting Joy play with those Barbie dolls.
Still, my youngest daughter is proving to be an interesting person to talk to. Her point of view is refreshingly different from her older brother's, who is more interested in telling me about which Jungle Fury Power Ranger he prefers (which is in no way less valid or fun, mind you).
Joy and I had this conversation, after dinner one night.
"Papa, why did you marry Mommy?"
I did not know quite how to answer that question. The reasons were varied and complex. In the end, the best I could come up with was, "Because Mommy is pretty!"
I know that seems rather shallow and politically incorrect to tell a child but it felt like the right answer at the time. I do recall looking at my wife at our wedding, thinking "Man, she is gorgeous."
Joy let that sink in, and then asked, "Then how come you are not wearing your wedding ring?"
Nothing escapes that rascal. I sheepishly went back to the room and found my ring on the table, and put it back on. At least I know when I am old and senile, I have at least one child who will remember the important things for me.
mrbrown aka Mr Kin Mun LEE is the accidental author of the popular Singapore website, mrbrown.com, and has been documenting the dysfunctional side of Singapore life since 1997.
Affectionately known as the Blogfather of Singapore, his readers follow his writings closely, which these days range from current affairs, his family, and even his trips abroad.
Currently, mrbrown also hosts the mrbrown show (mrbrownshow.com), probably Singapore's best known comedy and satire podcast.
mrbrown is married to Ginny, his long-suffering wife for 12 years, and is father to three lovely kids, Faith, Isaac and Joy.