It feels good to feel normal.

I’m back to this whole–where should we go–question.

Where should we go, I mean, for things like playgroups. The thing is, I thought I was settled on the one we go to weekly a block away away, with the occasional grudging drop-in at the local Literacy Centre. Both programs are okay, I thought.

Then today, as we were in the area, we stopped by a library in Markham. They have a wonderful kids’ toy play area that I knew baby would love. But as we walked in, we noticed a bunch of families playing in the program room. It turns out it was one of 360′s Family Drop-In programs. We made it in time for cleanup, snacktime and circle time. And oh my goodness it was so much better. It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? But the snack was healthier and the staff who ran the circle time were so much better at it. Better than the nice lady at the Scarborough library who does storytime (sadly, she doesn’t sing in tune), and the strict ECE at the Literacy Centre who keeps telling the kids to stay seated. These staff actually engaged the kids. I’ve never seen my baby actually stay put and listen during a full circle time. Usually she’s running around in the back and getting herself and others into trouble. But here, she just fit in, and she was also mesmerized by the story-telling. I’ve never heard her say “wow” so often at one of these programs. Also, she didn’t get in trouble for standing to see the picture book.

Which hurts, because it means, we’ve been going to the wrong programs. Or have we?

It’s so so normal in our world to drive far and move farther to get one’s kids into the right schools and the right programs. I really really don’t want to do that. But the programs in our neighbourhood always feel wrong for her. They’re too small, too stifling, mostly too strict. It’s probably cultural, which is both the reason and the issue to begin with us being here in this place, just a few blocks south of where we might “feel” like we “belong”.

I don’t think I anticipated this. Not fully. I knew the schools would be older, the parks a little less fancy. I didn’t think that even free programming would be so different, with a different postal code.

It’s more than that. It’s being in a room with other families who speak my language. It’s being around parents, moms, who look and sound like me. Is that horrible that I didn’t know I wanted this and I know it isn’t my calling in life to just “belong” but it feels so good to experience it just for a bit? I feel almost guilty for relishing that undefinable sense of belonging. It goes against all the ideals…but isn’t that sense of belonging exactly the reason why those other playgroups we attend are the way they are? Don’t they exist precisely to give some other family that sense of belonging they crave? Is it so wrong? I want it too.

Anyways, I’m going to be back, next week. Maybe once a week we can feel normal, us two, baby and I. And I know and trust our heavenly Father will continue to show me where to be, when and how.

It feels good to feel normal.

I’d prefer to raise my kid alone, I think.

It takes a village to raise a child.

-African proverb

Um yeah. And sometimes I could really dispense with that village and wish I could retreat into the hills. I think for me it’s a cultural thing.

Those people who keep quoting that lovely quote up there, are you part of a culture that actually does that? Are you prepared to deal with the stress, anxiety, annoyance and polite meanderings that comes with every one around you (family, friend, stranger on the street and Mommy group facilitator) telling you what they think your kid should be eating/drinking/not eating/not touching/wearing/and more?

My parents raised me pretty “white”. North American, live and let live, with very North American beliefs in health philosophy. But I look Chinese. Most people around me are Chinese. Those who know me well, generally, share my beliefs in (a) advice is best not given, unless asked for, and (b) general beliefs in kids eating, feeding, sleeping, in whatever way the family wants.

Not so, my lovely “birth” culture into which I’ve thrown myself by virtue of geographical locale (and marriage, I suppose). Sometimes it’s extremely funny, to be scolded on the sidewalk by a stranger who thinks my daughter is underdressed for the weather. In my head I respond, “If you had spent time in Winnipeg, MB, you would know this is not cold. You would not be bundled up head to toe in a full-length down jacket and boots in above-zero weather. My kid is having the time of her life right now and is way warmer than you will ever feel in Canadian fall weather.” But by then, she’s walked on, somehow feeling not weird at all for having lectured a perfect stranger on the street about whom she knows nothing (and in a language she could only assume I understood).

It’s a funny story I tell people, but to be honest, that initial interaction was offensive and kind of hurt. I put a smile on it and walk on, because I’ve learned some things now. Like how, in her culture, it’s normal. That’s what you do. It’s because you mean well, and you stick your nose in everyone’s business because you’re concerned.

The part I haven’t learned yet is how people accept this unsolicited advice. At the mommy-baby-playgroup, I often see the same people week after week, so I’m starting to get it. They really, genuinely, care. They start explaining my kid to new folks who have questions about her small-size-regular-milestones (is she 9 months old? 18 months old? wait…she’s running?!) and her eczema. They exchange tips on dealing with eczema, and kids who don’t eat. But the ones who are still moms, they also get it. We accept the kids who endlessly breastfeed, who won’t sleep through the night, who only eat on their own terms. More importantly, we accept their parents. We acknowledge how hard they try, and the fact that, they’re doing their best. We try to help by holding the new baby while she deals with the jealous older sibling. And I like how in this culture, it’s entirely accepted and okay to rock someone else’s newborn back to sleep. Appreciated, even.

But those first few months, I was in total culture shock. It was hard, so hard to have 10 different people show extreme concern for what was pretty normal in my books, and then to tell me about the herbal medicines/fancy expensive creams/anecdotal evidence they’ve seen work on someone else’s sister’s kid.

And even now, I can’t always deal. Just because I listen, doesn’t mean I agree. At what point do they understand, in this village, that I’m not going to do it just ’cause you believe it? When you stop a mom in the changeroom at the local pool to tell her her kid with eczema shouldn’t be swimming, what do you expect her to do at that point? Why do you bother her with your unwarranted and unsolicited advice if you know she isn’t going to be able to follow through with it? The bathing suit’s on and the Vaseline’s going on and I didn’t drag my baby into the carseat for a morning drive just to turn around and go home because a stranger stops me in the changeroom. Damn it, do you know how much reading and research has gone into this moment that you’re just devaluing with your words?

I’m not saying I’ve got it all down pat. I’m not even saying I know how to parent. I don’t. I’ve made so many mistakes already and I’m only about to make more. I know you all mean well. But you know what? I know bloggers who blog about parenting for a living who extend me a lot more grace than you, stranger at the pool. I have a small group that is only supportive, offers to babysit entirely on my terms, and prays for us to not just survive, but thrive.

Lord teach me. Not just to extend grace to others (which I am still learning and wow I didn’t know how much I had to learn about this), but to learn how to accept the words that hurt. The kind, well-meaning nose-in-my-business that I don’t know how to deal with. To continue to pursue relationships that only seem to get worse with time, relationships to which I am committed to better, for better or for worse. God, it’s annoying and painful and time-wasting it seems. When “smile and nod” doesn’t cut it, what do I do next?

I’d prefer to raise my kid alone, I think.

Happy Things

The fact that my Kobo Glo (refurbished for cheap from a friend – thanks J =) came with Pocket. Now I throw all the articles I want to maybe read from the million blogs I follow on it by hitting “Save to Pocket” and in it goes =) Then later when breastfeeding or hanging out with a napping baby I pull it out and start gorging. It’s lovely. Better than only reading free ebooks (so so in quality usually), or struggling with the connecting-to-library’s Overdrive app which requires actual physical usb cables. “sync via wifi” is my friend!

I prefer my ereader to my laptop/tablet for everyday reading because it has no colour or exciting functions for my baby to discover. She has a thing for electronics and pictures of babies. Preferably when combined. Yes, we Google Image “cute babies” for her all the time. Not what I imagined an ideal upbringing of a toddler to include, but so it is.

Happy Things

If it doesn’t beat Regino’s

Randomly chatting in the car on the way home from an impromptu house dinner (as in, hubby and I + baby + awesome housemate), I discovered the men of the house have a new standard. A new phrase. The, “if it doesn’t beat Regino’s” it isn’t worth doing, phrase.

As in, Chatime or Coco? If it’s not better than Regino’s…

Medieval Times ain’t better than Regino’s.

Going out for a movie? Is the movie better than Regino’s?

I guess that means Montana’s is better than Regino’s. That, and Montana’s with a coupon and a gift card.

At this rate, Regino’s should,

a) pay me for blogging

b) give us a bulk order discount. Because if you were to add up the number of orders our house makes in a year, I’m sure it’s a bulk order.

[insert photo of pizza here]

If it doesn’t beat Regino’s

When days are cold

Well it’s definitely more fun to stay-at-home-parent a healthy (or recovering) toddler than a sick one! We also went to our first swim class today. It wasn’t as fun as I had hoped—I was kind of expecting more games and singing songs and group stuff to motivate my baby. However, we got out of the house and did some “swimming” and she’s definitely comfortable playing in water, if not blowing bubbles, so yay. They didn’t do anything I couldn’t have done myself just the two of us, but it is nice to interact with other parents and their kids.

swimming, swimming, in a swimming pool / when days are hot, when days are cold (emphasis on the cold!) / in a swimming pool…

When days are cold

It’s so hard to deal with me

I can’t keep up with my mood swings today. The depressed despair on waking and realizing my baby is well and truly sick again. The desperate prayer of “Lord, I just can’t deal with another sick day right now.” The quiet acceptance of letting my baby watch back-to-back episodes of Friends and Gilmore Girls after promising myself I wouldn’t let her watch tv anymore.

The good mood brought on by a relatively peaceful and content afternoon. The grumpy mood brought on by my inability to iron and hubby taking over my crap job, followed by staring down more laundry and the lack of real cooking happening these days. And the grumpier mood knowing that I chose this and I suck at it.

These are the days when the hardest person to give grace to is myself. It’s so much easier (and unbiblical) to sulk and mope and expect some non-existent ideal of not-even-perfection in myself. It doesn’t help, it’s true, that I’m not eating quite right and I’m not exercising at all and we haven’t even dragged ourselves out for those wagon rides my baby likes so much. I never realized until last year just how terrible and terribly confining a Canadian winter can be. This winter was supposed to be the “better” year.

Anyways, I’m trying to blog more regularly these days. I think the writing out of my thoughts (which I used to do all the time) really helps, and I miss it, and I think this blog misses real writing.

Good night, all. I know tomorrow morning will be better.

It’s so hard to deal with me

Growing Up and Adoption in Community

Has anyone else ever felt that their kid was growing up so fast that it seems they’re doing the parenting and I’m just tagging along? Especially in the area of diapers and toilet training, I keep feeling like my baby girl is just ready ready ready and mommy is just behind and confused about how to tackle her current developmental stage.

Like today. There are some big events coming up soon, so I didn’t want to toilet train her yet in case of regression right after. (And really, we’re just short of 17 months old here). But last night’s diaper left some redness so to prevent another rash, I let her go diaper-less for a bit. Then for fun I added a (way too big) pair of underwear so she could be like “big people”. After about 40 minutes I took her to the toilet and it turns out she’d been holding quite a bit! Granted, she’s been going in the toilet since 4 months of age, on and off, in some super lazy version of “Elimination Communication”. Otherwise known as, “my version of what my grandmother did”, which was definitely not diaper-free but more of a “let the kid go on the potty if he/she wants”. What. I’m a terribly lazy parent.

So today’s events probably do NOT mean she’s toilet trained; I am well aware of that. I also know that if I committed to it it could be done. But, *sigh* I’m lazy. And at her age, finding appropriate toilets everywhere we go just isn’t practical. I already look like a crazy mom….

Anyhow, that’s enough on the baby/parenting talk. Although, not-so-related but a little bit related would be this: what are people’s thoughts on public domestic adoption? And more importantly, how does one make sure that the family and friends would be 100% accepting of it as well? I would hate to bring a child into my family only to have them feel rejected by our community. It’s probably one of the main things holding me back. That, and the uncertainty of whether I really can deal with the possible issues that often come with older child adoption. I know I probably could, if it happened, in the same way that if I gave birth to a child with a physical disability or developmental delay or if my child one day showed signs of a mental illness—I know I would figure out how to care for her because it’s my kid and you just love them the best you can no matter what it is. And yet, it’s a difficult thing to accept, isn’t it?

Growing Up and Adoption in Community