I had to restrain myself not rolling my eyes twice. It was only ten in the morning. Didn’t she just give me advice on how to treat a two years who happens to be my own child? I understand her goodwill but a day like today, comments like that make me itched. “Sylvia, you solely have knowledge about kids from books and articles, oh, the e-version of them by the way. I know I sound nasty. Well, better let me get it all out.”
I am turning thirty five this summer and my only child was two last week. Just like most normal people’s lives, I enjoy my life for the most parts. There are tough days and hurtful moments. There are also sweet and mesmerizing times that are worthless. Being a mom this little late is not only the greatest thing having ever happened to me but also a life-time experience.
My family side are immigrants from East Asia. Dad is an uptight traditionalist (double whammy) and mom is his permanent full-time supporter. Typically, I am the “normal middle.” My big sister was a rebel (she still is to some extent) and my little brother always has attachment issues. As a semi-good kid, I had been taking care of the chores and facilitating many family conflicts. I don’t know how I did it. Must be all my spurs of moments and improvisation. No, I never have strategies or plans. I’ve been learning from doing things and making mistakes.
Not until recently, has my bookish roommate, Sylvia, (in a subtle way) told me that I often make it up to people to compensate them for any discomfort they have suffered. Sounds ridiculous, right? She said she found that out after three times I offered her free food. The first time was when my kid screamed for 45 minutes at a wee hour the previous night. The second time was when she completely hid in her room during the weekend my parents visited the house. And the third time was after I mistakenly used up her chicken eggs in the fridge (that she reassured me many times it is ok). My roommate concluded I would make it up even when those are not really problems and/or when I was not the cause of those discomforts. She summed it up stating I am a real-life problem-solver who sometimes overestimates the impact of the issues and strives to fix it when it is not really needed.
I’d give her credits for her decent observation skill. But she learns about life and people based too much on her confidence in her capacities, aka. observing and analyzing. My child throws tantrums from time to time. That night was just one of many when he put in a little extra of shrilling, for almost an hour. I only want her to know that I didn’t do anything that triggered it. It is only a phase when kids have that kind of behavior. She is new in the house anyway so she didn’t know.
My parents’ visit was a different story. They were all over their only grand kid. They made the house that weekend full of toddler-related activities. She did not get out of her room that whole weekend. I didn’t think about it until my folks left around Sunday afternoon. If you were me you would think that was a little odd and sketchy, right? So I invited her to eat dinner that night just to chat and make sure she didn’t do anything that I would be worried about. After all she is living in my house and around my little kid. It turned out she was fasting and also did not want to disturb the family scene. Hmm, that was kinda sweet of her. I was a little stunned hearing that. Voluntarily, I abandoned my lined-up questions about her fasting.
The last time we sat down and had dinner was two weeks ago. I had a rough day and I really just wanted a dining company. (Mr hubby was busy with his newly-adopted, part-time marriage ordinance service job). My little sweetheart’s messy dinner is so tiring to look at. I am used to that view but today, eww. Besides, Sylvia is always good with compliments. She made my previous fish dish sound like a three-star restaurant graded. So I decided to bake salmon with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, steamed rice and side cucumber salad. We sat and ate while having adult conversation about work and people’s reactions in this pandemic crisis. I just started a new job the week before, a little nerve-racking in this challenging time. It was very promising at first but the company had to put a few large projects on hold due to the government’s cut funding. On top of that my direct boss is worrying about her mom’s health. She got tons of distractions and has not yet provided much special training for me as we’d planned. Sylvia did a good balance between eating, engagingly listening, and watching my kid’s movement. She showcased her multi-tasking while I was kinda desperate. Like many times before, I only realized it when we finished our dinner and she withdrew to the sanctuary of her room; not before giving my salmon dish a gushing review. How did she do that? My intention was not to receive positive cuisine critics. I only wanted simple talks. Well, I did feel much better though. So you see, I didn’t strive to make up for anyone. I simply straightened things up, sorted stuff out, and managed to get what I needed.
I even shared my experiences as a mother. Our first time eating together was totally about the purposes and hardships of having and raising children. She was upset that her friends told her to have a baby to comprehend the meaning of ‘real love.’ I was like, duh, those are different kinds of love. Eventually we both agreed that her friends, who gave her such a suggestion, might not even be in love with their spouses. I described how hard it was to give birth to my child: my painful 20 plus hours in labor; they were a minute away from performing a C-section when strange enough, the doctor decided to pull my baby out once more. He did it so abruptly and it worked. She had a full ear of my complaint about the huge hospital bill coming right after we got home.
By now I kinda forget why I dramatically reacted to her comments. She said something along the lines: “..according to life-span developmental books, kids under two year old are extremely sensitive to the mothers’ expression of love and care… Kids’ mirror neurons give them the ability to mimic mothers/caregivers’ actions instantly… And only if they feel securely attached to their mothers, they could grow up emotionally stable and independent, etc.”
Poor Sylvia! I even absent-mindedly made multiple of my breakfast with eggs from her carton. She insisted it is nothing and that I am welcome to consume her quoted unquoted kinda weird food items in the fridge. I basically shut her up by responding right away: “yes, but eggs are normal.” Don’t get me wrong: I respect people’s privacy and their personal choices. It turns out not a big deal anyway. Sylvia does not take it personally. And she knows how to enjoy tasty food. I might make fish tacos tonight and ask her if she wants some. My husband is not big on sea meat anyway so we would have plenty. I want to hear more about kids’ development studies in those books. These are from the experts and they don’t sound halfway bad. They kinda make sense indeed…
Dinner was good. I learned several new fascinating things about toddlers. Maybe I don’t want my baby to grow up trying to make things right, like his mother. Maybe the only thing my baby needs is to learn what real loves are: his pure caring and loving from his genuine self toward his friends, his family, his life-long partner, so as toward his own body and his own mind. I hope my baby grows up knowing how to be open to new things, to observe the magic of life, and to listen to other people’s rational advice.
Today, like any other day, his mother loves him with all her heart.
**Drafting from multiple stories of J.M, who is an enthusiastic environmental scientist, an amateur local stand-up script-writer, and a full-time day-dreamer. Sylvia is the main character in her upcoming script.