When your baby is the center of your world, and then they grow up and want nothing to do with you

It’s funny how babies grow into children, and then children grow into adults. And then those adults have children, and then the cycle continues all over again. In the beginning, babies and children are100 percent dependent on their parents and caregivers for everything (and as newborns, even for lifting their necks!!!! I still can’t get over that), but then as they grow older, they become more independent to the point that they don’t even need their parents anymore. And while some people would find this fully liberating, others mourn it. They mourn not having someone to care for, not having someone who fully needs them for their survival. I’ve seen a few posts on social media about mothers mourning their baby becoming a kid, and their kid becoming an adult because once they become an adult, it’s likely they will be splitting their time across multiple commitments and loved ones, and so you will then only get a fraction of their time, if any. They yearn for those days when their babies babbled and cooed, when their babies’ eyes lit up when they came home from work or into the room. And for those children who have tumultuous relationships with their parents, they may end up choosing to spend little to no time with their parents.

Kaia is almost a year old. It’s mind-boggling to me how quickly this year passed. When I am doing my last pump of the night before bed, I frequently watch older videos of her from her newborn days, even the ones as recent as last week, and then I compare them to when she was just a few months old. I admire the super chubby cheeks she had in her 4-6-month stage and how excited she would get when I’d sing or take out Shungu the elephant for her. Her cheeks aren’t that chubby anymore, and she’s becoming more toddler like every single day, pulling herself up to stand, trying to cruise along the furniture. Her babble is sounding closer and closer to real words. It almost makes me sad. She could very well be my only baby, and so that would mean this is the only experience I will ever have having a little baby, to have and hold and care for. I keep looking at her and telling her not to grow up too fast. But I have a feeling she isn’t listening.

There was a New York Times article I recently read about the choices you make and how much time a person spends with their children, their parents, their colleagues, their chosen life partner over the course of a lifetime. And it all says the same thing: time with your parents and children are at the max when your kids are their youngest selves; as they grow older, it maxes out and eventually starts declining. And so for that, we need to cherish those times with our little ones as much as we can… because very quickly, they will not be so little anymore and will spread their wings to fly away. That’s partly why even though sometimes, I do get sad that I don’t get to go out with friends as much or read as many books or have as much time to myself as I did before my baby came, I know this is all temporary, and soon, I will get that time back. But, she won’t be this little forever, and so I want to savor every moment with her while I can, and snuggle her for as much as I can for as long as she will allow me to. I want to learn from the mistakes of my parents and not have her want to avoid me. I want her to associate me with love and acceptance. Because sadly, after the childhood I had and even the adulthood I continue to have while in my parents’ presence, I have little desire to spend more time than I already do with my own parents. It is sad, but it’s true. I don’t want to continue the intergenerational trauma. I don’t want that to be normal for me, and I certainly don’t want it to be normal for my daughter.

Flying home and dealing with landing

Somehow, the trip has already ended. It’s almost like in some ways, it just started, but I guess that’s how these trips go. We flew back home via London on British Airways. We were seated in the front row of Business Class, which meant that Kaia got her own little “bassinet,” which was really a more easily adjustable version of a Baby Bjorn chair that could be fully reclined. We had her eat in it sitting quite upright, and it worked really well, but she refused to sleep in it and got fussy. The way that the “bassinet” gets installed is that the baby faces everyone who walks by. So this meant a lot of the flight attendants tried to be friendly with her… which she was not always keen on. Somehow, one flight attendant who really tried to befriend her always elicited crying from her. She refused to like him and got bad vibes from him, and we’re still not quite sure why.

Landing was tough. She had only been napping for maybe a couple hours, and I had to wake her up to get ready to land. She was really upset and cried a lot, and there was really nothing we could do to help her. We tried patting her, singing to her, holding her close, but it all failed. Eventually, I handed her over to Chris, and she calmed down when we finally landed.

Oh, and here’s a fun little fact about Global Entry: even if both partners have Global Entry and your baby does not (because we didn’t think she could get it), you cannot go through Global Entry; one partner has to take the baby through the regular immigration line for screening. That’s really annoying and stupid, but hey, apparently the people who work at EWR immigration say that’s the way it should be! I was wearing Kaia, so I took her into the line while Chris went through Global Entry. And as soon as we separated, Kaia cried a little. Yeah well, that’s how I felt, so I guess we can all agree how dumb it was.

Babies eating in public – highly distracted

So far, we’ve been really lucky with Kaia because she’s been such a good little eater. Not only does she seem willing to try pretty much everything we put in front of her, but she’s really embraced greens. Many times, she actually prefers to eat whatever green vegetable we put in front of her over other things. I’ve been really intentional about trying to make sure there’s something green on her plate at every meal, so I hope that effort is paying off.

The thing is — she’s mostly eaten her solids in a controlled environment. That is to say — she’s almost always at home, in a high chair strapped in with a tray, silicone bib on, with one of us there coaching her and supervising, encouraging her to eat. The second she’s had anyone else there, even if it’s Chris or our handyman friend, she gets really distracted and wants to know what else is going on. She’ll try turning her whole body in her chair. She’ll stare at the washer as our clothes are being swished around. If she hears music, she’ll stop and try to see what direction from which the music is coming. Babies are easily distracted, and so that makes feeding them in public even more challenging. Kaia is no exception to this.

The first few days while at the hotel restaurant for breakfast and at the lounge in the evening, it was a real struggle to feed her. She’d take a few bites of something that she seemingly liked, but as soon as a friendly face walked by, she’d smile and try to watch that person, thus ignoring her food and anytime we’d try to get her attention. I’d usually be pumping and trying my best to be careful to not get my tubes twisted in something while attempting to spoon feed her or get her to look at a new food I put down in front of her. Chris had been really sensitive to her making a mess, so in certain places, he insisted we try to put food directly in her mouth or spoon feed to reduce the amount of mess. The problem with that is that Kaia is pretty independent; she prefers to self-feed, and sometimes she gets REALLY angry when you try to feed her that she’ll just flat out reject the food, even if she had previously indicated interest. She got mad when we tried to control a pouch at the Christmas market the other day, and she just started fussing and crying, and then just refused the pouch altogether. She’s not at that level of dexterity yet to realize that when she squeezes the pouch too hard, the food just squirts out uncontrollably and fails to end up in her mouth. Now that we’re at the end of the trip, it’s gotten easier, but it was still hard and took a lot of time. Plus, I’d be scrambling to eat my own food before it got cold while also cutting and prepping her food into safe bites/sizes, and so it was a lot of multitasking for me. It was hard to enjoy most of those meals.

Even though Chris wasn’t doing most of this feeding, he was clearly getting very impatient with the whole process, especially since Kaia will ignore a food… and then 40 minutes later, decide she wants to eat it again. She likes to take her time and graze — if you want to call it “grazing.”

“Every meal we sit down and watch her eat is yet another tick against having a second child!” he grumbled.

Uh-huh.

Proud mommy moments

When people think of parental moments of pride, they oftentimes think of major milestones, like the first time crawling, standing, walking; preschool or kindergarten “graduation,” the actual graduations, acceptances into college/law/medical school, etc. What tends to get overlooked in the broader picture are those small moments when kids start to assert autonomy and their own personalities.

Today, the nanny reported to me that Kaia made her really proud: she had taken her down to our building’s play room, and there were two other older kids there with their nannies (both kids were around 2 years of age). One kid was being very aggressive and kept hitting the other kid, who was passively just taking it all. The aggressive kid came up to Kaia and forcefully tried to pull a toy out of her hands. Kaia, not one to be pushed over, held onto the toy firmly and started yelling endless jibberish, staring hard at the aggressive kid and not stopping the yelling until she let go and backed off. The aggressor got so freaked out that she not only backed off, but she ran away! The aggressive kid is over twice as old as my baby is!

Our nanny said she was so proud. I was also super proud, too. I didn’t witness this happen, but my heart was warmed. The last thing I want is for my baby to be bullied; I want her to stand up for herself and assert her authority. I don’t want any other little twit pushing her around, whether it’s on the playground, at the play room, or at school in the future.

“Bye bye!”

I think Kaia’s second word is officially “bye bye!” We’ve been trying to get her to wave bye bye to our nanny each evening when she leaves. She’s been resisting, though, as she hates having her hands touched or held (hopefully, that’s just for now…. please…). But in the last week, she actually has waved, in her own funny way, and she’s even transitioned from saying “buh buh!” to “bye bye!” And yes, it actually does sound like she’s really saying “bye!”

And it’s as though she’s gotten the routine down now, as well: after she gets fed her dinner and bathed with the nanny, she knows it’s time for the nanny to go home. So after she finished dinner and got bathed and moisturized this evening, I picked her up and she looked at the nanny and started waving: “Bye bye! Bye bye!”

My baby is learning every single day and demonstrating what she’s taking in. Each moment I witness these little bits of her development, my heart feels like it is swelling.

“Don’t be poor”

My nanny was originally planning to spend the week of Thanksgiving in Jamaica on her own, relaxing and clearing her mind. She wasn’t even bringing her husband along with her. When she realized that it might be too expensive to pay for a full week of accommodation by herself, she reluctantly asked her cousin if she could stay with her that week, and her cousin agreed. But what she didn’t realize would end up happening was that her cousin told a few other relatives that she would be in town, and all those relatives started creating lists of things for my nanny to buy and bring back. In addition, they also started making requests for random sums of money for our nanny to give all of them for miscellaneous repairs and expenses that were out of their budgets… that just needed to be purchased or done, of course. In the end, our nanny got so frustrated and mad at all these expectations of her piling up that she decided to cancel the flight altogether. It was originally meant to be a time of R&R for her, but it was turning out to be a huge stressor, one that made her realize that all her relatives back in Jamaica just saw her as an endless ATM.

She was mad to cancel her trip, but she also said that cancelling her trip made her more cognizant of the fact that this is the way poor people treat their relatives who are just a tad better off than them.

“If there’s one thing you tell Kaia when she grows up, tell her, ‘Don’t be poor,'” my nanny said, getting exasperated thinking about all her relatives who seemed entitled to her earnings.

I have a feeling Chris will already be telling her that outside of the nanny’s advice.

Baby loves the smartphone, not the dumb phone

Endless toys are on the market for babies and children of every stage and age. When I originally selected a small handful of toys for Kaia for the baby registry last year, I tried to choose things that would be interactive and provide some sensory stimulation, and I guess some of them are labeled as “Montessori” type activities. At around the 3-month mark, she loved playing peek-a-boo with Shungu, the elephant stuffed animal “blankie”, and she also enjoyed Babar, the multi-sensory elephant that was gifted to her. She loves anything that plays music, so the few “baby Mozart/Beethoven” music toys got a lot of use. She still occasionally plays with Babar, and she stil loves the music toys. But her favorite toys now… are not actually toys. They are random cardboard boxes we have from deliveries, plastic bottles from Chris’s beverages he brings home, sealed shut pill bottles. Most of all, though, her absolute favorite toy… is my phone. I guess I can’t be surprised: she sees us on our phones constantly, so she’s eager to see what all the fuss is about on these magical, mysterious screens of ours. Plus, she also gets to watch videos of herself on them! I try to limit her screen time a lot, and I almost always give the phone to her while it’s “locked.” But she’s absolutely obsessed with it and babbles endlessly when she’s fiddling with it. The other “toy” she hasn’t tired of? All her pacifiers!

There’s a phone attachment on her baby walker, and while she does shake it and play with it, she probably has zero clue that it’s supposed to be a “dumb” phone. One day soon, she will laugh when we tell her.

Sweet potato – like or dislike?

When people think of foods that babies will like, they usually go to the same list of fruits and vegetables: banana, avocado, potato, sweet potato. They suggest these because they are mostly soft, easy to eat, and other than the potato, are very nutrient dense for a baby’s small stomach. The thing is – with sweet potato, Kaia didn’t really like it right away. She found it a little weird and would eat a few bites and then stop. It may have been because I steamed it a lot in the beginning. So I started varying up how I made it. Yesterday, I finally roasted them in thick wedges and coated them in extra virgin olive oil and cinnamon, nothing else. And she grabbed and demolished both fat wedges in just minutes. I was shocked. I gave it to her first, thinking she wouldn’t eat much of it, and instead, she ate the entire large portion I gave her!

It takes a lot of patience to serve a baby something 18-20 times (the recommended number to see if they REALLY dislike something) before making a call on whether they really dislike something. But if someone has been really patient and persevering in this process, it’s definitely me. I have really shocked myself with how patient I’ve managed to be with all her food prep and observing her exploring and eating food.

Compliments during motherhood

A lot of the times when people think about compliments a new or relatively new mother would like to hear, they immediately think of things like, “you look great!” or “you don’t even look like you had a baby!” — so in other words, things surrounding their appearance, weight, or weight loss. While I have been fortunate enough to get a lot of compliments just like these about my overall appearance and weight, what I actually really like hearing are things around my pumping and breast milk for my baby. When our nanny first started working with us, she kept on complimenting me for my strict pumping schedule and always being on track, plus my output, which she thought was crazy high. To this day, she still makes comments about how she cannot believe I am STILL pumping so much milk.

But the compliments that don’t initially seem like compliments that I might appreciate the most come from Chris. This morning when I woke up, Chris had already measured out Kaia’s milk to get the first bottle feed ready, so he had done some milk consolidation in the kitchen. When he came back into the bedroom and we exchanged words, he said, “Your pump last night was really fatty.”

That was like music to my ears. I immediately perked up, like a dog whose ears shoot straight up when their owner is in sight, and started grinning from ear to ear. Mmmmm, fatty milk. I’m still producing fatty milk for my baby to drink at over 11 months postpartum. I’m so proud of my body and what it has accomplished for my Kaia Pookie, my little Pookster.

When your child does the most disgusting things, but you enjoy it

Kaia has been exploring.. literally everything, everywhere she can get her hands or mouth on. She’s been picking up random scraps of food on the floor and eating them. She finds her way into the open dishwasher and cupboards in the kitchen and tries to climb right in. And with us, she’s trying to pinch, pull, and grab pretty much everything she can see: my hair, nose, lips, teeth, toes — whatever is there, she wants dibs on. The cute but slightly disgusting thing she has been doing is sticking her tongue into my mouth before bedtime and running her tongue over my teeth, or even touching my tongue with her tongue. I told her that this is a bit weird and not quite “normal” for mommy/daughter affection, but she doesn’t seem to mind and continues doing it while giggling.

Each night, I tell her that she is the greatest gift of my life, and I’m so grateful and so lucky to have her. I know as the days and years go on, she will get bigger and older, and she will no longer need me as much. In just a year, she may push me away when I try to hug or kiss her, but I hope she doesn’t. In a year or so, she likely will not want to stick her tongue in her mouth. She’ll understand things like “disgust” or “shame.” She’ll want some forms of affection and not others from us. But I do hope that I will be able to foster an environment for her where she feels safe and secure, not just physically, but psychologically. I hope she can feel comfortable cuddling with me and sharing information with me. I really do not want her to feel a lack of psychological safety the way I did when I was growing up. I may have felt safe physically while in the presence of my parents or in their home, but there was never a time I actually felt safe to think or feel what I did, and especially NOT to voice it to them. Sometimes, it felt like there were thought police around, and I don’t want her to feel that way at all. I want her to feel safe in every possible way with me.