Eating dinner out: how it’s different with a baby/toddler

My friend suggested going out to eat next Friday night, but I told her that I wouldn’t be able to go out (or, at least, not that far) because Chris already had tentative plans to go out to eat with his friends, and so I’d need to be with Pookster. She responded that she could still come over, and suggested we could still eat out and just take Kaia with us.

While that sounds like an easy solution… it’s not as easy as a non-parent would think. Kaia really shouldn’t stay out too late given her age, and to keep her on schedule (and away from crankiness), we need to keep her bedtime at around 7-7:30. So that means we would need to eat early, closer to 5-5:30pm when she typically eats, and ease her into her sleepy time before then. A lot of people think parents are just being inflexible with schedules, but schedules are what babies and toddlers need to thrive. They need a schedule and a level of predictability in a world of chaos. It keeps them grounded, and it prevents things like tantrums, hunger, and over-tiredness, which then results in baby mood swings.

What’s likely going to happen is that we’ll probably get takeout somewhere. I’ll pick Kaia up a bit early from daycare, and we’ll eat at home and hang out until she has to go to bed. It’s much easier to hang out with friends with baby in tow during the day as opposed to dinner time for this reason. It’s a temporary adjustment given the stage of life we’re currently in now. But as with all stages, it has its time and is temporary, so I’m happy with it because I know it will pass.

When you have no parents and no family

Today, we went to Industry City to meet up with a couple we met at a food/beer event about two years ago. Every subsequent time I see them, I learn a little more about the childhood of the woman in the couple, who seems like she’s had… quite an ordeal through her life. Her mom abandoned her at birth. Her dad abandoned her twice, once when she was years old, and again when she was about 15 years old. She was primarily raised by her grandmother, but even then, the relationship was restrained and not very loving. So she’s never really had any real “family” experience or felt like she belonged anywhere. In fact, she didn’t really come to understand what “family” even meant until she married her now husband about 11 years ago. That was really the beginning of when she started feeling like she had family.

It’s such a strange thought to think about not having any family or place of belonging at all, especially given that Mother’s Day is tomorrow. Many of us have parents who we have great, strained, or tumultuous relationships with, but regardless of the status or depth of the relationship, the relationship still exists… or existed. In this friend’s case, she has no one to call her parents or to refer to when she discusses where she came from. And it seems like such a painful, lonely thought. But she’s done quite well for herself and wants to do so much good in her life. She’s active in her neighborhood and serves on her community board. She’s done development and strategy work to improve the lives of children in under-served communities across the U.S. and developing countries. She does freelance writing to shed light on her own personal experiences and how they can affect the world. Every time I talk to her, I realize how complex and multi-faceted she is, and how a lot of us can learn so much from her life experiences… of being rejected by the two people who brought her into this world, but not letting that run or ruin her life.

My friend’s 40th: a private room full of parents of young kids

Tonight, Chris and I rented a Zipcar for a 1.5 hour drive out to Long Island for my friend’s 40th birthday. Luckily for us, a good friend of mine agreed to babysit Kaia for the evening, and she even commuted all the way from Staten Island and agreed to stay the night given how far away home would be for her. I told my friend that there was no way in hell we were going to back out despite the distance and the fact we couldn’t get there via public transit easily; we really needed to get out of the house without the baby, and I needed to socialize with other adults… even if all of those other adults just wanted to talk about their kids.

My friend warned me ahead of time that pretty much all the other parents coming would be there because they are the parents of her kids’ friends. So I kind of braced myself and waited for the kids conversations to come. But I was pleasantly surprised when I had some pretty good one on one conversations with a few of the party attendees, ranging from not just babies and nannies and daycare, but also traveling, relocating, comparing different cities, and of course, my favorite topic — food and restaurants. When we were all seated at the tables for dinner, the conversation ended up becoming more about kids and child-rearing in general, but given how all these friends know each other, I wasn’t really bothered by it since I expected it. Plus, sometimes, it is funny to hear about these random “child terrorist” stories and laugh about them every now and then.

In general, I’m more open to the idea of making friends with parents because their kids get along with my kid. It’s important to be able to trust the parents of the kids that your child is going to spend time with, especially if they end up spending time in their homes when you aren’t around eventually. I’m just not necessarily expecting any of these people to become my best friend forever. I don’t want to be the way my mom was with me and pretty much never trust anyone and constantly assume the absolute worst of all other parents. But the only way to begin trusting anyone is to spend some time with them.

Two years since we lost our friend

When we found out our friend Raj passed away due to seizures of a still-unknown cause, we were beyond shocked. I felt sick to my stomach for more than a day, especially knowing that his son had just been born a couple weeks ago, and his wife was still recovering from childbirth and breastfeeding. To this day, Raj is one of the most kind-hearted, gentle, warm, gregarious humans I have ever known. If there is one person who seemed to always, always assume the very best intentions of anyone, it would definitely have been him. Two years after death, his wife is still struggling to fully accept he is gone, but his spirit still lives on through her and their son, now over two years old.

Raj’s death was also shocking and scary to me because when we found out he had died in 2021, it was shortly after I found out I was pregnant. At that time, I was pregnant with twins. That week, one of the twins “vanished” (vanishing twin syndrome), and I went through my own downward spiral that was separate from Raj’s death. I thought about how Raj and his wife had brought this tiny human into the world, thinking they’d raise him and any future children together, but instead, so soon after their baby was born, the baby’s dad died, and mom would be left alone without a life partner to help. Raj would never be able to experience the joy of watching his son grow up. And I thought about how absolutely devastating that was and how petrifying it would be for me if I were in the same situation.

I think about Raj all the time. But when I think of him, I still realize that in his short life, he probably lived a much fuller one than those double his age because of his positive outlook and all-around warmth and kindness. It would be hard to imagine anyone knowing him who did not like him or appreciate how good of a human he was. We could all benefit from trying to embody a little Raj in our own lives.

Redefining “regular” meetups with friends

Today, a good friend of mine came over and we went out for an early dinner so that we could get back in time before Kaia went to bed. My friend hadn’t seen Kaia since October, so clearly Kaia had grown and matured quite a bit, so it was cute to see Kaia’s slight shyness around her and eventually how she opened up and became very bubbly and happy to get interaction with my friend.

When we were at dinner tonight, my friend said that since COVID and the global pandemic, she’s barely seen anyone regularly outside of me and maybe two other friends. Everyone else she saw were just friends at work, which doesn’t really count because…. well, that’s work. I looked at her, feeling puzzled.

“But how could you say you see me regularly?” I responded. “Maybe before 2022 and before, but I haven’t seen you in four months!”

But that’s what she meant: seeing people “regularly” since the pandemic began is being redefined. When you used to think seeing people regularly meant 2-3 times a month, now, ‘regularly’ means more like once every 3-4 months. She said that it feels like it takes people a greater effort to see friends now since the pandemic, and she also feels that… not just because of the pandemic, but also because she’s relocated to Staten Island, which she’s realized really does feel like an entire world away.

Solid foods competition among babies

As of today, Kaia has already been exposed to 64 different types of solid food, and we have not yet reached her 8-month birthday, or two full months of solid foods exposure. Given that food, and a variety of food, is integral to my being, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I was going to focus on this for my baby. But I shared this with a friend, who has a baby who is about 4 months older than Kaia, and she was really shocked that our baby was eating that many types of food. She started feeling bad, saying that her baby, who is half Mexican and half Bangladeshi, is really behind in the food arena and “eats like a white baby, which we need to start changing ASAP.” So today, she sent me a video of her son’s first time at almost 1-year of age, finally eating spiced dal with rice. Before this, he’d never been exposed to many spices at all. And in the video, it was pretty clear he was not a fan and started shaking his head rapidly and pushing the spoon away.

I didn’t mean to start a competition or a “keeping up with the Jones’s” mentality with solid foods, but apparently, I have incidentally had that effect now.

The big sister I never had

One of my good friends from my last company has been an invaluable support to me since before I even got pregnant and while I was on my IVF journey. She and her husband have graciously and generously given us literally a boatload of lightly used baby items, ranging from big, essential items such as our bassinet to our baby lounger to our car seat cozy to swaddle blankets. These are items that we have literally used every single day since the baby has come home. And instead of getting us a baby gift, she and her husband gifted Chris and me a delicious food delivery order from a food startup that tries to support refugees and spreads the word about their diverse cultures represented in New York City.

On top of that, she has given me a ton of reassurance every step of the way. For example, two days after the baby was born, I noticed that there were hard lumps on both of my breasts, and I immediately just assumed that I was experiencing clogged milk ducts. I freaked out a little bit, took a bunch of sunflower lecithin pills, and proceeded to massage them out with heat. It actually hurt, too. I told Chris, and of course he was sympathetic and tried to tend to the baby as much as possible while I kept on massaging my breasts. I was already getting scared that I was going to get mastitis, and I texted her to tell her. She told me that given it was so close after giving birth, there was no way that I could already have a clogged milk duct. The lumps that I was experiencing were likely just signs of my milk coming in, as that often times is what it feels like. It can also feel like your breasts are just getting rock hard. These are all good signs, she insisted to me. Your milk is coming in! I was immediately relieved and got really excited. I really wanted to be able to breast-feed my child and know for a fact that she was actually getting milk when she was at my breast.

Last week, she knew that I was feeling overwhelmed with Chris back at work, so she offered to come over to help relieve me by helping with bottle feeds and anything else that I might need help with. She proactively offered to do everything, from chopping vegetables to even cleaning my apartment. There was no way I was going to let her clean my apartment, so I asked if she could help with bottle feeding the baby. She knew that I was missing my Asian greens, so she went to Flushing the morning she came over and picked up four different types of Asian vegetables just for me, on top of stopping by one of my absolute favorite Chinese restaurants to get me some shengjianbao, or fried Shanghainese dumplings, as well as HK style noodles. I felt really overwhelmed by her generosity and kindness. It was like she was trying to take care of me when she knew that I was feeling inadequate and in need of some TLC. When she came over, we caught up and talked about a lot of things, mostly around motherhood, balancing child care and having a child in general with having an actual life. I often times look at her like the big sister I never had; I am so grateful that I have her.

Visiting friends and mom’s comparisons

When you live in a city as exciting and cosmopolitan as New York, you inevitably will have guests and visitors come from all over the place not just to see you, but to see and experience the city. One of my friends came to visit today with her now husband, and since they were coming over to grace me with their presence, I decided that since I was still feeling good, I’d make one of her favorite childhood cookies, the snickerdoodle, and send her off with some. Unfortunately, the Serious Eats recipe did not come out as I’d hoped (immediately out of the oven and a few hours later they were good, but passed that, they didn’t retain their soft, chewiness the way snickerdoodles are supposed to.

The two of them had been engaged since 2014, around the time Chris and I got engaged, and so my mom used to always say annoying things about how at some point, they would get married, never tell me, and not invite me to the wedding. “You can’t just assume that just because you invited someone to your wedding that they will invite you to theirs,” she started. “Maybe they don’t have the money to invite you, or maybe they just don’t see you as close enough to invite to their wedding.”

I thought about these constant jabs when my friend revealed that the two of them had gotten married about two weeks ago, in her parents’ backyard with just immediate family in attendance. Great, I thought, now my mom will be smug because she was right. Though it wasn’t like some grand affair that I was just left out of as my mother would want to imagine.

Not only did they get married in the last month, but they’ve also bought a home in the Bay Area. Talk about a double whammy in just one month.

I told my mom this later in the evening, which excited her to no end. She wants all my friends (at least, the ones she knows) to get married, have kids, and “settle down.” “Did you know that she’s your prettiest friend? I used to think (insert another friend’s name) was the prettiest. But no, SHE is the prettiest of them all!”

Yes, because I rank all my friends by how good looking they are. My mother really cannot help herself from comparing, as comparing people is one of her absolute favorite things to do, which annoys me to no end. Why can’t someone just be pretty or smart and that’s it? Why do they always need to be compared to someone else….?!

Unexpected Facebook direct message

It was around midday today when I was working at my desk, and a Facebook direct message popped up onto my phone. It was from someone who I was good friends with, perhaps potentially even a little bit more, in high school, who I hadn’t seen since high school graduation in June 2004, so 17+ years now. He said he was in New York for a quick trip and was actually leaving tomorrow and realized I was here, so he asked if he could see me. It was a happy, pleasant surprise, so I checked my calendar and suggested we meet up this early evening for tea.

We met up and chatted for about an hour, and it felt so funny but happy. I have lots of fond memories of hanging out with this old friend from high school. He had feelings for me and expressed them openly, and while we did hang out frequently and even went to a winter ball event together, I never really reciprocated or acted on anything since I knew he wasn’t really a fit for me both emotionally or intellectually. That sounds kind of snooty, but I knew what I wanted, and he was definitely not the person for me. It also didn’t really help that there were plenty of rumors during high school that he was closeted and likely gay (and, well, since then, as an adult, has “come out” and is now openly homosexual). Since graduation, we’d had zero contact. The most “contact” we’d ever had was “liking” or “reacting” to each other’s Facebook posts, and that was really it. So it was a total surprise when he actually reached out to meet up.

It was like a trip down memory lane, as corny as that sounds. We talked high level about things that have happened since high school. He admitted he’d been closely following pretty much ALL my Facebook posts since high school, as he thought about me often and wondered how I was doing. He knew about my boyfriends, my travels, my wedding and current partner, my brother’s passing, all my AFSP fundraising. He knew I was still closely in contact with two of my best friends from high school, who also used to be friends with him.

“When I look back at all the guys and girls I used to date or had a thing for, you always stand out to me,” he said, thoughtfully. “Even though we never really officially dated, you were always special to me, so I think about you often. I just hoped you were doing well.”

It was touching to hear this, but it also felt strange at the same time… to think that someone who was once close to you in the past but has kept quite the distance still thinks about you often, keeping a laser focus on all your social media posts, and still holds you close to their heart. It’s not like he was never able to directly message me or reach out in some way; it would have been so easy to do that given Facebook, but he just chose not to. I barely even knew what to say in response; I just smiled and said I appreciated his thoughts and well wishes.

He said that since his sister is living up in Toronto now that he’d have more opportunities to come to the East Coast, so he’d like to come to New York more often. I couldn’t believe it when he shared that this was not only his first trip to New York, but also his very first time on the east coast of the U.S.! I’m not sure we have much in common, but it would still be nice to see him for old time’s sake moving forward.

If I thought I would see him again, though, I never imagined it would be when I was pregnant. It was pretty hilarious and he seemed pretty happy for me. Everyone is happily looking forward to Pookie Bear’s arrival.

Friends for nearly a quarter of a century

Tonight, I was on a Zoom chat with two of my close friends. The conversation mostly revolved around my pregnancy and little baby coming soon, as well as my friend having her in-laws come for about two months after a very long pandemic period of not seeing each other, as well as random other family topics.

When we were growing up, we used to talk about how fun it would be if we all had kids around the same time so that we could become moms together and raise our children together. They’d have play dates and become good friends. We’d spend all this family/friend time together. I guess that isn’t really happening since I decided to move away. One of the three of us is never planning to have kids. So that picture we used to have in our minds isn’t really happening. It makes me wonder what kind of connection, if any, our kids will have to each other: will they remember seeing each other after long periods of time not seeing each other? Or will they just be some random distant person who is easily forgotten?

Regardless of what happens, I’m still grateful for their friendships and for how far I’ve gotten in this pregnancy to date. It still feels unreal that I’m almost 35 weeks into this pregnancy, and Pookie Bear still appears to be thriving. I feel extremely lucky.