My cousin had his baby yesterday, a little Boy (or rather his wife did). The majority of my friends and family at the moment are either pregnant, have just had a baby, or are trying for one. Is it something in the air or have I simply got to an age where this is just what people decide to do?
In addition to her fever, and eye infection, Eve has caught a cold (the more observant will now realise she has reached her quota of 3). The cold brings with it lots of snot and a little cough-cum-vomit. As a result of the latter, Eve has now lost her voice. So now I have a child who is really grumpy, but whose scream comes out as a rasping hack, making her even more pissed off that she can't express her anger. The sad thing for her is that, although she feels awful and wants us all to know about it, the Boy and I just keep giggling at her because she sounds so silly. Bad us.
The Boy is one of the fittest men of his age I know. He does a lot of exercise, eats healthily, and doesn't drink too much (except on occasion!). However, he is a bit pathetic when it comes to his health.
Of course all men get "man flu" (i.e. a small sniffle that means he takes to his bed), but he always has some ailment or other. After about 5 years together I realised that, generally, these are quite legitimate issues. He has, for example, put his back out a few times. He has torn some muscles, had a motorbike crash. He has asthma and tends to get chest infections. This has led to my theory which we both now recognise as the quota of 3.
The Boy always has 3 ailments. Just when something gets fixed or gets better, something else goes wrong. Many are the times when he has wondered why his wrist hurts, foot aches or some other random problem - and I check how many things were wrong before the latest problem and it would always be 2, with the latest unexplained issue taking him back up to quota. He has pretty much run out of things to catch, but has two permanently torn ligaments in his fingers now, thereby ensuring that 2 of the quota are always filled. When Eve was born there was a bit of a joke as to whether she would have my constitution or his. So far all was looking good (i.e. mine), until this week.
Eve has had reflux since she was about 4 weeks old, but it has gradually been getting better so I was fully expecting when we went to the doctors yesterday that she would be able to come off the drugs she has been taking for it.
Except Eve is taking after her father, although starting small and going for a quota of 1 to begin with. The day before we went to the doctors, as if knowing she would be given the all clear on the reflux, she got conjunctivitus, and now she has a fever too just to make damn sure that if the eye drops work she has something else to be going on with.
Like father, like daughter - in the most unexpected ways.
I must not be jealous of Eve's relationship with her nanny. I must not be jealous of the way she always giggles when she sees the Boy and never at me. I must not be jealous of the expat women wandering around Central pushing their children in buggies while I dash out between meetings to grab a sandwich. I must not be jealous of my single or un-childed friends who do all sorts of glam and exciting things, staying out very late, while I sing heads, shoulders, knees and toes for the thousandth time. I must not be jealous of those celeb-mummies who, unlike me, don't still look pregnant 5 months after having their baby (and who can make it to the gym each day).
It has been a tough week. One of those when I feel I have done nothing very well.
My favourite shop in Hong Kong is Lane Crawford. It is wonderfully glam, stocks all my favourite designers, sometimes has things in my size, and has a habit of inviting me to champagne and shopping evenings. On Saturday morning, while the Boy went rowing, I popped in to buy a housewarming gift for some friends, taking Eve along with me.
LC is normally staffed with, as my friend describes them, po-faced miserable assistants. They are dressed head to toe in black and talk into those funny earpiece things better suited to FBI men and actors on 24. Whenever you ask for a bigger size they almost invariably scowl and scurry off before returning with a size 6 that would barely cover my thighs. So, I was not expecting them to take too well to Eve.
However, I think I may have now found the flashest crèche in Hong Kong. Never before has Eve had so much fun and so much attention. As I walked through the shop, every assistant, without exception, scurried over to say hello and play with her. She, of course being a little tart and loving the attention, would happily chat and giggle back at them prompting more attention. They happily held Eve while I tried on some shoes, were fine as she chewed firmly on the Prada sunglasses I was trying on, and didn't even mind when she posseted up some milk on a dress and their sofa (and it was quite an expensive dress too). The gay male assistants were the best and I practically had to wrestle Eve away from one of them.
As we left, Eve insisted on holding the handle on one of the bags so we trotted out, all SATC-like, with her proudly brandishing a bag from one of HK's most expensive shops.
One of the surprising (or perhaps not) sides of being a mother is that way in which any news story or even vague possibility of a child being hurt cuts to my core. The Boy and I watched The Piano a couple of weeks ago and I was relatively unmoved by much of it - before anyone assumes I am a cold and heartless person, I studied the holocaust and have been to the holocaust museum in Israel, nothing is more moving and disturbing than that - except the point in the film with the woman who had suffocated her baby to keep her quiet when the Nazis came looking for the family. I felt physically sick and needed a break from the film at that point.
When you start noticing, the news is full of children being hurt and abused. At the more extreme end is the Austrian cellar, but even here in Hong Kong there are stories of neglect when a mother decides to spend the weekend gambling in Macau leaving her children at home. Children are such vulnerable little things really.
It was brought home to me yesterday when H told me that she had been caught in the rain and popped into the flat of her former employer with Eve (they live just down the hill from us and right by the supermarket). I knew she had been there once before to show them Eve, and I was fine with this, but they then gave Eve a little gift. This, and H going there again yesterday led me to suspect that she is there more often than perhaps I know.
Now, probably they are lovely people. They have children of their own and H's sister still works for them. However, someone I don’t know spending time with my child, and her spending time in their home makes me feel very uneasy. All the nasty possibilities about what people can do to children come flooding into my mind. But then I found myself feeling neurotic and bad for being so mistrusting - after all, people in the UK leave their children with childminders and daycare all the time.
After discussing it with the Boy, and feeling a bit sick, today I told H that I would prefer it if she didn't go round, that I felt uneasy with Eve spending time with people we don’t know. She smiled that knowing mother smile of hers and said that she understood and no problem. Of course, she could still go there and I just wouldn't know about it. But if I trust her with Eve then I should trust her to respect my wishes.
Last night found me at the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, for whom the Boy and I row, celebrating the acceptance to be a member of a very good friend. I went to the gym straight from work and then to the bar, so had with me in a little cool bag the milk I had expressed during the day. I have done this before and just asked them to pop it in the fridge for me because my ice block thingy is getting a bit less effective at the end of the day.
Normally not a problem.
Except they were very busy last night and, as the result of the noise and a few language issues, they gave me a champagne ice bucket full of ice to put them in. So we sat with two small bottles of milk bobbing around in the ice bucket on the table.
Following rapidly on the heels of my competitive mother post, I had my first ever view of competitive fathering over the weekend.
The Boy doesn't know that many people with children, and nobody with a baby the same age as Eve. However, at the weekend we went to spend an afternoon with my very good friend P, her little boy (who is 11 days younger than Eve) and her partner, S.
P and I didn't know each other very well before we were pregnant, but have become firm friends since. It was P who I got stranded, and rescued, with when we were both 4 months pregnant and out in a canoe. We are both pretty relaxed about our little ones and often turn to each other for a bit of reassurance that things are OK.
However, the Boys (hers and mine) had never met before.
Initially there was a bit of males circling each other as they tried to suss each other out. P and I watched on, bemused, as both Boys clutched their respective babies and tried to outdo each other in terms of doing things with them. The Boy fed Eve, S played with his baby. S showed that his baby could catch a ball and kick it (sort of), the Boy showed that Eve could stand (with a lot of help). S showed how his baby could put his feet in his mouth, the Boy encouraged Eve to chat to us all. S sat with his baby on the side of the pool, the Boy made sure Eve went paddling (and got her bum wet).
P and I watched this delightful show of male posturing with babies, bemused, and knocked back a couple of glasses of wine.
As we left, S was trying to teach his baby to stand and once we got home the Boy started trying to get Eve to play with her feet.
Competitive fathers. Possibly the only thing worse than competitive mothers.
I defy almost any parent to say that they have never once compared their child to another. Even at this age, at my baby group, we compare how long they sleep for, how much they eat, whether they sit or stand, how long for and with what kind of assistance. A lot of this is driven by the need for reassurance, but there is also a hint of competition in it. However, this pales into insignificance compared to a certain Miss M of Hong Kong.
In the riveting Tots2Teens supplement in the SCMP this week is a profile on an 11 year old girl. Under the heading of "gifted children" the Miss M of the article seems to excel at everything. She is at performance level for the violin, has won all sorts of prizes in music contests, is top of her class, won a Putonghua storytelling competition and numerous other awards. All very impressive. But then you read between the lines. After she finishes school, Miss M attends music lessons or "interest classes" until 7pm when she goes home for dinner and then does her homework. She first found she loved the violin when she attended a concert aged 4 and then begged her mother to take her to lessons. Two things wrong here. Firstly, I know of no normal 4 year old who could sit still long enough to be taken to a concert. And, secondly, 4 year olds don't beg, they scream and yell. Apparently her greatest disappointment was missing the 60th Hong Kong Schools of Music Festival because of a flu scare, and she has "pages and pages of certificates kept in a thick box file". When exactly does this child see her friends? Play outside? Watch TV? Just be, well, an 11 year old. Then you read more, and find out that her mother gave up her career after having Miss M and "devotes most of her time taking Miss M to different courses". Suddenly it all makes sense.
Finally, "While she finds her day hectic, Miss M enjoys every session and never complains".
The whole article left me feeling very sad for her.
Yummy Mummy works for a bank. Banks are not, in the present climate, very happy places. Although the bank I work for has not had the largest write downs in the market, that is reserved for the large Yank tank that is Citi, we are the next best. Although I work for part of the bank that is still doing very well, it was inevitable that Yummy Mummy would get hit in some way by the navel gazing and restructuring.
So, this week I found out that my unit and job may be changing, or it may not. The problem being decisions have been made on high but the ramifications have not yet been worked out. People are worried about their jobs, what they will be doing and as always in these situations looking for new ones. A year ago this would have been me.
However, as I sat at home in shorts and t-shirt listening to the announcements that my world is about to change, possibly, or not, I found myself not really worrying at all. Aside from the practicalities that it is highly unlikely I would be booted out and, even if I was, jobs in my specialism are easy to come by, the real reason I didn't care that much is because things just look different now. Where there was once the ambitious career girl, there is now someone who loves her job and loves having it but I now find that my life is much more than that and no longer is the job defining who or what I am and will achieve in my life.
That role now falls to Eve.
So, while my colleagues were scurrying around in a panic, I shut down my laptop at 7, played with Eve, read her a story and opened a nice bottle of red once she was asleep.
Seminal moment in my return-to-fitness-post-baby effort occurred yesterday, I did a race.
Well, sort of.
It was a time trial lasting about 50 minutes, in my least favourite class of boat (ocean going double scull - like rowing a tank through treacle), with the husband of a very good friend who was too injured to do the race in his outrigger canoe. Sadly the conditions and a couple of physical issues (like me having had a baby less than 4 months ago) were against us and we didn't perform to our full potential. In fact, I was a bit stroppy about the whole thing because given a bit more training and fitness I think we could win rather than coming half way down the pack.
But, it was my first race, and I was properly tired last night, and I have blisters on my hands today to prove it.
Only have I just managed to deaden the guilt of (pick one, two or any of the following), BPA bottles, pollution, going back to work, breast feeding, starting to exercise and spending time away from Eve etc etc etc and up pops a new one in the form of the TV.
There is no doubt that, even at 17 weeks (as she turned yesterday) the TV has an allure for Eve. In the way of Boys and their toys, when we moved to this flat the Boy ditched the old, and perfectly servicable, TV and bought a flat screen black behemouth that stares aggressively at me from the wall. In the great scheme of TVs in HK, and we once ended up at a colleague's place where the boys marveled at the TV and surround sound while the women shouted over the noise, it is pretty inoffensive but it still dominates one wall. We rarely have the TV on when Eve is around. A side street to my main guilt about not spending every waking hour with Eve is the idea that when we do she should have our full attention.
However, sometimes it is on when she is around and she is magnetically drawn to the moving, colourful pictures and sounds that it emits. Whereas she is normally a chirpy, squirmy, chatting thing - when she is in front of the TV she is silent and still. For this reason I can see why people use it to babysit their babies, but it also slightly horrifies me that even at this age it has such a behavioural effect.
Therefore, we are pretty much sticking to the no TV rule until such a time that her language and attention is good enough to actually interact rather than just stare.
The exception to this is sport. Earlier this week she watched the extra time of the Chelsea vs. Liverpool champions league game with me, and yesterday Man United thrashing West Ham with the Boy. She will, of course, be watching the Olympic rowing come the summer.