It’s funny how sometime you say one thing while thinking another. Like when Feng announced that his parents had invited us to RandomDistantRelative’s fiftieth’s birthday party.
“Why would I want to spend Saturday evening with your parents and people I barely know?” I thought. But somehow, I heard myself replying “yeah, sure.”
I must have been in a good mood.
“You’ll see,” Feng assured me. “Basically, it’s going to be a night off for us. My parents will look after Mark, we won’t have to do a thing but show up.”
My in-laws said they were picking us up at 5 p.m.
At 4 p.m., I took Mark to the park to unleash the dragon. At 5:30 p.m., I gave him a light snack.
At 6:00 p.m., my in-laws finally showed up and berated me because Mark was only wearing one pair of pants instead of the multiple layers they insist to dress him in. Feng checked the address on Google Map while my father-in-law gave him extensive step-by-step directions on a paper map.
Feng, Mark and I took our car and my in-laws drove theirs. My father-in-law, still terrified we would get lost in Ottawa, drove at 40 km/h.
We parked in front of RandomDistantRelative’s house and stepped in. Mark had met him once or twice before but he didn’t know his girlfriend. And for some reason, he didn’t like her—he started crying as soon as he saw her.
I spent the first thirty minutes getting Mark comfortable in the house, and the following half hour preventing him from breaking anything.
Which was just fine because we had nothing else to do—our hosts hadn’t started cooking.
I know I sound very rude. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t expect to be fed on the spot. But it was hard to keep Mark busy while our hosts were frying veggies in the kitchen.
“Feng,” I warned at 7:30 p.m. “Mark isn’t going to last long. He is tired.”
I wasn’t worried about him being hungry, though. First he had a snack before he left and second, he kept on munching on the salted crackers on the table.
At 7:45 p.m., I took the crackers out of his reach. “Okay, enough Mark.”
At 7:50 p.m., my father-in-law handed him the entire box of crackers I had just put away.
At 8:15 p.m., I helped RandomDistantRelative’s girlfriend set the table.
At 8:30 p.m., I sat Mark at the table. He spotted the stir-fry broccolis and asked for some (yes, Mark loves broccoli—like me). I tried to keep him quiet since RandomDistantRelative was still cooking and it seemed impolite to start eating without him.
At 8:45 p.m., RandomDistantRelative asked me if I wanted a knife and fork. Ah ah. “No,” I replied in Chinese, “chopsticks are fine.”
At 8:50 p.m., everybody but Mark and I had a bowl of rice in front of them. Apparently, white people (and by extension half-white kids) didn’t eat rice. Never mind. I gave Mark a bit of broccoli to keep him busy but he wasn’t really hungry anyway (cf. the box of crackers).
At 8:55 p.m., I told my father-in-law to stop giving him steamed red bean bread because Mark wasn’t eating it, he was just giving it back to me (at least, he wasn’t throwing it to the floor, good boy!).
At 9:00 p.m., I told people to please, stop trying to feed Mark. It’s not a pet but a kid.
At 9:05 p.m., I rushed to the bathroom with Mark, who threw up. See, this is what happens when you overfeed an overexcited kid.
At 9:10 p.m. I gave up on eating and just sat there, keeping an eye on Mark.
At 9:30 p.m., I helped clearing the table. “Feng… he is getting tired,” I whispered. “But we have to eat the cake,” Feng protested. “It would be rude to leave now!”
Eating cake is usually a strong motivation. But unfortunately, my in-laws had brought the cake and we don’t share the same taste. The cake, fresh out of Costco bakery, sat in a huge carton box and consisted of layers and layers of sickening-sweet icing. Not my kind of cake.
So we sat around.
But of course, before eating the cake, RandomDistantRelative had to open his presents, which took another good twenty minutes.
Then we had to put the candles on the cake. And light them up. And blow them. And cut the cake.
This is where I earned my spot in etiquette hell.
See, I wasn’t annoyed with our hosts. They don’t have kids so they don’t know the routine. Feng’s parents, on the other side, do. And I was very annoyed with them because of that—they should have known better. They know that keeping Mark quiet and happy takes a lot of energy. They know that he has to take a bath and calm down before going to sleep. They know that he is only 18 months old and that his patience and attention span is limited.
I was really pissed off. And tired and hungry too.
Eventually, the cake was eaten.
“Er… we are going to go,” Feng eventually announced.
“Already? Wait a bit, we will drive back together!” my father-in-law said.
Thanks God we had taken our car.
So, a night off for us, eh?