This Odd Number

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Mark, May 2015

Mark, May 2015

Three is an odd number. Inevitably, alliances are formed, bribes are offered, protests are fomented and plans to overthrow the authority and seize power are made.

A Games of Throne season spoiler?

No, just life at home.

Feng, Mark and I. Three strong-minded protagonists willing to do whatever it takes to achieve personal goals—complete a work assignment, watch a game on TV in peace or bring a huge plastic truck into the bathtub.

Feng and I are an unlikely couple, two pieces of a jigsaw—one made in France and the other engineered in China—put together by luck. We met thousands of kilometers from our respective homes and the initial odds in Vegas probably wouldn’t have been in our favour. Well, take that, probability rules! Three languages, three cultures, ten years and close to thirty countries visited later, here we are in Ottawa with a kid.

We had always been fairly independent of each other. Some couples share everything in their relationship—thoughts, friends, activities, bank accounts, interests and the past. We never had that “comfortable” cocoon—I would have found it suffocating. We agree on the big picture and share the same life philosophy, but we also give each other a lot of latitude, including the freedom to choose what’s best for each of us. I trust Feng to make good choices and he trusts me.

Keeping some freedom was probably needed given our very different cultural backgrounds. Feng is a scientist, I’m the creative one. He is logical, I’m emotional; he likes cooler weather, I like hot climates; I’m a sea person and he likes land best; I read while he watches movies; I crave bread and dairy products while he enjoys rice and meat. The list goes on and on.

Yes, we are different, but we also have plenty in common—we are both self-reliant, liberal (philosophically speaking), open to change, we love traveling, we enjoy the same music and have the same ironic and caustic sense of humour. We’ve learned from each other too. My money management skills are almost as good as the average Chinese toddler now (not bad for a Westerner) and he can kind of understand art.

In short, we are more complementary than symbiotic.

Eh, whatever works.

Then came Mark, our little earthquake.

I knew way more about babies than Feng. I’m the oldest child, a few of my friends had kids and I carried Mark for nine months—all this kind of gave me a head start in parenting.

However, since this is the fucking 21st century, Feng was also involved as the father.

Newsflash. When someone is sharing the duties, that someone is also entitled to an opinion. Unfortunately, I had missed the memo.

You know these cute couple finishing each other’s sentences?

Well this was not us.

Every single time. I’d start saying “I think we should…” and Feng would suggest the very exact thing I was trying to avoid. And vice-versa.

“I think we should…”

“…—put him to sleep,” Feng would conclude, as if it went without saying.

“What? No! I was about to say I think we should skip his nap today!” I’d protest.

And then we would argue.

These were not the kind of argument where one person is right and the other one is obviously delusional. There is no perfect recipe to raise a kid, no perfect answer. For instance, when Mark was a baby, Feng didn’t want to feed him right before bedtime because he argued that sleeping with a full stomach was not comfortable. On the other hand, I wanted to give him a bigger bottle at night because I was afraid he would get hungry and wake up. It was a matter of choices, perspectives.

Enter the two pairs of in-laws, our unofficial “advisors” who also don’t have a thing in common. My parents would let Mark run around naked while Feng’s parents insist on him wearing at least three layers of clothes. My in-laws think my parents starve Mark, my parents consider forcing food upon a kid is cruel. The list goes on and on. Their advice, passed on to us, led to more arguments.

I think we argued more in the past two years then we ever did. At the heart of the arguments was Mark, always Mark. We had different expectations, different methods. Sure, I had my experience with kids and the proverbial mother’s instinct—yes, there is such thing. Sometime, I just know. Can’t explain, but I know. On the other hand, I was sleep-deprived, occasionally depressed and I didn’t have the benefit of hindsight—Feng did provide a new perspective, except I tended to see it as an insult to my parenting skills. And Feng can be stubborn too, he is often convinced that he knows best.

Parenting is tough, and when you don’t know (which is like 99% of the time), you tend to rely on your own experience and education. Chinese kids are treated like little emperors and given a lot of leeway until they enter the academic world (where they are expected to stop goofing around and get good grades). French kids are expected to behave and not bother adults too much. Canadian kids are, according to Feng and I, overprotected.

So, it’s often two against one: Feng and I against Mark (“No, I’m sorry, you can’t drive the car”), Feng and Mark against me (“He doesn’t need to eat another candy, that’s enough!”) or Mark and I against Feng (“He can jump from the rock, he does it all the time with me”).

It takes time to be a strong team.

I have faith.

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

6 Comments

  1. Lol, j’adore quand tu racontes des morceaux de vie! L’enfant remet pas mal de choses en perspective, quel que soit le couple que l’on forme. Y’a plein de couples fusionnels qui ne s’entendent pas sur ce qui touche aux enfants. Parce qu’on a pas été élevés pareil, parce qu’on imagine ses enfants différemment, parce qu’on n’accède pas aux mêmes renseignements (sur la psychologie d’un enfant de tel âge par ex). On se dispute parfois au sujet de Billie, mais pas exactement comme vous je pense. On a bénéficié du fait d’être les derniers nés : nos frangins ont eu des enfants bien avant nous, on les a observés, accompagnés, on a décidé que certaines choses avaient l’air cool et que d’autres n’auraient pas le droit de citer chez nous. Du coup, quand elle est arrivée, on avait déjà une sorte de conception commune d’éducation. On se dispute pas vraiment à son propos mais à cause d’elle, parce qu’il arrive qu’elle nous pousse à bout par exemple, parce que c’est dur de se consacrer à son couple quand on a un enfant, etc. Par contre, je me dis souvent que je serais incapable de l’elever seule : il a pris le relais ce matin parce que j’avais envie de l’étriper après sa crise de colère qui a fini par un verre de lait jeté par terre, je lui ai proposé d’aller bouquiner un peu en rentrant de la garderie hier parce que la petite avait passé les 20 minutes de trajet avec lui à hurler, etc.

    • Pareil ici, on se passe le relais quand l’un des deux craque. C’est pas facile de garder son calme et de faire preuve de patience quand tu as toi aussi ta journée dans le dos, des trucs à faire, etc. Et puis il y a des choses qui me mettent hors de moi (Mark qui joue avec la nourriture, qui casse un truc exprès) et d’autres que Feng ne supporte pas (Mark qui hurle… moi, ses colères ne m’impressionnent pas du tout). Bref, on a tous nos points forts/points faibles. Par contre, je trouve qu’à se passer le relais pour des questions d’efficacité et de santé mentale, ben du coup on ne se voit presque plus. C’est chiant.

      • Et c’est là où “faire manger le gamin avant” prend tout son sens je trouve. Nous avant c’était jamais, le repas tous ensemble c’est important bla bla bla. Maintenant c’est au moins une fois par semaine et/ou quand elle est trop pénible. C’est bon pour notre santé mentale lol

        Sinon, je télétravaille aujourd’hui, or ton blogue est enregistré sur mon ordi du bureau. Je me souvenais de Correo es mi destino, même si au début j’ai tapé “is mi destino”, on sent tout de suite mes origines hispaniques. Et comme ça sortait pas de suite j’ai voulu taper ton nom, or je me souvenais pas de ton nom de famille. Sache que Juliette + correo es mi destino, ça amène chez toi donc 😉

        • Mon nom de famille est galère, c’est Giannesini 😉 Mais je suis flattée que 1) tu me cherches 2) que Google me trouve!

          Nous, le problème des repas en famille, c’est que Feng est moi travaillons le soir, les horaires tordus des pigistes… pas trop le temps de s’attabler en couple quoi.

  2. So, so true! Parenting is just so nebulous. There’s no right or wrong, which is so frustrating. I remember how much work it was just to name our kids – you know, you always have your “dream names” in mind and then it’s a shocker to find out someone else gets an equal – and totally different – opinion.

    It’s my opinion that both sets of parents dabbled too much in my sister’s marriage, which ended in divorce. So we’ve been careful to try to keep parental advice out of it – so there’s only two (major) opinions, at least. That’s more than enough!

    • Strangely enough, Mark’s name didn’t cause any argument. Shocking, I know, I was fully expecting disagreeing on that one! Feng suggested it and I loved it right away. Family didn’t comment it negatively (at least not that I know!).

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