Ottawa, February 2015

When we were travelling and ate out pretty much every night, our meals followed a predictable pattern. We would sit down in a restaurant at the end of the day. “I eat!” Mark would claim. A basket of bread rolls or some cheese would be brought to the table, and Mark would wolf it down.

“Finish,” he would state two minutes later. “Mark go!”

“Mark, we haven’t even started eating,” I would sigh. “Our food isn’t ready yet. You sit here. You’ve finished, but we are not.”

“Finish!” he would insist.

At this stage, I knew that unless something catches his attention—French fries on Feng’s plate, the TV, another kid, people smiling at him—dinner was over. We had to eat as fast as we could while chasing Mark around the restaurant or cleaning up his mess because when Mark is bored, nothing is more fun than shredding paper napkins with a knife or trying to balance a glass of water on the edge of the table.

It sucked. Forget about enjoying some good food and air con. Forget about eating, most days. Mark is hungry, he eats, and once he is done what we are doing isn’t even relevant to him—we have to move on.

Children are selfish little monsters.

I can’t even be mad at Mark—although some nights, I did get mad at him and try to make him understand that we have needs too—because young kids naturally assume the world revolves around them.

Even though I know this behaviour is normal, it’s very draining.

I spend a lot of time and energy providing for Mark. I pack snacks, wash his clothes and make sure he is dressed for the weather, I wash him and change him as needed, I entertain him, keep him safe, and clean up after him… he always comes first.

But unfortunately, this is “behind the scene” work. As far as Mark knows, he is my job (and Feng’s) and we have no life outside him.

“Daddy, mommy, dodo!” he shrieks at bedtime. Uh… sorry, Mark, but we have different bedtimes. Also, last time I checked, you didn’t have to do the dishes, clean the kitchen and complete work assignments. And maybe I have plans with your dad, ya know?

Most days, I feel like I start the day as a giant yummy chocolate cake fresh out of the oven. But hour after hour, minute after minute, Mark grabs bites of me. And at the end of the day, nothing is left but useless stale crumbs. “Need… shower…” I grumble around 7 p.m.,

“Mommy shower! Mark shower!”

“Uh, uh, I’m showering alone.”

But I know that if Feng doesn’t pay attention to Mark, two minutes later, I will hear the bathroom door open.

“Mommy shower!”

I’m trying to teach Mark that if he hits me, it hurts. That I would rather him not to step on my feet—seriously, Mark, I’m not a stepping stool. And if he could stop sitting right on my bladder… it wasn’t comfortable when he was in my womb, and the 13-kilo weight is now frankly painful—sit on my lap, or better, a chair!

But if I take a seat, Mark wants it. If I eat something, he wants to taste it. If I drink something, I have to share—unless it’s “mommy’s juice,” where he just pretends to drink my coffee but drools all over the lid. If I put cream on, he wants some. He even steals my gloves, my hat and occasionally my shoes.

And I feel like a complete idiot when I moan “Mark… it’s miiine…” It takes me back to twenty-some years ago when my sister was a toddler and I was the six-year-older big sister. I was too old to actually fight with her—even though I knew it wouldn’t be a fair fight—yet I was really annoyed when she was going through my stuff.

I mean, I want to teach Mark to share, so shouldn’t lead by example?

The problem is, this is not a fair trade. I don’t want to finish Mark’s apple juice, I’d rather have a coffee.

Empathy is a sense that has to be nurtured, and even though Mark is too young to predict and understand other people’s emotions, I try to work on this.

“See the kid crying? Maybe he will be happy if you bring him a toy.”

“Look, the dogs are sleeping. Maybe you want to use your quiet voice and let them dodo.

It will take months, or years for Mark to develop skills like patience, logic, problem-solving, tenacity, etc. But empathy is at the top of my list because I can’t help thinking we all need a solid dose of it for the world to fare better.

Putting yourself in someone’s shoes is the best way to, if not accept, understand people’s choices and reactions.

“Mommy tired?”

I’m yawning. Mark noticed.

We will get there.

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  1. Holly February 27, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Ugh, fills me with dread – won’t stop Luke and I trying for one! I know how draining it is but it will get so much better so soon x

    1. Zhu February 27, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      Oh yeah, this shouldn’t scare anyone! The decision to have kids or not (and either way, it’s FINE, it’s a personal choice) isn’t usually based on such practical considerations.

    1. Zhu February 27, 2015 at 10:43 pm

      Loved it, thank you for sharing!

  2. Gagan February 28, 2015 at 6:48 am

    My friends keeps getting woken up by being slapped by his infant. He tells me, that he sits up and just wonders. He is a behavioral coach, apparently. 🙂

    1. Zhu February 28, 2015 at 11:02 pm

      Yep, they can be pretty tough at this age! Mark is the headbutt specialist. Oh and he scratched Feng’s cornea about a year ago… Feng ended up at the hospital!

      1. Martin Penwald March 1, 2015 at 7:00 pm

        When a cat starts taking the habit to scratch your cornea during the night, solution is euthanasia.
        Just saying …

        1. Zhu March 1, 2015 at 10:14 pm

          I went with “nail clipper”, a more socially acceptable solution 🙁

  3. Lynn March 3, 2015 at 6:53 am

    Aaaaand…this sure does bring back memories. The toddler/preschooler years are ROUGH. It gets better…but it’s a looooong process, and some kids are just naturally more empathetic than others. We’re almost there, I think, with our 12 year old :).

    1. Zhu March 3, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      WHAT? I have to wait for another ten years???

  4. Lexie March 3, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    I DO NOT share. Lol! Sérieusement, parfois je partage, ou elle partage, mais parfois non. Et en effet lorsqu’elle voit que je pars me doucher elle veut y aller aussi lol. Je trouve (mais on s’entend que ça ne regarde que mn petit nombril) que la frontière est parfois mince à cet âge entre la volonté de tout partager et le fait de devenir un mini dictateur (trice) en puissance, comme le fait qu’ils veuillent tjs qu’on aille se coucher en meme temps qu’eux. Donc ça ne me dérange pas de dire “non c’est à maman” . Sinon le resto c’est un peu lourdingue. À plusieurs tout va bien, l’un de nous parle aux autres, et le second s’occupe de Billie, et on change à un moment. Mais juste tous les trois… c’est chiant, on ne se parle pas vraiment, on a les yeux rivés sur notre fille, en train de lui dire “attention”, “ne jette pas ça”, “j’ai dit quoi…”. Et c’est impossible d’avoir une conversation!

    1. Zhu March 3, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      C’est exactement ça au resto! Tellement vrai! J’en ai marre de ne pas pouvoir avoir une conversation avec Feng. C’est pesant certains jours. T’es là à avaler ta bouffe et à sortir des platitudes comme “pas par terre le pain…” “attention au verre!”

      Je suis aussi pour poser des limites. La douche, je la partage tout le temps quand on voyage (je ne suis pas très pudique non plus, c’est pas des douches pour me relaxer dans ce cas ci mais vraiment pour se laver). Je suis plus chiante sur d’autres trucs, genre mon “me time”.

  5. Christiane March 5, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    Ohh kids!! The things they do and say!! We love them but they drive us nutty!

    1. Zhu March 5, 2015 at 10:07 pm



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