Baby / Thoughts / Travel

Everything I need to know about parenting I learned in Bangkok…

…or something like that.  We’ve got a quick, unedited post here for you today.  We’re back from vacation, home in Chengdu.  I’m not going to lie, I wish we were still in Bangkok.  Partially because, well, its Bangkok (seafood! shopping! great weather! great people!) and partially because Bangkok taught me a lot.

I hadn’t even realized how stuck in a rut Will and I were getting back in Chengdu.  Quite frankly, its hard to muster up the motivation to get out of the house when its grey and cold and “foggy” outside.  Besides, Will is five months old, any of our sojourns out are for me rather than him and I used to feel a little selfish exposing him to the elements and messing with his routines, all for the sake of my cabin fever.

So we got into a routine, naps, nursing, play-time.  You read the interwebs and apparently if you don’t have a routine you are basically doomed to have a kid who never sleeps well and grows up with all sorts of insecurities.  Or something like that.

And then we went to Thailand.  And we went with Chris’ family.  And as completely and wonderfully flexible and accommodating as they all were, frankly it was a lot easier for us to say “let’s meet at 9am” rather than “let’s meet after Will has taken a good nap, nursed well, and pooped his diaper.”  If we had gone by Will’s schedule, we would have never gotten out the door.

And so it ended up that my baby ended up covered in heat rash, covered in diaper rash, covered in sunscreen that he kept desperately trying to eat.  He was hot and sweaty.  He was forced to sleep on the go.  We kept him up past his “bedtime” every night.  On the first day in Bangkok we visited the sunny and somewhat broiling (to us non-Bangkok-residents) “weekend market” a place with no bathrooms (that I found), no air-conditioning, and no space further than 3 feet away from another human being.  When Will refused to nurse under his cover for the tenth time (who’d want to when it’s 95 degrees out?) five hours after his last feeding, I completely freaked out.  Who was I dragging my poor, sweaty, rashy, kid through a crowded market just because it sounded interesting to me?  Everyone told me he was fine, that he would be fine, that I shouldn’t worry.  But I felt simultaneously like the most irresponsible and the most overprotective neurotic mom ever.

So Chris and I jumped in an air-conditioned cab back to the hotel where Will promptly nursed, cooed, smiled, and slept like nothing had ever happened.  And I realized I needed an attitude change.  My kid was fine, just like everyone said he was.

In fact, he was better than fine.  All of the new sights and smells, all of the lovely Thai people cooing over him, his grandparents and auntie all completely enamored with him, all of the hands wanting to touch him, all of the arms wanting to hold him.  He loved it, he thrived on it all.  He smiled and cooed almost non-stop, he rarely cried.  He slept better than ever before, he ate better than before.  He learned his name, he started babbling more than we’d ever seen, he started sitting up almost on his own, he learned to love the pool, the shower, basically any water we could get him in.  I’ve never seen him so happy.

And so I realized that, if he was fine, I needed to be fine.  So I figured out what I needed to stop stressing out.  I was worried about him dehydrating so we started bringing a baby bottle with a few ounces of water in it.  That way, even if he refused to nurse, I could at least give him a few sips of water and know that he would be fine until we could get somewhere private to nurse sans-cover.  We started changing his diaper anywhere and everywhere to get rid of the diaper rash.  Unlike in the U.S., no one in Thailand gives you a second-glance if you whip out a changing pad in the corner of the Dunkin’ Donuts or on top of a plastic stool at a noodle stand.  So we did it.

And we did Bangkok.  Sure we still covered Will from head to toe in sunscreen, we still grabbed cabs home instead of taking the SkyTrain a few times to get Will into some airconditioning.  I may have had to duck out of a few meals when Will was just maxed out on excitement, but by the last day Will was so well-adjusted to Bangkok and I was finally so used to doing everything on the fly that we stayed out from 9 in the morning until 4pm, wandering the city, taking a tour of the Jim Thompson house (where Will flirted so disarmingly with the super professional tour guide that she actually lost composure several times) meeting some family friends for a long lunch.  All without air-con, all without a hotel pit stop.

That probably doesn’t sound like anything too exciting to most parents but considering how little we got out in Chengdu, how much we used to schedule our outings around Will’s “routine” and the fact that Will is still nursing and napping about every 3 hours, it felt like such freedom, such bad-ass-ness.

Of course referring to a day out on the town with a baby as “bad-ass” should tell you exactly how exciting our lives have become. 🙂

Anyways, the point is, everyone tells you (me) that kids are resilient, that your kid will be fine, but it took me getting pushed out of my comfort zone to realize that.  And now that I have, I don’t know if I can go back to the way things were before.

Sure Will still needs routines and regular naps when we can get them but mostly he just needs me and Chris and the chance to observe and participate in the world around him.  From being out in the world he learns about his surroundings, he learns the extent of his own capacities, and he learns that Mama and Daddy are ALWAYS there for him, whether we are in Bangkok or Chengdu or Timbuktu.

We’re home now and its still grey, its still “foggy,” its still cold.  Will has cried more since we got home than in the 9 days we were in Thailand, which tells me something.  He misses his grandparents and his auntie, he misses having literally hundreds of people cooing at him everyday, he misses the sunshine and the movement and the excitement I think.

So we’ll do what we can here in Chengdu to get him out and about.  We’ll fly to Tokyo in a month and a half to give him a chance to see another country, another place.  And we’ll try to remember that there are times being a little uncomfortable can have big baby smile pay-offs, and that, if it’s worth doing, nothing is too hard.

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6 thoughts on “Everything I need to know about parenting I learned in Bangkok…

  1. You are so inspiring to a new mom!! Wow! I am so excited to talk to you more about this, and ask you a thousand questions about motherhood:)

    • Congrats congrats congrats a thousand times over! Hope you guys are enjoying your wee one and settling into everything!! Can’t wait to hear how things are going!

  2. Congratulations! I learned that lesson pretty much as soon as we got off the plane in India, when Muffin was three months old. She is thriving here with all the people, sights, smells, and noise. And I learned it’s important for her to see how we react to different people and different situations so she can figure it out, too. We can only do that if we actually leave the house. As she got older it became easier to know when I’d have a window of an hour or two that was good for taking her out, after breakfast, naps, etc., before needing the next meal and nap.

    We loved Bangkok, too. It’s such a nice little holiday from the rest of the region.

    • You are an inspiration with your wee one in Hyderabad! We are headed to Delhi in August and I can’t wait for Will to have colors and sunshine everyday again (the grayness of Chengdu is truly mind-blowing sometimes). I loved Hyderabad when I was there for work a few years ago but I can imagine its a little like Chengdu in that it’s not always super exciting. Are you guys enjoying it?

  3. Pingback: Where to Take Your Parents When They Visit You in Bangkok: the Jordan edition | mala with a fork

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