Jenny lives in East Van with her partner and three-year-old son. She’s a designer, currently taking classes, freelancing, and working as a teacher’s assistant. In her free time, she likes to go rock climbing.
I dedicate my Saturday as my Noah day, and that’s the day we go to lunch, we go to the park, we go to Science World. When I think too much about the parent/child relationship, I think the responsibility and the obligation can seem overwhelming, but it’s good when I take it day by day and take what comes and deal with it, with a certain set of values in mind. On days when I’m Noah’s friend and I treat him respectfully, he does the same to me. It’s really easy. I’ve always had this idea that because my mom and I didn’t have a friendship that I wanted to be a friend with my child. In our really conservative, also Asian culture, the elder is always to be respected and the elder is almost always right and then the question is: At what point do you transition, at what point are you equals? It doesn’t happen!
We often get compliments on the bus, “It’s always so great to see a happy or a laughing child” and Noah loves to laugh, he’s such a little joker! I think it’s interesting because I remember when I first had Noah I was really self-conscious about the fact that I’m not married.… I don’t ever think about it now, but there was a period of time where I was like “you know, I’m twenty-three years old, I look really young and I’m tattooed and I’m pierced and I’m not married and I have this little young child…” I used to worry that people would judge. I don’t worry at all anymore, I never even think about it. I like that Noah and I will come running down the street and and he’ll hide behind the billboards and I’ll hide behind the poles and we will chase each other up and down the street. I think I come across as a playful mom and I really like that. I like that I can be young and play with my child.
I’m afraid that Noah won’t tell me things, that something bad will happen and he won’t call me. There are a few things that have happened in my life, that I felt so alone and like I couldn’t call anyone. At the very least, when all your friends abandon you, I hope you have someone in your family you can call, so you’re not doing stupid things because you feel like you have to and you can’t go home. That’s my biggest fear, I want Noah to be able to call me and be like “I’m drunk, I’m high, I hooked up with someone I shouldn’t have.” Because I will come get [him], no matter what. I might be upset, but I’ll be there.
We live in East Van, we love East Van. We have a really tight knit group of friends, [that] all live within a few blocks from us. In terms of growing up for Noah it was important for us to have a community, little things like going to a specific coffee shop and having the baristas know your child, it was all those little things that we really loved. I don’t really know anywhere else in the city where it feels family oriented as well as being a place where that kind of familiarity is as common. Really it’s just about the fact that our friends are there, and the community and the businesses we want to support are all in East Van. That’s our little bubble. We definitely don’t venture West very often.
I’ve been having this stress in my life recently, worrying about whether we can continue to live in Vancouver, because we want him to have a bedroom but we also want a bedroom! We co-slept for a really long time and then he was almost turning three and we were like, he needs his own space. So we sacrificed our bedroom and turned it into his. So our living room is a studio/living room during the day and then at night we pull out the bed!
We decided to raise him vegan–he eats eggs now, so he’s technically vegetarian–but we were thinking about how so many children’s books are all about farm animals and the sounds animals make, like Old Macdonald, and at some point we stopped talking about how farm animals are farmed [so that people can] eat them, and we lose that connection. The idea of questioning why that is the default was important to us, and wanting him to make that choice for himself, and so that when he is older and when he is able to make that decision for himself. So that we can say this is meat, it comes from a cow, if you want to eat it, please do—we didn’t want to take that choice away from him. Same thing with circumcision, a lot of our choices as parents is about enabling him as an individual. I mean we offer [meat] to him but right now he’s pretty keen on vegetables!
We let him have as much as he likes, we did baby-led weaning, so when he was around six months we would give him an assortment of celery sticks and tomatoes and other vegetables and we would just let him have whatever he wants. The idea behind baby-led weaning is that children’s gag reflexes when they’re that age are closer to the front of their mouth than the back. They will stop before something gags them as opposed to if you give them something. So if they’re feeding themselves it’s safer than if you’re feeding them. And they can learn portion control that way, they understand I’m hungry and I’m going to eat, what do I feel like eating? And, when I’m done I’m done, as opposed to spoon feeding them so they never really understand the concept of when I’m full I stop eating. And also they can kind of masticate, kind of chew when they’re that age. They can have hard things, you don’t need to feed them purees. It’s the whole independent thing again, like he goes to the fridge, looks and sees what’s in the fridge when he’s hungry. Sometimes we regret that we never did the whole sitting at a table during mealtime thing, so he’s not awesome at restaurants… he’s kind of really bad unless he’s hungry. If we’re going out we will make a point of telling him that he should wait, and tell him not to have too many snacks, but if we do it wrong then he’s just running around we we’re like, “oh no! we’re the parents of that kid” and we leave. We get takeout and we leave.
I feel like we live in a little bit of a fantasy world, we want to make certain things normal for him that weren’t normal for us. I know that’s a little bit idealist, but I don’t know how else to do it except to make that his reality. I think because we live in a world that is heteronormative and privileges men, privileges certain ethnicities, privileges people with money, and I do think your voice and your lifestyle definitely is a power, you make choices on how you distribute and share that power. It sounds really cheesy but we’re trying to live the life that we think is right, so we’re trying to raise him in a way that he lives that life too, but that he makes the choices himself.