Okaasan, my mother-in-law, was actually here. Continue reading
Not doing it myself hasn’t led to anyone else stepping up to the plate.
Most of the time, sorting out who is caring for Mr. K is fairly straightforward, or so it feels. Every now and then, though, I’m reminded that it’s actually a bit of a game of Jenga and we’re one misplaced block away from the whole thing falling apart. Or, as we found out yesterday, one high temperature reading on the thermometer away, anyhow.
My husband and I have varying schedules. This is somewhat planned in my case but with elements of chance for both of us. R will usually have two days off per week from his full-time job, one of which is usually Sunday plus one other that is determined by his bosses and organizational needs. For me, I do work where people sometimes want me and sometimes don’t; this means that I can be very busy in a given week, or very quiet depending on what other people want. It usually ends up working out quite well, though. Mr. K goes to childcare regularly, but is far from full-time and he gets quite a bit of one-to-one time with both of us, no mean feat given R is a full-time worker.
This week was supposed to be one of the quiet ones, with Mr. K set to attend childcare for one day. That was supposed to be yesterday. When we got up in the morning, Mr. K was his usual self, albeit with a hot head. Teething, I concluded, but we’re required to take his temperature prior to dropping him off at childcare and, unfortunately, the thermometer confirmed that he had a bit of a temperature. It wasn’t terribly high, though, and it seemed to be dropping. R and I decided to just carry on as usual; after all, he just had to get through this one day.
So off we drove in the car. Mr. K was still cheerful enough, and I noted that he actually felt cooler by the time he got to childcare. Their thermometer, however, disagreed. Mr. K had a low-grade fever, they have a policy on these things, and they weren’t going to accept him that day. We had to make alternative arrangements.
We were pretty alarmed, but not yet panicking. It was too late for me to call my boss/coworker and ask her to come out from Tokyo to do my classes, so that left it up to R to sort out. I really only needed Mr. K to stay at childcare for the morning; while it was preferable that he didn’t join in my afternoon conversation lesson, my student wouldn’t mind if he came along. When Mr. K had roseola, R had swapped shifts to do the late one instead and so he set about calling his company and seeing if he could do the same. In the meantime, I started calculating precisely how early I could leave the nursery school where I was teaching following the conclusion of my classes. It would all work out, we were sure.
Then the company said no. They were already one person down and R hadn’t been trained to cover an area he would need to manage.
The next step was R’s mother, who lives nearby and is supposed to be our back-up. R’s relationship with his mother has deteriorated greatly in recent times, a story unto itself, and my relationship with her never really had a high point full stop. Her interest in Mr. K is minimal, especially in light of her relationship with Mr. K’s cousin. Neither of us were keen on this idea, but it didn’t end up mattering anyhow, though – her answer was an outright no.
That left us standing helplessly in the streets near R’s office, Mr. K still gurgling happily in his pram, with our back-up plan in tatters and minutes until R was supposed to be starting work.
In the end, one of his coworkers with a scheduled day off proved to be awesome and agreed to go in to work in R’s place (I must remind myself of this when R inevitably doesn’t get our anniversary off – the coworker was very nice). Everything ultimately worked out, but only just. Japanese companies are not known for their flexibility, to be a bit understated about it, and the idea that the father should be the one sacrificing shifts is all but unheard of. I’m quite grateful, but we can’t push our luck on this front again, and with baby-sitting similarly not being the done thing here outside of family, we’ve had to consider alternatives to just optimistically hoping Mr. K will fall ill on the days when one of us isn’t working.
Thus, R spent his day pre-registering with various childcare centres around our area who take care of sick children for the day. It’s not really ideal; if a regular childcare centre is a breeding ground for viruses, who knows what he would pick up in one of those places? Still, I guess I need to be grateful that these places exist, and probably a bit more grateful for the days when everything runs smoothly. Lesson learned, I hope.
As for Mr. K? His fever came and went throughout yesterday, never getting especially high, and he was pretty perky all the way through. He’s back to normal today, and so I’ll be grateful for that too.
Yesterday, we did okuizome, a “first meal” ceremony held for Japanese babies when they reach either 100 or 120 days old (depending on the region). My mother-in-law brought over the elaborate food shown above and laid it out on the special dishes above. The dishes have been in the family for 40 years, so I guess that was kind of neat.
Mr. K didn’t actually eat of the food; even if babies were encouraged to be weaned that young, the food would have been far too rich for him.From what I can gather, it’s meant to be a time for families to gather and most families pretend to feed the baby and then carry on feasting. Link link here! My mother-in-law basically orchestrated the whole thing without consulting or inviting anyone else, and R pretended to share some of his lunch with Mr. K, a takeout bento that is definitely not pictured above. After setting out all the dishes, my mother-in-law took some photos of the food (I’m not 100% sure she included Mr. K in the photos at all; I was holding him and there was certainly no attempt to make us pose?) and packed everything away again.I spent most of my time trying to keep an increasingly grumpy baby in check and waiting for instructions that never came.
Why yes, my relationship with my mother-in-law is a difficult one!
Anyway, I don’t want to detract from what could be a nice ceremony with my husband’s family’s bizarre behaviour. I think, in different circumstances, it’s quite a cute thing to do, it’s certainly very pretty looking and given I identify as agnostic these days, I think it could be a good alternative to a Christening.
Word came through late on Monday from Okaasan that R’s older sister was in labour. The baby was expected by midnight, so I assume the sister-in-law was in the active phase by then for everyone to be making such assertions, but it turned out that, to use R’s words, “the baby kind of got stuck”. For eight hours. She was born on Tuesday morning instead.
Aside from that “kind of got stuck” part being the stuff of my current nightmares, everyone is going well.
It was quite early on in the scheme of things, probably during the two week wait before I could even take a pregnancy test, that we learned that the sister-in-law was trying to conceive her first child at the same time as us and was also undergoing fertility treatment. In her case, possibly due to her age, they had cut straight to IVF and she managed to conceive on her first round.
We found out I actually was pregnant at about the same time as she found out she was too, and discovered that her baby was due 12 days before ours. For awhile, what with the whole threatened premature labour matter, R and I thought we might actually get in first and present the first grandchild for both sides of the family, but no. As of Tuesday 13th October, R is an uncle. I guess, by extension, I’m an aunt, and our own baby is still poking around my uterus.
R’s family has a very weird dynamic.To give a sense of this, consider that the sister-in-law and the niece are staying at a hospital that is literally 10-15 minutes walk from our house but we don’t know the niece’s name, there are no plans or expectations that we’ll visit, we don’t know when we’ll meet her, nor do we have a photo yet. However, for all that, we found out almost straightaway when she was born though that, I strongly suspect, was at least in part so R could take responsibility for sharing the news with his father so that nobody else had to do so.
I don’t really know how this is all going to play out. I wouldn’t say I felt especially strongly about birthing his family’s first grandchild and/or just missing out to the sister-in-law. I have my own family to concern myself with and they are generally delighted so far with their own pending first grandchild. I wasn’t really thrilled to hear how close these new cousins were going to be in age, though. As you can gather, the sister-in-law and I are not exactly close, so the nicer aspects of that seem diminished. The likelihood of rivalries, however, possibly aided and abetted by my mother-in-law, seems quite high.
On the other hand, who knows? We might all become much friendlier with two babies in the mix.