On the weekend we signed the contract for Dragon’s first birthday venue. But, you say…isn’t he just eight months old? Why yes. But we actually reserved the spot and paid the reservation fee when he had just turned seven months old. Even then, apparently we were ‘late’ in making first birthday plans because the larger rooms at the venue were already booked through March. It seemed like everyone else has been scrambling to book too. When we booked the venue in September, there was only one other family consulting with the staff. On Saturday, the waiting room was chaotic and the woman we met with said people had been pouring in since the end of Chuseok. So I took back all the skeptical looks I had made in Mr. Lee’s direction when he had told me we were booking for first birthday room five months ahead of time.
But it’s not just the first birthday venue where we seem to be behind in the parent game. It took phone calls to twenty clinics at the beginning of August to find a doctor who could fit Dragon in for his baby wellness check up before October (we needed it before he could start at daycare). And speaking of daycare, I thought Mr. Lee was insane when he started calling places when Dragon was a twenty week old fetus, but when the time came to actually start him, we came THIS CLOSE to literally getting on our knees and begging for a spot.
I know that daycare wait lists exist in major North American cities too, and some of the problem with child-related insanity here comes from the combination of the dragon year baby boom and the government suddenly paying daycare fees for all. But the thing is, I had finally accepted that in Korea, everything is done last minute. No one thinks it is cutting it close when you are finally allowed to go to immigration 30 minutes before closing time on the day your visa expires. But try apartment hunting at the end of February for a beginning of April move in, and you’ll have everyone scratching their heads because you are starting to look SO EARLY. And then there’s the meetings that are scheduled at the last minute, the reports given a minute ago that were due yesterday, the call from your MIL at 10 am that your aunt in law has been visiting for a month without your knowledge and is returning to her home in the US on a 1 pm flight, so when are you going to visit her???
So yes, I had thought I had Korea all figured out. Everything is done last minute. Prepare for it. Accept it. Embrace it.
And in most cases, I had. Because really, there’s a lot of good in the ability to have things done quick without reservations and waiting around.
But then parenthood has thrown me for a loop because I forgot the number one rule about culture: a cultural rule that applies in full in one area is likely to be completely subverted in an unexpected way in another area. And so parenting here has been that somewhat necessary corrective to my smug comfort of knowing how things work by reminding me that I have a whole lot to learn – not just about raising a baby but also about how things work in Korea.