The hard part about returning somewhere you've left is the reminder of richness.
Not anything economic, rather relational wealth. In 4 1/2 years I made and deepened wonderful friendships. For many of them, we happened to also be working through fertility issues and getting pregnant around the same time. It's hard to make new friends as a parent. There just aren't as many hours in the day as when I was 'single' (Jrex works long enough hours that I could get together with people for lunch, dinner, coffee, weekend walks, etc). Therefore, being back with good friends where we could maintain our contact while chasing kids around the room works. Building new friends while doing the same? Creates tenuous bonds that just take more time to deepen.
We stayed with Lovey and Dovey and their little girl Spark. After a wonderfully empty plane with a row to ourselves, Brex did a great job staying up 2-hours past his bedtime and doing his normal routine there. Spark has had a nanny and few play dates, so she was FASCINATED with Brex. In particular, she really, really wanted to grab his helmet (which, now painted, looks like a really BIG toy). Since she can crawl faster than I can move, we had an interesting time trying to keep Brex on a higher plane so she couldn't reach for his face. If he was sitting on the floor (with no ability to crawl yet), he learned to cry when he saw her coming. If we had him in our laps and she popped up to stand next to him, he was fine.
The sad thing is that long-distance, Lovey and I talk on the phone, but Dovey and I don't get to chat much. It's somehow strange for a wife and husband of other people to call each other to catch up. Anyway, he and I enjoy discussing design, home decor, counseling and many other topics, so it was fun to get time to catch up with both of them together.
This trip made me realize that I'm opting into a game I'll call Competitive Parenting. It's not something I'm doing with other parents, just trying to buck the system and compete with Jrex. Knowing that most baby's first words are a variant of a hard sound (Dada, Baba, Tata), I've been working hard with Brex to get him to say Mama first. Every time I change him, I look at him and do a long exaggerated "MmmmmmaaA" sound. After watching me in fascination, he'll often try to do it, "Na Na Ba Na Blah" (really, he says Blah Blah Blah, cracks me up!). Well, after a couple days in Lovey and Dovey's house, I had to tell Dovey that his daughter was a bad influence. He looked horrified, "What is she doing?!"
"As you are gleefully aware, Spark loves to say 'da da' and after only two days here, Brex is mostly doing hard sounds! All my effort down the drain..."
Do you think this makes me a Western version of a Tiger Mom? Forcing the child to do something they wouldn't normally do for reasons of my own? (Laughing an evil scientist laugh) I'll manipulate him anyway!!!
The other thing I realized on the trip is that Silicon Valley is full of geeks. Which is why I fit right in. When I told people there that I should have painted the helmet silver so Brex could look like Magneto, they all laughed. When I say that here, I usually get blank stares. Maybe it's not that I'm strong meat (though I am that, I think), maybe it's lady culture vs geek culture? In either case, it's hard to be back where I'm at the early stages of building potential friendships rather than immersed among people who know me well.
All I can do is keep pressing further up and further in. It may take longer, but we're likely going to be here longer, so we'll get there.