I had an odd parenting moment today. I was proud and sad at the same time. This was a first for me. I know my wife has had quite a few of these moments because I’ve seen it in her face. Its an odd juxtaposition of “Yes he’s such a big independent little man!” and “When did he become such a big independent little man?” But this was my first time.
Now when I say my wife has had many of these moments, I know because she has described them to me. I always thought she was just being a little dramatic. But, I’ve found out, she is not alone. Most of our friends who have had children or are a few months to a year or two behind us have the same split. Mommy has experienced this very often. Dad…not so much. I attribute this to a condition I have diagnosed (with absolutely zero psychology training at all) as BSS, Baby Stasis Syndrome.
Regardless of time’s inexorable march on Mommy is stuck in infancy. Mommy wants her baby to grow healthy and strong, as long as that doesn’t mean growing up. The proud / despondent face has been seen at many times. Crawling, teething, walking have been causes of BSS flares in our house as I’m sure they have been in others. Every time Emmet masters a new skill I watch my wife struggle with letting him do for himself as opposed to still needing us so much.
The previous steps have left me unaffected by sadness. I for one have been very happy to have be more independent, and less needy. Although the tradeoff is time. It does take him exponentially longer to do some things, like brushing his teeth, than if I did it for him. Today however I felt my first stabbing pain of BSS. Emmet was out playing with some of the kids in our complex. They were playing with his (my) new soccer ball. There were probably eight children, all older and bigger than E, running, laughing, and kicking the ball. Then Emmet took a header. Not just a small toddler fall, he face planted in the grass. One of the girls picked him up and he seemed like he was about to cry so I went over to make sure he was OK. As I approached he looked up at me and instead of embarrasment or pain in his expression there was all the idignant outrage a three year old can bring to bear ( so not much). He pointed his finger at me and said “You don’t need to help, I’m playing with my friends, you go back over there”.
It was at once devastating and awe inspiring. He doesn’t need me. He doesn’t want me. But actually it means he’s growing up. He doesn’t need me to kiss every boo boo. He wants to be a big boy and play with his friends without me being involved all the time. Its a good thing. But its still going to take a little getting used to.
Its my birthday. Woo-hoo. Happy Birthday to me I got…..a cold and allergies that are killing me. The cold medicine here doesn’t seem to work as well as the ones at home. I’m hacking and sneezing and my eyes are so swollen it looks like I got punched by Mike Tyson wearing pink eye laced gloves. So yes, I will cry, or at least leak if I want to. That being said it was a pretty good birthday for being away from home.
I got a ridiculous amount of facebook happy birthdays ( I know every one does but it was still nice) and our Irish friends bought me a beer at lunch when we went out after Emmet and their daughter played all morning. Also I got a couple of really nice gifts.
The wife bought me the biggest, shiniest, coolest stainless steel wok I’ve ever seen. I’ve been doing a lot of stir fry and Asian meals since we’ve been here. I know big surprise isn’t it? But that’s what’s available ingredient wise. She knew it was only a matter of time before I bought one. She also knew that I would not spend the kind of money she spent on this one. I would buy an OK wok. She bought a badass one. It came with a steamer rack and a cover with an adjustable vent. Have I said its pretty cool?
Also I found out the E is very much already “a guy” when it comes to gift giving. Apparently when they were out and mommy told him they were getting a birthday present my me he insisted on picking one out from him as well. Emmet got for me an air pump and a very, very shiny bright red soccer ball. His reasoning was simple, straightforward, and very guy like. “If daddy has a new ball he can play soccer ball man with me all day”. See like I said a guy. Its like buying lingerie for your wife for Christmas. Yes its very pretty and feminine, but its really a gift for yourself. Yet it was also very endearing at the same time. I love that he gets excited about our time together.
Now if I could only get this sickness behind me we could go out there and kick the footy around, as our Aussie friends on the playground are trying to teach Emmet to call it.
I love my days with E. I love my days when the wife is home as well even more. But oddly my patience is less on those days. On our days alone we take our time, we don’t rush to anything. But days like the last couple we have things planned and its harder. Yesterday we went to Disney on Ice and today we had a family day at her work site. Both were fun but there were definite times we had to be places.
Any of you who read this who have been, or know someone who has been in the military know that this is a bit of a stress point. Five minutes early is ten minutes late. This mindset with a toddler is impossible to adhere to for a couple of reasons. First if you succeed then you have fifteen minutes in which you must entertain said child. Second there is always a diaper to change, or a leaf to look at, or an inexplicable five minutes of we just will not walk any more. This kills me. I can’t help it. I have a need to be places on time. Its my only crazy head thing. I don’t flick light switches a hundred times, or wash my hands incessantly, but being late can give me a panic attack.
The other issue with these two days have been the timing of the events. The “Super Cool Ice Show” as Emmet called it (thank Disney Jr marketing department) was at three pm. The family day was quarter to one. Since we travel by train and bus we had to leave about and hour early for each. This put us right around nap time either day. So there was no napping. The evenings, therefore, were more fun than usual. By more fun I mean they were long, tedious, whine filled slogs. As I sit here writing this I have just read E a story (Goodnight Moon if you were curious), then we talked about our day, had a good long hug, then he asked for Mommy to snuggle. Now I’ve been at the computer for a good fifteen minutes so I’m fairly certain Mommy has fallen asleep with him. That’s OK I’ll wake her up in a bit. Mostly because her sleep schedule is all out of whack since we had these two day time activities and then she has to go back to work Monday night.
So the only sounds in the apartment currently or the tapping of the keyboard and the rumble of the train outside. This is as close to silence as I get. It will have to do because after the last two hours of the last two days being whining and crying over little infinitesimal things that normally wouldn’t bother E but do because he’s tired,….I relish it. . .
Emmet is cute. Not just in a baby face kind of way, he’s got that going for him too, he’s also learned when to smile and when to pout to get what he wants. This works exceptionally well on older women. By older I mean anyone old enough to have grandchildren. Although he is also a shameless flirt with younger women. Apparently a lot of these women here carry snacks in their purse…..to give away. At least once a week E is the recipient of someone’s handbag goodies.
Just today he scored two separate times, with two separate methods. First in line for the playground at Westgate Mall. Yes there is a line to get into the playground. Its school break, the playground is covered, and its been raining for 3 days (Finally!). So they can only let so many people in at once. So there we are in line, there are three families in front of us. The family directly in front of us is a mom, two girls probably five and eight, and grandma. He starts by playing peek a boo with the girls and smiling at the ladies. Then he turns to face me with his back to them and while talking to me nonchalantly leans up against grandma’s leg. When she reaches down and pats his head, he smiles up at her like he didn’t even know he was doing it. BAM!! Grapes that her and the girls are eating now become grapes Emmet is eating too.
Fast forward to a few hours later. Our trip out for the day is done, lunch has been eaten and we are on our way home because a nap is needed post haste. My backpack is full, there is one of those giant IKEA blue bags full of groceries in one hand. We exit the station and have to climb the stairs to the elevated walkway to get back home. At the foot of the stairs I’m given a look of sheer exhaustion and patheticness and the request “Daddy can you pick me up?”. I would, but there is no way I can carry all our stuff and E. If he had thrown a fit, screamed and cried, it would have been understandable but ineffective. He gave a big sigh and with small sobs started climbing the steps. Enter victim number two of the toddler charm spectrum. A fifty-ish woman coming down the stairs stops and talks to him. “What’s wrong (Indian word I;m assuming means honey, little one, cutie pie, or something similar)?”. To which the answer is a heart wrenching “I’m sad because daddy can’t carry me too”. Thanks kid now I’m worst daddy ever international award. She just smiled and reached into that mommy miracle bag and produced a little cake and fruit roll. While placing it in his hand she glances up at me to make sure its OK. Yeah, like I’m going to say no now that his tiny fingers are wrapped around it. Instantly the sobbing is gone a bright smile and “Thank You!…Look Daddy!!” .
Milk it while you can kid, at some point you stop being so endearing…right? But it works for him. He’s pulled fruit at the park, Mo-chi in China Town, and M&M’s at the bus station. I guess what’s truly odd is I’m alright with it. At home I would never let him take food from a stranger. Certainly not unsealed food like fresh fruits. I wonder if that says something about me or my home? Am I so conditioned to not trust people back home by the daily news and cultural memory? We all remember the tales of spiked apples at Halloween. No one we ever knew had it happen but we all knew the story. But here people are much friendlier, open and nicer to strangers. The crime rate is almost non existent, and mainly confined to young people and foreigners, which makes me very trusting.
While I ponder these questions E will be content to munch his snacks, whether they come from me or Nainai on the train.
No really, go to the store buy a kite, take your kid, and go fly a kite. We went to Fairprice today to get a few things for dinner and also to look for a gift for one of the children in our building complex. His birthday party is tomorrow and Emmet was invited. As we walked up and down the toy aisle I saw nothing I really wanted to get. He has a toy gun already. Legos, which are pricey enough back home, are very expensive here. So I despaired of finding anything in this store and resigned myself to going to the big toy store. I had tried avoiding that because well, if you’ve ever tried taking a child into a toy store and NOT buying anything for them you know why.
So we hauled the carriage around the corner to the next aisle getting ready to head to the food section and there hanging from the ceiling above us was inspiration. In fantastical brightly colored triangles, diamonds, tubes, and dragons were the kites. I thought that would be a great gift for a five year old boy. We found one with ninja bears and bright neon green patterns that was one of the tube shapes. A reel of string went in the cart beside it and I felt pretty good about my gift finding prowess. Until we started to walk away. I forgot the toy store rules because we weren’t in the toy store. Emmet couldn’t understand why we were getting his friend a kite but he wasn’t getting one. If he had thrown a tantrum about it, screamed, cried, or whatever I would have said no. But he looked at me with the earnestness that only a three year old can muster and said “ But daddy I want to fly kites with you too”, How do you say no to that? If you have an answer please tell me because I couldn’t.
He picked a large orange diamond with striped tails and a smiley face. I grabbed another roll of string, and we checked out and went home. We put away the groceries, packed the backpack with a bunch of water (it was a particularly hot day on the island), and then coated Emmet in sunscreen. He has a complexion a lot like his mother’s. Cream or lobster, very little middle ground. Smelling like a beach full of tourists back to the train station we went. One stop down the line from us is the Chinese Gardens. In addition to some beautiful statuary, that I really need to take some pictures of, there are two big fields. It abuts Jurong Lake so there is usually a decent breeze and today was no exception. A nice strong breeze blowing across our backs promised good things. Emmet ran around the wide open field as I unpacked the kite, popped its poles into place, and tied the string to the grommet. He looked so happy running through the grass that I almost forgot about flying the kite at all. But he didn’t, as soon as it was apparent I was all done his little face just lit up. “Is it time to fly my kite!?!” Of course it is buddy, especially when you ask me like that.
A few false starts and calm stretches soon turned into a steady breeze with an ever climbing kite in front of us. The sheer joy and wonder on Emmet’s face as he held the string and watched his kite fly was amazing. His curiosity when it pulled him a few stumbling steps was great. We flew that kite for almost two hours. When the wind would stop we would wrap up the string and start over. And the excitement never ebbed as the day went on. Soon enough the time in the sun was getting a little too much and I made the executive decision to go home. This blow was softened to Emmet with a a freeze pop. After two hours of kite flying in ninety degree heat a freeze pop was definitely in order……for both of us.
We will definitely go kite flying again. Wind and wonder are both renewable resources. And as much fun as he had, I may have had more fun watching him.
Wife is on night shift. Its odd how it works with her company here. Back home there was a day shift and a night shift. You worked one or the other. When we first arrived in Singapore she was on days. Here however, there is a cultural stigma with working overnights. To keep workers happy her company has come up with a novel solution, everyone will work nights. Every two months her shift will change from one to the other. So she leaves the house just before seven each evening and gets home around nine each morning. What this means is on days she is working the me and E show is on overdrive.
He wakes up around seven each morning and goes to bed around eight each evening. Neither is a time when she is home. I honestly can’t imagine what is going on in her head. I’m sure it kills her to see him so little while working nights. Even on her days off she is asleep till four or five giving her limited Emmet time. I’m on daddy overload some of these days. They are long and dealing with the boundless energy of a three year old while trying to accomplish all the necessary shopping, cleaning, and cooking is hard enough on a regular day but on a day where he has to be quiet inside because mommy is sleeping is whole other dimension of difficult.
The worst part of the night shift is right now. Its nine at night. E is asleep, she’s at work, I’m here. On the couch. Writing this blog. I’m glad I started this it gives me something to do. But these nights get tedious after awhile. I can’t do a whole lot. Oh there are always dishes and laundry to do and I try to keep up on them. But I have nothing to do and no one to talk to. So I play candy crush, or poker on facebook to pass the time between hanging laundry. I keep thinking to myself “Hey he sleeps really well. In fact he hasn’t woken up in the middle of the night in weeks. You could go to the gym or swim a few laps. No harm done.” But then daddy brain turns on. What if he falls out of bed? Or has a bad dream? Or just wakes up for no reason at all? If I’m not in the apartment that makes me not only a poor parent but just a downright horrible person. He needs me if any of those things or anything else happens. So I stay. And wait until I’m tired enough to go to bed. And wait impatiently for when the wife is back on days and I’ll have company after my day with E has ended.
Oh and bonus cool points if you know the reference for the title.
One of the hardest things to get used to here is the lack of car. I mentioned this in an earlier post, but tonight prompted me to talk a little more about it. This evening the wife had the night off so I was able to go out to get some things by myself. No E. Free and easy. Until I was on my way home. My goal for the evening was to find a particular book. It was for Emmet. It was written by a friend of a friend who actually lives here in Singapore, although we haven’t yet had the occasion to meet. This was the third store I would visit trying to track down a copy. The other two stores were sold out. This store’s computer told them it had five copies but a half an hour of searching by myself and a clerk yielded no book. If they find one they are supposed to call me.
Once the bookstore was debacle was over I checked my phone to see the shopping list I had forgotten at home magically appear in my text messages. Thank you wife. Indeed I had asked. I wandered the store. Giant, its aptly named and comparable to a Super Wal-Mart in the sense that one can purchase a flat screen TV, bicycle, suit jacket, Bombay Sapphire, and live seafood in one trip. Sadly none of those particular cool item were on my list. It was actually a fairly short list.
Arbor Mist (yes my wife is a classy gal, sorry hun)
Clothes hangers not a problem. Laundry soap, check, 5 kilogram bag thank you very much it was on sale. Salad spinner, I have been looking for 3 weeks and still can’t find one. Arbor Mist, oh yeah blackberry merlot. Hope it was a good month. Of course since I was in the section I grabbed a bottle of wine for myself. A shiraz/cab blend from Australia. Then on the way out I saw a four pack of small batch root beer, which the little lady loves, so that went in the cart as well.
It doesn’t sound like much. Until I got to the checkout and stuffed it all in my backpack for the stroll home. Its about a half of a mile from the shopping center I was at to the train station. Then one quarter mile from the station to my door. Three quarters of a mile. With all that stuff in a backpack. Now I’ve carried more. Between hiking trips in the white mountains, not to mention my time in the Corps there has definitely been larger loads on my back. However I had decent equipment those instances. The backpack I speak of at the moment is and orange, thin strapped, school bag. It is E’s diaper bag since it leaves me hands free. It was never meant to assume this burden. So it was a very long walk tonight. And the sodden oval on my shirt can attest to the effort involved.
Add to this the fact that for a good part of each day E likes to ride “daddy horse” when he gets tired. So whatever is in the pack at the moment plus him up on the shoulders is doing great things for my neck and back. I need a better backpack, or one of those old lady travel shopping carts. The bonus is my calves are going to look amazing if it keeps up.
I put Emmet to bed tonight. It was a pretty normal bedtime. Brush teeth, use the potty, read a story, snuggle, go to sleep. Then I went to my room and got ready for a shower. I got undressed and went through my shorts to make sure I wouldn’t wash my phone (again) and realized ….I have a lot of stuff in my pockets. Not only did I have a lot of stuff in my pockets, they were all things that identify my place in my life’s time line. Then I got to thinking, you can tell a lot about a person by what’s in their pockets.
When I was 12 my pocket contents, which probably ended up in the washing machine, told a story. They said I was a geek. More than likely there was a “Magic” card in there somewhere. And a small glass stone to keep track of my hit points. Yeah I was that kind of geek. Also I had a bit of a sweet tooth, also a sour tooth, at the same time. It was almost a guarantee I had a sour warhead, if not at least the wrapper stuffed in those pockets somewhere. I also had my pocketknife. When I wasn’t going to school I took that three bladed boy scout knife with me everywhere. One could never know when it would come in handy. Need to open a pack of cards? Make a fishing pole? Just add a shoe lace and whittle a bit. After all as a scout you should be prepared right?
At 20 those pockets had a new narrative. A pack of camel lights, and Iwo Jima Zippo. They made me cool you know? A neon bracelet with some clubs name on it. It said to everyone “You can come in but you can’t have a beer”. If I was lucky a crumbled napkin with a phone number on it. I wonder if I call it will Christy really answer? More likely it will be some grumpy old man who is REALLY tired of getting Christy’s phone calls. I may have been a Marine but I was still that geek. My ID card, have to be able to get back on base. And a few bucks leftover from the weekend…if I was lucky.
When I cleaned those pockets out tonight at 33 it was quite different again. Some change, but certainly not enough of it. My cell phone, you know so the wife can tell me when she’s coming home and I can have dinner ready. A black hot wheels funny car, and in a separate pocket its spoiler waiting for me to fix it. A hat, blue with anchors, that is entirely too small for my head. Its supposed to be a Gilligan style bucket hat, on my head its more of a yarmulke. A pack of crackers…you know for emergencies, when we’re an hour from home and its snack time. And tissues, anyone with a toddler knows there are never enough tissues, wipes, four foot square towels, whatever. Toddlers are messy little people.
All in all my pockets would clearly identify me to any one of those super smart TV detectives. I am a dad. One that is on duty all day. Because my pockets are no longer mine. My pockets belong to E. Those 3T gymboree shorts just don’t have the storage capacity he needs at the moment. I can’t wait to see what story his pockets will tell in the next few years when I’m doing the laundry.
Have you ever sat by a campfire? Smelled the sweet smokey aroma of good wood burning? Casually sipped a beer while watching the flames dance?…..This is nothing like that. Let me paint you a different picture. Have you ever sat by a fire for 4 days? A fire completely made up of dried up weeds and swamp grass? Sweet oily smoke so thick that five hundred miles away it shows up as a haze in the streets and school children are advised to wear masks because the schools are open air?
Apparently every spring farmers in Indonesia and Malaysia, our closest neighbors, burn their fields to clear them prior to planting. And apparently every year Singapore experiences at least a few days of hazy smokey weather because of it. Unfortunately this year the burn coincides with the change of monsoon weather patterns and the driest month in two hundred years. These two things conspire to make the haze worse than ever according to the people who have been here for awhile. The change in weather means the winds are slower, lazier if you will. Almost as if the are so beaten down by the heat that even the air is languid and doesn’t want to move. The dryness means more of the ash stays in the air and that the field fires are less controlled.
The air quality index has been steadily moving up. This evening you can smell the smoke and see the haze gathering about the streetlights. It makes me think that maybe Michael Jackson had the right idea. Surgical masks when out in public and respirators for the kids. Or perhaps I need to fly some members of a Plains Tribe over for a good old fashioned rain dance. Something , anything, needs to change. Our new apartment is pretty small compared to what we left and if E can’t play outside daddy pretty much has four options.
Spend exorbitant amounts of money on indoor play places so he can actually be tired. Now on the one hand this is not a horrible idea. We went to one last week just to check it out. It was pretty cool. A four level structure indoors with slides and ball pits and a piano on the floor right out of “Big”. ( If you don’t get the reference Google it, then watch it. Tom Hank’s best movie….ever. ) Also it had a bistro attached to it with very good food, full service coffee ,cappuccino and such, and a full bar. That’s right full bar. While junior runs his crazies out mom and dad can drown theirs. The downside is for a a day of play and lunch (and I did not even partake of the bar) we spent sixty three dollars. Way to much to make it a regular part of our routine.
Try to entertain E at home with the windows closed and the air conditioners running. Again pros and cons for this. Pros being its cheaper, there is no travel time, and I can do this in gym shorts and a tank top. Cons being again our place is small and I don’t think there is enough square footage to keep either one of us busy for long. And certainly not enough for him to get sufficient exercise to be truly tired. As anyone with a toddler knows their energy level can be expressed as a mathematical equation that looks something like this. E= 3(Hs+Cc-Ba). Or expressed as words, His energy is equal to my hours slept plus coffee consumed minus body aches times three.
Let him run amok inside a mall. While this sounds like a good idea at first blush it again becomes a monetary knockout punch. Most stores here take the you break it you bought it rule very seriously. Meaning I would probably buy a lot of things I not only don’t need but are already destroyed. Double whammy.
Curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth talking to the purple elephants until the air quality improves. While this option sounds quite entertaining, I’m fairly certain it does not equal good parenting.
So let’s hope that the wind picks up and the rain comes down….soon.
I’m trying to post every other day. And I have to say this is going a lot better than I expected. In a little over 2 weeks I have gained 10 followers and had 240 views of this blog. I know most of you are family or friends keeping up on what we’re doing out here. But a good portion of you aren’t, and I just want to say a sincere thank you. It helps keep me motivated to write something down each day to keep this going. It gives me something to do at night when my wife is at work and Emmet is asleep.
So Thank You!!