Featured Blogfather: Singapore’s Singlish Ambassadors

As a tribute to this featured blogfather – or rather, vlogfamily – extraordinaire, this post will be presented in both English and Singlish (English pedants, please cover the right side of your screen).

In English In Singlish
Singapore has a new Internet sensation in the form of 4 very endearing children, nicknamed Dr Jia Jia (6), his Big Bludder (12), their little sister Hello Kitty (3), and their latest addition Pall Pall (2), whose online videos have, at the time of this post, landed them a very impressive 8th position in Youtube’s list of most subscribed Singapore comedians of all time. Eh, you all got see these 3 chewren on Youtube not? Sooooooo cute, and dam farnee, man! Famous alledi some more!
Their parents, content to stay out of the limelight in favour of focusing on their children’s antics, have been uploading videos of their children educating the public about Singlish usage for 2 years now, and the YouTube channel boasts 50 very professionally executed videos, including 22 official Singlish episodes, and some public service announcement parodies thrown in for good measure, all scripted and produced by their father. Their lao pek lao bu quiet quiet make veeleeo of them for 2 years alledi, now got 50 veeleeo, inside got 22 episode all talk Singlish one, some more got make fun of TV ads one, choo know? Basically the veeleeo all the lao pek idea. Like very pro liddat, hor?
What’s even more amazing is that, amidst the fun and laughter, the family is also not afraid to talk about the more serious side of life, for despite their 6-year-old’s wonderful talent for comedy, Dr JiaJia was diagnosed with dyslexia. You don’t see everlyborry happy happy laugh laugh ah, acherlly Dr JiaJia got dye… dies… deeser… delicious… aiyah, he cannot read very well, but he still can be so talented you know? Mai siao siao ok?
His father said in an interview with Blogfathers!, “Dr Jiajia struggles quite a bit in his school with his dyslexia. He can’t copy stuff in the whiteboard in time. He can’t read much (except recently he has improved) and he needs his classmate to read him the math questions before he can answer. He couldn’t do well in spelling and was sensitive over it. But he is hardworking and often asked his mom proactively to help him.”However, with assistance from the Dyslexia Association of Singapore, Dr JiaJia’s affliction has improved by leaps and bounds. His father adds, “Until recently then he started to get perfect score in school. He speaks Chinese at home. But Hanyu Pinyin is hitting on his confidence. So you can say he is probably quite miserable in class although he tried to laugh it off. For Singlish he can’t read script. We read to him all the time, but sometimes he adds his own stuff. He has found confidence when he realized people like his character as Dr Jiajia.” The lao pek say hor,… aiyah, you read what he say on the ang moh side can? Wait I say alledi everlyting come out salah how?
Dr Jiajia’s tenacity for learning, coupled with the family’s strength and support for each other, shines through in the children’s online characterisations, making their videos seem effortless and wonderfully entertaining. More importantly, the family has become an epitome of our Singapore identity, and provides relief from the rigidity of our education system, and inspiration for us all. Dr JiaJia is velly velly strong, and I must really kowtow to the family, they all velly lurving one, see the veeleeo you know alledi. Their veeleeo like dam easy to do liddat, but got a lot of meaning one, see alledi make me sibeh ploud to be Singaporlian ah!
Who says we don’t have a national identity? Who? You tell me, I use one long long YouTube go hoot the fella fly to London.

Join in the fun with Dr JiaJia and gang on their Facebook page. Dr JiaJia is also on Twitter. Got connection one, mai siao siao. [DrJiaJia Youtube channel]

School of Life: Teaching Math As a Life Skill

As you guide your child through his or her first steps through primary school, you may have realised that there are plenty of non-curricular material to help with most primary school core subjects: storybooks in English and Mandarin for both languages, factbooks and fun experiments for Science, even storybooks addressing social issues for teaching moral education and social studies. But for mathematics?

Aside from assessment books, mathematics is the one subject that children have difficulty grasping, simply because its technical nature cannot be easily applied to their own real-life experiences. Textbooks will use apples and oranges, cars traveling certain distances at certain speeds, but at this age, children are more likely not to like eating fruit in the first place, and certainly don’t have driving licenses. However, there is one thing they will certainly take an instant grasp to: money.

Bear with me here, this is just a suggestion, but there is a bigger lesson to be considered beyond the idea’s surface.

Primary school is where school allowance is introduced into their lives. So instead of giving them a daily allowance of, say $2, how about you provide them with an upfront weekly allowance of $10 instead?

You will have to first introduce your child to the various denominations (from 5 cents to $50 at least), then teach your child how to enquire about prices before purchasing anything, and finally, addition and subtraction of prices to determine change. By the end of the exercise, your child will hopefully have learnt basic mathematics for up to 2 decimal points, which is pretty advanced for a 7-year-old.

There is a catch, however; should your child end up spending the $10 before the week is up, there is no more money to be had until the following week. This has to be a non-negotiable agreement, and that applies to you, the parent, as well. This is the discipline portion of the exercise, and also enables your child to learn to be budget-conscious when handling finances over a fixed period of time, much like how corporate finances are planned over a fiscal year.

Be prepared for your child to falter in the 1st week or two, though. This means ensuring your child will have something to eat when he or she comes home, even though it may not necessarily be something your child actually likes eating, like fruits.

You also want to ensure your child doesn’t resort to borrowing or asking for money from others by teaching self-reliance, i.e. that taking money from others means you take away the means for the lender to afford his own meal for the day, and vice-versa.

The most important lesson that your child can take away from this exercise, however, is that money is not an unlimited resource. By maintaining the discipline of providing only weekly allowances of a strictly fixed sum, you can also teach your child that money isn’t easily attained, and prudence is key for your child to ensure he or she can survive the week without going hungry at school.

Staying Ahead in Your Child’s Safety

Disclaimer: This article is based on research garnered from online sources and the advice provided may not cover all situations. Parental guidance is advised (corny, but nonetheless…).

The recent spate of near-abduction events over the last week have led to a panic amidst the parenting community here. Part of the reason for the panic stems from a lack of information over why these incidents are occurring, and what exactly parents need to be wary of as they pursue outdoor activities with their children.

The truth is that these incidents have existed for quite a long time, and on a regular basis. We have mentioned the most prominent case of the McDonald’s boys in the 80’s, then the Ikea incident that turned out to be a “misunderstanding”, and the recent case at AMK Hub. The latest incident occurred at a school in Simei, where a 10-year-old boy was snatched from his grandmother and subsequently let go.

How Abductions Work

There are a number of scenarios that act as motivation for such incidents, which also lend clues as to what to be conscious for when outdoors with your child. We do have to keep in mind, because child abduction is not a simple act by any means, kidnapping incidents are considered very rare in Singapore and the descriptions as follows are meant for a clearer understanding of preventive measures parents can take.

Organised Crime Syndicates

Image courtesy of Ms Sparky (http://www.mssparky.com)

These underworld outfits operate for the purpose of human trafficking for exploitation into slave labour, prostitution and even illegal organ trading. Around the region, these children may be exported to developing countries such as Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia to serve as drug mules, or even beggars, for instance, whose daily income – solicited from kind-hearted tourists or passers-by – are surrendered to organised crime heads.

Children are not necessarily picked based on defining traits (though healthy adolescents – male or female – are preferred), but more by locale, such as crowded areas where it is easy for predators to disappear with their prey, or along roads where vehicles can quickly stop for retrieval and leave without detection.

Black Market Babies

Image ? Richard Green/Mira.com

An international black market for illegal adoption exists where healthy infants and toddlers are primary targets; tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars are transacted for kidnapped babies, usually supplied by the same organised crime syndicates above, individuals in desperate need of money, or in some reported cases in America for example, staff in low-security hospitals who have administrative access to children.

Thankfully, such occurrences are almost non-existent in Singapore due to very strict policies governing the children’s safety and identity in local children’s hospitals.

Targeted Kidnappings

These are the stuff of hit crime dramas and blockbuster thrillers, and should be a concern for the socially affluent. It doesn’t help that a large portion of kidnapping cases involve kidnappers that the child actually knows, rendering the “stranger-danger” education largely ineffective.

Parental Child Abduction

In cases of matrimonial breakdowns or divorces involving children where custody battles are fiercely fought, a parent or caregiver not in custody of their child or children may look to extreme measures to strong-arm their own children away from their primary caregivers. These are, however, very rare, given a very strong deterrent in Singapore against kidnapping of any nature – if charged, kidnappers face the death penalty.

“Sorry, I thought it was my child.” – Mistaken Identity, or Psychological Craving?

Even rarer still are abductions by women who crave children of their own, but are by various circumstances unable to have any. The basis behind a strange woman leading your child away may stem from a case of maternal instincts overwhelming the female offender.

A Wikipedia entry summarises abductions of children by female strangers to raise as their own as follows:

“A very small number of abductions result in most cases from women who kidnap babies (or other young children) to bring up as their own. These women are often unable to have children of their own, or have miscarried, and seek to satisfy their unmet psychological need by abducting a child rather than by adopting. The crime is often premeditated, with the woman often simulating pregnancy to reduce suspicion when a baby suddenly appears in the household.”

In view of the above scenarios, certain locations can be pinpointed as hotspots for parents to take extra care when gallivanting about with their children.

Shopping Malls

Shopping centres are well-equipped with their own security teams to handle such incidents.

For example, in a response to concerned parents over the recent near-abduction case, the AMK Hub management’s own security team, working in tandem with the police, have taken action to step up security measures in the mall, including informing their security officers “to be more vigilant in looking out for any suspicious character(s)”, as well as stepping up patrols around the mall. The AMK Hub management is also assisting the local authorities with investigations relating to the incident.

Do be aware, though, that mall security cameras may not always serve the purpose of keeping visual records of what is happening in or around the mall. To save costs, some buildings may regularly employ the use of “dummy cameras”, devices installed for the purpose of deterring criminal activity instead of recording it. So when it comes to keeping a visual on your child’s safety, nothing is more effective than your own line of sight.

In making sure your child is also suitably free to explore when inside a mall or building, it is best to ensure your child doesn’t stray too far from you; a safe gauge would be within 2 to 5 feet of where you are (which we know is more easily said than done; pre-emptive education will be key to training your child in this discipline). From experience, when a very young toddler starts running too far for you to catch, instead of chasing after him or her (which your child might misinterpret as you trying to play “catching” with him or her), your best bet is to just call out to your child and get the child to return to you of his or her own accord.

Pasar Malams, Flea Markets

Unlike shopping malls, these outdoor tented sales events do not usually boast security teams of their own, but notably busy bazaars like the famous Geylang Serai Hari Raya night bazaars do have police officers guarding the streets.

Parents will do well to carry their child in their arms if they are able, or keep their young children’s hands held tightly in the swarming crowds, especially when near the roadside. Older children also need to know to stick close to their parents, and parents should always be mindful of where the boys in blue are in case they need to call for help.

Schools

The more seasoned child abductors will study habits before striking, and schools demand a regimental, repetitive daily schedule that is easy for them to follow. To this, the Ministry of Education (“MOE”) has policies in place that ensure the safety of schoolchildren in and around the school compound. These include security guards posted at entrances to record vehicles entering or leaving the school, as well as parent volunteers that ensure safety on the roads.

Most private schools also require parents to register their child’s caregiver’s particulars to ensure the right person is picking your child up from school or care centre.

School transport operators are also vigilant for incidents that fall out of routine, like a child who’s late for the bus or a child in the company of a stranger prior to boarding. It pays to maintain communications with the school bus driver, and let them know to update you if he or she notices anything strange or untoward along the way.

Parent volunteers working the road crossings during these times need to be mindful of suspicious new vehicles that are parked in the vicinity, especially if the same vehicle appears over a period of a few days. Also be aware of strangers loitering around school entrances; you can also politely ask if he or she is a parent, and possibly lead him or her into a conversation about his or her child’s experience in the school to determine if the stranger is the real deal.

Playgrounds

This is really where a parent’s skills in keeping track of their child can be honed to its fullest potential. Many malls boast large areas of play for children, equipping themselves with slides, crawling tunnels, and even water spouts for kids to run through, as well as a rest area for weary parents. Here you can practise watching your kids like a hawk (and become very good at it); besides watching for strangers who want to interact with your child, the more probable purpose would be for you to intervene if your child gets into a scuffle with other children over dibs on the swing, or crashing into other kids on the slide. Hey, it happens. A lot.

Special Events

Plenty of family-oriented activities are being churned out weekly for parents to bring their children out for a day of fun. Even then, given you are adhering to the advice given for taking care of your child in pasar malams and flea markets, some homework still needs to be done. Firstly, make sure you know who is organising the event; this isn’t so much to make sure you’re “hanging out with the right crowd”, as it is knowing who to go to in case you run into problems. In any event, the organiser will know how to direct you to the help you need if, say your child strays in the crowd and you can’t find him or her. In the same vein, make sure you know where the information counter or information tent is so you know where to go to find assistance.

Overseas

Who doesn’t want to go to Tokyo Disneyland, or Universal Studios Hollywood? The world is your child’s oyster, as long as you can afford it. But losing your kid in a foreign country can be the most harrowing experience a parent will experience.

If you have a set itinerary of activities to follow throughout, make sure you know where to get help in the places you’re visiting when you need it; this means getting theme park maps, or maps that indicate tourist information centres, nearby security posts or police stations. Tokyo Disney Resort, for instance, has a “Lost Children” section for parents who are separated from their pre-school children, and all Cast Members working in the Resort are networked with other Cast Members who will check with each other “in and out of the park to locate the missing child and to have him/her brought to you if the child is under their supervision.”

Also, make sure you register yourself and all your family members with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ eRegister system to ensure you can get support from the respective Singapore embassy or high commission in case of emergency. travel insurance covering your family is also essential; you may want to check with your insurance agent for more details on coverage in such instances.

When You’re Not With Your Kid

If you’re part of a dual-income family, and feeling vulnerable because you depend on your child’s grandparents or your maid to pick your kids up from school, remember that communication is key in your network of caregiving for your child, and you need to be very clear about how the child’s safety is to be priority. Focusing discussions on the child as the main topic rather than your own concerns will make sure grandparents know you bear no ill will, and drive the point through that everybody is working to make sure the child is safe.

Thunder Is Afraid of You

Dear Xander,

The recent spate of heavy lightning storms – in particular, the sound of thunder – had you spooked.

Uncle Mark’s sister, Felicia, tried to explain to you that thunder occurs because “the clouds in the sky are having a traffic jam”, and the rain banging into each other makes a fair bit of noise. I added that the motor insurance agents also add to the noise as a result.

We understand that at your age, your sense of hearing may be a lot more sensitive than us old fogies, and the low rumblings of nature clearing its bladder may be playing on your sense of securities.

Nonetheless, it became an opportunity for your parents to learn about raising your confidence.

One Saturday afternoon, in calmer weather, I taught you what you should do when you hear thunder.

Me: Are you scared of thunder?
You: Yes.
Do you know what you should do so you are not scared of thunder? Everytime you hear the thunder, you must raise your finger to the sky and say “Thunder! I am not afraid of you!” Then the thunder will go away.
You: Okay.
Me: Okay, try it. Say it.
You: Thunder. I not afray o’ you.
Me: With conviction!
You: (raises finger to the sky, with a smile) Thunder! I am NOT AFRAID OF YOU!”

The following Sunday afternoon, the skies grew heavy and as we were headed out to dinner, it started to pour. Your mother and I started to get worried as we made our way to the car, but surprisingly, as you walked a few steps ahead of me, you turned and flashed us a smile, saying, “I not afraid of the thunder now.”

These are the moments that make me proud to be your father.

Love,

Dad

Moral Panic: The Act of Hitting the Panic Button Too Many Times

This post delves into academic theory and may stretch a little long; apologies for the wordiness. It’s an occupational hazard.

Headline reads "AMK Hub Incident: Woman Snatches Child" (Image courtesy of Dad Working From Home)

We’ve all probably heard of the the recent alleged attempted kidnapping incident at AMK Hub, which caused a flurry of online reactions from concerned parents around the island, not to mention quite a few additional accounts of similar experiences being shared.

As the mainstream media covers the story, one particular article from CNA has ruffled the feathers of some parents whose already disturbed by the incident itself.

The article carried a statement from the police “urging the public not to circulate unsubstantiated information as this may cause unnecessary alarm.

It’s an oxymoronic statement, to be sure, seeing as the media itself has been perpetrating the alarming story with such titles as you see on the left. But the police, and the media reporting their statement, have good reason for this particular “urging”.

It’s a concept called moral panic, a term first coined by sociologist Stanley Cohen, but a social phenomenon that has existed for centuries. A moral panic occurs when “[a] condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests.”

The Ikea Incident

To fully understand the cause and effect process of moral panic, we need to go back 8 years, to an incident that happened at the Alexandra Road Ikea. In late 2004, a mother circulated an e-mail providing a detailed account of how a Chinese woman estimated to be in her late 30s to early 40s tried to lead her son away, except in this case, the boy’s mother was watching the entire time. The e-mail, subsequent replies verifying the story as well as the news reports are documented in their entirety in the SGCollect.com forum.

Typically, a parent’s reactions from reading the story unfold from beginning to end would go something like this. First, shock that such an incident would occur in a place as safe as Singapore. Then panic, as you relate the circumstances in your own capacity as a parent who frequently spends time with your children outdoors and in public places. Finally, a call-to-action as your gut instinct pushes you to warn other parents in your community about the impending danger, as well as take steps to ensure the safety of your children.

But what if you had read the chain of events in the Ikea incident from end to beginning?

A few posts down on the second page of the thread, the user keeping track of the story has posted a final CNA report on the incident stating, “The alleged kidnapping attempt of a two-year-old boy at Ikea has turned out to be a misunderstanding“, and that the Chinese woman involved, who turned out to be “a Chinese Singaporean woman in her fifties”, had gone to the police station with her husband to clarify the matter after seeing the media reports and her image on the CCTV footage.

By the time the news of the misunderstanding had been verified and published, however, the idea of the incident being an “attempted abduction”, supplemented by preliminary conclusions drawn by the droves of commenters in multiple online social networks including local online forums, had already burned its image into our minds, to the point where the words that are supposed to matter, words like “alleged” and “misunderstanding” no longer hold any meaning.

Imagine if the mother in the story got wind of the Chinese woman’s name, and put it in her e-mail; wouldn’t the woman remained marked for years to come, if not the rest of her life, even though she came forward to clear her name?

What Do You Mean, “Unnecessary Alarm”?

The local mainstream media tries to be very careful with what they report, as do the local authorities, because they have, on occasion, made the mistake of putting out too much information for public consumption, only to find what they reported not only wasn’t verified, it would adversely impact the lives of the people involved. Such is the power of media, and the reason why mass communications courses everywhere dedicate entire semesters teaching its students responsible journalism.

What the media and authorities cannot control, however, lies with us, the community. Our concerns, fears, opinions and sharing capabilities combined (particularly with the boom in the development and popularity of social media), make for a highly volatile community spirit that civil authorities in a democratic society does not quite know how to quell without offending public conscience.

As parents it is only natural for our alarm bells to ring when we encounter incidents such as those which happened at Ikea in 2004 or at AMK Hub in 2012. In an online discussion with a fellow parent over the issue, I remarked that this is more than just human nature at play; it is maternal (or in our case, paternal) instinct kicking in to guard your cubs in the face of impending danger. It’s this very instinct that shows the amount of love that a mother will give to a child, and really, that is already a phenomenal display of parental love. So by all means, panic. It’s only natural. But watch where you take that panic; the consequences of moral panic can potentially extend beyond the confines of our family dynamics into the fabric of society; such is the power of the people, and the reason why we need to understand how to use the information we absorb or are given responsibly. More importantly, where information is unsubstantiated, even if shared by a witness to the events, there is a very real danger of the information actually doing harm to someone who could turn out to be an innocent party.

Being Careful, All the Time

On the other hand, we do take for granted that Singapore is a safe country with a low crime rate, and that we are free to roam the streets at night without fear of a mugging or a drive-by shooting; this is the signature of the Singaporean lifestyle, and also what draws many foreigners from around the world to work and live here. But the truth is, things do happen, whether it be a maid killing her employer on a psychotic streak, arson on motorcycles in carparks, or people going missing for one reason or another (it happens more often than you think).

To this, it is prudent to give attention to the advice given by the same people that told you not to panic in the first place, saying, “as a general preventive measure, parents are reminded to arrange for their young children to be accompanied at all times.

Fellow blogfather Andy Lee says, “Unfortunately, we need this type of news every now and then to jolt us to wake up to the real world… Personally, with regards to child safety, I would prefer to err on the side of caution. End of the day, parents are always “accountable” for their kids… but from a broader perspective, we should ask why (do) parents need another incidence to remind ourselves about safety?”

We don’t need to wait for something to happen before we tell ourselves to be vigilant for our child’s safety; for as long as we are fathers and mothers, and regardless of what others say, we have to be vigilant all the time.

Keeping Your Child Safe From Strangers

20120321-215854.jpgA recent incident at AMK Hub involving a mother whose child was allegedly nearly taken by a stranger has been making its rounds on Facebook, and has the Singapore online community of parents spooked. Parents who grew up in the 80’s may remember the unresolved McDonald’s boys case that left the nation in shock and initiated a search that spanned across the region, and continues to haunt our generation to this day.

As parents, there really isn’t anything we would not do for our children, but in facing a situation such as this, what can we do for peace of mind?

When Being a Tech Geek Helps

When child safety becomes a concern, most fathers can always fall back on the one thing they can most relate to: technology. And one immediate solution that comes to mind? GPS.

20120322-003244.jpg

The creation of the Amber Alert in the US has given rise to companies that provide GPS location devices and services specifically for locating your child. The devices can be in the form of non-descript handheld GPS tracker boxes, smaller devices that are easily accessorised or concealed, or even watches or bracelets, that can be carried, worn, or placed in strollers and prams, and are usually tied to a subscription-based service that ensures immediate response should you need to locate your child.

The idea is not lost on Singapore; both Singtel and StarHub provide fee-based (monthly or pay-per-use) locator services that allows you to track the whereabouts of your loved ones. You will also need to equip your child with a mobile number from the respective provider and a WAP/GPRS enabled phone that is always on. The caveat is that the service only works for phones within Singapore, though location accuracy can be pinned down to within a 50-metre range given the right environmental conditions.

20120322-012848.jpgParents with iDevices for themselves and their children will have an easier (not to mention free) alternative. Apple’s Find My iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch app allows you to locate iDevices just by logging in with the respective iDevice’s registered Apple ID. Even if you’re not comfortable with providing your child with a phone, or your child is just too young to learn how to use one, equipping him or her with a S$288 iPod Touch may just give you that extra security to ease your worries, as well as an additional avenue of entertainment for your kid.

Safeguarding Your Child Online

Predators don’t just exist in shopping malls and outside schools; they hunt online as well. It pays to be aware of what your pre-teen or teenage child does online, particularly on social network and gaming sites like Facebook or Habbo, or even in their e-mails. This is an iffy area to delve in, seeing as a balance needs to be maintained between keeping your child safe from online predators and respecting your child’s online privacy with his or her genuine, legitimate friends. Your best bet is to have a proper discussion with your child about your concerns as a parent, and understand your child’s needs and boundaries as well, so as to properly accommodate each other.

20120322-013228.jpgDanah Boyd from Microsoft Research’s Social Media Collective, in an aside on her article about parents’ roles in teen password sharing, reflects on an interesting approach to ensuring you have a fallback access to your child’s online life while still maintaining trust with your child – by having your child place login and password information for frequented online sites and services into a piggy bank that can only be accessed by the parent by breaking it. The child will have a tangible promise that you are maintaining the trust relationship, and in case of your child’s safety being compromised, you will also have additional sources to seek out clues to your child’s whereabouts, clues that your child provides through his or her online activity.

Education is the Best Defence

20120322-013447.jpgRachel Teo, a mommy blogger at catch-fortywinks.com and co-owner of early childhood education website Myplayschool.net, provides excellent advice on schooling your child about the perils of stranger-danger. Rachel writes that a child’s true understanding of the stranger-danger concept takes more than just telling your child, “Don?t talk to strangers!”. Her picture book recommendations (for children ages 2-5) dealing with the subject, coupled with her holistic approach to teaching your child how to identify and engage with strangers, enable both you and your child stay conscious of safety whilst mingling with other people. Educating your child also forms the most important preventive measure against predators.

Keeping an Eye on Your Child

Of course, all this will come to naught without your own conscious effort to keep your child safe and close to you when you’re out. Vigilance naturally plays a large part of any parent’s care for a child, and it also requires much discipline and habit-forming on the part of the parent. Whenever you’re out in public with your child, always keep your child in your line of sight, especially if he has a tendency to run amok. When faced with a stranger trying to communicate with your child or lead your child away, retrieve your child as quickly as you can, but don’t yell in panic at the stranger when your child is still with him or her; instead, first try to treat it as a misunderstanding or mistake, because if the stranger is acting with criminal intent, he or she may have no qualms putting your child in danger in order to save himself or herself. Any action you wish to take on the offender can be taken after your child is safe in your arms.

We may take for granted that in Singapore the crime rate is low, But as dads, we will always see ourselves as the protectors of our families. Whether the stories of attempted abduction are real or rumoured, just remember the case of the McDonald’s boys, and be mindful that we do need to play our part to keep our families safe in any case.

Do you have any more tips to share on protecting your child from stranger-danger situations, or have a differing opinion? Do share your thoughts in comments.

The Travel John: It’s Either This Or Your Kid Pees In His Pants

As my 3-year-old son wades through the throes of his toilet training, my wife and I have had to employ a number of – ahem – unorthodox measures to help relieve him of his – cough – emergency situations. A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law even made me take a 100-pack of polyurethane drink bags to put in our car for when the boy needs to go and we’re stuck in traffic.

And then, whilst browsing through an army surplus store decked out like a Special Ops Force pantry, I chanced upon the Travel John Disposable Urinal.

The box touts the idea as a “leak proof, hygienic, odorless absorbent pouch”, meant for men, women and children for such situations “traffics jams, motion sickness, bad weather, potty training, camping/hunting, boating, flying a plane”. Oh, Travel John. You had me at “traffic jam”.

The disposable urinal comes with 3 opaque army-green bags containing a filter pouch with polymer grains purportedly able to absorb 50 times its weight, merging with your kid’s pee to prevent – among other things – splashing. The pack also comes with 3 aloe vera moist wipes, though I would assume any dad with more than 3 months experience on the job will be well stocked with Pigeon wipes in every conceivable room, car and pocket.

You know this bag was designed by a guy when he uses the word “adapter”. It extrudes out the mouth of the bag, and can be pushed back in and sealed after use, and can cater for both men and women. Technically speaking, your wife can use it too. Practically speaking, your wife might make you sleep in the bathroom for even suggesting it.

The bag’s also resealable, so you can use it multiple times (based on my estimate, maybe three to five times before it really starts feeling weird), but whether you want to is up to you.

So for S$10, save yourself the embarrassment – and fear – of having to tote a potentially explodable polyurethane drink bag filled with yellow liquid to the dustbin. Travel John also offers a “waste collection kit” (S$14) for number two situations, as well as a foldable commode chair for the kit that doubles as a folding chair and “is as comfortable as being in your own home” (I’m just speechless now).

I’ll post an update here once my kid screams for an opportunity to try it out.

The Travel John is available at Black Tactical, #05-40 Funan Digitalife Mall.

Everybody is Kung Fu Fightin’ (Update: Except My Son)

Update: Project “Donnie Yen” didn’t pan out for Xander.

To be fair, Sinowushu is a very disciplined school; their Tanjong Katong training centre is also very fittingly set in an assembly hall in the midst of the former TKGS buildings. They regularly churn out national champions in the competitive sport, and their students thoroughly impressed my wife and I. However, the biggest problem Xander had was his age; discipline requires a lot of instruction, and we felt Xander wouldn’t be able to handle such an environment this early in his mental development.

 

He also didn’t understand why everybody wasn’t smiling (though a few curious boys did come up close to him mid-kick exercises and wonder why he wasn’t all that enthusiastic about the whole thing). His first reaction was to say that this was a dangerous environment, and refused to join in for a trial class.

 

The quest will continue as he gets older; for now, my wife is looking to groom Xander into a K-pop star, so we’re switching tactics and hunting for a hip-hop dance class for 3-year-olds now.

Dear Xander,

Not too long ago, a friend of your dad’s was telling me about an overseas experience he had in a certain Western country. He was waiting outside a convenience store for a Caucasian friend of his who had walked in to get some snacks. As the friend came out, he was confronted by a small group of Caucasian roughnecks who started to harass him. Your dad’s friend, sensing something was wrong, walked up to see what was going on.

Here’s the twist: the Caucasian roughnecks saw my friend walking up to defend his friend, and suddenly stopped. Amidst the whispering, your dad’s friend could hear one of them say, “Yo dude, check it, he’s Chinese.” To which another roughneck suddenly raised his hands and said, “Yo, we don’t want no trouble. We’re sorry, man. We’re sorry.”

My friend later found out his friend heard another part of the conversation by one of the roughnecks which went, “Yo man. All them Chinese know
Kung Fu.”

Which is why we’re signing you up for wushu classes this week.

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Love,

Dad

Roaming Glass: Of Tots, Toys & Tech

Our featured blogfather started writing since 2009, tracking the milestones of his two boys – Lucas and Xavier – through images and videos, as well as injecting the occasional toy, tech, food, photography or event review.

The journey depicted in Roaming Glass (http://roamingglass.blogspot.com/) takes us through what many will go through in the rite of passage of fatherhood; bringing your child to his first dentist’s appointment, seeing your child through sickness and through health, home improvements in the name of child safety, and the general mayhem that may ensue when dealing when you have two boys in a brood.

One post has Roaming Glass providing a reflection of being a father who doesn’t stop at one (you can read the full post here):

I asked an old friend, who has 5 kids, how difficult is it to raise 5 kids. His reply was, “From one kid to two kids, it was tough, really tough. But the effort is quite similar for one to three, four or five kids.”

His bottomline was the transition from managing one kid to managing two kids is two totally different ballgame. After 3 months with Xavier and Lucas, I totally agree.

Roaming Glass even has a post on the perks that being a daddy blogger might bring, and a few tips shared by other daddy bloggers on the joys of fatherhood:

I picked up a number of useful tips and insights from the night. Here are some of them:
Reading to your child is important, even when they can read on their own. Its a different skill set to read and to listen and often, reading to them allows them to enjoy the story more and let their imagination run while they listen to you read.

William’s tip: Continue to read till they don’t want you to read to them anymore. NLB has been running a program call 10,000 & More Fathers Reading and this year marks the 5th anniversary.

Jealousy among?siblings?are quite common and Andy’s experience is that it affects all four of his kids, usually at different periods.

Andy’s tip: Explain the privileges of being older or bigger and to empower the older kid with responsibilities so he/she feels important.

Raising a bilingual is not easy. I find it hard to?consistently speak Mandarin to Xavier, even though I came from a Mandarin speaking family. Xavier only replies in English and after a few sentences, I would unknowingly reply back in English too.

Go ahead, scoot over and have a read. And remember to show some love to our featured blogfather in their comments section!

When the Children Cry (at the 1st month)

Your child has just come fresh out of the oven. You know your first month with your kid is going to be such a new experience; your wife seems okay, but you know she’s going to need as much rest as she can get, and your baby is not going to make that easy.

If you’re actively caring for your wife and child during your wife’s confinement period, or making sure everything is all right before you head back to work from your paternity/childcare leave, the very first thing that will hit a father in the face; you are potentially your wife’s balance between sanity and insanity.

And the most urgent thing you have to learn from day zero is the meanings behind your children’s cries.

My own experience with my son has taught me, there are 4 main cries to always be alert for: hunger, diaper change, sleep, and pain.

The cries are unique to each situation, and also unique to each child. Hunger cries start off soft, like a whimper, then gradually become louder and longer; it’s probably an indication for you to run for the bottle (or your wife’s breast – for your baby, not you). Crying for a diaper change will sound more consistent, and sound more like the baby’s complaining than actually sad. Tired crying is more of a way for the baby to release tension; you’ll need to check your environment to see if there’s too much noise, too much movement, too hot, too cold, or your neighbour is having an extended mahjong session. Pain crying won’t occur as often, but it will be the one that demands the most attention; it’s usually sudden, sharp and shrill, and could either mean your baby is falling sick, got an open diaper pin stuck on its belly or you might be sitting on it (please don’t do that).

Now what to do with this knowledge? Short of doing the breastfeeding yourself, whenever you can provide support to your baby in lieu of your wife, do it. Fatherhood is as much a 24/7 job as 7-Eleven is a store and more. Remember this very important fact: your wife had a little human sitting on her belly for 9 months, and the excruciating pain she had to go through to deliver the fruit of your loins is reason enough for you to provide any and every support you humanly can to ensure your wife – and child – are happy… for pretty much the rest of your collective lives.

Welcome to fatherhood.