Our Marriage Is Intact

Back in July, as I was preparing to celebrate?our traditional wedding anniversary (which, she maintains, has less significance than our ROM anniversary, but to me, it’s just another annual reason for us to celebrate),??my wife sheepishly approached me.

“I tell you something, you don’t get angry, okay?” she said.

“I’m not going to get angry,” I replied. “What is it?”

“I lost my wedding ring.”

I understood the significance my wife held of losing her wedding band. We’ve talked about it a few times; my wife was usually the one telling me not to lose my ring, as it would ultimately signify that our marriage would be in trouble and we may eventually break up. Superstition? Maybe. But this is one of those things we wouldn’t take any chances with — we love each other too much to get careless with our rings.

I pulled her closer and gave her a hug. “Don’t worry, we’ll find it.” I reassured her.

The next couple of days we searched through our entire house for a tiny silvery circle with a tiny sparkly diamond. Under cushions, in bed crevices, under the sink, in the drainage pipes,… I would have said we turned the house upside down looking for it, but if you knew this family well, you would know the house was already quite upside down to begin with. We found coins, keychains, a number of toy balls, a couple of toy cars, and some half-eaten muruku sticks (we’re still trying to teach Xan to eat over his bowl)… but no ring.

I continued to reassure my wife that everything was going to be all right, and we sort of left it at that, though I knew guilt from losing the ring would continue to hang over my wife’s head.

4 Months Later

The last week or so, I’ve been busy clearing out our study to make space for a set of new tables that we took over from my sister’s office (the official excuse for this blog’s hiatus last week). Last week was also our ROM anniversary, and we came to an agreement that?due to our present circumstances, we wouldn’t buy each other presents. In the back of my mind I thought it would be a nice enough present if I end up finding the ring in what we have always rated the worst-kept room of our looks-like-there-was-an-intruder-but-no-it’s-just-us house.

After the tables were delivered and I started repacking all the stuff, I was sorting out our collection of 124 pens, pencils and markers when I heard a clink. I looked down and saw a tiny silvery circle with a tiny sparkly diamond on it.

I picked up the ring, and then I picked up the phone, and then I messaged my wife:

Human sentiment is a powerful driver.?It’s funny how we attach meaning to objects, to such an extent that if we lose that object, we might fear the worst. But at the same time, having these rings on our fingers gives us this sense of peace and safety, an assurance that everything is okay, even when the odds are stacked against you.

But since we found the ring, my wife’s caught me smiling whilst staring at her now shiny-again ring finger. She’d give me this weird look like I was unconsciously mouthing the words “My precioussssss”, but no.

I’m just happy we’re okay.

Suffering the Wrath of Singapore’s Online Lynch Mob

Online mob lynching in Singapore is turning out to be a weekly event nowadays, and I have to say, our newly formulated pastime of vigilante justice come with very dire consequences; it’s
got people leaving the country, getting
or losing their university scholarships. And just for this week, we’ve got our by now named and shamed secondary school boys in the Woodlands Regional Library nursing room debacle keeping everyone’s mouths wagging. But the Blogfather has been particularly interested in the story whom Alvinology endearingly terms the “#SGBreastfeedingBoys“.

The story as it unfolds carries at its core a stark contrast in parenting behaviour: the calm and resilience of a mother whose child needs her, versus a moral (and at present, literal) absence of the 2 “handsome” boys’ parents.?Indeed, the absence is immediately and very much felt by the public, undoubtedly fuelled by one of the boys’ closing taunt that his parents are “very important people”. Amidst calls for the offending boys’ parents to step up to address their children’s behaviour, a number of commentors have also put in their pleadings against the mob lynching, saying they’re just “boys being boys”, and that their young lives may thus come undone by the public insistence that justice be served, by whatever means necessary.

Indeed, a certain amount of leeway should be exercised for careless, brainless moments such as this, but considering these boys’ folly was 14 years in the making (that’s how old the boys are), it does beg the question, what have their parents been doing (or not doing) all this time? At the same time,?a bigger, much darker question looms; what’s going to happen to these boys? In the heat of the moment, and at the peak of our angst, few will know or care… unless you happen to be the boys’ parents. Then as much as you’ve neglected your parenting responsibilities up till now, you will inevitably be spending the better part of your immediate time dealing with the answer.

Our modern methods of mob lynching
scare the shit out of me (this coming from a guy who claims to have no time to entertain fear). In medieval times, you commit a social booboo, you’d get stoned or burned at the stake, your life ends there, finish, kaput. These days, you commit a social booboo, you get your face plastered online, your name mocked and smeared in mud, your entire future turned into a big question mark, regardless of whether you repent or not. Your life as you know it potentially ends here.

But it’s not finished. It’s not kaput. You probably can “reboot”; change your name, move to another country. But you still have to live with the memory and knowledge that an entire community, society, perhaps an entire country, has rejected you. I don’t know which is worse.

Learn About Child Rights — Through Hip-Hop?!

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The wife?sent me a flyer for an event over Facebook this morning, and I thought she finally found a hip-hop course for our 3-year-old son, thus taking her first step to realising her dreams of being mother to a K-Pop star.

Alas, Xan will have to live another few years to qualify for Kim Hyun Joong status; the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Dance Engagement Programme 2012 caters for kids aged 12-18 years of age.

Organised by the very recently renamed Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF, formerly MCYS), the event hopes to teach our youth about the UNCRC’s guiding principles of children’s rights:

“- That all children?should not be discriminated?against, on any basis, including race, colour, sex, language, religion, and disability.

– That children have a right to?survival and development?in all aspects of their lives, including the physical, emotional, psycho-social, cognitive, social and cultural.

– That the?best interests of the child?must be a primary consideration in all decisions and actions affecting the child, or children as a group.

– That children should be allowed to?express their opinions, especially in matters concerning themselves.”

Seriously, all this, through teaching dance skills? If the Blogfather wasn’t 12 years past the programme’s age limit, I would be signing up for this just to see how they plan to pull this off.

Snarkiness aside, the UNCRC was formulated in 1989 by the United Nations to address a need for a unique set of legal considerations for under-18s — legal rights that are not otherwise offered to adults. Today, the UNCRC’s 4 abovementioned general principles are incoporated in much of our legal framework and processes that deal with under-18s in terms of individual protection, family management, and even delinquency.

But these principles aren’t just for governments to ratify; they’re also really sensible guidelines for parents to bring their children up on. Ultimately the UNCRC nurtures very strong core values of societal respect, individuality and freedom in children as they grow up (not to mention parents as well), so it’s really heartening to see the MSF backing the initiative.

The UNCRC Dance Engagement Programme 2012 Workshop will be held at Danz People Studios, 1 Selegie Road #02-18, POMO (formerly Paradiz Centre) Singapore 188306

Workshops for 12-18 years are scheduled on 19, 21, 23, 26, 27 & 29 November 2012. There are also 2 classes for 7 to 11 year olds on Saturday, 17 Nov 2012 and 24 Nov 2012.?And they’re all free!

For more information about the workshop, please call 6377 3173 (Mon – Fri, 9:30am – 6:30pm) or you can email to uncrcdance2012@eventstation.sg.

Image via [Events Station]

Talking To Strangers

Dear Xander,

As a by-product of teaching you it’s okay to talk to strangers, you have become a very social little boy. It’s always a joy for your dad to bring you through public transport, because I never know what to expect from you.

Just last Friday night, you managed to put smiles on 2 whole busloads of people with your chirpiness and social smarts. And it all started when you were offered an empty seat next to an Indian auntie. The ensuing conversation you had was nothing short of jaw-dropping for your father, who could do nothing else but stare with an awkward smile the entire time.

You: (crawling up the seat) “Thank you!”
Auntie: (surprised) “Oh! You’re welcome!”
You: “Hello! How are you?”
Auntie: (doubling back with a smile) “My, you’re such a bright child! What’s your name?”
You: “My name is Xander!”
Auntie: “And how old are you?”
You: “I am 4! No, no,… I mean, I am almost 4!”

At about this time, my jaw was already half dropped. I was not expecting you to carry a full conversation with me, much less a stranger. Auntie continued the gleeful conversation.

Auntie: “And which school are you from?”
You: (with a bright toothy smile) “I am from XX Preschool!”
Auntie: (getting up) “Oh, auntie has to get off now. Goodbye Xander!”
You: “Bye bye!”

Auntie reaches the exit door.

You: (louder) “Good night!”
Auntie: “Good night!”

Auntie starts walking off the bus.

You: (even louder) “Take care!”
Auntie: (stops for a second to turn back with a gigantic smile) “Oh, you too!”

By this time, about half the bus has noticed you. The ones who were on their phones looked up. The ones who were observing just had these big wide grins as they looked at you.

But it didn’t end there. Soon you were talking to another passenger, a younger Indian woman, standing in front of you.

You: “Hello!”
Woman: “Hello! Where are you going?”
You: “I am going to my grandma house!”
Woman: “Oh! That’s nice! What’s your name?”
You: “My name is Xander!”
Woman: “Oh, Xander is it? That’s a nice name!”
You: “What’s your name?”

In my head I was thinking, “Who is this boy?”

Woman: “Oh, haha. My name is Pinky.”
You: *giggling* “Heeheehee! Pinky?”
Woman: “Yes. Why you never say it’s a nice name also?”

I decided to play along.
Me: “Ya, you have to answer the question. Is it a nice name?”
You: (to me) “Okay.” (to Pinky) “Is it a nice name?”

The conversation went on for a number of stops, ranging from jungles in India to braving the sights of lions and tigers and you never having gone to the zoo. Finally, Pinky reached her stop, and then you exchanged goodbyes the exact same way you did with the Auntie from before.

By this time, the entire bus was awash with a quiet brightness from having heard your louder than usual voice conversing about lions and tigers in India. It happened again when we transferred to a feeder bus when you decided to engage yet another random passenger, this time an elderly Chinese lady, with your bright smile and by-now signature loud almost-4-year-old voice, “Hello, Grandma!”

Your mother and I now need to figure out how to teach you political correctness.


Your very impressed Dad

Watch Your Socks, You’re in an Indoor Playground

Ball pits, cushioned slides, hamster tunnels… The Blogfather’s seen a few. Indoor playgrounds are getting pretty popular ?– and in some cases, pretty infamous, too. So to help parents looking to shell out a couple red notes for their child’s sweaty entertainment (and maybe raise a few points for more experienced indoor playgrounders), I sussed out this relatively new industry with the rules of play from some 9 different establishments to give you the lowdown on exactly what you’re paying for.

What You’re Paying For

Safety and Hygiene: As far as the establishment is concerned, you’re promised an environment of good safety and hygiene standards; this means indoor playgrounds will generally check to ensure all the equipment they provide are in good condition (some even go as far as certifying their facilities with European or
international child safety standards), and are regularly cleaned or sanitised. That being said, the safety and hygiene of indoor playgrounds are only as good as the customers they allow in. So indoor playgrounds also observe heath check protocols on anyone, regardless of child or adult, which includes temperature and HFMD checks. Any indoor playground will insist you bring your child (or yourself) home to sleep off the sniffles or chunky cough before coming back to please visit them again.

Security: Some indoor playgrounds also provide a sense of security for parents, installing CCTVs to monitor children’s activities within the confines of their play area. There aren’t many who do this though; remember that you are looking to pay for specialists at child’s play, not security guards. With that in mind, take care of your belongings, and report any suspicious looking articles to the staff, or call 999.

What You’re Not Paying For

Parent/Guardian Supervision Advised: Don’t even think about doing anything elsewhere from the playground while your child is in there. While staff may be trained to handle a playground full of screaming kids that are otherwise allowed to go at it with full abandon in a gigantic hamster cage, the most important thing you need to take note is that most of these places are not daycare centres. Very few indoor playgrounds actually offer childminding services; one major player even goes out of their way to state “We do not provide daycare” in their establishment rules, which kind of gives you a hint of how often parents can take these places for granted.

Indemnity Forms:?Before entry, indoor playgrounds will present you with an indemnity form to sign, telling you that you use their facilities solely?at your own risk, and that the establishment “is not responsible for any injury, loss, theft or damage to patrons howsoever caused, including any injury, loss or damage arising from the negligence of the management or its employees.” This alone makes it compulsory for a parent to stay within the premises while their child is jumping around in there. Also, bear in mind all managed indoor playgrounds will reserve the right to refuse entry or throw out anyone who behaves badly or causes problems in the facility. It isn’t just children, either. The rule can apply to adults who had a few too many beers, bully other kids, or generally gives other people (not just staff) a hard time. So watch it, bub.

Toilet Facilities: And since most of these indoor playgrounds are also located within shopping malls, don’t expect toilet facilities within the compound. Whether it’s Number 1 or Number 2, bring your kid to the loo before stepping in. And if your child is not yet toilet trained, diapers are a must, as are parents or guardians who are on hand to check every 40 minutes or so to see if the little one’s cup has runneth over. There’s other fun stuff for you to take note before venturing into an indoor playground.

Wear Socks: No indoor playground will allow anyone to trample all over their
facilities with grimy shoe soles or sweaty feet, so socks are a compulsory item. If your kid wore sandals or slippers out that day, most establishments have house branded socks for sale, and in various sizes too.

Age and Height Limits: Generally, as long as your kid can walk, most indoor playgrounds will have a place for him or her to go nuts in. Main play areas tend to be catered to children aged 3-12 years, though, so find out if there’s a toddler play area before you begin. There’s a height limit for some places too (generally
resting at 1.45 metres), so if you have a kid with a stature that might qualify him for basketball shoe endorsements, you might want to sign him up for sports lessons instead.

Bring Your IDs: Some places might require your child’s birth certificate and/or your NRICs/passports for age and relationship verification.

Adult Play: While some indoor playgrounds explicit disallow adults to join in the
fracas with their kids (one playground specifically disallows adult entry into their play area unless the child has been injured), a select few actually do allow parents to claim back their lost childhood, if anything, to foster parent-child bonding and encourage self-supervision of children. So check with the establishment before diving into the ball pit.

Don’t Climb Up the Slides:?It’s an early introduction to road traffic regulations; slides are one-way roads. Trying to go up will result in sliding down again anyway (especially with those socks your kid has on), not to mention the 4-5 kid pile up at the bottom that might result if your child decides to play rebel with
this rule.

No Sharp Items: No jewellery, watches, plastic toys, screwdrivers,?pocket knives,?long-handled orange combs, or anything that customs will not allow on planes. For that matter, try not to bring your mobile phone into the play area; it’s next to impossible to find if you lose it if you drop it in the ball pit (first-hand experience).

No Food and Drink: With the exception of formula and drinking water, please don’t send your maid in to tail your kid with a bowl of porridge. A number of indoor playgrounds have in-house cafes with seating for you to feed your child, as well as have yourself a cup of coffee while your child is screaming his or her lungs out in the play area.

All that being said, this is just the establishment rules. Experienced parents may have guidelines of their own to follow, so if you have any, feel free to share what you know in comments.

What Are Fathers Good For?

Lots and lots and lots of things have been said about the mother’s role in the family, but it seems like dads prefer the silent warrior role, only appearing when called for or needed. My wife can very well give you a whole list of things I’m not good at, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and pre-empt her.

  1. I can cook, but after I’m done, the kitchen will look like a car workshop in mid-day.
  2. I can wash the dishes, but after I’m done, the kitchen (and I) will look like an East Coast Park BBQ gathering after a sudden heavy downpour and not enough time to save our belongings.
  3. I can do laundry, but after the washing machine is done, the clothes will almost never dry (see point 2).
  4. I can iron clothes. Just give me a day for every 4 shirts (seriously, I take about 6 hours per shirt; one disadvantage being an extra-large).
  5. I can pack up an area of the house, but after I’m done, another area just gets messier from the transference.

I do have other extremely important skills that I hope redeems my poor house-husbandry skills whenever it manifests.

  • My Ingrish velli good one choo noe. (Okay, so admittedly this isn’t a very useful trait, but I thought I’d just say it anyway.)
  • I’m funny (yes, it doesn’t show much here, but I’m working on that). My wife’s friends can always bank on me to get a few laughs over our personal FB walls (you can subscribe to mine by the way; it’s right here).
  • I’m a techie. That makes me indispensable for emergency home entertainment repairs/troubleshooting/rewiring across 3 main households (my own, my parents’ and my in-laws).
  • I am an extra-large. Besides being able to do the heavy-lifting, I also look intimidating. My wife knocked in someone else’s side view mirror once while I was in the passenger seat, and the other driver angrily chased us for a while until my wife pulled over. As I stepped out of our car to apologise on my wife’s behalf, the other driver did a double take, then said “Er, never mind. Doesn’t look like got any damage,” before practically running back into the car and driving off.
  • I like to muck around with websites and graphics, so I can knock together a not-too-shabby blogsite in a pinch. This is especially useful for my wife, since she’s a blogger as well. Mother of Xander was officially announced yesterday, go like it if you like it! (Her FB page is where Chairman Mao is standing.)

Most importantly, I am a dedicated father to my son, as my wife is a dedicated mother. None of who I am or what I do has any meaning if not for my family. So dads, if anyone ever, EVER comes up to ask cynically, “What are fathers good for?“, you know you have in yourself a damn good answer to shove back into their, um, Facebook comments.