Daddee Yah!

A working Daddee learning to cope in a big big world

And.. a… ONE!
Getting ready

And.. a.. TWO!
Up!
And.. a.. Hey I am up!
YAY!

And…OOPS!
On my ass!

Happy First Birthday, Caleb!

Soon you will be walking, and running, and we’d be chasing…..!

So here we are in Adelaide, Australia. Daddee had promised me that he’d bring me to a beach, since I have never been to one before, ever.

Daddee’s uni friend Uncle Al was kind enough to bring us to Seacliff beach, which is fine with me because it wouldn’t matter to me anyway if it wasn’t the most popular beach in Adelaide. Just as well because we were goofing around and there weren’t too many people to look at us funny!

Feet buried in sand!

Artist at work

Artist at work

watching the sun set

watching the sun set

What a great day!

I have asked Uncle Al again if he can take us to the beach again, and because he also had so much fun, he just might!

My dad’s talked about this since the early 90’s: Of bringing the whole extended family for a visit to his hometown (more like village).

Not that we minded the idea. Back then we only loathed about what the likely quality of basic amenities would be like. After all, there were stories of toilets with no doors, toilets with no toilets but a hole in the ground. Somehow it never eventuated.

Through the years, the kids (my nephews and nieces) grew, and my parents have also continued keeping in contact with his relatives (well, they are mine too). They too have made visit(s?) here (but I was away studying/living in Adelaide at the time). A recent idea my dad had was to contribute toward a memorial of his ancestors, to keep the roots alive.

Recently, that idea came to fruition. And what better timing to also time the visit to the completed site with bringing the family there as well.

We had spent the week leading to, and including Christmas Day 2009, in Xiamen China. Xiamen city is only about 2-3 hours bus ride to the village, so it isn’t like a real trek too deep into China (please mind my poor knowledge of Chinese geography). That has worked out quite well all this time for my parents, making it easy for them to visit our relatives all these years.

My dad organised a tour group for this visit- which was actually just us, the whole 29 of us! It was a fun time for all as there were no outsiders and we were as our usual silly-carefree selves :)

I can’t say there was a sense of belonging, personally. After all, we were all born in and grew up in Malaysia. As a father I reckon my dad feels some form of achievement in finally bringing his own children together to see his birthplace, to see where we are from, his and our roots, connect with some distant blood relatives, and his contribution back to the community when he left with his father to seek, and found, a better life in distant shores. He had done well for himself with very humble beginnings, and by extension my generation (and later) are now a lot better off comparatively.

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Take away the brick houses beside and behind this structure, and you have the house in which my father was born.

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My grandfather built this house in the ’60’s apparently after the ethnic unrest in Indonesia, fearing the same for Malaya/Malaysia, with intention to bring everyone back to China to live in this bigger house.

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This is (almost) everyone, infront of the “shrine” cum community hall that my dad funded and built

For Caitlin, at 5 years old I don’t think this will be a lasting impression. Ideologies of family ties is too mature for her. She will remember the some of the places we visited, and the fun with the cousins. She probably won’t remember how cold it was; she may remember what she wore; but she’s worn that same jacket before elsewhere.

One thing I’ve been saying to people who asked what I thought about my first visit to China is: “We were on the bus, driving through very long tunnels, to emerge to drive on long bridges.” I was rather awed by the landscape- it’s one thing to read about it and watch it on tv, but it’s another to see the natural landscape: mountains and valleys. Also, the technology deployed in this developing country is actually also more advanced than Malaysia. Tunnels bored through these mountains; long tunnels, and impressive world class bridges to carry you further. The highways are also multi-tiered, criss-crossing each other at higher and higher levels.

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It is a big big country, there are uneven developments everywhere. I personally only saw 3 beggars on the street, only in Xiamen city; 2 of whom are disabled, the 3rd looked able-bodied but with a toddler probably 2-3 years old.

More pictures here:

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From my immediate post before this, I was given a few ideas for future post topics. The first two look like fun, so I am going to attempt them, the second one first!

Write about your conceptions about being a dad BEFORE you become and what happened after you become a dad? How have you changed from being dad of one to a dad of two?

Better go get a coffee first- it’s going to be a long post!

Given I am quite passionate about this, I am going to break it up into two posts of distinct experiences with the two kids.

I did always want to have kids- I wanted three but Hot Mummee only wanted one. So we compromised.

I am the youngest in my family, which means there have been nieces and nephews since I was in my mid-teens. I played with them, interacted with them, and at times, was proud of them too- some of their remarks were so amazing that I found myself repeating them to my single guy-friends too.

But that was all I “did” for them. I didn’t participate in changing or feeding them. I did also cringe at their crying fits; one of them was a rather “difficult” baby in that she just cried all the time, the vein-popping type of cry (neighbours came around offering herbal ailments to soothe her, a la your baby is driving us raving mad).

Though I didn’t participate all that much as an uncle, I did have a rough idea of what it would entail: The scheduled jabs, the endless bottle-sterilising, being grounded, endless shopping for diapers and baby formula, endless washing of cloth diapers, sneaking around sleeping babies, deciding if a runny nose was life threatening… I just wasn’t full-on hands-on with most of them. There were also the gambles: The pregnancy’s success (a sister in law had a miscarriage, but has 3 subsequent teens now), healthy baby, character, nature, and traits of the baby (angel or devil), etc.

When we were expecting Caitlin, I was excited. But not the Hollywood-type OHMYGAWDIAMGOINGTOBEAFATHER excitement. It was gradual. I was also somewhat hoping for a boy, since boys can be the big-brother to a younger brother or sister. But I was happy either way nonetheless for a first child.

And there was a lot of planning, spread out to weekends; mainly on Hot Mummee’s side, cos she and her mum are the bargain-hunter type, and thus were on the lookout for baby furniture, rubber changing mats, cleaning aides, sterilisers, bottles, etc. On these trips I merely tagged along, was the chauffeur and concierge, not having much opinion about this or that product; except where it came to gadgets like baby monitors, cot ergonomics, etc. Till today mum inlaw still bargain-hunts for diapers, for Caleb’s use.

I guess I was mentally prepared, but wasn’t in the mode of making plans yet such as which school, what insurance; only insofar as where the cot was going to be.

For me, the emotionally high point was Caitlin’s birth. The whole ordeal deserves another long post by itself, but the highlight for me was my own involuntary thought that popped into my head right at birth; more specifically, when they had just towelled her off.

I am not the weak-stomach type. Hot Mummee’s labour was pretty bad, and as much as she wanted a completely natural birth, as much as she is a determined lady, and as high as her threshold for pain is, she needed an epidural.

When time came for Caitlin to greet the world, I opted to stand at the end of the bed, peering over the shoulders of the nurses and Dr Wong. Because I wanted to see this in real life, but mainly I felt I needed to watch this, as a father to my child.

Hot Mummee later shared with me that it was very helpful that I stood where I did. With the epidural, she didn’t know what she was doing or whether she was doing it right. My expressions, and I guess my occasional two thumbs-up, were good indications of the progress! :)

So, what popped into my head?

Kid, I am going to (try and) be your best friend.

Since my teens and witnessing how my elders interacted with their kids, I started forming an opinion that kids ought to be spoken to in an almost-adult manner. It’s fine to use baby talk once a while, but it should be kept to a minimum. And as soon as they begin comprehending the need to comprehend their universe, to start giving them as-straight-as-possible answers. I will admit I dodge the evils-of-the-world type of question, only to offer “it’s because they are naughty and didn’t listen to their parents”, or that violence on TV “is just acting for the camera”, for now- real violence on the news is a matter for an older age. Caitlin understands this last concept as I replay some of our home movies, and she recalls “acting” for the camera, that it’s not real.

From this, I intend to befriend my kids. I will still scold and spank if necessary, but I want to use a participatory-but-guide style on them, rather than I am dad and you shall listen with no reasoning. Firstly because I think that is just naturally my style, and secondly I want them to come to me with their issues and concerns, and not rely too much on their (school or whatever) peers. This way, at least I get to know what is going on with their lives, to some extent.

All this is, of course, only in the last 4 years or so, counting when we started expecting our first child, the nine months of preparations, and the 3.5 years since. And, as much as I can, I will also make her childhood as fun as possible, without compromising on teaching values and ethics.

Is it what I had expected it to be?

I guess more or less. I knew, in theory, what to expect and there were no real surprises. But in practise, the mental and physical efforts is another matter. The sleepless nights, Caitlin’s unique knack for vomitting, alertness for their safety, the answers to ever-curious toddler’s questions that need careful crafting, nursing their illness.

The pluses are also many: Choosing a name, the first steps, the first words (thus the name of this blog!), the intellectual interactions and bonding, the hugs for Daddee simply because.

Expectations of how Hot Mummee is as a mum, however, is another matter!

So, since there are a few dads that I regularly catch up with in this blogosphere, it would be great to hear the different (or the same?) perspectives from you guys too.

Thanks Lia for this topic idea! I shall follow up soon with part two: Becoming a Dad the second time.

As you know, I had recently brought Caitlin to Sydney for Christmas. Mummee was already there in Sydney- Yes, I flew with a 3 yr old alone!

She’s been to Sydney once before when she was 2. So for this trip, she still remembered the whole experience of the journey (which is what airlines should pay attention to! It’s not just the flight that customers remember- it’s the whole experience of the journey!)

So how did I prepare for the journey?

Prepare ahead
If you can help it, book an overnight flight. What follows will explain why.

Deprive them of sleep
To this day Caitlin still takes afternoon naps. On the day of the (night) flight, immerse them in activities during the day so that they don’t have a chance for the nap. What follows will explain why.

Check-in early
Get a window seat. Box the toddler in so that they cannot just unbuckle & already be on the aisle.

Hopefully there isn’t going to be a send-off party for your journey. Because checking-in early also allows you the time for airport terminal exploration. And do explore: The retailers, the facilities, especially if there are glass elevators in your terminal. It’s amazing how many times toddlers like to ride glass elevators. Caitlin kept exclaiming “whoooaaaa” everytime it was going up / down; the tourists in the same lift would find it funny the first time, but of course at the 100th time for Daddee, it had lost its cuteness.

What follows will explain why check-in early.

Don’t sit down, keep moving
This is crucial to the above points. What follows will explain why.

Don’t enter the boarding gate till you have to
This supports the above point. Once you enter the gate, you have nowhere to go but to sit down.

Be the first ones to board the plane
Two groups of passengers can board early (rather than board according to your seating numbers): Those who can afford first & business class, and those with kids.

Boarding early allows for quicker settling-down. Being the first ones on also allows the crew to notice & make mental notes of you & the toddler. This makes it easier to ask for toddler-favours!

Now, the why if you haven’t already figured it out :)

S L E E E E E E E P

If you can, arrange for toddler to stretch out
Of course this is quite difficult on full flights. But once the plane starts taxiing, scout around for empty seats to possibly move to. Caitlin is already over 3 feet tall, it will make her sleep a lot easier.

I did all the above on both flights to & from Sydney; where I also managed some snaps of her with the Christmas tree.

She was quite full of anticipation & excitement. This started a few days before when Daddee started creating the buzz. The adventure starts when she starts getting dressed ready for the airport and the flight. “I am going to Australia“, she would tell everyone. The experience then includes the KLIA Express train ride to the international airport. She’s always loved train rides. Arriving inside the massive structure of the airport, the checking-in, another short ride to the satelites, are all mini-adventures of running around & ahead of Daddee on this great journey. Oh, the travelator also makes for interesting if not somewhat exhausting-for-the-Daddee activity of “let’s go again!

Once settled on the plane, and making Caitlin understand and accept that the jie-jie will only start bringing around the headphones once the plane stops getting higher and higher, I had asked the crew to get me some warm water for her milk feed. Airplane food isn’t always very toddler friendly. Depending on what it was, some things she ate, but mostly it was just the bread roll.

From her first flight experience she remembered the inflight entertainment. Still reeling from the ongoing adventure, she insisted on watching something. Note to parents: the headphones provided will be too big for the toddler.

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I had to MacGyver-ise something to make the headphones fit her little head. I took the headrest sheet of tissue & folded it a few times to make up for the gap between the top of her head & the headphones.

I think it worked pretty well- she was happy with it.

On the Sydney – KL flight returning home, I did more or less the same things again. on this journey we had a 1-hour stop-over at Brisbane. Caitlin was already wearing out by the time we were due to board back on the (same) plane. When the plane was taxiing on the runway, even before take off, this seasoned traveller was already asleep.

And, she slept all the way to KL. I, however, didn’t sleep well not because of tending to her needs (toilet visits, meals, “I can’t hear the tv!”, “Caitlin come back here!”) but because I was concerned about her rolling off the seats in her sleep.

So, if I can do this flying with toddler alone, so can you!

One of the wonderful innocence of toddlers, at least for mine, is their ignorance of differences among people. While she was in Sydney, she saw no difference in the people she met: white, yellow, or black. This innocence was all too apparent at the Australian immigration check point at the airport, when we were leaving the country.

“.. And where are you going, sweetie?” asked the officer.

“I am going to Australia!”

Well, we must have made her feel like home, wherever she was! ;)