Daddee Yah!

A working Daddee learning to cope in a big big world

The place where I work has recently just launched a blogsite. To out knowledge, there’s only one other company in our industry that has a blogsite. So, we are kinda proud!

And naturally, I am one of the blog contributors ;D

I wrote this one recently, and thought to share it here too. It may not have much to do about my own experience in parenting and kids, but; well, I’ll let you read it yourself…. Let me know what you think?

The thread that strings the chapters of my life..

I thought I heard Pa mention we were going to fly back to KL. I think we drove up in the car that was meant for his site engineer’s use. I am going to fly to meet Oscar (Goldman) who will brief me on my next exciting mission, to fight the bad guys again, to rid the world of such malice. I will show up in my smartest clothes of giant collared shirt and bell bottoms, man. Oh boy wait till I tell my school friends about this! I will still remain cool even though this is my first ever aeroplane trip; I will listen to my Pa and Kor-kor and remain seated even though the aeroplane has landed but still driving… I wonder why Kor-kor kept looking at this slim girl in uniform; the one who was serving the hot drinks, the one that other uncles near me were also constantly looking… Ee-yer, the stairs coming down from the aeroplane was so steep, but I shouldn’t complain- Steve Austin wouldn’t complain.

“Here, let me pin this on you….” He said, and then leads me to get my passport stamped, by this man in uniform sitting in a very tall counter. I am alone, wearing only my backpack, going to visit my jie-jie in Singapore. It’s the school holidays, you see…. Then he leads me to this big room full of people. We walk towards a counter infront of another door that leads somewhere, and asked me to sit here and wait, and speaks to another man that was behind the counter, and leaves. Later, the second man asks me to follow him; everyone else in the room was still sitting and waiting. I follow the second man through this door, and down this tube towards the aeroplane… After we land, another man comes to me, looks at the pin on my shirt, and asks me to follow him. We walk into another big structure, passing his friend also in uniform, who said “kid’s stuff, eh?” and they both chuckled a little. Yeah, like I don’t understand you are talking about me… We come to this big glass door, and he asks if I recognise.. Ah, there’s jie-jie there, waving….

I am going to be away from home for a long time. Mummy and I flew to Singapore first, for me to catch another flight to Sydney. We are to meet a friend who is on the same flight, in the same boarding school I will be attending. The flights’ timing meant that Mummy didn’t need to exit the terminal, only enough to see me to my departure gate, and she can then board another plane heading home. I will always remember the sight of her walking away from me, after saying goodbye, after trying to hide the tears welling in her eyes. I watched as she started walking away; watched until she couldn’t be seen anymore. She didn’t turn around at all. I know why. I wished she did. But I wished she didn’t. And I am glad she didn’t….

Holidays. I love them. Especially year end ones when I can go home! What’s an 8 hours flight when we have something like 7 weeks of absolutely nothing to do? Oh look- the magazine says “Back to the Future” is going to be on on this flight! Now if only those window passengers would close their shutters so that we can all watch the screen infront, and “Miss, can you ask that passenger 2 rows infront of me to recline his seat? I can’t see the screen, and it’s about to start….” At least they are giving out wired speaker headphones these days, and I hope it’s that crew who will be serving me- she’s kinda hot…

“You nervous, honey?”
“Yeah- do you think your parents will like me?”
“Of course they will…”
“…..”
“Just try and relax; hey look, at least now we have our own screens and you can watch that chick-flick you wanted to watch..” Thank goodness- I was never interested in that movie!

“Headset for you, sir?”
“No thanks…” I don’t feel like it. I am going back for a family funeral….

“How was the flight back, dear?”
“Good; even though we got a bassinet, baby didn’t like it, so I held him most of the time…. The crew was very helpful and understanding.. The flight wasn’t the nightmare I thought it might be with an infant… ”

“Oh, by the way, I will be going on a company trip.”
“Cool, where are you going?”
“Istanbul and Sydney. We are going there as part of the evaluation, as part of our tendering selection process”
“Wah… ”
“And did you know that managers get to fly first class?”
“WAH! No wonder you guys are losing money!”
“No, not really. The plane is flying anyway. We take those seats only if they are unsold….”
“I guess.. First class. I am so jealous…”

“Hey sweetie, wanna go to Sydney and visit Mummee?”
“Yay Daddee! We are going to Australia!”

Okay, now how do I keep a 3 year old entertained on board, and would sleep through the whole journey?

So some of you know that I had been planning this trip for a while. After all, when you have an annual privilege like this from work, it’d be a waste not to use it, wouldn’t it? :)

So a few months ago I asked Hot Mummee where we should go with these free tickets. “Gotta save money lah, impending recession, you know..”

The long and short of it? I went ahead with the planning without her. I decided to bring Caitlin along to Adelaide, where I went to uni, where Hot Mummee wouldn’t be interested in coming anyway, and where (thus, since it was only going to be an adult and a half) I was able to crash at a uni friend’s house. Yes recession may be coming, but this trip is looking pretty cheap!

So, last night we set out for the flight. This was all quite familiar to Caitlin already, after having flown to Australia twice before already, within weeks of her 2nd and 3rd birthdays, and now her 4th birthday!

The train ride was fun, as expected. We didn’t have that much time in the terminal to run around like the last time, due to pretty-ok-thus-little-buffer-time planning during that evening.

As soon as we got on the plane Caitlin was asking for the headphones already! “I wanna watch Bob the Builder!” She was quite right, Bob the Builder was listed as one of the program on the kids channel. But it was only 1 episode. In the end, she ended up watching Finding Nemo, twice.

Which also means that she didn’t actually sleep that much. I guess a little like her Daddee, she was trying to savour every moment of the holiday by staying awake as much as possible. But being an overnight flight, this wasn’t something I had wanted, because it will mean that we’d be wasting the following fullday trying to recuperate from the lack of sleep. And I had forgotten to ensure that she didn’t have her afternoon nap the afternoon of the overnight flight.

Which was what we ended up doing, because Caitlin only managed about 3 hours sleep, and I even less. But you wouldn’t know it if you saw her in the Adelaide international airport. She was jumping and running and giggling all the way!

Just as well for the time difference. She knocked out at her usual Malaysian afternoon nap time, which was around late morning Adelaide time. So, come night time, she’d be adjusted to sane local sleeping times.

Which she is now asleep soundly as I type…

Tonight, with my uni friend we went to Fasta Pasta. Those of you who thought this sounds familiar is because these are the same guys who ventured into Malaysia at Ikano years ago. It’s quite a big franchise here in South Australia, and the menu is still the way I liked it when I was at uni here over a decade ago….

So, after spending a day here, these are the things I forgot to bring! (ie, as of today!)

  • Caitlin’s hairbrush!
  • Clothes for ME to sleep in!
  • Malaysian driver’s license! I am so used to the fact that it’s incorporated into our MyKad that I forgot to bring the “actual” one..

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:

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! ;)