The Newspaper Interview That's Not In the Newspaper

I was asked to be interviewed for last Sunday’s edition of The New Paper on the latest revisions on the Marriage & Parenthood package. I later found out my answers weren’t going to be included in the feature, partly because my “profile doesn’t really fit the sort (the reporter was) looking for”, and also because the reporter in question didn’t get to finish talking to me over the phone (Okay, that one maybe my fault).

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Nevertheless, I do have the interview Q & A mostly documented in my e-mail and Whatsapp. So I figured, why waste a huge chunk of opinion over a very hot topic of national conversation? You’ll find the interview below (edited slightly for readability):

Q: Can u share with me your age and occupation?
A: 35, blogger (seriously).

Q: How old is your son, and personally? What is stopping you from having number 2 right now (especially since you are evidently enjoying fatherhood quite a fair bit!)?
A: My son is 4, and who says anything’s?stopping me? LOL. But make babies not easy leh.

Q: How many kids in total do u see yourself having?
A: 2-3 max. There’s only so much joy we can bundle.

Q: ho takes care of your child currently? Is it a struggle to find childcare?
A: My son goes to a full-day childcare/preschool (in the CBD area and near my parents’ home) during the day, after which his grandparents will pick him up from school in the evenings (we get fined $1 per minute if we fail to fetch him from school before 7pm) before my wife and I fetch him home from 8pm onwards. On weekends he’s with us almost exclusively.

“Struggle” is quite an understatement. Just in our vicinity (we stay in the Northeast), it’s nearly impossible to find open slots just for 2-3 hour childcare centres, much less full-day childcare providers, without being put on a waiting list that will stretch for months. Then there’s cost; even after the current $300 per month full-day childcare subsidy, we still find ourselves paying $700 monthly for a mid-range operator.

Then we still have to factor in preschool curriculum adequacy (is it primary school-ready?), staff qualifications and hospitability, facilities, food, hygiene, transport arrangements, and most importantly, whether your child is willing to accept the foreign environment you’re about to put him in on a daily basis.

Q: Is it difficult to juggle work and being a dad? What is the greatest struggle/challenge?
A:? Despite any company’s best efforts at providing work-life balance, there is a clear divide between work and family that is hardly ever crossed, and the working parent constantly has a hard time convincing one side that the other requires special attention, even if the respective employer or supervisor is a parent himself or herself. New mothers will make full use of their 4-month maternity leave at the risk of losing touch with their work, while dads face the abject scrutiny of their employers for not pulling their weight should they choose to prioritise their family over their jobs. It seems that while employers’ mindsets are said to be changing, companies ultimately must take care of their bottom line despite their employee’s disposition.

Q: What do you think of the recent baby bonus roll out? Enough? Can do more?
(Note: This answer was given before the new childcare subsidy plan was announced the next day, so it doesn’t take into consideration the additional subsidies that are being offered come April 2013.)

A: Based on the previous $4,000 baby bonus allotment matched dollar-for-dollar with our own contribution, and in consideration of just our child’s preschool fees (after subsidy) and paediatric healthcare, the total sum ($8000) in our child’s Child Development Account was only sustainable up to his first 42 months. The current $2,000 increase (again, if matched with our contribution) would have only covered another 6 months’ worth of preschool fees with little left over; we’d have still run dry before he started kindergarten.

But I don’t believe throwing more money at the problem will solve anything though. If any improvement is to be made, it’s in pushing down the fees charged by childcare and preschool providers — private and anchor operators alike — to much more easily digestible levels for middle income earners, otherwise the government would have to consider doubling the total amount to provide meaningful assistance to parents at least through their child’s kindergarten years.

Q: For you, which factors affect the decision to have more children? Is it a very personal decision? How much of what the government does affects that decision?
A: I learnt that the meaning of “family” cannot be properly felt and understood until you have children of your own. I chose to embark on parenthood because I wanted to be survived by my children, but now I’m a father, I have come to survive for my child, and it’s an experience I simply cannot get enough of. That’s as personal a decision for?me to have more kids as it can get.

A friend and father of two told me, “No amount of money or benefits will make me want to have another child, period.” On the other hand, I take the view that I plan to have more kids regardless of whether there’s money or incentives to be had or not. Once that decision is made, even if I’m flat broke, I will find any and every means necessary to ensure my children are provided for, baby bonus or not.

Given these viewpoints, no one entity, public or otherwise, can influence anyone to bring life into this world and bear responsibility for that life. But as Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said on his Facebook page, “what (the government) can do is to try and provide an environment that is supportive as possible”. To that end, I see the package, from its introduction in 2001 to its current iteration, merely as a cushion, and not a critical factor, in family planning.

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Having children is very much a personal choice. And frankly, no one should have children just because your country needs…

Posted by Tan Chuan-Jin on Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Q: Do measures and culture at the workplace come into play when thinking about family planning?
A: In fact, I would think one would remove any workplace considerations from the equation when planning for a family. Jobs can change, and careers are never set in stone, but family sticks with you for the rest of your life whether you like it or not — or whether your workplace likes it or not.

Q: For your family, what is on the wish list? In terms of what the government can do, what would make or break whether or not to have one more or two more kids?
A: Education reform. We have an outdated education system that doesn’t serve even the government’s expectations of its economy and workforce development. The very moment it sinks in that there’s a child to bring up, parents immediately worry about how their children will fare in Singapore’s academic system. It’s the biggest barrier in raising local talent, and parents would rather quit their jobs to homeschool their children, or skirt off to another country to settle down, or even abolish the thought of having any more children before putting their children through an academic system that they’re not even sure will provide the skills necessary for their children to thrive in adulthood.

Did that hit the spot for some of you?

The Government Wants You to Get It On (But Still Doesn't Quite Know How)

I spoke about it briefly here and here, but at length somewhere else when our PM announced the government’s plans during the National Day Rally speech. Yesterday, as promised, the latest revisions to the Marriage and Parenthood Package was announced (the last round of revisions was rolled out in 2008).

You can find the full details at heybaby.sg (why does the domain name sound like the precursor to a list of bad pick-up lines?), but The Blogfather is inclined to put his two cents’ worth into the changes we’re seeing here.

heybaby

1. The Government Wants You to Get a Date

In 2008: the Social Development Unit (SDU) for graduate singles, and the Social Development Services (SDS) for non-graduate singles, would be merged into the Social Development Network (SDN).

In 2013: The SDN is (unfortunately) still there.

Though the SDN got thrown into the mix back in 2009, I always approach the idea of a government-sanctioned dating agency with a tinge of sadness. It says a lot about this nation’s ability to date if the government feels the need to come up with a matchmaking scheme just to help us along. But regretfully, I personally know one or two 35-year-old virgins, so I have to concede to the organisation’s necessity, though deep inside I still question its effectiveness (those virgins I know are still virgins, after all).

2. The Government Wants You to Get a Room (Well, Kinda)

In 2008: There were (and still are) a whole slew of schemes and grants in place, including the Fianc?/Fianc?e Scheme that gave rise to using HDB flats for wedding proposals instead of rings, priority queue placements and flat allocations to first-time HDB flat buyers, a staggered downpayment scheme (also for first-timers), and the ability for Singles Grant recipients who subsequently marry on or after 1 August 2004 to top up their grants to the prevailing CPF Family Housing Grant rates of $30-40,000.

In 2013: Add the Parenthood Priority Scheme to that list; married couples with a kid (or more) of 16 years or below get priority if they’re buying a flat for the first time, and they can rent a home from HDB under the Parenthood Provisional Housing Scheme at between $900-$1,800 while waiting for their Built-to-Order (BTO) or Sale-of-Balance (SBF) flats.

It’s supposed to be the most important part of this slew of revisions, but the new PPS scheme confuses me. Bertha Henson wrote in her blog, “… I reckon the G also has to appease those who have already done their duty, and whose need is greater,” but I agree with the people that told her it isn’t quite going to help those who haven’t got any kids yet. I mean, think about it: wouldn’t you find it really, really quite hard to make babies with your parents or your in-laws in the next room wondering if you were having a private wrestling match?

3. The Government is Making Having Babies Feel Like Striking 4D

In 2008: S$4,000 for first two births, and S$6,000 for third and fourth births

In 2013: S$6,000 for first two births, and S$8,000 for third and fourth births

One dad told me, “No amount of money or benefits will make me want (to have a third child). Period.” While I can completely understand where he’s coming from (he’s shared some disaster stories with me over coffee a few times), The Blogfather (and a mum?here?as well) take the very opposite view — that we have kids regardless of whether there’s money or incentives to be had or not. ?Given the varied response from the already-parents here, and despite the government’s well-intentioned efforts, this latest increase does beg the question: is the thinking behind the baby bonus scheme even right? Or is the government missing the point?

4. The Government is Allowing You to Use Retirement Funds to Pay for Having Your Baby

In 2008: You can use your?Medisave for delivery and pre-delivery expenses. If you opt for an assisted conception procedure, the Government will cover half your bill.

In 2013:?You can still use your?Medisave for delivery and pre-delivery expenses.?And now you can withdraw up to $6,000, $5,000 and $4,000 from Medisave for your 1st, 2nd and 3rd assisted conception procedures respectively. Also, now??the Government will cover 3/4s of your bill.

It frees up some much-needed funds for hospital fees, sure. But it does make me wonder if my country wants me to live past 65, because I really don’t think I’ll have very much money left in my CPF by the time I retire.

The Government Wants Dads In on the Action (But Only For a Little While)

In 2008: Dads? What dads?

In 2013: Oh yeah, dads. Sure thing. Take a week of paternity leave. On us.

Come on, we’ve been begging for this for a long time. And now it’s official, 7 days paternity leave. PAID paternity leave.Then there’s the existing 6 days childcare leave, and you can even scam?co-share another week from your wife’s maternity leave on top of that. So quick, go make babies! Just, you know, keep it quiet; you don’t want to wake your parents. But in all seriousness, guys, it’s an earnest start in recognising the father’s role in the family. And the way I see it, this won’t be the last we hear of improving our paternal participation. Just make sure you score well in that bloody BFI, okay?

***

The story isn’t over yet, boys and girls. There’s a childcare/infantcare subsidy sub-package that hasn’t been announced yet, not to mention new adoption benefits. People are noting the rather stark silence in addressing single parents in the new revisions as well.

Stay tuned.

[Results] Citiblocs Giveaway: A Little Craft-making, Some Yam Ah Mee, and the Winner!

In the spirit of fairness, transparency and way too much time on my hands, I decided to manually set up an actual paper lucky draw format and engaged the fairest, most objective and uncorrupted person I know to help me pick a winner.

First, we print out all the names. It’s easier if you have them all in a table with line borders.

Citiblocs Giveaway 1

Next, we cut out the names into horizontal strips, you know, with the names on it. And remember, scissors are sharp, so do ask an adult to help you.

Citiblocs Giveaway 2a

Now fold every name into little squares of equal size and put them in a bag or a box, preferably the packaging of the product you are giving away for the contest, you know, for product placement.

Citiblocs Giveaway 3

All this is best done while your wife and child(ren) are asleep, so that your kid(s) won’t know what you’re doing and your wife won’t say you sibeh bo liao.

Then wait till morning when it’s time for your kid to wake up, because the best time to do a fair, objective and uncorrupted lucky draw is when your child is groggy and is not old enough to read yet.

So to borrow the words of our beloved celebrity Returning Officer:

Fathermentary Citiblocs Giveaway 2013: Results for the electronic division of Blogfather.sg

  • Amie Chen
  • Eddie Yii
  • Jingxian Liang
  • Viola Tan
  • Cheryl Siew
  • Chuyan Kwek
  • Boon Hean Low
  • Regina Soejanto-Moo

The Hot Party

  • The Wacky Duo (cool)

The Cool Party (Independent Candidate)

  • Ian Cornelius Lai
  • Bena Chan
  • Isaiah Kuan
  • Syafiq Samsudin
  • Elsie Thng
  • Winnie Lam
  • Hillary Chan
  • Sheron Moey

The Anything Also Can Whack Party

Rejected Votes: 2 (that comment from that one ang moh guy from Canada, and all the replies from me)
Total Votes Cast: 17 (number is not reflective of my readership)

The local votes counted for the electronic division of Blogfather.sg are conclusive of the results.

Pursuant to section 49, sub-section 7E, Paragraph A of the Fathermentary Citiblocs Giveaway Act, I now pronounce you man and wife.

Oops. Sorry, wrong number.

We now invite our guest-of honour (who has just woken up) to select our winner:

http://www.youtube.com/v/qOfh1Iqj3wE?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0

To everyone who’ve contributed their very valuable time to participate and get to this part of the post, kudos to you, a million thanks, and it’s been such a blast! You’ve made The Blogfather’s first ever giveaway much more successful and fun than I anticipated, and I hope you had fun going through all that with me too! And to the winner: congratulations! You’ll hear from The Blogfather very soon!

Change — Yes You Should

I was having a conversation with my wife in the car this morning about why people in love might expect their partners to change for them. This is how the not-very-long conversation went.

Me: “… I’ve had ex-girlfriends who have told me at the point of our break-ups that they thought they could change me. I was like, ‘Wha…?’ Whatever happened to loving a person for who he is, and not who
you want him to be?”

Wife: “Well, I never intended to change you.”

Me: “Awww…”

Wife: “But hor, can you please put your socks into the laundry basket after you take them off? And then and then! You please try to aim properly in the toilet can? Xan must have picked that one up from you right? Whenever I see him pee hor… aiyoooooooh.”

Ladies and gentlemen, my wife, the Mother of Xander.

TheWifenMe

The Better Fathering Index: Seriously?

So Singapore’s going to have a “Better Fathering Index” to measure our fatherhood standards.

The Blogfather was not informed that he was participating in a competition to measure his worth as a father.?As far as I’m concerned, the Centre for Fathering just made the entire population of fathers in Singapore pee in their pants a little, and is even making some mothers a little pissed off.

There’s been immediate reaction from both women and men alike from the announcement. Kirsten Han wrote in her blog Spuddings, “Listening to my friends, I wonder if those behind the index even pitched this idea. Have they talked to many parents about this at all?”?Even Mr Brown remarked on Facebook, “Like fathers don’t already have enough pressures. Thanks ah.”

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I can understand if the Centre for Fathering is looking to comprehensively study the collective ways of the Singaporean dad; I’ve always wanted to know what makes Singaporean dads tick, and the Centre, in tandem with the Dads for Life movement, is most well-placed to embark on such a research project. But if so, why call it a Better Fathering Index? If I’m a stay-at-home dad, do I score better because I spend so much more time with my son than a career father, or do I lose points because I don’t bring home the money to take care of the family??Fatherhood (and parenthood, for that matter) is not an economic category, a tenet of productivity, or a corporate process with a determinable deliverable. Parenting is personalised by each parent, to each child, for a very specific combination of reasons and circumstances unique to each and every family.

Furthermore, creating a benchmark just for fathers completely negates the fact that parenting is a team effort.?A child’s familial support structure is crippled at best without both mother and father in the equation, and then a child’s nurture is further enhanced or degraded when you consider the role of grandparents, siblings,?aunties and uncles,?cousins, nieces, and even the school system.

So if there’s anything I learnt from being a father, and from working with other parents and just about every single person that’s ever interacted and/or cared for my child, it’s that you do not peg parenting to a scoresheet, regardless of individual or as a family unit or as a community or on a national scale, and expect any parent to take kindly to it. It’s just rude and downright insulting.

To the Centre of Fathering and the National Family Council: ?Better Fathering Index, Singapore Jock Exchange, The Fatherzone Price Guide, whatever it is,?you might want to rethink the name of your new initiative, and please explain in much more clarity what exactly it is you want to achieve by impressing a benchmark on an unquantifiable life experience. It’ll be great if it gives us the truckload of information we need to learn how to be better fathers, but you’ll only degrade us if you grade us.

Looks like a mini-blogchain has been going around on the topic. More dads (and a rockstar mum, no less) have chipped in with their two cents’ worth:

Proof that there’s a lot of parents out there that the Centre of Fathering seriously needs to talk to first. Seriously.

The Star

Dear Xander,

Last Saturday, at a birthday party hosted by Mummymoo for her 2-year-old son, you managed to score a big bunch of helium balloons, 5 normal coloured balloons topped with a gold star-shaped balloon.

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You always had a love for balloons of any sort, but that evening you were particularly infatuated with the gold star balloon in that bunch. But after the party, as we were driving, I noticed the star balloon was losing its volume slightly faster than what one would usually expect from such balloons, so I said to you, “Your balloon’s losing gas. You know what would e a good idea? If we let it go while it’s still floaty.”

“Why?” you asked, not quite understanding the concept of a helium balloon losing gas and hence its ability to float. So I changed tactic.

“Because stars belong in the sky.”

“Okay,” you said. “I want to let go of the balloon.” Your mother, who was sitting next to you in the car, was surprised when you said that; you have never ever volunteered to give up a balloon before.

We decided to stop over at Raffles City for some coffee before making our way home, an it was there that we found a suitable clearing where your star balloon was able to float up into the sky without obstruction.

As you prepared to let go, I said to you, “Now, you got to make a wish on the star before you let it go. Tell the star what you want and after it reaches the sky, it will get you what you want and make your wish come true.”

“Okay,” you said. You brought the star balloon right down to your face level, and said right into it, “Star, star. I want you to float up into the sky and make the Earth happy, so it won’t be sick any more.”

Your mother and I both paused in bewilderment upon hearing what you wished for. Then you turned to me and asked, “Can I let it go now?”

I nodded. And you let go.

Letting Go

About 30 seconds later, you were bawling your eyes out, saying you wanted it back.

Regretfully,

Dad

***

Dear Star,

You better bloody do what you’re told.

Xander’s Father

Chopsticks as a Way of Life

Dear Xander,

For 34 years, I never learnt how to use chopsticks properly. At the time of this letter, I am 35. Your mother, though able to use chopsticks, also never really got the hang of it, and would default to the metal spoon and fork whenever possible (where not possible, it would usually be in opulent Chinese restaurants where she needs to look presentable in front of relatives).

You started asking to use chopsticks since you turned 3. Nearly a year later, you’ve made more progress with using chopsticks than your fishball-stabbing mother and I would have at your age. Needless to say, we are impressed, and proud.

But there’s much more to the way of the chopstick than just making things difficult for people in Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese/Korean/Japanese restaurants. It’s something I learned a 2 years ago that spurred me to refine my hand in wielding the sticks at the dinner table. And it began with something Jerry Seinfeld said.
Many a Western diner cannot understand why Asians continue to maintain such a convoluted, centuries-old method of eating. Of course, we would agree with them, particularly when it comes to their food, which we also happily tuck into with fork, spoon and knife as customarily prescribed. But you will also learn through your own experience that with some Asian food, there is simply no compromise.

You see, there are certain dishes in Asian cuisine that require a very delicate touch; tofu, sashimi, dim sum, and particularly xiao long bao come to mind. Such delicacies require a gentle, yet experienced and masterful hand to cut, create, process, prepare and present to dinner guests, with the intention that once it is laid on its receptacle, be it a porcelain dish, a bamboo basket, or a leaf of green, it must maintain its form as its maker intended right up to the point where it enters the mouth of a patron. For many of these dishes, once its aesthetic is broken, so will its soul be lost, not only in taste, but in the eyes and mind of the diner and the chef.

So where forks are merely tools for the efficient transportation of food into our mouths, chopsticks are utensils of respect. Respect the food enough to handle it with care, and it will return that respect with all the meaning and character that its creator intended.

And if ever anyone tells you chopsticks are too difficult to use, just say, yes. Of course they are. Respect, after all, is not easily earned.

Respectfully,

Dad

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Parents vs the Singapore Education System

1st day of school

As Mr Brown put it, Facebook on 2nd January 2013 was “Kids-Going-To-School-Photos-Book”. Beyond the fact that our local chapter of Facebook users are very much dominated by young parents in their 30’s, those pictures of little smiling schoolchildren also betray their parents’s anxiety towards their children’s new year in school, and the rest of their academic lives that follow.

“Better take photo while my kid is still smiling. Otherwise come March they won’t be smiling any more.”

3 months later

Blogfather Nick Pan already feels the tension, and he makes no qualms about his fears in his blog. Despite his determination not to delegate any of the pressure he feels to his children, he wrote his eldest daughter a sentiment that no doubt carries over to his two other daughters: “We worry. We worry a lot for your studies.”

From as early as preschool, that tension begins to manifest for parents ?all over the nation. My wife and I are no exception, as evidenced here. And it slowly builds from year to year, plateauing at such milestones as primary school registration, PSLE, O-levels, A-levels, and just about every semester of polytechnic/university. For decades, we’ve lived — and flourished –under?a meritocratic education system that saw its golden years in the 80’s and 90’s, but has unfortunately started to turn toxic over the last 20 years.

Today’s schoolchildren literally bend over backwards for their schoolbags, cry over schoolwork that requires their parents to attend classes in order to understand, and then when they finally graduate, they find out that much of what they’ve learned in school doesn’t actually apply in real life. NUS Law Faculty dean Simon Chesterman summed it up best in his article, “Hurdles in childhood give good training”, reproduced in the Ministry of Education website, no less:

“Until now, much of their education was built around being posed questions to which there was a single answer, taught by teachers who knew what that answer was. Extra tuition and parental support ensured that they could provide that answer in exam conditions. These skills are of limited value in law school?or in life?where there is normally more than one possible answer.”

Problems in Life ?Don’t Have?Just One Answer

Chesterman points out 3 failings of the Singapore education system. First, that it drives our children to focus on and excel in specific fields (streaming), but forgets to teach them that there are so many other ways to look at a problem, and even penalises them if they try. So if John has 7 apples in one hand and 8 oranges in the other, easily a Singaporean schoolchild will answer that he’s got 15 fruit, but no one will hazard to point out that John either has really enormous hands, or in just a few seconds he needs to explain to his mother why there are apples and oranges scattered all over the floor.

Failure Is Not an Option, But It Really Should Be

Second, our current system has effectively churned out a good few generations of citizens that are scared stiff of failure. If you ask me, I look at the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Jabez Tan (the ex-convict turned entrepreneur that serves up some seriously mind blowing bak kut teh at Jalan Kayu), and I almost want my son to flunk his studies.

(Almost.)

Incentives & Disincentives

Third, we are rewarded for what we do right, but we are penalized for what we do wrong (I need go no further than?the fine example our Singapore Sports Council makes of its bottom two S-League teams beginning this year); it’s a de-facto trait of a meritocratic system, and while it puts any individual achievements clearly in black and white and trophies and medals, it robs us of the creative thinking and risk-taking spirit so apparent in our own fathers and mothers who grew up in a time before it all started.

Change: Whose Responsibility?

It has been said, time and again, that things need to change. We’ve been looking to our government as the potential instigators of that change for a while now, but funnily enough, in between trying to instill creativity, risk-taking and innovation into us and?extolling the virtues of the very system that keeps us from being creative, risk-taking innovators, it seems our political leaders haven’t realised they just plonked themselves rather uncomfortably in between a rock and a hard place.

But wait a minute. Can’t we initiate that change ourselves? For?the?same inadequacies raised by Chesterman?– the need to broaden horizons, to learn failure, to breed creativity, innovation and risk-taking — who better to fill the void that our schools can’t fill but us, the parents?

As parents, just having children alone puts us through the very processes that increase our experience in fields not previously taught to us (think identifying poop colours to determine the health of our infants’ digestion). Who among us hasn’t seen failure on multiple occasions (just count how many ex-boyfriends/ex-girlfriends you have)? And creativity? Pffft. I know enough mothers (my wife included) who have attended scrapbooking, jewellery-making and craft-making classes to make up their own “creative” industry. And the biggest, most important risk all of us have embarked on? Deciding to have children in the first place!

We have, on our hands, the very skills that turn the tables on our education predicament. Instead of making our children compatible with the local school system, it is entirely possible for us parents to bring up the same broad thinkers, creative craftsmen, innovators and risk-takers that we already are, a generation that the system needs to be compatible with instead.

Obviously what I’m suggesting isn’t a top-down initiative. Heck, I don’t even consider it bottom-up. It’s very much lateral, because we’re really in as good a position as our parliamentary cabinet to influence our children’s academic future. Really. And it’s so simple; we just teach your kids what you know, about the things that aren’t in their ?textbooks, about picking themselves up after a fall, about thinking out of the box, taking risks and being true to themselves, whoever they may be.

We teach them how to live.

[Review] CitiBlocs: Building Blocks with Unexpected Precision

Update (16/1): As of 11.59pm, We’ve closed up submissions for the Citiblocs giveaway!

Here’s a list of the happy participants (in no particular order. And those are colour preferences indicated with the names, and not necessarily indicators of whether these participants are very good looking or nice to hang out with. Submissions without colour preferences are indicated — rather tongue-in-cheek, so please eskew hor — with the phrase “chin cai”):

  • Amie Chen (hot)
  • Ian Cornelius Lai (chin cai lah)
  • Eddie Yii (hot)
  • Jingxian Liang (hot)
  • Viola Tan (hot)
  • Bena Chan (can be hot, can be cool)
  • Isaiah Kuan (also chin cai)
  • Cheryl Siew (hot)
  • Syafiq Samsudin (hot brudder, cool boyfriend)
  • Elsie Thng (I would like a plate of chin cai please)
  • Chuyan Kwek (hot)
  • Winnie Lam (chin cai with scallops and abalone sauce)
  • Hillary Chan (chin cai for many hours)
  • The Wacky Duo (cool)
  • Sheron Moey (chin cai: the movie)
  • Boon Hean Low (hot)
  • Regina Soejanto-Moo (okay, this one is self-proclaimed hot in every sense)

Thanks to everyone for participating, and keep an eye out for a Winner’s post coming very very shortly (as soon as the guest of honour wakes up and before he goes to school).

Let’s start the first post of the year with a bang. Read on to the end for a little surprise.

Over the Christmas season, I visited fellow friend and blogger Pamela of Tan Family Chronicles and owner of board game retailer My First Games, primarily to fix up an IKEA table I sold her whilst spring cleaning my house.

As I finished setting up the table with the man of the house (her husband Mr Tan), Pam very nicely offered me a bag filled with children’s books and 2 boxes of CitiBlocs, to thank me for making the trip. I’ve heard of the wooden building blocks from a number of other mom bloggers, and being the modest, humble Blogfather I am, I politely handed back the 2 plain sets of CitiBlocs Pam offered me, then looked at her with much gratitude and said to her:

“Can I have the coloured ones instead?”

A few days after Christmas, after Xander and his mother had gone through the plethora of toys Xander had received as Xmas/birthday presents (the Mother of Xander was primarily involved in building all the LEGO sets and polybags we received so Xan could admire them, and is now a newly-converted LEGO fan), we finally got round to trying out the CitiBlocs.

At first, I was skeptical. They looked exactly like Jenga blocks. I wondered how a bunch of wooden blocks, all the same length, width and height, would provide hours of healthy architectural entertainment to my boy.

The package came with an illustrated instruction booklet, and as my wife and I started flipping through the various creations that could be fashioned from each 50-block set, our eyes started to blur.

And then came the actual building. Xander took some of the sticks and started off on his own little building project, while his mother and I dabbled with duplicating what was presented in the instruction manual.

We found out what made these blocks so special: , they were all the EXACT same length, width and height, cut to such precision that once one block was in place, it is near impossible to remove without dismantling the entire creation.

Our little afternoon of trialing a product eventually lasted a good 2 1/2 hours of precision building, hand-eye co-ordination training for child and adults alike (once I start, it’s hard to put down) and a much greater appreciation of the quality woodwork and dedication that can and should go into making early learning toys such as this.

Pamela also mentions that these CitiBlocs are great for gatherings with friends with children in tow; while the adults mingle, the children will build. But it takes quite a bit of engagement before you can get a group of kids suitably hooked, so the trick here is to master one of the more visually stimulating builds to show he kids first, and then tell them, “Now you guys try.”

There’s more to this story, though. Courtesy of My First Games, The Blogfather now has a 100-piece set of CitiBlocs to give away (your choice of hot or cool colours)!

All I am asking for is 4 Facebook likes (if you haven’t already; seriously, you’ll really like all of them, too): one for me, one for Dear Xander, one for Mother of Xander, and of course, My First Games as well. Then come back to this blog post, drop a comment below with the Facebook account you used to like all them pages and we’ll pick out a winner right here! (You need to have a Singapore mailing address though.) Closing date for the contest is Wednesday, 16 January 2013, and we’ll announce the winner here and on FB the next day!

This will be my first ever giveaway contest, so do have a go! It’ll be fun! You have The Blogfather’s word on that.

My First Games is also giving The Blogfather readers an exclusive 10% off your purchase of their CitiBlocs range! To redeem, just use the discount code “BLGFTHRS” when you check out your purchase!