Dear Dad – a Daddy Matters Father's Day Special

For Father’s Day, the Daddy Matters Group posted a writing challenge for us to imagine what our kids might really say to us if they were to write a letter to their father. I thought it more fitting to have the letter written here instead of The Blogfather, though I will admit it does veer away somewhat from my usual letters to Xander. Anyway, this is what I imagine Xander might say.

Dear Daddy,

RE: FATHERHOOD PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL

I have noted the services you have rendered to me as a father for the last 4 years or so, and have thought it prudent to conduct a performance appraisal in the hopes that we are able to continue improving your service standards to the Family.

I must commend you on the contributions you have made to the Family thus far, and do also rest assured that your dedication to your roles and responsibilities as a father have been acknowledged by your peers. However, I do feel there are areas of improvement, particularly when I make comparisons to your colleague, Mummy. I will list the areas hereto, and hope you will do well to take note of your shortcomings for the good of the Family, and for your own good.

1. Inconsistencies in milk formula temperature

Mummy and I have noted that the temperature of the milk formula you make for me during bedtime tends to be on the cold side, particularly when the thermos has not been refreshed with hot water for a few days. Please try to have the thermos water changed with freshly boiled water at least once every 48 hours. I will also duly remind Mummy of this point when I am able to catch her in a good mood.

2. Speaking volume

I also note that you have a tendency to speak in a loud booming voice, even though you are not actually scolding me; I understand this to be a trait common to the members of your side of the Extended Family. However, please bear in mind that I am already very uncomfortable with just the sound of a Coke can being opened, much less a loud male voice such as yours.

Mummy has mentioned an interesting online Work Service Quality (WSQ) programme you might like to consider signing up for called the Orange Rhino. If you are interested, I will have Mummy arrange for course registration.

3. Driving

On numerous occasions whilst seated in the backseat of the Family car, I have raised concerns about the speed in which you tend to go while you are driving. Please be mindful of Section 63, Subsection 1 of the Road Traffic Act (Cap 276), which duly states:

63.—(1)  Except as otherwise provided by this Act, it shall not be lawful for any person to drive a motor vehicle of any class or description on a road at a speed greater than any speed which may be prescribed as the maximum speed in relation to a vehicle of that class or description.

I shall similarly raise the issue of Mummy’s use of profanities while she is driving with her – at a more suitable time.

4. Going home too early

Please note that your official working hours as a Father are between 8am to whenever it is I decide to fall asleep. During this time, there will be a period where we will be outside of the Family premises for dinner and perhaps a walk in a shopping mall. Let it be known that I do not appreciate being told that we need to go home at any time during this period.

5. Bathtime

You will note that the usual practice of bathtime in the Family premises should be as follows:

  1. You shower first.
  2. Then you shower me.

With that in mind, please be advised that you shower very fast, and your insisting that I follow up immediately after you severely cuts short the time available for me to watch my evening CBeebies programme. Do consider soaping a little longer, perhaps for 2 hours instead of 2 minutes. I would really appreciate your cooperation in this.

6. Leaving the bedroom while I am sleeping

Don’t. I don’t like to sleep alone.

***

I would like to mention that your management of weekends with the Family is quite commendable, and I also find your administration of the back-end operations to be satisfactory. I do hope you will continue to serve me and the Family well, and hope you will make a conscious effort to improve your work in the days to come.

Sincerely,

Xander

My Father, the "Lao Hee Low"

This post was first published on June 10, 2008 on My Ivory Throne.

My father happens to be my 1960s icon, and my own inspiration (and case study) for fathering the way I do. He first became a father with my first sister in 1965 (very close to August 25th, in fact), and to this day, nobody knows how he managed to put 3 of his daughters through university with his primary school education and meagre immigration officer pay. To this day, he refuses to divulge this secret himself, but we all have this nagging suspicion it has something to do with horses.

My father has since retired and now spends most of his days calling me to figure out how to use the Internet on his computer.

My mum called me this morning telling me my dad had spent the night at a hospital for gout pains. Apparently a friend had to drive him from work (he was on night shift) to Alexandra Hospital because of the excruciating pain he was feeling, and the doctors told him to rest in the hospital and head home in the morning.

As far as Dad’s medical history was concerned, this was almost unheard of. My father has an occupational history of the last 16 years without a single sick day, and would rather tough it out in the office than stay home and lay in bed nursing a fever or some such minor illness. He is also a colon cancer survivor with the determination to survive that’s as strong as steel, and even when he went into surgery to remove the cancer from inside of him, he contemplated taking leave to do it. Incidentally, that was 17 years ago.

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My father was, and still is, on the payroll of the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, and has gone through grunt work, up to supervisory positions, and even all the way into management level. During this time he has always stood up for what he believed in, even when it meant standing up against what he didn’t. If not for the fact that he was working for government, he’d probably be a mafia don by now.

Case in point (and I am trying my best to portray as accurate a picture as I can): at one period in his career and sometime in the late 1960s, my dad, then a young, fit, and quite intimidating 20+-year-old immigration field officer, was relegated to guarding illegal immigrants’ lockup cells.

(When he told me this story, I was envisioning one of those Mexican police station lockups with my dad and a colleague sitting in an open area in front of the cells smoking and playing poker or something. Of course, this being Singapore, it is very likely much more mundane than that).

The guy he was supposed to report to (who, according to my dad, was this young hotshot university graduate that liked to pull rank, especially to older, more experienced staff, as a show of tail feathers) walks in one day while they were smoking and playing poker and starts shouting at them for skiving at work.?As he drew nearer to them, my father – still seated – starts reasoning with him, but the bespectacled man starts screaming down at him in his chair, bringing my dad to boiling point. So my dad gets up out of his chair and looks down into Officer Suddenly-Realising-His-Subordinate-Is-a-Head-Taller and starts telling him in a louder-than-comfortable voice, “Show some respect,” while raising his index finger to Captain Wide-Eyed and slowly pushing his glasses back up his suddenly sweaty nose bridge and into his face – hard. A few months later the university graduate requested a transfer out of that department (my dad says the guy tried to get him transferred, but was told of my dad’s history with ICA and decided to do it to himself instead).

Of course, this may be a little more dramatic than what actually happened, in which case, do forgive the idolising son who has not encountered any other person in his life with such a strong personality.


Which leads me to the epilogue of this entry. Over the weekend I heard my dad had gone to get himself checked for some immobility in his left arm, and he did a very similar thing as I have described above to the doctor that was unfortunate enough to have been tasked to show him his ECG results. It went along the lines of him flipping out in the doctor’s office, telling the poor physician that his results cannot be trusted and that he should eat the file his ECG results came in (or something).

He was diagnosed as having suffered a stroke and two minor heart attacks – and over the last three months.

Strength is measured in many forms, not least in physical attributes, and more intangibly, character. But while strength can be taken from the body in many ways, it is not easily diminished in a person’s character, so long as he has held on to that strength his entire life. Say hi to my dad.

The Blogfather, in the SG Blog Awards?

Well, this is unexpected.

I was in the midst of a rather serious discussion on Facebook when suddenly my little FB message and notification icons started exploding with, uh, messages and notifications. Apparently I’m a finalist in the Family Blog category at this year’s Omy’s Singapore Blog Awards.

SG_Blog_Awards

The first 30 minutes, I was still wondering what to do. Should I call my mother and try to explain to her I have a blog and there’s this thing called the Internet that I’m part of, and now I may win something for it? Should I go around my constituency, say hi to all the aunties and uncles, shake hands with all the young people, hold a random baby and offer free Hokkaido chiffon cakes from my wife to canvas for votes? Maybe I need to go to the police station and apply for a permit to hold a rally. Or stage a magical blackout at the ceremony just as they are announcing the winner.

Then I thought, “Let’s not go there. Just bloody write a blog post.” I mean, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

To tell you the truth, I parachuted myself into the SG Blog Awards largely after encouragement from the wife, a number of other mum bloggers, and the Daddy Matters blogger community. “Register for the Awards,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.

Well, thanks, everyone. I wouldn’t have registered if not for this big, boisterous blogger community telling me there was gonna be a party involved. And this blog would really not be as happening if I didn’t have readers; you – each and every single one of you – shaped this blog and everything that gets posted here. So if you’re gonna vote for me, know that you’re effectively voting for something you made happen.

Let the fun begin.

Singa's Resignation – A Perfect Irony

Update: The Singapore Kindness Movement has responded directly to The Blogfather (as well as some other alt-media outlets) with a letter posted on their Kindness.sg blog. You can read it here.

I first saw the resignation letter being floated around on Facebook, and I thought it was a spoof… until I saw where it came from.

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Whoever thought this up, I salute you, because this has to be the most genius maneouvre in our 34-year-old, “did-it-ever-really-work?” Courtesy Campaign yet. The Blogfather will try to explain why.

Singa’s been keeping a low profile for a while now. He knows he’s an outdated mode of positive reinforcement (let’s face it, the dude’s an 80’s line drawing) facing an increasingly bitter nation of cynics. The simple lines and flat solid colours just can’t hack it any more in the world of YouTubers and 9GAGers. The powers that be know full well it was time for him to go; but how should they send him off?

“Singa’s resignation was part of the movement’s efforts to draw attention to the state of kindness in Singapore.”

– Statement by the Singapore Kindness Movement, quoted off AsiaOne

How-to-Run-a-Campaign

And oh, how it drew that attention; Singa’s resignation letter is a true reflection of the voice of our society today – one of dejection, disappointment and disgruntlement, and the exact kind of thing that, coming from a government sanctioned icon, will make dejected, disappointed and disgruntled folk like us vehemently disagree with him.

If you don’t see the beauty yet, give me one more paragraph (and bear with me, because the most beautiful irony tends to be a bit repetitive).

Here we have a national icon of courtesy, kindness and general flower-scented orange wholesomeness, basically saying he’s had it with us being “angry and disagreeable” all the time. Ironically, that in itself carries such an angry and disagreeable tone. Coupled with the 34-year-old ideal that Singa has always stood against anger and disagreement, the entire letter goes so completely against his principles, that the angry and disagreeable – us – will inevitably get angry and disagree.

Pure genius, I tell you. Pure genius.

Put all the criticisms of Singa’s resignation together – the ensuing comments in the original article (from naysayers ironically refusing to accept that Singa’s resignation is real, to voices of disappointment and acknowledgement that our society is truly going to shit), the discussions going around on the social networks (“CHIU MEAN SINGA LION IS REAL?!”;?the EDMW bulletin board never disappoints), the bloggers coming up with their own missives (Daniel Food Dairy fired one at Singa for being a quitter when his father wasn’t, Mr Brown tried to come to terms with the news with a Twitter hashtag game, and then The Void Decker decides to write a reply letter to reject the resignation) – and you start to see what is really happening. In all the disagreeing about being disagreeable, we’re actually (and super-subliminally, I might add) saying, “We don’t like your tone, Singa. You can do better than this”, which translates to “We don’t like our tone. We want to be better than this.”

By resigning, Singa has ensured the survival of his message, just by simply stooping to our level. And by becoming one of us, he has turned us all off of being the angry and disagreeable society we are, because we’ve suddenly become so turned off by him. Oh, wow, the irony is still blowing my mind.

I just have one request for Singa (and the Singapore Kindness Movement). Please, do not think about coming back after this. You’ll only negate all the good you have done by leaving in the first place.

[Review + Giveaway Results] PLAY-DOH PLUS: The Classic Compound Gets an Upgrade

In an effort to boost our children’s creativity, we employ a certain array of play equipment for our young ones. Experienced parents will know this special arsenal of toys that seem to place no limit whatsoever to your child’s imagination – the wooden blocks, plastic bricks, drawing blocks, paints and brushes… all of which pale in comparison to the malleability and versatility of PLAY-DOH.

My own son is enamoured with the coloured compound; our ability to pass by that particular aisle lined with PLAY-DOH playsets is usually dependent on how much is left in my wallet at the time, because Xan simply will not let me pass without bugging me to bring at least something from that aisle home.

PDP1

Maybe I’m too old; I have long forgotten the days of my own youth where I would muck about, making dinosaurs, monsters, and whatever tickled my fancy when I had a glob of the stuff in my hand. And now, my son is in love with the same stuff, making… actually I don’t know what he makes exactly. He likes to mix them up into marbled balls of various colours, and when we leave him to play with his Play-Doh long enough, he manages to end up with one consistent brownish-black mountain, thus prompting us to get new bottles of new colours.

Truth be told, just about everything I’ve been doing in my life since my son was born has been for my son’s benefit; this blog and Dear Xander included. And if an opportunity to put a smile on my son’s face?presents itself, I take it.?So when I received word from HASBRO Singapore saying they had a playset based on their newly formulated PLAY-DOH PLUS compound available for review, I heaved a sigh of relief. “Good, one less trip to the department store,” I thought.

The Frosting Fun Bakery arrived last week, and immediately I was lost. My wife is the baking expert, not me. How, liddat? But Xander didn’t care how proficient we would be in the culinary arts.

PDP2

Assembly was a cinch, though. Xander knew where everything went, and after about 3 clicks (from left to right: cake cutter, frosting station and display case) and a bit of sorting (cake cutter templates, frosting extruder and tips, plastic cutlery, a cake stand and other accessories, as well as 2 tubs of classic PLAY-DOH compound, ?and 2 tubs of the new PLAY-DOH PLUS compound), he had himself a table-top baking station ready to go.

Now, built into the playset are moulds of various sizes for doughnuts, bread rolls, croissants (I can spell it, but I can’t pronounce it), cakes and muffins. The big problem I had was that the smaller moulds were really small, and my fat fingers had trouble digging out whatever shape we were trying to make without spoiling the intended shape. Evidently, my son would have better luck lifting the soft compound off the moulds.

Which brings me to that PLUS point of the new PLAY-DOH compound: the PLAY-DOH PLUS compound is softer than its classic PLAY-DOH counterpart. That means besides the usual moulding of PLAY-DOH into more solid shapes, you can now experiment with frostings and cream layers; please to see that oversized pink-coloured?ais gem biscuit (yes, that’s what it’s called, according to Biscuit King) my son has so keenly demonstrated below left.

PDP3

Okay, now for the juice.

GIVEAWAY RESULTS!

After much deliberation of how to go about doing the draw, we’ve ended up using a randomly downloaded Android app called Random Student Picker to pick the winner of the PLAY-DOH playset giveaway! (I was hoping it would be more drama than this, but anyhoo…)

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And the winner is…

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Congratulations, and hang tight! I’ll be getting the HASBRO people to contact you in a jiffy!

The PLAY-DOH Sweet Shoppe FROSTING FUN BAKERY Playset retails at S$24.90, and is available at Toys’R’Us and major department stores.

[Mother's Day] The Dilemma of Being a New Mother

A new mother (Cher of Becoming Mummy) and I had a conversation over Facebook a while back. She said, “(The first year of motherhood is) like a dilemma. You want it to pass quickly but when it’s all over, you’ll miss it.”

It made me think back to when my wife and I went through our own first year with our son, particularly how we first managed to survive it, and now, thinking back, that if we were given an opportunity to do it all over again, we would jump at the chance in a heartbeat.

I told Cher, “That’s maternal instinct for you. The dilemma is at its core a battle between head and heart. The hardship is intellectually formulated through knowledge, experience and thinking, but the emotional joy is hardwired into your system as a mother. The conflict is inevitable, so your soul has to mediate.”

The first years of motherhood are a rite of passage for every mother, and my little conversation with Cher are words I hope resonates with all mothers. I dare say active dads will also understand, because parenthood manifests a wave of change so strong that its ripples hit both mother and father, forcefully, repeatedly, indefinitely; resistance is futile.

Sooner or later, we learn to ride with the wave. The important thing to remember, though, is that you have to ride it together as a team. Both mother and father.

Happy Mother’s Day weekend, everyone.

PCF Child-Grabbing Incident: The Problem with Misinformed Fear

I spotted a number of Facebook shares today through a couple of friends about a letter issued by the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Hougang Education Centre warning of a “child-grabbing” incident that happened on 6 May.

PCF-Letter

Remembering the kidnap hoaxes that were circulating over the social networks last year, I decided to call the Hougang Centre, and subsequently the Police Feedback Unit, to verify the information.

Soon after I finished the call with the police, this appeared on the SPF’s Facebook wall:

Dear all, thanks for bringing to our attention the alleged ?child-grabbing? incident at Hougang Avenue 7. Police have investigated the incident and confirm that there was no such attempt to ?grab? any child away from their parents. There was a call made to the Police on 6 May 2013 at about 11am, informing us about a man in his 50s who was seen interacting with some children in the vicinity of Block 326 Hougang Ave 7. We subsequently contacted the informant and the PAP Community Foundation Centre to establish more facts. It was found that the man is actually a resident in the neighbourhood and that he was merely trying to interact and hold a child?s hand while he was in the lift with the child and the parent. There was no attempt by him to forcefully grab the child away. Hope this clarifies the incident.

We note that what really happened could have been taken out of context through hearsay by various concerned parties. While such concern is good, we would like to caution that the circulation of such unsubstantiated information can lead to undue public alarm and anxiety. So our advice is that in future if you do come across such incidents, please inform or the call the police immediately at ?999? so that we can take immediate action. Thank you.

I started a discussion on the Daddy Matters Facebook Group (if you’re a dad, you should join, seriously) which led to a number of dads also sharing the concern that one can never be too careful about these things.

Back on the SPF’s FB wall, there were a flurry of comments that followed, showing quite a division in opinion on whether the parental freak-out caused by the letter was justified or not. At the core of the “freak-out” camp was the argument that the PCF letterhead was an authoritative indication that the incident was legitimate despite the SPF’s claim that “what really happened could have been taken out of context through hearsay by various concerned parties.” The responses varied as such:

“SPF shouldn’t downplay such incident. The letter (from PAP com foundation) clearly states that a child has been grabbed. We should be vigilant at all times. This is not based on “hearsay” or rumours as what SPF claimed. Neither was the incident quoted out of context ! This is based on the exact notice sent out by PCF !!! Hello, please wake up.”

“Of course, we should quote things from official channel only (PAP is official enough I guess).”

“PCF Letterhead? Or you have an explanation for that as well? Maybe they should also investigate as to why PCF which issued that memo did so without investigating first. So who do we believe now?”

“The problem is that there are so many false information going around on the internet. People need to learn how to be more sceptical about what they read online and learn how to verify them with the correct sources. You may think there is no harm being more careful about everything but using false information to instill fear is not the right way to go. Such case takes resources away from the real issues that requires them, and resources not just being SPF, but your attention span as well.”

At this point, I thought I should note something about the phone call I made to the PCF Hougang Education Centre. The very first thing I noticed as I spoke to the PCF staff member was that she felt unsure about addressing the issue, despite the letter having been issued – by them, no less – in no uncertain terms that the incident occurred. Then when she went off the receiver to ask another colleague, that other colleague immediately and very curtly said, “No comment! No comment!” When she came back on the line, she told me, “The police are currently investigating the matter, and we have no further comment.”

It was altogether a rather strange phone call… until the SPF posted their update.

As I read the line, “We subsequently contacted the informant and the PAP Community Foundation Centre to establish more facts”, the phone conversation suddenly made a bit more sense. It sounded like the staff realised they may have released the wrong information before consulting the police.

Ouch.

I received a return phone call fromSPF later in the evening. At the time of this post, they’re still trying to find the man, but the information they got about him was from residents in the area that knew him.

The officer that contacted me also acknowledged that PCF was feeling a bit embarrassed about the whole affair, and they did not expect the letter to have gone viral.

Double ouch.

Still, my portrayal of what I thought happened was really just piecing stories together by virtue of the non-verbal signals I received (and the clarification call I received from SPF on the matter), so it’s really up to the PCF to clarify their side of the story now. But by no means should anyone blame the PCF staff for handling the incident as they did. They were only being vigilant, which is, as far as any parent (me included) can see, a top-notch initiative taken by professional caregivers to ensure the safety of their charges. What did go wrong was that the letter described a perpetrator in some detail (if you consider a “normal looking” man a description with some detail), when the accused had not yet been identified as guilty.

Then that letter went viral. And the general public took the letter as authority simply by virtue of its letterhead (the power of a red thunderbolt encased in a blue circle, eh?), despite the fact that it was written and issued by staff who were as human and susceptible to gut instinct as you and I, and equally reactive to a situation that they thought was an immediate danger to the children they cared for, and may have maligned someone in the process.

This is the very danger of spreading “information” I was talking about when I wrote about moral panic; I am just glad for now that the identity of the man in question did not go beyond the confines of the parent, the education centre and the police officers involved, but if the man just liked interacting with children in general, the poor guy is going to have to think twice about interacting with children again, even if he was just trying to be friendly.

One more thing: as parents, when a story like this comes out, naturally we would tighten up our defenses to make sure “child-grabbing” incidents will not befall our own precious ones. But I have also said before, how much protection and education you give to your child towards stranger-danger will also affect how your child will see and interact with society-at-large, not to mention how society-at-large will react to your child’s defenses – as taught by you.

So be mindful. But in more ways than one.

How Not To Screw Up Your Life

I’m writing this for a friend in need. Bear with me as I do a point-by-point lesson in life, starting with Point Zero.

0. You have one life.

(Unless, of course, you’re a Buddhist, to which the following still applies, if only to determine whether you return in your next life as a human or a tse tse fly. But for all intents and purposes of what you’re reading here, let’s just talk about this one life of yours that you have now.)

1. You have one life. You do not want to screw up.

You want to live every single day of your life right, ensure that you succeed in everything you do, and work towards making every single moment perfect in order to achieve the best possible outcome. And not just for yourself; you want to make every single person you care about happy, too.

2. You have this life. You will screw up.

But the very annoying thing about your life – and you know as well as anyone and everyone does – is that your one life isn’t perfect. Nobody’s life is perfect. Heck, the world isn’t perfect. Which is why no matter how hard anyone tries, there is simply no way to live a perfect life, simply because all of life’s and all of the world’s imperfections will never allow you to.

You really need to accept this. Seriously. Because screwing up is a universal truth in life that cannot be avoided, and the harder you try, the more fucked up your life’s gonna get. (So the Blogfather swears. Hey, nobody’s perfect.) But before you go telling me, “Oh, dude, that’s so defeatist,” Point 2 is a precursor to Point 3.

3. You have this one life. You need to screw up.

Because that’s how you learn, and I mean, really learn. We’ve been so conditioned by our local education system to covet success and fear failure that we yearn (and very willingly pay) for lecture notes, textbooks, PowerPoint slides with bulleted instructions, workshops, seminars and conferences for something as simple as getting the right mix of hot and cold water in order to make baby formula, or as inane as when you can start feeding your kid prawn noodle soup (there’s a story behind that, but let’s save it for another day), or as personal and subjective as parenthood.

4. You’re living this one life. Don’t be afraid of screwing up.

You can be told the right way to do things, but you don’t necessarily learn to do it right. To make matters worse, the guy telling you might be wrong (ironic that I’m saying this isn’t it?).

Now you’re worried. It’s okay; concern is what ensures your safety. But while worrying about doing it may keep you safe for the time being, dwelling on it only wastes away the time you need to live. You need to set a time limit before you decide to do it, and if you still haven’t figured out how to do it right, then try doing it wrong.

Do things the wrong way, and you’ll sure as hell know how to do it right the next time round (I hold some authority on this subject, having garnered 35 years of experience of doing things wrongly). And if you don’t even know what’s the wrong way to do it, then just do it anyway.

Do it a different way, though, and you stand a 50-50 chance of either doing it wrong, or you find a new way to do things -? and you’ll stick to doing it your way. So don’t be afraid of screwing up; only be afraid of not learning from it.

5. You’re still alive; that means you’re not a screw-up.

And if anyone out there says you are, you really can just tell them very politely to please go screw themselves, because God knows you’re doing the best you bloody well can with what you’ve been dealt with. For that matter, you should assume that anyone out there who would say you’re a screw-up, would have contributed to said screw-up in some way.

6. Live your life well, and you won’t screw up.

This will be much easier on you if you’ve followed through Points 1 to 5. In fact, you’re in a very good place to live life well right this moment. As imperfect as your life may be, no one can fault you for being a bad person. No one. And to date you have managed to achieved so much; You have established yourself well in your career, you have remained filial to your parents, you are a loving husband, and you are a very dedicated father. Despite your opinion of yourself and your assumption that all this just fell on your lap after some magical blackout, you did all this. For yourself, and the people around you. Yes, yes you did.

You have one life. But you’re not living it alone.

You matter, because you lived your one life the way you did, and you need to keep living it for the lives that need you, and the lives that you need.

And if you need me, you have my number.

TimSam

Dear Xander,

TimSam

This is TimSam. TimSam is a grasshopper, and probably the largest one your mother and I have seen live (about 4-5 inches long; we didn’t think to get a ruler to measure him at the time).

TimSam landed on your godma’s car one afternoon, and someone thought it would be a good idea to catch the big guy, put it in a plastic box, and give it to your mother to bring home to you.

I disagreed. But by then it was already en route to our home. So TimSam became your pet… for a good 24 hours.

It wasn’t a smooth introduction, though. For the first 3 minutes upon meeting the gigantic grasshopper, you freaked out. “But I wanted a cat!” you said.

Then another 20 minutes later, you decided maybe we should keep it.

I still disagreed. But in the spirit of good fathering, I said, “Well, if you want to keep it as your pet, you should name it.

“How about Tim?” you asked.

“Sure,” I said. And then when your mother came out of the shower, I instructed you to let her know the name of your new pet.

“What’s its name?” your mother asked.

“Sam,” you said.

“But you said it was Tim!” I protested.

“Oh. Then TimSam lor,” you replied. Then you went to bed.

The next evening, your mother and I talked about letting TimSam go free. It was a huge bugger, and we imagine it must be getting on in grasshopper years. Being used to living in the wild so long, it just seemed wrong to keep it caged up, much less name it after a mis-spelling of steamed Cantonese cuisine. So when we got home, I said to you, “Xander, TimSam wants to go home.”

“Home? He’s at home what,” you said.

I explained, “TimSam’s home is outside in the grass; we don’t have any grass at home. If we keep TimSam here, he won’t survive. Besides, you too scared of him to hold him anyway, right?”

“But I love TimSam leh…” you protested.

“This is what we can do; we can bring TimSam downstairs into the garden, and he can live there. TimSam will be living just downstairs our block. How’s that?”

You gave it some thought, then said with slight disappointment, “Okaaay.”

TimSam2

And so we brought him downstairs. The entire time I was struggling with removing the masking tape that sealed TimSam’s box, you were clutching tightly to the back of my t-shirt, peering over my shoulder as if TimSam would jump out at any time and attack your face.

And TimSam was eager to come out. Upon realising we were opening the box, he banged against the walls of the box so hard it felt like there was a much bigger animal in there. But when the lid was finally opened, I saw TimSam slowly climb out on the edge of the box, then turn to look at me for a good five seconds, before turning around to fly into the adjacent bushes. TimSam was safe, and free.

As we walked away, you repeated, “But I still love TimSam leh.”

“Well, you can always come downstairs and visit him,” I said. I am quite optimistic that way. “Say goodbye to TimSam.”

You half turned and waved half-heartedly into the bushes. “Bye bye, TimSam.”

Just before we reached the lift landing, you said, “But I wanted a cat leh.”

Perplexed,

Dad

Antenatal Classes… For Men?

I was asked a while ago – since I’m a fatherly kind of guy – whether any antenatal classes exist for dads and dads-to-be in Singapore. And, as a fatherly kind of guy, I said no, who in the right mind would expect to get any attendance conducting that kind of class?

But it did provoke some thought, so I said I’d look into it.

Now, the concept might seem strange: the only antenatal classes dads generally imagine attending are the ones their pregnant wives would drag them to. There, you’d generally pre-natal yoga exercises, sleep positions, and the preferred method to huff and puff and blow her baby out.

I asked my wife how one might conduct antenatal classes for men, and she said it would have to be a classroom environment with a whiteboard, Powerpoint slides and printed notes (and if the class was big enough, it would be a Dads for Life Conference). Another male fatherly friend of mine advised against calling it an antenatal class: “Dudes will think they’ll have to lie down, spread legs, hold hands with other dudes and do deep breathing.”

I thought it would be useful if we actually knew exactly what women in labour go through. Then I remembered seeing a video of 2 dudes in Holland go through a labour simulation using electroshock equipment (click the link, then learn some Dutch or turn on the captions, but the real action starts at 4:30).

labour-pains

Okaaaay.

I decided to dig a little further, and asked the venerable purveyor of all the knowledge in the world: Google. A lot of what I got were how some dads felt antenatal classes (the ones that preggers women drag their male partners to) were [a] a waste of time, [b] useful only if you’re a guy who listens (and we all know how well guys listen), or [c] you face certain social stigma if you don’t.

But lo and behold, back in 2011, a British father of two, Dean Beaumont, decided to start what he calls DaddyNatal classes at Peterborough City Hospital after going through antenatal classes, doing plenty of research on dealing with the labour process as a dad, and getting completely thrown off-guard the moment it happened. “What I realised is that childbirth education is tailored to women, and actually, that there was very little information for men, tailored for men, as they prepare for their role in birth and beyond. The birth partner has a massive influence on labour, and can affect how long it lasts, how painful it is, and whether interventions are needed or used.”

Image via http://www.daddynatal.co.uk
Image via http://www.daddynatal.co.uk

Dean is now Britain’s first certified male antenatal educator. And his DaddyNatal programme is as male-oriented as it gets. Besides group discussions and illustrated pregnancy and infantcare guide books, the class also involves Monty Python clips and male humour to keep the boys focused on the subject (hence the strict policy against women attending the classes).

So it seems the usual antenatal classes that dads know and love to hate are, in fact, not structured for the hairier sex. If someone did come up with a way to communicate antenatal education to males (and males only), would the guys in Singapore go for it? You tell me (in the comments).