The Price of (Parent) Blogging

A couple of weeks back, the Wife asked me while we were driving home, “When should we stop writing about our son?”

It seemed a weird question to ask a parent blogger, but I have considered its stark reality at one point, from the view of a protective father ? just that I forgot one thing.

My children are going to grow up sooner or later. That means they will want to live on their own terms, make their own decisions, and most pertinent to the conversation with the Wife, take ownership of their own privacy. My own stand as a father has always been to never be the obstacle in my own children becoming their own person.

When the Wife asked this question, and spent the rest of the drive explaining why she asked this question, I got that deep, dark sinking feeling some of us parents might get once in a while when we realise we’ve been doing it wrong with our kids the whole time.

My kids have their own online presence ? I thought it would be useful for them to have their own domain names, email addresses, and maybe a social media account or two, to futureproof their lives. I write letters to my son, detailing the hard as well as soft aspects of our lives together as father and son, not so much for the world to see, but so he has something of his dad’s to refer to when I’m no longer around. My life is as open a book here in The Blogfather as It is on my Facebook profile as people know I am in person, because I pledged to live an honest life so that I would never need to hide nor live in shame for anything.

Just that I forgot one thing ? do I have my children’s permission to do all this? Will I have their permission, when they turn 9, or 16, or 21,or 36?

Blogging has provided us with a whole new lifestyle we would otherwise not have been able to imagine for ourselves ? we get great toys, go to great places, learn great things, and at one point, make some cake, too ? but there is a price to pay for all this. And you wonder why some bloggers would charge a hefty premium for putting their lives out there for PR and advertising. The Blogfather will very confidently tell you, none of us bloggers, parent or otherwise, thought to do this as a business when we first started journaling our lives, and most of us still don’t.

And given the latest revelation I’ve had about what I’ve been doing to our children the last 3-4 years, I can also very confidently tell you, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

Some advice would be nice.

A Fatherhood Story in a Photography Workshop

Meet Bob Lee.

The Wife and I were invited to a workshop hosted by Canon geared towards parent bloggers who want to learn about taking photographs of children.

No, I am not going to talk about what I learned about taking photographs of children.

I want you to meet Bob Lee.

image

In the midst of his very candid, almost tongue-in-cheek presentation, mostly involving showing us a barrage of well-composed pictures of his son, he’d inject some anecdotal information on his background as a Zaobao photojournalist, the fact that he was from JB, used to blog just like us, has published 5 books, and that his son was autistic.

I sat up. I had just met Bob Lee.

Amidst teaching us about angles and bokeh and the benefits of using continuous mode on hyperactive children, he told us that he quit his full-time job with Zaobao because he wanted to focus on spending time with his son. But from his candour, and the photos that he presented, and his entire presentation in general (which was turning into less of a photography workshop for me and more of a simple story of fatherhood set in a much more complex circumstance), he was surviving well despite a lack of stable income, and he was happy. He was content.

He made me remember the time I was trying to survive without a full-time job, putting my focus squarely on making sure I was a father to my son first and foremost, and through the story he unconsciously told through his photos and banter, he reminded me how things would inexplicably fall into place in what I would have thought was my darkest hour as a family man.

He saw light. He’d get lens flare once in a while, but he said that’s okay; lens flare can be a good thing too.

Have you met Bob Lee?

The Reason We Buy Toys

It started with an empty box.

The big hoo-ha I made in the last post was (mostly) all in fun, if you didn’t realise already. The Blogfather has had run-ins with the Hasbro people a number of times, and they don’t scrimp when it comes to things like this, though their methods of engagement can sometimes raise eyebrows.

But I will be honest; the geek in me was attracted to the collector’s value the Transformers First Edition Optimus Prime held. When you put a three-digit price tag and the words “First Edition” on the box, you know it’s more than just a toy. And the geek in me wanted it.

But that didn’t prepare us for the bigger hoo-ha?that was at the Transformers Toy Madness @ 2200 (the premise of their sending us the empty box in the first place). When the Mother of Xander and I got to Forum the Shopping Mall Friday night we were planning on grabbing a cup of coffee before leisurely sauntering over into the event. We didn’t think there’d be a lot of people, mainly because the shops at Forum tend to close a couple of hours earlier than the rest of Orchard Road, and the mall is usually pretty quiet by 8.30pm.

Then we saw the queue.

Image courtesy of Hasbro Singapore
Image courtesy of Hasbro Singapore

It stretched along the walkways, wrapping the stairs and rails from the 2nd floor up to the 4th where the event entrance was, and it was about an hour and a half before the event would start.

Ah Boys to Men and the Scrawny Dude. Image courtesy of Hasbro Singapore
Ah Boys to Men and the Scrawny Dude. Image courtesy of Hasbro Singapore

The crowd was being coaxed into a frenzy by a scrawny dude in a standard-issue red Transformers tee, and in another while, the Ah Boys to Men cast would come and make girls scream (I never understood why girls scream for that kind of thing). We had media passes, but we were no less awestruck (by the crowd, not the Boys). And as we were walking into the event – son and baby all – the Wife warily said to me, “Eh. The people all staring at us like how come we can no need to queue one leh.”

It was tense.

The doors flew open for the crowd at 2200hrs as promised. And things flew.

Transformers-Crowd

Look closely. Barely any kids. Big kids, maybe. Collectors.

You start wondering if the toys are really worth all this attention, all the hype, all the value that they may or may not hold, now, or 10, 20, 50, 100 years into the future.

I brought the no-longer empty box home, and stared at it while Xander sat near me, tired from the evening’s special toy hunt.

TransformersAoE-Actual

Pro collectors will tell you that if you intend to keep a toy in a collection, the moment the packaging seal of the toy is broken, the toy is immediately devalued from “mint” or “mint-” to “near-mint”or below, lowering its resale value significantly even if the greatest care is taken to keep the toy itself in its most pristine, straight-from-factory condition.

Be it toys, comic books, or even games (ever see an actual, physical fantasy role-playing game setup?) some of us will have grown up with a vision of amassing what we hope would be a treasure trove of the 90s teenager’s equivalent of blue chip stocks, a collection of nostalgic memorabilia that would grow in monetary value over time and boost our retirement funds in lieu of the CPF minimum sum that we might end up never seeing.

Then you become a dad.

It’s exactly times like this that you’re reminded why you fell in love with these toys in the first place, because your child loves them now exactly like you did when you were 6 years old too.

You’re left wondering what is more valuable: a toy kept in mint condition in the box it came in, or a toy in your child’s hands.

TransformersAoE-Play

I end up with an empty box. But it’s okay.

Hasbro, Y U Do Dis?

It might interest you to know, my son doesn’t actually own many action figures. We’ve got pretty much everything else – Lego sets, cars, toy cooking utensils and about 250 different pieces of fake food, even 3 Furbies that talk amongst themselves when we’re not looking and a dinky little Nerf pistol that the boy refuses to shoot because he’ s anti-gun violence.

But thanks to a recent full month party where a certain mum blogger‘s son decided to bring a certain action figure and got me to “Uncle, help me transform” in front of everyone including my son, Xander’s been quietly yearning for a specific set of action figures ever since.

So a couple of days ago, I decided I should indulge him with just one (because I used to have action figures when I was a kid, so it actually didn’t seem fair). So I went to the department store to take a look at how much a good one might cost. The ones in my budget bracket were too tiny, but then I found one that was reasonably designed.

$119

Ooooookay. Times have changed since my childhood days.

I left the toy on the shelf, and went home to contemplate whether I really loved my son that much. As it turns out, I didn’t need to contemplate much further, because a certain toy company I once poked fun at apparently decided my son was worth it, and sent this to my house.

TransformersAoECarePack

At first, my eyes popped a little. The media kit had all the other usual swag, including a lanyard, a pen, a DVD of a previous Transformers movie installment (cool, I haven’t watched that) and a write-up for a midnight launch party we were cordially invited to. But none of these mattered, because they sent us a? $119 First Edition Age of Extinction Optimus Prime.

Or so I thought.

THE BOX IS EMPTY!

Have we learned nothing about underwhelming the Blogfather from our first encounter with each other, Hasbro? Imagine if I called Xander over to share the joy in opening your large-ish Hasbro bag, then slowly taking out all the items, starting from the pen, then the lanyard, and the DVD to build the excitement, and finally hand him the big box with an image of the most well-loved sentient robot hero of the last 30 years gracing its cover, beckoning him to open the package himself so he can smell the air around the toy that used to be in there?

Wah lau eh. Lucky I checked the box first.

The Blogfather will not let this slide. Whoever came up with this idea, you wait. I know where you live your event is. I will make sure I come and find you. I will bring my entire family, and you will explain to my son in front of his face why you very nearly made him cry that night.

And I will ask all my friends and supporters to come and witness our settlement talk.

Transformers: Age of Extinction Toy Madness
16 May 2014 (Friday) 10pm onwards

(It’s a midnight launch, so get your kids prepared to stay up late)
Level 3, Forum the Shopping Mall

TransformersAoECarePack2