Cooking With Your Child

One of my favourite memories growing up, is when I would help my Mum cook. Mostly it would just be things like cakes or pancakes. The pancakes were probably my favourite to cook because I got to use the frying pan and would pretend I was a famous chef. Although as far as eating goes, cakes win hands down.

Carrying on this tradition, my wife, SO, and I have made it a regular activity that we cook with our son, Jay. Unlike cooking with my Mum, we tend to cook meals together as a family. We have done desserts or cookies a couple of times, but we don’t really make cakes and things like that very often. Largely because I’m the only one who really eats cake. Yes, I have eaten a whole cake by myself on occasion (over several days that is). And cookies aren’t something we like to have too many of around the house because Jay and I do tend to pig out on them, and we have become much more conscious of our health and weight. I talk about Jay’s weight issues here.

As a result we tend to focus on meals for our family cooking sessions. In general we let Jay choose what to cook, with the idea that if it’s his choice he’ll be more interested in completing it. Which normally works, but there are still occasions when he’ll start and then get distracted by other things, like TV or games. Most of the time he’ll complete the meal, and we try to make it a fun activity for all of us.

It doesn’t work all the time though, and there are times when we get frustrated with him. But that’s just something you have to deal with when working with a child.

One of his favourite things to cook is pizza, which we do completely from scratch. Meaning we make the dough ourselves. It does get a bit messy though, which I think may be why he likes cooking it. On the other hand, he really does love pizza, and his favourite topping is pepperoni. He does pretty much all of the work, with SO and I assisting with things like measurements, and making sure the sauce is evenly spread. If we didn’t we’d end up with clumps of sauce in some areas and none in others, mostly because he wants to do this part quickly and get the toppings on.

Other things we’ve made with him are pasta and salad, where he will boil the pasta and cook the sauce. Okay, salad you don’t cook, but he does like to chop up the ingredients and toss the salad.

We are trying to get him to cook other things, but the problem with that is that he isn’t familiar with a lot of the other foods we want to cook, so it’s a bit of a work in progress there.

Overall, I find cooking with Jay a great way to bond and have fun together. Plus we get good food, and Jay learns a valuable skill. He’s already mentioned several times that he wants to open his own restaurant, although I’m not sure how he’ll do that and be a scientist and a basketball star at the same time.

Dealing With A Sick Child

Jay’s been sick this last week, and still is. He had last Thursday and Friday off, and it’s now Monday, and he’s off from school again. It’s not anything that out of the ordinary, just a regular cold, but it’s a difficult time for him, and as a result, for the rest of us.

Wednesday night when we got home from work, he was complaining about a fever and he didn’t feel well. It quickly became apparent that he wasn’t going to school the next day, when his fever was going up and he started throwing up. Fortunately we still had some medicine he could take. Unfortunately, when he gets this bad, he doesn’t want to take it and will fight not to have any.

Of course this meant that for pretty much the whole night, none of us got much sleep. I think I may have had a total of 3 or 4 hours all up, and SO got about the same.

So what did we do? We tried to cajole him into taking something to bring the fever down and stop his coughing. We didn’t have much success though, and on Thursday he went off to the doctor to get something to take.

As an aside, he’s now been to the doctor three times, because he needs an MC (Medical Certificate) for every day he’s away from school, and the doctor will only give him one day at a time. At least doctor’s visits aren’t that expensive here.

Over the last four days he has taken some medicine, although not as regularly as he is supposed to. When he’s feeling a bit better, he’ll take it, but if he starts to feel too bad, he refuses. Which has put us into a bit of a circle. When he needs it the most, he won’t take any.

So, what we’ve been trying to do is to get him to take it regularly when he’s feeling better, and keep it going so he doesn’t feel any worse. Unfortunately, when he’s feeling a lot better, he doesn’t think he needs it and so won’t take it.

We’ve tried all the tricks, putting it in food, in drinks. The problem is, he’s too smart and can taste the difference. We tell him it’s just because he’s sick that it tastes different. But that rarely works. He really is too smart for his own good (and ours).

And now we’re on his fifth day of being sick and we’re still trying to get him better. If anyone has some suggestions, there are two increasing tired adults here who would greatly appreciate it.

My Son The Basketball Star

My son, Jay, came home from school on Friday a little disappointed. “I got basketball” he told me, with a hint of sadness in his eyes. It wasn’t what he was hoping for, but after a bit of a chat, he decided it was, not just okay, but a potentially good thing.

You see, here in Singapore, primary 3 students (that’s elementary grade 3 for the North Americans) get to choose a CCA (Co-Curricular Activity). The choices include things like science, music, dance, martial arts, scouts, red cross, a few different sports, and some others I can’t remember at the moment. I think there were about 16 choices in all, and the students get to list the 3 they are most interested in.

In their first 2 years they do get a chance to do other CCAs, like Rollerblading that Jay did, but they don’t continue these. They’re only short term courses where they learn a skill to continue with outside of school.

For Jay, his first choice was the robotics club, where he would’ve learnt how to make robots and control them, as well as learn other skills like programming and photography. His second choice was science, where he has a major interest, and would’ve allowed to learn more about a subject that he has a passion for. I’ve written about his interest in science here. To decide who got into what CCA, the school put all the names who were interested in each CCA into the old electronic hat and randomly chose who would join each club. Unfortunately, he didn’t get either of his first two choices.

His third choice was, if you haven’t guessed already, Basketball. It is something he’s interested in, but he was hoping to get one of the other two. This did disappoint him, but after talking a bit he’s getting more excited about doing a sport. He is, after all, quite tall for his age (he towers over most of his peers), but we’ll have to wait to see if he has the skill the support the physical advantage.

The other good thing, which Jay brought up himself, is that it will help with his physical fitness and weight. If you haven’t read about Jay’s weight issue, you can read about it here. This is a big positive, but my main concern is that he enjoys himself. He’s only eight and I believe that at his age he should be learning and playing sports for enjoyment. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be competitive, and I’m proud to say Jay mocks other people who are proud about getting a participation award, but I do want him to focus on the fun and not worry as much about the competition or how it’s helping him to lose weight.

Should Parents Post Their Kid’s Pictures On Social Media?

It’s Julie’s first day of grade 5 and her parents are excited and decide to tell everyone they know by taking a photo and sharing it with friends and family on facebook. There she is in her school uniform and her parents leave the comment “First day of grade 6 for our princess at Whatchamacallit School”

It’s what we all do, right? Tell our friends and family what our kids are up to and share their lives. For people like me, living in Singapore, with family in Australia, Indonesia, and Canada, it makes sense sharing online.

But how safe is it? One of the first things kids are told about safety online, and we’ve got handouts from Jay’s school, is “Don’t post any personally identifying images”.

So what’s the problem? Little Julie up there doesn’t have a facebook, twitter or other social media account, and she’s not posting anything online. The problem is, her parents have broken that first rule. With one photo they’ve told anyone who can access that photo, how old she is and what school she goes to. There may even be a comment, from her parents or friends, about how they worry about her walking home alone after school.

And what would we find if we looked through her parents previous posts? Maybe they’ve posted about her dancing school or sports activities. How much information have we unwittingly posted about our kids, assuming that we control the information and haven’t given unwanted eyes access?

It would probably be fine if we set up our accounts properly and really limited who could see that information. But realistically speaking, how many of us really have? How many of us have given access to friends of friends without considering who those people might be? And when your friends have somewhere between 100 and 200 friends each, do you really know most of them?

Perhaps the better option is just to not post these photos and information. Can we have different ways of sharing with friends and family these milestones.

I’m not saying I have any answers, or that what we do is any better, but we tend to use our phones and use an app called whatsapp (there are others you can use as well) where we have a private chat where we can share photos and updates on our lives, and only those in the chat can see them. For me this seems a better and more private way of keeping friends and family up to date on what’s happening and reduces the chance that the wrong people will see it.

Chinese New Year In Indonesia

This past weekend was the Chinese New Year, and like most years we headed back to Indonesia to celebrate with my wife’s family. This is something that we try to do every year, since it’s an important time for SO and her family.

For those who don’t know, SO is Indonesian, born and raised there, but is ethnically Chinese. Both her parents were born in China and moved to Indonesia when they were teenagers, and as such still follow a lot of Chinese customs. This means family is very important to them, and a family gathering at CNY is always done.

When we go to Jakarta for the new year, we always stay at her parent’s house, which is the centre point for the celebrations, with everyone visiting there. Most years there will be tons of food and every meal there will be at least a handful of visitors.

Jay loves this as all his cousins and uncles and aunts will be there and he has a great time playing with them. Even though all of his cousins are older than him, the youngest is 6 years older than him and the oldest is about 30, he still gets in there and has a great time playing with them.

His favourite aunt also spoils him, and this year she got out a traditional Indonesian grill on which they cooked corn, fish and prawns. I’m not sure how much he enjoyed the food, but he absolutely loved fanning the fire to get the heat up. We all ended up smelling of smoke.

This year was a little different than most though since my Mother-In-Law was only released from hospital in Singapore on the eve, and as such didn’t have time to cook and make all the dishes that she normally does. There was still food at the house, but the family decided to do the two main get together meals at restaurants. Unfortunately we missed the meal on the eve as our flight was delayed and we didn’t arrive in Jakarta until later than planned.

The meal on the New Year’s Day was awesome though with everyone in SO’s immediate family turning up. I’m not going to add this up, but everyone includes, SO, Jay and myself, SO’s mother (her father passed away 2 years ago), her 3 brothers and 3 sisters, 2 brother-in-laws, 3 sister-in-laws, 5 nieces, 5 nephews, 1 niece’s husband, and 2 nephews girlfriends.

Okay, I did add that up and it comes to 28 people. Not bad considering we all sat at the same table to eat. And yes, if you’re wondering, there was a ton of great food and I almost needed help being carried out afterwards.

As an outsider, I always love the CNY celebration and getting to spend time playing with all the kids (who aren’t really kids anymore) and eating constantly for the whole time we’re there. Between this and Christmases in Australia I pretty much don’t need to eat for the rest of the year.

Leaving Homework To The Last Minute

There’s nothing worse than leaving something till the last minute, and for Jay, my son, he invariably leaves his homework until he’s run out of time. No matter how much we remind him, or tell him to do it, he always puts it off until he has no choice.

So what can be done about it? That’s a really good question, but what’s the answer?

We’ve tried talking to him, explaining how it’s better to get it done early and then he doesn’t have to worry about it, and he can play without it, or his parents, nagging him. We’ve tried giving rewards for completing it early, like going out to a special place or getting to play certain games. But nothing seems to work. It’s always just before bedtime, the night before it’s due, and he finally gets around to doing it.

Yes, we’ve tried punishments, like not being able to play games or watch TV, but they don’t work either. And to be honest, Jay seems to punish himself when it gets too late and panic sets in.

So we’re back to square one, what do we do? Is it our fault? I guess I can take some of the blame, growing up I always left homework to the last minute. I remember times in university when I had to write a 1,000 word report, and I didn’t start until the night before it was due.

Then there’s my wife, SO, who says that when she was at school, she always did her work early. This may be true, and I’ll probably get in trouble for saying it, but she’s not setting the best example now. I’ve lost count of the times when she says she’s going to do something, like go out or take a shower etc., now, only for her to stay where she is, playing a game or reading, and not get around to doing what she said for an hour or more.

So, do we contribute to the problem with our actions? Should we be more aware of how we act and get things done? Of course we should, and one day I’ll get around to doing it. In the meantime, Jay’s going to continue to wait until the last minute, and I’ll continue to procrastinate about it.

Back To School For Jay

Recently Jay went back to school, on the 2nd of January, to start grade 3. For those not in the know, the school year starts in January here in Singapore. Which means that the long summer holidays, although it’s always summer here, are in November and December.

As a side note, Singapore has two seasons, hot and dry, and hot and wet. I haven’t seen a winter in 18 years now. The closest I came was summer in Canada, where even their August weather is colder than anything I’ve experienced in a long time. And yes, I did get some odd looks for wearing jumpers while I was there.

Anyway, back to Jay’s first days of grade 3. We had expected to have some resistance from him. Especially since he has to get up at 6am to catch the school bus. And he’d spent the last couple of months going to sleep late and not getting up until 8 or 9 every day.

Surprisingly, while he was (and still is) very sleepy when he gets up, we haven’t had any real problems with getting him up and meeting the bus on time.

Unfortunately, the first Thursday back, he came home with a cough and fever. This is one of my major gripes here, parents will send their kids to school (and go to work themselves) when they are sick. What this results in is a constant flow of illness through the classes and, to a lesser extent, the workplace. Now, is it just me, or is this counterproductive? Wouldn’t more work be accomplished overall if those who were sick and contagious stayed home for an extra day or two?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I think it’s a question that should be asked and thought about.

The end result though, is that Jay got sick from his classmates the first week back. He took Friday off and went to the doctor, took his medicine and by Monday was back at school. Not too bad, right? Well, now here we are, Monday morning, starting his third week back and he’s got another cough. So, he did make it through the second week unscathed, but he’s sick again and we’re sending him to school because that’s the way it’s done here.

This is the problem, every month that’s he’s been in school here, here’s come home at least once with a cough or runny nose. And sometimes with a fever. The only times we let him stay at home, are when he has a fever. And this seems to be how it’s done here. So we go with the flow and continue the cycle of kids infecting other kids, and hoping that one day it will be broken. Just not by us, cause Jay can’t miss any more school than he already does.

Other than that though, Jay’s first couple of weeks of grade 3 have gone well. He’s started swimming lessons, even though he’s been swimming for years. He’s excited to start science class. And his other classes are continuing, with math still his favourite subject.

Should We Punish Creative Behaviour

I think this is a question most parents will end up asking themselves at one point or another. When should we put a limit on our children’s creativity? And has it been destructive enough to require punishment?

Maybe a little background is in order. A few years ago Jay got angry at SO and basically threw a tantrum. The specifics aren’t important, and in any case, I don’t remember them. The next day, SO came home from work to find “I love (heart) you mummy!!!!” written on our couch (as seen in the above picture), as an apology. We didn’t end up punishing him for it, although he did get a talking to not to do it again. But should we have? It was a creative way of saying sorry, but at the same time it was also destructive.

Over the last eight years, our walls have put up with a lot of abuse. There are drawings and words on the walls and doors in pretty much every room. And I’m not talking about drawings on paper that we’ve stuck up as artwork. I mean, he has literally (in the proper sense) written and drawn on the walls.

So when do we punish it? And when do we let him use his creativity?

It’s sad to say, but I think a lot of the time we’ve made that decision, not based on the severity of the crime, but on how we felt that day. If we’re not in a good mood, he gets punished. And if we are, he gets praise for his creativity, and told not to do it again.

The biggest problem with this approach is that it leads to confusion on Jay’s part, and an unpredictability on ours. What we really need to do, is be consistent in our approach and guide him through an acceptable way to express his creativity by setting limits on how and when he can be creative.

It’s something we’re working on, and by the time he reaches university, we may have mastered it. Hopefully.

Until then, our walls are works of art, and we’re parents of a confused boy. But at least he knows we love him, and he loves us. We have the evidence all around us.

Christmas In Singapore

Because of work and other life commitments, we decided to stay in Singapore this year for Christmas. This made it Jay’s third Christmas that he didn’t spend in Australia. This was a big deal, because it means it’s just the 3 of us spending the day together. Although this year, one of his cousins from Jakarta was staying with us, and even though he’s in his twenties, it still gave Jay someone else to play with.

Of course, in Australia we usually just spend Christmas day with my parents and my brother, so there’s no other kids for him to play with there either. But we do usually see some of my cousins while we’re there, and Jay gets to play with their kids.

Anyway, back to our Christmas in Singapore. It’s a completely different experience to what we have in western countries. Sure, they have some decorations up and you get sales and things, but I don’t remember ever seeing a Santa here. If they do have Santas here, it’s definitely not like Australia where you have one in every mall. In a lot of ways, you could live here all through December and not realise it’s Christmas at all.

We went grocery shopping on Christmas eve and it felt no different than any other time of the year, there wasn’t even any Christmas music playing. Just the regular sounds and goings on of a regular shopping day. Okay, there were crowds everywhere, but that’s normal for Singapore anyway. When we’re in Australia, my parents always complain about the crowds, but for us the malls there always seem empty in comparison to what we get here.

Christmas morning even seemed to lack the excitement and anticipation of our normal Christmas mornings. Jay woke up and went to play is games like any other day. We did have a special breakfast of ham and eggs, like we normally have in Australia. After that we did the presents, which did get Jay excited and he tore his apart and started playing with all his new stuff, including a microscope that fascinates him. I wonder if he’s going to grow up to be a scientist.

For lunch we had roast pork and salads. Remember that we live on the equator, a white Christmas here would mean the end of the world, so we have salads for lunch like we would’ve in Australia.

Over the course of the afternoon Jay played with his new toys, and I’m pretty sure he finished at least of of the new books he got from my parents. The rest of us just spent the time relaxing and not doing very much at all. Okay, that’s about the same as what we’d do in Australia, but we don’t have a pool at home here to do it around.

Since we’d been stuffing our faces almost constantly during the day, we had a relatively light dinner of ribs and some other stuff that was on my plate. And that was about it for our Christmas in Singapore. Nothing really special, but we spent the day together as a family and that’s what’s really important.

Christmas In Australia

Since we got married, SO and I had only had a couple of Christmases in Australia. But after Jay came along, we decided to try to go there as much as possible. This year is only the third time that we haven’t gone back since he was born. The first time I’ve already written about. The second was the year my brother got married in Canada and we spent a month there with him and his new wife earlier in the year and didn’t want to take more time off work. This year we were just too busy to take time off and travel. This post though, is about times we did go there.

As Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s summer for Christmas, so we don’t have white Christmases. Rather, we spend the time around the pool, swimming and having barbecues. Santa comes on Christmas Eve, but leaves our presents at the foot of our beds instead of in stockings over a fire place. Most of us don’t have fireplaces anyway.

One year I remember, we were all up and getting breakfast ready when my father asked Jay if he wanted to open his presents before we ate. Jay’s response was classic, waving his arms he said “No no no no”, and insisted we wait and eat first. He’s not as patient anymore, but it’s a story that we tease him about almost every year and we manage to eat most years before he runs off to demolish the presents.

Talking about opening presents, it’s interesting to compare cultures. SO’s family, who are Indonesian and ethnically Chinese (making a mix of 2 different cultures there), don’t celebrate with Christmas trees or the exchange of presents. Instead they go to church and have a religious celebration there. At least some of her family does, the rest will spend the day relaxing and spending time with family.

Last year thougn we had a bit of culture shock when my brother brought his daughter, Canadian wife and stepdaughter for their first Christmas In Australia. Okay, being a western country, the traditions are much the same. But Australia has much better weather. The big difference is apparently how we open presents, although I’m not sure if it is just their family or Canadians in general.

So picture this, we were all seated in the living room passing out presents, and Jay, being the youngest and most excited. He helped hand out the presents to everyone, and then sat down to destroy, I mean unwrap, his presents. He tore into them as any 7 year-old would, and a look of shock appeared on the faces of the 2 Canadians. Apparently, when they unwrap their presents, even as kids, they do it with precision and decorum that we savages are unfamiliar with. Each present, we were told, has an explanation and after they delicately unwrap it, they wait to hear the reason they were given that specific gift. They did that for the gifts they gave us, which I did like and made the gifts meaningful.

Our gifts, on the other hand, were chosen because it’s something our asked for, something you need or something we thought you’d like. No explanations given, you have to work that out on your own.

Before I finish, I have one more little anecdote to share. When Jay was about 3 or 4, he was helping my father cleaning around the pool. As they were manoeuvering around, Jay slipped and tumbled into the pool, kersplash. My father casually reached down and grabbed his arm, pulling him out. Wiping the water off his face, Jay looked up and said “That wasn’t supposed to happen!”