How Important Is Dinner With The Family

When I was growing up we always had dinner as a family. Well, okay, there were times when one or both of our parents were out. But the majority of the time we sat down and ate together. And whilst the TV was quite often on, we did talk to each other while we ate. It wasn’t just a case of sitting at the table eating and watching TV at the same time.

Since Jay came into our lives, we’ve tried to eat together as a family as much as possible. We don’t even have the TV on while we’re eating. And even if it is on, we can’t see it from the table anyway, so it’s not important.

What seems to be happening with a lot of people these days is that, with our hectic lifestyles, families aren’t eating together as often as we did when we were kids. The other thing is that with the proliferation of electronic gadgets (which we’ve mostly banned from the dinner table) even when families are eating at the same time, they’re not really communicating.

Just the other day SO, my wife, pointed out a nearby table at the place we were eating at. Around the table was an extended family of about 10 people, ranging from teenagers to middle aged. The interesting thing though, is that every single one of them (and I do mean all of them) were playing on their phones or tablets. So what we had was a group of people sitting at the same table, eating at the same time, but they could’ve been complete strangers.

I also remember another incident that happened shortly after SO and I moved to Singapore. We were eating at the local hawker centre (a type of open air cooked food centre) and their was a young family sitting at a table nearby, Morther, Father, and young child (about 2 or 3 years old). After they ordered and sat down, we didn’t see or hear the parents speak at all the whole time they were there. The father sat and read his newspaper, and the mother looked after the child. Even when he was eating, the father didn’t interact with his wife or child, merely sat reading his paper while the mother fed their child. When he finished eating, the father stood up and left the mother and child to finish their meals. We assumed he had gone home, as we didn’t see him again before the other 2 left.

Both of these incidents, to me, are sad. What’s the point of even being there at the same time if you’re not going to talk to each other? I wonder if they even like each other.

For me, we don’t just eat at the same time, we actively engage with each other. We always talk, whether it’s serious or we’re just joking around. This is a great bonding time away from the distractions of TV, games, friends and everything else that distracts us in this electronic age. It’s something I plan on continuing and hope that Jay is a better person because of it.

Jay Versus The Tic Tac

faceHave you ever wondered how common it is for children to get foreign objects stuck in their ear? Well, last Friday we found out, after Jay, our son, decided to put a Tic Tac in his ear. Apparently it’s very common, even for 7 year olds who should know better.

Let’s go back a moment to Friday morning before it happened. My wife, SO, and I had taken the day off. SO was at home because her Mother and Sister were her for a couple of days so her Mother could see her Doctor. I, on the other hand, had an appointment to get injections for my Torticollis, which I’ve talked about here.

So off I went and got 21 injections, I counted them, in the muscles of my neck and shoulders. If you’re wondering, yes it does hurt, much more than normal injections which aren’t into the muscles themselves.

It was while I was getting the injections, literally at the same time, that Jay decided to see what it was like to stick a Tic Tac into his ear. It was his right ear, if you were wondering, although why it would matter I don’t know. But then, we do tend to wonder about things that don’t really matter, don’t we?

Anyway, SO found out that he’d put it in there, and could see it sitting in his ear, just a bit to far in for her to safely remove. Fortunately, our local Doctor is less than a 5 minute walk away. Unfortunately, he was closed at that time.

So then I get a call while on my way home, with the full intention of resting in bed all afternoon because my neck was sore from being a pin cushion and containing an extra 300 units of BOTOX in my muscles. And no, it doesn’t remove any of my wrinkles, it’s inside the muscles to make them relax, and to far away from the surface to have any cosmetic effect.

On getting home I had a look and, yes, could see the Tic Tac sitting there in Jay’s ear nice and snug like a bug in a rug. So, being the take charge kind of guy I am, I flipped a coin to decide whether or not to take him to the emergency room. Okay, I didn’t really flip a coin, but SO and I did decide to take Jay to the emergency room instead of waiting for our local Doctor to return from his mid day break, where, I found out later, he was taking a nap. I didn’t make that up, I actually talked to him the next day and he admitted he was taking a nap.

So, off we went to the children’s emergency at NUH (Singapore’s National University Hospital), which is about a 5 minute taxi ride away. Fortunately it wasn’t terribly busy day and we got in to see a Doctor in less than half an hour. She was very kind to Jay and that made him relaxed and okay with having to be there. She was only an intern though, so she had to get a fully trained Doctor to try to remove the Tic Tac. She did tell us it’s extremely common for kids to get things stuck in their ears and she’s seen plenty of cases. This was the first time it was a Tic Tac though, so at least Jay was unique in that way.

The head Doctor though, didn’t have any instruments that could get into his ear and remove it. He did try several different things first but none of them could get it since the Tic Tac had swollen and blocked the canal and he couldn’t get a firm grip on it to pull it out. So off they sent us to the ENT clinic.

The worst part of this was that we ended up having to wait over an hour to see someone there. I guess this was because it wasn’t really an emergency, the Tic Tac wasn’t causing any damage and Jay wasn’t feeling any pain or discomfort. Unless you count embarrassment as a pain or discomfort.

Once we got to see someone it only took a couple of minutes to get it out. As much as I never wanted it to happen and definitely don’t want him to do anything like it again, I think it’s given him a good lesson and I doubt he’ll ever try putting things in his ear again. The staff at the hospital were kind and patient with him and I don’t think he’s been adversely effected by the episode.

On the other hand I now find I have a strange desire to put a Tic Tac in my ear just to see what it’s like.

A Pokemon Hunting We Will Go


A few weeks ago I wrote about how I installed Pokemon Go on my phone to help get my son out and more active. This post, I guess, is an update on how that has been working. Or not. See, the thing is, after the initial jump in activity, we’ve fallen back a bit. He’s not as eager to get out and about to catch them.

On the other hand, I’m more active now. I walk further when I’m out during the day, stopping at pokestops to collect items, and walking around to help catch pokemon and hatch eggs for him. I’m doing this, not just for my health, but also because he is still excited about the game. He’s just not as excited to go out and catch as he was the first couple of weeks. And when I get home in the evening, he wants to see what pokemon I’ve caught or hatched.

Which brings us to last weekend. Saturday mornings he has extra Chinese tuition, which has improved his Chinese greatly by the way, which he finishes at about 1.30. Afterwards we like to get him out and doing things, even if it just means going to the shops to walk around. Like a couple of weeks ago, we went to VIVO City, a large shopping centre, to catch pokemon there. But we try to do more active things like swimming or bike riding.

In that line we have heard about an exercise program run by the Singapore government, called Active Kids, to get kids more active and playing sports. Like many places now, Singapore has a weight problem with its children and this is part of how they are tackling this problem. Anyway, one of these programs is run at West Coast Park, which isn’t that far from where we live, every Saturday afternoon about 5.30pm.

See where I’m going? We decided to ask if he wanted to go to West Coast Park with the idea to catch some pokemon. Of course, he loved the idea, so just after 4 we headed off there, with the intent of accidentally seeing the activity they were having that day. As all great plans do, it failed. Sure, we went catching pokemon, but then Jay got distracted by other things. First by a nearby marina, where we sat and watched the boats for a while. And then by all the playground equipment. And before we knew it, we’d missed the Active Kids program.

We ended up having dinner at the park and went home. We did have fun and caught a couple of pokemon, it really didn’t seem like a great place to catch them. And most importantly, we got out and about and had some exercise. Not the exercise we had hoped Jay would be doing, but any exercise is better than none. Who knows, maybe we’ll have better luck next time.

Having Torticollis And Raising A Child


Eight years ago I was diagnosed with Torticollis (or wry neck), three months later my son, Jay, was born. Whilst I am nowhere near disabled, it does effect my life and consequently how I can interact with Jay. And that’s what I wanted to talk about today.

First, for those who aren’t familiar with torticollis, a little info on the condition. There are 2 ways it can develop. The first is through an injury or other physical trauma, which can normally be rectified by fixing the underlying cause. I know of one person who had it from bad posture sitting at his desk, and all he had to do was rest for a few days and correct his posture when sitting. The other cause is genetic and is passed down through the family. This can not be fixed and will be a continuing condition for the rest of your life. This is what causes my condition and every 3 or 4 months for the past 8 years I have had around 20 injections into the muscles on my neck and shoulders to reduce the tension and relax the muscles there.

Torticollis causes the muscles in the neck and shoulders to contract constantly, and in my case my head is tilted to the left. On good days it isn’t that noticeable and I can move my head up and down and rotate it relatively normal. On most days though the muscles are stiffer and I have trouble moving my head, and tend to turn my whole body when I want to look from side to side. As you can imagine there is also a fair amount of pain and discomfort from the muscles constantly working. I do have pain killers and muscle relaxants that I take, but I try not to take them to often as I don’t want excessive mediation to effect me in other ways.

So how does this effect my relationship with my son? Basically it’s a limiting factor, not so much in what I can do, but how much I can do. So far we haven’t come across any activity that I flat out cannot do, but there have been times when I couldn’t do it at that time. For example, we go swimming, bike riding, bowling, play soccer and so on. But there have been days when I couldn’t bowl with him because of the stiffness and pain. I did go with him to support and encourage him, but I just couldn”t bowl alongside him.

In most cases though I can do the activity with him, but afterwards I’m stiff and sore, which limits how much we can do on any one day. Weekdays are usually the worst, since by the time I come home I’m already tired, more tired than I used to be from a days activities prior to the condition. But even then I’m able to spend time with my son around the house, playing games, watching TV and helping him with his homework. I just can’t be as active as I’d like.

And how does Jay react? He’s normally very understanding and will ask about Daddy’s sore neck. On days when I’m exhausted and just want to lie down, he’ll look after me and offer to get me drinks or things, and make sure I’m comfortable. Fortunately I’m not that bad very often, and most days I can do things with him in the afternoon. And weekends we try to do all the things that most families will do.

Overall I think I have a good relationship with Jay and we’re as close as any father and son, but there are times when I wish I could be more normal and do more to make him happy.

When Should You Tell A Child They Are Adopted

If you asked five different people that question, chances are you’d get five different answers. The funny thing is they could all be wrong, or all be right. Even if most adoption workers claim the best time to tell your child they’re adopted is between the ages of 2 and 4, I personally think this is a question that the adoptive parents have to answer for themselves.

Why? Simply because a lot of the way that the child reacts to the news is based on the parents comfort level in having that discussion. If the parents don’t handle the topic positively, this can rub off on the child and they will receive a negative view to the news they are adopted. Even if they don’t comprehend what adopted means, they can get negative connotations to the word.

Of course, if you have a very strong negative reaction to telling your child they are adopted, perhaps you should reconsider the decision to tell them. That could lead to other problems of course, and I have discussed this question elsewhere.

Before telling our children that they’re adopted, I think we have to be totally comfortable talking about it and prepared for whatever questions our kids may have regarding the adoption. Of course they may not have any immediate questions, and if they are very young probably don’t fully comprehend the situation or can’t form the questions they want to ask. But the questions will come and I think we should be fully prepared and comfortable in answering them.

There’s no point in telling them they’re adopted and then refusing to answer other questions about it. Or avoiding questions that may be uncomfortable. Think about how you will tell them why you decided to adopt. Or questions about the birth parents, why did they give up their child? No child wants to hear that their biological father is in jail and their birth mother is a drug addict. Try to answer truthfully, but positively. Say they weren’t in a good position to raise a child. Be prepared with something that is honest yet positive.

In the case of our son we don’t really know anything about his biological father, and his birth mother was to young and poor to raise him. We’ve always been honest with him about this and whenever he’s asked questions, we’ve told him the truth. We started this when he was very young and I feel it was the right decision. Occasionally he will ask something about it, but it becomes rarer over time. And he seems to have accepted it as just another fact about himself. He has no hangups about it and is a well rounded normal 7 year old boy. He know he has 2 loving adoptive parents and he loves us back, and that’s the most important thing.

My Son Wants To Avenge Me

Okay, reading that title probably makes people think my son, Jay, is avenging my death. Even if it’s just a death in a game. Well, I guess thaqt’s half right, it was in a game, but I didn’t die, I was kicked from a server we were playing on together.

I suppose a little background is needed here to clarify what happened, and also to help non-gamers to understand what happened. We were playing a mini game in Minecraft on the PS4 where the idea is to break blocks out from under other players to make them fall and die in the lava below. The last person standing wins the round and the first person with 3 wins, wins the game. There’s also the ability to kick players who are disrupting the game play or are cheating in some way.

For example, some players will remove blocks in such a way as to make themselves a little island that can’t be reached by the other players. And so what happens then is a stalemate where they can’t kill other players, and others can’t kill them. There is a mechanism built into the game where after a period of time they’ll be able to use snowballs to break the blocks instead of shovels, so they can be killed from a distance.

The problem with this is that it disrupts the flow of the game, which is normally fast paced and ends quickly, and the surviving players just stand around doing nothing until they get the snowballs. Meanwhile the players who have already died and are waiting for the next round have nothing to do but stare at unmoving players.

When this happens I have no problem with kicking the player that isolated himself, because it’s ruining the game for everyone and doesn’t give them any real advantage either since the isolated player is killed in the majority of cases anyway.

To get a player kicked there needs to be 3 votes for them to be kicked, and once 3 others have voted they are disconnected from the server and can’t join again. I believe the makers have released an update that changes this system, because it was being abused by juvenile players who kicked people for no reason, but I’m not sure how it works now.

Which brings us back to what happened to Jay and I. We had just joined a server and started playing by trying to drop other players into the lava. In other words doing exactly what you’re supposed to do in the game. But, in less than 10 seconds (No that is not an exaggeration) I had been kicked from the server.

Annoying as it was that I was kicked for no reason, Jay made it better by telling me he was going to get revenge on the other players (yes he really used the word revenge). And believe it or not he did, he won the next 3 games by winning 9 rounds and only getting dropped into the lava a few times. He really is quite good at that game and watching him is very exciting in itself, and he would have played the same whether I was kicked or not. But it does feel good knowing that Jay loves me enough to get revenge on those who hurt me.

Now, I need to sit down and write a list of people who have wronged me in the past and set a 7 year old on them.

Are We Rewarding Or Bribing Our Children?

As a conscientious parent I’m wondering where the line between rewards and bribes is. When we give something to our children for something they’ve done, does it constitute a reward or a bribe? How do we know the difference? Is it just a matter of perception? Or is there some quantifiable way we can determine it?

I’m thinking of this now because my son, Jay, is on school holiday this week and while he’s at home we’ve made him an offer. Basically we’ve bought him 2 books to do extra practice with, 1 mathematics and 1 Chinese. They’re supplementary books for what he uses at school, and will help him to get ahead with his work. He said he wants to do them, but the problem is he can become distracted by games and books. What we need is an extra motivation for him to put down his toys and do some study. We’re not asking for much, and have told him we only expect him to do 1 hour a day. So how do we motivate him to do the extra work?

What we’ve offered him is that for every 2 chapters he completes, we will buy him a pack of Pokemon cards. There’s a total of 9 chapters in each book, so if he completes everything he’ll get 9 packs of cards (they’re $4.50 each if you want to do the math).

If you’re wondering what Pokemon cards are, they’re a trading card game. There’re are several different ones out there and seem to be quite popular, especially with the Pokemon go game being released recently.

The problem I face now, is whether this offer constitutes a reward for performing the action, or whether it’s a bribe for doing what we want. Should we consider it a part of positive reinforcement where we give a reward for positive behaviour? Should we really reward this type of behaviour? Or should the reward of gaining knowledge and proficiency be enough?

For me I’m leaning towards classifying it as a reward, but I’m aware not everyone will think this way. I’m also conscious of limiting any rewards we give for this type of behaviour so that it doesn’t become something that is expected in the future, and hopefully he will develop a passion for gaining knowledge and getting more proficient at these things. I’d also like to hear thoughts from others who have thought about these things, so leave a comment below and let us know your opinion.

11 Things To Say To Your Child Everyday

I was recently sent a video with 9 things to say to your kids everyday. I thought it was a good list so I thought I’d put the list up here, with a couple of additions that I think are just as, if not more, important to say to our children (or at least in their presence).

And even though the title says everyday, I think the problem with that is that we run the risk of losing the emotion and thus the results if we try to say all of them everyday, as they lose their meaning when repeated to often and at the wrong times. Some, like the first on the list, I try to say everyday, but others are more of a weekly thing.

So, without further babbling, here is the list:

1. I Love You

What could be more important than letting your little one know you love them, and whilst we may show them our love everyday, I think it’s also important to say the words. This is something my wife and I do everyday, usually multiple times, and Jay also says it to us without prompting.

2. I Like It When

This is straight up positive reinforcement and can be used to modify or encourage good behaviour. But more importantly, it tells our children that we are paying attention to what they’re doing and care about what they do.

3. You Make Me Happy

This is a great, and simple, way to tell the little one they are important to you. This can also be used similar to number 2 above, such as “you make me happy when…”, but I think just saying it without the qualifier can be just as important. If I’m asked “how?” my response is “just by being you”.

4. I’m Proud Of You

This is great to use when my son is struggling with something, he doesn’t have to be succeeding for me to say it, as long as he is trying hard. It’s also something positive to say when he admits he did something wrong, it encourages him to tell the truth, without condoning the bad behaviour.

5. You Are Special

No matter what happens, our children should always feel that they are special, at least to their parents if not to anyone else. This is another way of saying we love our kids and that’s why they are special.

6. I Trust You

If we want to have a trusting relationship with our children, we have to give trust if we want to receive it. This will encourage and develop a trusting and honest relationship that will help them with further relationships down the line.

7. I Believe In You

This is a great way to encourage our kids, provided we also combine it with an acceptance that success is not always possible. The last thing we want is to create shame or a sense of failure when they don’t succeed. There are no greatly successful people who have never suffered defeat and it’s a lesson that should make them stronger, not weaker. By believing in my son I’m telling him I know he will do his best, and when that’s not good enough, he will work so that next time he will do better.

8. I Know You Can Do This

This is pretty much the same as number 7, but this time there is a certainty in a positive outcome. A great way to encourage and motivate.

9. I Am Grateful For You

This is similar to number 3, another way to say our children make us happy. But there’s an extra dimension to it, something that says you are happy they are part of your life, and you’d be lacking something if they weren’t there.

10. I’m Sorry

This is a great way to teach humility. And I don’t just mean saying to my son, but having him hear me say it to others. We all make mistakes and admitting them is part of growing up. The best way for little ones to learn that is by example. It lets them know that we all make mistakes and we can all take responsibility for them.

11. Thank You

A common courtesy that is all to often missing in today’s world. It’s a simple gesture that is the basis of a polite society, and I do want my son to be part of such a society. A way to let others know we value their time and efforts and takes nothing from us but can mean a great deal to others.

My Son Wants To Be A Scientist

Is it just me or is 7 a bit young to decide what career you want to do when you grow up? Yeah, yeah, I know he’ll change a hundred more times before he leaves school. But then, a lot of us probably do know people who decided young and kept on track to the career they wanted. And with the Olympics just ending, we know that a lot of those competitors have been training from an early age.

The real question for me though, is how much should I encourage his choices at this stage? Especially when there is a high chance he will, like most kids, change his mind again and again. For me, I think I’m going to encourage and support him as much as he’ll take. That way he’ll really know whether he has a real interest in that area, and he’ll know what it’s really about.

Perhaps we should take a step back and look at how this all came up though.

Last week Jay (my son) had Thursday and Friday off school because of the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Exams) that all grade 6 students go through. As a side note, do any other countries have major national exams for Primary/Elementary students? I know we didn’t in Australia, and as far as I know they still don’t, and I’ve never heard of any other countries doing it, but I guess there could be some doing it.

Anyway, as I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself, last Thursday and Friday Jay had no school. So on Thursday my wife, SO, took the day off and took him to “KidsSTOP” at the Singapore Science Centre, which is aimed at children up to 8 years of age, and introduces younger kids to the world of science. Luckily Jay is 7 so he can still go there. They apparently enjoyed it and when they got home Jay told me he wanted to go to the main Science Centre the next day, which caters for older kids and teenagers.

So Friday came and, having taken the day off to spend with him, we set off to the Science Centre to learn about sciency stuff and hopefully have a bit of fun doing it. We ended up spending about 5 hours walking around the exhibits and learning about all the different types of science and playing with the contraptions they have on display. It was tiring, but we had a great time, and I’d like to do more things like that with him in the future.

At the end of the day, on the way home, Jay told me that he had decided he wants to be a scientist. If this had been the first mention of it I probably wouldn’t have taken it that seriously, and figured it was just because he’d had fun, but he’s mentioned it a few times in the past. Which is why we wanted to take him there in the first place.

So now, even though he won’t start studying science at school until next year, we’re already on the look out for things we can get him to jump start his interest in science. We’ve talked to him about the periodic table and he’s excited, as only a 7 year old can be, to get one and start learning all about the elements and how they interact. Time will tell how far he takes it, but as long as he’s interested I want to keep feeding his interest and we’ll take him back to the science centre to further explore what they have there. Oh, and if you’re interested in what’s at the centre take a look here.

My Son’s Addicted to Pokemon Go and it’s Slowly Killing Me

I’m sure everyone’s heard about the new Pokemon Go game that’s so popular right now. You go around in the real world and collect pokemon, gotta catch em all, right?

The thing is, when I first heard of the game, I wasn’t really interested in getting it. Sure, the concept sounded good, and it seemed like an interesting game. And for fans of the show it was obviously a must have game. But see, that’s the thing. Whilst I’ve seen quite a few episodes with my nieces and nephews, and one or two with my son, neither my son or I are what you’d call fans. Sure, when we watched the show we enjoyed it, but it’s not one of the shows we go out of our way to watch.

So what got me to download it and get Jay (my son) to play? We happened to be talking to our doctor (we’ve all been a bit sick lately) and he mentioned how his daughter was playing it and using it as a way to go out and get exercise walking around. And that’s what did it, what better way to get Jay out and exercising than as part of a video game he was playing.

And it worked. Too well as it turned out. The first day we had it (I downloaded it at lunch time), we went out collecting pokemon twice, covering around 5 kilometres. The second day Jay had school, and I was supposed to be working, so we couldn’t go out during the day. But that night he insisted we go out and look for more. So we did since he didn’t have school the next day (national day holiday), and went a couple of kilometres.

And so everyday since has been the same, going out trying to catch more. Except for yesterday when he had school and since today was a school day we didn’t go out at night. But he still went through what he’s collected and upgraded and evolved what he could.

But the extra exercise isn’t the only benefit. Whilst we’ve been out collecting he’s spent more time playing in the local playgrounds, while I sit and watch and collect pokeballs and things from the pokestop. Plus, he’s become more interested in going out to do other things instead of staying home and playing or watching TV. Like going to kick the soccer ball around. In fact when we went out to do that I took my phone out so he could try to catch a pokemon on the way to the field, but instead of playing he told me to put it away.

Overall it’s been a success, Jay’s getting more exercise and actually wants to go out. And I’ve even been taking longer walks when I go out so that I can try to hatch eggs for him (which will hatch after you’ve walked a certain distance). My biggest problem is that it’s wearing me out, my body aches more than it has in a long time, and everyday I seem to be even more tired. The truth though, is that I’m also feeling better physically and it seems to be doing both of us a world of good.