Being away from the family for 9 months while I was in Melbourne can be quite detrimental to the psyche of my kids. Sure, we Skype-ed almost every night while I was there but there was only so much we could chat over the internet, especially when most times, the internet (at least at where I lived) was inconsistent and slow.
The wife complained quite a bit, especially about Ryan’s increasingly rebellious behavior and strange habits (like hiding his used school socks in between his books!) while I was in Melbourne and I felt helpless.
I came back to discover my girl had become a young woman, now more prone to show her displeasure and occasional temper tantrum; but still the sweet girl who adores her daddy. My son had grown taller and has developed his own sense of identity. Just the other day, he said “Just let me be who I am!” when I chided him for his obnoxious (at least in my opinion) way of eating a piece of mooncake (he digs out all the contents first, pops them in his mouth and then flattens the ‘skin’ of the mooncake into a lump of paste and eats it last – pretty disgusting if you ask me).
I realized I have missed a significant chunk of their lives.
Anyway, I am determined to reconnect with them and hopefully exact some good paternal influence on them before pubertal hormones hit and effectively block out any sound parental advice.
One way to do this, in my humble opinion, is to create memories – good ones preferred over bad ones. And to do that, I had to get interested in what my kids are interested in.
Right now, the girl is consumed by the upcoming UPSR exam and so has little time for anything else except the occasional new song over the radio, the computer games (only on Saturday) and her new BFF – Cleffy the cleft-lipped urinary incontinent Shih-Tzu. The boy is all about Transformers, guns, pirates, cycling, swimming and anything-remotely-connected to Harry Potter/Nagini/Voldemort.
And they both love our iPads! Sharing the use of apps (usually games) on my iPad with the kids is a good way to connect with them and build memories. Of course it also involves a certain degree of trust on my part that they will not damage my very expensive
toy personal-efficiency-enhancer-device! It’s a risk I’m willing to take.
And so, currently we are working on our ‘Smurf Village’ on the iPad (I have disabled in-app purchase in case they buy USD 59.99 worth of Smurfberries accidentally and gives me a premature heart attack!) and we are at level 13 now with 27 cute little Smurfs living peacefully in the village, planting all kinds of crops, building houses and bridges, sawing logs, express-baking, hammering pegs into the ground, making potions and mining for gem stones! At times I leave the decision on what crops to plant and harvesting to the kids (we killed a number of them because we forgot to harvest!).
Right now, I’m at Chapter 5 of ‘The Chamber of Secrets‘ of the Harry Potter series just so I can speak ParselTongue with my son and conjure up a few nifty spells when I need them (I always get hit with the Adva Kedevra spell!). It also allows me to understand what my kids are babbling about since they know everything Harry Potter and I don’t.
I try to take them on one-on-one short excursions out – swimming and hiking with the son, shopping with the girl, cycling with the kids, jogging while the son cycles right in front or behind me, etc. Time’s running out. It won’t be long before they would prefer their own company of people around their age group.
And much as I dislike the incontinent nature of the silly dog (I really should invest in some dog diapers), I will have to take a liking to it since it makes my girl happy.
I do have two problems though…I still can’t quite sing any of the songs that they enjoy listening and singing along to and I absolutely find no joy in playing computer games on the PC! Sigh…