Day 458: The End

As my son is falling asleep for the night in the other room, my wife singing “Trollmors Vaggsång,” I sit here typing my last post.  I go back to work tomorrow, meaning that this is officially the last day of Pappa Leave for me (at least consecutively, anyway).  So many ways I could sign off, lots of “things I’ve learned” that I could list off.

Instead of all of that, I’ll just cover what I reflected on today when I was walking back from the store to pick up my wife’s 1-day-late Mother’s Day gift that my son ordered for her 😉

I was there picking up a package, and I picked up the package speaking only Swedish.  Today we went to Skansen (an outdoor Museum & Zoo in Stockholm that is amazing), and when buying our annual pass, I also did this all in Swedish.  And then I realized that as the last 15 months has progressed, I have actually been speaking more and more Swedish when I am in Sweden.

“So what?!” You might say, “You live in Sweden after all!”  Ah, you see, I have not been speaking fluent Swedish in the 4 years (ok, 3 years + 1 in Hong Kong) that I have lived here.  I absorbed a lot, obviously, but was never confident enough to try to speak it – worried that I would be judged, misunderstood, or that people would think I was stupid because I can’t figure out “ett” or “en” or pronounce words like “rutschkana” (slide) without saying them 4 times.  But it turns out I learned a few things in this time away.

My self worth has always been tied to my productivity, my ability to be a solid worker, my efficiency, and my integrity.  My self esteem has always been connected to what I can do for other people (and frustrated when I was not able to contribute or help), and my ability to contribute to society as a whole.  Ability to and actually doing it are two different things, but the ability to contribute has always been key to me.  To work and contribute to larger things, and to be able to say “see, look what I have done!  I am smart / awesome / amazing – and I can prove it – see?!” – the ability to do so but not doing so (most of the time) – this was always of utmost importance to me.

So when I wrote in the “about” section and occasionally throughout the last 457 days that I am a guy who loves to work, I can tell you this was no exaggeration.  Loves to work.  Funny phrase in today’s culture where connecting work to your identity is passe, and having amazing hobbies and leisure time is the goal.  I still will love to work, because that is who I am on the inside – and it is something I will never be apologetic about.  Some people are just this way, and I am one of them.

But what I have seen about myself in this last year is that I am more than just a worker bee, more than an ant marching (albeit happily marching).  I am a good friend.  I am a supportive husband.  I am a family-driven person.  I am smart.  I am adventurous.  I am strong.  I can contribute to the world in other ways than just by working and getting results.  There are great people everywhere, with all kinds of backgrounds, and most of them are just as curious as you are.

I learned to have the confidence to speak Swedish even when I might suck at it, so that I can learn to speak it better – and that means I don’t really care as much about what people think of me as I used to.  It could also mean that I don’t hold the same power to language as I used to – after spending this amount of time in Hong Kong where people communicate without perfectly speaking the language (English), it has probably given me some perspective.

I learned that I am a good father.  A really damn good father who knows his son, who knows what he needs, and who gives his son what he needs before he needs it (most of the time) – and that means I know that there are times when not giving him what he wants is what he needs.  And, there are times when he’s gotta struggle and I shouldn’t help him with every little thing.

So it turns out in this post, I did list off all these things that I have learned after all!

I guess I don’t know what I expected when I started this blog.  I did not expect to have any followers (thanks to everyone for reading!).  I did not expect to actually write a blog post every day, or to even keep doing it.  I did not expect it to be rewarding and cathartic, as it has been.

Above all, aside from the confidence in myself, I truly believe I am more self aware than I have ever been.  I know what my needs are, I know what I want out of life.  That’s a pretty good end result of taking 15 months away from work to take care of your child.

Thanks again for reading – maybe I’ll start a new blog later, and if I do, I’ll post an update! (if you have suggestions, please share them in the comments section!)

Day 457: We’re not in Hong Kong anymore

We have been out in Stockholm enjoying yesterday and today – running errands, getting things taken care of, and so on.  As a 50-year old hipster man zoomed by us on a long board in front of the most expensive department store in Sweden, we both laughed at the black and white differences between Hong Kong and Stockholm.  

We went to a large playground on Södermalm, the epicenter of the cool and wannabe cool (and the “think they’re cool”).  This is where trends are born in Sweden, and at first or second glance you could be amazed at the diversity in styles and appearance choices.  But after a while, you see that everyone is so “different” that they are the same – after all, there is a set way to be different, you know.  Anyway, we found ourselves feeling judged and analyzed by the other parents, probably because our son was not wearing pink or gender neutral enough clothing.  Maybe because we did not look like we had never washed out clothes.  Or maybe because we were all three playing together like a stereotypical family, and in Södermalm that is not cool.  It was super strange.  To be fair we did meet one nice family there.

Then of course we went to a few other parks in other parts of the city (Hammarby Sjöstad, Östermalm, another part of Södermalm, etc).  These parks had a different vibe and were much more in line with our style of parenting and our family in general.  There were a lot of people who are probably super nice, and there was no feeling of judgment.

The key differences for me are twofold.  First, in Hong Kong, the playgrounds are clean.  The ground underneath  the equipment is covered with this soft padding stuff that if you fall means you will not get hurt as badly.  A lot of the playground equipment is plastic.  In Sweden, the equipment is rugged.  Metal, wood, sand, stones, grass, mud.  Oaaoohhaaa! (Sound of Vikings beating their chests). The kids will fall, they will get hurt, and they will be fine.  For example today a 10-month-old started crying and when I looked over I saw that another child was pouring sand and little stones on his head.  The moms had been busy talking and didn’t notice.  This would never ever happen in Hong Kong for so many reasons.

The second reason things are different is the attitude of the parents at the playground. In Sweden I mentioned above a bit of the judgment we felt, but it is also just a little more isolated.  Not much kid-to-kid interaction unless the kids or parents are friends. Basically it is “parent and child” isolation at the playground.  In Hong Kong, the parents are a lot more open to interacting with other parents and kids, and seem to be more open to letting the kids become temporary playground friends with the other kids.

I should say that I am sure that as we get more used to things here, and we start going places regularly, we will surely fall right into place back here in Sweden.  It won’t take long!

Day 456: compact living

In Hong Kong we were living in a space of about 85 square meters.  The apartment in Stockholm is 42 square meters.  We do not get into our new (bigger) apartment until September, so that means a lot of adjustments to “compact living” now.

As we get the suitcases unpacked and things put away, it is less overwhelming, but it is becoming apparent that one thing we need to figure out is where the little guy’s toys go.  They are currently everywhere – a few here, a few there, and next thing you know it is a mine field of Duplo, plastic animals, cars, balls, books, books, books, and stuffed animals.

We will find some solutions for toy and book storage, which I think will mostly involve simply limiting the available toys and rotating them often.

As for the things belonging to my wife and me – I think we will simply have to keep things put away and be careful not to leave things out – not only for the toddler’s curious hands, but to prevent a massive mess of clutter in the apartment.  Here’s to compact living!

Day 455: we made it!

After a long flight, connection time, and another flight, we have made it back to Stockholm!  Tjoho!

To be honest, I am happy our original flight was cancelled and we were put on a replacement flight by Lufthansa.  Mainly I am happy because of these reasons:

  • It was a night flight (Hong Kong – Frankfurt) and that made things easier as the little guy could sleep most of the flight (and so could we)
  • Lufthansa flight crew see a baby/toddler and say “how can I make your life easier?” (Maybe they give you toys or maybe they are simply accommodating and empathetic of your situation). SAS flight crew see children and roll their eyes as if to say “another one?!  Don’t people know we hate kids and their parents?”
  • Food choices: sas only has one meal option and non-alcoholic drinks for free.  Lufthansa has the industry standard of 2 meal options and free beer and wine.

We had to hurry up and get on the plane 10 hours earlier than planned, but that also meant that even with the connection (the sas flight is direct), we were home earlier.  Additionally, we checked some valuable artwork and the baggage team did not ruin it.  

So there is really nothing bad that I could say – I’m just glad we were able to jump on this flight – now it’s all about getting over the jetlag. 😉

Day 454: go go go!

Oah!  This morning we found out that our direct flight tomorrow to Stockholm was canceled and will be for a few days too.  Reason?”operational reasons” – so that basically means whatever reason they want.

So off we go instead of leaving tomorrow, we got on today’s direct evening flight via Frankfurt.  The flight even with connections will arrive a few hours before the direct SAS flight.

So now instead of taking it easy our last evening, it’s go, go, go! – our time to get every last thing done has passed, and somehow this seems fitting – waiting longer is just delaying the inevitable, right?

Day 453: auberge hotel, discovery bay Hong Kong 

Most people either moving to or moving from discovery bay find themselves staying at least one night at the Auberge Hotel.  We did the same for the last two nights, and although we have been to the bar and restaurant parts of the hotel, which most people would agree is nice, I was surprised at how nice our room was.

Fresh room, ocean/mountain/city view, a balcony, and all the other elements of a nice hotel.  Two things were notable: the baby cot was already in our room and set up without us having to call them a thousand times.  The other thing is the shower – it was amazing!In addition to all of this, the pool is very nice, and I enjoyed swimming with the little guy and his friends there.  Further, there is also a sweet playroom for the kids!

the shower 

The breakfast was good with a lot of selection, so definitely do have the breakfast if you stay there.

Overall the stay was made by the nice little extras, which is mainly achieved by the very helpful and attentive staff. Definitely a good one to consider for anyone visiting Hong Kong and Discovery Bay, or even Disneyland, which is just a short bus ride away 😉


Day 452: the final days before the move

Here we are now with our empty apartment, suitcases virtually all packed, and the little guy sleeping in a makeshift bed.  Tomorrow the movers come, we go to a hotel for a few nights, and then we go on our way.

The important thing for me has been to “let go” now of any last minute things that I may have wanted to do now; just enjoy the rest of our time here.

In doing so, this means maintaining the routines for the little guy is of utmost importance.  It is important so he will feel secure, and not be bothered by any changes.  I think he has been doing really well so far, although this could be because we have always been going a lot, packing up and flying off – so he probably knows we are going to go again and it is not a big deal.  Or, maybe he is just concerned with playing and eating, so as long as those things are covered, he’s just fine 😉