Day 448: I’ll Miss the Baby-Friendly Hong Kong Vibe

One thing I’ll miss going back to Sweden is the Baby-Friendly vibe in Hong Kong.  I should say that it is not really what you would call an “accessible” city most of the time, and it can be frustrating to deal with a lot of city planning and architectural obstacles when out with a stroller.  In addition the MTR (the metro in Hong Kong) is really pushing those with strollers to take the elevator instead of escalator to prevent accidents on escalators.

What I am referring to is the actual people that make up the city.  Not the expats.  I’m talking about the people that blend into the background, who make up the fabric of the city.  The locals.  The people out with push carts, driving buses, and working the hard and unforgiving jobs.  The “real people” if you will.  Amongst this group of people are some of the most friendly, kind, and fun people in the world, and when you have a baby / toddler with you, they light up with a big smile, they accommodate your annoying stroller, and they don’t seem to mind helping – for example opening a door, giving you a seat on the MTR, and so on.  They are kind.

We will be going back to Sweden.  I love it there and think it is wonderful.  But one thing that I could never wrap my brain around is how unhelpful strangers are to one another there.  Just this last trip back, we were trying to exit our apartment building and no fewer than 3 separate people entered when we were trying to exit with a stroller and 2 bags each, and not one held the door open or offered to help.  The first winter I was in Sweden, I was on a bus during a snow storm, and a woman entered at the stop of the supermarket with a load of groceries and a baby stroller.  Nobody did anything to help her.  If anything they looked annoyed that she was taking a bit long.  I got up and tried to help her and then she looked at me like I was a crazy person (she most likely thought I was being sexist).  Interesting learning lesson about Swedish culture, isn’t it?  But if you know people, they will do anything for you – it’s just when you are a stranger that is complicated there.

So imagine what it will be like for the little guy when we go to Sweden.  He will say “hi” and “bye bye” to everyone, and wave at the bus drivers as they go by, and they will all ignore him.  He will try to charm a restaurant worker, and they’ll be kind but ignore him nonetheless, and he will wonder what is wrong.  To be honest it kind of breaks my heart that he will be going from the kindness that he encounters here to the other end of the spectrum, but my hope is that he is still oblivious enough that it will not get to him.

Mark this down as one of the many unexpected treasures I found in this 15 months in Hong Kong – who knew that in one of the bigger cities in the world, there would be so many baby-friendly people?


Day 447: Toddler Eating: Tasting Good + Fun = Success

Today we went to a traditional Chinese restaurant that had a variety of great things to eat.  I ordered for the little guy first, assuming that he would quickly eat like usual and then he would whine at me while I ate under stress.  Sounds fun, right?  I ordered fried rice, which he usually likes, and fried green beans with minced pork, which he had & loved one other time.

30 minutes later, we were finishing our meal, as the little guy ate virtually the whole dish of green beans, followed by cucumbers (of course).  He ate and ate and ate, and that was really fun to see.  To make things easier, we had one other toddler there who sat opposite the table from him, and they kept seeing the other eating, so they continued.

Then at dinner, we had some Tikka Chicken with yogurt sauce for the little guy to dip in.  Again he loved it, along with the “rice balls” (rolling regular rice into bite-sized balls) that he could also dip into the sauce, or act like he was doing so.

And it was then that it dawned on me something that is so common sense that I can’t believe I have not figured this out earlier:

It is not enough for the food to taste good.  It must also be fun for him to eat, too.

He ate the green beans because they fit those two criteria.  He ate the dinner tonight because it fit those two criteria.  He ate regular sized slices of pizza the other night because it fit those two criteria.  He did not eat yesterday’s lunch because it was uninspiring to him.  He did not eat the fried rice today because it was not fun.  And so on.

I guess there are times when the proportion of taste to fun do not have to be equal.  For example salmon and potatoes with peas.  That is his favorite meal, and he will eat it anytime.  But the peas make it more fun for him, so if I want him to eat ALL the food, then I’ve gotta make sure the peas are there.

I think the important thing to note here is that I am not saying that toddlers must play with toys, their food, or do some weird games while eating.  What I am saying is that if the meal itself is fun because it is a new and different flavor, or there is a hands-on element, or whatever your toddler enjoys, then there is a higher chance that the meal will be eaten, and that the meal will be enjoyable by the parents, too.  I guess it seems like the little guy goes into his own “having fun while eating” zone, and that allows me to eat and talk too.

One other thing that I have changed this week is that I am putting less pressure on him at meal times.  So, for example I will simply make something available by getting it out and placing it there with no pressure.  This could be snacks or meals.  So by having no pressure, then it is he who is controls the situation rather than me, and therefore he will eat.  So maybe it is the combination of fun + taste + no pressure (or maybe the no pressure makes it easier to have fun?).

So, all-in-all it is nice to see the little guy eating again more regularly.  It could be simply that he is not teething anymore and his appetite’s back, but I think it can’t hurt to think about how interesting a meal that is in front of him is – after all, we encourage exploration and discovery all day long – this surely happens at meal times too, right?

Day 446: High Tea at Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental

Today me and some friends made a trip to the Mandarin Oriental in central Hong Kong so we could have their High Tea.  If you are into this kind of thing, it is an interesting option, depending on when and with whom you choose to go.

We had a quieter corner where the little ones could be a little noisier and it suited the big group well.  They accommodated us well and were very friendly.

We ordered and in my opinion that’s where everything kind of got less impressive.  So many servers but nobody knew what was going on, and a lot of errors being made on the orders.  They surprisingly had a kids menu and I thought the kids waffle would be a good snack for the little guy until it arrived covered in syrup (why not put it on the side?!)

As for me, I had a wonderful cake and a pot of Orange Pekoe tea.  This is a tea my mom drank while I was growing up, and on some special moments I got to have a cup too, with milk and sugar.  So it was like tasting my childhood when I was able to drink this tea.

All-in-all I can probably recommend this place for a high tea experience if you go earlier in the day and with just one or two other people.  Something special to lighten your day amidst the chaos of central Hong Kong zooming by on the streets below.


Day 445: Tiny Dictator

Stalin.  Mussolini.  The Little Guy.  That’s probably how history will remember things.  I hope not, but at the moment it is seeming that way.

The little guy has really become quite the dictator.  Or diva.  Is there a difference?  Let’s take a look at some examples.

  • When he wants to leave the apartment (usually around 9:00), he crawls up onto his stroller, puts in his pacifier, tries to put on his shoes, and points to the door.
    • whining starts as soon as I am too slow (about 12 seconds)
  • If he’s hungry, he simply lifts his hand and puts his thumb and forefinger together
    • when he doesn’t like what I give him, he shakes his head as if to say “try again, idiot”
  • when he wants what someone else has, he points at it until he gets it
    • this can and does lead to a full-on melt down when he does not get it
    • this can include toys and food
  • If he does not want what I offer him at any time, he will throw it as far as he can away, or he will shake his head and/or hands

So, how do I deal with the dictator son that I have at home right now?  Sometimes I let him have his way, like in the mornings when we are going to leave anyway, it is actually helpful that he is already sitting there.  Other times I simply let him cry and get over it.  He needs to learn that crying does not work as a tool to get things, but sometimes with his friends, it does work (other parents will give him what he wants).

From another angle, it is amusing to me that he thinks he is in charge of everything – he’s mildly delusional, just like any proper dictator.  😉

Day 444: “Let’s Get a Coffee”

Today me and the little guy did some errands, which meant a trip to Mong Kok and the MOKO Mall (read here about this mall).  One thing I did not write about this mall before was the incredible play area just outside of the food court on the 3rd floor.  The little guy acted like I had given him the greatest gift of all when we were there! 🙂

After we got back and we finished our errands, I got in touch with my friend group and asked where they were, and me and the little guy went to meet them.  They were slowly walking with their little guys in the strollers – and their little guys were not happy to be in the strollers.  At all.  So when they saw the little guy, they also made some serious moves to get themselves removed from the shackles that bound them to the mobile prisons they were in.

The moms decided it was too windy where we were, and the best option was to go into the coffee shop.  Now let me remind you that our kids are between 18-23 months.  A coffee shop is never the best option for anything unless they are sleeping.  So what happened when we went into the coffee shop?

Lots of whining, some running around, basic disruption of the place, and confused customers who just wanted to sit down but couldn’t because we were blocking the path.  Yep, we were those inconsiderate a-holes.  And I noticed it, and I didn’t like it.  So when my friend said that she has to get outside with her kid, I happily joined her outside of the coffee shop where the little ones could run around and burn off some pent-up energy.

I mentioned yesterday that I think some people do not evolve as their child evolves, and maybe they want them to stay babies too long.  Here is a great example of this.  There is a short period (before the kids are crawling) when you can go to coffee shops to meet friends, and it is really nice.  Did the other parents with me not notice their kids screaming, or that we with our toddlers were a disruptive force in the coffee shop?  And furthermore, how could they even focus on the conversation at hand when the kids were being like this?  The only one who was well-behaved had a iphone crammed into his hands immediately to mentally pacify him, but the others were not super pumped to be there.

So, all-in-all, while I think meeting friends for a coffee is a great idea, I think it is better to meet friends to get a coffee to go, so that you can enjoy your coffee while they are playing outside, running around, being active. 🙂

Day 443: Hong Kong vs. US / Europe – Different Parenting Styles

Today I had a really interesting conversation with one of my stay-at-home-dad friends.  He is born & raised in  Hong Kong, and is Hong Kong Chinese.  This makes his staying at home with his child super crazy as it is definitely not common for a man to stay at home with their child here.  So, he’s already outside of the traditional “box” for a dad.  But I suspected it was not as far away from the box as he thought.  And although I am American, I am definitely not a traditional American in how I raise my child, either.  So it was an interesting conversation.

We were talking about letting the little ones, especially at this age, learn.  For me, this means letting the little guy sometimes fall, drop something, or otherwise do things that could potentially hurt him – but not harm him (if that makes sense?).  In other words, if the little guy wants to stand on a toy that will fall over, causing him to fall, then I will warn him, and then if he still wants to do it, my logic is to let him do it so he can learn for himself.  If however there is a table corner right there, I’ll put my hand over it so that when he falls, he won’t harm himself.

For my friend, he would prevent his son from doing the above example altogether.  So, the toy would be taken away, or the child would be taken away from the situation, thus saving any kind of predicament at all from happening.  I can appreciate this, of course I do not want my son to hurt himself.  However, my logic is, if you wrap your kid in bubble wrap (theoretical or real), you do not really let them learn – and they can learn so many things from you not interjecting.  For example maybe they learn that you, the parent, are not an idiot and your warnings are good advice.  They might also learn how to fall, or that the world does not end when they fall and it hurts.  They might also learn how to be careful.  And so on.  If you interject all the time, I feel that the main thing they learn is that they do not have responsibility for their own actions, and it can hinder their learning about real life stuff.

One thing that I mentioned while talking is that I had noticed that my friend is a lot more hands on while his child is playing, and he interjects much more with his son while he is playing than the other parents – who are all European.  He said that it is not like the Chinese parents, who do not let their kids do anything, and are so worried they really protect them from everything.  He said he believes he must wait until his kid is developmentally (mentally, emotionally, and fine-motor skills-wise) ready for things.

I countered that if you always are waiting for them to be “ready” for something – for example walking down the stairs or running around an open space without your guidance, maybe you are not allowing them to become “ready” because you keep interjecting.  If I were to keep putting my son in the stroller every time that he was walking because he was not walking very stably, then how is that helping the development of his walking?  Seems to me that you should simply let the kid learn how to walk, which involves falling – a lot – and they will figure it out much quicker than if you interject all the time.

I also made a point that I think is huge: people baby their kids too much.  Especially toddlers.  Toddlers are not babies.  They are smart.  They learn a lot every day.  They are not babies.  So, when I see people treat their kids who are 5, 4, 3, 2, or even 1,5 years old as if they are babies, it really drives me crazy, because I believe this is a really detrimental thing to do to them – and it happens because people are not moving on while their child moves along in their development.  As a parent, we need to keep moving with our child.  You don’t keep feeding them puree for dinner once they are eating solid foods, right?  Then the same applies to how you treat them as they get older, too.

In the end we said that there are many paths to the end-point.  Everyone has their own logic, and they make the parenting decisions based on what makes sense in their logic.  Super interesting to think about not only cultural difference when raising children, but also simple individual differences that are based on a person’s world view.

Day 442: “I Want Mommy”

Although he does not yet say “I want mommy” there are times that my son definitely wants her over me.  Of course there’s nothing wrong with him sometimes wanting the comfort of his mother more than the comfort of his father, so it does not bother me.  But on the other hand, as the person who takes care of him all the time, it is a little bit of a bummer that he would not want to go to the comfort of my arms when something happens and he wants comfort.

I have said this before and I stand by it – there is a special bond that a child has with their mother, and it is a bond that will never be felt or understood by the father.  There’s a little bit of a unique relationship that builds, and it makes sense when you think about it.  The mother is there as literally the source of life and sustenance for the child from the beginning.  And then along comes the father, and although this guy is interesting, he’s no match for the mother.

So, when those times come up when both me and my wife are around, it is almost without fail that the little guy will go to his mom if he wants to be hugged, held, or otherwise have closeness.  My wife sometimes wants me to carry him during these times, as she gets tired, but this does not fly for him – he wants mom.  I will say I have a “no carrying him around “policy when we are out in public – he either walks or goes in the stroller when he is with me – so maybe I’m not helping things.  Either way, I hear it loud & clear: “I want mommy” is something I should simply get used to.

Day 441: Things are disappearing

As we head back to Sweden, we have some things will be shipping back home, and some things we are selling.  With a move this far, it is a considerable expense to ship for example our sofa, compared to selling it used and buying a new one back in Sweden.  So, those items that are bulky that we do not really love are going up for sale.

Off those items have gone to the online forums for these things (i.e., facebook), with people coming to our place occasionally to take a piece of our life with them.  And piece by piece, the things are disappearing, and we feel less and less like we are living in a home.  Photos are down from the walls as frames go to others, clothes are moved out of wardrobes, and those items become a memory of the past as we look towards the future.

Day 440: What’s This?

Yesterday I wrote that the little guy is saying “hi” and “bye bye” a lot right now.  And that is no lie!  Today I think he must have said “bye bye” at least a thousand times – and it makes sense because it’s a way that he knows to say he is finished with something or wants to move on.

Tonight we were doing some evening reading, which usually consists of quite a few different books.  And he brought me thick one with a bunch of different animals in it, called “Mina Favoritdjur” (“My Favorite Animals”).  And then when I opened the page, he pointed to the first one and said, clearly: “what’s this?”  I told him what it was, and he did the same for every animal for the next 4 or 5 pages.  After that, it kind of became a muddled circle of made-up words.

It made sense that he said, “what’s this” – because this is what I ask him when we are reading.  And since he is basically copying everything we do right now, and he is also starting to assert more and more what he wants – and in this case, he wanted to control how I read to him – instead of me controlling the reading, he took over.  And, it especially makes sense (tonight he saw me dipping sushi into the dish before I ate, so he mimicked pouring soy sauce into a dish and dipping the food).

It makes you wonder, which other things that I say (or do) a lot is he going to pick up?  One of his friends is wagging his pointer finger like his dad does when he says no – so now if he sees someone doing something not ok, he wags his finger.  But what things has little guy picked up from me that will keep sprouting up?  It will be interesting to see! 😉


what’s this? what’s this? what’s this?

Day 439: Hi & Bye Bye

One of the cutest things the little guy is doing right now is exercising his new verbal skills.  That means continuing to “talk” like he has been for a while, and it also means saying a few proper words, too.

Our pediatrician told us that at 18 months (the little guy’s current age), they look for a speaking vocabulary of 8 words.  I would say right now he has about that many.  The two that are his favorite are: “hi” and “bye bye”.  

So, now he is eager to say “hi” to everyone he sees – in the hall, on the elevator, on the street, in stores, and so on.  And of course it is accompanied by “bye bye” a few moments later when our brief encounters with whoever are over.

He uses these words as more than just salutations – for example, he will say “bye bye” when he wants to leave a place, or when he is finished eating.  It’s so interesting how this whole talking thing develops!