I wrote once about a recurring theme that emerged from talking to parents of young children before we had the little guy. If you asked them what it was like, they would almost always say they were tired. And some fathers got this faraway look in their eyes as if they were remembering a distant memory – the time when they used to be able to sleep.
This last week I would have been one of those fathers. It was absolutely brutal last week dealing with a toddler with jetlag, and myself with jetlag, all by myself (my wife out of the country on meetings). Traveling back and forth, doing all these things. In addition it was stressful stuff – selling and looking at apartments, phone calls with my boss and colleagues, and so on.
Then, we got on the plane and I thought, “ok, I will get some sleep when the little guy is sleeping.” Nope. I had too many things on my mind, too many things to worry about, apparently. So instead of sleeping for that 5 hours I sat there trying to sleep, or gave up and watched a few movies.
When we finally got home I took a short morning nap (by myself, my wife took the little guy out on a short walk for him to sleep). I am not a napping person. I hate napping, actually, because I get so “out of it” when I take naps. And today was no exception. It took me almost 30 minutes to pull my head out of the clouds after that 2 hours of sleep. 2 hours I desperately needed. I would have preferred just 45 minutes, but I think my body was so thirsty for the sleep I needed that I would have been sleeping longer regardless of any attempts to shorten the nap.
Sleep is so important that it’s crazy to me that the very existence of the species creates little humans who deprive their parents of sleep – which is so essential for making good decisions and being able to live life fully. You’d think instead we would have created offspring who let us sleep and don’t argue or have a flip out at the snap of a finger. But I guess things can’t be too easy or we wouldn’t appreciate it, right? 😉
This morning before our flight (I am writing this using the airplane wifi), we walked around our neighborhood for a while. We had such fresh eyes being gone for the last 14 months and rarely spending time there except to grab things from the apartment’s storage space.
We were in love all over again with the neighborhood, and the weather today was so perfect to be out enjoying the day. I made a comment that maybe we wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if we had been living there – after all there were not many people out enjoying the day as we were.
It’s hard to take a step back and enjoy your neighborhood/town/city when you get caught up in the day-to-day details of life. You get so focused on “we must do this, we must go there,” that you miss the little things that are happening locally, the specialness of the normal things, and you forget to stop and take it all in.
So I’m glad that we had the time to do the walk around, to have breakfast and a coffee at our favorite restaurant, and to see things fresh. Here’s to doing the same in Hong Kong this coming month also!
Today was a super busy day. Both my wife and me & the little guy traveled from where we were to meet in Stockholm. Then we went to look at a few apartments to buy. Then we got the apartment back from the person who was renting it. Then we went to buy more stuff to decorate it in order to sell it. And finally we ate dinner, went back to the apartment and prepared it for selling.
Tomorrow we meet with the realtor in the morning and then a few hours later we are off to the airport to go back to Hong Kong one last time. The great thing about all this moving and packing / unpacking is that when we are back in Hong Kong we will not be getting sentimental about keeping certain things. We hope to sell or give away the majority of our stuff except for furniture, art, and a few other items of course ;). Here’s to a smooth month ahead!
The Swedish word for food is “mat”. So, a few weeks ago, in an effort to get the little guy to finally tell me when he is hungry, I taught him to say “mat” when he wants something to eat. He can’t really pronounce the “m – a – t” completely, it’s more like “m – a – a”, but I get what he’s saying.
And lately, he’s been saying “mat” a lot. I don’t know what it is, but maybe it is a mini growth spurt he is having, because he is eating a ton of food! Breakfast maybe at 7, then “mat” and some more food at 8:30. Then at 10, it’s “mat” again. And finally lunch comes and we eat a nice big meal.
This continues thru the day now. Lots of fruit, maybe some cheese, maybe some meat, maybe some peanut butter crackers. Not a lot of carbs though – hmmm, maybe this is part of the reason he wants so much food (no carbs to “fill him up”). Of course he gets plenty of carbs in his meals, but snacks while we have been in Sweden are less carb-centric.
Anyway, he is eating so much it sometimes feels like he is just eating because he enjoys eating – which of course is a great thing. And maybe because we do not give him sugar yet, he is seeing that fruit as his own version of candy, and so he will eat a snack to get his sugar fix. Interesting.
The only down side of all this eating is the additional diaper changes. We are talking going from one poop a day to four now. So yeah, that’s fun. 😛
Today the little guy had a lot of play time, which was great! He first went to his grandfather’s while I had a phone meeting. He has a dog and one of his wife’s grandchildren was also there, so they played like crazy – so much that the little guy was exhausted when we left later in the day – but the day was not over yet!
Then, we had dinner at my wife’s cousin’s place, and they have a young baby and a 2,5 year-old. And after they ate, those little people PLAYED. I’m talking serious, let’s get our play ON. Pippi Longstocking house, with the horse and his friends? They stood no chance with those two. Upstairs in the kids room, with the make-believe kitchen and fake food? Absolutely awesome, intense PLAY (a reminder to myself now that it is time for him to get a fake kitchen set, he loves playing in any kitchen he can find!). The little guy played, banged, yelled, laughed, stomped, danced, and really just had some big time fun.
Of course the benefits of this are multiple. First, the obvious one – the exposure of the little guy to new people, new experiences, and new ways of play – especially with the older kids. Second would be the benefit of being around the dog. Third would be simple: he’s tired at the end of the day. In fact, today he was so tired that after we got home, he walked straight into his room and tried to crawl up into his crib – after I changed him into his pyjamas, he simply wanted me to put him right in there. Now that has never happened. It’s amazing what some serious play can do! 😉
The little guy is thrilled to be back at our summer house, where all the toys and books he has forgotten about reside. Last night when we arrived he had a few minutes of running around between them – he was so excited it was funny to watch.
A great thing about having the house is having a yard. It’s a big one, with lots of grass and trees, and places to run around. In our yard we have a kids swing. So today, when the weather was really nice, I thought we would go out and run around in the yard; explore and kick the football around. All of this stopped the instant he sat in the swing.
You’ve gotta remember that in the past, swinging has always been something the little guy liked, but he was ready to get out after a short time. I found out today that this is not the case any longer – when I took him out after 20 min, he was instantly wanting to get back in, and the same after the next 20 min. Then we were actually finally playing in the yard when his cousin arrived to play, and the little guy walked him over to the swing, as if thinking, “sweet! A new person who I can get to let me into the swing!”
When he is in the swing it is super funny. He kicks his legs like crazy, as if he thinks he is running and that is why it goes back and forth. It is amazing to be a part of this pure joy that he is experiencing. It was so amazing to him that when we were out on the back patio briefly this evening, he was transfixed when he saw the swing again, and he did not leave the patio without my assistance. 😉
So, we are back in Sweden and it was day one today of jetlag. Normally as you know we have a simple process to get thru jetlag, where we just do the days as normal. It works, but it isn’t always fun.
So, today when we were going to eat lunch, the little guy had a compete meltdown. COMPLETE. It was impressive how he could cry and scream for so long, and how he did not want anything we offered him, and did not want to be comforted. He simply wanted to sleep, which makes sense considering it was his normal bedtime back in Hong Kong. So, after we tried everything to calm him down while being “those parents” in the cafe who obviously can’t handle their child, I took him outside, where he continued to melt down more. He finally let me dress him and I wrestled him into the stroller and we went to watch the cars drive by. And then he slept for a little while.
Later in the day we had some train travel for a few hours where he was really good and happy, and we arrived home to all his old toys he forgot about, and all was good. But for that hour, it was not a lot of fun to have a 18-month-old.
We are safely back in Sweden for the coming week before we go back again to Hong Kong for one last month. It is going to be weird when we are finally back here, but until then we have a lot to think of so that is what is at the front of my mind. One of the things is the remaining long-haul flights with the little guy.
On today’s 10,5 hour flight, he was basically amazing. He had a slight fit after we were up in the air for about 8 hours, but after we were thru that, he was back to his old self again. I would say that this was basically the smoothest flight we have had with him. And I do not think it was an accident. Here’s the factors that I think can help make a toddler an easier traveler.
Travel with them frequently, starting when they are little. I guess it does not have to be airplanes, but getting them out of the house so they learn early on that being in the world is what it means to exist, then they will probably be more keen to be in new environments and less dependent on everything in their life being tied to home.
Get to the airport early and find a play area and let them play play play so they are a little physically tired at the beginning of the flight (helps them sit longer, which can help especially if you get stuck on the runway for a few hours!)
Have the same rhythm you would when you go through a normal day. Including snacks, meals, and naps.
Pack the whole regimen of snacks, but don’t panic and get them all out at once if they get whiny. As they say in war movies, “steady, steady, S T E A D Y” – keep a cool hand and only get the snacks out when it’s time.
Pack a select grouping of toys and books that are a good representation of what they have at home – some favorites should be included. But also, time things so you do not get everything out at once. Maybe also put some away when you bring out the new ones, too.
Get a few new toys and books for the flight, so they can “discover” them with you as something new.
If both parents are traveling with them, take turns giving the little one the attention they need. If the child is in a “mommy” or “daddy” specific time (like now the little guy really likes his mom a lot, and if she is around I am basically garbage), then do what you can to help the other parent – when the meal comes, get it set up for them to grab a few bites, have a napkin ready for them, etc.
Be in a good mood, laugh, and play with them. It really helps the time go faster if you see the little person you are traveling with as a fun person to fly with. Plus, I think people like to see little ones laughing, and if they see that and then there is a mild freakout, they will probably be more forgiving and less annoyed with it. But:
Don’t worry about annoying other people because you have a child. You will annoy them. But they can just as easily be annoyed by someone leaning their seat back or the bad movie selection. It’s public transportation, after all, and you are obviously doing your best, right? So if there is a little noise from your little one, don’t get more stressed than you need to be.
Band together with the other parents. Today, there was a family with a little baby in front of us, and I helped them get situated when the flight attendant was doing an amazing job at not being helpful (and being kind of mean to them, actually). And then later, when the little guy was sleeping sprawled out on my seat when I came back from the bathroom, the father told me I could sit in the spare seat they had. Nice, huh?
I think the biggest thing is to just be comfortable in the situation you are in. Your child will feed off the energy you put out there, so you want to make sure you are not worried, anxious, or short-fused – or they will be those things x10. But it also works the other way – if you are happy, glad to be there, and curious – they will also be, maybe even x20. 🙂
The little guy has entered a new phase that is pretty interesting. The “no” phase. Basically, he shakes his head “no” at every question you ask him. Even if he wants that thing, because he doesn’t really know how to do the “yes” nod (or maybe he only knows how to say does not want something).
Want your water? No. Do you want your crackers? No. Do you want a banana? No. Hmmm. What does he want? Uh oh, now he is whining, what does he want? Oh, ok, he wanted his water after all. This is pretty much how the days have been going with him lately.
It doesn’t bother me too much, because it has always been a guessing game of what he wants – now he just says “no” when I ask him the question. Before he whined constantly until I figured it out, so him saying no as I go thru the list is a bit better. And it can be kind of funny too, like if you ask him if he needs a new diaper, he will shake his head to say no and then run off. It’s so interesting how he is learning to assert his wishes more. Surely there are some even more interesting times ahead 😉
I wrote yesterday about how awesome it is when the little guy and his friends are around bubbles. Today I was reminded by being around the same group of tiny friends of another thing that brings them to another level of happiness: puddles.
It has been really rainy lately, and in Hong Kong that means: nothing, nothing, nothing, a little rain, RAIN, RAIN, RAIN!!!!, nothing, nothing, nothing. If you are not afraid of a little water, during the time of “nothing” and “a little rain”, you can spend your time outside. And if you have a toddler, it’s just about the greatest thing since…bubbles. And we have a plaza full of these puddles to play in after a rain storm, so it is the perfect set-up for a toddler’s impending happiness every time it rains.
“JUMP!!” one little guy says (I think) to my little guy, who doesn’t speak yet but tries anyway without success until he just lifts one leg in the air and smashes it down to splatter water everywhere. SPLASH go their little hands on rapid-speed, as if they are on a mission to empty every puddle completely through the “splash it dry” method. LAUGHING all the way through the process, while they discuss up-close with one another where to go next, and if their parents are going to take them away from this fun and put them into dry clothes. RUN around and have a lot of fun, going from puddle to puddle, picking up fallen sticks and leaves in the process.
Today when the little ones were playing, they were absolutely soaked. All of us brought multiple outfits to change them into, anticipating this very thing was going to happen. Luckily, this play time led to all of them getting really tired, and surely after a bath at home to wash off the grime, and a good meal, all the little ones (and the parents) will be sleeping well tonight 🙂