Category Archives: T.J. Tan 陈耀杰

TJ 三岁了 (16 Sep 2010)

This is TJ’s first b’day in Sgp. Originally we had grand plans to throw him a party, however both his parents are overwhelmed with work, his lil’ sister’s condition and the big move to the rented apartment.

Even though it wasn’t the party of the year, I hoped our Cheeky Monkey had fun throughout the day. I don’t suppose he really cared if there was a party with lots of people but the most important thing is that he had fun.

I thought I should let him do the things he enjoys doing, with no time limit at all. Usually if he is at the playground, I would be doing a countdown on how much time he had left and when it was finally time to leave, TJ can sometimes be cooperative and at other times, my worst enemy.

So it was bus rides, playgrounds, kiddy rides (TJ doesn’t realise the kiddy ride can move if Mama actually put in the one-dollar coin) and just letting him roam free without the crazy mum hollering for him to go home.

The day before, I had bought TJ’s birthday cake. Well actually, there were THREE small chocolate cakes that had pictures of his favourite “friends”, Thomas, James & Percy. I thought this was better than the usual round cake and since it was his birthday, he should have all the chocolate cake he could eat without sharing with anyone. 😉

Later in the evening, it was time for his birthday celebration. TJ was so excited to see his birthday cakes that he did his happy dance and ran around with the widest grin on his face. He had blown candles earlier in Aug when we celebrated D’s birthday, so TJ knew what he had to do and pestered his Papa to “hurry up”.

My baby is growing up and I’m just glad he is ours.

Happy Birthday, TJ.

One On One

Technically I’m still on confinement, a traditional Chinese custom which requires mothers who had just given birth to strictly adhere to a month’s of total rest and consumption of specially prepared food. The rationale behind it is to help build up the mother’s health after a physically demanding childbirth and the Chinese believe that consumption of “heaty” food such as ginger and rice wine help to rid the body of the toxins and “wind”. Not sure of the “wind” bit, it got very complicated when my mum tried to explain and I wasn’t really listening.

Fortunately my mum isn’t too anal about the other no-nos and so I could bathe and go out daily too. Well, this is a very different 2nd pregnancy afterall. There isn’t any newborn cries for milk in the wee hours of the morning or endless diaper changes. It has been quite surreal and going to the hospital everyday not just gives me a chance to see how my baby is doing but also to remind myself that she is real.

I’ve always imagined how it would be like to introduce the new baby to TJ, his lil’ sister. D and I talked about getting him a little present (another train) on behalf of his sister so that he feels important. We thought how cute it would be to have them together for the first time, wondering what TJ’s reaction would be like. From the very beginning, we have been telling TJ about his 妹妹 and thought maybe by repeating it often, TJ would be used to the concept of another kid in the house. I thought about letting TJ cradle his sister and taking lots of photos and videos of that. But it didn’t turn out that way.

I suppose all that will be a reality later on, just not now.

So for now, I have been making sure I spend lots of time with TJ. We would take bus rides (most days since this is the cheapest mode of transport and he loves his “big big bus” aka the Double Decker ones), walk around the neighbourhood, go to the library, let him loose in the playground, take the cab (“blue car”, “red car” etc, he colour codes them) or the MRT if we are going somewhere slightly further.

It is nice to be spending the couple of hours just with him and getting to know his extremely volatile personality that is developing in this almost 3-year-old boy. He is no longer the baby of the house, not that he knows it now. I am hoping that by spending these precious times with TJ in these few months before his 妹妹 comes home, TJ would be assured and confident that he is still important even when we are fussing over his sister.

Otherwise he would be in for a tough time really… as it is, this boy with his growing temper has to be reprimanded and punished. But we can’t stay angry with him for long ‘cos the boy would turn on his tears so quickly and say his “sorry” quickly in the midst of his painful cries.

I pray for guidance and the wisdom to be good and consistent parents to both kids and that they will know we love them unconditionally.

The Imitator

Insisted on following what papa is doing

D and I have constantly reminded ourselves that we have to walk the talk and not underestimate our son. Especially now that he is going on to his 3rd year of his life, TJ would watch our actions and listen to our conversations more closely than before. We wouldn’t want to be caught saying and doing the wrong things in front of TJ and learn that he has decided to act like us in the worst possible manner.

We have an even greater responsibility in TJ’s formative years now. The first two years of his life was survival and making sure he meets all his major physical and physiological milestones and now that he is more vocal (“No” is his choice of word, it is the new “Yes”) and have a greater sense of self and individualism, D and I need to make sure we transmit the right kind of values and habits as we go about our daily lives.

We don’t go all out to lecture TJ on these things. But we reckon if both of his favourite persons are good models of  “Thank you”, “Please”, general good manners and love for one another (lots of kisses, hugs & “I love you” at any time of the day), TJ will pick these up naturally and these will stay with him for the rest of his life, even after we have left this world.

At this age, TJ wants to please us, even though he may be frustrated at times when he doesn’t get his way. Thankfully, most of his outbursts are easily rectified and the major meltdowns are rare. We just have to be proactive and most of the time know what would trigger him. I believe it helps that we are still his main caregivers, even though he is taken care of by my helper in the daytime, instead of just leaving him with grandparents, who will undeniably let things slide. We do know and understand him more than if we had other help.

Even before TJ was born, D and I had talked about what we would do when the kid acts up, basically SOPs for discipline issues. It helps that we talk and discuss and come to the conclusion that we have to work as a team so that the kid doesn’t get mixed signals. Of course it was easy to talk and say we would do this and that, but when crunch time comes and you are faced with a whining/screaming/possible “demon-possessed” kid, it would have been even harder to know what to do (or not to do) if we didn’t even talked about possibilities earlier.

So D and I constantly support each other when we need to exercise the parents’ executive order and so far things have worked.

I must admit I thought I would be the disciplinarian in this household, but actually I am too much of a softie and now, D has to take up that role.

We have been consistent when we need to discipline TJ. He knows if mama says “No”, there is no use going to papa either and vice versa.  If TJ doesn’t like it and continues to act up, we would tell him sternly that he would need to stand in front of the shoe cabinet (which is his timeout zone). Usually he would stop when he hears that, but occasionally we need to pull him to the timeout zone and he would actually stand there while he cries his heart out. And sometimes TJ would be taken to that zone a few times before he understands there is really no point in fighting his parents, unless he calms down and just do what we have asked him to do at the beginning. We don’t raise our voices at him at the slightest thing, just ‘cos we want him to differentiate the different tone of voice and recognise that when we have to raise our voices, it is ‘cos something is really dangerous and he better not step out of line.

But we realise one thing that work for him is that TJ doesn’t need to alwaysact up to get our attention. Since he was a baby, D and I would always catch him by surprise by doing something for him that he wants but doesn’t expect at that time. Simple things like just carrying him and playing with him, taking him to the kitchen for a little tour (which is a no-go zone, same goes for the toilet), chase him up and down or just cuddling him.

Even though it is easy to spoil him, since TJ is so cute (we are biased of course), we know in the big picture of things, this will not be beneficial. Moreover when we raise our voices at him or pull him to his timeout zone, these are things that we don’t like to do but we need to be firm in our love for him too. D and I can’t stand kids with bad manners and since TJ is our firstborn and the first grandchild on both sides of the family, we want him to be of good manners first and foremost. And if we do right with this one, it will be easier for subsequent kids, ‘cos the siblings will tend to emulate the older kid and we hope it is good things that are learnt and practiced.

And yes, that scenario will come along pretty soon.

回家一趟

We were back in Sgp for the “恭禧发财, 紅包拿來” occasion from the 10th to 21st Feb 2010. A short 10 days and on both flights to and back to HK, we were on the A380 (generally comfy but large plane = many more passengers = boarding took at least 1h = collecting luggage took longer).

TJ was generally well-behaved during most of the flight. However he didn’t want to nap on both flights and was way too tired by the time the Captain announced that he was going to start the descent. Thereafter all hell broke loose, when TJ had a major meltdown. Lots of crying and screaming. On our return flight to HK, D glared at this Chinese guy who kept looking in our direction while I tried my darnest to comfort my very tired son. All that crying finally got to him and TJ slept for about an hour.

D and I completed our mandatory CNY visits on the first day, which incidentally fell on Valentine’s Day too. The rest of the days were spent visiting friends and taking TJ back to Pasir Ris to visit his 奶奶. We also traded in one of our Tusa Dive Bags (the slightly faulty one) for a new Samsonite Aeris at S$299 (usual price: S$530) and D bought at least 15 bags of Kopi-O to last him till our next trip back home. We both got our haircut, coloured and highlighted our hair, except that I had to split my hair makeover over 2 days since I couldn’t spare the time sitting in the salon for about 4h.

TJ also had fun getting up close and personal with some dogs and most of them are as tall as TJ. He shrieked with excitement even when my brother-in-law’s rescued strays continued barking at him. We had to be careful that his dogs did not take a chunk of TJ, but my son, who currently has no concept of fear, enjoyed feeding them treats.

I took TJ on a memory walk at my alma mater (MGS at Mt Sophia), before having lunch with some secondary classmates at Chalk. It was nice walking the familiar corridors and walkways with TJ and meeting up with old friends was equally great.

Each time we return home, the grandparents are able to see the various changes in TJ, more so than us since we interact with him all the time. Particularly my mum, who was the first family member to see TJ in the delivery suite and had assisted me in caring for him during the first few months of his life. Fortunately for D and I, my mum is quite strict with TJ’s discipline too and is receptive to our disciplinary methods.

It’s good to give TJ the opportunity to relate and interact with his immediate relatives, and to see how his grandparents, uncles & aunties being tickled silly by TJ’s antics and emerging character that we as parents take for granted at times. Each time a few days before we leave, my mum would start telling TJ that he will be returning to HK and sleeping in his own cot etc, but really I think she is just repeating it to comfort herself. ‘Cos I know the house does become so much quieter when TJ isn’t around to sing and laugh with her.

We do want to return home after so many years of being an expat family in HK, especially since it is important for TJ to know his larger family besides just the two of us. But lots of things have to be planned and considered before we return and we are hoping our prayers will be answered soon so that we can go ahead with our plans. It’s hard to proceed when so many questions are still unanswered, but that’s where faith comes in. Till then, D and I are praying and waiting patiently.

Helium Dad

After church last Sunday, we had lunch at Dan Ryan’s (Pacific Place) and TJ got a helium balloon as a welcome gift.

He was happy to get it but the novelty dissipated quickly and we were wondering what to do with the balloon when D decided to carry out a science experiment. Silly suaku (Singlish for “country bumpkin”) me had never seen it live till D decided on acting silly just for TJ.

Well, D enjoyed it and I was trying hard not to laugh too loudly while taking the video with my E71. TJ, on the other hand, was kinda tickled but mostly didn’t quite get the joke. Maybe when he is older…

TJ’s Video Updates

Just realised that as TJ gets older, us parents are not so crazy about taking photos or videos of him at every given moment. Not sure why, maybe the novelty is wearing off.  😉

Although I must say, D is still the official PAPArazzi of this family whenever he takes shots of his son with his Canon 20D. He is currently waiting for his dream lens, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM, to be in stock. Expensive but is a worthwhile investment since it will be used to capture lots of memories, or we can used the photos to embarrass the boy when he is older.

For me, taking videos, especially these less than 2.5 minutes ones, are much easier. Reason being the kid doesn’t stay still and when using my E71 or the idiot-proof digital camera to take photos, they always come out blur. I do have a proper Sony videocam, but taking it out, loading the DV tapes and finding a time to edit them, just doesn’t make sense when I can’t preempt what TJ does. Hence grainy MP4 format for those short couple minutes can still be tolerated.

We were invited for a Xmas dinner last year and my friend’s daughter, R and TJ had fun drumming away. Of course TJ was very wary of R, who held onto the drumstick. It was funny to see him scurry away in the last couple of seconds when R seemingly raised the drumstick at my peace-loving son.

I bought TJ this MPR-Elephant thing in the hope that would expose him to the wonderful Chinese language and make me speak to him in Mandarin even if it’s for about 10 minutes.  My colleague had recommended this gadget to me, and could get further discount as she was also ordering on behalf of her Prep-Year department.

The MPR is pricey at a discounted price of about HK$680 (think the usual price would be about HK$800) but the books and flashcards are cheap. I just bought two storybooks and two sets of flashcards. The flashcards are on Animals and Modes of Transportation, the latter I didn’t like as some of the words used are location-restricted and PRC colloquial.

For the flashcards, the MPR, with its inbuilt speaker, will read aloud the words in English and Chinese, and when it is placed on the picture, the MPR will also describe the picture further. So TJ likes hearing the sounds made by the various animals and vehicles.

TJ does this silly dance in his Tripp Trapp when he is in the mood for some craziness. It tickles me too, and I continue to encourage him even though I don’t know all the words to the Knick Knack song or sing in my not-Beyonce voice.

And TJ’s Kitchen … not sure if bathing Teddy in the sink is actually just prepping him up as the main ingredient.

Boys are boys?

I had been thinking of getting a toy kitchen for TJ for the longest time and finally found the one in the Ikea’s Duktig mini-kitchen.

I don’t like those really kiddish toy kitchens, too plasticky and well, it’s just doesn’t fit with the decor and my taste in design.

The design is comtemporary, clean lines, has a “induction stove” which lights up when the buttons are pressed, the goose-neck faucet is movable, the sink is large enough for TJ to bathe his teddy, the two cupboard doors are easily opened and closed and storage space is great.

By the way, I assembled the entire kitchen 99% on my own in about 1.5h. D arrived home in time to help me to tighten some screws and seeing TJ’s excitement and glee after the kitchen was presented to him made my day.

Why a toy kitchen for TJ? He seems to enjoy playing with them, whether at people’s house or at the indoor playrooms. Perhaps it’s all the interesting things like knobs, buttons, movable doors etc that keep his attention, or maybe it’s cos he sees me or my helper cooking in the kitchen regularly that gives him the inspiration to imitate us.

Or maybe it’s just that I didn’t have such toys growing up, and now I can afford to kinda live my childhood through my kid.

I like to observe TJ at play and his interactions with others, and wonder if I am shaping the correct experiences for TJ as he makes sense of this world.

I thought about some of the unsaid expectations for a boy (or a man for the matter) and wonder if I actually exposed him to “girly” stuff, does it mean the chances of him being gay would be higher? I wouldn’t do such an experiment on my son, but if nature has already given the kid some set character & personality traits, how many environmental and societal experiences will influence and change the kid?

It’s like there are some things we just don’t introduce to boys unless there is a real innate talent. Example, it’s very rare to see parents signing up their sons for ballet classes, but for daughters, it’s like “But, of course”. Or boys end up doing some kind of physical activities or sports (soccer? rugby?) but not so much for girls, except maybe swimming which is a neutral sport. This is pertaining to when the kids are still very young, the preschooler age group and not so much in their teens.

Well, I know I will not buy Barbie dolls or Ken dolls for TJ, although he had shown some interest in them and requested that I took some of these off the shelves at Toys’Rus. However after inspecting these dolls, TJ would want me to put them back. He is interested in the Thomas and Friends collection and buses, but doesn’t quite enjoy kicking his soccer ball. Maybe he would throw it around once in a while, but he is happiest just rolling his trains and buses to and fro. His gal pal, E, 20 months old, on the other hand, loves playing balls.

During TJ’s three-times-a-week playgroup @ YMCA, there would be playtime and my helper says he is happy to play at the toy kitchen or just run round and round the room. I reckon he is hoping for some kid to chase him. Sometimes, a kid will come along and snatch the toy that TJ is holding, and unlike the other kids in his class who would cry and death-grip the toy, TJ would just let the kid snatch his toy and go off elsewhere to find something else to play. I’m glad that TJ isn’t the confrontational sort, and hope that he continues to be like that.

But I’ve seen and heard parents who want to teach their kid to fight back, to get what they want at all costs ‘cos no one will present it on a platter for them, to be at the top of the queue and not lose out. And I definitely don’t want to be like those parents, but does it mean I will put TJ at a disadvantage in this dog eat dog world in the future? I feel meekness is a virtue and it doesn’t mean cowardice or being weak, but the world has a different code by which it lives by and the general populace conforms to it.

When watching his cartoons, TJ doesn’t like watching his cartoon characters getting into trouble or looking sad, and his reaction would be to turn around and not face the screen. And if any of us are seated with him, TJ would quickly climbed onto us and hug us tight, or bury his face into our bodies so that he doesn’t have to see that particular scene. My boy has developed some kinda sensitive side and I like to know that we are still the ones he goes to for comfort and reassurance.

And if his classmates cry, TJ would frown and feel upset too. Not sure if he is sad for them or just upset that their cries are disturbing his concentration. 😉

But on the other hand, he can be quite a boy. My two boys are starting on a “Burping” contest, with the older boy, D, burping after drinking coke and making TJ laugh all the time. And TJ, he will mimick his dad by drinking from his Munchkin bottle and make the burp sound. It is funny to see them doing this repeatedly, and I know more of these boys’ stuff will come along as the years progress… gosh, hopefully no stoopid buttcrack jokes from both of them.

And now with his latest toy, TJ has been doing some “cooking” with his toy food in his skillet. But mainly TJ has been practicing washing his hands under the faucet, bathing his teddy and doggy in the sink, putting Thomas & James in the cupboard and getting excited to see his trains through the glass door, and his favourite, repeatedly opening and closing the cupboard doors. When he first laid his hands on the kitchen, TJ was slamming the doors shut even though we told him not to. And when his fingers were caught on one of his slams, he finally learnt to close the doors gently.

So I guess TJ will not actually play with his mini-kitchen like girls would, but it’s interesting to see how creative he gets with it.