Posts Tagged ‘ Thailand ’

5 Ways My Son Actually Reminds Me of Myself

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

One year.

Because my son Jack decided to take on the rare and formerly forgotten genes of his Norwegian great-grandfather on my wife’s side, it is pretty much expected now when people meet him that they half-jokingly respond with some form of, “Are you sure he’s your kid?”

Trust me; my wife and I both have almost wondered if there was some kind of mix-up at the hospital, but we know we never took our eyes of him the entire time we were there. Yes, we actually had to convince ourselves!

My kid is the poster child for what foreigners think the typical American kid should look like: Blonde hair, blue eyes, and porcelain skin. (I learned this back when I was a teacher in Thailand; I was once confused for another teacher who had these traits.)

So while everyday I try to squint hard enough to see how he resembles me at all, I keep in mind that not all of the traits he takes on present themselves in the form of physical resemblance. In fact, all I had to do was grab a pen and a yellow sticky note to come up with 5 ways my son reminds me of myself:

1) He loves being outside; getting deep in thought. When Jack gets antsy, I simply take him for a walk. I carry him in my arms around the neighborhood. He loves to feel the wind on his face. When I take him on these walks of solitude, he gets quiet and just takes it all in. So do I.

2) He thrives on meeting new people. Jack never meets a stranger. Last weekend we went to my new favorite restaurant in Nashville, an authentic Italian place called PortaVia. As we were waiting on our food, we let him walk around to nearby tables. Everyone who saw him pop into their frame just laughed with adoration, as if a cute little cartoon puppy had just appeared.

3) He gets angry when he’s hungry or needs a nap. Don’t try to make him laugh. Just feed him or get that kid a nap. He’s hard-wired just like me in those ways. My wife and I are always prepared with a bag of Cheerios and the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album for either event.

4) He can never eat enough bananas or pasta. Jack refuses to eat meat; mainly dining on some form of whole wheat grains or a banana. It’s almost eery how we both have the same food staples in our diets. The truth is, I’m actually a vegetarian who just hasn’t come out of the closet yet. (More on that in days to come…) Jack, however, is more confident in his identity.

5) He has very sensitive skin. Just like me, neither his soap nor shampoo can contain sodium laurel sulfate- we break out in rashes if we use the normal stuff. And I’m sure that just like me, the same thing would happen if he ate shellfish or too much sugar. Jack inherited the eczema gene through our Mexican bloodline.

Yes, the outdoors-loving, people-person, angry-when-he’s-hungry-or-sleepy, pasta addicted, Burt’s-Bees-soap-using kid is my son. Just remember, though, he is the white sheep of the family.

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Boo the Pomeranian Reminds Me of My Son

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Eleven months.

Having a son means that there is always a part of me floating out there in the universe. Whether he’s simply just asleep down the hall or away at day care while I’m at work, part of my brain is constantly thinking about him.

He is in everything I see. He’s in every random thought I have; from Gummy Bears to a Pomeranian with a buzz cut.

A few days ago on Facebook I saw a picture of two Pomeranians posted by one of my former students in Bangkok at Global English School. So inevitably, the following conversation followed:

    • 4 people like this.
      • Nick Shell What kind of dog is the one on the right? It’s look unreal!

        October 20 at 12:32am · Like
      • A-ngoon its look unreal because its smile right ?? they both are pomeranian but the right one have a shorter hair ka nick :)

        October 20 at 2:46pm · Like
      • Nick Shell The right one reminds me of my son :) I am probably going to use this picture on my website about him.

        October 20 at 7:09pm · Like
      • A-ngoon
        ‎:)

        October 21 at 11:38am · Like

It turns out that this Pomeranian happens to be famous; his name is Boo and his Facebook page has well over 2 million “likes!”

I can’t look at Boo and not see my son Jack; the way Boo is smiling, the shape of Boo’s face- that is my son as a Pomeranian! 

Granted, a Dadabase post like this one will never show up in the Top 5 Most Popular Posts section on the right side of the screen. It’s so out there, I know. But I just couldn’t keep this enchanting and bizarre photo from the world; simply because I love to talk about my son- even in the form of a yappy little dog.

Maybe it’s just me that somehow sees the abstract resemblance. But I’m sure I’m not the only parent out there who thought their child looked like something just as weird. When you look at the world through my eyes, you see Jack-Man in the strangest of places.

Passing the Mic:

Do you think Jack looks like Boo?

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Discovering Free Time, As a Dad

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Nine months.

Is there such a thing as “free time” after becoming a parent? When can a new mom or dad find time in the week to just simply chill out together in peace and quiet; or even more difficult, be able to participate in their beloved hobbies that reflect who they are as individuals?

Other than daddy blogging, I also enjoy playing guitar and writing songs (though that hardly ever happens anymore). But the hobby that is a bit less sporadic in my schedule is simply exploring, whether it’s via hiking or mountain biking.

In his book, Daddy Dates, author Greg Wright perfectly describes why “exploring” is a solid hobby of mine:

“It’s the way guys operate. Exploration amps us up. There is this moment when curiosity rules and you get kind of jazzed and you think, ‘I wonder what’s in there, this is so cool!’ You’re going to figure out how to get around that mysterious place because you’re motivated by some instinct of discovery.”

While in California last month, I found a few 90 minute nuggets where I could slip away virtually unnoticed, amidst all the family. I snagged a mountain bike from my mother-in-law’s garage, then went exploring along the Sacramento River.

I ended up accidently discovering the neighboring 15 acre community of Locke. The Chinatown, settled alongside the river, was built in 1915.  These days, it resembles a closed down, but kept up, exhibit at the Epcot Center. I read on Wikipedia that most of the original Chinese population of the town moved out to Sacramento and that today only 10 Chinese-Americans remain residents there.

See, that’s the cool kind of find I’m always looking for when I go exploring. My favorite part of the expedition was finding a Buddhist church. In Thailand, Buddhist temples were everywhere, but never a church. Weird and cool.

As far as finding and/or making time for myself and my hobbies, it takes creativity. There’s that strategic balance of being a good husband, a good dad, and still getting some “free time” anyway I can. Even now, as I write this, it’s 11:08 on a Monday night- my wife and son are sound asleep; I’ll be waking up at 6 AM to get ready for my “real job”.

My free time often translates as “time when I’m the only one awake,” as well as, “time during which most normal parents would be asleep if they had the chance.”

I’m one of those people who functions strangely well on less than six hours of sleep each night. If I wasn’t, The Dadabase would be on life support right now.

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The Buddy Factor of Being a Dad

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Seven months.

The Dadabase

I believe everyone has multiple personalities and different versions of themselves that they reveal based on their environment.  But these multiplicities of ourselves ultimately are still built on top of one default personality.  My default personality is amazingly similar to the character of Peter Klaven (portrayed by Paul Rudd) in my favorite movie ever, I Love You Man.

The movie focuses on Peter’s lack of ability to make and keep strong male friendships and the difficulty that means for him in trying to find groomsmen and most importantly, a best man, for his upcoming wedding.

Most of my guy friends are scattered across the country; instantly available via text message, but not for hanging out with on a regular basis.  And I’m completely okay and comfortable with that.  And interestingly enough, whether it was my female-orientated major in college (English), or every work environment I’ve been in since then, I’ve constantly been surrounded by women instead of men.  And again, I’m completely okay and comfortable with that fact.

Even here on Parents.com, I’m the only male parent blogger.  It is simply my life’s destiny to be a guy who relates to women almost as well as I relate to men.  Need I remind you, it’s mainly women reading The Dadabase.

(Granted, my wife edits out anything too masculine or overly male-driven.  Recently, she had me delete several paragraphs which went on way too long about the details of a Nintendo game.)

But now I have a son.  A baby boy who will eventually grow into a big boy who will eventually grow into a teenage boy and eventually a man.  This means that I will ultimately have a buddy.

I will always have a reason to get to do what I want to do with my free time, as long as Jack is with me.  Because I will be spending quality time with him while I do what I enjoy anyway (or at least enjoyed in my youth).

Already, I’m mentally working on a list of things I will enjoy doing that also will serve as good male-bonding, quality time with my son over the next 2 to 20 years:

1)     Watch the entire series of the following movies and TV series: Rocky, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Band of Brothers, and Lost.

2)     Go hiking and exploring in the woods on the weekend.

3)     Build awesome Lego sets.

4)     Take our bikes for a long ride in a new neighborhood.

5)     Have old school Nintendo game marathons.

6)     Blow stuff up with fireworks.

7)     If ever can ever afford it, take him on a trip to Thailand.

The Dadabase

Of course, this is only the beginning of my list.  But I really look forward to the underlying male friendship in my father-son relationship with him.

I am adamant on being Jack’s father, not his friend.  However, just like how I mentioned in the beginning that we all have different personalities, I know that a father is not simply the paternal figure of his son’s life.  Being a good dad means being someone to relate to and it involves a lot of mentoring.  It requires good communication and quality time.

Being a father is like being a friend, but it’s so much more than that.  Yet it’s paradoxically both more casual and more demanding of respect than simply being a friend.  But even though I won’t refer to my son as my friend, I will gladly call him my buddy.

Man, now I’ve got the jingle to the 80’s toy, My Buddy, stuck in my head:

“Wherever I go, he goes… My buddy, my buddy, my buddy and me!”

All pictures taken courtesy of Dave Stanley at Little River Falls in Fort Payne, Alabama.

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The Difficulty in Men Truly Being Honest

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Seven months.

blue eyes baby

The main way to be honest is to refrain from lying.  The other way is to refrain from hiding your true thoughts and feelings.  The latter is so much harder than the former.

Something I’ve never been good at, nor cared to improve, is the ability to use the #1 traditional American greeting: “Hi, how are you doing?”

Because even as a young kid, I have questioned the practicality and sincerity of that extremely personal question which acquaintances use to greet each other with.  I remember when I started pre-school (in 1985), asking my parents how I was supposed to answer that question. They  told me to say, “Just fine.  How are you doing?”

So that’s how I would respond to being asked how I was doing.  By the time I got to Middle School, I got so lazy at it that I just began simply answering with a mumbled “Doing good, doing good.”  Conveniently for me, I learned that people were so used to having the questioned returned on them, that they assumed I was saying, “Doing good, and you?”

And at age 30, that’s still what happens to me on a daily basis.

I just can’t take something seriously if I find it to be anything less than sincere. Sure, I’m definitely over-analyzing our traditional American greeting.  But to me, I feel that most of the time, we’re not actually asking the other person how they are doing.  Why?

Because I’ve observed that so much of the time when people ask me how I’m doing, they don’t even look me in the eyes, and they just keeping walking past me as they say it.

For me to honestly answer that question, the person asking it A) has to be someone I know well and be able to be vulnerable enough to tell them how I am really feeling and B) has to show me with their body language that they actually care about the answer.

Am I being too honest by admitting that when I ask someone how they are doing, after they have just asked me the same question, that nine times out of ten I’m not really concerned with their answer?  The exception is if the other person was being so open with me that their answer was anything different than perfectly positive:  If the other person is admitting they are having a tough day or that something interesting (good or bad) was going on in their lives, I would jump on the chance to explore what’s going on in their lives.

Why?  Because when it comes to relating to people, I am action-based, not emotion-based.

I understood this concept much more clearly when I spent the summer of 2003 (and 2004) in Thailand teaching at a Christian school.  As I was immersed in Thai culture, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was hardly ever asked by the Thai people how I was doing.  Instead, they asked me what I was doing, what I did earlier that day, or what I would be doing later that day.  If I was holding a bag of snacks I had just bought from the store, they would reach for my bag, asking about my recent purchases.  For that reason alone, I felt so at home and so connected with the Thai people.  It felt so natural and real.

My belief and history with starting conversations is that if I start talking to someone by asking a personal question that intrudes on their emotions, unless they really know me, they will put up their guard and give me a generic answer.

So instead, whenever I greet a person, it is never with an emotional question.  I always ask a question based on that person’s daily activities or make a positive observation based on their appearance.

Or if I can’t think of something to say, I’ll propose this one: “What was the most unique thing that has happened to you so far today?”  I love to engage people in thought.  I can’t handle talking about the weather.

I want real human connections with the people in my life.

It’s important to me to be as honest as I can be to people, without being inappropriately revealing.  It’s a fact that as a man, I would be foolish to “wear my heart on my sleeve.”  I learned very quickly after entering the work force not to reveal my insecurities and emotions to my coworkers.  Because I observed that the men I respected in the work place kept their personal life private.  I also noticed that women in the office who acted more like men, who suppressed emotional urges, were more likely to be successful.

So what does all this have to do with parenting and being a husband?  After all, that is what this blog is all about.

Here’s how.  Men are often known for hiding the way they really feel.  They are known for holding in their emotions. Why do they do that?

The vulnerable answer is that we men are expected to be strong and in control. Expression of emotions and admittance of feelings compromises that image.  And the truth is, the perception that we are in control is just as important as being in control, a lot of the time.  That’s undeniably important for men to live by in the work place.

But not at home.  Men must be able to separate the two versions of themselves: the work version vs. the home version.

While I may spend most of my day time hours turning off my emotions in the office, when I get home, it’s important for me to express how I feel to my wife.  I must remind myself to flip the switch back to “home life” from “work life.”  I know that it’s important for her to know what’s going on inside of my head.   Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes there’s just nothing really floating around in my head- just a blank screen.

I only get vulnerable about my emotions and insecurities with those who I am really close to.  The rest get random conversation starters from me.  But it’s those random conversation starters that can help build actual relationships.  And that’s the reason I don’t ask people how they are doing.  Instead, as they tiredly hold a warm mug, they unexpectedly hear from me, “What flavor coffee creamer did you go with today?”  I’d rather start in the middle of a conversation than a stage prop beginning.

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