The subtle art of manipul-- nuturing

Fury and Lessi have never had a problem sleeping on their own. There's nothing that contributes to one's sanity more than knowing that at a set time each night, you can heave a sigh of relief and wash dishes, pay bills, wash the dog, or stare at a wall uninterrupted. It's the parental equivalent of a rest between sets. As they tell you in parenting books, or as you figure it out on your own because duh, a set routine makes all the difference in the world. When I put Lessi to bed, I read her a story, then I place her baby on one side of her, her blue teddy bear on the other, and then I wrap them all up in a blanket and tuck one side into the mattress. As I leave, I place one hand on the sleepy bundle and give her a kiss on the cheek while whispering "Goodnight, Lessi. Love you. Go to sleep now." After that, I turn out her light, as well as the hallway lights around her room. 

On New Year's Eve, I spent an exciting night with the kids at home. We ate pizza. There might have been some Netflix and Minecraft going on too. Whatever it was, Lessi did not want to take a bath and miss all this. I think she had a feeling Fury and I were staying up for this and she knows bath time equals impending bedtime. So when it was time for a bath, she protested. "I don't want it," she said. "I'll take a bath later," she assured. But every time she offered a point, I would fire back a counterpoint (yes, I use logic on a two-year old — one day she will appreciate it!). But then she saw me break. Perhaps it was a yawn, or maybe I rubbed my eyes. 

"Dada," she said, motioning me to the couch, "you lie down." She punctuated that by patting the couch.

Blame it on cute overload, I walked over and lay down. 

"You need blankie?" It wasn't so much a question as it was a statement of fact, because she was tucking the throw blanket, on one side, under the couch pillows before I could answer. 

"Lessi, it's still time for a ba--"

"Shhh… it's time to sleep, dada. Close your eyes." And just in case I wasn't planning to comply, two little fingers quickly pressed my eyelids down.

Then she kissed me on the cheek and said "goodnight, dada. I love you. You sleep now." Impressed at her evasion techniques, I lay there a while. Then I noticed lights going off. Lessi came back after each one, kissed me and reassured me in a nurturing whisper "I turn the lights off, dada. Go to sleep now, dada."

At this point, I only protested so that she would come back, pat me on the chest, kiss my cheek and whisper "go to sleep now, dada." To seal the deal, she even brought me a stuffed animal. "Here's your bunny, dada. Shh. You close your eyes now." Fingers, eyelids.

I tried to get this all on video, but she learned the art of the blanket tuck too well, and my arms were immobilized. I eventually broke through it and propped myself up on an elbow. "Ok, nap time over, Lessi, it's time for--"

"Lie down, dada." Her little hand grabbed a tuft of hair, and pulled my head back down on the couch. Kiss on the cheek. "Go to sleep now." 

"Ok, maybe since it's New Year's Eve, " I thought. I think it's like bad luck to shower on New Years Eve anyway, according to Chinese tradition. The benefit of being descended from a 5,000-year-old culture is that you can find a tradition-based justification for anything. 2012 came to an end, and we all greeted the new year, unbathed and full of good fortune. 

* * * * 

Last Sunday, I made lunch for the kids. I had just set out Lessi's tortilla pizza and satsuma tangerine pieces on a plate when she decided she wanted to watch The Wiggles. 

"Eat lunch later, dada."

"No, Lessi, it's lunchtime now. Come here." 

Lessi walked towards the table, but made a sharp left to the couch instead.

"Dada, you lie down…"

Nature Pwns Nurture.

Hi! I'm Asian. While most people can think of at least one mainstream Asian professional athlete, we're still pretty much on the trailing edge of statistical significance in the arena of "cool sports." Of course, that's not to say Asians don't dominate some sports.

Sigh.

And again. Sigh.

I didn't always think this way. My dad and his boyz never met a ping pong table they couldn't run. And badminton? That was the stuff blood feuds were made of. I couldn't dribble a basketball or throw a football (still can't), but if you gave me a racket, you'd better be prepared to bend over. Because you'd be picking birdies off the grass all afternoon. And in my world, that was alpha male.

Unfortunately in the real world, that didn't even prevent me from being picked dead last in gym class.

It took me until college to muster up the courage to redeem myself, but I did it. And chose the one thing I feared most but knew could validate me as a true man's man: fighting. I've written about it already so I won't go into details.

Then Fury was born.

As is natural for any parent, all I wanted was for Fury to have it better than I did. And since my childhood social anxiety centered around my incompetence in cool sports, Fury was ringside at kickboxing matches before he could walk. And when I changed his diaper, I would psych him up by chanting "Are YOU ready? Are YOU ready? Let's get it on, c'mon!!" (UFC referee John McCarthy's signature way to begin each round). If geektasticness was in his genes, I was sure as hell going to nurture the nature clean out of him.

For his own good, of course.

And while I was careful never to push him to participate in Muay Thai, wrestling, boxing or jiu jitsu, for fear of him feeling pressured and rejecting it, I made damn sure he was always exposed to it.

Major. FAIL.

It became too commonplace. Watching two guys kick and punch each other to a bloody pulp in a ring was "soooo boring, dad!" And when I say that those words broke my heart, I'm not kidding. But the kid knew that, and would watch the important matches with me to humor his old man. He'd offer intelligent commentary on ring strategy, great KOs and such, but I could always tell his heart wasn't in it. So I stopped hoping.

But I never stopped trying. Last year, we enrolled Fury in lacrosse. While not a fight sport, it incorporates speed, contact, precision, conditioning and is generally an all-around bad ass athletic endeavor (i.e. all the cool kids in high school played it).

While Fury contends that he enjoys it, any parent can tell when their child doesn't possess true fire for something. I won't fool myself into thinking otherwise. While other kids fight for the ball like it's the last cupcake at the birthday party, Fury will take a few whacks at it. If it passes by his nose. And occassionally, he'll give half a chase. If he knows I'm watching. At least it makes for nice highlight pictures.

I also let him try Crossfit, something I do and love. I figured the "Crossfit Kids" class would make him bigger, faster and stronger.

It did. For a few minutes. Until he got winded from box jumps, at which point he deemed it "no fun, dad."

I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that my kid simply doesn't like to exert himself. That the heat of competition generates a mere lukewarm simmer in my boy's veins. That Science Camp was his destiny.

Then I got a phone call the other day.

"Dad! Mom bought me a badminton set!"

"Badminton? How did you find out about badminton??"

"We play at school. And I can play me vs. five 8th graders and I beat all of them!!"

I don't remember the exact conversation I had with d wife right afterwards, but it covered such topics and phrases as: "oh great" and "I've worked too hard for him to do this to me" and "damn these Asian genes!" and "you can't fight the power of the dark side."

But I love my son. And he was too jazzed about this for me to spoil it for him with my childish insecurities. So I took some deep breaths when I got home and commenced with the trash talk.

"Fear me. I can beat anyone at this game. I beat all my dad's friends when I was in 4th grade. Prepare to go down in flames, boy."

"You can't beat me, dad."

Cold as ice, he was.

I served. He returned. I missed. He snickered.

I served. He returned. I returned. He dove.

"Dad, I was born for this!!"

Oh, Irony. How you taunt me.

Then I noticed it. Barely visible at first, but noticeable if you walked up right to him felt his head in disbelief. He was sweating. And panting. And smiling.

I think Confucius said it well:

"Only when set free against the fiery sunset sky will a Phoenix mirror its striking brilliance. Locked in an octagon, he'll only pretend to care about the UFC to make you feel better."

But I think Fury nailed it:

"Hey, Dad."

"Yeah?"

"Are YOU ready? Are YOU ready? Let's get it on, c'mon!!"

I ask for just one thing. A 2020 Olympics jacket, size M. 

7 years in, and he's already got me beat

d Wife has been having a pretty tough pregnancy. Everyone tells us that means it's probably a girl. This would usually be the part where I do a happy dance followed by a "Kid n Play" style grab one foot and hop through with the other, but seeing your spouse miserable and bed ridden kind of keeps you in check.

Of course, I'm always there to offer advice:

"I feel nauseous."

"Maybe take a Pepcid?"

And so is Fury:

"I feel nauseous."

"I wish my belly hurt too" (while rubbing mom's belly).

"Why?"

"So I can hurt with you."

Son, I love you. But making me look bad on home court is not earning you any Bionicles.

April is Your Birthday

Not a typo. At least not for this year, right son? How you managed to turn April 15, the day you were born, into a month-long extravaganza is beyond me. You've got skillz, boy. And you've got my old nemesis, fate, on the payroll again, don't you?

Let's see, it all started when we finally got your room set up after our massive renovation.

"Dad, can I get a fishtank?"

As a fish guy (15 fishtanks at home when I was in high school), I lit up when you said that. As a dad who just got rid of a 125-gallon pimped out fishtank over a year ago because you didn't seem invested enough in it to justify taking up 5% of our livable square footage, I smacked my forehead. And got you a smaller one. Mom and I both explained to you that this would be your birthday present. And you were ok with that.

And you totally got down n dirty with it! From washing the gravel to placing the decorations, to setting up the filtration system. As those of us in aquarist circles would say, you're a regular "wet sleeve."

And when you found that piece of gravel floating on the surface and picked it up, you completely validated my conclusion that you are indeed the coolest kid in the world.

Why? Because you said "hey dad, very small rocks DO float!" (dear reader, if you don't know why that makes him the coolest kid on the planet, watch this clip from 2:00 onward).

Now that it's nearly a month later, I look back upon our fishtank adventure and think "money well spent." Having a fishtank is a great way to foster a sense of responsibility in a child. You learn how to take care of a living creature, you understand in a less painful way the realities of life and death...and you learn to develop your own inventory tracking systems to monitor said life and death:

X in the face means you're dead. Ok means you're not dead yet. 1/2 means your fins got chewed off and you're halfway dead.But unlike in nature, we have tupperware. Which means if you're unlucky enough to be designated as 1/2 dead, you win a stay at the floating fish veterinary hospital, where you will enjoy private quarters, have the finest flake food delivered to your door, and most importantly, be protected from the filter intake (where we found you) while you try to grow your fins back.

We boast a 50% success rate with filter suckees. One got his "1/2" removed. The other earned an X.But you want to know the best argument for getting you a fishtank? It does what TV can do, without the TV!

And also, this is quite cool.

Ok, so after your present was taken care of, we had the issue of your birthday party to deal with. Mom did some research. Laser Tag you say? For 35 kids? Pretty much a mortgage payment. Let's keep looking. I hear sticks and leaves are the latest rage in kids parties.

Lucky for us, grandma called us around this time. And extra lucky for us, she is a really awesome ballroom dancer. Who is competing in nationals! In Vegas, baby, Vegas. You were more than happy to forgo your kids party for a weekend at the Luxor. (In this household, Vegas trumps all. Even to my seven-year-old. What... the magic shows are awesome).

"But what about my rowdy friends party!"

Oh yes, there's that. You're a sharp kid. You know that my friends are single guys with discretionary income and no kids. You know that means presents your kid friends would never get you (like that one-hand opening Smith & Wesson deer-gutting jack knife care of Uncle Magnus). And you will totally wear ridiculous tin foil hats and let women in tank tops and orange shorts do the birthday hokey pokey around you ("you put your frontside in, you put your frontside out" -- hmm you ARE smarter than I thought), and tolerate drunken high fives from my rowdy friends in order to get them. Four years running.

But that shirt they gave you. Mind if I borrow it until you grow into it?

And then there's that promise we made you. The one where we swore up and down that we would find that wii in Lolita's garage full of boxes. The extra one that she had packed away ages ago and said you could have. The one that I had to purchase avalanche insurance for before I could set out to find it.

The one I failed to find that day. And we felt terrible about because that was a promise we made to you for Christmas. And now it's your birthday. A promise is a promise...

Then your actual birthday rolled around just two days ago. A birthday where I have never been more thankful for the simple fact that I can put my hand on your little (but growing) shoulders, give you a squeeze, kiss the top of your head and just say "Happy birthday, Fury! I love you." Because life may be beautiful, but sadly, it isn't forever.

Your actual birthday wasn't supposed to be a big deal. Just a small dinner with mom, dad and auntie mei. But sometime around late morning, my phone rang. And the cosmic forces of "life is stranger than fiction" called upon Donald Sutherland, a crazy old lady with teal shoes, and the Los Angeles Federal Building to bring auntie Mr Lady to you, bearing Darth Vader puffy slippers, a Darth Vader watch and a set of metal wire 3D puzzles that would (did) drive a Harvard grad crazy trying to figure them out. And dinner went from a small informal night out with mom and dad to "well damn, it's a party now so let's call Lolita and her boys too."

Auntie Mei, Jaden and some Harry Potter thing that Auntie Mei is trying to indoctrinate you with. Ugh.Wow, kiddo. This month has been quite the party. And you are indeed a force to be reckoned with. Example?

Internet rock stars have coffee with me.

Not a "Beer with Busy" shot, but close enough

But they go ga-ga over you.

Happy birthday, my little buddy, my partner in crime, my mini-me, my better quarter, my half-teenager. Now go do your thing. I got your back and always will.

Love,

Dad

Like Taking Candy to a Daddy

I really need to start playing Sodoku or something. Anything to kick-start the neurons in this once-glorious dad brain. For five years, I have been coasting on the assumption that I am too sharp to be intentionally duped by my kid. As my posts have demonstrated, I’ve been wrong. But yesterday, Marcus reached a new low (or high, depending on which side you’re on). He has now taken to brazenly rope-a-doping me.CantTrustIt.jpg

We’ve just finished dinner and it’s time to wind down for the night. Ten minutes playtime, shower, book, bed. For finishing all his veggies, I let him have a piece of candy from his candy jar. He finishes his candy, and I start looking for the timer to begin his 10 minutes. As I start getting up, he brings me a bag of sour gummy bears. Without a word, he carefully undoes the twisty and places the open bag in front of me.

“Oh! I totally forgot I had these! And you even opened them for me!” I grab four and pop them into my mouth. I love sour gummy bears.

“Gotcha Dad.”
“Huh?”
“Gotcha.”
“What?”

Marcus walks away. I look in the bag. No ants. The gummy bears taste fine. Kids – always saying random stuff. I shove more gummies in my mouth. Time passes. I’ve made a pretty nice dent in the bag. Ok, let’s find that timer.

I locate the timer and walk up to Marcus, who is playing quietly with his Optimus Prime.

“Ok – ready for your 10 minutes?”
“Gotcha, Dad.”
“Gotcha what! Why do you keep saying gotcha?”
“… because I knew those were your favorite, and if you were busy eating them I would get more time to play.”

I look at the clock. Bugger got 15 extra minutes from that little scam.