I am seeing more of the kids this month because of the holidays. It’s a mixed bag – while I’m thrilled to see them around when I wake up in the late morning (I work late into the night), I’m not too crazy about some of the things I am discovering about their quirks.
Joy, my 4-year-old, for instance, likes to play house and lays out her plates on the floor as if there’s a tea party going on. She also likes to rope her older brother in.
My 6-year-old son can be very sweet to his sister. Other boys may balk at doing something so girly but Isaac is sporting about it (Joy, on the other hand, has firm objections to playing ‘boy-boy’ toys, so no robots).
I thought it was fun to see them play together until I noticed what Joy was using as her ‘food’ in the toy plates and pots. It looked like small pieces of sponge at first. But on closer inspection, I realised she was using small broken up pieces of sponge CAKE.
I immediately demanded they clear the cake from their plastic ware. I felt like I was breaking up a party where teens were drinking booze while the parents were away.
Part of me wanted to laugh and praise them for being so creative about using the cake for their tea party. The other part of me said I had to lecture them on the evils of using real food for play.
"Do you know ants will come if you use that cake on your toy tea set, Joy?"
She shook her head, looking rather ashamed.
"And those ants will crawl all over your toys and then what?" I proclaimed, trying to paint a picture of an Ant Invasion of Armageddon proportions.
The hygiene freak in me could not resist adding, "Also, look how oily your toy plates are now?"
I shooed them into the kitchen to get the cake cleaned off their plates and pots, but struggled with whether I might have stifled their creativity. Then I thought of the ant migration to the toy shelves and decided ‘No Ants > Creatvity’.
Hey, it could have been worse. They could have used real sponge for the food and ate THAT instead.
Another thing I learned from seeing the kids so much was where all my scotch tape has been going.
The kids love to draw. They love to stick their drawings everywhere. Scotch tape is their best friend.
So I will find drawings of Spider-Man stuck on the wall, a No Entry sign stuck on my study door, and the floor-standing fan pasted with ‘eyes’. All done with my expensive 3M scotch tape.
I confess that I am a little snobbish when it comes to scotch tape. I don't like using the cheapo kind and I prefer the smooth matt 3M variety. But I use my scotch tape sparingly so cost is not a major issue. Not so with the kids. They do not share my self-restraint when it comes to using pricey sticky tape.
So I had to hold an additional lecture about the judicious use of Papa's expensive scotch tape.
Another unsettling thing I learned was that a certain boy had the tendency of holding off bowel clearance because of TV, thereby resulting in poopy pants.
This is acceptable and even cute when a child is six months old. Not when the child is 6 years old. So I was on to my third lecture of the week, about the importance of prioritizing toilet visits over television watching.
I also learned what cheapo toys my parents and my in-laws have been buying them. They certainly mean well, but one cannot expect them to tell the difference between Transformers by Hasbro and Transrobots by Some Random China Factory.
The latter is way cheaper than the real thing but they also break apart easily after a certain amount of play time, like say, five minutes.
I saw some of these fake Transformer knock-offs on one of my mall outings with Isaac. There was one that looked like a police car, which I presume is modeled after Prowl but the packaging declared "Traos Formers: Reaenge of the Fallen".
It was also $9.90, so don’t expect seamless transformation or correct spelling.
I also saw another series called ‘Super Change Robot’ and they tried really hard to give you choice. There was Latent Spider the fighter jet (I suppose that's Starscream); Brake Pioneer the yellow Chevy Beat hatchback (looks like Skidz from the movie); and Horizontal Cannon the silver Chevy Stingray (Sideswipe, I presume).
And an Optimus Prime lookalike called A Tower of Strength. You gotta love those names.
But my favourite had to be the purple BMW robot with the name Super Scholar or 超级学土. What could its powers be? Brilliant ‘A’ Level results? I almost bought it for Isaac so that he could be inspired to be a Super Scholar too.
There are lots more to do these hols. I am sure I will discover more stuff about my kids and their toys in the days to come. For instance, there is that Malaysia trip coming up in a week's time. My whole family, including my parents, my brothers and their families, are going. It's going to be a traveling circus.
I think I will need to buy A Tower of Strength for myself.
mrbrown aka Mr Kin Mun LEE is the accidental author of the popular Singapore website, mrbrown.com, and has been documenting the dysfunctional side of Singapore life since 1997.
Affectionately known as the Blogfather of Singapore, his readers follow his writings closely, which these days range from current affairs, his family, and even his trips abroad.
Currently, mrbrown also hosts the mrbrown show (mrbrownshow.com), probably Singapore's best known comedy and satire podcast.
mrbrown is married to Ginny, his long-suffering wife for 12 years, and is father to three lovely kids, Faith, Isaac and Joy.