The wife and I took our 6-year-old, Isaac, out to the city over the weekend. We rarely hang out near malls and the downtown area on weekends because we dislike the crowds but I needed to develop some black and white film (I know! Who still does that, right?) and there are only a few shops that do it. So I made it into a little adventure for the boy.
I was secretly pleased to just have the son with me, partly because one kid is easier to handle, and secondly, it was a guy-bonding thing. Mommy came along because she wanted to do some shopping, so we hopped on the train to City Hall.
Man, was it crowded.
I hate to sound like a country bumpkin but where do all these people come from? Why is everyone going downtown all at once? To make things worse, it started to rain and by the time we bussed to our MRT station, water was flowing down the path to the station. This is where I learned a valuable kid lesson — boys have to be told NOT to walk or jump through water.
Adults will gingerly walk on the part of the path where the least amount of water is. A 6-year-old is not wired that way. The boy took delight in wading through the deepest puddles of the path and I found myself calling his name in that tone where you start the first syllable in a low key and ends with a higher key. Several times.
I also discovered that 6-year-old boys like to wander off on their own. I felt like I was training a puppy to heel, whenever I said to my son, "Isaac, follow Papa! Stand by my side!"
My youngest daughter, Joy, has no such problems. She has a healthy fear of her surroundings and her radar keeps her very close to us, like an invisible tractor beam. Isaac has no such radar or tractor beam. Or more accurately, his tractor beam points at other things besides his parents.
I now understand why in primary school, they make kids hold hands and walk two-by-two. If you let them walk on their own, by the time you get from the classroom to the assembly hall, you, the teacher, would have lost half your class.
After a brief walkabout in the malls, and after I completed my errands, we decided to get some food.
"Chicken Rice, Papa! I want Chicken Rice!"
That meant I had to eat it too because I wasn't about to order a plate of overpriced food court Chicken Rice for one kid. We'll share it, I told him.
Children are very specific about what they want to eat. I found out later that he really mean Chicken RICE. All he wanted was the rice. I ended up eating most of the chicken. The good thing is my kids rarely eat outside. We try to encourage them to eat home-cooked meals and minimize the exposure to Happy Meals.
Even at the food court, we had drama. I asked the boy to get an extra fork from the stall to replace the one he dropped, and off he went. Before I could turn around and say, "And don't run..." there was the sound of a kid crying. Yes, it was mine.
The cleaner was mopping the floor in front of the stall with a little too much water and boom, Isaac slipped and fell on his back. I picked up my bawling son and checked the back of his head to see if it was serious. It did not look too bad. No blood, not swollen, and his eyes were not bloodshot.
I calmed him down and offered him some of my ice-kacang, a rare treat for our kids. It seemed to work. Then I casually mentioned, maybe if he is a brave boy and stops crying, I will get him a new Iron Man 2 toy.
That was a rather big mistake. Because children have the memory of an elephant when it comes to toy promises. For the next hour, he kept asking, "Are we going to get the Iron Man now?"
"Not yet," I'd say, "And if you don't stop asking, we are not getting it."
We finally did get round to checking out the toy department. Once again, I was reminded why we hardly take the kids to the toy department. They go absolutely bananas there.
"Look! Power Rangers! Papa, and there is Star Wars! And look! Thomas the Tank Engine!"
His in-brain toy detection sensor was on overdrive. Fortunately, I managed to steer him to our goal and we looked at the Iron Man 2 toys on display.
"I want this one! With the vehicle, Papa!" he said, zeroing in on the big packages.
I looked at the price tag and said, "No, you will choose from this lot here, the smaller packs WITHOUT the vehicles."
So I picked up a few variants: The Iron Man Mark IV, Mark V, Mark VI with light, Mark VI with Missile Launcher, and Mark VII with Lipstick.
Ok, there wasn't one with lipstick. But they certainly know how to make variants of one superhero toy, I tell you.
He was impressed by the one with the light. This Iron Man's chest lights up when you depress his head. But when he saw the one with the missile launcher, he had to have that one.
"Are you sure? The light quite cool what," I said, impressed with it myself. "Besides, you are sure to lose the missile at some point."
Nope, he wanted the missile launcher variant. So I bought him the Mark VI with the Missile Launcher, and sure enough, by the next day, Tony Stark had to make do without his missile. It was last seen fired in my study. The 6-year-old missile operator could not tell me which direction he aimed it when he fired it from Iron Man's arm.
I squatted there a little longer after Isaac selected his toy, and browsed through the offerings there. Then the wife came by and said, "Are you done? You buying the toy for your son or you choosing one for yourself?"
I sheepishly tore myself away from the rack and went to the cashier. I suppose it is not only because of the kids that we seldom go to the mall. Papa is a big kid and a hopeless toy geek too.
Hmm, maybe I'll return alone to pick up the Mark VI with chest light. It would look neat on my toy shelf.
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.