Raising a Second Generation Canadian

This was me in second grade bragging about losing my tooth:

“Look Mrs. P, my tooth fell out yesterday!”

“Oh wow, did you get money from the tooth fairy?”

“The what?”

“You know, the tooth fairy? You put your teeth under your pillow and you get money.”

“Oh yeah…I knew that!”

I had no idea what or who the tooth fairy was, but I was good at pretending to know things early on during my childhood. To fit in and to not stand out as one of the few Chinese kids in town, there were many moments where I pretended to know about Canadian culture, where in fact I didn’t.

Immigrating to a small Alberta town at a young age, I sort of hated being Chinese and I certainly wished my parents understood Canadian culture better.

I wanted to be the kid that knew the words to all the Christmas carols, and all the words to the NKOTB songs. I wanted a normal Christmas tree like I saw on TV, not some giant plant with red pockets as ornaments.

I just wanted to be a white kid living with a white family.

My brother and I posing in front of our Chinmas Tree on Christmas Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were times where I didn’t want anything to do with my Chinese culture, and I wanted my family to adopt to this Canadian culture as quickly as possible.

It’s funny how perceptions change.

Looking back at it now, I feel the complete opposite. As I mentioned before how incredible it was for my immigrant parents to give me the ultimate Canadian birthday party, now I am proud of my culture, and I am proud to be the Hong Kong family that moved to rural Alberta.

So as we just finished celebrating the Lunar New Year, I started thinking:

How much of my Chinese Culture will I imprint on my daughter?

Should I enroll her in Chinese school? Make her watch Chinese cartoons? Only speak to her in Cantonese? I’m really not sure.

On one hand I do not want to impose and overwhelm her with the culture. I don’t want to cause her to feel singled out or embarrassed by it. I mean she’ll face enough embarrassment with me as dad as it is. 

My Daughter Watching Doraemon in Our Native Tongue: Cantonese

On the other hand I don’t want her to miss out on what makes having dual-cultures so great.

A Digression

 

Take for example: Food

I love the fact that part of my upbringing exposed me to both Chinese and Western foods.

I once proudly said to my wife, “Man I love the fact that I’m Chinese. Can you imagine not eating Hong Kong Style cafe food?”

(When you know someone for close to 20 years, you’ll talk about anything, including Chinese food . ?)

For the uninitiated, HK Cafe food is basically North American diner food with a Chinese twist.

The lemon tea, and milk teas are as staple as an espresso in any Italian cafe, or a coffee is most North American coffeehouse.

It goes beyond food too as both my wife and I speak Cantonese fairly fluently. It’s our helpful tool to use when we’re travelling abroad, or secretly commenting on other people, or negotiating a big purchase. That’s right, whenever you see an English speaking couple quietly speaking another language, they’re either talking crap about you, or trying to plot something sinister.

End of Digression

 

Our heritage and culture is very much of our daily lives. But what if I don’t teach her well enough? It’s like the movie Multiplicity each copy just gets worse. (Yes that was a 90s movie reference starring Michael Keaton) My knowledge of Chinese culture is basically a crappier copy of my parents. Will she embrace this condensed and dumbed down version of Chinese culture?

Our cultural knowledge will just get worse and worse.

My parents exclusively spoke to my brother and I in Cantonese, and that’s one thing I disliked when I was younger but now appreciate so much. Sure, it didn’t exactly help me with learning English early on (Shoutout to ESL), but now that I am older, I’ve managed to learn the English language pretty well (Lingo dead? Lingo is dead).   Prior to having her, when my wife and I had those pre-parenting negotiations, I agreed to be the parent that solely speaks Chinese to her. This was based on a study that said that in order for a child to pick up on the second language, one parent must exclusively speak to them in that language so that they see it as a necessary means to communicate. So far that hasn’t really come to plan. Instead, I throw around the occasional Cantonese phrase, along with some Chinglish.

This kid is going to grow up confused. Instead of best of both worlds, she’s going to benefit from the mediocrity of both.

I guess the point to all of this is, I need to do better for her. She may not use the language when she grows up, but in the event that it ever gives her some sort of advantage it’ll be worth it. I have to make the effort to try as a parent. Right?

Going back to losing my tooth as a child: I may not have received money under my pillow the first night. But interestingly  enough, after telling my mom about the whole tooth fairy thing, I mysteriously received 25 cents under my pillow the next morning.

And I didn’t even put my tooth under my pillow!!

The Chinese family that I hated so much to be a part of, was actually pretty willing to adapt to and embrace Canadian culture. I just didn’t know it or understand it at the time. I mean, my parents did had to at the time: assimilate to a brand new foreign culture, get a job, learn a new language, and raise two boys. Maybe figuring out these weird Western nuances weren’t on the top of their list of to-dos. Perhaps I should have given my parents a lot more credit; because of them I ended up getting the best of both worlds.

Or maybe, this was their plan all along and they Jedi Mind-tricked me like crazy. They somehow knew that 25 years later their youngest son will have a realization that they did a pretty awesome job of exposing him to both cultures.

Now that I’ve thought that out loud, I’m just going to shut up and teach my daughter everything that I know about our Chinese culture – especially when it’s so much easier to do so now.

It’s not like back then when my folks needed to import Chinese laser disc movies from Hong Kong; or drive out three hours to Edmonton to buy asian animal crackers.

Now it’s as easy as turning on YouTube and choosing a catalogue of uploaded Chinese cartoons; or driving ten minutes to Walmart to pick up the same asian snacks my parents painfully went through to get for us back then.

I really don’t have any excuses not to teach her – I need to do it for her, and more importantly, I need to do it for my parents.

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Screen Shot 2017-03-04 at 5.52.21 PM
GINBIS Animal Crackers were bomb.

 

Growing up in a small town, I wanted so much to be whitewashed and Canadianized. But as I grew older, I slowly became more appreciative of my Chinese culture. I hope as she grows up I’ll expose her enough to our culture and traditions. And maybe she’ll be able to appreciate what I’ve learned to appreciate. Happy New Year! A post shared by Ingus (@snappingus) on

ROM for the Holidays!

My wife and I are big fans of museums. From learning about Thor in Reykjavik, to re-living the Night At The Museum in New York, we always plan a trip to head to the museum, whenever we visit a city.

This is why when The ROM invited my family and I to go see the Chihuly exhibition, I jumped at the opportunity.

When we arrived at ROM yesterday, we quickly made our way to the Chihuly exhibit. It’s on the level B-2, so if you get there early and plan accordingly you can just beeline down there to beat some of the crowd.

I didn’t know what to expect, but the moment I saw the first display, I knew I was in for a treat.

As we progressed through the exhibition, each display became more impressive than the next. My favourite one was this one which looked like something straight out of an anime.

Like an energy blast from Dragon Ball

The crowd pleaser was probably this one where we were treated to a lightshow colours and patterns.

She Really Liked This One, (As did the gentleman behind her)

Overall we had a pretty awesome at the Chihuly Exhibition, but what I really enjoyed was the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit.

As a photography hobbyist and fanatic, it was truly a treat to see amazing photography on display. The exceptional timing and composition of the photos were breathtaking. I know there’s a debate of “what makes a great photo?” After seeing the works of the finalists, there’s no question in my mind that their really can be a separation between a good shot, from a great shot.

As photos were not allowed at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibit I can’t post anything here. But this is all the more reason to head to the ROM and check out the display With a Family/Dual membership, access to the CHIHULY and Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibitions are free with membership.

Just Cruising at the ROM

In the meantime, if you’ve somehow stumbled upon this post, you’re probably looking for coupon code for a ROM membership. Well you can use the code: ‘HOLIDAYbefore December 31st and save $20 on the Family/Dual Membership (Visit rom.on.ca/membership and enter the code.)

Stay tuned as I will be running a contest for a FREE Family/Dual Membership!

The First Night From A Year Ago

With my daughter just turning one yesterday, I had some time to reflect back on what a crazy first night it was when she came into this world. Behind this confident looking dad constantly posting Instagram photos of how wonderful being a dad is – lies a memory of a traumatic, life changing first night at the hospital. A night that has forever shaped this dad, and is now in the back of his mind whenever the inkling of having a second child comes into conversation.

The dad is more impressed with the lights than the baby.

A photo posted by Ingus (@snappingus) on


You know when you buy Ikea furniture and before you build, you go through the instructions and feel a little overwhelmed? That’s kind of like becoming a parent. You know what the end product looks like, but the process of getting there is what’s confusing and intimidating.

Babies: Assembly Required

You realize that the end goal is you becoming a competent and loving parent, but in order to become that, you need to go through so many confusing and trying steps.

That is what I realized that first night when she arrived.

I remember that the first night after she came out, when her mom was recovering and I was lying with her skin to skin on a makeshift couch bed, she was so tiny and so delicate.

I thought to myself:

“Oh sh*t, I have a daughter. Oh sh*t, I’m a dad now.”


That moment, I felt like everything that I had prepared myself for was useless.

Skin to Skin and Sing to Sing

I envisioned how I would be as a dad, and I envisioned how it would be like to have a baby. But when it finally happened, I never actually thought about process of become a dad.

Basically, for those first early moments, I just did stuff I saw on TV and movies.

Seriously, at one point in my hysterical mindset I thought, “Oh I must sing this song to her so that she’ll have an emotional attachment to it and be calm in the future whenever I sing”

I talked to her and told her how everything was going to be fine and life is going fantastic.

That was all a lie of course.

I mean can you imagine sleeping peacefully in a warm toasty bed only to be forced out to the cold winter streets – wet and naked?

I’d be pissed and freaked out.

For the rest of the night I remember her waking up and crying every one and a half hours. And I remember getting up each interval changing her diaper and bringing her to mom for feeding.

After the feeding I would put her in a loose swaddle and rock her so that she would fall asleep.

It Ain’t 5:05 In The Afternoon

All that crying. 

It sounded like they cross-bred one of those rubber chickens with a pterodactyl.

What a truly terrible sound.

I felt bad that she was crying and disturbing her mom, so I just started walking around the maternity ward shoeless with a tiny baby in circles.

At one point I even thought, maybe if I walk her over to the nurses desk, they’ll see how distraught I look and help me hold her for a bit.

Nope.

They just politely smiled and gave me a “your-wife-just-went-through-labour-and-you-better-hold-on-to-that-newborn-look.

Fair enough.

Basically I was so tired and overwhelmed, and I thought:

Shhhhhhh*t I have a daughter now, and thiiiis is how it’s going to be?


I really didn’t think it would be that hard.

But it was.

And it’s something that I’ll never forget.

Ever.

Of course things got better little by little as each day passed. And when we finally were discharged from the hospital, we felt relatively confident that we were able to do this.

And we were right.

As the weeks turned into months, and the months now became a year life is pretty sweet.

“Don’t drop baby, don’t drop baby.” ??

A photo posted by Ingus (@snappingus) on


As I write this, my daughter is quietly taking a morning nap, and last night I even slept for 7 hours!

Life is good right now.

Really good.

Yes, there still are tough days and tough nights. But nothing can measure up to that first night.

I think the experience I gained on that first night was exactly what I needed to prepare me as a dad.

And that’s the thing about becoming a parent, you can read all the books, go to the pre-natal classes, or talk to seasoned parents about their experiences. But when the moment comes and a life is gifted to you, you forget everything just learn on the fly.

And you’ll never forget. Ever.

Once assembled, babies are great.

 

A Gamer Dad’s Worst Fear: No More Gaming

Confession time. While my wife was pregnant, I secretly promised myself that I would never change who I was at my core: A Gamer.

I thought, “Yeah, I’ll be a full-time Super-dad and I’ll do it all! But when the baby and mom sleeps, I’ll still have my time to play games.

Ha…yeah that didn’t work out. As I’ve written in the past, once you become a dad, there are so many assumptions that go out the door.

My naivety coupled with my lifelong relationship with videogames led me to believe that I would be able to do it all.  Little did I know, my relationship with videogames would eventually come to an end.

You see, videogames and I go way back.  From the early days of the Game & Watch Octopus handheld game giving me blisters, to me pouring months worth of hours into Final Fantasy, Skyrim, and Call of Duty – video games have been a big part of my life.

Why am I beaming? SNES for Christmas, that's why
Why am I beaming? SNES for Christmas, that’s why.

It is simply in my DNA.

A little fun fact about me, I actually tried to apply to working at EB Games three separate times in my lifetime, and each time I was unsuccessful. To me, I thought it was a dream job for me, but in hindsight it was probably a good thing that I didn’t get hired: It’s like a diabetic working at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – not a good combination.

Give it up Dad. Give it up.
Give it up Dad. Give it up.

I wasn’t ready to let it go. In fact, when the baby arrived, I still tried to sneak in a few minutes of Witcher 3 and NBA 2k16 between her naps.

But things felt different. I was playing, but it just wasn’t the same. It could be the weight of the world bearing down on me as a new dad, or it could be that I was sleep deprived.

Gamer Dad and baby
That’s me playing Witcher 3 while my 2 month old naps.

Whatever it was, it just wasn’t the same and I was shocked to believe that I was completely fine with it, but I still wanted to make it work.

You know when someone includes their childhood best-friend in their wedding party, even though they’ve clearly drifted apart? It felt like that, but with video games. Here was my first childhood friend and me desperately trying to hold onto something to keep the memories alive.

Before, I would feel antsy, or even grumpy if I didn’t get the chance to turn on the Playstation for a few days. But now, it doesn’t seem to matter to me anymore if I turn on the system. If you don’t count that week of Pokemon Go, I’ve been gaming free for the past four months. My PS4 and WiiU are no better than Ikea furniture props.

I know there are many dad’s out there who give up hobbies once they have kids, but this was something I never thought I can give up so easily. But it was easy.

Perhaps I knew that in balancing a full-time job, housework, dad blogging, and staying healthy, something had to be sacrificed, and so my childhood friend was let go.

I spend every free minute I have around my daughter when she’s awake, and giving up gaming became a no brainer.

If you were to tell me a year ago that I would willingly stop gaming and still enjoy life, I would think that you were nuts.

Perhaps one day, we will re-kindle our friendship and it’ll just be like old times. But for now, instead of sitting in front of a screen levelling up my character, I watch my daughter levelling up every day right before my eyes.

 

And I have no problem with that as I relish every single moment of it. 🙂

The #NES controller may be my first love in life, but this kid quickly replaced it the moment she stepped into our lives. For the past 8 months video games have been collecting dust and she’s been my go to when it comes to spending any free time I have. That said, she’s still only second to my wife of course. ☺️

A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀Ingus (@snappingus) on

Breaking Our Hermit Shell

I would categorize my wife and I as hermits. Sure we used to go on spontaneous trips (hello Iceland), go see the occasional show, and we were pretty big on food. But when it came to maximizing our weekends, we normally preferred the lazy route by donning our PJs and staying in.

But since our daughter coming into our lives, we’ve been shockingly meticulous in planning out our weekends. It reminds me of when we had our dog and frequently forced ourselves to plan excursions to pet festivals and dog parks.


The inner-hermit in me initially didn’t like it at first, but ever since going to the Toronto Islands last week, a switch just came on inside.


To us it’s just another visit to a place, but to her it’s a completely new experience. She’s basically a life-experience sponge right now, and if we don’t fill it up with a variety of things, I feel like it’s a wasted opportunity.


The moment I realized this was when we finally arrived and sat under a tree to feed her. And by looking at her, I was able to see the reflection of trees and clouds in her eyes as she was trying to process what she was seeing.


Waiting for her first ferry, in deep thought.

That made me realize that this was the first time I fed her in a park on a sunny day, and this was the first time she was able to look up at the clouds and the sky and process what she was seeing.


By how distracted she was, I could also tell that she was trying to take it all in.


That was kind of incredible for me, and her look is something that I will never forget or take for granted.

A while back, while cleaning, I found some faded photos of my parents in the 70s taking my brother to a park when he was a few months old. To me it was a shock to see my parents so young, and it immediately made me wonder what was going on in their mind back then.


So if Charlie ever wonders the same one day, this is what I was going on in my head:


Prior to having a kid, I knew that it would be up to us parents to teach and show her what life has to offer. But this kid, at just over six months just proved to me that I have just as much to learn as a parent too.

After eight hours, three bottles, two ferry rides, two miniature horses sightings, and one carousel ride later, she and both her mom and dad had a crazy day of firsts.


And this hermit of a father, is looking forward to the next adventure.


At first glance this appears to be a sweet photo of me carrying Charlie, but the truth is I’m wiping her drool off of my chin with her bib. Nonetheless I’m one proud daddy. ?

A photo posted by Ingus (@snappingus) on