A dad took his daughter on a trip, just the 2 of them, and wrote down what he learned.

Sometime late last year, I found some spare time in my work schedule.

My daughter was slightly more than 2 years old, and I noticed her awareness of her world had gotten more astute. I always have this desire of imparting my experience and knowledge to her, and the best way in my opinion isn’t telling her, but to show her the world myself.

I realized I had this block of eight days available in front of me, and I promptly bought air tickets for the following day, Christmas Eve.



That's her on the flight. She always prefers the window seat. All photos by Stefen Chow, used with permission.

We didn’t bring mum with us as she needed to work, so it became a great excuse for a mini adventure for father and daughter.

The rules were simple.

  • I wanted it to feel casual, rugged, and roughly planned. I made it a rule to reserve rooms one day in advance, so it kept the itinerary spontaneous and fluid.
  • I wanted to stay away from bigger cities as I wanted to spend isolated time with my daughter and not just go on a usual tourist route.
  • I vowed to keep an open mind and also to allow my little one to dictate how the trip went, too.

In a nutshell, I think it was one of the best trips I had in my life and definitely one to remember with my daughter.

We ended up cycling along the eastern coast of Taiwan, hung out with baby animals on a farm, went onto the boats of fishermen, chased trains, climbed hills, sheltered together from a storm, and had more giggles than tantrums.

Christmas Dinner Special in Hua Lien, Taiwan.

This is what I learned:

— Toddlers have sophisticated methods of communication.

They are way smarter, more emphatic, and more understanding than I initially thought. I found that it was far easier to communicate with my daughter using adult language and rationale. We were together in a strange land, and often that put both of us out of our comfort zones. The sooner we realized we were an equal team and needed to depend on each other for moral support and affirmation, the faster the situation improved.

Little Chow figured out why buskers do the performances they do, and she became eager to give them money each time.

"Wives and mothers, if you want your partner to understand how it feels to be one, convince your husband to take a trip with the child without you."

— Most fears were unfounded.

When I first mentioned this trip to my friends and family, the first questions (and assumptions) I got were "How will she get her afternoon nap?" "The child needs her mother!" "This is not normal routine for her; she can do it when she is much older!" I suppose these are valid reasons, but we also find ourselves living in an increasingly protected world where everything from forks to table edges to flooring has been designed for child safety and marketed to the fears of parents. The problem is that we need to take a little leap of faith for interesting life experiences. (As long as there is adult supervision!)

Little Chow attempts to climb down some stairs while balancing a precious lollipop in her hand at the same time.

— It is better for the world to center around the parents, not around the children.

In Asia, there is a tendency to give everything you have to your child. And in Beijing, where I live, I see a lot of parents making sacrifices for their children, yet I see the children becoming spoiled and pampered at a relatively young age. I couldn’t stand seeing 3- or 5-year-olds slapping their parents and grandparents in public, and I certainly don’t want my child behaving that way. By taking her to different environments and experiencing different facets Taiwan had to offer, she quickly learned to adapt to our kind of world.


Little Chow loves her watermelon. Just like her father.

— It is an incredible experience for the father.

Really. I didn’t experience the nine and a half months of having something in my stomach, and though I always acted as a cheerleader by my wife’s side, I think I felt left out of the overall experience. My daughter naturally sticks to her mum more, and her father is always a second option or a third. On a dedicated trip out there with my little one with minimal distractions, I finally had the opportunity to be a full parent.

There are times she can be a little naughty. Perfectly normal and mostly tolerable. I always remind myself that this is a trip I will never forget.

— It makes you appreciate your life partner a lot more.

I still don’t know how mums do it, but I have deeper appreciation for them now. Wives and mothers, if you want your partner to understand how it feels to be one, convince your husband to take a trip with the child without you. Suddenly we are aware of every single thing that happens — the two signals before she gets into a tantrum or when a quiet "yes" means a "no." It is the little things that men (OK, maybe just me) miss out on with a toddler.

She really loves the ocean. I showed her where we were on a map and realized if you could look straight ahead far enough, you would see the west coast of the United States of America.

— It builds a lasting friendship.

My daughter and I had a very healthy relationship before this, but the trip really made us appreciate each other more. Since the trip, I feel that we are able to draw common memories and experiences, and it has certainly brought us closer together. Mummy agrees, so that’s a good thing.

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Brian Olesen never imagined he would end up homeless.

The former U.S. Air Force medic had led a full and active life, complete with a long career in the medical field, a 20-year marriage, and a love of anything aquatic. But after hip surgery and chronic back pain left him disabled in 2013, he lost his ability to work. Due to changes in eligibility requirements, he couldn't qualify for federal veteran housing programs. His back issues were difficult to prove medically, so he didn't qualify for disability. Though he'd worked his whole life, having no income for five years took its toll. He got evicted from a couple of apartments and found himself living on the streets.

But in 2018, two things completely turned Olesen's life around. He was able to both qualify for disability and to move into an affordable housing community in Miami's Goulds neighborhood called Karis Village.

When people think of affordable housing, they don't usually picture a place like Karis Village. The 88-unit development is brand new, and built with an attention to design that is not always expected for developments that serve as home to people on limited incomes. The apartments have tile floors, marble countertops, and all new appliances and furniture, and the grounds are beautiful and well-kept, with a playground and common areas for residents to gather.

Brian Olesen in his kitchen at Karis VillageCapital One

Karis Village isn't just a housing development; it's a home and a community. Half of the units are set aside for veterans who have experienced homelessness, like Olesen. The other half are largely occupied by single-parent families.

"To me, this building was just a gift," says Olesen. "All of the different parties that got together to put this building together… making half the building available to veterans. We've got no place to go."

Addressing veteran homelessness was one of the goals of Karis Village, which was built through a partnership that included Carrfour Supportive Housing — a mission-driven, not-for-profit affordable housing organization in southern Florida — and Capital One's Community Finance team. More than just an affordable place to live, the community has full-time staff on hand to help coordinate services—from addiction recovery programs to transportation options to job search and placement. Also included are peer counselors who provide emotional and psychological support for residents.

Karis Village, an affordable housing community in Miami, Florida.Capital One

Carrfour President and CEO Stephanie Berman says the core function of the services team on site is to build a supportive community.

"Often when you think of folks leaving homelessness and coming into housing, you think of shelters or some kind of traditional housing," she says. "You don't really think about a community, and that's really what we build and what we operate. What we're really striving to create is community. We find that our families thrive when you create a sense of community."

The intention to create a supportive community at Karis Village was a priority from the get go. Fabian Ramirez, a Capital Officer on Capital One's Community Finance team, says the bank did a listening tour in southern Florida to explore community development and affordable housing options in the area and to hear what was most needed. After deciding to partner with Carrfour, the bank provided not only an $8 million construction loan and a $25 million low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment to help build Karis Village, but it also kicked in a $250,000 social purpose grant to help fund the social support services that would be put in place for residents.

"It's not just all about providing the brick and mortar," says Ramirez. "It's about being able to contribute to the sustainability of the development and of the lives of the people who move into the building."


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Olesen says he and his fellow residents benefit greatly from the network of support services offered in the building. He says a counselor comes to meet with him once a month, sometimes right in his apartment. He also gets help maintaining a connection with the Veteran Affairs office. Other services include social workers and counselors for drug addiction and alcoholism.

Olesen loves being around other veterans, and he says hearing the sound of children playing keeps the community lively. He says anywhere else he could afford to live on disability wouldn't be nearly as nice and would likely involve shared kitchens and bathrooms and neighborhoods you wouldn't want to go out in at night.

If it weren't for Karis Village, Olesen says he doesn't know where he would be today: "I had nowhere to go and this is a safe, beautiful place to spend my retirement."

"I don't think they could have done a much better job of putting this place together and supplying us with what we need," he says. "I have so much appreciation for the ability to have a place to live. And then you add to that that it's beautiful and completely furnished and you didn't need to bring anything—I don't know what more you could ask for."

Karis Village and another development for veterans built the same year enabled the neighborhood of Goulds to meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare an end to veteran homelessness in the area.

Ending veteran homelessness altogether is a complex task, but communities like Karis Village show how it can be done—and done well. When government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate funding programs come together to solve big problems, big solutions can be built and maintained.

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