+

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.

True

Innovation is awesome, right? I mean, it gave us the internet!

However, there is always a price to pay for modernization, and in this case, it’s in the form of digital eye strain, a group of vision problems that can pop up after as little as two hours of looking at a screen. Some of the symptoms are tired and/or dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain1. Ouch!

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Someone asked strangers online to share life's essential lessons. Here are the 17 best.

There's a bit of advice here for everyone—from financial wisdom to mental health tips.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Failure is a great teacher.

It’s true that life never gets easier, and we only get continuously better at our lives. Childhood’s lessons are simple—this is how you color in the lines, 2 + 2 = 4, brush your teeth twice a day, etc. As we get older, lessons keep coming, and though they might still remain simple in their message, truly understanding them can be difficult. Often we learn the hard way.

The good news is, the “hard way” is indeed a great teacher. Learning the hard way often involves struggle, mistakes and failure. While these feelings are undeniably uncomfortable, being patient and persistent enough to move through them often leaves us not only wiser in having gained the lesson, but more confident, assured and emotionally resilient. If that’s not growth, I don’t know what is.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Co-Op and Pixabay

Co-op CEO Shirine Khoury-Haq.

The CEO of Co-op, one of the UK’s largest supermarket chains has made an important statement about excess at a time when many families are struggling in the UK.

The Daily Mail reports that Shirine Khoury-Haq, the head of a company with over 3900 retail locations says she’s giving her twin, six-year-old daughters one present each this Christmas because she could not “in good conscience” give them more while millions of families struggle with inflation and high energy prices.

Khoury-Haq makes over £1 million ($1,190,000) a year after bonuses, so she pledged to give her family's present money to those in need. “It just feels like excess, given what’s happening in the world. In good conscience, I can’t do that in my own home,” Khoury-Haq said according to The Guardian.

“The rest of our budget will be given to Santa to provide presents for children whose parents can’t contribute to the elves,” she continued. “We’re going to go out shopping for those other presents and [we will] send them to Santa.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Woman reunites with her family 51 years after being kidnapped

Melissa Highsmith never even knew her real family was searching for her.

The family celebrate their reunion following a decades long search

In 1971, Melissa Highsmith was kidnapped from her home in Fort Worth, Texas. Her disappearance has been one of the oldest missing person cases in America. Now, she gets to celebrate a long-awaited reunion with her family in what she calls a “Christmas miracle.”

As ABC affiliate WFAA reported, Melissa’s mother, Alta (who now goes by Alta Apantenco) had put out an ad for a babysitter to watch over her then 21-month-old while she was at work. A white gloved, well-dressed woman going by the name of Ruth Johnson responded to the call, but she was no babysitter. After Johnson picked up baby Melissa from Apantenco’s roommate, the two were never seen again.

As any parents would do in this situation, the Highsmiths worked tirelessly to find their little girl, involving the Fort Worth police and even the FBI. Sadly, it was all to no avail. The only glimmer of hope remaining was that there was no evidence of harm, so maybe, just maybe, their Melissa was being well taken care of. And for 51 years, the family held onto that possibility.

Keep ReadingShow less
Democracy

Cuban immigrant’s reaction to getting his first American paycheck has gone viral

Before coming to the U.S. last year, Diaz made $12 a month as a computer science teacher in Cuba.

The Cuban and American flags.

An Instagram post featuring Yoel Diaz, a recent Cuban immigrant, is going viral because it shows a powerful example of something many of us in America take for granted. The freedom to earn a paycheck for a day of honest labor.

In the video, Diaz is ecstatic after he opens his first paycheck after getting a job as a seasonal worker for UPS. CBS reports that before coming to the U.S. last year, Diaz made $12 a month as a computer science teacher in Cuba.

"This is my first hourly paycheck that I feel every hour counted," he told CBS News. "That every hour of work has importance in my life and that I know I can work hard for something. I can't compare that emotion with anything. Because I never had that in my country."

The new job was a big change from life in Cuba where he had trouble filling his refrigerator. He told CBS News that sometimes he only had two items: "Water, water, water, five, ten eggs, water."

Keep ReadingShow less