Andrew: We’ve mentioned this quite a few times before, but one of the most important tips I read before Dylan came was to get back into your regular activities as soon as possible by finding ways to make your child a part of it. Honestly, it isn’t quite possible to really go back to life as per normal, but accommodations can definitely be made to ensure that you can still engage in activities that used to be part of your life. Here, we share some tips on how we’ve found ways to make Dylan a part of our regular activities.
By making ‘a part of’, we mean more than just him being there and us ‘coping’ with him, but I actually mean trying to make him a part of the activity too.
Andrew: This will probably differ from church to church, depending on whether the church offers playgroup/ infant-care services (apparently New Creation does, and parents do not bring their toddlers into the main hall). However, for our church, the structured children church programme only begins from 18 months onwards, hence we’ve to think of ways to keep Dillie occupied.
We also have cell group prior to service, which is usually held at any available spaces around our church (e.g. outside the church itself, at void decks, playgrounds etc.) Obviously, this required more consideration once we had Dylan.
One of the biggest help was … the Supermat! 🙂
Yes, the most important need of parents is actually a clean space where the kid can be put down and move around safely, while still being within your sight and control. The Supermat was great for cell because it could be placed within the circle and all our cell members at various parts of the mat could serve as ‘gate-keepers’ to either catch him or hug him when he reached them. Our church used to have an entire floor just for parents, so we would place the mat there and it used to attract many other kids to the mat too. However, due to some restructuring of services, the service we attend now is very crowded, so it’s now impossible to place the mat on the floor.
Cell at the sheltered space between void decks
Andrew: An important tip we learnt from a fellow parent in church was to learn to involve your cell group in caring for your child.
Jasmine: Yes, this was a very sagely piece of advice which really transformed my mindset towards bringing Dilly to church. It made me go from thinking, “I can do it on my own”, to “We can do it so much better when the whole village helps to raise the child”.
Cell has been more manageable than service as we have cell members who love him so much and can carry and entertain him. Sometimes though, I suspect Dilly ends up being a distraction, as he turns around and smiles at everyone and people start smiling back. Heh. We have taken to having cell beside a playground so even without the Supermat, Dilly can scoot around the rubber floor and occasionally ride a plastic bike.
Andrew: As for service, there are times when Dearie’s not feeling well that I decided to bring Dylan to church on my own anyway – those are the times I’d need more help during service. (Jasmine: My pastor once saw Andrew alone at service with Dilly and told me, “Wah, this Andrew quite good ah!” And he is. Thank you, Superdear.) Once, I got my cell boy to meet me and sit next to me. It’s helpful just having someone around to do simple stuff like clip the carrier, hold the baby’s toy for him etc. He helped too in taking this cute pic of Dylan, eating a banana. Heh:
Another thing I’ve learnt that helps a lot is to be unafraid to ask strangers for help. Yet another time when I was alone, Dillie started crying loudly for his milk and unexpectedly, the water dispenser at church wasn’t plugged on, hence there wasn’t warm water. In panic mode, I was fumbling with the various utensils like spoon, milk bottle, powder dispenser – when a very kind-hearted lady just offered to help me out with the milk. She was a life-saver!
I know this section is already rather lengthy, but just wanted to add a final point on us getting Dylan involved in the service. Well, he can’t quite get involved during the Word at the moment and that’s usually the segment we try to get him to nap, so we try to get him involved in worship. Initially it was just swaying him around and bobbing him during worship, and he used to smile as we sang. But lately, he’s gotten more into it, clapping along and even raising his hands:
Jasmine: Honestly though, it’s still tough bringing a little one to church. Sometimes I can barely pay attention to the sermon ‘coz I am so busy taking care of Dilly, feeding him and of course placating him when he gets cranky as service runs past his bedtime. However, when I see Dilly growing and imitating our actions, be it clapping or raising his hands, it gives me a sliver of hope that all the slogging is going to be worth it one day.
Andrew: Even during the altar call time, I try to get him involved and focused to raise his hands up in prayer as we pray for those who receive Christ. Hopefully these small little actions will build nice habits in him that will put him in good stead as he grows up.
Andrew: Avid followers of our blog (Jasmine: there are? haha) previously would know that we used to love going for exhibitions. Actually, we didn’t go to as many after we got married and now that we have a kid, it’s even less likely that we would go. However, this year, I just felt that I didn’t want to miss out on the Singapore Biennale yet again, because it used to be such a fun activity for Dearie and I, as we walked through the halls and discussed the meaning and aesthetic value of each piece geekily. And so, we went!
“I am made for Sam”
Now, integrating him in the activity goes beyond just carrier-ing him around while we geekily analysed the art pieces (which we did!). It also involved us spending more time at pieces which he was more engaged in, like this one below:
Andrew: There were many little holes in the floorboard, with images within, so he had quite a field day crawling all around and peeking into the little holes.
Jasmine: These interactive artworks were the best because Dilly could engage personally with them. Here, he was crawling around to inspect the marbles embedded in the floorboards with archival images of historic Singapore- which was not too far off from the intent of the artpiece, which wanted viewers to literally take a closer look at our past.
Andrew: He also liked this little ‘sound board’ below, which played sounds of Singapore (like political speeches, sounds of old Chinatown in the 1960s etc.) whenever you clicked on any button and you could play a few sounds together to create your own unique Singapore ‘sound-scape’. Obviously this didn’t mean anything to Dylan, who just treated it like any other electronic book of his own. 🙂
We haven’t since brought him to any exhibitions, but I recall Dearie and I attending a Children’s Art exhibition a few years back at SAM@8Q – wonder if that’s still being done now, because that would be a fun one for him.
Jasmine: My major contribution at the Biennale was convincing Dear to buy an inflatable Walter the bunny for him from the museum shop, to play bunny boxing with.
3. Going out to Malls
Andrew: Well, I spoke earlier about me resolutely bringing Dylan to church alone even when it was extremely tough. Dear is similarly resolute and resourceful too – when it comes to shopping! She has brought Dylan alone on shopping trips where she’s tried and bought many pieces! (Jasmine: No lah, just one or two pieces, and for work purposes, so totally legit.) How does she do it – I’ll leave her to show you:
Andrew: Some might say that’s baby-abuse. Dylan, the little innocent one, is none the wiser and just looking all cheeky and cute in that pic.
Jasmine: This was before I got preggie, and could still strap Dilly in the carrier and head out. It’s actually quite convenient going places considering that our place is just 5min walk from the MRT, and the shopping centre just above, if I’m lazy to take public transport. Believe it or not, it’s also quite easy to use the washroom with him in the carrier! But I can’t envision how I will do this when I have two babies next time.
Andrew: However, we’ve read something more fundamental lately on Xiaxue’s blog about going out with a child. She wrote in an entry that many times parents just think they can go about their own activities and drag the child along, hoping that the child will enjoy him/herself. However, that would be extremely selfish for a parent, because we do not drag even our spouses along to activities they don’t enjoy. She wrote that it was important to learn to engage in activities that the kid would enjoy too as part of your outing, so that the child truly becomes a part of your family and not just someone who tags along.
Good tip indeed – since then, we’ve tried to insert a Dylan-centric component (Jasmine: MOE has Student-centric, Values-driven education; we have Dylan-centric, Andrew-driven exploration?) whenever we go out on weekends, hence the entries on playgyms you have seen so far. We try to bring him to the playgym first, tire him out, then after that, go about doing our own stuff, like shopping or exploring PasarBella while he is napping. In that way, both parent and child win! 🙂
Sleeping snugly in the Mr Christmas sweater from Joyce though it’s just past Easter
Andrew: Xiaxue also wrote about how only those who have parents will understand truly how parents feel when bringing a kid out. This doesn’t quite fall under the same category, but we’ve also started trying to have more play-dates with fellow parent friends, so that we can catch up (not just on parents’ stuff, of course) and the kids can have fun socialising too.
One of our play-dates with Ruth and Roman!
Dillie & Agnes at Giggles
Jasmine: Actually, we would not have expected to get parenting advice from Xiaxue but I did find myself vigorously agreeing with many of those points. We are trying to go out more with our friends who are also parents, not only because there are so many common topics, but because they also see the need to prioritise their children’s happiness so that every member of the family can have a good time.
Much as I’d like to, as a working mum, I don’t have that much time to bring Dilly out for playgroups and classes. I’m thus quite glad to not have to actively source these on my own as my cousin Steffy invites me for playgroups that she knows I and Dilly would like, like the baby signs class and also the mummies’ meetup at Blue House, though obviously I used to be more available when I was on my last maternity leave or clearing HQ leave end-last year.
We also love having our friends and their babies over at our place for a simple lunch (for the mummies) and playtime (for the babies), as it’s less confined than at restaurants. It’s easier to nurse and of course we can let the babies loose on the floor, which isn’t possible in every restaurant.
Playdates with babies Agnes and Bruce at our house!
Jasmine: That having been said, we have been out a couple of times with Dylan and our non-parent friends, and they have been really understanding and helpful. For instance, we met two of Andrew’s guy friends for coffee, Anand and Yong Chuan. Though they were very shocked when we pulled out the whole milk tin from the bottom of our stroller (“Whoa, does he drink that much each time??”), they were very helpful in requesting hot water and moving all breakables away, and pretended not to mind Dilly’s loud crying as we were preparing the milk.
Andrew: There are actually many more things I’d like to write about this entry like travelling with Dylan and one on how we planned meticulously to get him involved in a photo-shoot in Shanghai, but those deserve entire posts on their own!
Just like to conclude by saying that having a child does change your life significantly, no doubt about that and it is not quite possible to have the same life as you used to if you want to involve your child. Finding ways to involve your child might be tedious, but ultimately in the long run, it’s beneficial as you learn to spend time together as a family and also, as cliche as it might sound, joy is multiplied when good times are shared with more.