Sandy MacMillan, UK
One child: Alexander,
2 years and 3 months
The first ritual my son Alexander and I ever had was of his own making.
Even before we moved to this city on the edge of the Gobi desert, I have always slept with a glass of water by my bedside – “just in case.” As soon as Alexander could walk, he began waking up his mum and me by throwing open our master bedroom door and charging over to my bedside table. He grabs the glass with his chubby little hands and “offers” it to me, spilling it over me and the bed sheets in the process. As I take the glass and whatever is left inside, he shakes his hands together and says, “Xiexie!” which I take to really mean: “Teletubbies in two minutes, Fatso!”
I have to hand it to him; the whole drama of his crack-of-dawn entrance, the mad dash towards me and the dousing of water in the early hours does get me up. I have now become conditioned to reach for the glass as soon as the door swings open – strictly speaking, our ritual has already evolved into something new and weirdly Pavlovian. I let him get away with this sort of behavior because he is very cute, small and difficult to catch.
Ritual number two is when I get home from work. Again there is his quick-as-lightning dash as I come through the door; this time with a head-butt charge towards me as I try to take off my shoes.
As I fend him off he shouts, “Daddy! ‘Pump It!’”
He then leads me to switch on the iPod (the only piece of fiddly electronics in the house he has not figured out how to use himself). “Pump It!” by the Black Eyed Peas is my contribution to his balanced East-meets-West cultural education, along with Teletubbies, In the Night Garden and singing Newcastle United songs.
We dance around the bed and do aerial throwing-small-person-high-in-the-air stuff for about as long as my back can stand it – usually all of “Pump It,” “My Humps” (aka “My Horse, My Horse, my little baby Horse …”), and about halfway through “Don’t Phunk With My Heart.” Sometimes we boogie to Mika and lately Michael Jackson, or as Alexander would have it “Number” Jackson. Then it’s dinnertime and we have to sit straight and be sensible.
Saturday mornings are his mum’s official lie-in, so father and son slip out and make mischief around the Fuli Cheng playgrounds for an hour or two.
I am constantly surprised by how many strange people call out his Chinese name during our neighborhood wanderings. He gets an awful lot of attention from the ladies, I have noticed. We then wander over to Starbucks for our usual – an iced coffee for me and a strawberry lollipop (a rip-off RMB 14) for the little fella. I make no apologies about his weekly lollipop treat. I am trying to buy his love and generally appease him. And it works. For someone with the attention span of a gnat, the lollipop induces a 15-minute bout of quiet contemplation and gentle slurping. We sit opposite each other doing nothing more than people-watch and give each other the occasional smile.
Johanna Selth, Australian
Two children: Siena, 3,
and Tadgh, 7 months.
For Johanna Selth, bonding with her kids means giving them her full and undivided attention. She recently taught her daughter, Siena, how to ride her first bike – well, in this case, a trike. “Just to teach her to push the pedals, it comes so intuitively to adults, but kids have to learn every new detail,” says Johanna. There were a few moments when Johanna’s heart jumped into her throat at the sight of Siena riding into oncoming traffic, but she looks back on the day fondly, knowing that this was something they achieved together, “a real milestone.” Johanna recently had a baby boy – although there are many milestones ahead for them to conquer together, for now she is happy just staring into her son’s eyes. Siena had a better idea, though. She thought it was about time little Tadgh learned how to clap just like her. After weeks of mother/daughter demonstrations and clapping games, Tadgh made his first claps and hasn’t looked back since. Johanna feels that teaching Tadgh to clap was a great experience. “You really feel like you’re communicating; it seems so simple but it’s so important to them,” she says. Endlessly amazed by her children, Johanna feels like they are becoming more like “little friends” with every day that passes.
Christina Borland, US
Hazel, 2 and a half,
and Alex, 1
The Borland household wakes up to a daily ritual, “Papa Time.” When the alarm beeps at 7.30am on the dot, Hazel and Alex wait expectantly for their father to stand outside their bedroom door and bellow, “Is it night? Is it night?” When he slowly opens the door, Hazel shouts, “It’s day! It’s day!” By this stage Hazel, Alex and dad are all bouncing on the bed. Christina Borland makes sure the kids get their fair share of “Mama Time,” too. Hazel gets some “special time” with her mom every day. It’s the little things that they enjoy the most. Sometimes they do errands together, but Hazel’s absolute favorite activity is to ride the number 938 bus. “What’s so special about 938? It’s the only green bus that stops near our house.” While Christina and Hazel wait at the bus stop, they sing to the tune of the COPS theme, “Green bus, green bus, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do, Hazel is going to get you!” Now Alex is joining in on the COPS-themed fun: “Green peas, green peas, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when Alex eats you?” is one of her favorite applications of the song.
Vivian Hui, Hong Kong
Nathaniel, 2, and
Kaitlyn, 4 months
Before Vivian Hui had her second child, she made a point of eating breakfast with her son, Nathaniel, every day. It was a chance for them to talk, share yummy food and have some time that was meant just for them. With the arrival of Kaitlyn, breakfast time has been put on hold. Now Nathaniel and Vivian spend their one-on-one time in the supermarket where Nathaniel can push his own mini shopping cart and even select his own treat. “This is special mommy-and-son time which we appreciate a lot,” says Vivian. One daily activity that Vivian will never give up is bedtime reading. She started bedtime reading with Nathaniel when he was only 4 months old and they haven’t skipped a session since. Vivian has recently started incorporating Kaitlyn into the daily routine. “It’s a great opportunity for Kaitlyn to learn, for Nathaniel to unleash his creativity, and for us all to bond,” says Vivian.
Tara Wilkinson, US
Kai Louis, 5, Leila, 3, and Eza Tom, 6 months
Tara Wilkinson’s children all know that around the same time everyday they get to do the one thing they love most – spend time alone with their mom. The oldest, Kai, is in the midst of his Harry Potter obsession. “He installs me on the couch for what can become epic reading sessions,” says Tara. One night when Kai had an ear infection and it was causing him terrible pain, Tara stayed up through the night reciting Harry’s adventures in an effort to distract Kai from his discomfort. Next in line is Leila, who’s fascinated with collecting, tinkering and designing. Tara and Leila’s current project is decorating her bike. “When we set out to paint the bike with nail enamel and decorate it with glitter I thought we’d be done in an hour or so, but it is taking weeks. We just keep adding more.” The smallest Wilkinson, Eza, is crazy about water. Eza and Tara swim together every morning, with Eza floating behind mom in a tube as she does her laps. Dividing up her time may require some planning, but ultimately Tara believes it helps her get the most out the time spent with her little ones.