HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW? Griffith, New South Wales, Australia / Beijing, China
ON THE WEB http://www.thetigerfather.com: One man’s quest to achieve parenting immortality while not going insane in China.
*Editor’s Note* Trev might be the next Sedaris. With kids. Our favorite line from his most Nov 27 post: “I couldn’t help myself. I wandered over and in my fairly good Chinese said: ‘Boy baby small. Clock there nine half? He bed you insert and not after. Jesus Christ.’
Trevor publishes every Monday.
NUMBER OF CHILDREN Two. Lani, 6, and Evie, 4-1/2.
DAY JOB Stay-at-home dad, writer, journalist, teller of dad-jokes.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS Married to Stephanie, a doctor and early childhood expert who is full of good advice on parenting. Every single day, I try desperately to remember it.
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FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK What children’s book is a favorite in your house and why? What book has made a great impact on you or your kids? Was there/ is there a story that was passed down from generation to generation?
We like Elephant Elements – a brilliant book by French team Francisco Pittau and Bernadette Gervais. Each opened page simply has drawings of two elephants with one word to describe their opposite conditions. These include Curly/Straight, Happy/Sad, etc. There’s also Intelligent/Stupid, with the two elephants looking identical.
Press Here – by Herve Tullet. An “interactive” book the kids love. It’s like an iPad, only made of paper. You press one coloured circle on one page and – voila – you turn the page to see how an arrangement of coloured circles has changed. Tilt the book and on the next page the circles all apepar to have “slid” to one end. Hilarious.
Mr Dog – by Margaret Wise Brown. My favourite Golden Books as a kid. I remembered it so clearly, right down to the curved chopper Mr Dog used to cut his parsley, and his now non-PC corn-cob pipe. I was delighted to see it back in print in 2005, and to find our girls liked it too. Children’s authors weren’t scared to use big words back then either. Mr Dog was “a conservative”.
The Magic Faraway Tree – by Enid Blyton. My wife’s all-time favourite as a child, now treasured and devoured by our eldest, who loves the adventures within. (OK, obviously her dad’s yet to read it. But I did read Mr Dog!)
HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY?
My wife works full time. With the kids in full-time school, I have some five hours a day to write at home, mostly on my blog. I also have a book and a screenplay on the go which I honestly truly have not abandoned hope of finishing. We have invaluable help from our Ayi (Aunty in Mandarin). Most expats have such a housemaid/child-carer here in Beijing. Ours, like so many others, helps fill the void of other family members, such as grandparents, who are back home. She is also a former schoolteacher who has helped our girls’ Mandarin immensely. And mine!
HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
Patience. It has definitely taught me to grow some. I probably laugh a lot more now too.
HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP? How often do you have sex? Is it enough? How do you communicate differently (if at all)?
It’s definitely bonded us inexorably together. We got married when our kids were three and one, but both felt becoming parents together was a bigger commitment. We possibly communicate more openly, especially on matters such as how our actions affect our children’s wellbeing.
Sex? I’m a guy, so of course I’m going to say I enjoy an adequate amount.
Ha! Just kidding. I read the other day that a team of scientists in Switzerland has been working furiously for 23 years but have still not discovered such a thing as too much sex.
WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?
One strength as a parent is strength. The physical kind. Seriously – with a two-seater pram, getting up and down stairs in a Beijing subway, it definitely helps to be a stay-at-home-dad. The kids can also jump all over me and I don’t get hurt.
Emotionally, my main strength is calmness, which I love seeing reflected in my kids – sometimes! A laid-back nature helps when you’re a stay-at-home parent. Then again, I wish they would take after me a little less when I’m trying to bundle them out the door to the school bus.
Herein lies my main weakness. Sometimes that patience runs out and I become a mad dictator, railroading the kids into doing things my way – i.e. quickly. The desire to give the kids empowering choices loses out to an acute fear of us all walking to school.
I actually fear our eldest is too well behaved, out of a wish to follow the rules I should have downsized after toddlerhood. I’m working on making her more naughty.
WHAT ARE YOUR PARTNER’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
My wife’s main strength is that she is the font of all knowledge on parenting. And medical issues.
OK that’s over-stating a tad, but she’s very good on most strategies. These include, but are not restricted to, sleep issues, eating, positive discipline and self-esteem. Look, she gives seminars on this stuff for heaven’s sake. So for me as a parent, it’s like learning to play tennis with Pete Sampras beside you. Still I manage to make stuff-ups all of my own.
Her weakness? Geography. I make her leave the room whenever the kids ask anything about countries, capitals, oceans, and which way is north.
WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?
Ayi (see question 1).
WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?
Err, don’t tell anyone, but it was probably blaming my then 10-month-old daughter for a little bit of an “illness stain” on the side of our car when the car cleaning man asked if I’d been sick. Well?! It had been a very big night. Oh, and it was Mother’s Day. Our first one. Yuuup … Can we move on?
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?
A tie between baking birthday cakes which our daughters seem to like, and introducing our eldest to Roquefort cheese. And seeing her love it!
I feel very lucky to have been able to be a stay-at-home dad in our girls’ early years. So many fathers don’t have that chance. I also love being able to use one of my skills and passions – writing – to set some of it down in stone.
Heaven knows I’m a crap photographer.