The dadcraft Life: How Xian (“see-en”) manages being a dad to active young kids in Hong Kong, a city where square footage is hard to come by.
What do you love most about raising your kids in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong actually has a lot of great outdoor activities, which is not what immediately comes to mind for most people. We live right behind a national park, and I love taking my sons for hikes there. The views are spectacular, and we often see wild monkeys. The beaches here are really beautiful in the summer and boat trips (“junk trips” as we call them) are a must-do summer activity here.
What have you learned about nurturing active kiddos in what are often small spaces?
It can be challenging at times. Everyone is up in everyone else’s space all the time, and that can wear us down pretty quickly. It really teaches patience! Often I’ll try to bring the kids out to the park or to do some outdoor activity just to let them expend their energy.
What advice do you have for dads traveling with kids to big cities?
Our boys especially love planes, trains, and automobiles. In Hong Kong, they have plenty of exposure to those. I recommend dads get a stroller that’s light and maneuverable to get in-and-out of public transport. Safety is obviously really important. My eldest son loves running off on his own, but in the city he knows that he needs to be holding our hands and watching out for cars.
You have flown with your kids on trans-Pacific flights: How have you survived?
We have scheduled flights so that when we boarded the flight, it was bed time. We packed our kids’ favorites toys and books, and those definitely came in handy. Our oldest son is a real explorer, so he ran up and down the aisles and made friends with the flight attendants.
We try to either have a bottle handy or just breastfeed during takeoff and landing to help our sons equalize to the changing pressure. On some flights our sons cry and fuss, but we aren’t too embarrassed by it. Fellow passengers who are parents sometimes give us encouraging smiles to let you know, “Don’t worry, I’ve been there before.”
We always ask: What do you believe is your finest fathering skill?
I think my best skill is that I’m a child at heart myself. I’m already really curious, so I get to share my curiosity about the world with my kids, who are already innately curious.
We always ask: How has becoming a dad made you a better person?
I used to be a bit of perfectionist and control freak. Having kids helped me realize pretty quickly how much is out of my control. Whether it’s when my child gets really sick or when my son dropped and broke our iPad. It’s helped me learn to just laugh off the things I have no control over. Parenting is a messy, crazy, lifelong experiment. We can freak out, or we can learn to laugh at the glaring imperfections.
We always ask: What is your favorite activity to do with your kids?
My boys have so many ideas and they can find fun in the most unlikely areas. Sometimes the best toys are old boxes, something big enough that they can crawl inside or put their toys inside of. For me, I just need to shut off my “adult brain” and try to see things through their eyes, and let my own imagination run wild.
Postscript: Do you have a long flight with your kids on the calendar? Check out our guide to flying with kiddos.
Photo used with permission of Xianyi Wu.