Friday, March 9, 2012

Ryan's best friend

I'm sure you'd have noticed, from the photos on the blog, that Richard pops up very frequently, usually right next to Ryan. It's pretty obvious that Richard is an extremely hands-on daddy.

No doubt, it was hard for Richard in the very beginning when Ryan was an infant. Back then, Ryan's needs were milk, milk, a little bit of play, sleep, milk, milk and sleep, and it was clear that the bond was much stronger between Ryan and me compared to Ryan and him. There were many occasions when Richard was just not able, through no fault of his own, to handle Ryan. He had no milk to feed him, no breasts to comfort him and no (milk) smell to soothe him to sleep.

But Richard stuck it out. He rolled up his sleeves and dug his heels in. Every minute that he was with us, he was a daddy. He helped out whenever I asked him to and when I didn't ask him to. He went for all the medical check-ups and vaccinations and, whenever Ryan fell ill, he helped me to administer the prescibed medicine. He was a little intimidated about bathing the baby, but was perfectly willing to change a diaper and swaddle the baby. He enthusiastically participated in shopping for clothes, toys and books, many times coming home with something he bought himself without me asking him to. He gave serious thought and consideration to our parenting choices and everything we did, was the result of a joint decision between the two of us.

We took turns accompanying Ryan at classes (Gymboree, swimming, Shichida, Julia Gabriel) and Richard was always willing and eager to do so. He helped me to make costumes for PlayClub whenever the children were asked to dress-up. He helped me to shop for fabric and materials and he contributed his own ideas. He even gamely turned up in class dressed according to the theme. He has never missed any of Ryan's modelling shoots and when we shopped for clothes for the shoots, the winning outfit was usually his pick.

Richard has gone along with every crazy idea I had for Ryan, participating in our Cardboard Box Challenge, helping me with the quiet book project, and lots of other little things which I've not published on the blog. Even when I was seriously considering installing a swing from our ceiling, he was enthusiastic and encouraging. He is always there whenever I need help with making materials for Ryan's home learning and he is always interested to discuss various parenting methods and teaching pedagogies with me.

Now, Ryan absolutely loves spending time with his father, whether playing or just hanging about together. Everything that Ryan and I can do together, they also do together (except the breastfeeding part of course!) and, in fact, for specific things, Richard is Ryan's first choice of playmate and I am a close second.

For instance, whenever we order "kuay teow soup" for Ryan, the two of them have a firm understanding that Richard will feed Ryan. Ryan won't feed himself, although he can feed himself when eating other stuff. I tried to do it, and Ryan refused to eat from me. It is a tradition that was forged in stone when we lived in River Valley, when the two of them would take a slow stroll (with the Step2 buggy) to PappaMia to have supper. It is a sacred ritual that belongs to the two of them, for nearly two years now.

To take a little credit, I have consciously and deliberately given Richard unrestricted licence to do whatever he thinks is right. From very early on, Richard has been comfortable handling Ryan on his own and taking Ryan out on his own without me (for example, when I'm late from the office or when I'm sick) and I've never mandated how he should handle Ryan, what he should bring along, what time he should be back, where they should go, etc. I've always trusted him completely.

To be clear, Richard is not "mummy no. 2" and he is certainly not just a helper to me. He brings his own contribution to the table. For example, when Ryan started modelling, Richard popped in at the agency shoot although I didn't ask him to. With his help, Ryan started responding to the camera and we got the shot. Richard and I are different people, and this gives us the ability to leverage on each other's strong points depending on the situation. For example, Richard is an extremely patient man, much much more patient than I am. When I feel like I'm about to lose my cool with Ryan, which is usually when I'm dead tired but Ryan is still too pumped up to sleep, Richard will step in and take over the reins. Even though Richard is already asleep, he will wake up without complaint, take Ryan downstairs and keep him entertained, while I fall gratefully into slumber. The situation stays calm and in control, and Ryan does not have to be victim to my stress.

Richard also fulfils his role as a parent vis-a-vis me, because we are able to discuss parenting concerns, issues and dilemmas together. We make decisions together, take positions together and come up with an approach that is united and clear for Ryan. I never feel that I am alone at any stage of this parenting journey. There has never been any area where he said, "That's your responsibility, not mine".

I know there are many hands-on fathers out there and I'm blessed that one of them is Ryan's. Richard is truly Ryan's best friend, an honour which Richard worked hard to earn, and a privilege which he takes very seriously.


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