Working for a global organization, I am fortunate enough to travel around the world and encounter great people. Many became lifetime friends. When I was an expat living and travelling around different countries, I was single, partied around the town and travelled across the country border every other weekend. This was the norm for singles, fun. However, I have no clue what the expat parents with kiddos do when they also have a full time job and living in a foreign country.
Now I ponder.
When I start to explore the topic “What are other cool parents doing globally?” My partner in crime Ryan (who is my colleague, is my great friend and was my dating advisor) comes to my mind first.
Ryan is an Englishman living in Hong Kong with his fabulous wife Becky, they have THREE of the cutest boys: Noah aged 8 , Reuben aged 7 and Theo at a 18months (and seemingly catching up at an amazing rate). Ryan is a banker, a Tri-athlete, a football (aka soccer) player AND coach, so he is awarded the “Coolest Papa in Hong Kong” by me and our close clan.
Noah & Reuben speak Mandarin, Cantonese (better than me) and English, both of them definitely have their parents’ athletic genes. I have finally convinced my husband to consider that we could accept 15 lamas as an endowment (for one of our daughters) from Ryan, as I bet my money that one of his sons will become celebrity football player with the Barcelona team:-)
Boys are smart and eat & play like Champs, so how do they do it?
Lottie: Use your own words to tell us a little bit about each of the boy…
Ryan: Noah, the natural scholar was born in Syndey and seems to have taken some of that sun and surf into his character. He’s laid back, popular when he fancies but always needs his down time after school, sport or intense social activities, in his bedroom with his Star Wars or Lego figures.
Reuben is already taller, heavier and louder than Noah. What amazes us is the amount of energy he has…and the speed and frequency with which he needs to be refuelled. Rarely shy, seldom playing by himself and frequently the joker of pack. Reuben’s school reports always say ‘plenty of personality’… He considers himself one third Chinese, English and Kititian (St. Kitts, my heritage Caribbean island)
As the youngest of three boys, Theo is learning the hard way. At 17 months he’s walking, running and shouting 1 word commands to all of us. He favourite things are ducks, cars and buses. He has a spectacular left-foot kick, which we encouraging him to use out on the football field rather than inside the house. He next challenge is to master the new balance bike.
Lottie: Tell us what activities & sports the boys do? And do well?
Ryan: Well, we have a busy schedule. Noah and Reuben do the same things (at the moment) after school, which keeps it a bit easy for Becky to do most of the organising. We think we’ve got another year before Reuben starts to ask to do his own thing and Theo starts Kindie. Anyway, our schedule is action packed:
Wednesday: Football squad training
Friday: Night off
At the weekends, i get to take over!
Saturday: On a Saturday morning we’re up and out for football practice or football tournaments.
Sunday: Sunday’s we head to rugby, where Noah is just about to move in contact (Under 9) level. Theo has fun just about every day at the park around the corner!
The thing is that in HK, academic prowess always trumps sport, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to help them try their hand at as much as possible. We tuned into the Olympics as much as possible, so they’re now keen to get gymnastics, trampoline and Triathlons (think the Brownlee Brothers)!
Lottie: I heard they have 5-course meal everyday, what do they eat? And what are their favorite?
Ryan: Ha-Ha. Well they do have great appetites, but it’s not quite a 5-course meal. We are quite disciplined when it comes to sitting down together at the table and family meal and balanced diet. Noah and Reuben love fajitas, pumpkin soup, fried rice and they’re favourite restaurant food would be to go for dim sum – for a treat would go to City Hall in Central. Theo is loving anything with rice and as we just found out, loves a corn a cob!
Lottie: What do they do after school? How do you balance between sports and schoolwork?
Ryan: This is probably the most challenging aspect of living in hong kong. Their homework takes on average an hour each night when you add Chinese, Maths and English topics. Although they’re generally good at completing it, there are still days when it’s a challenge. A lot of their home work is online (not Chinese writing) so we tend to do it on their Kindle before they start their after school activity. Getting them to read isn’t an issue – as noah and reuben are book worms – especially with a library around the corner. To supplement their Mandarin, their tutor comes over on a Saturday morning. Our reading ethic is coming along with Theo too – especially if it has ducks in the picture…
Lottie: How do you manage the tantrum? And fighting?
Ryan: as they’re getting older, we are trying to let them sort out their own disputes. But we do find that we can defuse situations by having them read in separate rooms. The key for us is really to mitigate the confrontations through distractions and routine. They’re all in bed before 7.30pm and we all get up at 7am. So, we find that when they know what’s going on, the elder 2 seem more relaxed with each other. other than homework, they’re not allowed ‘electronic devices’ Monday – Friday as we find they cause more problems than they solve.
Lottie: What is your coming up family adventure?
Ryan: At the weekend afternoons, we do tend to jump in our car to get out to the beach or the country parks. That’s always an adventure with the boys. But our next big adventure is Skiing! last we popped our skiing cherry by heading up to the ClubMed in Yabuli (China). So we’re all looking forward to progressing even more on the slopes next season.