Posts Tagged parenting

Raising a bilingual Japanese-Canadian kid

For those new to my blog, I’m a Canadian man married to a Japanese woman living in Winnipeg, Canada. We have one child – an energetic boy who is quickly approaching his 5th birthday. For the purposes of the blog, he is named Tiny Dog after a nickname in The Secret Life of Pets.

It’s important to both of us that Tiny Dog grow up comfortable in either one of his countries. We’d like him to be fluent in both English and Japanese, and to understand the culture of Canada and Japan. At home The Penpal speaks to him in Japanese and I speak to him in English.

Living in Winnipeg, it’s much easier to have him exposed to English. He speaks it at preschool and hears it just about everywhere. Many of his friends speak English exclusively, with a few speaking English as their second language.

Keeping Tiny Dog exposed to Japanese takes a bit more work. Fortunately, even with the small Japanese community in Winnipeg, there are quite a few Japanese or half-Japanese kids of a similar age. When they get together, we try to keep them speaking Japanese as much as possible. There are enough kids to support a Japanese kids reading group, where the kids go to hear stories in Japanese. This group also organizes a book exchange, which is a nice alternative to everyone ordering Japanese language books from overseas.

At home, we subscribe to TV Japan and try to make sure that some of Tiny Dog’s TV time is spent watching Japanese language shows. His grandparents have enrolled us in an educational program called “Kodomo Challenge“; every few months we get a new educational DVD, workbooks, and some really cool toys. We also talk to his Japanese grandparents every weekend on Skype.

Our bilingual home has produced a few fun quirks. The first is that Tiny Dog refuses to watch any Studio Ghibli movies in English. He gets seriously upset if we try. The second is that Tiny Dog angrily reminds his mother not to speak Japanese around English speaking adults or kids. “No Mommy, you speak English now!!”

I expect that as Tiny Dog gets older, we will experience some of the pushback that other parents have reported. At a certain age, the kids don’t want to speak any Japanese at home because their friends don’t do that. I’m hoping we can find a way to work through this.

If you are raising a bilingual kid I’d love to hear some of your experiences. Let me know what has worked for you! In the meantime, I’m off to watch some Peppa Pig in Japanese.

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“Macho Friend” Randy Savage

Most of what I post on this blog happened years ago, but today I’m posting about something from the present. Yesterday was the first time I watched a wrestling match with my son.

One of my favourite things about being a parent is taking my son Tiny Dog (obviously not his real name) to different places and events. We have seen museums, theme parks, playgrounds, the circus, and live music, but I’m really looking forward to the day when I take him to his first wrestling show. I’m planning to take him when he’s a bit older (he’s only 4 now), but thanks to the wonder of Youtube, I decided to give him a bit of a sample of what pro-wrestling is all about.

I was lucky enough to grow up during the Hulkamania era of pro wrestling. The show was cheesy, over the top, and something that the family could watch. At the time I suspected, but didn’t know for sure that I wasn’t watching a legitimate athletic contest. It was a fun time to be a wrestling fan! My parents took my sister and I to see WWF (now WWE) every time they came to Winnipeg.

The good memories from my youth influenced the match choice for my son. I decided on a Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage match from 1985. This is during the second year of Hogan’s title reign; it was so old that he was still using Eye of the Tiger as his entrance music! The match itself is a textbook example of a cowardly, cheating heel vs. a superhero babyface. There were probably about 20 moves in total performed in 20 minutes and the crowd went nuclear for each one of them.

Tiny Dog’s reactions to the match were hilarious. He was upset that Hogan tore off his shirt and threw it at the start of the match. Why would he rip his shirt? He thought Macho Man was the good guy because he had a sparkly cape and a pretty girlfriend. He kept asking me where Hogan’s girlfriend was. There were some kids in Hulkamania gear in the front row – Tiny Dog wanted to invite them to our house for a play date. When I asked him who he thought would win, he picked Macho Man. What a mark – Savage never beats Hogan!!

I loved Tiny Dog’s reactions, but my favourite part was Randy Savage’s changing name. During the match, Tiny Dog referred to him as Macho Man, Macho Guy, and Macho Friend. Macho Friend was pretty cool, but I’m not sure that it would sell a lot of t-shirts.

After our viewing experience, I’m even more excited for the day that I can take my son to his first wrestling show. If we are still in Winnipeg, I expect we will see Canadian Wrestling’s Elite, a modern take on the classic wrestling territory operated by wrestler and booker “Hotshot” Danny Duggan. I’m looking forward to an afternoon of cheering the faces and booing the heels with my kid. Hopefully this will not be followed by any chairshots to daddy at home.

Long Live the Macho Friend!

 

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June 28, 2017 part 3 – Vacation is very different as a parent

The Penpal and I love traveling together! Our destination highlights include numerous places in Japan, Korea (the nice one, not the crazy one), Jamaica, Banff, Niagara Falls, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, San Francisco, and even Fargo, North Dakota.

There is something about being away from work and home that really makes a person feel, how can I put this delicately, energetic? Our previous vacations have always allowed us freedom to spend some “quality spouse time” together. (Yes, even in Fargo)

This trip to Japan is the first out of town vacation that The Penpal and I have taken since we became parents. We found that while the spirit was willing, the opportunities were severely limited due to the presence of our wonderful child.

On previous trips to Japan, a visit to another city would have been a golden opportunity to really enjoy our vacation. This time we had a tiny person sleeping in our room. Making the problem worse is the fact that Japanese hotels have very small bathrooms which are not at all friendly for extracurricular activities.

Vacation just isn’t the same as it used to be.

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June 26, 2017 – My kid is addicted to medal games

I have written about medal games before and 10 years later I still don’t understand the appeal. One person who does understand is my son, Tiny Dog. He is absolutely addicted to medal games.

The idea of the game is to buy a bunch of small metallic discs (medals) and feed them into a machine, aiming at a moving tray covered in more medals. The goal is to have your medal push some of the other medals to the lower level. This in turn (hopefully) pushes even more medals off the lower level and out of the machine. The medals you win can then be fed back into the machine in hopes of winning even more. Some machines offer fancy bonuses which will randomly dump more medals into the playing area while lights blink and music plays. It’s total sensory overload.

It’s worth noting that you can’t actually do anything with the medals you win other than play medal games.

TD saw his first medal machine a few days ago in Yokohama. Today we played the game above at Ito Yokado, and also got some time on the medal games in Bivi near the station. In total he probably logged about an hour on the games and I likely spent about $50. If I had kept buying more medals he would have kept playing.

Originally I thought that our medal game experience was a waste of time and money. Looking back I’m happy that TD had fun doing something uniquely Japanese that he couldn’t do in Canada. Also, any quality time I can spend with my kid is a good thing.

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June 25, 2017 – Adventures in Yokohama

Today I got my fist sample of solo travel with a 3 year old. By the end of the day I was exhausted.

Whenever we return to Japan, The Penpal makes some time to check in with her church. The main branch is in Shin-Yokohama, conveniently accessible by shinkansen. We discussed and decided that Tiny Dog likely didn’t have the patience to spend a few hours at church, so we would both take separate trips to Yokohama and meet up for dinner with some of The Penpal’s friends.

The Penpal’s father dropped TD and I off at Mishima station around noon. Before boarding the train, we picked up some ekiben (train station lunch boxes) to eat on the ride to Yokohama. The clerk was surprised that TD thanked him in Japanese. It’s still funny the different reactions people have to TD depending on which parent he is traveling with.

TD munched away on sandwiches and rice balls on the shinkansen ride to Yokohama. His face was pressed against the window, jumping back in delight every time we entered a tunnel. This train ride was a lot more fun than the 15 minute subway ride from Shin-Yokohama to Sakuragicho; with nothing to see out the windows TD got bored quickly. I made a mental note to take above ground trains as much as possible in the future.

From Sakuragicho, we started our long walk towards Landmark Tower, Japan’s tallest building. The entire area around the tower is fantastic to visit: there are stores, restaurants, rides, games, and endless other fun things to do. Even with all of these distractions, TD was most impressed by the walking escalator that took us towards the tower.

We took the elevator to the observation deck on the 69th floor and were greeted by spectacular views of Yokohama, Kawasaki, and Tokyo. TD was impressed with the view for about 5 minutes, and then decided that it would be more fun to run laps around the building. We compromised and got ice cream near one of the windows while I tried to take as many pictures as possible.

On the way down, TD tried to touch the elevator doors as they closed. The elevator attendant said “yubi wo chui kudasai”, which TD translated into English for me as “Daddy be careful your fingers”. Everyone laughed at the sight of a 3 year old wearing Canadian flags translating for his gaijin father.

Instead of taking you back to the entrance, the elevator down from Landmark tower takes you to the 5th floor of a massive shopping center. As we walked through we found possibly the most exciting store ever for a 3 year old kid: The Tomy store. The entire display window was filled with an elaborate display of purarail (plastic train sets) and Tomy car tracks. We pushed our way into the store and TD spent about half an hour looking and playing with the display along with a mob of other children.

I eventually dragged him out of the Tomy Store and we walked to Cosmo World to play games. We wisely avoided the giant ferris wheel and waterslides, and ended up playing medal games (again). Getting him out of Cosmo World involved crying, bargaining, and eventually me having to carry him all the way back to the station. I should note that the humidity was about 6 million percent, and a fussy child is actually a portable space heater. By the time I got him to the station I had sweated through my shirt.

After some very busy Sunday afternoon trains we met up with The Penpal and some of her friends for dinner in a restaurant that was inexplicably not visible on Google Maps. By the time dinner was done, Tiny Dog and I were ready for sleep, but we still had a long trip back to Numazu.

Our adventures in Yokohama were a lot of fun, and my day was a great learning experience. Also, I have nothing but respect for single parents who try to get anything done.

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April 12, 2005 – Raising kids in Japan

Today was another rainy day in Numazu. It literally rained all day. When you don’t have a car, rainy days can limit your ability to get around, at least if you are concerned about staying dry.

In the evening I went out for dinner at Bikkuri Donkey with The Penpal, one of her female friends, and the friend’s young son. The Penpal’s friend wanted to get her son some exposure to English from a native speaker. This is not uncommon – I have found that Japanese people put a higher value on the English they learn from native speakers, even speakers not trained as teachers, than English they learn from a Japanese teacher.

Over dinner, we talked about differences in how kids are raised in Japan and Canada. I was surprised to learn that in Japan it was common for children to share a futon with their mother from the time they are born until they start school. This would be very inconvenient for the father, and also very inconvenient for increasing the family size. I explained that in Canada, it’s common for children to have their own room, depending on the culture of the parents. This was surprising to both The Penpal and her friend, who had lots of questions about how a parent would know if child needs something. It was an interesting discussion for everyone except the young son.

Note to self: if I am going to raise children in Japan, have the discussion about where the children are going to sleep BEFORE making the children.

(2015 Update) As the proud parent of a 1 year old half Canadian, half Japanese boy, I can inform my wonderful readers that we came to a compromise on where our son would sleep. We are currently living in Canada, and sleeping in a nice, cushy queen sized bed. For about the first 6 months, our son slept in a bassinet in our room so we had easy access to him. After that, he moved to his own room across the hall to sleep in a crib. We can hear him easily from our room, and have a portable baby monitor for when we are anywhere else in the house.

I am sure our arrangement would have been different if we were living in Japan or sleeping on a futon, but I think we came to a good compromise.

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