Konichi-WOW: Parenting in Tokyo,the world’s largest City |Expat Mama in Japan

 

 

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Victoria and her adorable son, William, a Lego Aficionado! (AmericanExpats in Japan)

It’s time to get to know another awesome Expat-Mama!

We had an amazing series of wonderful Expat -Mamas & Papa around the World last year, and to start off this year, we have a very interesting feature —Victoria, an American Expat-Mama living in Tokyo, Japan with her husband,Nicholas, and their handsome young man, William (2.5 years old).

Konichi WOW: Parenting in Tokyo, the World’s Largest City

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Living in Tokyo- the largest, and probably the most fascinating city !

Tokyo in a glimpse

Tokyo-The most populous city , probably the most bizarre and yet fascinating metropolitan with more than 35 million people living in it.Tokyo is not only known for iconic city that was chosen by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to host the 2020 Summer Games,but it is also one big magnet for Expat families. Japan regularly touted as the safest for children and was the 4th (fourth) best place to raise children, according to HSBC’s 2014 survey results.Tokyo is one of safest capital cities in the world, too.

Only in Tokyo that people reserve their seats in Starbucks by leaving their wallets and designer bags on the table!  In general, residents respect personal space and privacy, and public spaces are remarkably clean.

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Adventures with a toddler on the move

Victoria’s Background

Victoria is the  Lifestyle Travel Blogger behind teafordinosaurs.com. Originally from Chicago, she spent the past ten years of her life living in Milwaukee.  When her husband received a job offer in Tokyo, they chose to embrace the adventure.

Pre- baby, she was a Marketing Director for a nonprofit organization. In her free time, she managed an online shop and danced professionally for the Milwaukee Brewers. Post- baby, she chose to be a stay at home mom. She continued to manage her eBay shop and added an Etsy shop to the mix. In preparation for their move to Tokyo, she closed up both shops and shifted her attention to creating a blog about travel, expat life and parenthood.

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Livin’the Expat life in Tokyo!

Share something about the current country you are living in and notable aspects – (food, leisure, nature, quality of life, childcare, education etc.) local customs & culture, attractions, family oriented activities and raising your kids as an expat.

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Enjoying a train ride with Daddy !

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Tokyo is quite different from Milwaukee as you may have guessed. The streets are crowded, there is a language barrier, driving is weird and we are away from our friends and family. However, it is also very safe, surprisingly quiet, and extremely accessible even with a toddler in tow.

On City Living

 For the most part, I love living in the city, especially Tokyo. There is always something to see or do even with a toddler in tow. Our apartment location couldn’t be any more convenient with a metro station right outside and 24 hour valet parking at our building. Still, getting around via train or car or taxi just takes a while. I miss walking out my back door, hopping in my car, and being somewhere, anywhere, within 15 minutes. The train is always at least 4o minutes for me because I’m traveling with William, and although traffic isn’t crazy, it goes slow and there are a ton of traffic lights. Having said that, even walking places takes a while due to all the lights and the fact that no one jay walks. People follow rules here and jay walking is illegal…

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The Kawaii culture

This is the Japanese word for cute. We hear it a lot due to having a blonde, two-year old in tow. Of course everyone wants to hear that their kid is cute but a couple of times people (harmless) have rubbed William’s head which is pretty strange. I just hope they’ve gone on to receive plentiful riches from the good luck they’ve acquired.

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Tokyo is very kid-friendly. Restaurants have kid settings and cups. Train stations have elevators. Department stores have play areas. Family bathrooms are everywhere. Talking about food, It’s all good, and you can find any cuisine you want.

One of the first things you learn about parenting in Japan is  that even very young children are expected to be independent and self-reliant enough to go to school unaccompanied, even if it means taking a city bus or train and traversing busy streets.

On Preschool

We decided to send William to school about three months into living here. We wanted him to interact with other kids his age, become familiar with listening and following a routine outside of our home. Plus, let’s be honest, Momma needs a break! I toured roughly ten different schools and on the low-end figures were coming in around $6,000 – $8,000 a year for two, half days a week. I’m all for early education but that is some serious cash to shell out for 7 hours a week! Eventually, I found a nursery school that fit our budget and needs for this year. It’s not my dream preschool, but we like it and it’s perfect for William’s first “school” experience.

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Where is ‘Home’ for an Expat Kid? 

On Language Barrier

 It’s not impossible to get around or enjoy Japan without speaking any Japanese. Most signs and the entire metro system are also in English. Hotels speak English and restaurants usually have an English menu or the point and nod works. Still, when you’re actually living here and say, want to return a sweater, it’s frustrating. More so frustrating because we take a language lesson once a week and I still feel like I don’t have the words when I need them.

Or relocating with your kids to another country? What are the common adjustments or struggles you’ve overcome?

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Off to a new adventure, new chapter!

Relocating with a two year old was relatively pain free (aside from breaking the news to your family and friends). Our son adjusted remarkably well and now at about 2.5 is starting to grasp the concept that we have two different houses that are very far away from each other.

My parenting style hasn’t changed too much since living in Tokyo. If anything, I am much more relaxed about letting my son explore and interact with new people. We are fortunate to live in a huge city that is extremely safe, of course it’s not perfect but it’s much different from the constant “stranger danger” mentality of the States.

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On Work-Family Balance

One of our biggest challenges was adjusting to the work life balance (or lack thereof) in Japan. My husband works much longer hours than back home and it took a few months to really find a groove and get acquainted with our new normal. I think what helped the most was allowing our life here to be something entirely different from we were used to back home. New place, new routine.

What is your opinion about raising your kid as a third culture kid? ( TCK means a third culture that your child is growing up with compared to the culture of your husband/spouse )

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Are you happy that you are raising an Expat Kid?

I am very happy to be raising an expat kid. We have been able to show him so much of the world before he’s even turned 3! Although he may not remember all of the experiences, I absolutely believe it has strengthened his ability to communicate, problem solve and understand the world around him. An obvious downside is being away from family, with such a huge time difference, phone calls can be tough. Going home twice a year and having family come to visit us here in Tokyo is a huge help and makes the time go by much faster also. As a bonus, we’re getting really good at taking looonng flights!

How do you make an impact as an Expat Mama in your country of residence?

At about two months in to living in Tokyo, I realized that making friends would take some effort. I created a playgroup via Facebook to bring together expat families within our area of the city. I enjoy planning the monthly events and love that the group members are able to network with one another. It’s always nice to know you aren’t alone especially when you are all in the same boat of trying to figure out life in a drastically different place.

Thank you so much Victoria for being part of this amazing series and sharing your life with us. It is a pleasure to meet you!

P.S.

All images used in this post are owned by Victoria and TeaforDinosaurs Blog. Should you want to use it, please mention or do inform her.

Want to follow TeaforDinosaurs ‘s Expat adventures in Tokyo? Follow Victoria in her Instagram account Here and her Facebook page .

Enjoyed reading about Expat parenting story like this? If you love this post, please share it with your friends and if you wanted to share your own Expat Mama/Papa story, please drop me an email in justbluedutch@gmail.com or leave your comments below!

 

 

My daughter’s first love

Before my daughter was born, I knew that she will be the other woman in my husband’s life. I am sure all the other mothers out there can relate to my thoughts.There is no better view to look at for us to see when we see that our children are raised closely in the guidance of their father.

As Sigmund Freud says;

 I cannot think of any need in Childhood stronger as the need for a Father’s protection. 

A child who knows they are protected can grow up feeling safe and secure. Emotions are strong in childhood, and often fear is one of the strongest emotions of all.  A Papa’s arms are strong and fearless and to a child, they bring safety and peace.

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Dear child , The world is your playground ,go on and explore.

A father’s perspective fulfills every child’s need for exploration and adventure

“Fathers represent another way of looking at life — the possibility of an alternative dialogue.” While we, as  mothers focus a great deal on raising perfect children, fathers have a different perspective. They let children dress themselves, choose their own breakfast, jump in mud puddles and swing on ropes tied to the rafters.

My husband let Natalie explore on her own but guiding her by her side. He encourages more free-play. He lets her climb & let her learn how to climb down. He has taught her how to safely descend safely from the  stairs & chairs. He is trying his best to make “palm tree ” ( or ponytails) in her ever messy hair. I love the way He put on her clothes that are totally as per his own taste and haste !

Fathers allow children to explore and give them freedom that usually isn’t allotted them by their mother. This different perspective is good for children because it gives them the opportunity to explore, to go on adventures, and to live in their make believe worlds.

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A father’s love is endless. When a father gets involved, He is parenting in his own way.

“The greatest mark of a father is how he treats his children when no one is looking.”

In Netherlands,  Papadag (Or Daddy’s day ) has become a standard norm. This is included in the calendar of every working father’s calendar. It’s the time of the week where in the father takes a day off from work to spend time & take care of his child. Isn’t this amazing?Dutch fathers take more an equal role in parenting and being more hands-on. 

Studies show that if your child’s father is affectionate, supportive, and involved, he can contribute greatly to your child’s cognitive, language, and social development, as well as academic achievement, a strong inner core resource, sense of well-being, good self-esteem, and authenticity.

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Any man can be a father but it takes someone special to be a Father.
I am writing this post to give credit to fathers who are involved in parenting their child. One of the things that I have learned as a new mother is that when your husband respect you as the mother of his child, eventually He is an involved Father. With the stress of bearing the responsibilities of being the head of the family, His efforts should not be underestimated.

So next time you see your husband spends more time with your child, be grateful.Let him. Give the encouragement that He needs & deserves.Your child will reap the benefits of this. Do not think of it as He is sharing the “chore “but rather look at it as “He is doing his own way of Parenting “.

It is important to recognize and reward fathers  for being there, and actively teaching important life skills to children. It is important to their children, and meaningful to dads everywhere when you say “Thank you, job well done.” This, after all, is what makes life worth living. This is our own  true legacy: ensuring the health and well-being of our children : the future generation.

What is your parenting style? Do you also value the concept of  Papadag?

The art of Slowing down at child’s pace

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Lessons learned from  raising a Toddler

My daughter, Natalie is a great teacher. She’s only 18 months and yet she have taught me far greater & deep lesson about Caring with Respect, a valuable lesson that I needed for my age, and at this time of my life. I never learned this from school, but only through life with her.She have given me the Gift of Slowing down in life, at her own pace.

We loved to take a walk together. This is one way that we bond. Oftentimes, when we get down from our building, we took the elevator. But as soon as we are out, my daughter immediately run to the stairs and starts climbing. Up & down she goes. I always grab her by both hands and pull her back to get on with our walk & immediately she pull her hand out from my grip & go on her way. We do this maybe for a couple of times but she has her own ways to go back again to the stairs. One time after scooping her up, she just screamed,cried & refused to walk. The next time we are going out and she did the same, I let go of her. She go on her own way, she climbed the stairs, up & down for a couple of times while I just stood there, watching her. She’s looking back at me from time to time & smiled . Then she continued with her “ways”. After 3 rounds, she came up to me and pulled my hand, going to the direction of the main door so we can go on for our walk. This time, she was willing. She was finally ready. I learned that just being prepared & present for her helped her. Now I fully understand what does it really mean to “walk with her “. Its not about my pace, but hers.

Recently I found out something unusual with her. I didn’t notice the change until I evaluate what have I done. Normally when she woke up, she cried and refused to go back to sleep unless I stayed with her. I used to do things without telling her what I’m planning to do with her. This always result that she gets upset. I felt like I need to do it in a rush way like changing her diaper, leaving the room, pulling out her onesies, or brushing her teeth. But lately, I decided to talk to her more often of what I want to do instead of doing it while she’s caught off-guard. I decided to take my time, to slow down & care with respect. To let her know if I am going to remove her diaper and wash her, or inform her that I am going to the kitchen to get her milk, or telling her I’m going to brush her teeth. Her reaction changed. She became more calm, more tolerant. She was there waiting for me, as if she really understood me. This really struck me. She let go of her defenses and behaved. This time, I finally knew the power of Narrating what was happening & just observing more to understand her needs better.

Many times, I see my toddler as uncooperative, as whining, and difficult. But I never evaluated my own actions as demanding, insensitive or harsh. But when I started to look deeper at my actions as a parent,I was really dumbfounded why I never realized these things before. I know for most of us parents whose both hands are full with work & day-to day responsibilities, it’s not always easy to be fully present and attuned to a baby or young child who can’t keep up physically or verbally to let you know, “Hey wait a minute! Slow down! “We thought we are always in-charge, that our child are all helpless creatures. We forget that although they may not be physically agile as we are, they have feelings, their perception of things is developing and therefore this stage is critical.

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Educating while caring : Slowing down at child’s pace.

I was deeply moved by the gift of slowing down to a child’s pace and the humbling  lesson  I have learned about “Educaring”. Educaring  means that we should educate while we care, and care while we educate; that these two things are intertwined. So the intimate caregiving activities of feeding, diapering, bathing, and dressing a baby, provide valuable opportunities for a baby to learn about himself and also about others, about the people who care for him. And these are also valuable opportunities for relationship building between parent and child.

The art of Slowing down at a pace of a child illustrates the profound connection and joy available to both parents and young children when we can slow down just a little to be present with, and allow for what naturally unfolds, leaving our agenda behind, and trusting our children to be active participants in their own experience, recognizing that they have a point of view too.

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Babies, even toddlers knows best.Let them eat sand if she like. She does it anyway!

How do we do this? How can we slow down at their own pace and educate them while caring?

I wanna share with you  what I have learned from the excerpt of the book “Baby knows best”  : Raising a Confident & Resourceful Child , the RIE way by Deborah Carlisle Solomon. I didn’t know that these things are so relative and yet it really opened my eyes. This definitely changed my relationship with my daughter.Here are some helpful tips ;

1 – Slow down. Just slowing down creates a sense of peacefulness and allows even a young baby to follow what’s happening. When you think about the difference in how you feel when you’re rushing or even just moving at a brisk pace versus when you take the time to move slowly, it’s not surprising that this would have such a difference for babies.

2 – Practice telling your baby what you’re going to do, before you do it. “I’d like to pick you up now. I’m going into the other room and I’ll be right back.” When we are in the habit of telling the baby what we’re going to do, the baby can relax. She knows there’s going to be no surprises.

3-Tarry time -It’s the time between when you tell the baby what’s going to happen and when you actually do it. So after you tell the baby “I’m going to pick you up now,” you tarry, or wait for her to process what’s been said and let you know she’s ready. She might raise her arms up or have a look on her face of anticipation and you’ll know that now she’s ready to be picked up. This is important because babies take more time to process than we do. If we just say we’re going to pick you up and then pick up the baby, it will still feel very abrupt for the baby and she won’t be able to quite keep up with what’s going on.

Childhood is fleeting. Time flies so fast that we might not realize it when were so absorbed by the hustle & bustle of parenting. But as for me, I wanted to grow along with my child as she learns from me and vice versa. It is more important than ever to remember that the simple act of slowing down and giving our full attention is a gift that we can give to our children, and to ourselves.

Can you relate to this post?

Or what have you learned about slowing down in Life to appreciate more of it?

I wish that you find your inspiration everyday.Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

My Daughter is a TCK (Third Culture Kid)

” A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture.”

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A third culture Kid 

My daughter, Natalie is a TCK . ( or better understood as Third Culture Country Kid.) She was  born in Kuwait  from a Dutch father, Filipino mother and currently being raised in not-so quintessential Arabic culture  in Kuwait. In a few more months, she will be attending  a Kindertagesstätte in Germany  where she will be stomping her feet with other kids and learn ABC   with other toddlers of her same age.  At her critical stage of language development, we hope that she learn Deutsch along the way.  Right now,at 18 months, she’s exposed to a bilingual home. Since birth, we  talked to her in English, but occasionally converse with her in Tagalog, Dutch & now German. I am not so sure which language will she eventually  be able to pick-up quickly,  Smorgasborg eh?

She loved to play with other Expat Kids in the parks &  playgroups. She interacts with multi-lingual children , most of them are 2-4 years ahead of her either speaking Arabic, Lebanese, Egyptian, Kuwaiti & American. In Kuwait, seeing a TCK is quite a norm. With the booming Expat community here, it’s no wonder that there are so many half-nationalities.It’s unlikely that my neighbor in the new building are French-Italian, Romanian-Lebanese, or Filipino-American. This diversity is coming hand in hand as Kuwait grows into a multi-cultural hub for Expatriates . She is exposed to Arabic culture and the norm of childhood here in Middle East.The other night, I had visitors at home and they were utterly surprised why she is watching nursery rhymes in German and Dutch children’s books.  They asked, what will be her mother-tongue? Hilarious but the child doesn’t know. At least not yet.

This is a typical part of common early childhood of  a TCK.  A child born away from her parent’s own culture have a unique childhood, even a special one. What they call home once they grow older might be confusing ,the dilemma is real but in a way, having an Expat parents gives them the  privilege to see the world in an expanded way. At an early age, TCK have the chance to have a cross-cultural competence or cultural intelligence : the capacity to function effectively across national, ethnic, and organizational cultures. I have touched this on my post about 10 Surprising things about Parenthood in Kuwait and the challenges I have faced as I adapt on new culture along with my child.

As a new mother, I am very concerned about this fact. Myself , as the parent, is the ultimate responsible for my daughter’s early development and the path she goes along her adulthood. For now, she couldn’t decide yet for herself. That is why its very important for Expat parents to consider the well-being of their young tots and not just the financial, social & personal reasons of migrating from one place to another.  As I engrossed myself on learning more about this, I am fully aware that my daughter could face challenges ahead, (which is quite normal ) . One of the challenges that  a third culture child could face  is developing a sense of belonging, commitment, and attachment to a culture. When you moved from country to country for work, relocation or personal reasons, you dragged your child into these changes. With adults, it is a different sense of adapting to a new culture, so as with the children. What happens in their early years of childhood has a definite impact when they grow up.

Now why am I talking about this? Because this is an Expat Blog & I am sharing from my personal experience  & my thoughts on this matter. I know that soon, when my daughter grows-up, it would be inevitable for the question “Where is my Home ? ” for her not to come across with. Maybe she would even develop a love& hate relationship for the question “Where are you from? ” 

I wanted to share a relatable documentary film that talks more about TCK. Aspiring film-maker Aga Alegra and her international, multi-cultural team are now trying to explore the lives of TCKs in the upcoming documentary “Where Is HOME?” which shows us different perspectives of people who have spent a significant portion of their childhood overseas. It has an ultimate purpose of understanding why Third Culture Kids struggle to answer the question of “So Where is Home? ” and the implications this difficulty has on their personal identity.

What I have learned from watching this documentary is that TCK ‘s life can be the best life that your child could have.It doesn’t need to complicate things. When your child is exposed to early realities of life then these values can strengthen their character as they learn these things along the way. We, as parents need to guide them to have  the ability to feel at home anywhere in the world and the ability to easily connect with everyone on this beautiful planet. To pass on to our children what we have learned  to recreate a sense of community for ourselves with each move . To be there for our kids when they feel that they  are generally the odd-ones-out in each new community. We need to be on guard , to quickly find common ground in order to understand those around us so we can be a better example for our children. Remember, no matter where you go, your home is the only place your child feel that she’s accepted, belonged, safe & most importantly, Loved.

But as of now, I am ready for this ride, I don’t know yet what the future might brings to us after our move to Germany  but  I am excited for all the new things that we are learning in our Expat life, and with our TCK toddling away with us. I know there would be more challenges, but I also remind myself  there are also more fun &   that’s what makes life fulfilling. Every stamp on our passport does not mean travel, it means Life.

Can you relate on this post? How about you, how  are you coping as an Expat family and your child as a Third Culture Kid?

Do you have any unusual stories being a TCK?

 

 

 

 

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