The Endangered Singapore Smile

I brought the kids to East Coast Park to try out the Family Bike It’s $30 per hour, and we rented it from the shop at carpark E2. For the novelty, fun-factor for 6 people (including kids), and for the awesome steering wheels at the front, it was $30 well spent!

It was really fun for the kids, and really tiring for the adults who had to pedal! I was surprised that Ethan and his cousin, Gabriel, could last for an entire hour without asking to get out of their seats.

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Family Bike at East Coast Park, Singapore

 

Along the way, we cycled past many other cyclists – children, families, adults, older people. And we thought, maybe it would be nice to wave and say hello as we passed by!

 

In our brief and unscientific, highly biased social experiment, here are my observations on the Friendliest Strangers at East Coast Park

1. The Malay Family

They were always ready to give a wave and a surprised smile back to our little guys.

2. The Ang Mo (Singapore slang for a Caucasian)

Family, couples or children gave warm smiles and greetings. It felt like it was just an every day thing to them!

3. The Local Pre-teen Child

They gave shy smiles, but at least there was some response!

What about the others?

Those friendly park users were actually quite few and far between. Most people that we passed gave blank stares, or stared kept looking ahead, their eyes shielded behind reflective sunglasses.

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For decades we’ve had campaigns aimed at helping our stressed little nation find a little more joy and happiness. There was the 1996 “Smile Singapore” Campaign that gained international news coverage. The Four Million Smiles campaign in 2006, and more recently, the various initiatives by the Singapore Kindness Movement. It seems we still have some way to go if a gleeful child’s greeting is met with cold stares.

But there is hope. Just today, a few strangers made some friendly conversation with Ethan while he was out with me running some errands at the nearby supermarket and 7-eleven. They were genuine. They were kind. They spoke to him like they valued the opinion of a 2 year old.

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Stay calm and Be Kind! A poster by the Singapore Kindness Movement

So, if you were one of those strangers that smiled at my child that day at the park, if you are the man that helped him pick up his shoe instead of glaring at my barefooted toddler at the supermarket, if you are the uncle that took a moment to show him the interesting plant outside your store… thank you.  You made the world a little brighter.

Have you smiled at someone today?

Don’t let the Monday blues dampen your smile! 🙂

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Did you smile today?

 

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Twin Stroller – My best investment

It was a Saturday, and EJ was working. His mum was at a retreat and his dad suddenly made plans to be out as well. So it was just me and the kids, going solo!

I used to think I could get by with a single stroller for Ethan and putting Elijah in a carrier. But that proved to be too difficult to manage when I needed to be fully hands on for Ethan – during diaper changes, tantrums and when he just wanted to be carried.

So, the number one thing that I’ve found useful in solo outings is the twin stroller. I’ve tried a few.

  1. Merricart ($399) (Similar to Kinderwagon $299)

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This was the first one I bought, and I used it for my nephews before Elijah came along. It is a tandem stroller, and weighs less than 10kg. The back seat reclines to about 160 degrees.

Pros:

  • Easily get through all doors, because it is very narrow
  • Large canopy
  • Lightweight
  • I liked that it was stadium seating, so both children get a nice view. (Although, it also led to some hair-pulling when the kid at the back started to get a little bored)
  • Zipper at the side of the storage basket. This was great for easy access.

Cons:

  • Only the back seat reclines. The front seat barely reclines so only one child can sleep properly.
  • The seat depth is quite shallow. This is ok for small infants, but even when Ethan was less than 2 years old, he would start to slip off if he wasn’t sitting completely upright.
  • The front bumper bar is not removable. With the shallow seat depth and bumper bar, it became quite a task to take Ethan out of the front seat

2. Seebaby double stroller

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Pros:

  • Very easy for the kid at the back to get in and out. And they seemed to enjoy the “freedom” of being less constrained
  • Compact
  • Lightweight (10.3kg)

Cons:

  • The folding mechanism is a little bit of a hassle, and requires both hands
  • When the front seat is fully reclined, the back passenger can’t even stand
  • The back seat is only usable if the front seat is fully upright. If the front seat is slightly reclined, the back passenger will need to stand

So finally, I’ve found a stroller that I LOVE.

3. Maclaren Twin Techno

I bought a second hand one a few weeks ago from Carousell. It is a side-by-side stroller, which initially was a turn off. But I found that it fits through narrow doors and HDB lifts, and the physics of it (just a single row of seats) makes it easier to turn as compared to the front/back strollers that I’ve tried before.

But the best thing is that both seats individually recline, so both kids can sleep (although it is rare to have both sleeping at the same time!). And, without the bumper bar, Ethan can get in and out by himself, which gives him more independence, and is easier for me because he is getting to be quite a weight!

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Both boys are asleep!

It’s a one hand folding mechanism, and collapses into a compact umbrella fold with a convenient carry handle. So, although it weighs in at 12.2kg, it is very manageable.

Cons:

  • The canopies are not big, so it doesn’t block the sun very well, which has caused the kids to wake up from their nap on a few occasions, especially with the recent heat wave we’ve been having
  • It’s difficult to access the storage baskets when the seats are reclined
  • An additional middle handle would be useful when one-handed steering is needed

Overall, it has been one of my best investments. I’ve gone on solo trips on the train, to Gardens by the Bay, to the library, and to Sentosa. I’m looking forward to expanding that list because there’s just something special about hanging out – just me and my boys.

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