Does the Dad in your life need some inspo on where to take the kids? We talk to some of the coolest Dads in Singapore to get their tips on where to go and what to do with kiddos in tow!
Benjamin Lee – perhaps better known to Singaporeans by his blogging pseudonym Mr Miyagi – has long entertained us with his witty, thoughtful takes on life in Singapore. In recent years, he’s become particularly reflective on fatherhood; his son, Kai, is 10, and is quite literally a high-flyer – check out this video of him teaching Joseph Schooling how to do indoor skydiving!
We recently caught up with Ben, his Japanese-Taiwanese wife Naomi, and Kai at iFLY Singapore, where Ben put himself in his son’s capable hands and learned how to soar alongside him. Read on for more of Ben’s thoughts on raising a child in Singapore, including his favorite father-son hangout spots!
How long have you lived in Singapore for?
I was born in Singapore, so that makes it a little under 50 years!
How did the name “Mr Miyagi” come about, and when did you start blogging?
It was on a grey Saturday on one of Sydney’s suburban paddocks. I played halfback for Lane Cove’s fourth grade, and got hit hard off the ball. My tormentor stood over me saying, “get up Mr Miyagi”, thinking that a racist taunt would rub salt in it. I expected my teammates to avenge that slight, as you would for the smallest teammate on the field. But everyone burst out laughing, so I figured the best thing was to wear it with pride.
I started blogging back around 2002, when my friends told me nicely that while they loved my writing them lengthy emails, there was this thing called a blog that I should check out. I found it fun, the media found it entertaining, and I got a bit of attention there.
Do you see differences raising a son in Singapore today compared to when you were growing up?
The tired cliché “it was a much simpler time” certainly applies. This place has seen such rapid change that parenting was really a very different proposition then. And of course, the generational difference would’ve been much more pronounced: my father arrived in Singapore on a migrant boat from China and was put to work in a kopitiam at the age of 7. His idea of childhood and mine were vastly different.
Tell us something quirky about yourself?
I’m the non-Japanese in the family, but most often mistaken for one.
How do you and your wife expose your son to each of his parents’ cultures?
We get the best of several worlds! Mom-in-Law is instructed to speak only Mandarin to Kai. I don’t speak Japanese (but I’m gonna use my SkillsFuture money to take lessons), so Kai has a ‘secret language’ with Naomi when he wants to keep something from me. As far as we can, we tell Kai about his dual heritage, and he’s extremely proud of both. The other advantage to living in Singapore is that Singaporeans are almost obsessed with Japanese culture — so quite a bit of it is easily accessible.
What’s your favorite outdoor spot to hang out with your son?
We actually don’t do enough of it — but it’s the beach. Any beach. (With a bar so that I get my beer and he gets a virgin mojito.).
What part of Singapore do you live in? What do you like about it?
Bukit Timah. I’m grateful for how green it is — we’ve got macaques terrorising us, as well as a bunch of jungle fowl that call the neighbourhood home.
Favorite playground in Singapore?
At this point in Kai’s life? BOUNCE, the indoor trampoline park at Orchard Cineleisure.
Best spot for coffee when you’re on early-morning Dad duty?
Our kitchen at home! He’s usually up reading while I’m catching up on emails.
Any favorite bedtime book recommendations?
Kai’s got a voracious appetite for reading, and he’s kinda past bedtime stories, but we’re still up for a good yarn about our day and the latest developments in space exploration. So I’d say anything I read on the NASA website. It’s always a joy watching him drift off to sleep imagining his own participation in space travel.
Any favorite apps/games to play with your son?
Any educational apps with Augmented Reality – there’s this one called Froggipedia for the iPad that lets you dissect an AR frog. Great for learning biology without the actual mess.
What’s your favorite activity to do with your son when Mom’s not around?
Mario Kart on Nintendo Switch.
What’s your favorite restaurant to bring your son to in Singapore?
Omakase Burger at Wisma Atria
What are your favorite date night restaurants?
Anything that my wife hankers for; that’d usually be a Korean restaurant.
Do you have a favorite shop?
I like looking and fiddling with gadgets, so the Apple Store is a frequent destination, as is Best Denki or Harvey Norman. Sim Lim Square is probably the most dangerous on the wallet.
Where do you like to train/exercise?
In my mind. I’m trying to change that, seeing as Kai is so much more active than I am. I mean, he’s a pro-athlete at indoor skydiving, while I have trouble even getting onto a “Couch to Corridor” fitness programme!
What are your favorite holiday destinations with your kids?
Skiing in Japan. Niseko is a favourite — we’ve been five times!
Thank you Ben, Kai and Naomi for sharing such a fun afternoon with us! And thank you, as ever, to the fabulous Irina Nilsson Photography for the fantastic action shots!