The PUFFER Papa
This Father’s Day is dedicated to the playful puffer fish and to my husband, who now leads video conferences to the sound of shuffling Duplo. We celebrate Father’s Day with gifts that are personal and priceless – in every sense of the word.
Without a doubt, the Coronavirus has impacted all of our lives, and fathers have also had to adapt. Fatherhood is more visible than ever. My husband now leads video conference calls while our 3-year-old waves at the camera from his lap while building dragons and at lunch our 2-year-old charges in and shouts “Essenszeit!”.
When there finally is a free moment my boys head for the beach to fish. Since we have moved to Hong Kong, the puffer fish is the only fish they have caught (all are swimming again happily), but has provided countless hours of quality father-and-son time.
“I never knew that in South Africa, my home country, over 60% of children grow up with absent fathers. Father love is an important factor in predicting the social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning of children and young adults. Fathers matter!”
With a lot of fathers currently working from home, the wall between work life and family life has crumbled, and I believe this is a good thing. It shows that men, too, have real families and real children. Although fathers are far more involved in their children’s lives than the generations before them, this pandemic can help normalize the fact that, indeed, men also are care givers.
When searching for Father’s Day online, I was a little baffled that headings of articles on absent fathers popped up far above anything to do with Father’s Day. I never knew that in South Africa, my home country, over 60% of children grow up with absent fathers. In the USA one out of three children live in a home where the biological father is absent.
Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behaviour, and avoid high-risk behaviours such as drug use, truancy, and criminal activity compared to children who have uninvolved fathers.
Father love is an important factor in predicting the social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning of children and young adults.
Increasing father involvement in children’s lives is one of the most important ways to address material and spiritual poverty. Almost every study conducted in the social sciences confirms — fathers matter!
Now can we really dare not to celebrate Father’s Day?
Scroll to the bottom for a few frightening statistics on father absence and correlations with child development, and some fun facts about the puffer fish.
I found these small wooden blocks at a tiny art shop down the road from us, out of which you can make literally anything you like. I opted to make a puzzle from our boys’ hand prints and convert them into puffer fish. You need to look quite closely to see the hand prints, which is part of the beauty to me. Our boys are now at the age where they thoroughly enjoy building puzzles, which makes this gift a great way for them to build it together with their father.
You will need:
1. Wooden blocks from an art shop – otherwise you could cut thick cardboard into pieces
2. Paint in the colour of your choice. Again, I used chalk paint.
3. Paint brush
4. Masking tape
How to make:
a. Stick the puzzle pieces together with masking tape from behind.
b. Paint a child hand palm and press firmly onto the wood, gently putting pressure on each finger. It tickles and our kids love it!
c. Extend the hand prints into an animal of your choice.
Paperless Noughts & Crosses
This game is a classic and is perfect to play between father and son. I have realized that not everyone in Asia knows it, so here are the rules according to Wikipedia: Tic-tac-toe (American English), noughts and crosses (British English), or Xs and Os is a paper-and-pencil game for two players, X and O, who take turns marking the spaces in a 3×3 grid. The player who succeeds in placing three of their marks in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row is the winner.
It is nice to see that our children have strong individual styles in painting the stones.
What you need:
1. Salt clay (scroll down for the recipe)
2. Paint (of course I used chalk paint :)
3. Felt in two colours of your choice (I used turquoise and black)
5. Sewing machine
How to make:
a. Make small balls with the salt clay and flatten them slightly.
b. Bake in the oven at 150°C for about 30 minutes.
c. Paint with a base coat after they have cooled, then let the kids work their wild magic. Once they have dried, paint crosses over the one half and noughts over the other. Store them in a zip-lock bag to protect them from humidity.
d. Cut four felt strips of the one colour (black in my case) and pin them onto the square felt in a hash pattern. Sew over them to secure them.
Kids all say the darnedest things and don’t we sometimes wish we had written down what they have said? This gift solves the problem and is easy to make.
You will need:
1. Tongue depressors
2. Paint in the colour of your choice (indeed, I did use chalk paint…)
3. Fine permanent marker
4. Tin can
5. Paper to decorate
7. All purpose glue
How to make:
a. Let the kids paint the tongue depressors, then write one of their wise statements on each tongue depressor. Be sure to leave enough blanks for the future.
b. Cut a paper to size to wrap around the tin can and decorate it. Stick it to the can and place the tongue depressors inside.
Potato Print Gift Wrap
I love making theme-appropriate gift wrap as it is fun to make, looks thoughtful and is cheaper.
You will need:
3. Paint in the colours of your choice (chalkpaint…)
4. Ikea Kids Paper roll or any large plain paper
Slice the potato in half and cut the desired shape of your stamp out of the cut side (I attempted puffer fish). Dab paint onto the stamp and press firmly onto the paper. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
You will need:
a. 2 cups Cake flour (you can replace ½ cup cake flour with corn starch for a smoother texture)
b. 1 cup Salt
c. 1 cup Water
d. 2 tablespoons oil
1. Mix cake flour and salt together in a mixing bowl.
2. Add the water and knead until a smooth dough forms. The dough should not stick to your hands. Should it be sticky, add a little more flour.
Father absence statistics show frightening correlations with the following:
- 4 x greater risk of poverty
- More likely to have behavioural problems
- More likely to go to prison
- More likely to commit a crime
- 7 x more likely to become pregnant as a teen
- More likely to face abuse and neglect
- More likely to abuse drugs and alcohol
- 2 x more likely to suffer obesity
- 2 x more likely to drop out of school
(taken from National Fatherhood Initiative https://www.fatherhood.org/father-absence-statistic)
The playful (and poisonous!) PUFFER
The puffer fish is a remarkable animal. The majority of them are extremely toxic when eaten, nevertheless some species are considered a delicacy in Japan, Korea and China when prepared by a trained chef who knows which parts are safe to eat. The internal organs and sometimes the skin contain tetrodotoxin, which is 1200 times more toxic than cyanide, and there is no antidote for it. In some species, the males woo the females by building spectacular geometric nests on the ocean floor.
They are curious fish and seem to be quite intelligent. There is footage of a puffer swimming up to a group of divers for a head scratch and back massage in Oahu, Hawaii. They are most certainly smart and playful creatures, and undoubtedly underestimated.