Sunday, January 12, 2014


Hi readers! Happy New Year. Speaking of which, here's my New Year's column running in this month's That's Beijing/Shanghai/Guangzhou magazines.

*  *  *

I've never been one for the annual round of self-flagellating personal improvement pledges known as New Year's resolutions. I've usually just stuck to one: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

But this year in the parallel universe that is Expatland, China, a freaky celestial event is happening. We get two New Year's Days in one month! The Chinese one comes up on January 31, while the western one this year fell on January the first.

If my memory of school serves me, this could very well be what's called a Blue Moon. And since that fits my schedule for making New year's resolutions exactly, I've turned over a new leaf to make not just one but a whole bunch of them. These I can use, as father figure, to make our family fulfill the slick new motto I’ve decided for us: Go like a well-oiled machine in 2014.

Feel free to cut them out and put them on your fridge to make yourselves better people too. In fact, I'd recommend it.

This year I resolve to:

  • Stomp a full ten paces away from a problematic child before screaming an obscenity, instead of the usual two.

  • Tell the kids their new secret language is “very creative and clever”, and not “a pain in the ass for everyone around them”. 

  • When a child says they are sick and can not go to school I will believe them. I will not demand to see evidence of a ruptured organ or severed limb.

  • I will also not tell them "Worse things happen at sea" and tell a gut-wrenching tale of scurvy-ravaged sailors having their heads blown off.

  • I will stick as close as possible to the “three-second rule” when forcing one of my children to eat food they have dropped. This replaces the old “three minutes and what about the starving kids in India” rule.

  • I will listen, and smile, whenever one of my children wants to play me something on the recorder. And say it sounds "terrific". Every time. And not fake my own death.

  • This I vow even though our house has entered into the state of having not one but TWO recorders, or "Armageddon".

  • Whenever my kids start a physical fight I will not merely stand there and watch, just to see who wins.

  • Whenever one child complains of preferential treatment lavished on her sibling, I will no longer give the explanation "because she's my favorite".

  • Nor will I say “because you’re my favourite”, just to mess with her head.

  • I will only engage in positive parenting, and will not try to motivate a child with a threat.

  • But if I do, it will be a threat I can actually carry out, and not “Eat the food or I’m never giving you food again”, which may or may not have happened during one particularly desperate dinner time. 

  • I will not treat the kids to any more three-hour lectures with titles like "On the importance of David Bowie" (unless faced with a sudden outbreak of Justin Bieber).

  • I will engage patiently and pleasantly in all conversations, no matter how inane. Even “Why it makes sense to go for a nap between dinner and bath”. Or “It is right to wear a tutu and chat with my friends in a soccer match.”

I found this photo on a parenting website. As a
parent myself, I can look at it and make one or two
inferences about what the mother depicted here has
done in this situation. The main one is that she's
put money on the son in black.

A sight to send shivers down any parent's
spine. I think we all remember exactly
what we were doing when we first
noticed there was a recorder in our homes.

It's an instrument of the devil if ever
there was one. All efforts to make it
more appealing have failed, including
this attempt to "sex it up" during the

But it could be worse ...

A friend's kid brought home a recorder like this once.
Bloody nightmare.

Or this could be your husband.

This guy also sucks.
It must take a lot of preparation to
look this worried.

This is obviously a far better
role model for one's kids.

Under the Chinese zodiac, this will be the year of the horse.
It's easily the best animal of the dozen in the rotation.
For starters, I am a horse, which I think means I'll turn
12 years older this year.
And what's more, who ever won money on a rabbit?
Or a dragon?

In regard to my children's mother mother, I vow:

  • To keep the romance alive, in a marriage beset by parenthood, I shall institute spontaneous bouts of "couple time". These will only sometimes involve drinking beer in the pub with my mates, sitting on the couch watching sport, and demanding my wife acknowledge the toughness of my ear hair.

  • However, if sport watching does occur, I will not get mad on any of the three or four occasions my wife will undoubtedly walk across the front of the TV at a crucial moment during any given match. I will say something nice.

  • And I will engage patiently and pleasantly in all conversations, no matter how inane. Even “Why didn’t the captain of the team that lost the final prepare a loser’s speech?” and “Why do teams always look like that when they’re celebrating on a podium?”

  • When asked "How do I look?" before we go out, I will not trot out the usual clich├ęs like "Alright I suppose", "Better than nothing" or "No opinion". I will say something nice.

  • I will listen when my wife is saying words. And when given a list of 10 things to do I will not forget any more than 10 of them.

  • I will strictly limit all greenhouse and personal gas emissions (to occasions when they are really, really funny, or to when at least one of us is asleep).

  • I accept that the following conditions may not be life-threatening: 1. Meeting new people. 2. Trying new things. 3. Going to new places.

So there it is - a fairly comprehensive list, I’m sure you’d agree.

Come to think of it, it's very comprehensive. That’s a lot of change for one man in one year. I mean, my wife married me for a reason, right?

Maybe I’d better procrastinate on it a bit longer. We don’t want to go overboard.

After all, “well-oiled machine” also rhymes with 2015.

And 2019!


  1. Everyone does a massive change for the New Year and this is good to do in my opinion. One should have the great and something new for the coming New Year

  2. Hi, I would like to subscribe for this web site to obtain latest updates, therefore where can i do it please help. fb login facebook

  3. An fascinating discussion is value comment. I think that it is best to write extra on this matter, it won’t be a taboo topic however generally people are not enough to talk on such topics. To the next. Cheers happy new year 2019 quotes and sayings