It’s hard being an outdoorsy sort of person in Vientiane.
From early November to mid-March, you’ve got perfect weather to do just about anything. It’s the kind of weather that screams playing in the park, heading to the beach, or going for a long hike in the mountains.
Unfortunately, Vientiane doesn’t really have any of those things.
Instead, you run, bike, and walk along the river, which are nice too.
And then, there’s April through October in Vientiane — when you either get temps in the upper 90s/ low 100s (upper 30s/low 40s Celsius) with 80% humidity, or…rain. Lots and lots of rain.
You still don’t have parks/beaches/hiking, but now it’s hard to sit on your covered front porch without dripping sweat into your coffee or getting soaked by sideways rain in a storm.
Add a small child in there and things get really interesting.
Amazingly, Noe gets two hours every weekday morning to play outside with his classmates in a park-like setting with playground equipment at his nursery school, provided it’s not raining. He loves it, and we love that outdoor free play time he consistently gets there too.
Prior to heading back to the U.S. last August to have Riley, Noe spent Monday through Friday at his nursery school…with the exception of Thursday.
Thursdays were Daddy Days.
He was barely two years old when we left Laos and was fun to spend time with, but not half as fun as he is now at nearly three.
Now, we can have conversations, he asks thoughtful questions, observes his surroundings intently, and a lot of things get him very excited.
Sure, he can be impossible at times to reason with, and change his mind on a whim. But as far as almost-three-year-olds go, he’s a pretty awesome little dude.
That’s not to say I didn’t value my four months at home with Riley at the beginning of this year. Lori and I don’t plan on having any more kids, so there was a bittersweetness to my days with him that I didn’t have with Noe at that age.
Days with Riley weren’t exactly easy, but knowing how quickly this stage goes by and that warming bottles, changing poopy diapers, and rocking to sleep would quickly give way to a walking, talking individual injected an element of immediacy into our days that I never really had with Noe.
With that said, if I had to choose between the two stages, I’d choose the stage where Noe’s at. At the end of the day, it’s just a lot more fun and satisfying as a parent…well, at least for me.
So when Riley started nursery school, we reduced Noe’s schedule to four days with the expectation that I’d adjust it to more/fewer days depending on how we fair.
It’s been nearly a year since I’ve had the Mister home full time and a lot’s changed since then — new house, new neighborhood, a bike, and Noe’s a lot more independent and opinionated. Whatever the outcome, it’s bound to be an adventure.
My first Thursday with Noe home may have been one of our best, but not without some major explaining the night before and morning of, that today was going to be different because Noe was not going to school, and mommy and Riley were not going to be home. This by itself seemed to blow his mind.
We started the day with a bicycle ride around the neighborhood. The idea was to head to a coffee shop where he could play a little bit, but the skies were threatening too much, so it became an extended journey to the ATM.
Noe didn’t seem too bummed about the change in plans. He got to see enough construction sites, cement mixers, and crane trucks to last him a good long while.
When we got back, we kicked the soccer ball around the yard for a bit, then went on a hunt for snails.
It’s cicada season, so sightings aren’t uncommon. However, this one we found clinging to the side of the house was a perfectly intact outer shell, which I haven’t seen much of.
The jackfruit in our yard is getting huge! Almost ready to pick.
We continued our search for snails but only found a couple of empty shells. I told Noe that the snails come out after it rains, so maybe it’ll storm later and we’ll have better luck after his nap. He’s particularly fascinated with snails these days because of a song they often sing at his school, Petit Escargot (Little Snail). We got a pretty sizeable storm that evening, and sure enough, Noe got to see a half dozen hampster-sized snails out on the driveway.
I also told Noe before he took his nap that if he slept really well, we’d do something extra special when he got up. The kid slept almost three hours without a peep, so…
We made banana bread. As you can tell, he was quite proud of his work.
With just under an hour to go before mommy got home, Noe insisted on taking off his shorts and reading one of his Richard Scarry books by himself while I washed dishes.
The next week, the weather gods smiled upon us, and we made it to the little French bakery in our neighborhood.
Noe and I passed the morning as I like to imagine many dads and toddlers do across the world, chit-chatting about storms and dump trucks, making rocketships with foam squares, and sharing a delicious almond croissant (and by share, I mean that daddy more or less inhaled the thing while Noe approached his quarter with a lot more civility).
It was a sweltering day, so we headed back home and spent the rest of the day inside. No searching for snails today.
Noe was so hot when he got back that he decided he wanted to wear nothing but his underoos for the rest of the day. Then the A/C kicked in and he had a change of heart. But rather letting me put his clothes back on, he opted for a slightly different look, instead.
On our third Thursday together this year, it was sweltering, yet again. The kind of heat that makes you feel like a drenched cat looks, even sitting in the shade.
Despite the heat, we climbed on the bike and went for a spin. At 8am, it seemed like a good idea, but it didn’t take long to realize we wouldn’t go far that morning.
I brought my portable coffee mug and thought I’d get a fill-up at another neighborhood coffee shop, INCafe. All my times here, I’d never noticed the toys set out for little ones near the counter.
Noe, of course, noticed them immediately and wasted no time getting down to business.
What was meant to be a quick pit-stop quickly turned into a 30-minute heat break. Neither of us minded too much.
We spent the remainder of the day at home, playing Legos and Mr. Potato Head and making tin foil creations.
Overall, it was a good day, but it was evident by the last hour that Noe had a pretty good case of cabin fever.
I know if things get really bad, we can always grab a cab to go to a play gym. But I try and avoid that, as Noe has more than enough to play with at home, he gets a ton of stimulation and interaction with other kids every other weekday at his nursery school, taxis are expensive, and I just have a strong aversion against play gyms, particular indoor play gyms which we would most certainly need to do in this heat.
Long ago, I shifted Daddy Day from Friday to Thursday for this very reason. If we ever got cooped up inside, he’d still have Friday at school with his teachers and friends to reset before the weekend. Since making the change, I’ve never looked back.
Our final Daddy Day of the May trial period was one of the best yet. It was overcast in the morning, but not threatening to rain. We went on a longer bike ride out to Dough & Co., a mod new coffee shop in the far southern reaches of the city. On my first visit here, I remember seeing the little kitchen and planned to return someday with Noe. Nearly five months later, we finally made it happen. And of course, he loved it.
It’s always fun when he gets so sidetracked with something else that he totally forgets about his backpack (we have him pack his own small backpack full of books and toys when we go on big outings), or me, for that matter.
Though Noe was gracious enough to allow me to take this selfie together for mommy.
I got a scone thinking that, a) it was actually a Southern biscuit, and b) that Noe might like to have a bite. The semi-sweet scone was tasty, but it wasn’t a biscuit. Currently, there’s one place in town that makes proper Southern-style biscuits, and he’s actually second-guessing himself. We’re trying to keep him on the straight and narrow. Fortunately, I make a pretty mean biscuit myself, but that’s really beside the point. It’s the thrill of the hunt…
Noe, however, was not too keen on having a bite of daddy’s scone. Even after I offered a piece with strawberry “dip” he was still skeptical (or too busy preparing his own food in his own kitchen). Eventually, I did get him to take a bite (with dip) and his eyes lit up. He asked for two more bites, then was “all done.”
On the topic of food, you may wonder what I feed my kid here in Laos on Daddy Days (or you may not). Quesadillas have become a long-standing tradition for Daddy Days. They started as small “bites” of cheese wrapped in a tortilla. Now, I stuff them with whatever I have available (chicken leftovers, black beans, etc.). We don’t always do quesadillas, but when we do, I have a very happy (and uncharacteristically quiet) boy on my hands.
So, the verdict? I think Daddy Days are here to stay, at least until the status quo for our daily life changes. Noe will be aging out of his beloved nursery school in September, so a lot will depend on that transition, and Lori’s current contract is up in December, so who knows what the landscape will look like with work and Riley and everything else beyond then.
What is evident at this point is that it’s nice to have one-on-one time with the Mister again, even if it’s just Thursdays right now.
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