Our That Papa this month is both a star in front of the camera and behind it! Primarily a wedding and engagement photographer, Canadian-born Darren LeBeuf has been capturing special moments for people all over the world for the past 8 years, and is now revelling in a special moment of his own with the birth of his first child and the experience of fatherhood. It’s not hard to see that 7-month-old Madeline is going to grow up to be daddy’s little girl…
Can you tell us a bit about your background? What brought you to Hong Kong?
My wife and I moved to Hong Kong about 6 years ago after living in Vietnam for a few years. Although Vietnam was a fun place to live, we both wanted to be somewhere where we could move ahead in our careers, and Hong Kong seemed to be a place full of opportunities.
How did you find out your wife was pregnant?
She showed me a plastic stick. I didn’t know what two blue lines meant, but I had a feeling it was important.
What was your reaction?
Equal parts excited and scared – excited to be a dad, and scared of the next nine month’s of mood swings and morning sickness!
How did you choose your daughter’s name?
Madeline Grace – Madeline and Grace are the names of two of my wife’s great grandmothers. They sounded good together and they have a bit of family history to them.
How was your experience of changing the first diaper?
We mostly use cloth diapers. There have been a couple of messy incidents of forgetting to put inserts into them, but for the most part they’re a snap.
How hands-on were you during the birth process?
The doctor wouldn’t let me deliver the baby myself, so I just watched from a safe distance. I did get to cut the umbilical cord, so I at least get to say that I helped.
What’s your favourite part of your parenting routine?
The mornings. She’s always so happy when she wakes up. On days when my wife and I both have the day off, there’s nothing better than starting the day with the two of them.
Who do you think will play good cop and bad cop between you and your wife?
That hasn’t really come up yet, but when the time comes I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t make a very convincing bad cop.
You’re a photographer yourself. How did you document the first 6 months of your baby girl?
I’ve taken hundreds of photos of Madeline, however some of my favourites are just the little iPhone photos that my wife and I send to each other.
Do you plan to have more kids?
No plans right now, but I’m sure Madeline will have a sibling at some point.
How do you keep the romance alive after having a kid?
I don’t feel like too much has changed since having a baby. My wife and I still go on date nights once in a while, and we still hold hands. I could probably stand to buy her more jewellery though.
What’s the hardest part of being a dad in Hong Kong?
Navigating a stroller through the busy sidewalks (although I still don’t know how to say ‘excuse me’ in Cantonese).
What’s the best part of being a dad in Hong Kong?
I have lots of other dad friends here. It seemed like all of our friends suddenly started having kids at the same time we did.
Who does your daughter look like, you or your wife?
Most people say she looks like me, but she definitely has my wife’s big blue eyes.
What’s your favourite characteristic of your kid?
It’s got to be her laugh.
How old does your daughter have to be before she can date?
Eighteen, and even then I might have to chaperone.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before becoming a dad? Biggest lesson learned?
For the most part it’s pretty much everything I expected it to be. I guess it would be how fast they grow – she’s still a baby, but she’s not the same baby she was a couple months ago, or even a couple weeks ago.
What’s the funniest parenting story you can share?
She went through a phase where she would have loud, well-timed yawns while people were telling long stories.
How has having kids changed the way you define work?
I’ve learned to not bring my work home. With the busy Hong Kong schedules that we all have, I have really come to appreciate the days I get to spend with just my wife and daughter.
Do you have any tips for soon-to-be dads in Hong Kong?
Make a checklist of everything that goes in the diaper bag, and go through the list every time you go out. This will ensure that you always have what you need, and will prevent a lot of arguments of who forgot to pack what.
Favourite family-friendly restaurants in Hong Kong?
The Happy Valley Bar & Grill – it’s a great place to sit outside on a beautiful day, it’s pretty much next door to my apartment, and we almost always run into people we know there.
Favourite family-friendly activities and play centres in town?
The Kennedy Town pool is a great place to bring young kids – for $19, it’s practically free, and so far I haven’t seen it get too busy.
Favourite date night spots with just your wife?
Anywhere that we can eat good food. A recent favourite of ours is Carbone in the LKF Hotel.
Do you hope your daughter also grows up with a passion for photography?
I don’t care if she develops a passion for photography, but I hope she has a creative spirit. I hope she colours outside the lines.
All the photos of Darren taken above are courtesy of the extremely talented Elizabeth Surtees-Roberts of Lumo Photography.