Good Rest

Getting a good sleep is something I never thought I needed. Today is proving difficult to function.  I rarely have days like this.  Usually I can get a full sleep or a couple naps when needed.  But even after 7 hours in bed, I feel like I could have slept double that.  

Unfortunately I have commitments today.  Ones that I really couldn’t give up on.  Perhaps the word “unfortunately” isn’t the best one to use. Tonight my son and his class are performing a year end show in the school auditorium.  There will be singing, dancing, and acting.


Most people cringe at the idea of watching young children perform.  Our children aren’t always front and center.  They aren’t the lead role or solo singers.  But they enjoy being a part of the groups.  They love knowing that there are no small parts. 

We are lucky to have our children in a Fine Arts School.  It pushes their imagination and abilities.  They explore their talents and discover some hidden talents.  The year end performance showcases these skills.  Our children love being here.


I really enjoy watching them perform as well.  I always made sure to see each and every performance that our children have done.  It can be draining and stressful to make sure I am present.  Days like today, where a part of me would rather be in bed, I won’t pass up the chance to see the show. I will push through the exhaustion and show my love and support.  Because that’s what a parent should do. 

Am I Doing This Right?

I’m not sure if or when it may have happened.  Apparently I am an adult. 


Yup.  This guy.  The one with a wife and three kids.  


I own a home with a mortgage. I also have car payments and bills.


This same guy who filled his garage with Lego some 12 years ago instead of parking his car is an adult. Yes, my shirt says “MUST BE THIS TALL TO RIDE”.


My version of becoming an adult is filled with “Dad Jokes” and silliness.  I can have all the responsibilities but continue to have the fun that I never wanted to give up. Being an adult isn’t easy.  But at the end of the day if I have food, shelter and a smile on my face- that’s a big win. 

This adulting thing is interesting to say the least.  Am I doing it right? I wonder what Mr. Smileyballoonface thinks?

One Race Closer to Pursuing The Gold


About a year ago I shared a story and aspirations I have for my son.  Here is the link: My Son- The Future Olympian.  Today I am with him again as he is working hard competing in another set of races.  This time we are at the Richmond Oval on the outskirts of Vancouver.  This was the location where the Speed Skating events were held during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.


Throughout the building there are inspirational images of the past Canadian athletes that partook in previous Olympics.  Seven years later- the facility is well maintained and busy.  The city has split the large oval into two separate rinks, and a dozen basketball courts. There’s a ping pong table tournament area as well as a sectioned off for a Cheerleading competition.  (Coincidentally, the Cheerleading competition that my daughter will be attending later today.)


These skating meets can be overwhelming.  The hardest part about these competitions is the waiting.  Waiting alongside racers from other clubs can feel intimidating.  Before the races, my son hangs out with his friends in the facility-  often playing on iPads, iPhones, or wandering around and even taking a break to play drop-in ping pong during lunch.  There is a special camaraderie in our skating club.  As the skaters are on the ice- the rest of the group cheers from the stands offering encouragement.


All of this waiting is for his two minutes of ice time.  During his two minutes of work- my son pushes his limits.  At his age, places don’t matter as much as his times for his age group.  So even if he comes in third out of five, his time may push him up another level for the next meet.  He wants to beat his personal best times. Sometimes he wants to improve his stance and form- so he focuses intently on that.   


When he gets on the ice- it’s him vs his own nerves.   He has a determination that shows up when he is on the ice.  As if he is the only soul in the arena.  The last person who can psyche him out is himself.  He has put himself out there and pushes his boundaries.

I’m proud of our son.

Raise it right

Being a parent is difficult.  We are often sharing advice with friends about raising children.  We are all on the same path- hoping our kids learn to be a productive functioning members of society.  This journey is a difficult one.  No matter what stage of parenting you are at, there is always someone you turn to in order to figure out what to you should do.  

From the first sense of “I better do everything I can to just keep this living creature alive” to “these monsters will be the death of me” to “I can’t wait until they move out”- raising kids is a crazy game.  Plenty of other parents out there are doing their best, just like us.


Doing the right thing when raising kids isn’t always easy.  We try and show them the pathway to a good life but of course, they don’t always listen.  I know I didn’t listen to my parents when I was a teen.  But it’s my mistakes that I want my children to avoid.  

However, mistakes are inevitable.  It’s a good learning experience for everyone.  As long as we grow and try to change our behavior to improve ourselves, then mistakes are good.


I have friends looking at mine and my wife’s parenting style.  Sometimes we are doing the right thing, other times, we are guessing just like the rest of you.  This weekend I had breakfast, lunch and dinner dates with friends.  We spoke of our lives and inevitably we began talking about our children.  I have noticed that the struggles are similar in many ways.  We all love our kids but they make us crazy when they don’t listen.

As much as it pains me when my kids are hurt, I pick them up, brush them off and let them try again.  Watching them break rules is aggravating when you have to dole out punishments.  We can’t always be the good guy.

I’m proud of all of the accomplishments our children have done.  When they succeed, I feel like we’ve done something right as parents.  

At the end of the day I just hope that when our children look back on their lives, they appreciate what we did to guide them.

Raising Atheist Children

I’m astonished by my 10 year old son. He told me the other day that he is uncomfortable singing a Christmas song at school and doesn’t want to sing some of the lyrics. I asked him what song and why.  

The song is “Away In A Manger.”

He said he doesn’t think he should have to sing it since he is an Atheist and doesn’t believe in god or Jesus and he feels uncomfortable singing about them. We fully respect him for his decision. I also told him that if the teacher asks why he isn’t singing, that he should express those feelings to her.  His comfort level around me vs a teacher may be very different.  I understand that at his age he may not be able to express his concerns to an authority style person.  If he needs us to explain to the teacher why he isn’t singing, we will.

This isn’t the first time my son has expressed that he is an Atheist.  The other memorable moment that I have witnessed was when he was seven and said to another child that he doesn’t believe in god.  This other child was dumbfounded and started asking my son how someone could not believe in god.  This other little boy just couldn’t grasp the concept.  Perhaps in the same way that my son can’t grasp the concept of believing in god.

The warmth of my home is all I need.


Now, back to the Christmas Season, as an Atheist I still enjoy the holidays.  I wish people a Merry Christmas.  I sometimes say Happy Holidays.  I gladly and respectfully return a greeting to friends or strangers based on their beliefs.  When I was a child, I had to sing religious based carols because I was going to a Catholic school.  A part of me still enjoys hearing them from time to time since they remind me of my childhood.


The idea of a mythical person bringing gifts through a chimney to place under a tree inside our home has always been a part of my family’s Christmas.  Sometimes we open gifts on the 24th, 25th or 26th.  The date doesn’t matter.  Baby Jesus isn’t a part of our custom.  If anything, we are sharing in the Winter Solstice with family and friends.  

The church near my home.

The other church near my home.


As an Atheist parent, I normally don’t discuss religions with my family.  My children have asked in the past why we don’t go to church and I’ve explained why this is.  I have also explained to them that they are more than welcome to explore different ideologies throughout their lives.  Currently, all of our children feel that they are Atheists.  I’m not going to close off their own free will to explore and question life.  If they so choose to find religion or god, that is their choice.

A humorous read about being Atheist.


Reading books is the best way to find answers in this world.  We encourage our children to read and expand their knowledge through books.  As well, if they have questions about anything, they are encouraged to ask.  Sometimes our dinner topics can be uncomfortable, but my wife and I don’t feel the need to sugar coat or ignore their queries.  Being an Atheist doesn’t mean we can’t be open minded.  Far from it actually.  

If a time comes that our children do become religious- we will respect their choice.  First and foremost, being a parent is about love and understanding.

Exaggeration 

One of my favorite parts about being a parent is the way my children exaggerate their feelings.  Ok, that’s an exaggeration.  But I oftentimes hear these phrases:

“My life is totally over.”

“You’re the worst parent ever.”

“I’ve been waiting forever.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“I always do the cleaning!”

“I only wore this once this week.”

“I took a shower.”


Mind you, this isn’t daily.  It seems to be when they’re having a bad day.  Le Sigh.  At this point with my parenting skill set, I have learned to ignore most of these comments.  However, if I’m feeling sassy, I’ll fire back with sarcasm.  It’s my gods given right as a parent to fire back with wit in times of frustration.

Sometimes the banter continues until the children crack a smile.  Other times silence from both parties will end with a hug and an apology.  My kids are great people.  They’re trying to learn their place on this planet and where they fit in.  I can’t always get angry at them.  Sometimes there is a deeper hidden reason for the frustration.  You just have to get past what they’re saying and listen to how they’re speaking.


It’s harder now as they get older to decipher the exaggerations from the lies.  Teens have a good way of telling you something over and over until they believe it.  I really don’t believe this statement: “I don’t have any homework.”  


Parenting is a crazy game with no rules.  You just hope that your kids survive until adulthood and leave the house with all of their digits and brain cells.  You also hope that by that time you still have your brain cells and sanity.


Arenas

The smell of the atmosphere inside the arena.  The sound of skates clacking and screeching on ice.  The laughter and screams from the children echo around the building.  Welcome to Friday Night Speedskating.


This is the first of many evenings spent at the arena.  The building isn’t like the ones I remember going to for skating.  Those old arenas had a strange ammonia scent that filled the air as the zamboni cleaned the ice.  I miss those old buildings of cedar wood with large ceiling heaters covered in dust.  The smell of sweat and cigarettes lingered in the air.  The arenas often found in the industrial parts of town.  In fact, one of our favorite Speed Skating meets is in such a place.  


But this building is far superior.  There are numerous rinks, a couple of viewing areas on the second floor.  Plenty of televisions on the walls and extremely well maintained.  It’s located on the edge of a well established suburb with nice homes nearby.  Close to the industrial part, but not in the middle like they once were.  I will be spending many Wednesdays and Fridays here with my son until Springbreak.

My son loves to Speed Skate.  I wrote about him a few months ago in My son- The Future Olympian.  Speed skating gives him exercise and keeps him active.  It’s a supportive but also competitive environment.  There are lots of other local skating clubs.  My son has made friends at many of the skating meets as they cheer each other on.  It’s a great feeling to hear your son’s name chanted through the stands.  He may not always get first place, but he sure doesn’t give up.

Here I sit writing my blog in between his warm ups, drills and practice races.  I suspect I will write more about speed skating as the days go on.  

So, as long as he loves it, my wife and I will continue to support him.

Go Theory!

Oh Behave.

It always astonishes me to watch how people parent.  I like to think that I’m a fairly good father.  My wife does a pretty darn good job in her role as mother also.  We don’t spoil our children with buying stuff while we are out shopping.  Nor do we shut them up with electronic devices in public.  We also don’t brush them off when they are talking to us, but rather engage them in conversation.  We don’t condone interrupting when some else is talking, but rather wait for their turn to speak.  On top of it all, they each have chores to help out around the house without expecting an allowance.  


We also discipline them if needed- this can vary depending on the situation.  We have grounded them, put them in a corner, even cancelled play dates.  Last year our daughter lied about doing her schoolwork and even though she passed the class, we still put her in summer school to teach her that laziness has consequences.  Parenting sometimes means tough love and sticking to the punishment you enforce.

The other day, I was watching a very pregnant woman while she was dealing her two daughters at Costco, both of whom were under the age of three.  She sat them at a table for lunch and proceeded to cut the food for them.  The entire time, her girls sat quietly and politely.  They used manners and didn’t squirm or fuss.  The pregnant mother didn’t look worn out or stressed.  I got up from my table to leave and I walked over to her to tell her how her girls are beautiful and well behaved.  She looked up at me and smiled thanking me.  

I love seeing good parenting out in the wild.  I think more parents need to be complimented for a job well done.  As a society oftentimes we take for granted a well behaved child.  It is easier to point out the mistakes and errors of parents in public than to acknowledge a child’s good behavior.  


When I was a manager at Chuck E. Cheese’s I saw a multitude of parenting styles and children’s behavior.  Some good, some bad.  It was hard to tell if these children always behaved in a certain way, or it was the atmosphere of the restaurant that influenced them.  I used what I say and experienced in how I would raise our children at home.

When I brought my children there, they always used manners and respected other people.  Sure, they got to go to The Chuck’s a couple times per week, but they were always well behaved.  After leaving that job, my children never asked to go back- they were as done with the place as I was.


Being a good parent takes patience.  Next time you see a parent with a well behaved child, let them know that they’re doing a good job.  The joy of parenting can start with a compliment from a complete stranger.

What’s Best.

Yesterday was the last day of Grade 8 for my oldest daughter.  This morning, her and I sat down and talked over a cup of coffee about the past year.

At the end of grade seven last year, a big decision was made about our oldest daughter’s future.  We needed to send her to a high school.  She was on a wait list since kindergarten to enter a choice Fine Arts school.  We got the call for her to audition and come in for an interview.  Mom and dad were super excited and happy.  Eldest daughter- not so much.  But she auditioned (under some protest) for drama and music and was invited back to major in both departments.  She left both auditions happily and was excited for most of the drive home each time.  However, by the time we got home, she had put up the “wall” and was adamant that she would not be attending this school.  A few months of emotional battles ensued.  Mom and dad “forced” her to go to this awful, horrific school.  Mom and dad weren’t listening to her wishes.  Mom and dad were about to ruin her life.  Mom and dad made a promise to her. At the end of the year, we would discuss sending her elsewhere if she was still unhappy.

The year has ended.  As promised, I sat and spoke with my daughter this morning about her first year of high school.  I wanted to hear what her thoughts were on the past year and what she would like to do the following year.

Being right isn’t always a feel good moment.

She said those words that every parent knows to be true.  “Dad, you and mom were right.”

Star Wars Day

Today is dubbed “Star Wars Day” as in “May the 4th be with you.”  Cute, fun, and somehow marketing everything Star Wars!  I have no idea where this idea came from, but it is quite clever, albeit annoying at times.  I’m a fan of Star Wars on any given day, so today is more a celebration for the regular folks who enjoy the films, but don’t necessarily share in the fandom.  I love Star Wars and the story lines that have been created. 

Size Matters Not.


My childhood was filled with multiple watchings of the original three films, a couple of Ewok TV movies, The Ewoks cartoon, pretending every stick I picked up was a lightsaber (and making the sounds as I swung it around).  I think it’s a great way to bring out the imagination of a child.  My children have watched the films, shared in the experience of a galaxy far, far away & made up their own adventures.  

So it surprised me yesterday when I spoke with a mother who has two boys, ages 5&7, who refuses to show Star Wars to her sons.  She fears it to be too scary for them.  I also have a friend who’s daughter by age two was in love with Chewbacca and R2D2.  This little girl probably knows more about those characters than I ever will.  

Star Wars is life…


As parents, we choose what to expose our children to- from movies to religion and everything in between.  My kids are excited about Wookiee Cookies and watching The Force Awakens today.  My wife is planning on crocheting some Star Wars characters while relaxing from our post-convention run.

However you spend your day:

May the 4th be with you!

Here’s a recipe for you as well:

I hope these cookies don’t turn out a little Chewy.

Back in my day…

When I was a child, I remember hearing adults say, “back in my day…”  I used to jokingly say it from time to time as I entered adulthood.  Now I have caught myself saying it more often and meaning it.


Society changes as a collective.  Our standards of how we want to live evolve.  Ten years ago, most people had no idea what a smartphone was.  Twenty years ago, most people weren’t connected to the Internet.  Thirty years ago, people used VCRs to record and watch shows.  Forty years ago, people used rotary phones with no caller ID or answering service or call waiting.  I’m pointing out technology because that seems to be the way our society judges its advancements. The latest and greatest tech gadget, now readily available for your two year old to use.

More often than not, when I’m talking about “back in my day…” I’m talking about how I experienced life.  We didn’t grow up with helicopter parents and bubble wrapped children (those that did that were the odd ones).  My parents let me walk out of the house, jump on my bike without a helmet and wander the neighborhood.  Sometimes I’d meet friends or other kids, sometimes I’d be exploring on my own.  My friends and I would wander up to the corner store and buy lotto tickets at the age of eight.  I could buy cigarettes by age fourteen for my father and no one asked for ID.  This never got my parents in trouble with the law for not being overly protective.  I could go on public transit with my younger sister and the bus driver never asked where our parents where.

If we made mistakes in life, it was a learning experience.  My parents never blamed other people for me being a dumbass.  It wasn’t my teacher’s fault or the people I hung out with.  I owned it & either I learned from it or I did something stupid again until I learned from it.

Now to get to my point- I am a parent of three children.  My oldest is a teenager and her siblings are close behind.  As much as I want to blame people for any mistakes my children make, I know that it is ultimately their own choices that they are making.  I try to give them freedom to discover the world around them and who they are as people.  Planning “play dates” or ensuring that the movies they watch at a friend’s house are PG isn’t offering freedom.  I know that if they want to go out and rebel that they will.  No amount of spyware or GPS will prevent that.  I’m worried that today’s society is overly protective and controlling.  The courts are forcing parents to be glued to their children until they are adults.


So, to my children- get out there and have fun. I’m not going to interfere in every choice you make.  But I will be watching- because “back in my day” I did the same stupid stuff that you are likely to do.

Separation anxiety…

This weekend, our oldest daughter will be going away with her school concert band to perform.  She requested that my wife and I do not chaperone.  It makes me sad that she is at the age now that she doesn’t want anything to do with mom & dad.  I knew it was coming and could already sense that she is embarrassed by her parents (like most teenagers).  I dropped her off at school this morning, helped unload the suitcase from the trunk and offered to take it inside for her.  She refused my assistance and decided she could take everything herself.

She had her backpack on, her flute and music in one hand, & a suitcase in the other hand and was ready to head into the school.  I stood at the back of the car and as she turned to leave, I stole a hug.  At first she squirmed and tried to wrangle free.  But I held her a bit longer than usual.  I could feel her embarrassment slip away and she let me have a moment because no one was looking.  This phase in her life will eventually pass.  I know she cares about her family.  I remember acting in a similar fashion towards my mother at her age.

 

Father/daughter time.

 
Next weekend, my wife and I are taking our two youngest on another road trip.  Our oldest daughter will remain behind with her Oma & Opa.  With the end of the school year closing in, my wife & I knew that we couldn’t take her away from her studies.  Again, I feel that our family dynamic is changing, & my little girl is growing up (and apart from us).  I am saddened by this turn of events, but knew this day would come.  It will also make me sad when our other two children reach this stage in their lives.

I hate to admit this, but a little part of my wife and I are relieved to be traveling without our oldest.  Becoming a teen, our eldest child has made life for her siblings a tad annoying.  There is always a fight going on, bossiness taking over, mumbling under the breath, or a sarcastic answer being given.

The hardest part about parenting is letting your children grow up.  I love my kids and hope they understand why we do what we do as parents.  They need to explore the world and expand their horizons.  I just wish it didn’t come with the bad attitude.

My son- The Future Olympian

As parents, most of us strive to make our children’s lives better than our own.  We get them into good preschools and hope they make lots of friends (but only the good ones with parents that are as like-minded as ourselves).  Then we push to get them into the right classroom with the right teacher, and sometimes even a better school.  We enter our children into after school programs, music lessons, sporting activities, and buy them electronics so they aren’t left behind by society.  We do all of this because we think it’s the right thing to do.

066

You have to start somewhere.  Learning how to balance on his speed skates.

 

And it is- for the most part.  As they get older, they start to push back.  Their schedules dominate your own social life.  Suddenly, years go by and you wonder to yourself if you are doing the right thing.  Giving up is so much easier than arguing or forcing yourself to drive out of town.  Suddenly, a moment hits you like a ton of bricks.

 

_JAN4071

First place all the way.

There is your child superseding your expectations.  All those arguments, all those hours, all coming to fruition as they lead the pack.  You jump up and realize their potential is still there as you cheer them on.  Now, more than ever you want to boost your child up and help them reach for their goals.  All those future hours and arguments don’t matter, because at this exact moment, they are number one in your eyes.  Nothing will take that away from them, or you for that matter.

My son, the future Olympian.  I still have dreams for him and I hope he strives for the same goal.  The choice in the end is his.  I am proud of how far he’s gotten in just five years.  I don’t know where he will be in five years, but I’m willing to put forth the effort and support him in his decisions.

_JAN4084

How he’s grown over 5 years.

Father knows best?

Last night I flipped out at two of my children right before bed.  It’s not a great feeling, and I went and talked to them a few minutes later and apologized.  I can usually control my frustration and pause for a moment before speaking to them about their actions.  It’s strange how it eats away at me if I yell at them.  I’m thankful, and I’m sure they are as well, that this isn’t how I interact with them regularly.

The 1950’s were a simpler time.

Being a father is freaking tough.  I’m not saying being a mother is easy either.  But I only know my role, sort of.  I’m doing the best I can as each day goes on.  The guidance I have to refer to is my father, tv sitcom fathers (I wish I was living in Silver Spoons when I was a kid), and all my friends who are fathers trying their best at this game as well.

  

  

Here’s what I’ve learned so far from this fatherhood thing:

  • Being a father is more than just donating sperm to fertilize an egg.
  • Being a father isn’t just about being a best friend to your children, but it can be part of it.
  • Being a father means having to be there, or listen to their problems, even when you really don’t want to.
  • Being a father isn’t an easy road to navigate, there are many hurdles.
  • Being a father is the greatest experience I have ever had.

Why you little…

Not only is being a father hard work, it isn’t for everyone.  I’ve caught myself going into full rage frustration with my face getting red, my teeth grinding, and the vein in the center of my forehead about to burst… All because one of my children didn’t turn off their iPad when I asked for the fifth time in two minutes.  With me waiting so they could come and dry some dishes, and they respond with attitude as if I’m ruining their life!  What about my life?  I didn’t dream that in my late 30’s I’d be doing dishes on a Saturday night hoping to be in bed by ten.  Just so that in the morning I can be on their cases again the next day, hunting them down to do homework.  I hate that when I raise my voice, I hear my father’s anger come through in me.  If he were alive today, he’d probably smile smuggly, knowing I did pretty much the same thing to him when I was a child.

I am doing my best to make a good life for my children.  I’d like to protect them from the mistakes I made growing up.  I want them to be fully functioning contributing members of society when they grow up.  Being a father is also fantastic.  I see my children accomplish more than I could have anticipated.  I love bragging about my children.  They sometimes bring me gifts and are always on the lookout for something dad would like.  

I often see a bit of myself come out in my son’s behavior.  I hope that through his eyes, he sees a man doing his best with what he has.  My daughters both test my patience and can pull on my heartstrings and manipulate me easily.  That being said, I do hope that my daughters see what a man should be by how I treat my wife and how I treat them.  

I hope one day they each of my kids have kids of their own, so that I can smile smuggly as the circle of life continues.

Respect and parenting

My wife recently said to me that she doesn’t want our son hanging out at a certain house because of the lack of respect shown to the mother of the house.  I am in complete agreement.  As a parent of two girls and one boy, I have found it important that my children treat everyone equally.  They are allowed to have a difference of opinion, but need to be respectful of other people’s opinions and ways of life.  My children are taught that they have choices and how they act reflects upon who they are in the eyes of the world.  

It is always difficult to teach kids respect. Often times they are learning from the world around them.  The kids in the playgrounds, their cousins, teachers, coaches, television, and movies often influence their minds.  It can be overwhelming growing up and witnessing the opposite of what your parents tell you is right from wrong.  My wife and I try and have adult discussions with our children when something comes up.  We’ve talked about religion, volunteering, acts of kindness, bullying, sexual orientation, racism, sexism, hate, lies, fears, death… Pretty much anything the kids have asked us about, we haven’t shied away from discussing and that has proven challenging.

No one said being a parent is easy.  It starts when they’re born and you’re just making sure they’re fed, clean, & safe.  It becomes more challenging as they get older and their world becomes bigger.  Soon you’re seeing that not all parents and their children are the kinds of people you want to be around.  

As much as I want to tell someone how to parent in the style that I’d approve of, it’s not my place to do so.  It’s not my place to tell people to believe or not believe in a god.  Nor is it my place to tell someone to vaccinate their kids.  Those are choices that parents make based on how they were raised.  I am mindful that not everyone shares my parenting style.  My wife and I sometimes butt heads as well on certain topics.  One of the things we agree upon though, is that men and women should be treated as equals.  

In our household, everyone does their share.  Chores aren’t divided into his or hers responsibility.  Games and movies aren’t strictly segregated for boys or girls.  Treating each with respect is paramount.  Making sure our children are courteous and kind, all the while understanding that not everyone in this world behaves the same, is challenging to say the least.  We’re doing our part to bring out the best in our children, even if it means we have to tell them they can’t hang out with certain people.