Reflecting On Being A Father

Today is Father’s Day- a time to celebrate dad. My kids are in their late teens, so it feels different these days than in the past. The two youngest wished me a Happy Father’s Day and my son made me a grilled cheese sandwich for breakfast. I am aware that as they grow older, gift giving is not the same as it once was. Just being acknowledged these days is the best feeling. I still do my best to help guide them through life, even when it becomes difficult to handle their strong opinions and personalities.

Some previous gifts from my kids.

I have saved every hand made and store bought gifts that my kids have given me over the years. From cards to ceramics; paintings to pens- they had put forth effort in thinking about me as a father and shared them with me. Chances are my kids won’t read my blog, but if they do- they’ll know how important those trinkets and words still mean to me.

Facebook also shares memories with me on a regular basis. We had many good times as a family doing everything from the mundane to traveling to other countries. I love looking back on our time together and seeing how much they have all changed over the years. I’m always proud of what they have done and who they are becoming as adults.

My Father and I.

Sometimes I wish my father were around to see how amazing these kids are. I often wonder if he was proud of me before he passed away. I’ll never know. What I do know is that we had a tough time sharing feelings and I didn’t always have fond memories of him. Towards the end of his life, he and I were civil to one another. But I was already past trying to make amends. Maybe it could have happened over these last 20 years since he died, but all I can do is try and remember the good times.

As my kids grow older and move on with their lives, I hope to be able to have a healthy adult relationship with each of them. I really enjoyed their company as babies, toddlers, kids, and yes- even as teens. Being a father isn’t always easy. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy. But I hope that all of good memories will stay front and center as my kids continue to grow up.

I love them all immensely. I couldn’t be happier for the way they love me back- each in their own way. Even if we don’t always see eye to eye or have a perfect relationship- I’ll always be here for them. That’s what a Father does.

Young Joe 1990

An old friend of mine from kindergarten sent a photo to me yesterday… of me. There’s nothing special about the picture. He had taken it during a visit to our place one summer. We had stayed in touch for a few years after I moved from Edmonton. Every summer his family would come to the west coast and he would stay with us for a long weekend or so.

1990 Josef- Age 14

This was summer of 1990. I was 14 at the time of this photo. In my hands is a Sega Genesis controller. I remember he and our other friend had stayed over for about five days. The three of us played Sega nonstop trying to beat Phantasy Star 2. By nonstop I mean we pulled all-nighters taking turns sleeping trying to get further in the game. During the days we would take some breaks and go swimming. We had a good long distance friendship that lasted about a decade. Then high school set in and our summers changed.

Last Summer: Our son and his friends having a night swim.

This candid picture of me is mind blowing as well. My son looks and acts exactly the same way I did. I’ve seen him with friends at sleepovers and how they play video games much in the same manner. Not to mention how much fun they have in the swimming pool.

It was nice that my old friend sent me that photo randomly. It goes to show that people can still think of you and the good times that were once had. It’s been years since he and I hung out. The three of us met up about five or six years ago. It was a nice evening of beers and memories. Perhaps we will get together once or twice more over the years.

Life just gets busy sometimes and memories are all we have. I’ll take those innocent and happy memories any day.

Not Feeling Today, So Let’s Think About The Past

It’s rare that I have a day where I have no idea what to blog about. I had a couple days lately where I really didn’t do much or think much. I just floated through my life. Off to work, back home to watch tv and go to sleep. All just to do it again. Time to figure out something completely random to write about.

My family moved in the summer between my grade 9 and grade 10 year. My parents downsized into a newer home in a newly built suburb. It was a really nice place, but I didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood. A few blocks away was a family run video store. Not a Blockbuster by any means, and the selection did lack. I remember going there the day “Problem Child” was to come out on VHS. They did not have a copy that week. But because we went there every couple of days that summer, the owner got to know me and had the film ready the following week for me and kept a copy aside for me to rent. (Little secret- it’s not a good movie.)

Next door to the video store was a small fast food burger restaurant. I got employed later that year as my first real job flipping burgers. My boss was a great Korean fellow named Byung Sunny Kim. We called him Sunny. He would sing songs in Korean and if it was just the two of us working, he’d incorporate my name into the song. He was a pleasant man and took really good care of me while I worked there through high school. Even buying me my first flat of beer (yeah, I was 17) and we had a couple beers on the back steps of the restaurant- and he told me to behave.

At the video store they ran a contest to guess the day the owner would give birth to her first child. Winner would get a year of free movie rentals. I have no idea who won, but it was a community feeling as we waited for her to have her baby. I remember seeing the child shortly after she was born as the owner had to work regularly at her own store. That’s the difficulty of running a small business.

This little neighborhood strip mall die die shortly after I graduated. Burger Brothers was bought by McDonalds as Sunny cashed in for retirement. The video store was squeezed out by a Blockbuster Video that was on a major road, garnering more traffic. It took me turning into an adult to realize that I had it pretty good when I lived there as a teenager. The emotional connections I made with the small business owners meant a lot and have stayed with me a lifetime. I continue to support small businesses and have grown to appreciate the personal touches they give to me as a regular customer.

I had nothing to write about today, so I chose a time in my life that I forgot about. Maybe I’ve mentioned these stories in the past, maybe I haven’t. But at least I created some content, which is my daily goal. It also made me a bit sad to think about these old family run businesses that are no more.

But they impacted who I am today in their own way. And for that I am grateful- looking back when I am unsure where to go in the future.

Teenage Job Hunting

Our teenagers are pretty good at saving whatever money they get in order to buy the stuff they want. However, birthday and Christmas cash is only going to help a bit. Time to step it up a notch.

Our two youngest have been out looking for part time employment. At the start of summer, they were doing online applications. Now they are out hitting the streets with paper resumes and filling out application forms.

The hardest part I have found is explaining to them how to describe any past experience and relate it to the job they want. They may not have exact experience in retail. But they have worked Comicons in the artist alley and have been assistant coaches for some time now.

I’m sure they will become productive members of society soon enough. All the best of luck to their endeavors, because I’m not paying for the fun stuff any more.

In Stereo

As I have mentioned in a few blog posts- I enjoy listening to music. When I was a teenager, we moved numerous times. Eventually my parents gave me their old stereo and speakers instead of throwing them away. I put them to good use until I needed to upgrade. At which point, I bought a new receiver and subwoofers. I was seventeen at the time and spent about $400 of my hard earned money on enjoying music. I also added my own art to speaker boxes since the “faux wood” look was already passé in the 90’s.

Now, twenty-eight years later, I’m finally letting go of them. Many of friends from my youth may remember these items as I used them for years as I went into my early 20’s. Those 12” subwoofers were great for house parties and rocked the neighborhood loudly. The receiver was a simple “Stereo Sound” with options for output to two or four speakers. Or turn one set off. Pretty fancy for the time.

As stereos and speakers evolve, oversized speakers like these are cumbersome and not necessary for good quality sound. I have a set of surround sound speakers from about six or seven years ago that give off an incredible experience. Yet even those are becoming outdated.

Letting go of these speakers is like saying goodbye to a part of me. It hurts a bit inside- but a photo and a short story are a better way to enjoy them instead of having them sit in storage for many more years to come.

Forgotten Songs of My Teenage Years

This morning I spent a considerable amount of time putting together an eclectic playlist on Spotify. Find it Here. Creating this playlist sent me down a rabbit hole of nostalgia.

Many of the songs remind me of old friendships and fun times. Driving around town, sitting in my bedroom, even hanging out in class, buying albums through Columbia House, and overplayed songs on repeat. Using one headphone as you shared with a friend of the opposite sex and not hearing the stereo sound. But willing to sacrifice that for a chance to sit closer.

I still have many of my cds. But they are stored away in a steamer trunk as I don’t have a way to play them except in my car. And even then- using Bluetooth to play different playlists is the new normal. So much more convenient than the large booklets of cds we once carried around.

Enjoy the musical trip down my memory lane. A couple songs are NSFW but fun nonetheless.

Edit: An old friend asked to make this “Collaborative”. Anyone who knew me from my teenage years and can think of a song that reminds them of me- add away!

Our Boy is Fourteen

Where does the time go? Our son is 14 today. Every year I write about him on his birthday, as I do with each of our children. Okay, I write about our children more than just on their birthdays. But on their Birthday, it’s always about them. Here’s a quick snippet about him and his day.

He’s quite the charmer. He knows how to make people happy through his kind acts. Theory also has impeccable manners and is respectful of everyone. It makes me happy to see that our parenting has paid off. Plus he has two wonderful big sisters who have steered him towards being the great kid that he is.

Today was a fairly subdued celebration. We had a big breakfast, followed by opening of gifts. My wife and I finally purchased the trick scooter he wanted. Later this evening, we will be attending Back To The Future at The Twilight Drive In. It’s a sold out show and they predict rain. That will be fun seeing how to cram three teenagers and two adults into a small suv!

But as far as Birthdays go, this one is pretty good for him. And he seemed very happy with what he got. Especially the handmade gifts from his sisters. (A painting and a Star Wars pillow).

Happy 14th Birthday Theory! May the Force Be With You!

Favorite Color

When I was a little child, my favorite color was not blue like most boys, but rather it was green. All because of a Tupperware cup. Ah Tupperware, the strange phenomenon in households from the 50’s through the 80’s. If you were a child of the 70’s/80’s you’d recognize Tupperware in almost everyone’s home.

I drank from the green cup all the time. I remember using it so much that the plastic coating around the lip began to wear off. I’d use my teeth to grind and shave into the plastic cup. I never cared to use the other cups.

By 1982 (I think?), I outgrew green as my favorite color. I began to like red more. As if a switch in my brain flipped. I blame the fact that my parents bought me an amazing Mongoose BMX bike.

It was red with a metallic sparkle to it with gold tire rims and foam pads to “protect” you from getting hurt by the handlebars or the crotch killer. It had a rock hard seat that I would rarely sit on. It was designed to keep you in an almost standing position. I wiped out on that thing a few times, including needing stitches one day on my way to school.

Then I entered awkward teenage years in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Everything was white with strange splashes of neon. As if a blank canvas was being used in the world to share simple images of Geckos or waves.

At some point in my late teenage years I started to like black. Some strange “Goth Phase” in the mid/late 90’s. I still try and buy black t-shirts, but with fun images on them now. I do prefer black clothes over any other color.

But I no longer have a favorite color. There is so much beauty in the world. All of the colors blend so nicely.

What’s your favorite color? Why?

Darwin. April 15th, 2019

Another trip around the sun has completed for our daughter Darwin. She turned 15 today. As much as I still want her to remain our little girl, I also know that she will be growing into an adult over the next few years.

Looking back at some of my previous blogs this year, I’ve noticed that we have shared some fantastic memories together.

In October, we were out hunting for a Halloween Costume.

We enjoyed last summer’s Bike ride around Barnston Island.

I’ve also noticed that she loves to have fun just like I do. Take last month’s Extreme Blanket Fort or our attempt at an Escape Room.

Watching her navigate her way into adulthood is interesting to say the least. She has goals and aspirations for her career and is constantly getting straight “A”s in order to accomplish this. She’s also inspired by my wife’s former fashion and has taken a liking to her old clothes. My wife is happy to see these clothes get a new lease on life.

Socially, our daughter has a ton of friends. She is kind to everyone she meets and is always ready to give the benefit of the doubt when it comes to awkward interactions. Which is a positive notion but realistically speaking will likely change as she grows. I just don’t want her kindheartedness to diminish.

I hope Darwin continues to enjoy life with a positive helping attitude and a warm hug when needed.

Happy Birthday Darwin!

You’re pretty amazing!

Brace Yourself

When I was younger, I had to get braces for my teeth. It was obvious from birth that I’d need them. Seriously- my mother was Scottish and my father was Czech. Both of them had false teeth by their early thirties. My baby teeth were okay, but those adult teeth were messed up something fierce. So my parents forked over a few thousand dollars to repair my smile.

After years of going through puberty and wearing metal in my mouth, I was ready to be good looking. Only that never happened. Once my braces were off- within a few years my wisdom teeth came in and shifted my lower teeth and made them nice and crooked. But I don’t really care now. I’m not trying to impress anyone anymore.

It seems my wife’s genetics and mine weren’t so kind to our offspring. Or our pocketbook for that matter…

I bring this up because our oldest daughter has been wearing braces for a few years now. On Thursday, the orthodontist removed them. Her “agony” is overtaken age 16.

She can’t stop smiling now. I think she is happy about how her teeth have straightened out. I’m happy that we will have smiles in our Christmas photos! I’m also happy that those payments for child number one’s teeth are behind us. Now to focus on the other two.

Joe Cool

“I’m so cool that when I enter a room- everybody freezes.”

I tend to think highly of myself… mostly because I like to maintain a positive outlook of myself- and also to entertain my friends. I have a good sense of humor and don’t mind giving some ammunition for people to poke fun at me. I am pretty amazing after all.

When I was in grade 6/7 I had a couple of Snoopy sweatshirts that said Joe Cool on them. I thought they were the greatest thing ever. Then I hit grade 8- and I was the biggest loser (according to the other kids). I was teased and taunted for years. Hateful people hating me for being me. I began hating myself. Hate filled my world. All I had going for me was to get good grades so that my parents didn’t hate me as well. At least that was the thought I had as a young teenager.

Finally I moved schools. I’d tell you my world got better instantly, but it took me months to make friends. I took an approach that worked for me- I made fun of myself before someone else could. I guess it exuded confidence. Because I have made friends everywhere I go now.

So when I post a proud moment or a self promoting status on social media- know that I took some hardships to get myself there. Somewhere tucked away inside of me is this teenager that was bullied. He was not knowing at the time that life would get better. A lot better.

All because I’ve kept my cool. And what’s cooler than being cool?

Another Birthday!

Everyone who is alive has a birthday. However, not every birthday gets a grandiose celebration. And that’s ok.

Today is our middle child’s 14th Birthday. We are just doing a casual dinner and giving her a couple of gifts. No big party or anything. Just a little bit of recognition. Next weekend she wants to take a couple of her friends bowling. I’ll be taking her because my wife doesn’t like bowling. A carload of young teens laughing and singing is always a treat.

I hope she understands that not every birthday is a crazy gala event. Sometimes that’s hard to explain this to a teenager/ child, especially when movies and tv shows portray things differently.

I think her birthday will still be special in its own way. It’s having her around that is the best gift. She always makes us smile and laugh. These first fourteen years have just flown by. I still remember her being so tiny that I could cradle her on the length of my arm. I miss that little baby some days. But I love who she is growing up to be.

Happy Birthday Darwin.

I’m not crying. You’re crying.

Hang On ‘Till Tomorrow- Come What May

A good night sleep was really needed. As tough as it is dealing with one’s own emotions, it can be even more difficult dealing with your family’s as well. Thursday and Friday were stressing the limits in our home. But we made it through somehow- without hurt feelings, anger or cruelty. It took strength and time.

I knew yesterday that I would just need to be patient and wait for tomorrow (which is now today). Things are better. Not the best- but better. It makes me able to see an end in sight. The inspiration I get to push through these tough times often comes from movies or songs. Someone, somewhere, shared their heartache with the world through art. It encourages me to know that the struggles aren’t limited to just my life. Last night, the song “Tomorrow” from Annie was going through my mind.

And it worked. The sun is out, I’m alive and awake, and people in the house are smiling a bit more than yesterday.

Cheesy? Maybe. Hopeful? Definitely.

1982’s Annie was an integral part of my life growing up since I saw it in the theater at age 6. Being able to get through the sadness and tribulations of life- all the while remaining positive- is a strong characteristic of mine because of this film. I never thought that over 35 years later it would help me in raising our teenager. But it did.

I just stick out my chin and grin and say…”

Next Generation Of Milestones

When you have children, there are tons of exciting milestones at a young age:

  • First step
  • First tooth
  • First word
  • First Christmas

Then they get a couple years with a few moments here and there until first day of school. After that there’s not a whole lot more that you can get excited about. About ten years pass by until the next set of milestones.

  • First job
  • First love
  • First car

I won’t celebrate their first kiss. That’s a personal moment- but it’s kind of a big deal for pre-teen/teenagers. Let them enjoy it. Driving their first car or getting a job- that’s a step into adulthood. A scary realization that this is the next stage of life.

Today, our fifteen year old daughter went for a job interview. Sort of. It was more a meet and greet for an opportunity of employment. A former coworker of mine messaged me that her work was looking for some extra part time help. It was nice of her to think of me and my children. It also made this a bit easier for a first job opportunity to our oldest daughter.

So I took our eldest daughter to meet the owner. For the past couple of days I tried to prepare her for what may happen at an interview. The questions asked, the answers she should give, I also told her to study up on the business as well. Driving there, we went over everything again. She was nervous. She was ready to give up before even entering. But she knew she had an opportunity here to get out of the house and make some money.

We walked in and were greeted with some smiles. I saw my former co-worker and introduced my daughter. I then let them be, because as much as I want to tout all the great things about my daughter to an old friend and a prospective boss- this was about my daughter using her courage and showing off who she is. From what I could tell, his afternoon went really well.

We shall see how it goes now. Will she get a call back? Will she be able to do the job? Will she enjoy it? In the end, it’s been a good learning opportunity for my daughter. Whether anything comes of it or not. It has started something deep inside of her- a drive to enter the adult world.

Screaming Children

It’s that time of year again. Parents dragging little kids on errands against their wishes. Kids being taken to Christmas choir nights, or sports events for older siblings, even shopping lately means more families in the stores. These children, when unsatisfied, tend to express their displeasure with nothing more than a scream. A perpetual going-to-run-out-of-breath-at-some-point scream.

And it sucks.

It sucks for the parents. It sucks for the people around, it also sucks for the child. The child who really didn’t want to be there in the first place. Shushing starts, then bribes, usually a phone is handed off, and on the rare occasion- the parent takes the child away. Perhaps to punish the child, but more often than not to give in to the demands of a screaming toddler.

I feel for parents during these moments. I spent five years working at Chuck E. Cheese’s and saw it all. There’s no easy way to deal with it. The tantrums are like a storm that you just need to ride out.

I’m happy that my children are past the age of just screaming. (Although, it was rare that they would even do it.) I now just need them to stop raising their voices in anger at one another. Ugh. So much drama now.

Any advice besides locking them away? They seem to enjoy that “punishment”.

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.