Always Seeking New Experiences

The other day my wife and I took the kids bowling. We had an amazing time, and neither of us are that into bowling.

At age four and eight months, neither one of the kids had been to a bowling alley before. This was a saturday afternoon, and there were only about a half-dozen lanes open. The place was hopping.

The beauty of it, was the awe and amazement from the kids. Both were wide-eyed and energized from the experience. From zig-zagging the ball down the lane off the bumpers to the crash of the pins and the action of people, both seemed to thrive off this new experience.

This is the most amazing thing about kids:  being able to see the world brand new. There were no judgements in their eyes. They just loved being out there in the world and in the action.

bowling

 

One of my goals as a parent is to offer this to my kids and to myself as long as I am alive. New experiences not only help the individual grow, but they bring people together. The world has so much to offer.

And the truth of the matter–the truth that I sometimes have a hard time believing–is that everyday is a new experience. It’s easy to get swept into the rhythms of life and feel like you may be repeating yourself over and over. But today, no matter if you read this when posted or years from now, is a new experience that has never happened before.

I easily forget this unless I am doing something new for the first time, like take my kids who have never even touched a bowling ball out bowling on a Saturday afternoon. (I must also give my wife credit as this is what she chose as her birthday celebration.)

But I’ve found ways to inject this newness on a day, without having to travel to foreign lands or go somewhere new:

  • Try a new food, like something off the Korean menu you can’t even pronounce.
  • Clean that closet you’ve been meaning to get to for a long time.
  • Invite new friends over that you’ve never entertained before.
  • Exercise. I was going to write try a new exercise, but this doesn’t even have to be that new. I find exercise in general freshens my eyes to the world.
  • Be vulnerable. Share something that is bothering you or difficult for you.

Keep fresh eyes one whenever you can, for the kids’ enjoyment and your own. The longer I am able to stay in this state, the more open I am to life’s experiences.

I think about the value giving my kids the interest and openness to try new things, and that is something that is priceless. This is also something that any parent can give to their child, no matter the socioeconomic background.

A Day Off or a School Day? It’s What Is in Front of Me.

Is today a day-off? It’s the question my son asked right away after giving me a tired smile at 6:15 a.m.

He is only four years old yet he flipped his body back down on the bed after learning that the answer was no. It’s a school and work day. How is he not excited for all of life’s offerings at his age?

I wonder where is he getting this moan-and-groan sense of dread for school? When him in action in pre-school class, he seems to enjoy the time. He loves bringing home art and showing off his latest creations. He has good friends and loving teachers.

Maybe it’s my relentless urge to leave as early as I am able, so I can be to work on time? Maybe it’s my nagging to get dressed and get you out the door? Maybe it’s leftover from generations of hard working factory, punch-the-clock, industrial age workers? Maybe I’m over thinking things?

I’m grateful for what I have. Most of the time. I may be a perfectionist, but I haven’t hit 100% in this arena (or any arena for that matter). Out of my countless inspirational books and “live your best life” books, all of them stress the importance of gratitude.

The truth is I’m so grateful to have healthy children. Yet, I push for more and more. More money. More car (my four-door compact is getting tight). Better behavior. A cleaner house. It’s a challenge for me to focus on what is in front of me.

And so I want to share a reading titled “Don’t Make It Harder Than It Needs to Be” from The Parent’s Tao Te Ching that helped me put things in perspective the other evening:

Everyone wants to be a wise parent
but few choose this path.
This is unfortunate
for it is an easy path,
filled with joy
and with many rewards.
But it is easy to become sidetracked.
Distractions are everywhere.
As the external pressures mouth
be sure to notice what occurs.

Do you pursue career advancement
while your children choose harmful paths?
Do you buy expensive toys
to medicate your feelings
while your children become
lost in the clutter?
Do you sink into depression
while your children hunger for joy?

Don’t make parenting harder that it needs to be.
It only requires focus.
Worry is not focus.
Attempting to control is not focus.
Distracting yourself is not focus.
Relaxed, non-fretful, attention
to what is in front of you
right now,
is focus.
What is in front of you right now?
No, not your worries or frets,
what is right here,
right now?

A Friend of Mine Chose Not to Vote & I Admire His Tenacity

On the eve of election day, I asked a friend of mine if he had voted already. For some reason, I knew what his answer would be. Something inside me said that he was going to opt out of going to the polls at all.

He didn’t see “any God-like qualities in either candidate,” so he chose to abstain. He told me this with such conviction, admitting that he is absolutely powerless against people places and things, so he wasn’t even going to cast a ballot.

I sure didn’t agree with staying home from exercising my constitutional right, but I admired his tenacity for standing up for his beliefs. And his right not to vote. He then went to mention a section of the Bible that previews dark days before the second coming of Jesus.

Maybe we’re on our way? Or maybe things have been dark for some time. Just turn on the news or your favorite social media network to see the racism, inequality, poverty and hate pouring out of people.

voting-ballot

My friend wasn’t alone. Only 51-52 percent of registered voters turned out in this recent election. Maybe they too were handing it over to God?

I do know that this friend of mine is one of the most generous, caring and self-less individuals I know. He teaches music to kids and volunteers countless hours in service to others.

I’m so torn. It’s not the fabric of my upbringing to not participate in an election. I want to raise my kids with the idea that they can make a difference. That getting active in democracy will contribute to the greater good, but how do I do that when I don’t see it from the election results. How is building a wall contributing to the greater good of humanity?

We don’t need a physical wall to keep U.S. from its neighbors to the south. We have enough invisible walls shielding us from neighbors and potential friends. Whether you voted or not, we can demonstrate kindness to our children, so they can build the relationships of our future, not tear them down.

My neighbor across the street is a very quite man. His wife is disable and his two adult children live in the home, too. He took me by surprise the other day as I was playing with my son when he asked, “Before you throw out your pumpkins, can you save the stems for me?”

I did a double take and asked him to repeat himself. Turns out his wife does crafts, making ornamental pumpkins of some sort, and he asked us to save the stems for his wife. So I involved my son in giving the stems to him. It’s a small act, but my four-year old and I crossed the street together and brought the stems to their house.

I don’t care about his political beliefs. I don’t care who he voted for. I just know that my children remember these small steps of action. Joy was spilling from my son to visit their house and deliver the pumpkins stems.

And hopefully, someday my kids can stand with tenacity for what they believe in to break down walls, either physical or invisible to help their community.

 

Oh No! I’m Afraid That I May Be a Helicopter Dad

A recent article in the New York Time’s about Playborhoods has me thinking about many roles I play as a dad, and one that I am concerned about is being a “helicopter parent” a term used for the parent that can’t let go of providing guidance to their child.

The root cause of such helicoptering behavior is fear. Fear of falling. Fear of being kidnapped. Fear of getting in a fight. Fear of fill in the blank with something my brain sees as wrong or dangerous.

So, a Silicon Valley father decides to build his yard and play areas for kids to welcome such freedom as jumping from the top of the playground onto a trampoline, climbing onto the roof of the house and eating at the picnic table edged up to the front sidewalk, engaging community.

I get it. Kids need freedom. Kids will take freedom, eventually. And with or without my help, my son is going to grow up. Why not let him build independence and self confidence from a young age?

biking-away-from-me

There is nothing wrong with taking risks. In fact, encouraging such risks builds self-esteem and prepares them for life, according to this article by The Guardian. This article was published in 2008, and I’m sure researchers had a grasp on this way before then.

But why then am I hesitant to allow my four-year old to play three houses down at the house with a large rope chained to a tree littered with climbing attachments?

Fear. Fear of him getting exposed to what? Last time I went over there, the five-year old neighbor was jumping off a trapeze hanging from a tree in the backyard onto a trampoline. So you don’t need to be a high-rolling millionaire from Silicon Valley to expose your kids to such risks, but that didn’t stop me from thinking this kid is going to break his neck.

I had to talk myself into leaving my pre-school son at the house for even 15 minutes.

God, when did you allow me to become a helicopter parent? I guess it’s only part of my growth. Letting go and letting God again. My kids will be stronger and build character faster. I’ve referenced being “saved” by my dad at the roller-rink, and how I think parental bailout can cause a lack of self-reliance.

Kids will be kids, and they’ve been growing up healthy and well without the need for helicoptering generations before us.

I believe the less fear I can project on them, the less fear they will have. Being a father to me means being a figure the kids can lean on while they are young. Showing them that they are trusted, providing boundaries and letting them push against them is just part of growing up.

My work will be to land this copter and fly on an as needed basis.