Lessons in Parenthood: A Father’s Validation

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that I think that most parents want to be proud of their kids. And on the flip side, I think that most kids want their parents to be proud of them. Where this all gets messed up is when there are expectations set by parents that children cannot live up to.

Our kids want us to make us proud, just as much as we want to be proud of them.
Our kids want us to make us proud, just as much as we want to be proud of them.
I was into a lot of sports growing up, both playing and watching. I don’t recall starting that young, which has always made me wonder if I would have been better at them if I would have started earlier.  I still enjoy being active and competitive. The sports that I participate in now have changed, but I’m not less competitive than I was before. Now as a dad, I definitely pass on those competitive expectations onto my boys, and I was about to have a big reality check on the ramifications of that.

Not a fan of selfies, but had to take one with D before the kids Spartan Race.
Not a fan of selfies, but had to take one with D before the kids Spartan Race.
My older son D, is five years old, and has taken some interest in the sports that I like, most recently Spartan Race. And I know that it’s partly because he’s interested and partly because he knows that I’m very interested in it. Preparing for the Spartan Race requires a good amount of cardio training, and so I go running often. D has shown a genuine interesting in running, and I love it. When we were in Maryland during our summer vacation he ran a mile with me when it was 82 degrees and humid. I thought the same enthusiasm that he had for running would translate to bike riding, but I was wrong.

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Up and over, he pushed through.
D enjoys riding his bike, and right now we have him using training wheels. He’s also a cautious kid, so it’s taken him a while to build up his speed. But after successfully running the mile in Maryland, and at a decent pace too, I thought that he would be more willing to go faster on his bike. I can’t explain the logic of that, but it’s what I thought. So when our family went to the park for a walk around a lake near our house (about 2.6 miles), I figured that D would ride his bike and I would run while he does that and my wife would push our younger son L, who is two and a half, in a stroller. As you can gather, it didn’t go as I had planned.

At his own pace, he made it through the whole course and didn't stop.
At his own pace, he made it through the whole course and didn’t stop.
From the beginning, D didn’t want to go very fast. The speed he felt comfortable with was equivalent to a fast walk for me, and I wasn’t too happy about that. He actually ran faster in Maryland than he was biking, and I couldn’t understand why. I did try to encourage him to go faster, telling him he could do it and there was nothing to be worried about, but it didn’t work. He wouldn’t go faster. So I ended up taking the stroller and running around the lake while pushing L, and my wife walked with D the rest of the way.

He might have been scared or intimidated at times by the obstacles, but he tried each one.
He might have been scared or intimidated at times by the obstacles, but he tried each one.
When we all finally met up at the end my wife told me that D started to ride faster as the ride progressed, and at one point said, “I bet that daddy would be proud of me now”. The words hit me like a ton of bricks. My son was doing his best to make me proud and I caused him to think that I wasn’t proud of him.  My wife has told me before, D wants validation from me because I’m his father.

It was great to watch him compete and experience the Spartan Race.
It was great to watch him compete and experience the Spartan Race.
I’ve realized that I have to change my thinking. The problem with me putting certain expectations on my children is that they aren’t me. For better or for worse, they are not me. Don’t get me wrong, I expect them to be good people, and if they do bad things it is not acceptable. But while they might have the same interests as me, they also might not. And they will adopt and learn things at a different pace than I have, most likely faster. I have to remember that my kids will make the effort to make me proud of them, and that I should validate that effort.

I'm proud of these two guys, and I'll be sure to tell them all the time.
I’m proud of these two guys, and I’ll be sure to tell them all the time.
I recently had a chance to take D biking again, and this time I stayed at his pace. And as the ride progressed, he went faster and faster. I’m super proud of him and I let him know it.

Why We Go Back To Cape May Every Year

I’m a creature of habit and I’m all about the routine. Some routines I like and some I don’t, but over the last few summers we’ve had one routine that I’ve really enjoyed, and that’s going to Cape May for a week for vacation. And since this year the warm weather has continued through September, it makes me really want to go back there.

A great little beach town to visit in the summer.
A great little beach town to visit in the summer.

My idea of an ideal vacation is to get away from the crowds and have absolutely nothing planned. That’s not to say that I don’t like doing things while I’m on vacation, I just don’t want to have a schedule.

So for me, Cape May definitely solves the crowd criteria. It’s a nice small town located at the bottom of New Jersey, exit 0 off the Garden State Parkway. While it is a popular summer destination for some, it’s not nearly as crowded as it is in New York City during a regular workweek.

I wouldn't mind living here for the summer.
I wouldn’t mind living here for the summer.

Why I Like It There

One advantage of being in a smaller beach town is that you can go bike riding in the street and not have to worry about a ton of cars. From what I’ve seen, it’s how most of the people get around town there anyway if they’re not walking. So it’s a great place for the kids to go biking. We stayed in a location that was within a short walk into the center of town and beach, so it was great to not have to drive everywhere.

It's nice that the kids can ride their bikes in the street because it's not too crowded.
It’s nice that the kids can ride their bikes in the street because it’s not too crowded.

And then there’s the beach. You do have to pay to get on the beach, and I particularly don’t mind that. In my opinion, it helps to keep the beach from getting too crowded. Our family can spend the whole day at the beach, the boys love playing in the sand and building things. A huge plus is having a beach box to store all of our things in so that we don’t have to keep lugging stuff back and forth each day.

The kids can play on the beach all day.
The kids can play on the beach all day.

Besides The Beach

So if you’re wondering what else there is to do besides hit the beach, the answer to that is yes. If you’re willing to take a walk more inland, or a quick bike ride, you can see the Fisherman’s Memorial, which is a statue and monument dedicated to the local fishermen that have lost their lives at sea.

The view from the Fisherman's Memorial.
The view from the Fisherman’s Memorial.

Washington Street Mall is where you’ll find some restaurants and shops, and great places to get snacks. Nearby is a great breakfast place that we love called The Mad Batter. We love the fresh juice, pancakes, and corned beef hash.

The kids color their placemats while waiting for breakfast to be served at The Mad Batter.
The kids color their placemats while waiting for breakfast to be served at The Mad Batter.

This year we didn’t do as much exploring as we did in previous years. So we didn’t go to the Cape May Lighthouse and we didn’t hit Sunset Beach. Maybe we’ll try to do that next year. I’m hoping my boys will want to go to the top of the Lighthouse with me.

There are other cool things to see around town, like the fire house.
There are other cool things to see around town, like the fire house.

We did venture out to Wildwood one day, which is another town not far from Cape May, to take the kids to the amusement parks and boardwalk. The kids enjoy the rides there and it’s a nice way to change up the scenery and take a break from the beach.

Just a short drive away, Wildwood has a boardwalk with come cool rides for the kids.
Just a short drive away, Wildwood has a boardwalk with come cool rides for the kids.

Evening Entertainment     

Since the kids are still pretty young, our evenings are rather low key. We made the effort to go and see the sunset on the beach a couple of times, and the experience didn’t disappoint.

You don't want to miss sunsets like this.
You don’t want to miss sunsets like this.

The kids had a chance to participate in the Kiwanis Sunset Flag Ceremony on one of the nights. It was a great experience for them. From Memorial Day through September 11, the Kiwanis Club invites kids to help lower the flag. “Each child receives a certificate signed by the Mayor of Cape May and the President of the Kiwanis Club, indicating their participation”.

Participating in the flag ceremony was a nice thing for the kids.
Participating in the flag ceremony was a nice thing for the kids.

After the kids went to bed it was nice to be able to close out the day watching a movie. Even though it’s great to unplug for a while, we really like watching our TV shows and movies. Verizon FiOS allows me to sync up the UltraViolet digital movies that I have and I can play them through the FiOS app or website. It’s awesome because I can watch whatever I want to wherever I am.

I'm probably one of the few people left that buys Blu-Ray discs. So it's nice that I can virtually take my collection wherever I go.
I’m probably one of the few people left that buys Blu-Ray discs. So it’s nice that I can virtually take my collection with me wherever I go.

Until Next Year

Sadly vacations don’t last forever, and after a week it was back to reality. I would rather leave a place itching to go back, than leave a place that I can’t wait to get away from. If you’re looking to get away from the busyness of the city or just looking to take a break, Cape May is a great relaxing place to go. I highly recommend it.

Can't wait to get back to Cape May.
Can’t wait to get back to Cape May.

Disclaimer: This post is part of a campaign I’m doing with Verizon FiOS in NYC. #FiOSNY

How Do You Honor The Lost?

It’s the 14th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, and just like the previous 13 years, we made our way down to the 9/11 Memorial to listen to the names of the lives that were lost and remember and honor our loved ones. And for some reason I started to ask myself, what exactly is the best way to honor someone?

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The 9/11 Memorial serves as a great reminder for everyone about the lives that were lost on that tragic day, and for some the location is a cemetery simply because their loved ones remains were not found or identified. Each year, on this day, many are somber and sad while they remember those people that that they loved and are no longer with us. But it occurred to me though, that visiting this site once a year, or maybe twice or three times for some, isn’t the best way that you can honor someone.

Now before you start commenting about how you completely disagree, hear me out. Going back to the 9/11 Memorial, or any memorial, gravesite, or cemetery is a great way to remember whom you lost and reflect on how they positively affected your life, and to express how much you still miss them. But after your visit is done, the best way to honor your lost loved one is to show it in how you live your life.

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It’s simple, actions speak louder than words. It’s not what you’re going to do, it’s what you’ve done that matters. If someone truly meant something to you, if there was someone you really respected, then it would show in how you live your life because you would want to exhibit the same characteristics and principles that they did. In other words, you’d model some part of your life after them.

Year after year, the crowds at the 9/11 Memorial seem to get smaller and smaller. It seems as if a lot of people have moved on, and I don’t blame them because life goes on. But as life does move on and I hope you do too, don’t just always say, “never forget”, instead live your life like you haven’t forgotten.

Are You Ready for Kindergarten?

During our family game time, my boys have recently been asking to play “Are you ready for Kindergarten?”.  It’s a game show board game, where there are various questions about math and language to help prepare a child for kindergarten.  It’s a fun game which allow both my boys to have fun while learning.  But the last time we played, I realized as a mom I am NOT ready for kindergarten!

This summer we played this game a lot.
This summer we played this game a lot.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m so excited that my older one is growing up and I am ready for him to go to school, but as I am counting down our last few days before summer is really over, I can’t help but feel a little sad.  (though of course I don’t tell my boys).

And now as I sit here the night before the adventure of school begins, my heart is racing with anxious excitement as it’s a new journey for our family and at the same time I’m worrying about the bus ride to school and all that the day will entail for him, when it hits me that I need to stop and breathe.

So after a restless night of sleep (for me), the first day of school comes and we are all ready!

So proud of him!
So proud of him!

Breakfast is eaten, Lunch is packed, and off to wait for the bus we go.  As the school bus comes down the block, I feel a squeeze in my hand – all of the excitement and anticipation on D’s face now turns into nervousness.  Tears begin rolling down both D’s and L’s faces as one doesn’t want to let go of my hand while getting on the bus and the other wants to get on the bus too.

We did survive the day! D shared what he did his first day and how he enjoyed all the things they did and I’m so proud of him! I’m excited to see what this year bring – ready or not, kindergarten here we come!

Do you remember your child’s first day of Kindergarten?

Summer Getaway: Sunset Island in Ocean City, MD

Summertime is a great time and popular time for families to take a vacation and just get away from life, as they normally know it. For us, it’s no different. This was the first time that my family has gone down to Ocean City, Maryland for vacation, and it did not disappoint.

Getting There

Coming from New York, there are really only two ways (that I know of) to get there. You can take the New Jersey Turnpike all the way down to Delaware, and then drive through, or you can take the Garden State Parkway all the way down to Cape May, New Jersey, and take the ferry to Delaware. On the way down, we opted to take the ferry.

The ferry ride to Delaware starts at Cape May, NJ.
The ferry ride to Delaware starts at Cape May, NJ.

There are definitely benefits to taking the ferry. It breaks up what would be a close to five-hour drive (without traffic), and it gives everyone a chance to get out of the car and stretch. The ferry also has food that you can buy and some arcade games on board. If the weather is nice you can just sit outside, watch the ocean and from what I hear sometimes you can see dolphins.

The trip is about ninety minutes and it’s not free, so you do have to pay for a ticket. Also if you’re planning on choosing this route you should plan ahead because the tickets sell out fast. After docking in Delaware, we were about 30 miles from Ocean City.

On the ferry looking for Dolphins.
On the ferry looking for Dolphins.

Sunset Island

We had the great opportunity, thanks Stephanie’s parents, to stay at Sunset Island for the week. If you haven’t heard of Sunset Island, it’s “a private, 37 acre Island located in the Assawoman Bay off 67th Street in Ocean City, Maryland just two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean”. It’s great for kids because everything you can pretty much do everything without leaving the community.

Sunset Island is a nice coastal vacation spot.
Sunset Island is a nice coastal vacation spot.

The Fun Stuff

The kids spent most of their time at the pool and the water fountain. There are two outdoor pools, one is a small pool for kids 2 years old and under, and the other is for everyone ages 2 and up. There was also an indoor pool that all ages could go into.

The outdoor pool at Sunset Island was a lot of fun to play in.
The outdoor pool at Sunset Island was a lot of fun to play in.

My boys had a really fun time at the fountain, and you could argue that they enjoyed that more than being in the pool. It was pretty cool, the water shot out of the ground in patterns and different heights. They probably enjoyed it more because they don’t know how to swim yet.

The boys really enjoyed the water fountains.
The boys really enjoyed the water fountains.

Sunset Island also had a couple of unguarded beaches, and those were nice too. The water was calm and in the evening you could see some really great sunsets. You can also do some crabbing off the pier if you’re so inclined.

Sunsets at the pier.
Sunsets at the pier.

If you’re one that likes to stay in shape while on vacation, there is a one-mile path that goes around the whole property, and there is a fitness room too. It’s nice run in the morning to start the day, or if you prefer you can run it in the evening and catch the sunset.

Public Beach and Boardwalk

We did venture off the property to the public beach and boardwalk too. Although we didn’t spend too much time at the public beach it was a nice change of scenery, and the great thing was that it was just a few blocks from community.

Ready to catch the waves at the public beach.
Ready to catch the waves at the public beach.

The boardwalk was a bit further down but it was worth the visit. There were lots of games to play and rides to try, but we ended up just walking up and down and eating fries and funnel cake. We got to see this really cool sand castle sculpture that must have taken hours to create.

These sand sculptures must have taken a long time to build.
These sand sculptures must have taken a long time to build.

I’m sure that when the kids get older we’ll be spending more time on the boardwalk.

Ice cream, funnel cake, and fries are things you must have when walking down the boardwalk.
Ice cream, funnel cake, and fries are things you must have when walking down the boardwalk.

Northside Park

Another place we went to see was Northside Park. There was a really nice playground for the kids there and they didn’t want to leave. It had a good number of things for the boys to climb up on and play with, and it was also really clean and well maintained.

Cool rock climbing wall for the kids.
Cool rock climbing wall for the kids.

Northside Park was another popular place for crabbing because it had a really long pier that went pretty deep into the bay. We saw a lot of people fishing and crabbing, checking their lines from time to time to see if they caught anything. In order to get a good spot, you have to get there early!

Lots of crabbing and fishing going on here.
Lots of crabbing and fishing going on here.

Assateague

Before we left for this trip, someone told me that there were these wild horses that ran wild on this island near Ocean City.  And that’s no lie!  We didn’t go all the way into the island (because we didn’t want to pay) but we got to see some wild horses anyway.  I think the next time we go back, we’ll pay to go into the park because I’m told the horses can come right up to your window!

Wish we could have gotten a little closer!
Wish we could have gotten a little closer!

 

Staying Connected

Had to check the FiOS app to make sure our shows were scheduled to record.
Had to check the FiOS app to make sure our shows were scheduled to record.

I was really happy that the house we stayed at had Wi-Fi. Unfortunately during this particular vacation I couldn’t completely unplug. With our current schedules, Stephanie and I mostly record the TV shows that we like to watch on our Verizon FiOS DVR and watch them at a later time. While we might not be completely up to date with the latest episode, at least we can fast forward through the commercials. One cool thing about having Verizon FiOS is that I was able to check my DVR from my phone and make sure that the shows I wanted to record where actually scheduled.

Going Home

All good things must come to an end at some point and so did this vacation. Instead of taking the ferry route back home, we decided to save some money and drive back the whole way. The ride wasn’t too bad. We did hit some traffic but it wasn’t much. Our decision to take the ferry down was validated when we saw all of the traffic going the opposite way when we were leaving.

The barometer of a successful family vacation has to be whether the kids enjoyed it or not. And since they definitely did, the vacation was a success. The truth is, is that we all had fun and we’ll probably go back again in the future. What’s one vacation spot that your family enjoys going to and that you would recommend?

Disclaimer: This post is part of a campaign I’m doing with Verizon FiOS in NYC. #FiOSNY

Quietly Ending 2012 Energized Me For 2013

Me and Derek going sledding
Me and Derek going sledding
My apologies to all if I was unresponsive to you from Christmas to New Year’s. I recently posted about taking a break, and from Christmas to New Year’s I was able to do just that. I’ll admit that I wasn’t completely unplugged, I can’t help but check my social networks at least once a day, but for the most part I was offline.

Sometimes I’m not good at taking my own advice. The saying “do as I say not as I do” comes to mind when I tell people that they need to take time off, because I rarely do that. But this time I decided to use the last week in 2012 to reset the clock and recharge by unplugging. I took a break.

My wife and I were able to take our son Derek sledding for the first time, he’s only 2 and a half. And while it was incredibly tiring to pick him up and walk up the hill each time after we sledded down, it was a lot of fun and we all had a blast! I spent a lot of time playing with him and his Thomas trains and reading books. I also had a chance to hang out with friends and play football and basketball. Although physically tiring it was also a lot of fun, and it took my mind off of social media.

The intensity of social media can be very tiring and draining, and managing a brand’s social presence just adds to the pressure. So the time off was good and focusing my energy on social activities that don’t require a laptop, tablet, or smartphone energized me and got me ready to take on 2013. It was also a good reminder that personal relationships matter most, and this will continue to be my social media focus for 2013. Just because we interact on a screen, doesn’t mean that it ends there.

How did you end 2012? Did you have to reset the clock, unplug and recharge? What are some of the goals you have for 2013?