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Chess Master Kid

Checkmate

Kids are funny creatures. Just when you think you know exactly who they are and what they are destined to be, they throw you a curveball that changes your entire view of them. Take my son, for instance. If you’d have asked me at the beginning of the school year I would have told you that he was an “all sports all the time” kind of kid who didn’t tend to express himself creatively very often.

As we close in on the end of the school year he still loves sports but he has also dabbled in things like writing stories, music, dance, YouTubing and most recently, playing chess. Chess is the one that was most surprising to me as we had never played it at home before, mostly because I never learned to play. He told me that he had joined the chess club at school and if I’m being perfectly honest the first thing that popped into my head was kids with suspenders, pocket protectors and tape on their glasses.

The truth, however, is that a lot of the sports kids had joined the chess club and I was really excited that my son decided to step out of his comfort zone to try something new. As it turns out this wasn’t just a weekly club that was getting together for fun to learn a new game, they actually had tryouts for the school team and my kid made it! They went to the city-wide school tournament and ended up placing second out of all the schools!

Chess Kid Medal

She was so happy for her brother for winning a chess medal!

He has since asked if he can enter a city-wide tournament where he wouldn’t know anybody, which is a huge step for him as a shy kid. I am excited to announce that he even managed to win a couple games at that tournament and finished a half point out of the medals! I know this sounds like a giant humble-brag post but this was a really big deal for him and I was so proud that he broke out of his comfort zone and did something that made him nervous. He proved to himself that he could do it and although he was disappointed that he didn’t win, I could tell that he was proud of his achievement. He has asked to try his luck at the next tournament and I couldn’t be more proud of my little Bobby Fischer in training!.

For the record, I didn’t expect him to win anything, especially considering he had just started playing chess a couple months earlier. I just wanted him to have a good experience and not for him to get crushed in every game he played. I think I did a great job of concealing my nerves while he was playing. This face looks totally natural, right??

Father Son Hockey

You’re Already A Good Dad

Life can get pretty repetitive, can’t it? Work, school, ballet, hockey, sleep, repeat. Entire weeks can go by without anything significant happening and I’ve made my peace with that as we can’t be all spontaneity all the time. Every now and then, however, something sneaks up on you and kicks you right upside the head. Such was the case this Monday as I drove my 7 year old son to power skating, as we have done every Monday for the past 3 months.

If you had told me that I was going to get misty eyed while driving to power skating on this day I would have probably laughed, given you an “okay, then” and rushed out the door with my son, you know, because we are literally always late somehow. My son has been more and more interested in hearing about my father lately and never seems to run out of questions about him. I have written about my father before for those who are new here but he passed away a few years ago on the same day that we found out we were pregnant with my son.

While he usually wants to know about my father as a coach and other sports related stories, on this day he shifted his focus to me and was curious about how I dealt with his passing. I know, heavy for a 7 year old, right? That was my initial thought as well but I always jump at the chance to both talk about my dad and bond with my son, so I happily answered his questions.

He asked if I was sad when my father died and how it all happened, which were easy answers. Then he asked me if I missed him and I froze a bit, not sure how much to get into it. I told him that I missed my dad everyday and explained that I was sad that he never got to meet my son and his sister, but mostly I missed him because I didn’t get to have him around to teach me how to do technical things like change a tire, or help me with coaching or help me learn to be a good dad. This conversation alone could have been enough to cause my emotions to go haywire but I held it together, until my son hit me with…

“But, you’re already a good dad.”

I’m guessing he didn’t realize how powerful it was to hear those words after the conversation we had just finished. I thanked him as I discreetly wiped a happy tear from eye and saw him light up knowing that he had made his dad smile. We sat in comfortable silence the rest of the way to hockey, both proud of our achievements for the day.

Sens Experience Hockey

He Shoots, He Scores!

I watched in awe as a child skated, untouched, through an entire team of 5 and 6 year olds. With one kid to beat the puck slid off his stick and into the corner. He chased after it along with every other child on the ice, as 6 year old hockey players do. Every child, that is, but one. There, standing in front of the net with his stick dutifully on the ice, was my son.

It’s his first year in hockey and the learning curve has been steep. Because of his age, most of the kids he is playing with have already played for a season or two, so he has some catching up to do. I volunteered to be an on-ice helper so that I could encourage him to keep at it, and also because coaching seems to be in my blood.

On this particular day, his team was playing in their first game of the year. This wasn’t any regular game, though. They were playing on the same ice as the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, taking part in a special program the team runs for minor hockey players. The stands were filled with excited parents, grandparents and friends. We had a referee, scorekeeper and announcer to give the game a very real feel to it. They even played the national anthem before we started, which was one of my favourite parts of the experience.

It’s tough to teach a 6 year old how to play hockey, especially when he has never played before. There is only so much information they can take in at one time so you have to pick a couple things and focus on them. The one thing I tried to explain to my son before the game was that if he saw a flock of kids all chasing after the puck, that he should get into the open and put his stick on the ice. Much to my surprise, he actually listened to me.

There he stood, in front of the net, puck on his stick, and a flock of puck hungry 6 year olds skating right at him. He lifted his head and fired the puck as the crowd crashed into each other in front of the net. The next few seconds were a blur. I wasn’t sure what had happened until I heard the announcer call out my son’s name as the goal scorer and it literally took everything in my fatherly heart to react like a normal human being, as opposed to jumping on to the ice like my brain was suggesting.

I am not telling this story to brag about how my son scored a goal. Okay, maybe a little. I think I was surprised at how proud I was in that moment. I’m always proud of my kids but in this case he was rewarded because he listened to my advice and that felt good. His first words upon returning to the bench were, “Dad, did you see my goal? I did what you said and just shot it!”. It was one of the first times I truly felt like I had earned credibility as a father in his eyes.

I have no delusions of my son being a superstar hockey player. Frankly, I fear I have blessed him with my lack of height, which is usually a deal breaker for a lot of sports. I am just really proud of how hard he tries when he is out on the ice. I haven’t seen him invest in something like this before and it gives me a lot of joy to see him smiling even while he learns.

Canada Army Run

Project #DadFit – Week 4: Canada Army Run 5K – Completed!

Weight Last Week: 202.9 lbs
Weight This Week: 201.2 lbs

When I originally signed up to run in the Canada Army Run, I had never run a 5K before and figured it would be great motivation to keep exercising. I was definitely right about that part. I have never pushed myself harder than with those training runs and by the time race day had arrived, I had already completed about eight 5K runs around my neighbourhood. Still, I wasn’t really sure about this whole race thing.

When I arrived on race day, the intimidation hit me within minutes and at one point I actually thought about not going through with it. What if I tripped someone? Or got lost? What if I cramped up or did something to make me look ridiculous? I didn’t know any of the rules and every single one of the other 11,256 racers looked like seasoned veterans to me. Then I got a message from my wife and kids, who had made signs for me and were chanting “Go Daddy Go!”, which made me completely forget about all my worries, and maybe tear up a bit, and got me focused back on the race.

Canada Army Run Go Daddy Go

Thing 1’s Sign

Canada Army Run Go Daddy

Thing 2’s Sign

Watching the opening ceremonies, the tributes to our veterans and current serving members of the Armed Forces made me remember what we were running for that day and the atmosphere was absolutely electric. As I ran the course, there were a number of times where I thought I was going to stop to walk for a minute, as I am accustomed to doing, but every time that thought crept into my head, I would pass a cheering section of people who were all clapping and holding signs of encouragement for all the runners. It was an extremely moving experience and one I will never forget.

With only a half a kilometer left, I saw the finish line appear from around the bend and all the adrenaline and emotions I had in my body came pouring out onto the road. I feel like I floated across the finish line, Jay-Z blaring, arm raised proudly as I knew that I had accomplished something that I will be proud of for the rest of my life. To have the opportunity to thank and accept my medal from a serving member of our Armed Forces was an incredible honour as well.

I had set a goal to run in this race and not only did I follow through but I ran the 5K without stopping for the first time ever and shaved 3 minutes off my best time. I know I sound like a broken record here but coming from someone who has done little physical activity over the last 15 years, if I can do this, anyone can do this. Get out there and set a small goal for yourself. You’ll be amazed how great you feel when you push through what you thought was your limit and get to the next level!

Just as a quick side note, I want to say thank you to everyone for all your encouragement throughout this process. All of your comments and messages have meant more to me than I can express and they really keep me motivated to keep going.

Canada Army Run Finish Line

Looking Scruffy!

Bike Riding Training

The Greatest Bike Riding Teacher Ever!

He ran up and hugged me tightly. “Daddy, you’re the best bike teacher ever!” he exclaimed, his voice filled with pride. Up until that moment, I had managed to contain my emotions solely to a prideful glow, but this kid always seems to find a way to push me outside of my comfort zone. Today’s moment comes courtesy of him learning to ride his bike, without training wheels, in under an hour.

The truth is, teaching a child to ride a bike has little to do with the teacher. I was essentially there for moral support and to follow along behind him, holding his seat as so many Hallmark cards would imply. He is the one who did all the work and my heightened emotions came from watching his pride in himself rather than being proclaimed World’s Greatest Bike Teacher, although it does have a nice ring to it.

This is just one of many obstacles he will hurdle in his lifetime and watching him have pride in the things he accomplishes has been helping me renew my own sense of pride in the things I have done recently. It’s so easy to get lost in routine to the point where you feel like you are just going through the motions of life. What my kids have taught me is that you are never too old to learn something new, and in the case of my children, I’m learning to become a teacher, mentor, disciplinarian and role model, all at the same time. This has opened my eyes to all the other things I want to accomplish in my life and has encouraged me to start going after those dreams.

Funny the effects children can have on our brains.

Three Year Old Pride

In case you have never met me or followed me on any social media channel, I attended a conference last weekend called, Blissdom Canada. At this conference, I was given the opportunity to do my very first presentation, with slide show and everything. Yeah, I know, bad ass! It was an amazing and exhilarating experience and one that I won’t soon forget.

After the presentation, I received so many supportive and encouraging tweets, messages and face to face compliments, that I was on cloud nine until…well, I’m still kind of there but that’s not the point. Something else happened that trumped all of that, which probably sounds hard to believe.

I was lucky enough to have my amazing wife there, who spent the whole weekend making sure our kids were having a great time on their mini vacation. They told me all about their swimming pool adventures and it was great to see how excited they were to have met the “Real” Chuck E. Cheese! I was sad to miss out on all the fun but realized that without the conference we wouldn’t have been there anyway. Plus, they got a chance to come down and watch my first ever presentation, which was really special for me.

I caught them on their way back from dinner on the last night and as I was talking to them, my three year old daughter started playing with my conference badge, which hung from a lanyard around my neck.

“What’s this, Daddy?” she asked
“That’s my ticket for Daddy’s conference, honey” I replied, figuring I could have said anything and she wouldn’t have really understood.

Then she hit me with the bomb…

“Did you get that for being so good on the stage today?”

She stared, very matter of factly, into my eyes as she said it and I couldn’t help thinking that she knew exactly what she was doing and how much it meant to me. I was thankful for all the nice words from everyone throughout the day, but for your three year old to express pride in something you did is beyond words. I mean, having your children be proud of you is part of the goal, right?

I hugged her so quickly and tightly that I’m hoping she didn’t get a chance to see the tears. Not because I felt the need to hide them, but they would have been hard to explain at that point. This was just one of the memories at made at Blissdom Canada but it’s one of the ones that will stay with me forever.

On Setting And Achieving Goals {#Movember}

When I started recruiting teammates for this year’s Movember campaign, I had preset a lofty goal of $2,000. Little did I realize that my teammates had different plans for our fundraising efforts, this November.

I had taken part in Movember before. Last year, before I had discovered blogging, I failed to gather any troops and provided $125 for the cause, with $50 of that being out of my own pocket. This year, however, I had a new audience, new friends and a passion to succeed. I also had a new found respect for the powers of influence and reach.

It was great to be able to surround myself with so many like-minded people, who were as committed to the Movember cause as I was. There is a bit of a stigma surrounding Movember, as some say it is just an excuse for guys to grow a mustache and then complain about how much they are suffering with it, without actually raising funds or awareness for the campaign.

While that may be true for some, I can assure the naysayers that our group of Mo Bro’s and Mo Sista’s not only did a great job of raising awareness, but late last night, we reached the $10,000 raised mark! I have never been a part of such a dedicated group of people and I’m incredibly proud of every single member of our team. We had members who sold MoTies, told very personal stories, gave away prizes out of their own pockets and even one member who offered to write personalized Christmas stories to all who donated to his page. It was incredible to watch everyone come together like that.

We also had an amazing turnout from the corporate community and I would like to personally thank all of the businesses who have contributed to our team, whether it be with donations or prizes. They are, PlaSmart, Logs End Inc, Burnbrae Farms, Tag Along Toys, Elm Hill Kids, Play It Again Sports, Cloak and Curio, Fathead, Adult Essentials & Sarah J’s Cupcakes. Your support has helped us achieve a goal that would have seemed unreachable at the start of all of this and I can’t say thank you enough!

With 2 days left and our Movember Party tonight, the sky is still the limit. While we won’t be setting any new goals, there are still nice, round numbers floating around in my head. I just want to say thank you to everybody who had a hand in contributing to our team’s success. We flew through goals of $2,000, $5,000 and $7,500, and it was all because of your generosity and commitment to making a better world for men who are suffering with cancer and mental illness.

I hope you all have a great day and thanks again for everything!

Cheers!

There Is No Greater Love Than The Love Of A Sibling

I’m not sure if it’s a normal thing among siblings at a young age, but the love my children show for each other can be emotionally overwhelming for me, at times. In thinking back to my childhood with my brother, there weren’t too many moments I can remember that didn’t involve something sharp and dangerous being hurled at one of us, while the other ran for their life.

With my children being only 2 & 4 years old respectively, I can’t possibly expect them to fully understand the value of loving and respecting others. Especially given the fact that they live in a house that doubles as a home daycare and have to watch all their worldly possessions get played with by other children, 5 days out of each week.

Yet, they have transitioned seamlessly and I dare say that this is one of the main reasons they have grown so close in such a short time span. My son, the older of the two, is constantly checking in on his little sister to make sure her needs are being met. When she cries, he almost always runs over to rub her back and ask if she’s okay, which usually causes me to pause in amazement at his brotherly awareness.

Sure, they have some battles too but the majority of their interactions are positive ones. To watch my daughter come down stairs in the morning and immediately head to the couch my son is sitting on, so they can cuddle, absolutely melts this Dad’s heart. I see it in a lot of their daily interactions and I smile each and every time something happens.

I don’t know the exact science behind it and I am absolutely not complaining. My wife, who is with them almost 24 hours a day, is clearly doing an excellent job of teaching them the importance of loving and treating each other with respect. I am eternally grateful for her decision to quit her job in order to stay home and raise our children. I don’t know if you have ever worked in a daycare setting, but it is not for everybody (me) and might be one of the toughest jobs out there.

This probably comes off as a sappy Dad post and may even seem like I am bragging about it. I can assure you that it is simply done out of pride. Maybe this is just how all young siblings behave and I am in for a very rude awakening, very soon. Even if they forget it somewhere down the line, I will always have these memories to look back on and to share with them. In the meantime, I will continue beaming with pride every time they find their way into each other’s arms.

Cheers!

In The Presence of a Man

I lost my little boy today…

Last thing I remember was singing him to sleep and holding him tightly, promising to never let him go. This morning however, he crossed through the gates to the other side and never looked back.

I don’t even feel like I got to say a proper goodbye. One minute he was there and the next, gone. I just stood there in stunned disbelief, remembering all the good times and thinking about all the things I still hadn’t taught him.

I definitely wasn’t ready for this moment, that much I know for sure. He certainly can’t be ready for the next stage of his life. What if he gets hurt? Who’s going to be there to make it better? What if he can’t get his lunch bag opened? He’ll starve to death! As I went through all the terrible scenarios in my head, all I kept repeating was “This can’t be happening! This can’t be happening!”

The reality is, it WAS happening and there was nothing I could do about it but stare in awe of the fine young man my wife and I had created and raised. My little boy had crossed the gates into manhood and I’ve never EVER been so proud in all my life!

Our walk to the school this morning was a long one for sure. My son had no idea the emotions that were swirling around the minds of my wife and I, but hopefully someday he will. That pit in your stomach as you feel like you are walking the longest plank, to imminent doom.

I hope that someday he will get to experience this moment with his own children. Maybe then he will understand that all the crying and stress from his parents wasn’t about sadness or anger, but a totally different emotion that overpowers all others.

Pride. Because that’s all I feel for him on this day as he embarks on his new journey.

I’m proud of him for having the courage to take that next step. I’m proud of him for making sure to hug his sister before he left us today. I’m proud of how he coloured in the lines at the teacher interview yesterday and how he counted to 30 and sang the alphabet song as if he’d been doing it his whole life. I’m proud of every accomplishment he has ever achieved and everything he still has left to do in his life.

Everyone told me I would love being a father, but no one warned me about the pride. Seriously, why did no one tell about this part? How am I supposed to be “Big, Tough Daddy” when I start to well up when my son beams about passing his first swimming class? If that’s the kind of thing that sets me off, what’s going to happen when he scores his first goal in hockey? (Okay, we haven’t discussed sports yet but c’mon, we are Canadian!)

The important lesson I learned today is that while my kids still have a lot of learning and growing to do, so do their Mommy and Daddy! I have to learn how to deal with all these emotions while continuing to maintain control of myself. All I wanted to do after we dropped him off today was to curl up in bed until it was time to go get him. I didn’t do that, but it was definitely on my mind.

As it turns out, he did just fine at his first day of school. As he says “I didn’t even cry, not once!” and “I even opened my snack box and now there’s nothing left in it!” with that big ol’ grin of his. My son is more than ready for school and I couldn’t be more proud of him for it.

I lost my little boy today…but I gained a wonderful young man!