Hand In Hand

What You Get When You Give {Guest Post}

Today we bring a new era on the blog by welcoming our very first guest post! Please welcome Canadian father, Jamie Schmidt, from the blog A Crock of Schmidt!


It happens without warning. Usually right about the time I’m rounding up the kids I’m supervising on a field trip in order to get them to a scheduled classroom session, to the designated lunch spot, or to begin the walk back to school. I call out their names, which I’ve hopefully gotten straight by now, and like a kindly but firm drill sergeant, shout their marching orders.

“Alright troops, time to go. Let’s boogie!”

Then it happens. A small hand belonging to someone else’s child, a child I may have just met for the first time that very day, will reach out and take hold of mine in order to walk with me hand-in-hand to wherever we are going. They don’t ask nor do they hesitate, they just do. With a warm smile on their face and happy skip in their step. This simple act of friendship is without a doubt the greatest reward of being a parent volunteer.

This has been a watershed year for me when it comes to involvement in my kids’ lives. Now, hearing me say that might cause the raising of a few eyebrows considering I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for the past eight years, but there is some truth to the statement.

This past September marked the first time that both of my children would attend school full days, a moment I only half cheekily referred to as the greatest day of my life. No longer constrained by having the younger sibling under my care at home, I was finally free to equally avail myself for volunteer opportunities in both my son and daughter’s classrooms. This was a long time in coming, as I’m sure my daughter, the eldest, would swiftly affirm.

Not one to inch my way into the deep end of the pool, okay that’s not true but it makes for a good, albeit clichéd, metaphor, I dove headfirst into as many volunteer opportunities as I could. So much so, in fact, that I’m now the room parent for my daughter’s class which means I assist the teacher by finding parent volunteers for various in-school and off-campus activities. It’s the surest way to guarantee I’m always picked for the field trips I want to go on. What, you thought I was it for altruistic reasons?

My new-found vigor in volunteering even extends outside of school as I am also, for the first time ever, a volunteer assistant coach on both my kids’ minor hockey teams. This particular avenue of volunteering (and meddling) in my kids’ lives is one I’ve desperately tried to avoid. I’m all too wise as to the pitfalls of parents coaching kids. I don’t think I’m one of “those” hockey parents, nor were mine, I just know that my kids, like most, myself included, respond to the guidance of non-familial coaches far better than dear old dad. Never let it be said I don’t learn from history. But this year I was asked to help by my son’s coach who urgently needed extra parents on the ice and my son eagerly gave his approval. Of course, once I committed to his team it took but a single forlorn, watery-eyed look from my daughter before I was committed to her team as well.

The results have been exactly as expected and also the complete opposite. Yes, my kids hate when I “coach” them on the ice but we’re all having a blast being out there together. What’s even better is how much I’ve enjoyed bonding with all these other kids I’m now interacting with. I didn’t see that coming. Much like I didn’t see the same thing happening with the other children in my kids’ classes either. It’s not that I dislike youngsters, I just sort of assumed they’d see me as yet another crusty adult enforcing rules and other indignities of childhood.

And yeah, I am also scared of their unceasing energy and tendency to mob any poor sap who mistakenly exhibits a willingness to engage them in play or possess a natural and uncontrollable magnetism that attracts children like cherry stains to picture day attire, but I do like them. Just, you know, in moderate, scientifically approved doses. Hey, don’t judge me; I once licked a kitchen floor to “entertain” a seven year old!

Five months have now passed since that infamous “greatest day of my life” and in a way that great day has never ended. I’ve made enough classroom appearances that all the kids now know who I am. I regularly get friendly hellos at the playground or when passing on their way to the bus taking them home. I’ll even get some mischievous looks followed by playful punches to the gut or a roguishly accusatory pointing of the finger. My kids love this recognition too. They’re the ones with the (reasonably) cool dad. For now, at least, I’m a source of pride to them which is pretty cool too.

And then there’s the hand-holding. Sometimes I’ll even get a hug. One hundred percent initiated by the children, boys and girls alike, with no forethought or reason; just honest, spontaneous demonstrations of kindness and appreciation. The same thing happens at the hockey rink. Except the hand-holding, of course, because, well, it’s hockey. On the ice, kinship is shared via staged fisticuffs and change room ribbing. The means may be different but the message is the same. All are perfect little moments for me. It’s like experiencing the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes each and every time.

So yes, it has been a watershed year for me. An eye-opening one and a heart-warming one as well. In a world drunk with selfishness, intolerance, and ego; where unpleasant people monopolize our attention and the nice ones seem ever fewer in numbers; where our fears too often trump our compassion; and where the simple, human act of physically expressing fondness is wrought with wariness and openly discouraged, I have been fortunate to experience the sweetness of kids. Gentle, honest, terrific kids, not yet sullied by the harsh realities of life or tempted by the darker urges of humanity … well, usually.

I’m lucky to be getting to know them and earning their trust and friendship. They haven’t a clue of the joy they’ve given me this year. All thanks to a simple holding of a hand.

Shreddies Search For Goodness

Nominate a Fellow Canadian & Join the Shreddies “Search for Goodness”!

I am a huge fan of volunteerism and in giving back to society. It’s something I hope to instill in my children the way my parents did for me. We already got them started on the right foot when my extended family helped found the Gil Read Memorial Foundation in honour of my father, to help give back to kids who can’t afford to play organized sports. Every year we host a fastball tournament and the kids love to participate.

That’s why I was thrilled to team up with Post Shreddies to help promote their “Search for Goodness” campaign. The “Search for Goodness” is a national search to recognize individuals for their selfless commitment to their community. Shreddies believes Canada is full of people striving to do good for others and want to recognize those who make a difference in their community. Canadians are backing up that belief as well:

• Almost 70 per cent volunteer their time to help someone they know with things like errands and snow removal
• Of those who volunteer, 60 per cent volunteer for a local, community-based organization
• More than 90 per cent feel a sense of pride and goodness after they volunteer
• Almost 90 per cent agree that volunteerism is an important function in building a strong community
• Over half of Canadians encourage their children to volunteer
• 86 per cent of Canadians think that young people who volunteer are more likely to grow into genuinely good adults

How Can You Participate in the Shreddies “Search for Goodness”?

If you know someone from your family or community who goes above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of others, here’s how you can share their story and give them the recognition they deserve.

Nominations can be submitted by visiting before May 10, 2015. Once a person has been nominated, Canadians can vote for their favourite story once a day to help the nominee make it into the top 10 finalists. The top 10 stories will make the shortlist of nominees, and the winner will be selected by a panel of judges at Post Foods Canada Inc. The winning story will be told in a Post Shreddies’ ad.

Full contest rules are available at and on the Shreddies Facebook Page

Shreddies Infographic

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this campaign.

We Day Is Coming To Ottawa!

National We Day

When I was asked to attend the launch for National We Day, I really had no idea what to expect. If I’m being honest, I hadn’t really heard of We Day or the Free The Children organization but I was interested in finding out more, so I visited their official website and started to watch some of their videos. It only took about three videos before I began to swell up with emotion and inspiration and realized that this was an event that was going to change my life.

At the launch, I was lucky enough to meet Free the Children co-founder Craig Kielburger. In hearing his passion for what they are trying to accomplish, it was clear why this event has grown into the huge success that it is. Listening to the children speak about how this experience has changed them was especially moving and their passion to make the world a better place may or may not have caused a joyful tear or two.

One of the best parts of We Day is that you can’t buy a ticket. You have to earn your ticket through action. 1 Global and 1 Local action, to be exact. You can visit their Take Action page for more info on registering and volunteering.

So, I’m all in. How about you? I can’t think of anything better to do with my time than to teach our children how to be good to each other as we raise a new generation of young adults. I’ve included the list of speakers/performers for National We Day on April 29th, followed by the video that got me all choked up and inspired me to be a part of this movement. I hope you will take a few minutes to check out the website to see how you can take part and make a difference.

Martin Sheen – Emmy® and Golden Globe® Award-winning actor and activist
Chief Shawn Atleo – National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations
Kardinal Offishall – Canadian rapper and record producer
Karl Wolf – International recording artist, Socan& MTV Europe Music Award winner
Shawn Desman – Platinum-selling, JUNO and MMVA Award-winning recording artist
Cast members from the hit TV show DEGRASSI
My Name is Kay – Canadian singer and songwriter
A performance by ONE DROP, a Cirque du Soleil Founder’s initiative
Frank O’Dea – Second Cup founder, Canadian entrepreneur, humanitarian and author
Neverest – Canadian pop-rock band
Jillian Vanstone – principal dancer at the National Ballet of Canada
Rob Stewart – Award winning filmmaker of Sharkwater and Revolution
Tyler Shaw – 2012 Coca Cola COVERS MuchMusic Video Award winner
Molly Burke – Visually impaired Me to We motivational speaker
Spencer West – Me to We motivational speaker and Free The Children ambassador

Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have and I’ll do my best to find the answers for you. I really think this is going to affect a lot of people in a great way and I’m so happy that it is coming to the Ottawa area.

Could I look more awkward?? Still, awesome!

Could I look more awkward?? Still, awesome!