One of my favorite things in life is spending time with my family.
Whether we’re riding bikes or playing softball at Woodbury Park, we’re making memories and having fun.
In my youth, I chased wealth and pleasure more often than not, stepping completely over happiness.
As funny as it sounds, I wanted to be rich and famous, like a rock star.
It never dawned on me, or most young men for that matter, I could with the greatest of ease become a superhero right in my own home, and to my own family. And it’s a lot easier than learning to play guitar.
Something all fathers with children under 13, of which I am one, have going for us is young kids are easy to impress. I use this to my advantage by finding small and simple activities to do together that seem grandiose and spectacular to my kids.
For instance, in the summer we do what we call playground hopping.
We ride our bikes to as many playgrounds as we can, which is usually about three or four. When we get there, the kids climb, swing and slide. I capture their moves on camera and give anyone who needs a push on the swing a boost.
Most importantly, though, I watch when they say, “Daddy watch this.”
We stop at a lot of bridges we come to on these excursions, and go under them to the water to skip rocks.
The best bike rides and adventures we’ve had involve riding to Loudy-Simpson Park and continuing to the train trestle that spans the river.
The pay-off on one of our trips was huge. From a safe distance, we watched a train go by real slow and the conductor waved to three very excited children. (We stay off the trestle.)
After many bike trips this past summer, I decided to mix it up a little and add something new.
I decided softball would be a fun activity to try. Now anyone who knows me knows my days as an athlete are long gone.
But again, little kids are easy to impress.
With several $4 softball gloves and some $3 bats from the thrift store, and all the free softballs left lying everywhere at Loudy-Simpson after softball games, we had a ball playing softball. I do all the pitching, the kids do all the hitting and running.
When I was a kid, all the neighborhood kids got together to play sports all day. We didn’t go home until the mosquitoes started coming out.
The world has changed since then and we can’t let our kids do that anymore. So, if our kids are going to have any of the fun times we had, it’s going to take participation on our part as fathers.
No matter how simple I think our trips may be, the pictures and smiles always make the fun come back around in the form of happy memories.
When I look at them I realize the little things I do as a father are actually the most important and special.
Last year on Father’s Day, I woke to a 10-foot banner that read, “World’s Greatest Dad.”
I felt like I did when my platoon and I marched down the Las Vegas Strip in a victory parade in 1991 after Operation Desert Storm.
This, I thought, is happiness.
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