Flying Solo

Oct 12th, 2015 Fatherhood, Life, Travel

My pre-planned trip to London is upon me.  An opportunity to catch up with family and friends as well as celebrate my sister’s birthday (more of which in a subsequent post).  I made the tactical decision to leave the boys at home.  From experience the jet lag is rough on both their little bodies – especially if traveling for a week as in this trip.  No sooner have they adjusted to the time difference than you are returning home and having to readjust all over again.  When we lived in NYC it was a little different, but the extra three hours time difference, not to mention the additional flight time, is rough.  So Beachwood Boys Club went international – but without two of its principals.

I should feel guilty.  I should feel as though I failed to give them an opportunity to travel to London, broaden their horizons and see friends and help them on to the path to becoming citizens of the world.  I should do.  But I cannot.  For one simple reason.  Two words.  Economy Plus.  Please note the second word and the emphasis given to it.  Yes Economy Plus on United Airlines on the outward journey was a revelation.  I suspect I would have been almost as content in good old economy, but there is something indulgent (although not excessively so like business class!) about the few additional inches of legroom offered by United Airlines Economy Plus service.  And all for the bargain price of less than $200.  There was also something about the fact that I was not going to have to share any of my space with small boys feet, shoes, toys and backpacks.  Yes flying solo really is the way to go.  I finally understood the allure of the endless road.  The simplicity of only one bag to check in.  The effortless breeze through security. The normal interminable trek to the departure gate felt like a ticker tape parade in celebration of wanderlust.  The walk through the aisle to my seat, usually a minefield of the arms and legs of impatient travelers was like taking a pleasant Sunday stroll through Hyde Park.  This was truly the only way to see the world.

And then I saw him.  The grinning, marauding toddler sat in my seat.  Sitting next to him, his father fidgeting nervously.  Momentarily thrown out of my near euphoric state, I remained composed – gave the dad the universal symbol for “I’m sitting there” – you know the one: the light throwaway point and patronizingly reassuring smile.  Delivered while mouthing the words “That’s my seat”.  Apologies were hastily made, blankets and pillows – already strewn on the floor – were gathered, tray tables duly restored to their upright, and locked, position and I settled in to the spot that was to be my world for the next eleven hours.

Within moments, the dad was fretting.  Urgently making small talk, his son had already upset the man who was sitting in front of him.  I knew that look.  That look of panic and fear that the dad was tethered to a small, uncontrollable maniac – also known as his son – in a confined space for eleven hours.  And that there was nothing he could do to control the situation.  Well, almost nothing.  I knew what was coming.  I’d been there.  I’d shared his pain and his fear.  But I had never actually done what my new companion was about to do to me.

“I think he’ll be better…” he began haltingly.  “Would you mind swapping with him?”  He blurted out.  “He’ll be better if we can contain him by the window.”   My precious window seat.  Chosen to better endure the, all too familiar, LAX to LHR red eye pain.  Advil PM after all can do only so much.  I was flying solo.  I was free and clear.  My moment to rest and relax and look forward to my trip.  All from the luxury of my contained Economy Plus (window) seat.

But it was useless.  It was all for naught.  I felt his pain and understood his predicament.  I had had my moment at the security line I reasoned.  That smug feeling that comes from being able to gather your laptop, shoes and belt from the other end of the x-Ray machine more efficiently than anyone else.  That had felt good.  Now it was time to pay it back.

So I relented. I gave up my precious widow seat and swapped with the kid and his dad.  I suspect that he wanted me to take his son’s middle seat, but I think he knew better than to push his luck at that moment.

        United Airways

Did it feel good?  Not really.  Was it the right thing to do?  Probably.  Did I do in hopes that I’ll get payback some time soon?  You better believe it.

Heathrow Airways

Landing solo at London’s Heathrow terminal 2.  Something somehow feels missing from the picture.  It’s too uncluttered.  Too un-frantic.

How to look after two boys and work at the same time (spoiler alert – I failed)

Sep 18th, 2015 Boyhood, Fatherhood

So no school, no one to help me supervise the boys, and a lot of work to do in preparation for tomorrow’s taping.  What to do?

Brainwave:  why not let today, be an extension of the weekend, when the boys had played in the front yard with scooters and bikes?  Genius.

Admittedly that had been under supervision of more than one adult, and, needless to say adults who had not been distracted by the prospect of an impending work deadline – but – I mean come on, how different could it be?  Plus, anyway it was a weekday.  The boys would surely tune into the fact that I was on my own, trying to multi-task, and so adjust their behavior accordingly?  Be a little less reckless with their downhill runs.  Take care of each other.  That’s it – I was giving them a valuable lesson in self reliance.  Oh, this was going to be great.

I hatched this brilliant plot in a matter of minutes.  It was perfect.  Perching myself just outside the front of our house, I could continue to be plugged into the WiFi and the boys could entertain themselves.  It was a beautiful complicity.  What could possibly go wrong?

As luck would have it, nothing catastrophic.  Although it turns out that the slope outside our house was a little steeper than I thought and so the sight of Jaxon hurtling toward me at an alarming speed was a little more distracting than I had anticipated.  Also, it turns out, that without an adult’s active input – well, the boys got bored pretty quickly.  Shocking.  What happened to that theory of – “having more kids is a great idea, ‘cos they’ll just end up looking after each other”?  At what point does that actually happen I wonder?

Now scrambling, I had to find a plan B.  Yes I know what you are thinking – TV.  Well, full disclosure, that is frequently my Plan B (sometimes my Plan A) – but on this occasion Plan B was our local, go-to, park.  Just down the street (certainly by LA standards) lying within the perimeter of Griffith Park is Bronson Playground.  A shaded haven that we frequently visit because even under the unremitting glare of Los Angeles’ brutal sun, it remains shaded and cool for almost the entire day.

Kids and a car

Turns out I wasn’t the only parent in a similar predicament.  Bronson Park was teaming with kids at home from school.  Who knew?  Now I wouldn’t go so far as to call our visit to Bronson a form of child internment – I was after all in there with them – but on certain days there is something to be said for the enclosed sanctity of a designated kids space.  I did even finally manage, guiltily I may add, to sneak in a little work.

Kids in Park

 

A day at the office

Aug 6th, 2015 Fatherhood, Life, Self Discovery

Kids and work spaces tend not to mix terribly well.  Some times though there is no avoiding it. Fortunately I am lucky enough to work in a place, and with a bunch of people who are relaxed, flexible and accommodating enough to understand that some days you just have no alternative.

Jaxon was in summer camp for the week, which meant that after dropping him off I just had Skyer to look after.  Trouble was that the drop off time made me late for the studio.  With an hour to go before we started taping the show I had to address: final pre-production matters with the studio, jump on a conference call with the news editor, and make whatever final adjustments had to be made all while keeping Skyer variously (and in no particular order): entertained, quiet and alive.

I got lucky I have to admit.  I started him off with a pre-production beverage in the green room. That bought me some time and won some brownie points as I could tell he did not think I was going to remember his mid-morning drink of choice.

green room drinking

With that being said, I’ll freely admit that aspects of the conference call were tricky.  Especially as it was being conducted on the production manager’s iPhone on speaker mode, and the news editor on the other end with whom we were speaking was in an airport lounge in Boston waiting to board a flight to New York.  It also didn’t help that there green room where we conducted the call is an unsound-proofed room and that another show was recording live in the studio directly adjacent at the same time.  Whispered promises and bargains were hastily made in an ever increasing desperate attempt to keep Skyer quiet.  Yes, you can watch the iPad once I’m done.  Of course we can have ice cream later.  Yes we’ll go and look at that lego set you’ve been craving.  Forget having to set your children a good example, having infinite patience and boundless love for them.  What no one tells you, is that parenthood is a constant exercise in negotiation.  I feel as though I am auditioning for the role of a junior Councillor at the United Nations.  Before having kids I couldn’t tell you the last time I truly had to bargain with some one.  Where the stakes were high, the vested interest was extreme for both parties and discussions had to be both clear and forthright, yet also delicately managed so as to avoid gaining a reputation for capitulation.    I have never sought to lie and manipulate (and ironically be manipulated) on such a consistent basis until I became a father.

At the end of the conference call, just after the studio production team had come in to the green room for third time to ask us to keep the noise down, I caught a break.  The night before, the pair of them had refused to go to bed until waaaaayyy past their bedtime. (Am I the only one, or isn’t it frequently the case that kids  possess a sixth sense when a significant deadline approaches for a parent? And that, perhaps feeling threatened, their reaction is to seek to compete for attention, even if that means by misbehaving?)  Anyway – enough pop psychology for one post – the end result was that a seriously fatigued Skyer suddenly – and uncharacteristically – crashed out asleep.

Green room sleepingI did not know how long he would stay down, and I felt bad about leaving him of the floor of the green room – but, I reasoned that to try to move him would be a fool’s errand.

Part way through our record that day he woke up.  But his timing was perfect as we were just coming to the end of a segment when he did.  He cried out a little emerging a moment later in the studio as if to say “what you started without me?”

He stayed with us in the studio.  Any experienced negotiator will tell you that at some point you have to cut your losses and reduce your position to bare absolutes.  This was that moment. Through a combination of bedazzlement, bewilderment and fascination we made it through the rest of the mornings recording with an extra onlooker sitting quietly by the control desk.   I have no doubt that the reason for this was the fact that Skyer absolutely and fundamentally understood what we were doing.  It was as beautifully simple and eloquent as anything we managed to capture on film that day.

TheLipTV

Fraudulent Fatherhood

May 29th, 2015 Fatherhood, Life

Sometimes I feel like a fraud. I mean, should I really be sticking both my Beachwood Boys in front of the television just because – for once – I would really like to be able to start my day at 6-something o’clock, rather than 5-something o’clock? Ever since daylight savings began it’s been a continual struggle to get the boys to sleep much beyond 5.15 a.m. Trust me it’s brutal. I’ve tried tweaking with their sleep patterns to see if putting them to bed a little later would help. Not ideal, but worth a shot. It doesn’t. They still wake up at 5.15 a.m. only they’re cranky as they haven’t had enough sleep. So sometimes, yes, I crumble and relent and I value the warm embrace of my duvet over all else and I reach for that remote control. It’s hardly progressive parenting. The Steiner purists would blanche at my approach. As I simultaneously atrophy and overstimulate my children’s brains with flashing images, exploding robots and talking cars. “Dad when can we get one of those?” But then, the Steiner purists aren’t laying awake next to me bleary eyed at 5.15 a.m. are they?

But then I figure – who am I trying to kid? At 5.15 a.m. on a Saturday morning, that cathode ray (showing my age) that plasma screen (still showing my age) that 42 inch, hypnosis-inducing, image projecting, thingy on the wall, is my best friend. I mean by the time they are my age televisions will probably have gone the way of the record player or the Walkman. No one is going to dedicate themselves to sit down in a specific room and watch a dedicated box emit images for a set period of time. My kids will probably thank me for giving them exposure to such antiquated technology. For allowing them to create such a back catalog of nostalgic memories and for allowing them to talk about the “good old days” before micro chip brain implants, and in home 3D holograms came along.

“Ah. Remember the days when we just used to slump in front of the TV and not say anything to each other for the longest time? Those were some good times, huh?”

At least, that’s what I tell myself when I turn over in bed and try to grab a few more precious minutes sleep before their show ends and even they catch on to how I am merely playing for time and stalling the inevitable.

“Come ON Dad! Let’s DO something”. And with laser like perception my fraudulence has been decisively exposed by a four year old once again.

Soccer Stars

May 17th, 2015 Boyhood, Fatherhood, Fitness, Health, Sport

We love soccer Saturdays in our house.  After all it gives me the first real opportunity to live vicariously through my children.  If I’m honest, part of me used to harbor a secret fantasy that one of my boys was going to demonstrate prodigious, breathtaking talent as soon as they touched the ball.  That the coach was going to come over to me at the end of the first lesson.  Put his hand on my shoulder, gently usher me away from the other parents so as not to evoke jealousy and discord among a group of lesser gifted children and offer me a few choice words about nurturing my child’s unique talent.  Fast streaming him to a class for older children, where he could be observed more closely and his craft could be honed.  Okay, if I’m really honest, part of me still continues to harbor this fantasy.

Soccer is probably the first organized sport that most kids encounter.  And for most of us as parents, our first brush with organized sports since college.  It also means that soccer is the first time we as parents get a direct, real time, opportunity to compare our child to their peers within an organized setting.  It also brings us face to face with the phenomenon known as the soccer mom, and the soccer dad.  Or rather the shadowy, nascent, nebulous incarnation of their future alter egos.  Yes, much like the adolescent Anakin Skywalker in the ill-fated Attack of the Clones, it is all too easy to see future Sideline Sith Lords in the faces and attitudes of these parent padawans.

evil anakin

My heart sinks.  Not least for what my future holds, an unending stream of Saturdays on the sidelines with these overachieving types, but more horrifically that I might, unwittingly, become one myself.  So seductive is the dark side of the vicarious force.  All are powerless once caught in its tractor beam.  Heck, I might even be one now and not realize it.  In an over elaborate and deliberate effort to distance myself from being tarred with that brush, I remain seated throughout the class, almost indifferent to what transpires on the field.  But now do I just look aloof and callous?  It’s a perilous path to traverse for sure.  Not – as they say – to be traveled lightly.

The lesson ends and none of the coaches approach me.  But maybe that’s a good thing.  Or maybe they’re just waiting ’til next week to tell me…

Super Soccer Stars

 

On The Road Again

May 16th, 2015 Crossfit, Fatherhood, Fitness

It’s important to me to stay in shape and maintain my fitness levels while I’m away.  I do Crossfit. A great combination of variety, functionality, intensity and community.  So when I’m on the road I tend to fashion workouts around the Crossfit philosophy and approach to fitness.  If for nothing else the workouts ensure maximum benefit and results in minimal time and mean that I can avoid any serious negotiation with Rachel about having to slip off to the gym during the middle of a family vacation.

I can’t always guarantee that I’ll have easy access to a gym but I’m certainly not going to drag a bunch of excess gear with me.  Traveling with kids means that you have to travel light and I never go anywhere without my three trusty essentials:

Crossfit Nanos: perfectly versatile shoe – stable enough for weightlifting yet flexible and robust enough for any kind of workout. Also great for hiking and running over shorter distances.

RX Jump Rope: hands down the best jump rope I’ve ever tried – and I’ve tried a few.  Ball bearings in the handles for ultra smooth turnover, rope lengths are customized according to your height as well as the weight of the jump cable itself.  For beginners a heavier cable is preferred as it helps considerably with timing.  As you improve so you can use a lighter weight cable. Less taxing – and of course faster turnover. I had struggled with double unders for months.  Once I got my RX jump rope I was stringing together 30 unbroken very quickly.

Lacrosse Ball: This little ball changed my life.  The ultimate massage companion helps ease out all the knots and tension.  Simple but wonderfully effective. My boys LOVE this ball and I have to fight with them constantly to keep hold of it!

A Moment of Clarity

May 16th, 2015 Boyhood, Fatherhood, Self Discovery

There are days – well I shouldn’t say days – moments really – there are moments, which usually pop into my mind as I try to remain calm during a toddler meltdown – and we’ve had some epic ones here at the Beachwood Boys Club – when I will catch myself thinking “What did I do to myself?  I mean, I used to have a strong sense of self. I thought I used to know who I was. What I stood for. I used to care about whether or not I left the house with small amounts of vomit on my shirt, or if I got more than four hours sleep – didn’t I?”

After a fleeting moment, the thought will pass and I will come back to the present. “Am I really trying to engage in a rational discussion with a two year old about a mislaid Lego brick?  Is this who I am now?  Have I become such a community dad that I can no longer see the wood for the trees?  That I must entertain every new crisis and take on the severity of each new occurrence as my own personal crusade?”

Parenting if nothing else has taught me – or rather has forced me to access – my patience.  Not a quality to which I am naturally predisposed.   And it has encouraged me to discern the life threatening: “Jaxon take your finger out of that electric socket”; from the critical “Jaxon please don’t drop that on your brother’s head”;  to the unimportant – or irrelevant – “Jaxon please try to avoid hitting me in the face next time you do that.”

But then – even in the heat of battle of one of those moments – and it really can feel like a battle sometimes, one of them will say something innocuous, or a make a noise or offer a look and I will be jarred out of my own ego and back into the reality, the love and the joy.  So far from berating myself about not feeling like a perfect parent all the time, I welcome those moments of frustration, because I know they will pass and I know that they offer me an opportunity to remind me of what I have.