(Back) to school haircuts

Sep 12th, 2015 Boyhood, Life, Self Discovery

God, I miss the seasons. It’s the end of summer and yet it’s still hot as hell and humid too. Thanks a lot SoCal. So much for dry desert heat. So not that you’d know it, but summer is over, and school has begun.

The early stages of childhood seem to be replete with milestones. I wonder if this is more for the parents’ benefit the child’s. To help us get a handle on the chaos and uncertainty that is busy unfolding – or perhaps more accurately sometimes – unraveling, before them on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Secondly, can you really use the word “milestones” when they are only two years old?  “Yard-pebbles” perhaps? Anyway, learning to crawl, first words, first time you get thrown up on…whatever momentous moments you choose for your timeline criteria charting – regardless – the first day at school has to be a legitimate marker whatever your criteria.  And that’s because it’s memorable for the child as well as the parent.

And so it was quite a moment for us all, when two year old Skyer – having followed his brother across the courtyard and through the corridors of school for the past two years, only to retrace his steps moment later – finally got to stay in his own classroom. With his own cubby. His own name tag. And his own teachers.

Such a moment necessitated (back) to school haircuts of course. Initially just for Skyer. But once Jaxon saw the reaction that Skyer’s new “do” got, he wanted to make sure he was in on the make-over action. So he got some sharper edges put on the sides and back for his first day back as well.

Nothing like a fresh trim to put a spring in your step.  And an extra bounce in your karate chop.

Back to School HaircutsBack to School Haircuts

Mallorcan Beaches

Aug 14th, 2015 Beach, Self Discovery, Travel

Beach excursions present a whole host of idiosyncratic challenges. Logistical, practical and aesthetic.  We searched for calm, secluded beaches with some sort of a beach club, or restaurant and found a couple that were great.  One was on the south side of the island not too far from Palma. The beach itself was a little more crowded than we would ordinarily have liked, and because the south side of the Mallorca is windier, the surf was a little rougher than was ideal for the boys, but it was still a great spot.  We managed to find a stretch of beach with a sand bank that jutted out a reasonable distance into the Mediterranean’s bath-like waters, and which allowed us – much to the delight of the boys – to venture ever so slightly further out from the shore line than good sense would normally allow.  Both Jaxon and Skyer loved the feeling of adventure that came from being out the additional distance.  They are at the age now where every crashing wave, no matter how small, presents a seemingly infinite number of ways to dunk, splash and jump about.  As each took their turn in the surf, squealing and shrieking with delight as I clung to their wrist, it’s impossible not to be moved by the purity and simplicity of the situation.  The sensation of absolute joy derived from the simplest of things – in this case – the ebb and flow of the tide – invariably makes me feel a twinge of nostalgia sending me tumbling back through the recesses of my mind to reminisce and remember similar moments from my own childhood.  Self-reflection is, for me, part of the continuing fascinating journey of parenting.  Jaxon and Skyer present me with a continual reminder of my own upbringing and give me cause to take breath for a moment and reflect,  analyze and remember events that I thought were long ago forgotten.  It’s somewhat indulgent perhaps, but I don’t seek to compare or compete in my minds eye.  Rather, for me, I have discovered that my own children’s upbringing offers me a unique and re-invigorated opportunity to look back and remember aspects from when I was a kid.  Starting – as all memories do – with places and events, before deepening and developing into sensations, feelings and finally, analysis. Moreover, I find that I am given an opportunity to re-evaluate and revisit anew the actions and attitudes of my parents.  To view them through the lens of being a parent myself.  I wonder how I would fare were Jaxon to give me such scrutiny? Invariably my parents emerge far better now, than I credited them at the time.  Creating more than a slight pang of guilt for perhaps being too tough on them.  But then I’m also drawn to the differences – both positive and negative – about each respective childhood. Opportunities, lifestyle and societal.  If I linger here for too long I can very rapidly descend into a rabbit hole of rose-tinted nostalgia.  Which quickly becomes self indulgent and self-defeating.  Instead, I remind myself that, knowing what I know now, about all the challenges of being a parent, all the shortcomings of my parents and all the struggles that we faced together – if we can all survive that, and emerge the other side – then that must, at least, give one cause for hope, mustn’t it?

It’s always great to have a bite to eat with the sand between your toes.

Mallorca Beach

Whatever happens don’t forget to bring your bucket and shovel.  Still the two key items no self respecting Beachwood Boys Club member should ever be without.  Simply indispensable.  No matter where your kids are from, be it the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles or Sloane Square, London the number one beach activity in my opinion remains the sandcastle.  It’s extraordinary to see that some things don’t change.

We have a grab bag with towels, sunscreen, bottled water and our bucket and shovel ready to go at a moment’s notice.  We learned the hard way. Forget them at your peril.

Mallorca Beach

Oh yes, did I forget to mention – the enormous, delicious beachside seafood paella?

Seafood PaellaMallorca BeachMallorca Beach

You can’t keep Luca out of the action for too long.

Buddies at the beach

The second beach that we have found is on the other side of the island, nearer to where we are staying.  Balneario Illetas boasts a beautiful cove and scorching hot white sand, offering crystal clear, calm waters that are ideal for us as the children can splash and play in near bath-like conditions.  There is also a great, bustling restaurant when you need a bite to eat and plenty of shaded sunbeds off to one side of the cove – perfect for making our HQ for the day.  It has the feel of a private beach, that happens to be open to the public.

Balneario Illetas, MallorcaBalneario Illetas, Mallorca

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.


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.

Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Board

May 15th, 2015 Boyhood, Fatherhood, Self Discovery

These two characters are the co-founders of the Beachwood Boys Club. Jaxon and Skyer.   Duly appointed Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the board. I’ve also managed to sneak onto the board and we invite you to be members as well. To share your stories, experiences and wisdom. Laughter and joy, tears and frustrations. Moments of zen like enlightenment and bewildering bafflement.

The Beachwood Boys Club is the story of how the joy of innocence overcame the cynicism of ego.  Specifically, mine. How one four year – old along with his two year old brother – can educate, inspire and challenge a forty two year old man to reevaluate both his entrenched values as well as the world around him. Not in any self-conscious or deliberate “journey of self discovery” type of way. But rather in a quietly, unconscious and almost imperceptibly. Discovered through the activity of the everyday reality of being a parent. Simply of being. But all the more powerfully and profoundly as a result.