That’s What Children Do (Free play, Imagination, Giving kids space to be kids)

Decided to take a break from a writing project and get my daughter, her friend who is over for a playdate and myself something to eat.

As I entered the center of our house, I saw paper cups everywhere. I chuckled, wondering what they were coming up with, but didn’t ask. Sometimes, it’s better not to ask.

While I started on a salad, my girl planted herself next to me by the sink and filled up a cooking pot with water to the brim.

She proceeded to hold it very carefully and walk off into the house. Since it seemed as though she was heading outside through the front door, I thought it would be okay. However, I did imagine water all over the floor as it sloshed out.

Me – “Aye, aye, aye, aye…”

She could tell by the tone of my voice that it was Daddy code for, “Have fun but, you know, let’s keep that in the bowl.” Without hesitation she responded-

Her – “Hey, that’s what children do.”

Alone in the kitchen doing what adults do, making another meal, I could only nod my head in agreement. Yep, that’s what children do. They turn the simplest ideas into creative play.

Climbing Higher on Her Own (Fostering independence, Building confidence, Adventure, Friends and mentors)

We’ve known Delania for six years. She used to rent from me, starting when my Isabella had just turned three. She lived with us for a few years and then returned back to Orlando.


Delania has three grown children of her own, and Isabella reminded her of her own daughter and times gone by. They connected instantly, and Isabella blossomed with her attention.

There would be no way to sum up all the caring and time and affection that Delania contributed to my daughter in those years. Besides the good times at our house throwing parties, Delania brought adventure to our lives. She’s lively and got us into building bonfires out back and camping.

It was sad when she moved on, but I was grateful that she had come into Isabella’s life and provided all that nurturing along with my own efforts. She vowed to stay in touch and a part of Isabella’s life, and she did.

A month ago, she and I planned the next trip for Isabella to see her and to have some new adventures together.

Finally, this was the weekend to go to Delania’s.

We arrived in Orlando Friday night, toured Disney Springs and then went to the town of Celebration, a Disney designed town on Saturday morning. Finally, it was my time to leave. Delania had looked up possible adventure and was suggesting zip lining and obstacle courses on ropes in trees. I thought it sounded great.

Isabella clammed up and said she didn’t want to do it. We had done a small zip lining and tree rope course locally, but this would be much more challenging.

We talked about honoring her own instincts but also being open. Then, they drove off. It’s always sad watching your daughter drive off. But I was also happy, because the whole trip with what would amount to eight hours of driving was to give my daughter a great weekend that would be fun and foster her independence and inner strength.

I had given Delania my debit card to pay for whatever came up. A few hours after we parted, I checked my bank account and smiled when I saw that a charge had been made for the zip lining place.

Late at night, I couldn’t take it anymore. Finally, I sent a text message…

“Any pics?”

“Everything okay?”

Turns out Delania was just getting ready to send them. Videos started streaming in, one after another of her zip lining and making her way through rope obstacles courses high up in the trees. I was so proud and happy and sent a message to that fact.


She responded back telling me that she was so proud of herself, too. Delania added a couple text messages to tell me that Isabella had grown a lot as a person this weekend. Clearly, Delania had made her feel safe but also nudged her persistently into new territory.

Sappy Daddy alert.

No, I didn’t cry, but my eyes did moisten. There was my nine-year old girl, out of town on her own with our friend, stretching herself into new personal power. I was so happy. It was the perfect Father’s Day gift, one day early, not that I needed one.

Today, I’ll be driving back up there to meet them, taking my parents with me. The five of us will have dinner in Disney Springs and conclude the weekend.



Secret Daddy Mission (Playfulness, Moments to remember)

She had a friend over a playdate.

They were crafting.

I was writing, cleaning and tending to them – the basics like chasing them, making them mac ‘n cheese and telling them to drink water four hundred times.

Anyway, I was feeling fantastic from the momentum I have with my creative projects, the house being in good shape and doing my push-ups. Spontaneously, I jumped in front of them at their table and exclaimed, “Yes! I love life, and I feel great!” I then went about jumping up and down on the trampoline around them.

As I headed off to the kitchen, my girl called out-

Her – “She just turned to me and shook her head.”

That made me laugh, so I headed back in there and amped it up, jumping on the mini-trampoline and gleefully belting out – “I love life, I love people, I love what I’m up to. I’m blessed, I’m loved, I’m worth!”

Her friend was into it now and asked me to wear my daughter’s mood ring.


Her Friend – “That means you’re happy.”

Bam! Passed the test.

It was now time to leave them me in their world of imagination. So, I headed off to the kitchen to take care of some mundane tasks but simultaneously, oddly satisfied with the mess as it came from helping my daughter have a good day.

I wondered if that was a moment.

It’s been sort of a mission this year for me to add in even more playful moments into my daughter’s day. Maybe it’s because she’s getting older and I’m seeing my little girl disappear into a grown up girl.

So, maybe I created a memorable moment there. You never know what kids remember. Maybe years from now they’ll be hanging out, shopping in London, talking about things they remember from when they were kids. Maybe her friend says…

Her Friend – “Hey, remember that time your dad jumped into the room while we were making headbands and started pumping his fist all happy and crazy? We had him put that ring on to test his mood?”

Maybe they remember. Maybe they laugh. Maybe my daughter smiles thinking about a childhood filled with moments like that.

It’s a good mission… my secret Daddy mission.

It’s Probably Both (Self-love, A child’s nature, Nurturing self-respect)

Lately, I’m doing a good deal of thinking about how to make the most out of one’s morning as I’m developing a personal development system for myself and to offer others.

So, I was curious this morning how she would wake up.

What does a nine year-old child who loves life do?

When I heard her rustling in bed, I headed over and snuggled up next to her. Being a sappy Daddy, I just stared at her a while. Any parent knows that watching your child sleep is sacred.

Suddenly, she popped up, zoomed off to the bathroom and then returned to her bed and back into the warmth of her blanket and my snuggles. She gave me a kiss and then curled up.

No hurry to get up, I guess.

Eventually, she stretched her arms out and said, “I love myself.”

I chuckled, both a little surprised and delighted. Of course, she’s said this many times before, but it’s usually before falling asleep or in the context of some discussion about worth and self-respect.

After her sweet declaration, she rolled over, smiled, gave me another kiss on the cheek and then returned to her ball of warmth.

It made me wonder where her statement came from…

Is it because all of her life she has gotten messages that she is valuable?

  • “You’re valuable, so I spend quality time with you every day and figure out how to tend to my own passions and responsibilities along with that.”
  • “You’re valuable, so I make sure you get healthy food, drink water, exercise and get the sleep you need.”
  • “You’re valuable, so I talk with you about the values and life skills you will need to live a quality life.”
  • “You’re valuable, so I take you to a quality school.”
  • “You’re valuable, so I’ve taught you about feeding your mind with quality thoughts and healthy media choices.”
  • “You’re valuable, so I talk with you about what is not acceptable for others to say or do to you and how to take a stand for your well being.”
  • “You’re valuable, so I wake you up in a conscious way and help you get to sleep at night in a conscious way, with plenty of snuggles.”
  • “You’re valuable, so I don’t use time outs or spank you, and I apologize if I’ve gotten upset and raised my voice.”
  • “You’re valuable, so I make sure that you have positive friends and families in your life and plenty of playdates.”
  • “You’re valuable, so I take time to help you figure out your interests at this point in your life and how best to go about developing them.”

These messages have been conveyed thousands upon thousands of times through the years directly and indirectly.

And yet, I wonder if her saying “I love myself” is just innate. After all, to my knowledge, there has never been a baby mired in self-loathing and depression. It’s the opposite. They radiate well being on every level, assuming they are healthy.

So, is her self-love at nine years of age nurtured or just a child’s nature?

Reminds me a wise friend of mine who passed away a few years ago. He used to say, “If ever you’re wondering if it’s one or the other because there are strong arguments for both… it’s probably both.”

Makes sense to me.


Children Already Know (Happiness, Success, Creating a fulfilling life)


Children Already Know

This reminds me of a plaque I have that reads, ‘While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what Life is all about.’

I was sitting on the couch watching the French Open semifinals. She was seated next to me waiting for our departure to get a journal for the summer for her to record her experiences. In the mean time, she was writing and drawing.

Suddenly, she handed me a piece of paper.

Her – “Here. This is all it takes to be human.”

She had designed it in sort of a pyramid. At the bottom were Love and Peace. Above that Happy. Then Calm, Wow and Brave.


Nine years old and she has a life philosophy.

Children are amazing.

The Summer of Creative Play Begins (Being a child, The drive to PLAY)

Yesterday, she finished third grade. Pictures with her long-time teachers. Dinner and beach time with friends. Going to sleep late topped off by sleeping in.

Ahh, the joy of sleeping in a bit. But not too much.

She has a playdate scheduled right away with one of her best pals, but the Play Gene in children has no switch. So, after she followed through on my insistence that she tidy up her various messes around the house, she got right to work being a kid.

While I was vacuuming I heard her voice

Her – “Daddy?”

Me – “Yeah?”

Her – “Do you have any borax?”

I chuckled. Here we go. Her concoctions…

Me – “Um… check the laundry room.”


Me – “Pantry.”


Closet in the hallway with cleaning supplies.


Her – “It’s okay, I’ll make something else.”

Me – “We can buy some later today. What are you making?”

Her – “Slime.”

Of course. Perfect way to kick off summer. Make slime.

While I pondered slime on the furniture, she found a rubber glove, filled it with water and turned it into her third hand, trying to play piano with it, waving to me with it from behind my computer.

And so the summer of creative play begins…

Three Sweet Answers (Love, Cultivating a positive mindset, Bedtime rituals)

We had a relaxing night watching ‘America’s Got Talent’ and part of ‘World of Dance.’ By that time, she was very sleepy. She headed off to bed, brushed her teeth and then called out to me across the house repeatedly for snuggles.
As usual, I asked her to tell me three things she loved about her day. Without missing a beat she replied-
Her – “I love you. I had a good day. I love myself.”
Me – “That’s sweet. All is well. All is well. All is well. You are loved.”
And, with that, she literally drifted off within seconds.

Alien Classroom Adventures (Self-expression, Boldness, Creative living, Making learning fun)

All year, I’ve been volunteering at her school on Tuesdays doing science experiments along with another mom. Our grand finale is tomorrow.

Tonight, we worked on the costume and built a rocket.

As it turned out, I was up until 3am working on an audio file filled with alien sounds, a narrator and zombie groans. It will be played in the classroom during the bit.

What I hope my daughter gets from it, besides a good time, is silent permission to express herself boldly and creatively in the world.

Learning About Papa (Valuing grandparents, Family, New experiences)

My daughter hasn’t seen too many sides to Papa. She knows him as her grandfather whom she sees almost daily now that they live here in our town. She doesn’t know much about his career and many stints in volunteerism.

Last night, he was giving a talk to a Rotary Club on health, drawing from his own story of having overcome cancer through natural remedies. I took my daughter for a new experience and to support Papa. We’re in it to win it together is my mentality.

My Dad did a fine job with his presentation. She got to see him doing public speaking and presenting, which is good for her to see. Those are skills she will need in life, so it’s good to see that in our family we are comfortable with it. She also had the opportunity to develop her comfort in a new environment with people asking her questions.

After we left, she said that she wants to cut down on sugar and for me to do the same. So, I guess Papa had an impact.

The Ocean Is Happy Today (Quality time, Spontaneity, Balance, Doing your part in a family)

It was a relaxed Sunday morning. No tennis lessons to teach. Nothing scheduled for her. Wide open with possibilities.

By the time she awoke and approached me at my desk, I was deep into writing one of several books I’m developing.

Her – “Can we go biking?”

Me – “Biking? Wow, you haven’t asked that for a while. Okay. Give me ten minutes.”

She sighed.

Me – “Well, I’m really into what I’m writing. Let me just finish up this part.”

Off she went.

About five minutes later, she plopped a folded piece of paper on my desk. It was a card. It said “I love you, Daddy” (though I think she accidentally wrote Sassy) and a picture from a couple years ago of the two of us biking to get a popsicle.

Me – “Aww, so sweet. It’s beautiful. And a picture of us biking. Did you make this to prompt me to get going?”

Her – “No, I made it because I love you.”

I smiled and hugged her.

Me – “Look at all of these things you’ve made for me.”

I pointed to all sorts of gifts from her on my desk and behind my desk, and those only accounted for about one fiftieth of the little gifts she has made for me over the years.

Me – “You’re so sweet to me with all of your gifts and love.”

She smiled.

I finished up my writing and off we went. Our idea had evolved into a bike ride to the beach, something we hadn’t done in a while, despite it being just a short ride away.

When we got there, I was surprised to see quite a few people in the water. Indeed, the cold months had passed.

Her – “Daddy, let’s make a sand castle!”

Me – “Hmm… I sort of want to put my feet in the water first.”

We walked to the water’s edge. I grinned at her and dove in.

Her – “Daddy, I don’t have a swimsuit on!”

Me – “So!”

In she dove.

The water was absolutely perfect. She stared out into the ocean and sky.

Her – “It’s beautiful.”

I was moved that she was present to that and that, even as a child, she appreciated it. In fact, it made me more aware of the beauty engulfing us.

Her – “Let’s take seven deep breaths.”

We did.

Her – “The ocean is happy today. Normally, it’s dark, but today it’s light. It must be happy.”

Indeed, the water was a soft turquoise.

Me – “It’s happy because you’re in it.”

She smiled.

The water was churning considerably which made it perfect for body surfing. We took full advantage of it for a good 45 minutes. With each arriving wave, she pointed and squealed in delight like she was three years old, “Daddy, Daddy!”

At one point, as she was singing songs from Disney’s ‘Moana,’ she called out to the ocean to send in big waves. Oddly enough, a series of big waves followed.

Me – “You’re powerful! You spoke to the ocean, and it listened. You’re the wave whisperer!”

She loved that idea and kept on calling them in.

I also used the opportunity in the ocean to talk with her again about rip tides and how to deal with it if you find yourself in one.

Eventually, I suggested we head home to get something to eat. To my surprise, she didn’t remember the sand castle idea. Maybe that’s because another idea had taken hold.

Her – “Daddy, can we go get an ice cream at the Orange Octopus? We haven’t done that in a while.”

Me – “We haven’t even had lunch yet.”

Her – “I know, but it’s Sunday.”

On this day, it seemed like good enough logic to me.

I had coordinated with our friend Deirdre for her next piano lesson. Deirdre taught her the start to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, my absolute favorite. I’m excited that I’ll be hearing her practice that for weeks.

Now, I always strive for a balance of me time and we time, so I worked on a playdate with her for the afternoon. She was delighted when one of the parents I tried called back saying that her daughter could come over.

Anticipating her friend’s arrival she paused and looked at me-

Her – “Thank you, Daddy.”

It was a win-win. I got back to work on one of my books while they played and then joined them in the pool at the tail-end.

The day was like being in a movie where one scene transitioned into another…

As her friend’s mom was preparing her daughter to leave, Nonna and Papa came in, bringing dinner.

When it was time to set the table, she resisted my mom’s request.

Her – “I don’t want to.”

She was tired, but that was not going to cut it for me. It’s a family, and we all need to pitch in. After a look of dissatisfaction that prompted her to head to the kitchen to get plates for the table, I followed her in and quietly added some words.

Me – “Listen, everyone around here does all sorts of generous things for you, every day, all day. I don’t want to hear that you don’t want to help out. We’re a family, and we all do our part. Got it?”

Her – “Yes, Daddy.”

After a delicious dinner, instead of letting everyone disperse into TV time I suggested to her that we play cards with Nonna and Papa. It was the first time we had done this and good fun. Nonna cleaned house, and I finished last.

Finally, her day ended with me reading her Harry Potter. After concluding the second chapter of Book 4, I prepared to turn off the light but first turned to her…

Me – “Let me see you.”

She looked into my eyes, and I looked into hers. It’s a simple way of connecting and being present that I like to do with her now and then.

With the light off, I asked her to name three things she was grateful for. She went through her day and came up with eight.