Tag Archive for: Families

Mornin’ Sunshine

30 Dec
December 30, 2014

Sunrise at Mickler's Landing in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Over the Edge: Sports Parents Who Push Their Kids Too Hard

04 May
May 4, 2014

This happened.

And pardon my use of the word, “push” in the headline. What I should have said was, “kick”. As in “kick in the ass”. Because that’s what you’ll see in this video. The parent of a six-year-old kicking his child off the ledge of a 13-foot skate ramp because the boy couldn’t muster the courage to drop into “Big Brown”, the intimidating half-pipe at legendary Kona Skate in Jacksonville, Florida. A young teenager at the park filmed the scene because he claimed it happened three times earlier that day.

I’m sorry- but if this isn’t child abuse, I don’t know what is.

The images and sounds are extremely disturbing. The little boy –a local skateboarding prodigy- seems to look up at his dad for some reassurance and/or to express anxiety over not being able to gather the courage to make the drop. Clearly frustrated, his father sneaks behind him and literally kicks him in the ass, sending him flying and landing on his tailbone at the bottom of the pit. You can hear the child crying in a mix of terror and pain when he hits the bottom. It’s the kind of fall that can leave a person with broken bones, paralyzed or even dead.

Worst of all, the little boy never even had a chance for a proper knee slide. His father kicked that opportunity right out from underneath him, before quickly fleeing the scene. Never mind that many skaters with years of experience at Kona regularly avoid this particular ramp, or that what might seem like 13 feet to an adult, probably seems more like 26 feet to a six-year-old half his size. Simply put, the father took out his anger and frustration on the child, physically.

Thankfully, the teenager who was smart enough to video the incident reported it to park officials, and also gave it to a friend to post on Instagram. The local area Instagrammers Club (#Igersjax) quickly picked up the clip and called out the father, harshly criticizing the act and exhorting its members and followers to re-share the post, help identify the dad and report it to local authorities and media. A social media firestorm quickly ensued, as the video went viral. The father was identified and was reportedly being dealt with by the Department of Children and Families. At the park, Kona officials had already asked the man, who reportedly skates often at the park with his son, to leave immediately.

In ensuing social media posts, one or two skaters, who seemed to be acquaintances tried to defend the father’s actions, but most, including both amateurs and pros were quick to point out that such actions had no place in skateboarding, or anywhere else. The father reportedly expressed remorse, saying he was, “caught up in the moment”. But such an event sure makes you wonder what a normal day at home might be like for this little boy, when father and son aren’t out having, “fun”.

While it is unknown if the father will lose custody of his child or be charged with a crime, he will no doubt pay the price for it due to the digital legacy of the shocking video and whatever emotional damage he may have caused his son now and in the future.

While this video is particularly distasteful due to the callous nature shown by the father to his son, it is ultimately one of countless episodes of hyper-competitive parents pushing their kids to extremes to excel, to satisfy their own egos. Skate dads, dance moms and bloated beauty queens who exploit their toddlers in tiaras- they’re all the same people. Selfish parents yearning to live vicariously through their kids at just about any expense.

Bad doses of reality.

Pushing children too hard, too young, runs the risk of inflicting permanent physical and emotional harm upon them, and burnout before they ever near their true potential. Remember that most kids, even veritable prodigies who may achieve truly significant accomplishments at an early age, are likely far less interested in competitive domination, and much more in simply having fun, and connecting with their parents. And by that, I don’t mean by way of a foot in their rear end.

Note: This is an article that I originally wrote for Seshn.com, an online magazine for a variety of creators with a strong emphasis on arts and action sports.

Sacred Vows

06 Mar
March 6, 2012

Sacred Vows

As Dane Reynolds patently reaffirmed for us this past year, often the most interesting things about surfing the planet are not the waves you score, but rather the people you meet and experiences you have beyond your sessions. Like him, I relish this aspect of surf travel and have always been conscious to seek out and soak up these transcendent occasions.

Our world is so big, diverse and ever-changing.

If you’ve ever stood atop a 14,000 foot mountain and tried to make sense of the enormity of the world around you; sat in a foreign lineup and tripped out on a pre-historic jungle hugging the shore; or even marveled at feats of engineering in a concrete jungle of towering skyscrapers, well then… you understand what I’m saying.

Our lives are fleeting.

In the context of time, we are not on this earth for a moment. Not even a breath of a moment. Tomorrow is not promised to us. Nor, even the next second. So, you’ve got to seize every opportunity to experience life, and just “go.”

It was with this mindset that I related the importance of surfing and traveling in my life to my bride-to-be long ago, as we planned for our future. As someone who has enjoyed the indescribable blessings of a true soul mate and happy marriage for years, I can inform you that helping to ensure this has the best chance of being the case doesn’t require all the formalities of pre-marriage counseling and meetings with a Pastor– just the simplest bits of common sense.

My wife and I established our compatibility and commitment to one another over the course of a couple of years of dating (always wise). As a result, when our minds turned to something a little more permanent, something like a lifetime– well, we actually got things squared away in about half an hour.

Had we both dated long enough to know with certainty what kind of people we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with? Check. Did we share the same religious beliefs? Check. Were we good with combining bank accounts and tossing everything else into one big pile? Check. Could we agree to hold off on kids for a bit to ensure that our marriage was sound, and to play with each other for a couple of years? Check.

It wasn’t rocket science.

But as a surfer, there was one more thing that I had to add to that list– my undying love for and commitment to, surfing and surf-travel. (Until death would do us part.)

I informed my future wife, Gretchen, that years before the time I had ever met her– from those earliest days until eternity, I had already committed to a lifetime of chasing waves and new experiences in places near and far. And I wasn’t about to go back on this promise to myself. As I looked into the future and imagined a day when kids, careers and yard work might slowly pilfer away the friends that I had once surfed and traveled with, I assured her that I would never succumb to these same “traps”– that I would forever be limited only by the resources that enabled me to continue to “go.”

I told her that if she were willing, I would love to share these experiences with her. And that if not– if she wasn’t interested or resolved in the idea of a bit of adventure, and if one day the boys just couldn’t pull it all together, well then– I’d still be going…

I’d just be traveling solo.

Fortunately, she was stoked. And we never looked back.

Today, while we’ve still only seen and surfed a fraction of the places on this earth that beckon, sharing these adventures with her, and now– our children, has made chasing these moments all the more pressing and fundamental.

Author’s Note: This is my latest piece for The Inertia, a leading-edge highly-popular action sports website based out of California billed as, “The Planet’s Largest Network of Thinking Surfers” To see the response and full discussion of the article, please visit: http://www.theinertia.com/author/tim-hamby/

 

The Importance of Compassion

11 Jan
January 11, 2012

The Importance of Compassion

Not long ago, I wrote about a memorable moment shared with my 9-year old daughter, Kaelyn, who revealed to me in a wonderfully subtle way, her strong sense of empathy and compassion. I feel that the ability to recognize and share feelings such as sadness or happiness being experienced by others is one of the most important qualities an individual can possess. Consequently, I also believe it’s one of the most important attributes for parents to nurture in our children.

Like all things, given a bit of purposeful attention, compassion has the power to grow and evolve. What begins as a simple feeling inside of a child’s heart can morph into a desire to help others. That desire can turn into an idea. And that idea can blossom into acts that transform lives for the better.

My 12-year old daughter, Kendall, recently provided a great example of how a strong sense of empathy can mature into something greater over time.

Kendall is a sweet, kind, intelligent girl. Like her mom, she’s beautiful with a gorgeous smile and dimples. Everyone who meets her seems naturally drawn to her (Yes– I am a “Doting Dad” and don’t apologize for it! I may ask to be excused for this, but will never say I’m sorry for it!). Although people have always enjoyed engaging with Kendall, she herself has always been relatively shy and quiet, and never one to dominate socially.

Last year, Kendall entered 6th grade and that transition proved challenging for her.

Most parents understand the anxiety a child faces when moving from elementary school to middle school. All of a sudden, our children are no longer being coddled. They’re getting up at the crack of dawn, being thrown together with kids from other schools. Their bodies are changing. They have class schedules and lockers. And for 6th graders, well, they’re at the very bottom of the totem pole and perhaps their greatest wish is simply that no 7th or 8th grader will even notice them at all. They’re just trying not to get run over during the stampede between classes.

As much as Kendall loves school and being with her friends, she struggled against a merciless battle with anxiety last year. She was continually plagued with fits of nausea. She would throw up– often several times a day, moving back and forth from class to the clinic. Often, she would have to come home. She missed parts of over 60 days during the year! Most heart-wrenching, Kendall didn’t even understand what was happening to her. She was excited about 6th grade and desperately desired to be at school with her friends! That excitement was simply morphing into anxiety.

Fortunately, we are blessed to live in an incredible school district with some outstanding administrators and teachers, as well as an awesome community of supportive friends and family. Our local school officials provided us with heartfelt support, helping monitor Kendall and helping her stay current with her classwork. Similarly, our friends reached out to help any way they could.

Eventually, Kendall began to overcome her anxiety. Her bad mornings and clinic visits became more spread out, her self-confidence started to grow and by the third quarter of the year, she seemed to hit her stride and put those anxious feelings behind her.

Kendall’s fierce battle with –and ultimately, victory– over severe anxiety was no secret in our social circles. So it was not surprising when we began to get inquiries from other parents about our experience. Apparently, several other children in our local community were having similar issues and their parents wanted to learn more about how Kendall had overcome her problems. They wondered if she might agree to speak with their children about her own experiences, peer-to-peer. Of course, Kendall understood and happily obliged.

Shortly thereafter, a 5th-grade teacher approached us with a similar request, this time asking if Kendall would speak to her entire class. And once again, she obliged cheerfully.

Finally, after the third request from yet another teacher, Kendall came up with an idea: What if she created a support program for any and all new 6th graders who might be experiencing anxiety over the daunting transition into middle school?

She more than anyone understood these challenges and how to deal with them. And so, “Ask Me Anything” was born. Kendall came up with the idea for the peer-to-peer program and the name. She thought through the mission, goals and structure of the organization, and then created a powerpoint to present her idea for it to her school.

“Ask Me Anything” is beautifully simple and straightforward. If a child is having difficulty with anxiety for any reason, they can call on Kendall or another volunteer peer mentor, boy or girl (Kendall has since recruited some of her friends to assist), to simply reach out to that child– to speak with them, be a friendly face in the hall, help set their expectations, and basically provide encouragement from a friendly, “wise elder”– one who has lived through the experience.

The school has since called upon Kendall to assist three times this year, both with individual students and larger groups. And not just sixth graders but also students transferring in from outside school districts. All the while, true to the universal, reciprocal nature of giving and sharing, Kendall’s own self-confidence has continued to blossom.

I am sharing Kendall’s powerpoint here. It is an easy program to duplicate and apply at any school and doesn’t require that that peer volunteers have to had to suffer from anxiety, themselves. It’s simply about being on-call to provide support and encouragement to anyone who may need it.

Beyond just sharing the program with those who might be interested in it, my greater point in writing about Kendall’s experience is this: Like her 9-year old sister, and many other young, sensitive children, Kendall, from an early age, always seemed blessed with a strong sense of empathy and compassion. Her mother and I recognized it and we always made it a point to nurture those feelings.

Now, at age 12, we’ve watched Kendall’s special qualities give birth to an idea. That idea evolved into action. And that action may well be helping a few people through a very difficult time in their lives.

If this is what compassion can develop into by age 12, what might it become in another 5 years … or 20?

We can’t wait to see.

A-1.M.A._Presentation

Giving Thanks

26 Dec
December 26, 2011

 

I’ve just returned home to Ponte Vedra Beach after traveling up to Hartsville, South Carolina (pop. 7,764) to spend Thanksgiving with my wife’s family. This is one of my favorite annual holiday traditions – when I pack up, hit the road and head so far out into farm country that my cell phone is rendered useless. I couldn’t receive one of GAP’s Black Friday mobile coupons (or any retailer’s), even if I wanted one. And if I actually wanted to go shopping (HA!), I would have had to travel countless miles just to try and find a store. For someone whose career has revolved so heavily around marketing and online digital communications, I must admit I’ve always found it remarkably easy to just “unplug” on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Rather, I relish this rare and special time on my wife’s grandma’s (Nana’s) 70-year-old farm, trying to shoehorn 20 family members ranging from ages one to 93 into a humble 3-bedroom home, and ultimately around a vintage bench-style kitchen table for a Thanksgiving meal where we slide in close to those we love.

Despite floors that creak, guest beds that dip about 6″ in the center and all the challenges of a home strained by the burden of accommodating five times the number of people it was ever designed for; I still find comforts there that the most modern conveniences could never provide.

And I am so grateful…

Grateful to learn that a mix of honey, lemon and whiskey can vanquish a head cold faster and more effectively than any overpriced, over-the-counter medication ever could.

Grateful to witness my 12-year-old daughter, Kendall, get behind the wheel of a truck for her first driving experience, in a lap around the cornfields with her grandpa.

Grateful to know that my 9-year-old daughter, Kaelyn, who seems to grow taller and more independent with each passing hour, is still not too big to find sanctuary in her daddy’s lap.

Grateful to sit back quietly and just admire how truly beautiful my wife and daughters are, both inside and out.

And shopping, and work are the farthest things from my mind…

Only… How lucky am I?

Interestingly, researchers say that there are enormous benefits resulting from living with an “attitude of gratitude.” Not just spiritual benefits, but physical and emotional ones, as well. In fact, they say it has been scientifically proven that people who live with a “spirit of gratefulness” live longer, and enjoy better overall well-being.

Like most people, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my life– a lot of times when I could get down on myself, lose myself in self-pity and ask, “Why me?” But I understand that everything in this world is relative. Somebody’s always going to have it better. Someone’s always going to have it worse. So I never question my circumstances, or why I don’t have this gift or that blessing. I just focus on the things I do have and try to remember to thank God for each and every one of them, every day.

In the “Black Friday” scrambles that so often seem to characterize routine existence, I thank God especially for those too rare occasions when he strips away the superficial extravagances of our everyday lives and allows us to focus on the real gifts standing right beside us.

Soul Surfer, Too: Our Children, Beneath the Surface

24 Aug
August 24, 2011

Soul Surfer, Too: Our Children, Beneath the Surface

As almost any parent will attest, there are many moments in life when our children make us proud.

 

When they bring home straight A’s from school…

When they score that first goal, or achieve some other kind of athletic milestone… 

When other adults remark how beautiful they are, or even better– how polite and well-behaved… 

 

But there are some moments that are better than all of those, combined. 

 

They are typically more subtle in nature and can rarely be anticipated. They are fleeting moments of revelation that provide us genuine clarity about who our children really are, and if we are so fortunate, perhaps also a little affirmation about the real jobs we’re doing as parents.

 

I enjoyed one of these moments just the other night.

 

Our family had huddled together in bed to watch Soul Surfer, the movie about Hawaiian surfer Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm at age 13, to a 14-foot Tiger Shark. Somehow, she not only lived to tell about it, but learned to surf again with one arm. It’s a great story about faith, determination and never giving up. I highly recommend it.

 

There’s a scene in the movie, when, after deciding to try and compete again and struggling bravely against rough currents with one arm during a surf contest, a  frustrated  and emotionally defeated Bethany heads to the parking lot post heat, ready to give up surfing for good.

 

As she sulks back to her parents car, two young fans, about 10 or 11 years old, approach her for an autograph. 

 

Dejected, Bethany quips, “Here’s something better…” and proceeds to give both of her surfboards to the girls, who delight in their good fortune, and run away excitedly to show off their new souvenirs to their friends.

 

Eventually, Bethany makes up her mind that nothing is going to stop her from surfing again, training herself to duck dive with one arm, then returning to competition. 

 

I won’t spoil the ending, but will say that both of my girls, ages 9 and 12, really loved the movie.

 

Later that evening, I was lying in bed with my (newly) 9-year-old, Kaelyn, putting her down for the night. The movie had clearly affected her in different ways and she seemed to want to talk about, and process it.

 

“Dad, do you really think she didn’t scream when that shark bit her?”

 

“Does she really surf that way in real life?”

 

“Can you teach me to duck dive?”

 

 

And then she said it. Just a sweet little comment, stated thoughtfully and solemnly…  

 

 

“Dad, you know when those girls took her surfboards?”

 

“Yes…”

 

“I wouldn’t have done that…”

 

“What do you mean you wouldn’t have done that, Kaelyn? You wouldn’t have done what?”

 

“I wouldn’t have taken her surfboard…”

 

“Really? Why not? What would you have done?” 

 

“I don’t know. I just wouldn’t have accepted it. She was feeling sad, you know?…”

 

“Yes, I know.”

 

And of course, Kaelyn didn’t have to explain it to me further. I knew exactly why she wouldn’t take it. It’s called “empathy” and “compassion” (coincidentally, an important secondary theme in Soul Surfer) and it so warmed me to see it  in her that instant, on display in such a simple, honest way. I can’t think of many times as a parent when I’ve felt so proud of her.

 

To me, and I would guess for many parents, it’s little moments like these that really leave their impressions.

 

So much more significant than than winning a trophy, ribbon or a medal.

So much more substantive than good looks or even bringing home a good grade.

So much more profound and revealing….

 

About who our children really are. 

 

About the efforts we’re putting into raising them.

They are little moments that whisper and affirm… “You’re getting this right.”

Author’s Note: This is a piece I originally wrote for The Inertia, the highly-popular website based out of California billed as, “Surfing’s Definitive Online Community” for thinking surfers. To see the response and full discussion of the article, please visit: http://www.theinertia.com/author/tim-hamby/

 

 

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