Posted by: Dad...Guess What?! | October 6, 2012

Self reflection in California

“Insightful”, “Learning Experience”, and “Growth” are not words that come to mind after a family trip to Disneyland, Legoland, and Sea World.  The obvious did occur.  The kids had a blast.  There is no doubt about that.  As for me, this trip had a different dimension that I did not anticipate.

First, I was brought up with the notion that Hawaii was a cultural melting pot.  That is still true however, I honestly feel California takes it to a different level.  In a single county…or I should really say in a single park, I ran into people from India, Mexico, Germany, the U.S., and the list continues.  It wasn’t a culture shock but more of a reminder about how dynamic things could be.  Theme parks can be extremely cheesy but it was also amazing how everyone, for the most part, just got a long.  Think about it.  If you strip down the Disneyland experience down to it’s core, it is basically standing around shoulder-to-shoulder with total strangers in, at times, extreme heat for hours.  Yet, people find it within themselves to focus on why they made the trek to this park.  There were no rules posted at any of these parks on how to behave – people just knew.  There has got to be an anthropological study about this somewhere.

I was also exposed to different parenting styles.  For the record, I’m not saying that I hold the standard.  In fact, I still have LOTS to learn and I continue to make MANY mistakes.  Anyway, some of the cool things I observed were parents acting silly again.  We, adults, need to do this with our kids more often.  I’ve witness family together as a whole.  Some had shirt symbolizing their unity (e.g. family reunion t-shirts, t-shirts with their family names, etc.), some ate as a group, and some rode rides together, you know, family time.  There was the occasional scolding and time outs, but that was to be expected.  Overall, people were generally happy and happy to be with each other.  There were two sides to everything unfortunately.  I saw one family lose their child (luckily they found him); I saw one parent feed her child nothing but sweets; and some parents had trouble teaching their child common courtesy (you know like being patient, letting others go before you, stuff like that).  Maybe I just need to relax, but I just couldn’t help make note of these things.

Speaking of parenting, there was one thing that happened on the trip I feel happens to every parent.  My youngest played a carnival game, beat all the adults, and won a large stuffed animal.  My oldest is always supportive of his younger brother but this time he was clearly jealous because he wanted to win a toy as well.  We did what any set of parents would do – attempt to rig the game.  So we all played and whoever won would give the prize to our oldest son.  Well, that didn’t happen but we had enough for one person to play one last game.  My oldest was against adults (much like my youngest) and surprisingly won!  It was a great feeling.  My son was BEAMING.  I remember telling my wife that “it doesn’t get any better than this.”  That prize was like gold even though it was a smaller toy.  My son’s glow was infectious to the point where my youngest wanted the same thing.  Weird.  Anyway, we walked through the park, took some pictures, when he suddenly realized he LOST his prize – the prize he earned on his own.  My heart sank.  My wife and I searched every where possible while my oldest was CLEARLY upset by crying loud and coming down real hard on himself.  It was a very tough situation to be in.  I left like crying.  We headed back to the game after searching for a while to see if we could trade the winnings from my youngest for two smaller toys.  Luckily the lady was still at the game and was willing to make the trade.  Disaster avoided.  My oldest son got back what he lost, and my youngest got…well, whatever his brother got.  All was wonderful.

These events, in combination with being away from home got me thinking about work.  I made a conscious decision not to check work e-mail.  I wasn’t completely successful because I checked it maybe twice.  But this trip got me thinking again about my priorities.  My family does mean a lot to me, and stuff like “acting silly again” was something I don’t do all that often, especially with my family.  I had all kinds of thoughts going through my head, one was actually quitting my job.  I did spend one night in California looking at the Hawaii classifieds and asked my wife if she would be willing to go back full time.  I was thinking out of emotions with no rational thought.  I have to switch my perspective and make the most of what I got now while thinking about my next move.  This journey, however, led me to believe that I need to do something different very soon.  I just need to take that risk…a thought out risk (if there is such a thing).  On my flight back, I sat next to a couple who were both retired teachers from Pennsylvania.  Awesome people.  One shared that in the 38 years of teaching, he and his colleagues did not think about retiring because they just loved their jobs.  He did notice that today’s workforce can’t WAIT to retire.  I needed to hear that.  I did share some of my challenges with work, to which he imparted his knowledge and insight by saying “it hasn’t and will probably never change.”  He basically told me to focus on what you enjoy.  Way cool.  The icing on the cake was when were waiting for the gates to open.  My wife and youngest were making their way down the isle in the plane, and I was going to let this couple go ahead of me and my oldest because they have been on a plane for 12+ hours. He then told me, “thank you but go and be with your family.”  Now, I’m sure he was referring to the present situation but I took those words of advice to a whole new level.  I need to be with my family.

So what did I learn from this trip?  Family is important.  This was a great trip.  Oh, and the theme parks were great too.


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