A free event saved the day!

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I’ve lived in good climate and it bores the hell out of me.  I like weather rather than climate.

John Steinbeck

It wasn’t the most idyllic seaside day, but when you live in England you have to take them as they come.  A cool, cloudy, sometimes rainy day found us on the beach in Bournemouth.  This is our summer holiday, and come rain or shine, we were going to make it to the beach and have some time in the ocean (sea for Brits).

On the run up to our holiday I’d been constantly checking the weather.  I was becoming borderline obsessed with it.  At the start, I was checking the BBC weather site two or three times a day.  Weather forecast – DREADFUL.  I moved to stage two of my madness and began to check OTHER weather providers.  I would hit the BBC site, move on to the Met office site, and sometimes see what my phone’s widget would tell me.  I held out hope, like a complete idiot, that something was going to change.  Those black clouds with two big blue rain drops would part and glorious sun would shine through.  If anything, the more I looked at the weather, the more I realised that nothing would change (and I was acting like a fool checking it) – we were in for a week of standard-summer-Englishlike weather.  I moved on.

Determined not to let the weather master us, but for us to be it’s master (or at least put up with it or something like that), we searched for things to do.  I found this decent site on things to do in Bournemouth (I’ve used it a few times before) and had a search around.  I scoured the site for anything that kids could do, that didn’t cost the earth.  To be honest, it’s a bit difficult to find much to do in Dorset that doesn’t cater to, let’s say, the older generations (I mean no offence by the way – simply an observation).

But low and behold, with some searching, I found this –Swim Safe.  This is an event put on by the RNLI, where local lifeguards teach children how to swim safely in the ocean – and it’s completely free.  It happens to be running most of the summer holidays, so with a need to get down to the beach, I signed the kids up and locked in a day to be there – come rain or shine.

We got down to the beach on the blustery Tuesday morning and found the registration zone.  From the off we were greeted by extremely friendly lifeguards who shepherded the kids in to the suit up area, helped them get west suits on, then whisked them away for a 45 minute chat and swim.  The kids looked a bit timid at first, but it didn’t take long for them to get caught up in the action and start enjoying themselves.  We sat and watched (huddling for warmth) as the kids swam in the ocean and let the waves crash over them.

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It made me remember back to younger days when the weather didn’t affect me either.  It mattered not what was going on around you, all you wanted to do was flap around in the water and have some fun.  Kids have that magical quality of allowing you to remember back to when you were their age and life was carefree!

Alas, the event was over and we thanked the lifeguards profusely for doing such a great job.  They took it in their stride as they sincerely enjoyed what they were doing.  My hats off to them for being so good with the kids.  If you are a parent spending any time around the seaside where they are holding one of these events, I highly recommend you sign up and take your kids along.

Well, the weather improved throughout the day, and after fearing the kids would make a break for the hot showers and want to leave, I was pleasantly surprised when they insisted they go back in the water.  We spent the entire afternoon relaxing on the beach while the kids made new friends and swam to their heart’s content.  By the way, the sun eventually made an appearance, so the parents were happy too!

My lessons learned:

  1. There are good things out there if we have a look around.
  2. Summer weather in England is unpredictable at best.
  3. Don’t let the weather get in your way, kids are resilient and they don’t have a weather app on their phone (they actually don’t have a phone!).
  4. There are good people out there that are great role models for kids!  The RNLI Lifeguards are among them.

As I write this I notice that the sun is peeking through the clouds on this beautiful Dorset summer’s morning.  The kids are stirring out of their beds and the next adventure awaits.

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The holiday budget’s a whopper!

The first step to teaching your kids how to handle money is being a good example.

Dave Ramsey

I showed my son the budget for our holiday last night.  He was impressed that we had so much money to spend.  Here it is – we have £287 (that’s about $450).  That is not a huge amount of money in England (and you’ll know it’s peanuts in North America)!  The adults know that we are on a tight budget, the kids think we’re rich.

I had a bit of a giggle about this, and I sat and wondered how best to let my son understand what this all means.  I’m sure you can sympathise with me here.  How often do we do anything with our kids and have the constant questions like “Can I get one of those?” or “Can we go to that place?” and my favourite “Can we buy just that one small toy?”.  I get it all the time, and my go to answer has been, “Well not at the moment but we can sit down and think about it?”

THINK ABOUT IT!  Well that’s easy for me because I know my budget, and I know how much money that I have set aside at any given time.  For my kids, thinking about buying things and spending money means almost zero to them because it’s such a foreign and abstract concept.

For the majority of children out there, understanding money is really difficult.  Why is that?  I think it’s because we just don’t talk to our kids about money often enough.  Especially in this world when we use direct debits and bank cards to make payments, they just don’t get a good idea of how money works.  When I don’t have money to buy something, my daughter often points out to me that “Dad, just use your bank card.”

Is it wrong to show your kids the budget?  I think it’s the completely correct thing to do.  Now I’m not saying that I’m going to sit my kids down and go through a line-by-line statement of every single thing coming in a going out in a month.  I’m not proposing to show them how we’re going to make sure we’re still in the black at the end of the month.  That’s my job.  However, every once in a while, showing them how much money we have for, say, our pending trip, and then showing them how much things are going to cost on that trip is a good thing.  I could already see my son (9 years old) mulling over some of the choices we are making for the trip.

Do any of you out there have any great ways of teaching your kids about money?

Do you think that teaching them money skills now will help them become better adults?

I think it will.  I’m really interested to see if demands for everything on the shelf decreases because they know that we aren’t drawing money from a bottomless pit!  It’s always good to have hope…

Is it harder than you expected?

uphill battle

It is a wise father that knows his own child. – William Shakespeare

How many of you out there think being a dad is the best thing that’s ever happened?  I do.  I love it! But it’s not all gravy, is it?  When you were young, did you have this fantastic notion, like me, that being a dad would consist of the following:

  1. Playing hockey/football/basketball every waking moment.
  2. Teaching your kids every possible thing you know, them sitting attentively, taking in every single word you spoke.
  3. Taking them to every sporting event imaginable.  Taking them on a tour of every stadium (insert your sport here) to watch every team play a game.
  4. Always laughing, always playing, never ever having to be the disciplinarian – leave that stuff up to mom!

Well, if that’s your life now – Man, I hate you.  No, actually, good for you!  Someday maybe I’ll get there too.

My reality of fatherhood doesn’t play out exactly like that ideal dream I once had.  I play a bit of football with my kids, I teach them a few things when they’ll listen, we’ve never been to any stadiums (yet) and we manage to laugh and play quite a bit.  I do this all while being the disciplinarian in the house (I’ll explain that further some other time)! My reality is that I make a lot of mistakes as a dad, I don’t have infinite amount of time to spend with them, and I don’t have money galore to take them everywhere they want or buy them everything they ask for (not a bad thing). My reality is that being a father is a lot harder than I ever could have imagined.

But I wouldn’t change it for the world…although I do strive to make things better.

I wonder how all of you out there feel about this.  Is being a father what you expected?  What are those things you always wanted to do with your kids, but you haven’t been able to do yet? I’m making a big list of things to do with my kids (and letting them be part of it too). I’ll share them with you some day – and how I’m making a plan to get them done. Making this plan is important as it will allow these three things:

  1. Writing it down and making a plan bring it closer to reality.
  2. Getting them involved ensures that the things that I want are aligned with the things that they want.  We’re going to have a lifelong partnership of working together – not battling against each other.
  3. I want to do as much as I can with my kids because I want to truly know them before they wander off in this world and make their way without me.

I hope, like me, you are embracing the tough times, and making things better every day! Ciao for now.

In the beginning

The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything. -Theodore Roosevelt

Welcome Welcome to my blog.  This is my first proper attempt to write a blog.  I’ve toyed with the idea many times, I had a small go at it a few months back, but it was a bad attempt and I wasn’t ready to put a true effort in to putting it together.  That’s changed now!  Like anything that needs to be done properly, I’ve sat down and thought about why I want to do this, what is it I’m going to do, and made a plan to get this done.  Is this your experience behind your first attempt at blogging?

Who I am (Briefly)? I don’t think I’m an average dad, at least not in the place I live.  You know what? I probably still am the average dad, but thinking that I’m a bit different makes me feel a bit special.  I live in the UK, but I’m Canadian.  I’m 38 and still going to college with kids (some half my age).  I’ve served in the military, built scaffolds in large industrial plants, served food and beer around the world, travelled extensively, and now I’m an accountant.  A wild end I know, but it pays the bills.

This is what I look like.

A young Rudyard Kipling and me!
A young Rudyard Kipling and me!

That’s me and my son.  He’s in disguise because I’m not sure if I want to reveal his identity just yet.  I’m not sure if it’s fair on him, or even safe to do so.  Since this is going to be in the world of the internet, and any one can see it, I think I’ll be cautious at first.  I suppose that a few of you have may have the same concerns.  I’d like to know what you think about that.  Am I being stupid or is this a sensible thing to do?

Oh ya, I have a daughter as well, but there’s not a chance in hell that I’m ready to put a picture of her up yet.  I’m a bit protective.  She’s in school now, and I’ve had to hold myself back a few times from “having a quiet word” with her so called boyfriends…just to set some ground rules.  I’m sure there’s going to be a few posts on protective-fatherness, but those will come in time.

Oh ya, oh ya.  I’m also going to be a dad again.  That’s gonna make three!  There’s going to be 8 years between my daughter and her future brother/sister.  This gives that child a massive advantage because they’ll benefit from all the things I’ve realised makes a better dad.

What this blog is going to be about?

This blog is going to be about my experiences so far as a dad.  I’m going to write about what I’ve done, what I’ve seen, the good things that happen, and probably about the mistakes I’ve made.  As the title suggests, I’m a bit of a thrifty guy.  I don’t make much money, and I’m careful with what I have.  I’ll share things I think is important for parents to know about when it comes to their finances.

I’m going to ask a lot of questions.

I don’t just want to spew out my experiences in a one way mind dump.  I want to hear about what other people think.  I’m really interested in how others raise their children, what works for them, and what worries them in this crazy world we live in.

To be quite honest, there isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not terrified that I’m not properly preparing my kids for the future.   I  imagine this is a common experience and most of you out there feel the same!

I almost forgot in my bit about myself.  I’m a bit of a food and fitness freak.  I eat in weird ways and I like to work out.  I’m probably going to post about that as well because I think it’s important to be being a man and a father….but I’ll get to that some other time.

Here’s my parting thought for the day!

The next time one of your kids wants to tell you something do this!

  1. Stop what you are doing.
  2. Get on their level.
  3. Listen intently.
  4. Hear what they are saying.
  5. Don’t touch your phone/computer, don’t be multitasking, don’t do anything but listen.
  6. That’s it…

Ciao