Alcatraz and parenting

No, stop right there – solitary confinement is NOT a good idea for ‘challenging’ kids…

Let me explain what Alcatraz taught me about parenting…

Back in my feathered mullet days in the early 90s, (okay it was the mid 90s – I was a late bloomer to the mullet lifestyle) I took a trip to San Francisco.  Within my top 10 Bucket list items was Alcatraz.  I love prisons.  I am not sure why – I love prison movies – from the Shawshank Redemption to Tom Selleck’s moustache in An Innocent Man.    Ever since my grade 12 English term paper on Alcatraz, I couldn’t wait to visit the granddaddy of all prisons.

I leapt off the ferry wearing my faded tacky “Dig-Dash-Dive” Alcatraz Triathlon shirt.  Having done my homework, I beelined straight for the AUDIO guided tour booth.  While you wore crazy unhygienic orange headphones, real inmates and guards would ‘walk’ you around the Rock, telling you crazy fun facts and pointing out interesting sights.  So I got my map, my headphones, and video camera ready for the experience of a lifetime.  I even rigged my headphones to play right into the microphone of my video camera.   So I started my Alcatraz tour… and you know what the highlight was?

I have no freakin’ idea!  I was so consumed on capturing the entire tour on film that I missed the entire experience!  I didn’t experience the ROCK and regret that to this day.  I didn’t FEEL what life must have been like on the world’s most notorious prison that housed the most notorious bad dudes of all time.  I didn’t sit in the mess hall or recreation yard and dream about the constant tension, pecking order, and shivs.  No, I totally missed it because I wasn’t PRESENT. 

Sometimes when we spend time with our children, we spend so much time capturing and preserving the moment, that we miss the actual moment.   From videotaping an entire ballet performance to capturing all 3 periods of a peewee hockey game from 3 different vantage points, we spend too much time BEHIND the camera.  Our children’s lives are flashing by at alarming speed.  So my soapbox advice is to BE PRESENT.   

You may or may not ever watch those recordings so please LIVE IN THE MOMENT!  Turn your phone off, put the camera down or delegate the recording to someone else.   Please ENJOY your children lives and experiences NOW.   Talk to any parent of adult children, they will all say the same thing, “ENJOY IT NOW because they grow up so fast…”  – so DO it!

This past April, I spent opening day weekend at Fenway Park, America’s most beloved ballpark, and home to my Boston Red Sox.  This was definitely another bucket list item, so I was armed with both a digital camera and video camera.  However with the ghosts of Alcatraz still haunting me, I got my footage and shots, BUT I also took time to just be present.  I sat still and soaked in the rich history of this incredible baseball park – daydreaming of loyal Boston crowds, dressed in fedoras and pretty dresses, cheering another Babe Ruth homerun over the Green Monster.

The only thing that would have made the trip complete was to have my Red Sox loving son there with me.  Sure I can show him the pictures and footage, but, like his childhood, there is nothing quite like experiencing everything first hand.   LIVE IN THE PRESENT…

Please add your comments to my website www.thedadvibe.com -- as a little bonus I will send along photos of my glorious feathered 90s mullet to all who post their thoughts… ☺

Until next time…

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About the Author

Jeff Hay is a Kelowna-based writer, motivational speaker, parenting coach, and father of four.

Along with writing for Castanet, Jeff also writes for the Huffington Post, the Good Men Project, and the National Fatherhood Initiative in the United States. 

When he is not playing his favourite role of 'DAD', Jeff speaks throughout Canada as a popular parenting educator, working on his website – www.thedadvibe.com, and writing his parenting book for dads, “Wait Till Your Father Gets Home!

Jeff dedicates his life to improving the well-being of children by increasing the proportion of children growing up with involved, responsible, and committed fathers.

E-mail Jeff your thoughts or questions anytime at [email protected]


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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