Mike Bradley has written Handy Dad: 25 Awesome Projects for Dads and Kids. He talks about his experiences.
What is the one thing you think parents should know about your work?
Toys you buy, usually just pile up in the treasure chest or end up under the couch for a few years and are rarely used after a few weeks, except for target practice when they get a little older! Toys you make have some soul, kids respect them so much more. When you spend the quality time with your kids actually building a toy from scratch, there is a sense of companionship, learning of a trade, accomplishment and good times just abusing it!
What are your feelings about the role of the father in child development?
Sometimes as a pappy, mainly in the early years the bond between mommy and child loosens up and the fun really kicks into high gear fro the dad. Emotionally as dads we tend to show our affection in a much more exciting manner, we’ll grab the kids and throw them up into the air, chase them around, exposing them overall to much more challenging activities. We want our kids to be our new buddies to play catch with, to go skiing with, due to the fact that most of our older buddies have no knees or an arms left any more that can even throw a beer into a trash can. We challenge them mentally and physically in ways that have been successful and enriching in our own lives.
What is the best thing dads can do in the raising of their children?
Initiate activities or projects that stimulate there own form of thought to go and do something on their own. Get them to have fun in a productive way, while encouraging the interaction of the friends they love to hang out with.
What is the biggest error dads can make in raising their children?
Usually we have had so much fun and or success with something in our own lives, that we just would like them to do the same. We tend to somewhat force them down a certain path with positive encouragement or support and it may not be for them. Ideally, allowing them to choose what they love and dislike is the ultimate goal. Expose them to everything. It may be difficult to have jam sessions on the xylophone if you like the guitar, or play baseball if you like surfing, just don’t let them become ultimate dungeon master in some new and improve alternate reality video game. Unless they know how to write code and create there own….that usually slows them up a bit.
It’s been said that the greatest regret aging men have is that they didn’t spend more time with their kids. How do you feel about that statement?
It’s tough, although trends are changing with more stay-at-home dads, but when you run around all day at work, all you can do sometimes when you finally get home is maybe fly a kite that’s tied to your finger. It’s just fact that we are gone most of the time in most cases, which is unfortunate yet necessary. I have this discussion all the time with my wife, yes, she works hard and it’s constantly challenging staying mentally fit around two or three screaming little kids, but I would love to hang out and go to the Discovery Museum all afternoon, or hang out in the underwater tube at the local aquarium and throw pennies into the local public fountain while chomping on ice cream, that sounds like a blast. I’ll trade positions any day, compared to what I go through on a daily basis. There has to be a provider though, and when our amazing mommies give birth, breastfeed, do chores, read to and teach our kids important lessons in early life for many years, that paycheck still has to fly in through our front door and it’s usually daddy out there trying to get it to land at our cool new house.
Every generation worries that their kids aren’t strong enough to handle the real world. Do you feel kids need to be “toughened up” by experiencing rough times?
We’re going back to the roots, and basics…we are getting by with less and downsizing, smaller cars, houses and we are building our own toys. If your not I have a cool book for you!
At the rate were going, my kids will be working full time when they get their learners permit so they can drive to Silicon Valley! Just kidding, it’s painful though when you see that 27% of all teenagers are considered obese!? Times are indeed tough, yet when they are good we tend to sit on our boats, eating and playing video games…well guess what happens when the boat sinks with the video games on board? We get back to our school work or career we hopefully love to do and put some carefully selected nutritional food on the table we just made with our dads from scratch in the backyard!
Sounds fun, rewarding and healthy to me.
Or conversely, do you think kids need to be smothered with love to give them storehouse of good feelings with which to deal with the inevitable challenges of life in the real world?
Gentle touch, affection, hugs, kisses and strategic encouragement are just the beginning of a long list of given to do’s with our loved ones. But sometimes giving our kids what they love isn’t the best thing to do for them. My oldest boy Haaken…26-months “loves” jumping off things four times his own height without me catching him. Life is short and utterly amazing, do what’s right, and healthy for all. If it helps live by basic cliché’s “Live everyday as if it was your last”, or my favorite “Work hard, eat right, exercise and most of all…have fun!”
Can you tell me a little bit about your family and what you do when you’re spending time with the kids?
My wife and I just had another boy a month ago, named “Oden”, we try to be active as much as possible, utilizing our baby bjorns and back packs as much as we can. Last weekend, we all went to my drop zone and I fly my wing suit around, landing right next to Haaken with my parachute, he was blown away. Now he jumps off everything as high as I can reach and always pulls his chute!
What’s your favorite memory when it comes to spending time with your kids?
I try to challenge him with fun things to do, and am always amazed when he just will not give it up when he can’t do something and keeps persevering until he can….I love it, it’s fun to watch him get all aggro about it.
What gave you the idea to write Handy Dad: 25 Awesome Projects for Dads and Kids?
I built some wooden toys for my son and had him hang around while I did it. He started picking up tools and handing them to me whether I needed them or not and I found out he really wanted to be a part of the “process”. Before he was able to say anything, he would pick up a toy and make motions with his hands mimicking sawing, pounding, or drilling and pointing at the toy and holding it as if he was making it. Piles of plastic toys were all around him and he always grabbed the nice sanded, wooden toys we made first..he was really drawn to them. It was a light bulb moment for he and I. Back to the roots, less is more, handmade is where its at.
What’s your favorite project in the book?
The first 25 are totally cool. Just kidding. My boy says they’re all cool, he has good taste, lets hope the masses agree! It changes…I once made a zip line over 350 feet long that crossed over two different creeks…that was sweet. But the angel wings….I have never witnessed anything like them, and I love original pieces. I had a job in Beverly Hills, where it became my mission to stoke this little girl out with a monumental heavenly room. Like most ideas, the wings popped out and there they were on the wall..(in my mind) over the bed. I had to make them and had no idea how. They had to be 10 feet across, because her room was so big, and I wanted them to dominate the overall design in the room. It basically became very fun to figure it all out, they made a huge impact on the room and the look on the girls face when she saw them was priceless. To me, making something completely original is what its all about.
Why do you think it’s important for dads to spend this kind of time with their kids?
The process of hand-making objects that you are both stoked about is not only fun, it is very rewarding for many, many years thereafter. I still have a wooden skateboard, my dad made for me, and the very first thing that comes to mind is the time we spent making it, the temperature in the garage, swatting the bugs around the yellow light above the work bench, our neighbors and other kids rolling up on their bikes to check out why our garage light was still on…classic tunes on the radio, and me having the “honor” to go get my dad a beer….I thought I was so cool grabbing what he said was his most important “tool”. Time flies, and plus it’s cool to be hanging out with your dad. Of course you may not think so now because you’re 12 and know it all, but in a few years, you will realize that those moments spent late in the garage on long summer nights, crafting that water balloon launcher that come morning will mow all of your big brothers friends down…were a majority of the best times you ever had with pappy.
What do you hope dads will get out of the book?
I know dads will have timeless, classic, sometimes hilarious moments with there kids. The “process” of making the objects may possibly transcend the goal of completion, but it sure is a kick in the butt, flying down the hill in the go cart, with your dad hanging on for dear life on the back!
Were there any projects your dad did with you when you were younger?
We made tons of stuff, fixed a bunch of things and rigged almost everything. Basically we did whatever it took to continue the immediate good times, and slowing down to fix something wasn’t always our motto. That’s why we built everything to withstand severe punishment. Having fun isn’t always pretty and sometimes thrashing our very own creation went hand in hand with the activity. Some of my favorites were, fiberglass round disk’s we would use behind our water ski boat, Oh…and hand sewn “monster” size bean bags were awesome if you had a bigger brother to launch you into the air ten feet or a huge deck to jump off and into the bags. Of course they were never meant to be taken outside, but how else were we supposed to land safely on the lawn when we hucked flips off our roof? My dad was pissed when he found a lunker snail on his while he was chowing on some popcorn one night. I just looked at him and said..”How would a snail get inside our living room?” and walked away. Only to come back minutes later and admit my sister did it.
To you, what does it mean to be a dad?
I get to be a kid all over again… “everything” I always wanted to do as a child, I get to do now. Except it’s bigger, faster, higher, and way more gnarly, thanks to massive technological improvements in helmets, knee and elbow pads!
Plus, I do not need any excuse as to why I’m jumping my kids bmx bike off an 18-foot ramp into the lake at forty miles an hour. I “had” to go first, it was my idea…that’s the rule. Dropping!