Saturday, before Memorial Day, 2018:
Waking up early Saturday morning, Matthew, as usual was up at 6:30 and ready to go.
"Dad, can we take the truck?"
This morning, I was planning to spend a half hour of quiet time before anyone else awoke. But as anyone with four kids knows, plans must be flexible.
I have been looking for more opportunities to share chess with my kids. For my wife and I, finding a suitable, consistent time has been challenging with all the changes in our life.
But this morning, I decided, "no excuses!". I would just seize the opportunity to exercise his mind AND body by grabbing a chess set and heading to the park, and just be in-the-moment with my son.
I've learned that one-on-one time with my kids is worth every second. Later in life, I believe I will reflect on these years and think, "Yes, I took time for my family -- sometimes seemingly at the expense of my career". I am thankful for the wise words often heard, "Don't miss these years!"When I told him that we'd head to town, play some chess at the park, run some obstacles on the playground, grab a quick breakfast and then head to the church to help make some adjustments to the irrigation sprinklers - he was DE-LIGHTED.
Kid's love to DO things and get out... if we let them - and allow ourselves time to connect with them often enough.
Soon we were at work and I offered for him to pick out a chess set for the morning. He picked an orange flex board and a neon green bag with one of my favorites, the "Inspiration" pieces.
While he wasn't watching I packed in an extra surprise. Little rewards come in handy!
Then it was off to the park! He spotted this picnic table and set up the board.
"This is the most amazing day, Dad!!" Then it occurred to me, this means more to him then I realize. He was enjoying every minute and I happened to grab my camera from work.
I had merely been flexible enough to make him a priority with this spur of the moment change to the trip this morning. I had countless things on my mind - but I decided to put it all aside this morning. After all, it's Memorial Day Weekend.
His chess game is very elementary right now. In fact, he's moving mostly pawns still. But I can see each time that he's picking up new ideas - today too! He blocked my Queen from taking his Queen, with his Bishop.
Many kids can play a strong game at six years old and many are just starting. I haven't pushed him hard to learn, but now is the time to get more serious because he's really interested.
Matthew loves to play outdoors, spends minimal time on digital devices, and other than his occasional orneriness is a happy child who loves to make people laugh.
Half way through the game, his attention started to wane briefly and I said, "Matthew, win this game and I have a surprise for you!" He was completely engaged again.
"Matthew, Do you know what Memorial Day is about?"
To my surprise he replied, "Yes, I learned at school, it's remembering people who sacrificed for our freedom and helped us be able to enjoy times like this."
We played a few more moves and then I asked him what he had learned in this chess game so far. He repeated some things including the Bishop block.
I then told Matthew, "We've stretched our minds for a bit, it's time to get some exercise at this park!"
But first, remember the surprise?
I told him to look in the middle compartment of the neon green chess set carrying case.
He zipped it open, and pulled out some stickers that he had never seen before. Here's the one he chose.
We then put away the chess set and proceeded to the exercise portion of our park adventure.
Matthew enjoyed every moment. Soon it was time for breakfast and finally, the irrigation project.
Today I was reminded of a valuable lesson. Rather than wondering why "I don't have time for [blank]", just start earlier and make it happen! I don't have a weekly schedule for chess right now, but that's no excuse not to seize the moment when it is there.
This Memorial Day Saturday has been hugely memorable for both Matthew and I. He observed during our game that the park was a peaceful place, in contrast to many other places in the world. I reminded him that we can appreciate what we have, we can give to people in need through organizations that are doing good work for them, and we can pray for needs we know about.
With thanks for the many people who have sacrificed to make this possible, I want my sons to grow up grateful.
Back to chess.
I love that chess exercises young minds, a catalyst for creativity and thinking in new ways. It supports academic efforts and the list goes on.
Most of all, I love the real face-time it provides. Chess is a natural time to chat, learn together, and talk about life - like we experienced today.
For me, Chess House is a mission to bring chess to every home. Every home and family that has a chess set has another relationship strengthened.
And that's what we need today. The dilemma facing our kids is turning into a torrential storm of media. And we're just seeing the beginning of this. The things youth encounter now beg them to be equipped with life skills and strong family relationships early in life.
Please be there for your loved ones. Make memories while you can and prepare them to succeed.
Chess can play a role - and we can help you.
The Inspiration Chess Set that Matthew chose is a great place to start! You can pick from many colors and make it your own. Get a chess set in your home and let us cheer you on.
Where are you in your journey? Feel free to comment on this blog post below.