It is not easy being a first time dad. The funny thing is, every dad is a first time dad. No matter how many kids I seem to get Chelsea to make for me, I still retain the status “first time” because there is always a new experience. Whether it's a whole new event altogether or breaking through uncharted waters with Some Boy.
One of the hardest things about working two jobs is making time for my kids. The more I experience at work away from home, the more I am drawn to be home. I have even gotten to the point that I spend a lot of my day imagining what types of special places or sights I want my boys to see. I feel as though I am floating through the dark vacuum of space when it comes to providing memorable experiences for them. My mom says the feeling of being inadequate as a parent is natural.
Every now and then, something comes up that really makes the time I spend with the boys seem to last long into memory. Our sponsor Cox Communication recently teamed up with the USS Midway to provide such an event. The “Little Skippers” overnight program is part of a $1.5 Million grant to the USS Midway Museum from Cox Communication which aims to provide children and families with a unique and educational experience. The USS Midway was actually christened by Barbara Cox (the daughter of former Ohio Governor and founder of Cox Enterprises' James M. Cox) back in 1945. So this isn't just some random encounter; it’s a reunion and continuation of the company's dedication to country in general and our community in particular.
Some Boy recently turned five and has an ever-growing fascination with all things technological. To him – like many boys – bigger, faster, and stronger is always better. So he hopped at the chance to spend a night aboard the USS Midway with the Little Skippers. The goal is to teach children the power of teamwork, as well as letting them immerse themselves in the power of the post-WWII United States Navy.
We arrived mid afternoon and I did my best to hold back my own “hooray!” as we pulled into the the large ship marina area in downtown San Diego. Some Boy shouted and pointed to all the vessels, “Is THAT the ship, Dada?” He pointed to everything from rickety sailboats to the numerous cruise ships that were tied up to the pier. “No buddy. Not yet,” I said as I smiled to myself. A WWII aircraft enthusiast myself, it was all I could do to hold back my own excitement. Not only had I never even been on the Midway, I was going to get to spend the night on it. Oh, the bragging rights!
We finally came around the bow of the last cruise ship, the USS Princess or something, and were met by a view of gray steel. Massive gray steel set just against the pier in a display of casual domination. We walked from stem to stern, as I held our sleeping bags and pillows under one arm and Some Boy’s hand in the other, marveling at the pure power. Some Boy was even more excited as it dawned on him that this was not a giant building, but a ship (the size of a Costco).
We were welcomed and escorted aboard in an impromptu game of follow-the-leader. We made our way through the crowds of departing museum visitors, who commented over our sleeping bag and pillow. “Your tour's over. Mine’s just getting started!” I thought to myself proudly as I walked along the flight deck with Some Boy. He was oblivious to anyone else, transfixed on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter sitting on the deck. “That helicopter has TWO ‘pellas!” he said as he pulled me on and pointed ahead.
We stowed our bags on the deck and took a few minutes to explore the “two ‘pella” aircraft. It’s funny how even seats on such a thing are amazing to a little boy. This small exploration was cut short by the final closing of the museum and the opening ceremony for the Little Skippers event and ribbon cutting ceremony. This is where I learned that the Cox history with our USS Midway went back to its very christening.
The crew took us down to our berth and then had us wait for a brief fire drill where we all scuttled out onto the deck again. The rules were told to all the parents and children so everyone knew how to stay safe (and not get lost in a ship so big it could take a day at full sprint to even get all the way through). The party was divided into groups and we set off on our way for a series of exercises and games.
I followed along while at the same time just taking in the sheer size of the ship. The network of pipes, pistons, doors and decks was amazing.
After a number of events and exploration, we topped off in the dining area with some real ship food. Some Boy was a trooper and ate all of his bites. Finally, we finished the night with milk and cookies on the flight deck. Some Boy was encouraged to explore by the crew while I pondered the fact that my little five-year-old was ‘playing’ and having dessert on a ship once capable of destroying most of the world's countries.
Then, off to bed. Some Boy LOVED his triple bunk and I…made due. The crew put out the lights once everyone was settled and the white light I was accustomed to was replaced by a blanket of red.
My son was out in seconds. A day of pure excitement and educational mental work as well as a great opportunity to interact with other children his own age in an amazing place had taken its desired toll.
The next morning we woke and headed off to have real ship breakfast back in the mess hall. Then off to a few more educational exercises before wrapping up the day and disembarking the ship. Some Boy was even given a Little Skippers patch and certificate of completion for learning all he had while on board.
It was nothing short of a wonderful experience for me with my oldest son. I couldn't think of a better way to spend my time. It was definitely one of the many first-time moments that I will continue to marvel at as a dad, and something Some Boy will never forget.
And of course, he got to brag to his classmates about staying on the giant ship.