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  • Writer's pictureStuart Sheldon

A Good Father Scares the Mother (and vice-versa)

“I arranged for Kai and me to fly over the Golden Gate Bridge in a seaplane. Can you believe how cool that’s gonna be!!” I told my wife recently. Kai is five.

That was her cue to say, “Wow … he’s gonna be BLOWN AWAY! I wish my dad did that. You’re one AMAZING FATHER.” Instead, I got a sour look of disapproving concern.

I understand that her job as mommy is to be wary of danger, yet this irked me, because the boy in me knew that this would make a father-son moment for the record books.


These are the cowbells in the funky score of my past, the things I remember most dearly: a similar plane flight with my stepfather when I was 7, spearfishing the Keys and scuba diving the Caymans as a teen with my dad, my first big wave in hurricane David, whitewater rafting the Grand Canyon, backcountry skiing the Colorado Hut System.


I want my boys to be the guys everybody knows are up for it when its go-time. Intrepid travelers to the far reaches of the first, second and third world. Outdoorsmen unafraid of dirt, bugs and blisters. The ripping surfers I’m not. My wife is no shrinking violet, but I doubt she shares my burning enthusiasm for these renegade pursuits. And don’t think me sexist; I’m sure there are relationships where the mom owns the risk-taker title.

The Tower

This is much bigger than my kids’ jumping off the high dive.

It’s about BOLDNESS.

I’ve made plenty of epic bad choices in my life. But I’ve made 3 monumentally right choices – among the most important decisions of my life, by far … where I shattered the mirror of my existence and irrevocably altered the course of my fate.

 Each choice was VERY SCARY.

  1. I abruptly left U of Florida mid junior year for Cornell, leaving the familiarity of my upbringing for the bigger world of global ambition.

  2. I ditched an ascendant VP of Investments gig for the great unknown of film school, potentially sabotaging certain riches to put my artist marker down.

  3. I abandoned all I knew on the East Coast for the creative dream of California.

Those three “look-mom-no-hands” decisions made me the deeply satisfied person I am right now.

I’m perfectly aware of the pitfalls of projecting my idea of a “life well lived” onto my kids. I will not be the little league dad who takes the game way too seriously because he never could hit the damn ball. Whatever their passions, I’m all for it. I’ll not be at all disappointed if my kids are bookish and reserved. I don’t need X-Games champs to be satisfied. But a bit of hair-raising adventure and the occasional surf safari with da boys … well, it’d just be fun is all. And would keep me young till I’m dead.

Jodi, to her credit, saw in my eyes that nothing she could say was going to keep me and my son out of that seaplane. Though I was pushing the envelope of her comfort zone, she recognized this was not a battle to pick. Though annoyed in the moment, I realize that this was our parenting partnership working well. Daddy scared mommy. Mommy let daddy know she was scared. But both understood that recklessness was not part of the deal. The pilot was a seasoned vet and safety was paramount. I promised to call her the moment we landed … and I did just that.

How did the flight go? Watch this clip, and you tell me.

I love the last shot of Kai at the controls, sitting on a stack of cushions, headset and mic poised on his tousled head. Hands firmly gripping the control sticks as he gazes like an ancient discoverer over the Golden Gate and its rugged splendors. Kai’s comment while in the air, “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever done.”


Chalk one up for Gonzo Daddy.

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