How many children do you have?
We have one beautiful boy named Koa who will be four-years-old in November.
How long have you lived on Maui? Where did you move here from?
In May of 2013 my wife Amanda, who is originally from Maui, and I moved to Maui from Los Angeles, California, where I had lived for 22 years. I’m originally from Brisbane, Australia and moved to LA with my mother and sister when I was 8 years old.
What is your line of work?
My number one line of work is as a documentary film maker. I also assist my wife in the operations of her dream, vision and business, Maui Children’s Bookstore. It has been so wonderful to support her and to be a part of it because it is a cause that is truly dear to my heart, and speaks to my role as a father. Her child-centered business focuses on reading, imagination, wonder, healthy mental and emotional development, as well as nutritious food.
Additionally I sit on the board at Maui Family Support Services and I volunteer my filmmaking and educational services to Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of Maui and Hui Malama Learning Center. I came to Maui with the goal of getting involved with the non-profit world, particularly in relation to child abuse prevention. Its been amazing giving these non-profits a way to help raise awareness and funds so that they can better serve their community and I am so grateful to be a part of it.
What are your favorite activities to do with your son on Maui?
Nature. The specific spot that comes to my mind first is Makawao Forest, where we’ve had a lot of Daddy and son times exploring. When Koa finds tree stumps, he says, “Look at these drums!” and we go searching for sticks that make good drumsticks and we have these wonderful collaborative drum sessions. Koa is in love with Taiko Drumming, a Japanese style of drumming that he first saw at the Obon Festivals on Maui last Summer. Amanda is half-Japanese (Okinawan) and it is a family tradition for us to go to all of the Obon Festivals on Maui. When Koa saw the massive Taiko drums for the first time he fell in love with them. I went to Bounty Music right away and bought him a variety of drums. From morning to night, with arms raised over his head he would just get out his emotions on the drums, so we like to recreate this in the forest.
My second favorite nature spot on Maui would be the Bamboo Forest in Haiku. When we get to the first riverbed, Koa always loves to say one of his favorite lines, “Lets sit down and have a lil’ snack!” After our snack he likes for me to hold his hands and help him leap across the rocks and play around the water. The water is super calming. Sometimes he likes to throw rocks and see how how big of a splash he can make.
Finally, Twin Falls has also been one of our favorite spots. The first time I went there with him it was a lot of walking so I did have to carry him most of the way, which was challenging. So the next time we went I brought the Ergo carrier and he still fits in it so it was really cool to hike together like that. He’ll go back and forth from hiking to being carried. He doesn’t go into the waterfall at the end, he’s a little scared of it, but he will get into the water around the waterfall even though its really cold. He gets this adorable little scared/nervous/excited laugh when he first gets into the cold water! His favorite activity is to have me dunk him in the water as if he’s a tea bag and the body of water is the mug. When I dip him in we both yell, “HIBISCUS TEA!” We are both so attracted to nature and have some of our most special moments together amidst our hikes, snacks and deep conversations. We adults have been so conditioned to focus on the end goal that we so often miss the jewels along the way and Koa is really good at bringing me back to the moment.
What are your favorite foods and places to eat on Maui with your son?
Koa recently told me, “Dada, I don’t like food. I like snacks.” So I’m constantly asking myself, “what can I feed him that will be fun to eat but will also be healthy for him?” We love to go to Down to Earth to have what he calls, “Yummy-yum-yums,” which is the variety of nuts and dried fruits in the bulk section there. The mixed nuts do provide a lot of protein and omegas so they are a healthy option for him.
He also loves going to Flatbread Pizza in Paia. When you bring kids there, you can ask them for a piece of dough with a bunch of flour for them to play with. We turn the menu into a pretend oven and he pretends to bake his “pizza” in it. That keeps him engaged for a while. He also loves to sit by the pizza oven and watch the pizza chefs in action.
What is one thing that inspires, impresses, or amazes you about your son?
His imagination. Inspired by my wife, we have really worked on giving his imagination as much space to grow as possible. I can really see that paying off. Whenever he makes up something, or comes up with his own ideas, we always try to really honor it. “Wow Koa! You have such great ideas!” we’ll say. His whole being lights up when he feels us really value his ideas and honor his imagination.
He went through a phase about 6 – 9 months ago of spontaneous imaginative story telling. We would gently encourage him to continue by saying, “Then what happened… wow… and then what?” We’d inspire him to go further and further and we were so amazed at how far he could stretch his imagination. That is continuing to happen in different ways now, but within that particular phase was a noticeable shift in the ways that he could express himself. It’s amazing to watch him make connections and blur the lines between reality and fantasy. We also find his imagination to be a powerful window into his emotional state. A lot of processing goes on within it and manifests through it.
What is the most challenging aspect of fatherhood for you?
One challenging aspect that is most prominent right now is identifying the line between giving Koa what he wants while simultaneously trying to be a responsible parent and giving him what he needs (getting somewhere on time, self-discipline, keeping things in-order/clean, etc.). Sometimes I’m not sure what side of the fence I need to be on in each moment. For example, I’ll see him running around, enjoying the moment and having so much fun, but he needs to be at school soon and we need to stop playing and get ready. Its obviously important to show up to things on-time and be responsible, but I don’t want to be this domineering dad making him think that life is about nothing but responsibility and discipline, because I don’t believe it is, its also about play, freedom and joy. The proper placement of that line gets difficult to identify at times. It’s a constant balancing act in each moment; I’m always trying to determine what is most important for his evolution as a happy human being. I’m not always in tune with it, sometimes more than others, but I am trying my best.
What is the thing that you do best as a father?
Tuning into my son’s emotional state, honoring it, and showing him that it is more than okay, actually good, to feel emotions and to cry. This is something that I’ve become particularly sensitive to. When a baby falls over and cries, so often we try to rush to make them stop crying, “Its okay! Its okay!! You’re okay!!!” We don’t always honor the emotions of our children. Its widespread as a society to suppress emotions. I see it a lot with men, with dads, but it applies to everyone. Before I was a father I did that too, I suppressed my emotions. After Koa was born, during therapy, I realized that I had suppressed my emotions for so long throughout my childhood. When I really started tapping into my inner child, I realized that my emotions could have been honored and listened to more when I was a child. I’ve realized how much that has effected me throughout my life in a negative way. I wasn’t encouraged to cry when I was sad, or to fully express my emotions. It was always about the end-goal and how quickly my emotions could appear patched-up. I’m not always good at it, but I can say that the majority of the time I can physically get down to his level, look at him in the eyes, and let him know that there is no shame in crying. I let him know that crying is okay, and letting out your emotions is okay. When I stay with him and allow him to process his true emotions he comes out of the other side so energized, refreshed and rejuvenated. I hope that because of this experience of honoring his emotions, he’ll be okay with expressing his emotions as an adult. I’m not perfect at this, but it is one of the things that I do best as a father.
What is your favorite thing about being a Maui Dad?
The first thing would be the incredibly diverse access to nature. On Maui no matter where you go, even just the drive to Longs in Pukalani, the scenery is beautiful. Having a variety of climates such as jungle-like environments, forests and beaches all within a 30 to 45 minute drive is just amazing. The nature in Maui has really provided a particular platform for Koa and me to connect on a deeper level, because in that sort of environment, it triggers a different kind of state of being which inspires a different kind of conversation to flow forth. The second thing would be Maui’s lack of pretension and materialism. Of course, there is great wealth here, however, in comparison to LA, where I moved from, the materialism and pretension here is quite mild. To have such an absence of that as a Dad, and for Koa, is quite a blessing. One thing I’m always thankful for is that there are no billboards here, so he’s not being bombarded with consumerism every second as we drive around. When he’s looking out of the car window, he’s looking at trees, mountains, and ocean. I’m so grateful for that. You don’t have to have a fancy car or the coolest clothes to seem “worthy in society” here. You go to a gathering and people of every kind are there; the Mercedes is next to the jalopy and the guy wearing slacks and Gucci slippers is next to the guy rocking board shorts and bare feet, and they are in the same place for the same purpose. I really like that and I really like that for Koa; it’s so important for me to bring him up in a place that has a stronger sense of equanimity.
Anything else you’d like to share, shout-out, plug, or promote?
I read this quote of Brene Brown’s not long ago and it really struck me on an emotional level. “We can’t give our children what we don’t have.” Most of us have plans to be better parents than our parents were and try and teach our kids things that are different from the negative things that were consciously or unconsciously taught to us. But we can’t pass the change on via just words. In order to be the best parents we can be, we have to really face our wounds, do the internal work and heal ourselves first. That’s the only way we can change the cycles and not pass things on from our childhood that negatively effected us. And we all have wounds, no matter what the severity level may be.
Is there an inspirational Maui Dad that you’d like to nominate for our next interview?
The first dad that comes to my mind is Kaleo Padilla. Kaleo was born and raised on Maui. I met him and his family through Makawao Montessori School and our families started hanging out. Kaleo and his wife Melissa have three kids under four: two girls and the youngest is a boy. Its so nice to see a Dad who is super involved with his kids on a physical and emotional level. We’ve gone to Obon Festivals together and I watch amazed as I see him with his three kids, all fully engaged. One child is a lot of work for me and I see Kaleo rockin’ two strollers at once with the baby in his arms! He’ll take full days with just himself and the three kids. He is a super sweet man, and a really tuned-in Dad, who is wonderfully involved with his kids interests. He is such an impressive father.
Would you like to nominate a Maui Dad that you admire to be featured on the Maui Dad blog? You can send us your nominations for Maui Dad interviewees by clicking here!