Steve Cordes is the Executive Director of Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU), where youth reach their potential through education, skills training and employment. Under his leadership, YOU has grown into an internationally recognized and award-winning agency. Steve’s unrelenting enthusiasm along with his commitment to building an inclusive community in London make him a visionary in the area of youth services. Steve holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Western University, and has been the recipient of two Paul Harris Fellowships through Rotary International.
My wife and I are blessed with two amazing children who are now 27 and 24 years old. When I think about my experiences as a parent, one word comes to mind.
To me, fatherhood has been focused on finding adventure and sharing that with my girls. Adventure comes in many forms. The big stuff, like family vacations, and the small stuff, like building a snowman (our favourite was named Snow White), raking leaves or even going for a walk.
As a young dad, our greatest daily adventures were our bedtime routines - preparing a surprise snack and having each daughter guess what theirs was by feeling and smelling it before story time. Story time was either a favourite book, a “little boy story” or a made up story.
We took turns picking.
Little boy stories allowed me to introduce them to my life as a little boy - getting to know aunts and uncles, grandparents and even great grandparents. Sharing intimate stories about our family community and feeling a connection to them, and to me.
I started doing these bedtime adventures for my kids. There were days when I didn’t feel like doing them - a busy day at work, a favourite TV show, or just not being in the mood all played a part in that.
Almost every day though, I did it.
After doing them for awhile, I realized that I was also doing them for me. They allowed me to be fully theirs and I felt their joy. The little boy stories allowed me to re-live wonderful memories and people and bring them back to life and into the lives of my children.
Of course, all kids eventually grow out of routines like that, but our adventures didn’t end.
It came in new forms - kayaking, walks in the woods, big trips and even simply enjoying meals together. The activity doesn’t really matter, but the sense of adventure does.
One of the awe inspiring things about children is that they are all born into this world with unlimited potential.
They can grow to be leaders.
They can grow to change the world.
They can grow into one of those nurturing, caring people who positively shape the lives of countless others.
Where they go with that depends so much on the people around them and the adventures they find. Bring that adventure to them and they will thrive (and you will too!).
Creating a positive, caring environment begins with you, and starts with words.