Pilgrimage to Golden Gate Park cardboard slides

I’ve never been a fan of the concept of a “bucket list.” My thinking: Death is an inevitability for all of us, so why should it drive any of the decisions we make in life?

Instead, I am the kind of guy who really tries hard to live in the moment. One moment I’ve been regretting in recent weeks: Never making the time to take my kids to the historic concrete/cardboard slides in the Koret Childrens Quarter of Golden Gate Park.

And so, this morning, because I was in the city with the big girls and we had some free time, we went.

For those of you who never have heard about these slides, know this: THEY ARE OLD-SCHOOL AND AWESOME. The slides themselves date back a while (not as long as the park, which dates to 1888, but a while). To ride them, you need sand (to speed things along; think shufflepuck) and a piece of cardboard on which to sit. The more sand on the track, the faster you go. The thinner your cardboard, the easier it is to control.

Cardboard slide, Golden Gate Park. My kids are in HEAVEN. #sistergram

A photo posted by Matt Villano (@mattvillano) on

I first tried the slides on one of my first adult trips to San Francisco, back in the 1990s. Even then, decades before my kids were born, I knew: Someday I had to bring my kids there.

R was having a rough morning but L did not disappoint. She first tried the slide without cardboard, but after sporting a strawberry on her buns, she changed her game and was hooked from there. Over the course of the 45 minutes that followed, the kid must have gone down 30 times. She LOVED it.

In fact, if we didn’t head to the carousel immediately after the sliding session, I’m not sure we ever would have been able to convince L to join us.

It was THAT cool.

Make time to visit the Koret this summer. And remember: The earlier you arrive with kids in tow, the more likely it is that you’ll have most (if not all) of the place to yourselves.

The Importance of Being Kind

We have to set an example when we travel. For them.

We have to set an example when we travel. For them.

Respect and kindness are big themes in our family these days, as we’re working with L and R to make sure they (don’t beat the snot out of each other and) always treat others the way they want others to treat them.

That’s precisely why this post, by “Mindful Dad” Josh Misner, resonated so strongly this week.

In the story, which was published on Misner’s blog and then on Huffpost Parents, Misner recounted a recent travel experience during which he behaved badly toward an airline customer service agent in front of his 6-year-old son. He then shared a wonderful anecdote about what happened next: Misner realized the error of his ways, and apologized to the customer service agent in front of his boy.

The story moved me for a number of reasons. For starters, it was a powerful reminder of the importance of leading by example, that our kids learn how to travel—and to treat others in general—by watching us. I also took comfort in reading another dad’s take on the whole notion of managing frustration when traveling with the extended family. The reality: when presented with disruptive delays while traveling with little ones, sometimes it can be really difficult to keep your cool.

Finally, the piece bolstered my opinion that the travel industry needs more families as customers.

Think about it—if Misner had been traveling alone, if he hadn’t realized his behavior was setting a bad example for his son, would he have made the effort to apologize and do the right thing? I’m guessing no. And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have.

One could argue that responsible parents traveling with kids actually make the skies (and airports, for that matter) a friendlier place to be. That’s something from which everyone can benefit.

To what extent do you meter your behavior when you travel with kids?

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