Last week I had the privilege to be interviewed by a wonderful resource for parents called, GetConnectDad. Even though the website is geared toward fathers I find that their content is great for all parents. I’m thrilled to share this piece with you all because the interview gets personal as I talk about my parents, growing up an immigrant and of course promoting the health and wellness of our children with Chunky And Friends. Enjoy!
Tell me about your family! Where do you live? How many kids? What do you do for fun?
My family lives in Montgomery County, Maryland a suburb right outside of Washington DC. My wife and I have two amazing kids, Ben & Evie, who never cease to find ways to surprise us. For fun I love to read, write and watch movies. I joke that I’m going to reach the end of the Internet one day because I love browsing the web.
I have kids in these age ranges:
3-5 Years Old
Was your father or grandfather an integral part of your childhood? What do you remember most about them?
My Dad is a very integral part of me. His influence still resonates with me as an adult, especially now that I’m a father. Whether it’s the big conversations that were necessary for my safety and well-being or the small nuggets that echo in my head from time to time, he is a part of who I am. One of the things I love about my Dad is that he doesn’t let time slow him down. His body may be aging but his spirit and youthful exuberance is still that of a man who would egg me on to sit with him in the front of a roller coaster at Six Flags. My conversation with him always brightens my day because he’s extremely witty and sharp and as a result I always have a fun time recounting our conversations with my siblings or wife. I could go on forever about this man because I feel that as a father, he provided a unique experience that shaped the person I am. Unfortunately, I don’t remember either of my Grandfathers as I was very young when they passed away. My parents speak very fondly of both of them and I can recognize the influence that they had on their lives the same way I can feel my parents’ influence on mine.
Was your mother an integral part of your childhood? What do you remember most about them?
My Mom is my first Love. I am who I am today because of her guidance, wisdom, work ethic and devotion to her family. She has the kindest heart of anyone I’ve ever known; a close second is my Wife. She would tell my wife stories of my childhood in an attempt to embarrass me but it is futile because she recounts them with so much enthusiasm and love that I can’t help but soak it in. By the time I notice that everyone is laughing at me, I don’t care. I’m actually excited to hear another story. Every Sunday she would drag my siblings and me out of bed for church and on the way there and back we would speak at length about our week, current events, TV shows and of course the church service. Being the daughter of a Protestant preacher, she would sing hymnals in Haitian Creole and share stories of her childhood while imitating her father’s booming voice. Watching her interact with my kids is a joy because I can see the bond they have with each other and I love it. The bond isn’t because it’s their grandmother, rather I know they can feel the same love that I have known my entire life.
What is one thing your family used to do growing up that you feel was sort of unique? Any family traditions? Customs? Activities?
As a Haitian born, American Citizen I like to say that I was raised in a third world home within a first world country. I’d walk into my home and would be welcomed by things like the smell of my mother’s cooking or my father’s radio blasting Konpa Music. Even though we all spoke English fluently, my siblings and I would converse with my parents in Creole. I was never far removed from my native country’s culture, traditions and heritage as my father remains to this day a well-known member of the DC area Haitian community. One of the beautiful things about being raised in the United States is how we adopted the American holidays. My life became an amalgam of cultures, each of the best qualities merged to become what most people would consider the immigrant experience, but to my family it was just life. We celebrate Thanksgiving just like all Americans but with a lot of Haitian Food and of course a Turkey. But, there is one event that is a unique tradition for the Haitian people and that is every New Year we have a squash based soup called, “soup joumou,” that we have to celebrate Haiti winning independence from the French in 1804. It’s a great time to get together with family and reflect on the upcoming year.
What do you think the biggest challenge our kids face today? What about five years from now?
Growing up healthy and strong. I spend a lot of my time promoting healthy eating and active play with my book series, Chunky and Friends, so it’s a huge part of my kids’ life because I want to ensure they live long fruitful (no pun intended) lives. In our home we don’t outright ban sweets, we practice moderation by treating them the same way we would treat a piece of chocolate cake, like a dessert. That also goes for all forms of processed food with an excess of salt, sugar or fat. Moderation is the key. The way food and fitness are being portrayed in mass media makes living healthier seem harder than it is. The myth that healthy food is expensive and the idea that the only way to be fit is to “go hard or go home” is discouraging and will only get worse unless we change the perception in the eyes of future generations. As parents, it’s important we prepare our children’s bodies as well as their minds by eating mindfully and talking about the food we eat as we eat them. Discuss the benefits of eating baby carrots and the reasons we can’t enjoy potato chips everyday. Take walks as a family or engage in active play through games like tag, Duck Duck Goose or Simon Says. Take simple steps to get our kids to hit the brakes on eating too much junk food and continue to be kids by moving their bodies. This is as important today as it will be five years from now.
If you were able to give one piece of advice to every single parent in the world, what would that advice be?
Read to your children. If you didn’t start when they were in the womb, start immediately. It’s never too late. My five-year-old son has been reading since he was 18 months old. My daughter just went for her 18-month visit and her pediatrician asked how many words she knew and we couldn’t answer because she communicates in full sentences. I attribute this to reading to them, day and night. Keep words and sentences in their lives. For example: every Friday night we watch a movie together as a family and if the TV is on we have the closed captions on. Why? Because the scrolling words are hard to ignore and it keeps them reading. Reading is the bedrock on which academic knowledge is built, so lay the foundation early.
As a busy parent, how do you balance all of the demands on your time? Do you use any tools, any techniques?
I don’t consider myself a busy parent or a busy entrepreneur. I fear that by thinking that way I close myself to potential opportunities. So I avoid labeling myself as “busy” or “too busy.” No one has a monopoly on time and we prioritize things that we deem worthy within the 24 hours we have in the day. I’m no different, so I find ways to maximize my time to ensure that I am available for the unknown. Of course, things happen that can throw a wrench into the best-laid plans, when that happens I apologize to all parties involved and reprioritize my time to fulfill my obligations. As far as tools and techniques, I love to share articles on parenting, health & fitness on Twitter so I read a lot of articles in the morning on news aggregate apps like Apple News or News360. I use apps like Buffer to schedule tweets of articles that I find fascinating and I use Twitter, TweetDeck and Buffer to tweet throughout the day. I alternate between my laptop and phone because I also spend my time writing and responding to emails. For my day-to-day tasks, I use the stock reminder and calendar app on my iPhone. After downloading countless apps that were designed to help with productivity I realized that there wasn’t a magic app. It was user error. Once I resolved the issue I was having with regards to maintaining a schedule, I concluded that I just needed the basics. I use the techniques that Rory Vaden champions in his book, Procrastinate on Purpose. It is a great read and it has dramatically changed the way I handle my business and personal life.
On average, how many nights a week is your family ‘busy,’ meaning going to and from sports / activities / etc.
One night. Crazy right! My son goes to swimming lessons at an indoor pool when soccer isn’t in season. I’m sure as our kids get older their interest will expand and it will be reflected on our calendars but for now we value the quality time that we can spend together.
What motivates your family? Do you have any mutual hobbies you all enjoy?
It’s not “what” but “who” and that is, my 4 year old son, Ben. My wife and I set ourselves up to have a child as energetic and bright as he. We believe in stimulating a child’s imagination because it fosters the curiosity that leads to questions which builds on their knowledge base. So we reenact books, dress up like superheroes, play with blocks, go for hikes/walks, dance, sing and anything else that has the potential to make him engage in active play and stimulate his mind. We started this very early and as a result it has become part of our lives. Our daughter, Evie, whose personality and attributes are more visible everyday, falls right in and adds her own unique flavor.
What do you do to recharge yourself and your family?
I love to read, write, hang out with friends, watch movies and I do believe I’ll reach the end of the Internet within a few weeks. When my kids need to recharge that means it’s nap or bedtime. That is the only time they truly decompress.
What is your Resource?
I have written a book (or 2)
What motivated you to start your website/ book / conference / vlog / podcast / etc?
My then fiancé and now wife is a pediatrician and during her residency program she would come home and talk about the kids that she was seeing on a day-to-day basis. No matter the physical appearance of the child, the eating habits and activity levels needed to be improved. With the obesity pandemic growing, I felt motivated to do something that would inspire kids to grow up healthy & strong. So, I thought back to my childhood and there was one character that inspired me to eat healthier- Popeye the Sailor. Watching the effects that spinach had on Popeye made me eat every bite when it was served and opened me up to other vegetables as well. So, I said to myself that if I created a character or a group of characters that could inspire children the same way I was inspired by Popeye the Sailor, maybe, I could make a difference. Hence, I created a children’s comic book series to promote healthy eating & active play called, CHUNKY AND FRIENDS.
What is your goal and vision for your community?
My goal is to help prevent children from contracting the preventable diseases experienced by adults, which include but are not limited to: Cancer, heart disease and diabetes. With the characters in the Chunky and Friends book series I believe that I can make a difference inspiring children to live healthier lives through healthy eating & active play.
How long have you been writing? Do you leverage other media like video or podcasting? If so, where can we find those?
I’ve been writing since I was kid and as an adult I didn’t feel I had anything unique enough to publish so I kept writing and sharing it with friends and family. Once I came up with the idea for Chunky and Friends, I realized I had something special that has the potential to make a huge difference in a lot of lives. That’s why we’re in the process of bolstering the Chunky And Friends YouTube page with more content for kids revolving around health and fitness. In addition to Chunky And Friends, my wife and I are preparing a podcast that revolves around being working parents. We’re thrilled about it because we feel that we may have a lot to offer our fellow parents. You can find more information on our website ChunkyAndFriends.com.
So, tell me what motivates you each day? What are your passions?
I love making a difference. Frequently, I will meet a parent who thanks me for the book series because it’s helping them keep their kid(s) healthy. Planning the future of the Chunky and Friends brand excites me to no end because of the many possibilities.
What is the last song you listened to?
My son and I went to see the Lego Batman Movie when it was released and the song, Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson plays a role in the film. If you are a parent you know what happens when your child falls in love with a song. Hit “repeat” and wait for that moment when it becomes profound and irritating at the same time.
Do you belong to any groups that help you keep your goals? Church groups, parent groups, etc?
As an author and frequent presenter at schools, churches, health festivals and organizations that cater to children and their families, I am continually inspired to do the work of promoting healthy eating, living and active play. The community at large helps me focus on our mission.
Do you have anything else you would like our readers to know about your resource?
The Chunky And Friends books series is wonderful with dynamic characters that will make your kids laugh and learn at the same time. The first book in the series, CHUNKY AND THE O-BEAST, was an introduction to the Chunky and Friends world and the idea that every child is perfect the way they are and the only thing the adults in their lives want to see is that they grow up healthy and strong. Our latest book in the series, THE CANDY CONUNDRUM, focuses on dental health and the character Candy (short for Candace) who learns the harm that eating too much candy can have on oral health and the importance of brushing and flossing. Chunky and Friends is another opportunity to bond with your children and begin the conversation about healthy eating and active play to ensure they grow healthy & strong