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Why It's Important I Bring My Kids To Vancouver For Christmas

12/08/2014 04:54 EST | Updated 02/07/2015 05:59 EST
Marina Dodis via Getty Images

As a Canadian dad, you look at your kids and just assume they're Canadian, too.

Mine aren't.

Well, technically they are -- soon after each of my two boys was born, I filled out a form, sent it to some office in Ottawa, and got citizenship cards back in the mail.

But for all intents and purposes, they're Americans. They were born in New York, they grew up in New York, they go to school in New York. They're not Vancouverites like me -- they're Brooklynites.

And that's a strange thing for a father to contemplate.

That's because their cultural references are so totally different than mine. They don't know how to deal with near-constant rain, for instance; it's unnatural to them. Having grown up in it, it's no exaggeration for me to say I don't even notice it anymore.

They don't have hockey deep in their bones, either. They have never been to a Tim Horton's or a Swiss Chalet, didn't grow up gazing at snow-capped North Shore mountains like Grouse and Seymour and Cypress, and have never wandered around Granville Island shops filling up on the free samples.

Instead they've been raised with a view of the Statue of Liberty, have developed a surprisingly intricate knowledge of the NYC subway system, and have witnessed buildings slowly rise where the Twin Towers used to be.

Every day, on the way to school, they walk by the church where Al Capone got married, in our old-school Italian neighborhood. A block away is Brooklyn's oldest bar, where Capone held the wedding reception.

It's all very cool, of course, and amazingly vibrant in New York City's dirty, chaotic way. But it's not a childhood I can identify with.

And how exactly do I tell them about Thanksgiving, by the way? The real one, that was held back in October?

Perhaps most disturbing of all, they have no connection to the Vancouver Canucks, no matter how many jerseys we buy them. Instead they pay attention to teams like the Brooklyn Nets or the New York Jets. And I'm absolutely sure they have no idea who Stan Smyl is.

Such is life, of course. It takes you in unexpected directions, and to places you didn't always foresee. And that has ramifications for your children.

So I certainly can't blame them for not knowing Vancouver-specific details like the colours and sounds and smells of a Pacific rainforest, or where to get really great dim sum. Those are my memories, not theirs.

After all it was me who moved away for work, almost 15 years ago now. That was my choice, and a New York family was the result.

I'm hoping to rectify at least some of that this Christmas, as we head back to Vancouver for the holidays. We'll ride the Christmas train amid the lights in Stanley Park, head up the Sea-to-Sky highway to Whistler, and go for walks in the deep snow.

It's a long flight, of course -- almost six hours on the Cathay Pacific redeye -- but it will be worth it, I think. A couple of weeks over the Christmas break won't make them Canadian, but at least it's a start.

Maybe they'll even acquire some of my old accent, the one that Americans used to ridicule me for. Nothing would make me prouder.

Vancouver may not be a part of who they are, at least not yet. They're New Yorkers now, and always will be, with all its crazy experiences imprinted in them already. And who knows where they will end up, with their own wives and their own children.

But the West Coast is a part of who their father is. And that's an important thing for them to know.