Dad, Are Man Cards Even Real?


mancard2

 

“Kal, if you don’t stop coming to mom and dad’s bed in the middle of the night, you’re never gonna get your man card.”

Kal is 9.  He is a migrant sleeper.  Sometimes he sleeps on a cot in his brothers room.  Most nights, he asks if he can park himself in the recliner beside mine until he falls asleep, and I give in so we can squeeze in just a few minutes of father/son time.  On these nights he gets carried to the sofa to sleep for the night.

And most nights, he wakes me in the early morning hours by crawling onto the edge of our bed.  So I told him that he had to start sleeping all night on the couch in order to earn his man card.

Didn’t think much about it until one day he proudly exclaimed, “dad, did you notice I slept all night on the couch?”

“Great son!  You’re on your way to getting your man card.”

Then the daily questions started.  What else did he need to do to earn his card?  So I started to have some fun with it and use it for teaching & motivation.

I listed some things he’s already done as requirements:

-Whittle a spear from a stick

-Throw a tight spiral with a football

-Complete a 5k race

kal 5k

-Conquer a ropes course

first flight adventnure park 2014 065

-Learn the words to “Freebird”

-Catch a fish and get it off hook

-Help your dad carry groceries to the house in the snow when he couldn’t get his truck up the driveway.

-Catch a shark with rod and reel

kal shark 2013

When he wanted to give up on his first attempt at finishing a song on Guitar Hero on Wii, I told him he’d lose his man card.  Giving up on a task just because it isn’t easy just isn’t acceptable.  So he stuck with it until he finished.

I finally told him he’d earned a man card.  Each additional test or task just earns a “punch” on the card.

“What can I do today, dad, to get another punch on my card?”

There are some things that little boys need to learn to do.  And there are certain things that dads need to try to teach their boys (and girls) to do……..even though they aren’t important skills.  Just part of being a dad and connecting with your kids.

I started running out of quick and easy answers.  Some became silly.

-Hit the bullseye on a dartboard.

-Load and start the dishwasher

-Wear the same underwear for three consecutive days.

So I started thinking of serious answers.  True life lessons to teach.  Sometimes to be taught by words.  Sometimes taught by our actions.  Dads, your children are watching you.

-Forgive someone who has wronged you

-Show initiative.  Notice when someone needs help and extend a helping hand.

-Close your mouth and listen when others are talking, and let them finish.

-Admit fault when you’re wrong

-Ask for forgiveness

-Never half-way do anything

-Speak kindly of others

-Share freely with others what the Lord has blessed you with

-Have a thankful heart

Teaching your sons to catch a fish or throw a spiral doesn’t quite make them a man.  But the time spent doing these things puts a dad into a position of being the most powerful influencer in the lives of his children.

Real men love.  Real men serve others.  Real men try their best to be like Jesus.

Matthew 20 NIV -//

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Real men live to help those around them rise up…….to an eternal reward…..to their own life of impact.

“Dad, are man cards even real?”

I think so.  You get a new hole punched every time the Lord blesses you with the strength and ability to lift others up in some way.

Bear wrestling not necessary.

Keep Talkin Even When Nobody Seems To Hear

KR 8th grade night

Some things are worth repeating, even when your audience doesn’t seem to care or understand.

Some messages don’t bring immediate results or even draw the attention of your listeners.

But concepts that are modeled and “preached” consistently still stand a chance of becoming a part of someone’s character.

Such is the case when coaching kids in youth sports.

At younger ages, the mom/dad/coach figure gets by with fumbling through teaching the rules of the game and basic fundamental skills.

As players get older, the pressure to win often creates an unhealthy mix between learning and winning (winning now!).  Teaching of fundamentals, good work habits, team-building, and strong character often gets shoved into a corner while practices and instruction are centered on winning now and developing the next superstar.

Coaches at any age have the responsibility to help kids become their best…….at life.  Work ethic, determination, a competitive spirit, accountability.  They all come into play along the way.  And somewhere along the way, coaches have to realize that the kids they’re leading aren’t going to be playing the game much longer.

I’ve been privileged to coach two of my kids in basketball through three years of middle school, most recently my son.  As my son passed through his final middle school season, I became very aware of the future of him and his teammates.  They weren’t all going to be high school basketball players, but they were all going to be high school students soon.

The talks before, during, and after practices and games began to take more of a tone of developing strong character and making good decisions.  Most of these subjects were met with looks of “can we just start practice?” or kids not even listening as they put their shoes on to leave after a game.

A lesson I learned early in coaching was this: If at least one kid is listening, then I will keep saying what is important for them all to hear (but everybody else has to shut up for that one kid to hear).

The man who shared coaching duties with me also shared in leadership philosophies.  So we kept preaching.  And we may have bored some kids to death at times.  But we harped on concepts that applied on and off the court.

-Make good decisions.

-Be a good teammate.

-Decide that nobody will outwork you in practice today.

-Don’t just settle for whatever falls in your lap.  Work hard.  Compete hard.

-Earn the respect of your coaches, opponents, and teammates.

-Success and improvement doesn’t come overnight.  Do your best every day.

-If you don’t like where you’re at or how things are going, do something about it.

-The world doesn’t revolve around you, think of others.

-Never be a blamer or an excuse maker.

– Be a leader.  Do things to make the people around you better.

My son and some of his teammates have moved on to the world of high school basketball now.  I watch as a parent, and not a coach, for the first time since he was a 4th grader.  But the “nervous parent locked in on his own kid” has left me.

I watch all my former players closely now, observing as both a coach and a parent.  Cheering for small triumphs for each one.  Seeing how hard they compete.  Seeing how well they respond to coaching at the next level.  Trying to get a gauge on how well we prepared them for the “nexts” in life.

At a recent JV game, I got an unexpected glimpse at a lesson learned……one of those lessons we were often selling and doubted anybody was buying.

A two-on-none fast break.  Ballhandler approaches basket from the left.  He has a teammate on the right side of the basket, about two steps behind him.  Player with the ball hasn’t scored or even shot in this game (a big lead with minutes left).  In fact, he has scored very few points on the season.  But his open teammate on the right has just scored what may have been his first points of the season minutes earlier (with much celebration from the bench.

Instead of shooting a wide-open layup, he hesitates slightly and shovels the ball to his teammate for 2 more points.  Another small eruption from the home bench and a good response from the crowd.

I watch in silence.  It was my son that gave up the ball.  I looked at my wife without speaking.  He gets it.  My reaction would have been the same for any of the kids that may have made the same play.

I’ve been more excited at sporting events for my kids.  My daughter scored an unlikely acrobatic last minute goal to tie a regional semi-final soccer game……….and I may or may not have screamed like a madman and raced down the sidelines.  My other daughter made a free-throw with no time on the clock to send a game to overtime in a huge upset win……..made greater because I could see that she was a nervous wreck after missing the first one.

But I’ve never been more proud of one of my kids in a sporting event than I was at that moment.  “Son, people notice those things.  It’s not a big deal if you take that shot, but it is a big deal that you didn’t. People will remember what you did.  Those are the things that build teams and make them better.”

It’s not a big deal.  But it is.

“Make good choices.  Be a leader.  Do things to make the people around you better.”

He listened.  I know others did too.

Parents and coaches……keep preaching it.  They may not seem to be listening.  It may not help you win the next game.  But it may show up when you least expect it.

We’re not really raising ballplayers……we’re raising winners.

If it’s worth repeating, keep repeating it.

Put Me In Coach, I’m Ready To Play!

centerfield

THERE COMES A TIME IN EVERYONE’S LIFE WHERE THEY MUST TIP THE BALANCE AWAY FROM DOING THE THINGS THAT MAKE THEM STRONGER……AND START DOING THE THINGS THAT THEY DO WELL.

The ongoing struggle to balance life- family, church, work, community……with God at the center of all.

The day may come when balance is an impossibility.  There is no fight left in you to get through an average day…….because there are no average days anymore.

When you’re picking up pebbles and holding onto them for enough consecutive days, you eventually pack the weight of a boulder on your back.

Maybe some pebbles were steps of faith or acts of obedience to God.

Some, I’m sure, were misguided steps rooted in people pleasing and over-reliance on self.

But carrying something for good reasons doesn’t mean we need to carry it forever.

Look to God when you’re still standing instead of looking to Him after you collapse from the weight.

Maybe it wasn’t a breaking point, but more like a “something’s gotta change” moment.

I picked up my 9 year-old son from Wednesday night church activities after finishing a 14-hour work day.  As I was trying to have a short conversation with another adult, play-fighting/wrestling started between my son and me.

He hit me with a right hook……so hard that my glasses went flying across the room.  As I led him silently (and not so gently) out of the room, another child retrieved my glasses and nervously handed them to me.

She knew Kal was in big trouble  .And I knew something had to change.

I saw a glaring deficit of character in my son and I knew it was time for a sobering look in the mirror to see how he arrived there.

Among other things, I told him that this was the worst thing that any of our four children had done………..and then truth hit me square in the face this time.

During the first nine years of life for his brother and sisters, I wasn’t off trying to save the world…….living life like God had granted me some sort of invincibility.  Raising God-honoring children had been my greatest passion, and I somehow got off course.

Change came gradually.

My life’s not supposed to be easy.

Living life at a high rate of speed.  Rest is overrated.

To whom much is given much is expected.

Not worrying, just plotting the next challenge.

If you’re doing it for God, then God will provide a way to get through it.

Bend over and pick up the next pebble.

Sometimes in obedience to God.

Sometimes unintentionally people-pleasing.

Never willing to show weakness, I attracted the pebbles of others

As the weight gets heavier, does trust in God grow, or does one just simply work harder?

Maybe I started thinking, “That’s ok God…..I got this.”

Time and energy that God seems to supply when we follow His paths somehow go away.

My best hope for changing the world and changing eternity…..is to raise kids who have an amazing impact in this world.  Character doesn’t happen by accident, especially the kind that honors, obeys, and loves God.

Change has to happen.  If I knew how, I would.

Pray, and wait, and be ready to make changes today that don’t necessarily bring results tomorrow.

I traditionally go Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve by myself.  My oldest daughter was in from college, so I asked her to tag along.  Thankfully she said yes.  We shopped, not because we had to, but because we could.

It turned out to be a wonderful day spent together.  A day that felt so different than any in recent memory.  I transformed into a different person.  A person with a greater ability to impact the lives of those around me.  Relaxed.  Smiling and speaking to strangers.  Truly enjoying my daughter’s company.  Enjoying the moment in a new way.

Later in the evening, I came to realize why.

A mind at true rest.  The burden of problem solving and problem preventing that normally fills my mind was absent.  Even though I’m not a worrier by any means, I am a thinker and a planner…….constantly on guard against winding up in unfavorable situations.

Looking too far ahead.  Distracted.  Missing out on right now.  Constantly training and preparing for “tomorrow”.

Be careful of a life that becomes so full (even if it’s full of good things) that you spend your days in deep thought trying to solve it all, distracted from the present……..and the people in the present…..and in your presence.

A life that becomes too full for rest is in danger of becoming too full for God.

God’s love and direction in our lives can become clouded as we live like a panicked drowning man fighting against the person trying to pull us to the surface.

For the people who depend on you to shape their future, it’s important to have a vision for the future.  But their greatest hope may lie in your efforts to make the most out of each moment in the present……without distraction.

Sports teams in preseason practices get dreadfully restless and bored until the real games start.

“Coach, can we at least scrimmage today?”

“Coach, you gonna pass out uniforms today?”

Don’t be a Bengals fan, living each season for “next season”.

John Fogerty – Centerfield

Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes
You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride
Just to hit the ball and touch ’em all, a moment in the sun
It’s gone and you can tell that one goodbye!

Oh, put me in, Coach, I’m ready to play, today

It’s time to carry people instead of rocks!

Being a parent is a full-time job.  Do it well.  The season starts today.

Got the right uniform on again.  Put me in Coach.

 

Perfect Gifts, Blondie Records, & Who Moved My Stuff?

skynyrd christmas

No ugly ties or argyle socks for this dad on Christmas this year.  My four kids know me better than that.

Ten days removed from Christmas, the decorations are put away.  My oldest daughter is settled back in at college.  The others dread the end of Christmas break as they return to school tomorrow.  And I smile now as I reflect on the significance of each of their simple gifts to me, the beauty in the uniqueness of their personalities, and the ways they arrived at their purchases.

From Kal, my 9 year-old, the #1 DAD ink pen.  This is most likely my fourth such pen purchased from the elementary school Christmas shop.  It represents some of his first efforts into independent shopping and giving.  The key is to act like it’s the greatest pen that I’ve ever owned (it’s already broken).  The desire to do for others and the joy of giving doesn’t seem to come quite as naturally for boys, so one must work these moments hard.  So Kal knows this is, without a doubt, my favorite ink pen.

From my 15 year-old son, a Lynyrd Skynyrd book.  I taunted him a few weeks back that he had no idea what he was getting for Christmas.  He smiled and proudly exclaimed that “you don’t know what I got for you either…..but it’s from the heart, dad.  I promise”, as he grinned and patted me on the shoulder as I’ve done to him so many times before. I don’t think he’s ever put a lot of effort into gift buying in the past.  But I knew something was different this year as I watched his birthday money going toward handpicked gifts for his brother and sisters (accompanied by his own personal touch of sloppy gift wrap).  Anyway, he has a great appreciation and knowledge for a boy his age of cassette/vinyl era music.  We share a common bond and have great conversations about the subject. So I have this vision of him in the bookstore coming upon the Lynyrd Skynyrd book, and his realization that it was the perfect gift for dad.  The excitement of giving.  Well done my son.  Welcome to the world of “the joy of finding and giving the perfect gift”.

From my 16 year-old daughter, the wallet……and thermal underwear…….and Bengal earbuds.    My thoughtful child.  Starting in November, coming to me repeatedly, asking me for advice about gift-giving ideas for various family members.  Wanting to find a perfect or useful gift for everyone on her list.  She’s always taken gift-buying (or hand-making gifts) seriously since the days of those first #1 DAD pens.  She understands the joy of giving. She’s a detail person, a giver like her mother and I love that about her.   I knew she was watching me for months, trying so hard to find something that I needed.  I noticed some time ago that she noticed my ratty, worn out wallet.  I knew it was coming.   She may have been done shopping before December 1st.  She takes giving seriously.  I love her giving heart.

From my 18 year-old daughter, the Rolling Stones album.  A great gift.  Maybe even a last-minute gift?  I found my albums in crazy order with an album that I would never listen to (Blondie’s Greatest Hits) mysteriously on top on Christmas Eve.  Before gifts were exchanged, I jokingly asked the three older kids which one was out shopping and sent sent the text to someone at home “Hey, does dad have _____album?”, but nobody confessed.

Or the gift could have been almost an afterthought, because my oldest daughter knows me deeply.  We have this wonderfully unique relationship where we share 1,000 words without speaking, exchanging a glance or a smile and knowing exactly what one another is thinking.  I honestly wouldn’t care or notice if nobody gave me anything for Christmas.  Macy knows this.  Sure, she was gonna do something for her dad for Christmas.  But she understands that it’s no big deal if she doesn’t.

We ended up spending Christmas Eve shopping together, not so much because we actually needed to buy gifts…….but just because we could.  And that turned out to be the greatest gift that she could have given me.

She isn’t a worrier and doesn’t seem to fret over little things…….has a lot a confidence in her ability to pull things out at the last second, living by the seat of her pants…….like her dad.  I love that about her.

I sure hope nobody ever frets about finding a gift for me of any sort.  I hope my kids all find joy in giving and doing for others year round.  And I’m so very thankful that God made each of them so very unique.

Sometimes a simple pile of gifts can remind us of so much.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Just as my children are unique and wonderful to me, all people are unique and wonderful in God’s eyes.
We certainly can’t be everything to everybody, but it’s probably safe to say that we can be more to somebody each day by trying to see that somebody through the eyes of God……even if they happen to be wearing argyle socks and listening to Blondie.

The Scars of Christmas Past (not really)

cowboys 001

Like most boys growing up in the early 70’s, my older brother and I played a lot of cowboys and Indians.

TV choices were limited in those days but I remember large doses of Gunsmoke and John Wayne movies.

I recall a Christmas when our prized gifts were matching cowboy rifles with pump action and a real-life firing sound.

My memory was foggy as to the timing of the “accident”.  I thought it was later on Christmas evening, but my brother tells me it happened on Christmas morning (soon after receiving the guns).

I couldn’t exactly remember whose rifle it was, but I clearly remember my dad walking through the house rapidly cocking and firing the gun while referencing a TV show that was no longer on the air (The Rifleman).  At the end of the demonstration, the gun no longer made that cool realistic firing sound.  It made no sound at all.

Memory tells me that I wasn’t too upset at the time.  It could have been because I just didn’t worry too much about stuff, even as a kid.  Or it could have been because I truly believed that my dad could fix anything.  But the truth is that it wasn’t my gun that was broken.

My brother and I revived this story this Christmas when I was asked to share a Christmas memory along with my dad at my church for our Christmas Eve service.  When I told my brother of my “assignment”, he suggested the same story (and filled in some details that I was pretty sketchy on).

But when I brought it up to my dad, he had no recollection of the gun-breaking incident.

Christmas is a magical time in so many ways.  Dad didn’t remember.  But his two sons did…..forty years later.

What a great reminder!  The things that I do and say today with my kids may seem insignificant to me.  But they may be recalling them together forty years later.  That’s a pretty awesome reminder to slow down and least try to see Christmas (and life) through the excited eyes of a child.

Forty years after the broken gun incident, I have a pretty good grasp on the fact that stuff doesn’t matter.  And growing up, my dad really could fix pretty much anything that was broken.  But our Heavenly Father can fix everything that matters.  People matter.  He sent His Son to save all people.

Christmas matters.  The joy and the hope that we feel today as we celebrate our Savior’s birth should not escape us once the gifts are exchanged and the decorations are put away.  It’s a joy worth sharing year round.  Just as the magic of Christmas reminds us of an opportunity to create a lasting memory for a child, it should also remind us that all of our thoughts, words, and actions have significance each day.  Living a life that models our Savior impacts others for eternity……not just forty years.

Merry Christmas.

 

 

 

Hangin Out At Urgent Care Just For Kicks

fathers days

Today would be a great day to spend two hours at an urgent care facility to find out my daughter has a cold.  Any day is a great day for that, right?  Misery, here we come!

Or it could turn out to be a perfect reminder of what a treasure one’s daughter is.  A time to figure out that a father’s role and relationship with his daughter changes significantly as she gets older, but his value in her life should not.

I slept only an hour before being rudely awakened by a splitting headache at 1am.  Restless, painful sleep until 4am until I gave up and got out of bed.  It couldn’t hurt any worse, might as well go into work.  Besides, retail management at Christmas time has advantages to be gained by working at times when no one else is around.

The pain diminished throughout the day, and I felt like I’d accomplished enough to call it a day after 12 plus hours without a break.  As I was walking to my truck to leave for home at an unusually “early” hour, my cell phone rang.

My 16 year-old Maddie had been battling terrible head congestion for days and was due to travel the following morning with her mother (who was running her first marathon).  “Karrick, Maddie is running a fever now and I really think she needs to be checked out this evening.  Can you take her to urgent care?”   Yeah…..uh…..sure.

But I was selfishly irritated.  Kristy couldn’t take her because she had a meeting at church.  Gee, hadn’t we talked about telling people “no”.  I didn’t feel good and I just wanted to go home.

But of course flu and strep have been spreading through our schools like wildfire.  I knew she needed to be checked out as a precaution before traveling.

We arrived to the warzone of a waiting room after navigating the onslaught of cigarette smokers in the parking lot.  Just enough empty seats for the two of us.  It looked like we were in for a long wait (and we were).

We sat surrounded by awful sights and sounds of sickness and pain.  Snort.  Sniff.  Moan.  Cough.  Cry.  Yelling children.

“Sis, we’re gonna wait two hours to find out you have a cold.”

“Dad, have you noticed how angry the nurses look when they step out to call back the next patient?”  Yep.

Did I mention that my daughter is 16 now and that I struggle terribly to carry on conversations with her?   We had a nice 30 minute wild run of catching fish in the surf every cast back in July.  We’ve had some good conversations about the appreciation and acquisition of classic vinyl records in the last 6 months.  Past that, I’m just sort of “present” in recent history.

Make the most of the opportunity.

I noticed kids running wild doing things that she knew she would never be permitted to do at their age.  Parents doing crazy things in the waiting room that she knew I would never do as a parent.  So I texted her about it.  We laughed.  Not at people, but at the crazy circus environment that surrounded us.  We found funny stuff on Twitter and shared laughs.  She picked my brain countless times as she played a trivia game on her phone.

And since we knew her mom was in a church meeting, just for laughs, we sent her a text of our ordeal that included what some might consider colorful language.

We found common ground to talk about and laugh about.  In a miserable place during a miserable wait, I enjoyed my daughter.  She may have even enjoyed me and my odd sense of humor (and my trivia prowess).

As we walked out (it was a cold) at 8pm, I admitted to her that I was tired and that I’d been up since 4am and worked a 12 hour day.  Her response reminded me what a treasure she is,

“Sorry dad, I know this is the last place you wanna be right now.”

I told her I was fine and that we need to be certain that she didn’t have flu or strep.  What I didn’t tell her was that this was exactly where I needed to be at that moment.

Sometimes dads are at a loss about what to say or do.  We just need to be ready to say “yes” sometimes and remember that life’s not about us.  And even if we are a bit lost in the shuffle as our girls get older, the least we can do is be present.

Show up where we are needed or wanted.  Show up for things that are important to our kids.

Being present doesn’t mean we always know what to do or what to say.  It does mean that we choose to spend our time where our family is.

The daughter who spends her evenings in her room with little to share with her father on most evenings still finds great comfort in knowing that her father is always available in the next room.

Be there when she needs you.

 

 

Smile….God Loves You!

DSC00406

Sometimes perspective arrives when we stop searching for it.

One of those days…….

Too many hours spent at work (if I can just get caught up on some things, I’ll have more time with my family)

Too many rude and impatient people (“I can be nice to anybody for five minutes.  I can bite my tongue.  I’m not offendable)

Too many things to do.  Not enough help to do it.  The demands and requests keep coming.  (I can’t figure out how to get it all done)

Too many places to be at the same time.  (If this day was 30 hours long, I would still be in trouble).

If one more thing goes wrong, I’m gonna lose it.  (and it always does)

“This too shall pass.”

I don’t believe this is actually in scripture, but I repeat it to myself often when overwhelmed with circumstances.  It does give biblical perspective, but sometimes there is no comfort in simple analytical thinking.  The weariness doesn’t go away.

My day finished with a long church meeting that left me arriving home at 10:30.  Little to no time spent with any family member in an entire day.  Great.  Weary……very.

I mindlessly watched TV for a while before bed.  Kal had fallen asleep in the recliner next to me.  When I picked him up to carry him to bed, perspective came in the most gentle and perfect way.

He had been sick and hadn’t gone to school.  Almost 9 years old now, I struggled to pick him up and carry his sleeping body.  His head rested on my shoulder as I started through the house.  I took just a few steps and felt his fevered cheek against mine.

Weariness, unrest, and anxiety gave way to an amazing feeling of peace.

God loves me.  That’s enough.

“God loves you” sounds terribly cliche’ and empty when tossing it out to others, but it’s powerful enough to bring you to your knees in moments like this.

For just an instant, with my son’s head resting on my shoulder, I was reminded how much I love this precious child (and all four of my children).  And as I gave thanks for this boy and the privilege of being called “daddy”, I saw so clearly my Father’s love for me.

And I saw great purpose again.  Not to survive the day and schedules and get things done……but to love.  To be the best dad I can be.

I may not get to spend as much time as I’d like with my kids tomorrow either.  But if I trust, honor, and obey God with my plans and efforts to do so…….He will provide a way.

In comforting my sick son, I found comfort in my Father.

God loves me.  He loves me enough to make me a daddy.  He loves me enough to send His Son to die on the cross for me.

I carried my son to bed with a smile on my face.

 

The Good Coach

will ferrell soccer

In most of life’s situations, it’s fairly easy to see what we SHOULD have done…….

after we’ve already messed up.

When it comes to the trial and error nature of parenting, we find plenty of situations where we don’t really figure out how the heck to do something……

until it’s no longer necessary to do it.

Such is the nature of coaching in youth sports.

Three short months ago, I watched my daughter drive away to college four hours away.  I felt like the dad in the Subaru commercial talking to his little girl in the driver’s seat.

subaru1

I choked back tears as I gave her simple parting instructions, knowing that I would no longer be a powerful daily influence in her life.  What kind of influences would she have in her life in college?

Today her mother and I watched her final soccer game of the season.  On a cold, rainy day in Circleville, Ohio, after a hard-fought loss we parted ways once again with her mother choking back tears this time.

Macy had a long bus ride back to Knoxville ahead for her.  And we would have loved to have her home with us for the weekend.  But these were tears of joy (mostly).

Macy and her coaches had stopped by our car to chat after the game.  Smiles and laughter masked the exhaustion of a 90 minute game.  A great player/coach relationship was easy to see.  Mutual respect.  Comfort, not fear.

They walked away in the cold rain.  One of her coaches put his hand on her shoulder, just like dads do to their daughters after tough losses.  My wife, through teary eyes, just said, “look, Karrick.”

I know who influences my daughter.

Macy loves her coaches.  She loves her teammates.  It’s plain to see.  It’s a blessing that we’re so thankful for.

If you are a parent of a kid involved in youth sports, it doesn’t matter if they’re 7 or if they’re 17, don’t underestimate the value of having a coach that your child loves and respects.  And don’t ignore the treasure of having a coach that treats your kids with love and respect.

Macy isn’t exactly a kid anymore and this is college soccer I’m talking about.  But it’s an experience that is either going to be good or bad, depending on the direction of the leadership.  They won 2 games and it was as enjoyable as any other “successful” winning seasons she’s had at other levels.

If you’re a coach, whether it’s your first try at pee wee soccer or your tenth year of middle school basketball, don’t forget why you’re there.

Coaches are there to lead, to influence kids.  Winning is a by-product of leading the right way and teaching the right things.

Every team that you coach isn’t going to possess enough talent to win in a given season, but every team you coach is made up of kids that are going to be adults someday.

Win or lose, what are you teaching them along the way?

1)  Plan practices well.  Give clear instructions.  Be consistent.  Build credibility.

2)  You are under a microscope.  Do and say the right thing….always.  Apologize when you’re wrong.  Be a positive influence…..always.

3)  Don’t “over-coach”.  Make sure your spoken words have value to your players.  If you talk too much, players quit listening.

4)  Make sure your players know you care about them.  If they think you don’t care about them, they quit listening.

5)  Teach them the value of giving maximum effort, every practice, every game.

6)  Look into the future.  Be bold enough to make decisions based on building character and teaching fundamentals, work ethic, teambuilding, and accountability.  See the bigger picture and don’t cave in to outside pressure to “win now”.

7)  Keep all players engaged in practice at all times.  All players should have equal opportunity for improvement in practice.  What they choose to do with those opportunities may determine how many game minutes they get (depending on age and competition level).  “If you don’t like where you’re at, do something about it.”

8)  Motivate!  Great coaches keep their players excited about playing.  They encourage.  Their players love and respect them.  They don’t fear them.  They want to do well for these coaches.  Be intentional each day to catch your players doing something right and praise them for it.   Tasks not done well are teaching moments, not shaming moments (see 9).

9)  Mistakes happen.  Kids can’t play in fear of their coach and they can’t play in fear of making mistakes.  Not giving a maximum effort or listening to the coach is not a mistake, it’s a choice.

10)  It’s ok to yell.  It’s not ok to yell AT kids.  Speak loud enough to get a team’s attention.  Don’t scare the life out of them (especially younger ones).  Never single out a kid and go Bobby Knight on them.

It’s nice to learn from your own past mistakes.  It may be even better to learn from simply watching somebody else doing it right.  Keep your eyes open.

I’ve coached plenty of games in the past, but I’m not presently coaching anything.  If given the opportunity again, I’ll welcome the chance to LEAD more and coach less.

Don’t Forget to Play Video Games With the Kids…….Seriously

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This was supposed to be a piece about lessons learned as a dad in the nine years that separated the births of my oldest daughter and my youngest son.

I had points to make about second chances to get things right.  Opportunities I surely wouldn’t miss the second time around.  Overreactions and blowups that wouldn’t repeat themselves.

One thing is certain.  With older siblings aged 18, 16, and 15, I have become very comfortable in my role as  a dad with 8 year-old Kal.  I have relaxed more and simply enjoyed the moments of being his dad.  There is peace that comes from experience as a parent and a maturing trust in God.

But a funny thing happened on my way to writing about lessons learned by a veteran dad.  I learned another big lesson.

Kal accidentally let me know that he probably hasn’t enjoyed me as a dad as much as his brother and sisters have.  Sure,  my role as a father isn’t to just have fun and be the good guy all the time.  The balance between rules and relationships is a delicate one that parents should not neglect maintaining.

But when parents try to maximize quality time and quantity time together with their kids in the middle of busy schedules, moments of simply enjoying one another’s company need to be actively sought.

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What was my offense?

Simply forgetting history and failing to get a clear picture of the present.

Words innocently spoken by my son, “Dad you remember that ONE time you played Wii U with me?  That was really fun”.   Not too bad on the surface, but underneath it smells really bad.

Today’s kids prefer apps on Ipods over console games.  Why is this even important?

Because I spent enormous amounts of what would be classified as “quantity time” with my three older kids when they were ages 5-12 just goofing off playing Nintendo64, Gamecube, and Wii.

TOGETHER, we conquered Zelda, Lego Star Wars (3 editions), Mario, Smash Brothers, and Animal Crossing.  And yes, there were countless hours spent hammering out music TOGETHER on 5 versions of Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

Looking back, what I thought was quantity time turned out to be time of the highest quality with my kids.  Times when our worlds came together easily.  Those moments aren’t easy to come by as they get older.

Just to set the record straight, I despise having kids stay in a room alone to play video games or playing inside instead of outside.

Be aware of too many precious hours spent “doing your thing” while your kids are doing theirs.  And be aware of taking the easy way out as a parent simply because older siblings “occupy” younger siblings time so well at times.

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We only have so many days and so many hours to influence our children and the direction their lives take.  We must be in their presence, in both mind and body, to have a meaningful impact.

Realize that times change.  Parents spend too much time with a laptop or cellphone in their line of vision.  Kids spend too much time occupying themselves with Ipods and Ipads.

Get your kids in your line of vision.  And look at the same things they’re looking at.

I just need to convince Kal that I actually can play games with him.  Apparently he’d made some efforts for me to join him and was left with the impression that I was an incompetent gamer.  I guess I told him to ask his brother to be his partner or for answers way too many times.

I spent too much time trying to come up with BIG quality time adventures that he wasn’t interested in.

Kal just wanted to play WiiU with his dad.  Those were great times for him.  He told me so.

Bring your worlds together while you can.

Time together IS quality time.

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Pretty Is A 4-letter Word

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Raising Strong Daughters Part 3.

….and this one applies to sons also.

My dream is to have kids who don’t comb/brush their hair, aren’t bothered by standing in public with their fly open, and only look in the mirror to practice making goofy faces.

I’d rather hear my kids drop an F-bomb than to ask, “Dad, what will people think?”.

No, I don’t subscribe to the “just be yourself” mentality that becomes a convenient excuse for disobedience to God.

Psalm 139:13-14  (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Wonderfully made by our Heavenly Father.

Teach it to our children early and often.  The world teaches something else entirely.

Living to impress people.  Modern culture sells it at an alarming rate.  Parents buy it.  Our kids grow up not knowing any better.

We say stupid things, “You’re not going out of the house looking like that are you?”  (variations of this prase are allowed when it comes to modest dress).

We spend too much time standing in front of the mirror.  Spend too much time taking care of our appearance every single time we go out in public.

We watch garbage on TV that sends a terribly wrong message about what is important in life.

We buy stupid things to make us look better, skinnier, younger, wealthier.

We obsess over “PRETTY”.

Yeah I’m a man and I’m getting into dangerous territory.   It’s important for girls to feel pretty, blah blah blah.

So don’t get me wrong.  I’m not talking about insecurities of teen girls.  I’m talking about small steps along the way before they are teens.

The habits, words, and actions of parents that shape their confidence, strength, and identity.

 I’m talking about overkill….an overuse of the word “pretty” that ties in neatly with an unhealthy approval-seeking quest.

A quest where security in one’s identity only comes to those who possess physical beauty, those who win the approval of others.

The selfie generation.

If you’re concerned as a parent with your daughter’s ability to attract boys…..then I don’t really know what to tell you.

If your hope and prayer is for daughters with a strength that comes from their faith , then I push for a simple awareness.

To know they are wonderfully made does not happen by accident.  And it must go much deeper than constant chatter about appearance.

We should all have more concern with Who made us than with who likes us.

Easier said than done.  But peace and inner strength come when we live to please God instead of living to please and impress others.

It’s not something we can just pass on to our kids when they’re old enough to leave home.

Tell them and show them that they’re awesome every day, “I’m so glad God made me your daddy, and I’m so glad He made you my daugher.”

Give thanks to God (in their presence) that He made them just the way they are.

Don’t start babbling with the “boyfriend” talk when they’re six years old.

Walk around in public occasionally with your fly open to properly demonstrate that “we shouldn’t worry what others think”.

Model for them a life that says at all times, “God matters”.

Avoid innocent phrases degrading yourself that aren’t so innocent when a child hears them in repitition; “I look awful”  “I feel fat”  “I can’t go out of the house looking like this”.

Tell them they’re beautiful inside and out.

Encourage a life of Bible-reading in your daughter.  Let them see you reading……that God’s word is an important part of your life.

The truth is that we all need to feel pretty, wanted, and accepted in some way.

But before our daughters become old enough to worry about it, let”s make sure they fully understand that they are “WONDERFULLY MADE”.

THE DAUGHTER OF A KING