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

 

 

 

Getting It Right (by accident?)

 

“He never dismisses a parent’s prayer.  Keep giving your child to God, and in the right time and the right way, God will give your child back to you.”    Max Lucado – Fearless

Parents pray for the health and safety of their kids.

Sometimes we just ask for God’s help in raising them.

“God, please guide us.  Help us to be the best mom and dad we can be.”

We may not know exactly what we’re asking for.

And more often than not, we are clueless about what an answered prayer even looks like.

Sometimes we stumble along in the dark with poor decisions and reactions, without purpose or direction.

We forget what we even prayed for.

Every now and then, we remember that our children belong to God.

Just a small dose of surrender and a nudging from the Holy Spirit and cool things happen.

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Big sister is into her 3rd week away at college.  Little 8 year-old brother decides to start sleeping in her bed (DirecTV in her room).

As bedtime nears, he starts babbling to his mother and me, ” you know how I wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning and come to your bed sometimes……I have a great idea.  The next time I do that, I’m just gonna get up and make me some coffee (Macy left a coffe-maker in her room).

What runs through my mind is this, “blah blah blah.  That’s about the goofiest thing I’ve heard all day.  Sure son, whatever.”

At bedtime, I have dozed off in my recliner.  I’m awakened by Kal asking me to help him carry his coffee fixings upstairs to Macy’s room.

My initial irritation fades a bit when I walk into the kitchen and see his efforts that followed his big idea.  Coffee scooped into a glass jar.  Bottle of water.

“Dad, can you carry the sugar up for me?” (the whole cannister)

A nudging…….and I’m in.  “Hey Kal, let’s put the sugar in a smaller container.”  More chattering comes about creamer and milk, and I patiently explain that they need to stay in the fridge.

The first trip up leads to another trip back downstairs to search the kitchen for a missing part to the coffee maker.

Once he finally gets everything arranged (for the coffee that most likely will never be brewed), the big moment comes.

“Thanks dad, you’re the best.”

I didn’t do anything.  I just went along.

But I realized almost immediately that this is what an answered prayer looks like sometimes.

When that first reaction goes away and the right path is taken.

And the gentle reminders come pouring in at a time when they are needed most:

1) Always listen to the words of your children like it’s the most important conversation you’ve ever had in your life.  If you don’t listen to them when they’re small, they won’t bother talking to you when they get older.

2) Encourage them to dream and create.  Their ideas don’t have to be great.  But if they choose to share them with you with a degree of excitement……….share the excitement.

3) When they invite you into their world, don’t miss the invitation.  If we are to influence our children in great ways, we have to find ways to get into their world……..their mind isn’t stirred or concerned with our grown-up world or the stresses of life that distract us.  Don’t allow your worlds to be separate.  Sometimes this may require parents to learn to carry on an informed conversation about Mario, Pokemon, WWE, or Zelda (no matter how goofy it may seem to us).

4) Don’t forget to pray.  Don’t forget what you prayed for.

Be ready to be nudged.

Learn from the things that don’t go right.

Learn from the things that do go well, even if it seems by accident.

Give thanks for answered prayers, even if it takes a while to recognize them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Buy the Paint

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“Raising Strong Daughters”,

That was going to be the name of this post.
But the thoughts and reflections have spun out of control.
What started out as four or five little points grows daily (over ten now).
I guess it’s not a coincidence that my oldest daughter turns 18 and leaves for college tomorrow.
It wouldn’t be correct to say that my life is flashing before my eyes.
But I do find myself drifting back to the day she was born (and all points in between). That wild combination of joy and fear. The realization that I was now responsible for the direction of the life of another person. A new awareness of dependence on God.
Eighteen years later……..I wouldn’t enter her in a dishwasher loading contest.
And she struggles with the concept of turning out lights in unoccupied rooms.
But for all those times I uttered that prayer,
“Lord, help their mother and me raise these children in a way that’s pleasing to You”,

I am beginning to see more clearly now the results of so many answered prayers.

Sure, there were so many times when I failed, as a dad, to listen for God’s answers, commands, and guidance.  Thankfully, as I have written before…”it takes a village”, (and she has a pretty awesome mom)

As she leaves home, I know she loves and trusts God.

She is strong.  I do not doubt her ability to make decisions.

When she was small, I never thought this day could be this way, but I am filled with peace and assurance because of the strength of her heart and character.

The moments continue flash through my mind.  What did we do right as parents?  What should we have done differently?  How did we get here?  And do I possess knowledge and experiences that have value to “younger” parents?

Hopefully I can share some insight that can help other dads (and moms?) with this and subsequent posts on the subject.

Just buy the paint.

I believe it was the summer after Macy’s freshman year of high school.  She told me she wanted to paint a mural in her bedroom.  Not just on a wall, on all four walls.  I doubted her.  My initial reaction, that I kept to myself, was that she would make a mess of the walls and be frustrated and disappointed with the result.

But when our kids believe they can do something, parents need to make it a priority to never tell them that they can’t.

“Daddy, can you just get me four sample-sized cans of paint in these four colors?”

I bought the paint.

The finished mural was “good”.  What was “great” was that she believed she could do it, and her belief led to action.

I bragged on her work and showed it off to visitors in our home.

Her artistic talents have progressed since then, and I am pretty amazed by the work she does now..

But I didn’t really do anything good as a parent.  I simply failed to do something really bad.  What if I had told her she couldn’t do it…..suppressed her creativity, her dream?  And worst of all, what if the message she heard from her dad was, “No, you can’t do that!”

Sometimes dads can be a great influence simply by recognizing mistakes before we make them.

When the opportunity arises, just buy the paint.  Don’t screw it up.  Look for AND create chances for her to create, figure things out on her own, and believe she can do anything.  Be your daughter’s biggest cheerleader.  And don’t ever tell her she can’t.

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Travel Sports and Sunday Games Are More Satanic Than Kiss Albums

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I’ll admit it.  Three of my kids have played travel sports.  They even played on Sundays.  Sometimes we missed church two Sundays in a row.  Shriek!

Their mother and me thought our girls would be the next Mia Hamm and our son is the next Lebron James.  And of course, if they are to go to college without paying for it, they need to play anywhere and everywhere and often.  Right?  No, not at all.

No, this isn’t another lengthy blasting of youth/travel sports taken too far by overzealous parents.  It’s more like a gentle reminder of the delicate balance that exists between sports and faith in our children.

Sports teach kids things that words and parental modeling alone cannot.  Teamwork, physical challenges, determination, overcoming adversity, and lessons in character just to name a few.
And sports can certainly teach an observant parent valuable lessons along the way (by watching other parents and coaches) in exactly how not to act.

I’ll skip right to what I believe to be the tipping point of that balance: when parents lead or allow their kids to believe that a sports game or practice is more important than their faith or church attendance.

When the traveling is over and your kids are beginning to make more of their own choices, what’s the message they have been hearing from their parents during their travels and adventures?  When they make their own choices about church attendance and involvement, what will they choose?  Which end of the scale are you pushing them toward?

Traveling time with family during the younger years is golden time.  The memories, experiences, and friendships made are priceless.  The absence from church services is temporary.  But the importance placed on faith must be constant.

That kid that missed 4 weeks of Sunday church service as a 9 year-old will be 15 before you know it.  The depth of their faith and the value it has in their life will not be dependent on where they spent those four Sundays.  It will depend largely on the message they receive from their parents over the course of the entire 52 weeks.

Teach well.  Make sure kids know that you’re not away from church because sports are more important.  Keep your eyes open for teaching moments.  As your kids get older, the moments become clearer.  Are you prepared for them?  And more importantly, how well have you prepared your kids for them?

A local basketball tournament changes schedules around and places your son’s team playing on Sunday.  Let him know it’s ok to choose to go to church and miss his game.  Let the choice be his, but lay out the steps for him to choose faith over sports.

Your daughter’s soccer coach holds practice on Wednesday nights during your church’s youth group activities.  Let the choice be hers to make.  Make sure she knows that you think it’s awesome if she makes the choice to attend youth group.

Encourage them to take those bold steps that say, “My faith in God is the center of my life.”

Yes, sports are a wonderful part of a child’s development in so many ways.  But they are temporary.  Parents have to be aware when the balance scales are tipping dangerously in the wrong direction.

“I can’t miss a single practice, no matter what.”  The tipping point is when parents adopt this same philosophy.

And like sports are temporary, childhood is temporary.  A big part of parenting is simply training up our children to make good choices as they mature.

Pave the way for these types of choices, encourage them:

“Coach, I won’t be at practice tonight.  I’m going to church.”

“Coach, I’m not going to soccer camp this year.  I’m going on a mission trip.”

“Coach, I’m going to miss some summer league games.  I’m going to church camp.”

Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you are on a given Sunday morning.  It matters greatly where your heart is and the lessons that your life speaks year-round.

Play hard.  Have fun.  Watch the scales.

The sports equipment goes to the yard sales and closets sooner than you realize.

Hopefully, most of us won’t wait til then to try to convince our kids how important a Christ-centered life is.

 

We All Learn In the Yellow Submarine

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Summer vacation 2014.  Still waiting for a call from social services.  I don’t think the security cameras at Food Lion will be able to track my whereabouts since my wife paid cash, following the sudden eruption of violence between my son and me outside the checkout line.

Let’s travel back in time a few moments to the events leading up to the Food Lion incident.  Get out of bed at 4am, 11 hours on the road to Nags Head, NC.   10:30am breakfast, arrive at an empty cupboard beach house at 4:30 without any further meals.

Great plan, all the moms in our group make a trip to the supermarket and dads can order pizza.  The only problem with this is that over half the people vacationing here arrive on the island between 3 & 5 on Saturday (and arrive hungry).  Can’t even get through on the phone to order a pizza.  “That’s ok.  I can just drive to the Yellow Submarine and order it and wait for it.” (first mistake).  My 8 year-old son decides to go with me.  (second mistake?  nah).  Very busy place.  We are told it will be a 45 minute wait for our order.  No problem.

We decide to walk next door to the supermarket to find my wife and make sure the balance of junk food and health food doesn’t tip too far in the health food direction.  She is already in the checkout line with a full buggy.  As we approach and say hello, it happens.  Kal suddenly turns like Big John Studd and head butts me in the gut (a growling empty stomach).  It feels like a hit below the belt and I flash back to my junior year of high school in 1985 when boys drilled each other in the nuts for entertainment.  I reacted just like any 16 year-old would…….I punched Kal in the back…..right there in Food Lion……in the checkout line…..the 10-deep checkout line.

Talking quietly and deliberately to him even though my teeth were clenched tightly together, “I have told you to never do that to me!”

The look of horror on my wife’s face just said, “oh mercy, we’re gonna get our kids taken away”.  She might have possibly scolded me at this point, but maybe not…….

Kal and I turned and left Food Lion.  Both of us realized we had done something we shouldn’t have.  We killed a few minutes at Dunkin Donuts and returned to Yellow Submarine to wait for our order, sitting at a booth just inside the door.  It become evident that there was no way our order would be ready in 45 minutes.

My “how to be a better dad” instincts were on high alert now after the head-butt/back-punch incident.  I soon forgot about my travel exhaustion, growling belly, and headache that was coming on fast from not eating.  As I sat across the booth from my child, this precious gift from God, looking into his innocent eyes, questions started racing through my mind:

1) What kind of adult do I hope and pray that he will become?

2) How the heck can his mother and me lead him to be the person he needs to be?

3) Am I truly paying close enough attention to being the best dad I can be every minute of every day.

And almost comically, teaching moments seemed to come in waves in the coming moments (for both of us) as a large and very rude and impatient crowd had gathered around our booth waiting to pick up their orders.

“Dad, I’m starving.  When’s our food gonna be ready?”  (“You’re hungry son.  You’re not starving.  There are a lot of people in this world who will die because they have nothing to eat and lots who will eat nothing at all today.  We are thankful that we are going to be eating soon.)    A lesson in GRATITUDE.

People over our shoulder griping about being told it would take 40 minutes but it’s taking an hour.  “Son, I wonder what those people are gonna do with that extra 20 minutes they’re complaining about…..must be something pretty special.” Yeah, I know. Like my wife, you question the value of a little perspective of sarcastic wit?  A lesson in figuring out the reality of situations.

People over our shoulder, “This is ridiculous.  Let’s just cancel our order and get our money back.” (“Hey Kal, maybe if they cancel their order, we can buy their food at a discounted price.  I’m sure somebody back at the house will want it.”  **Always find a bright side, squash negativity, even if it’s not your own.**  A lesson in being POSITIVE.

People over our shoulder demanding that the counter help go back to the kitchen to find out how much longer their order will be (when they are abviously overwhelmed)  “Kal, what if every single one of these people waiting here did that?  If we did that, wouldn’t it be like jumping up and saying we are more important than everybody else?”  A lesson in HUMILITY.

People over our shoulder basically just being mean to the workers, “Kal, these people are doing the best they can.  They might be able to take care of 50 orders in an hour and they’ve had 100 come in.  They are doing the best they can.  It doesn’t matter if we wait here for another hour, WE ARE GOING TO BE KIND!”  (and I said it loud enough to embarrass some of the grumblers into hushing……….but I regret not doing more to defend some of these young folks who really were working hard).  A lesson in KINDNESS and putting ourselves in other people’s shoes. 

“Dad, do you think we’ll have to wait much longer?”  Strangely enough, if I hadn’t punched him in the back, I most likely would have answered his questions differently, like a simple, “hush son, I don’t know, I’m STARVING too”.  But instead I just answered his final question with “probably not much longer buddy.  If you’re bored, you can play games on my phone or we can walk around and look at some of the neat stuff on the walls.”  His reply, “Nah, I’m good”.  Little lessons learned I think.

Picked up my order, made a big production out of smiling and loudly thanking the workers and putting money in the tip jar (almost had to push the rude folks out of the way to do so).

The right way becomes so easy to see after you’ve painfully chosen the wrong way.   And sometimes it’s good to have strangers around to remind you how not to act when you’re eager to share wisdom with your kids.

 

 

 

It Takes A Village

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I turned 46 last week.

In their birthday wish, someone jokingly asked if I had a funny story to share from the events of the day.

It’s usually not hard for me to come up with a tale of my own incompetence or seemingly planned misfortune.

Sure, I did fall backwards on my birthday while hand-trucking a refrigerator and it did sort of come down on top of me (but I’m so experienced and skilled at falling that I wasn’t hurt).

And I did spend two hours trying to remove the chipped and broken blades on my riding lawnmower.  Cut my hand open while impatiently separating the 3-pack of new blades.  And it only took me 20 minutes to attach the new blades the second time when I realized that I’d installed all three of them upside down the first time.

It’s almost as if I do stupid stuff for the purpose of telling good stories.

Laughing at myself comes naturally.  Perhaps speaking in general terms of being richly blessed seems natural too.  But puclicly counting blessings just seems awkward; more like bragging about our own good fortunes than about the goodness of God.

But…..today, I make an exception about “bragging”.

The biggest event of this week was not the birthday of a middle-aged man or his acts of goofiness.

A remarkable young lady graduated from high school this week.  Nothing remarkable about that.  Thousands of kids graduate every day at this time of year, and every parent thinks their kid is amazing.

But, Oh my gosh! When did my baby girl become this young lady?

And the mind of a parent spins and reflects.

The journey from birth to 18 years.

How did she become the person she is today?

I see obvious physical and personality resemblances to her mother and me that make me smile.

But I also see amazing character traits that go beyond the trial and error parenting journey that her mother and I have traveled for 18 years.

It is evident that God uses ordinary people to impact our kids’ lives in amazing ways as they are growing up.

Hindsight is a little clearer now of the awesome collective influence of these people……so I brag on them:

The Sunday school teacher who taught her about the love of Jesus.

The basketball coach who pushed her a little harder than she wanted to be pushed.  Lessons is toughness and determination.

The childrens minister who inspired a love for reading the Bible.

Grandmothers who were available for anything and everything around the clock year-around.

A student minister who taught her what it meant to love Jesus and keep a pure heart.

A piano teacher that pushed her to practice until she got it right.

Soccer coaches that helped her find the confidence to believe she could do anything she set her mind to.

Teachers who always managed to make her feel special in a classroom crowded with so many other kids.

The church Christmas program coordinator who whispered her lines to her as she repeated them so quietly that no one could hear.

Cross-country and track coaches that turned her loose and encouraged her every practice, every race.  Always believed in her.

Teachers who stirred her creativity and made sure she figured things out on her own.

Two younger brothers who were always secretly proud to say, “that’s my sister.”

Parents of friends who treated her like their own daughter.

A sister that shared with her every part of life.  A true best friend.

The student minister who celebrated her graduation in our church service, and handed her a microphone to hear her boldly and confidently tell of her plans to attend a Christian university and serve God in the mission field.

A mother.  A tireless worker.  Selfless.  Perfect model of a godly woman.

It takes a village to raise a child.

I’m thankful for the village that’s raising my children.

Pray for our children.

Pray…….and get movin.  Every child is amazing.  I bet God can find an amazing part for you to play in a child’s life today.

Thanks to all who have played a part in my daughter’s life (so far).

 

macy and pappaw grad