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There’s something I need to say, something I need to get off my chest: I’m a dummy. Not a stiff, immovable mannequin (although I’ve been accused of that), but rather a dummy with regards to the raising of offspring.
 
 Now what I’m talking about here isn’t so much about the inculcation of values, moral instruction, family rules, etc. Because there are non-negotiables: don’t cheat, don’t lie, tell the truth, clean up after yourself, help out around the house. What I’m talking about is the staggering realization is that, yes, while the goal is to (hopefully) one day raise responsible adults, children are not adults.
 
 You see: that’s how I was raised. Kids were mini-adults, expected to be interested in adult things. And it’s just what I did with my own kids: expected them–instead of being their own people with their own likes, dislikes, prejudices, interests–to share my likes, etc.
 
 I’ve spent a great number of years trying to uplift them into my world; instead of meeting them where they’re at. I’ve been such a dummy! Parenting doesn’t necessarily mean that ones kids will follow you into all of your interests; rather, it often means taking an interest in theirs. It means playing video games (even if you hate them), playing dolls, or ball, even if there are a thousand other things to do (like reading through that ever-growing stack of books). It means training them up in the way they should go–not necessarily in the way you would have them go.
 
 The quickest way to shut someone down, whether kid or adult, is to show no interest (or outright indifference) in something they care about. Conversely, showing an interest shows that we care, that we’re invested, in not only the activity, but in them as well. Because the fact is that quality time doesn’t just happen.
 
 It happens in the midst of a quantity of time. It happens via an intentional investment. So folks–men, women, moms, dads–how can we be more intentional today? Because I’m thinking I’m not the only dummy out there.
 
 
 

“Son,” I said. “I would really appreciate it if you shut your alarm off–instead of just snoozing it–before you get in the shower.”

“Hzsbec… Wha? Okay, dad.”

“Thanks, kiddo. You know your mom hasn’t been feeling well, and we’ve been up late. Sure appreciate it.”

“Sure, dad. Wanna play Monster Techno Chainsaw Zombie Slayer?”

————-

The next day: birds are chirping, the warm light of dawn is peeking in the ghost the shades…

“EHN, EHN, EHN” wails the alarm. No one’s turning it off. The soft sounds of a shower are heard.

A shower? He did it again!

Bleary-eyed dad wrenches himself out of bed, shuffles across the hall, turns off the alarm. Meanwhile, steam wafts under the door of the kids’ bathroom. Must be nice…

Wait. Dad knows! Time for Mr. iPod and Mrs. Cellphone to be disappeared. Dad takes them, hides them, tries to find his happy place under the warm covers.

“DAD! WHERE’S. MY. PHONE? AND MY IPOD?”

“Go away. Don’t miss the bus.”

“I NEEED MY PHONE. GIVE IT TO ME NOW.”

“Listen, kid–are we gonna do this? Right here, right now? You’re really gonna argue about that stuff when you need to catch the bus? You don’t wanna throw down with me.”

“BUT WHY? WHAT DID I DO?”

“You missed the bus yesterday, I had to take you to school, and you let your alarm blare into the darkness yet again. Even after I told you to. Turn. It. Off. So I took your stuff. You can have it back later.”

“I thought it was off. I NEED MY PHONE. NOW!”

“Step off, son. Are you trying to wake the dead? Great! You woke up your sister. Just go. Stop arguing, and get yourself to the bus.”

“BUT… BUT…” Sputter, shuffle, slam.

“Oh, God,” I prayed. “Give me grace.”

NOTA BENE: I can neither confirm, nor deny, the veracity of this story, but rather leave it up to you, gentle reader, to decide for yourself if it’s true.

This morning, I received an email from “Timehop Abe” indicating that one year ago today, I guest posted for Adam McHugh on patenting as introverted dad. Following is an excerpt:

“Coupled with my sinful nature, being an introverted parent leaves me
feeling nothing so much as guilt. I feel guilty when I take time to be by
myself, because it’s not always at an opportune time for my wife, or kids.
But the fact is, at least during the week, I’ve been at my job all day, been
engaging in “functional extroversion.” Though ostensibly my work is with
technology, it’s really in customer service–thus I must be amiable,
friendly, “chatty” throughout the day. I’m no less than exhausted when I get home. I find that I must retreat, must do something to replenish my mental and emotional stores. So it is that, because we have no office in our home, I sequester myself in the bathroom. It’s the one place where, mostly, I
won’t be bothered. This however does not keep my heart from feeling pangs of guilt when my children knock at the door, begging for my attention. It hurts me, it hurts them, but right then I literally have nothing to give. Not a
thing.”

Please head over to Adams’s blog, the Introverted Church, to read the rest.

I know yesterday I said I may not be around here much this week, because my family and I are on vacation. But with the house quiet, and everyone else still slumbering, I thought I’d try to work something out that’s been percolating in my head.

Those of us familiar with the Christian, and Jewish, scriptures know this passage:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7, ESV)

The intent here is a didactic one–namely the teaching of one’s children–and there is nothing wrong with that. There is much that we need to teach our children, and the home is certainly the place we do it. If we are to pass on our values, this where it happens.

The home is also a crucible, where what we (parents, for instance) say we believe is viewed through the lens of our actions. Children, almost more than any others, are quite adept at sniffing out hypocrisy. They see us at both our best, and our worst.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t be about the business of moral instruction? Far from it. It means that we should put in all due diligence to ensure our walk matches our talk–because more often than taught, values are caught.

Kids will emulate our behavior(s) first before they ever try to obey our dictums.

————————

The preliminaries out of the way, there’s another aspect of parenting I’d like to address. One which, admittedly, I’ve not done so well at. This is the notion of being a student of one’s children, of being instructed by them.

Truly, if I’ve taught my children anything at all, I’ve learned much more from them in return. I don’t necessarily mean in the didactic sense, but in the arena of (often) uncomfortable truths about myself. I can be quite selfish, and as such try to push more than just my values, but my interests on them as well. But God didn’t make them to be clones of me (or my wife), but to be their own people, with their own interests.

Yes, we lay the bedrock of common values, but from there the sky’s the limit on what they can become. We guide, we shape, we mold–we “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it (Prov 22:6, ESV).

In my mind, the training referenced in this verse is quite different from the training in the Deuteronomy passage. The one speaks of the inculcation of values; the other implies being a student of one’s child/ren. Because if I believe that God has given me certain natural talents, abilities, inclinations, what of my children? Within the framework of a God-conscious life, what are their gifts? How can I help them develop those?

Notice the wording of the verse (“in the way he should go”). Note what it doesn’t say: in the way you think he should go. <--Therein lies the surest path to resentment that I know.Admittedly, this is uncomfortable. As parents, we will likely find ourselves engaging activities that we have no interest in for our kids' sake. But is this not what love does? Sublimates its desires for the good of another?I submit that it does.Do I think that my son, for instance, might be missing out on some things right now by not sharing my love of certain things? (Did it sting a little when he called The Hobbit boring?) Yes, I do. And he may, or may not, come around.

And that’s okay.

What do you think? How are you doing at training your child/ren in ways of God, while at the same time supporting their interests?

PS On an unrelated note, I’m taking part in Clay Morgan’s March Movie Madness 2, and have made to the second round. This time around my character, Sam Gamgee, is up against Will Hunting. Please click here to see the other matchups, and most importantly, Vote. For. Sam.

Thank-you!

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After twenty one years of marriage, my wife still amazes me. There are things that she clues into that I’m oblivious to. Such as when, recently, our daughter was ill, and I said:

“There’s no way her temperature is that high. There’s something wrong with this thermometer.”

Yes, I know, I’m brilliant like that. 😉
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