On Being a Dad

Lunarbaboon-Glimpse

 

Image:  Lunarbaboon

It began on May 26th, 2002, when my oldest son Ryan was born. Really, it began months prior to that with all the normal “being a father” fears being realized.

Will I know how to answer all his questions?

Will I be a good father?

Will my children always know I love them?

What if something happens to me and I’m not here to raise them?

The good news, even though I’m not totally sure of the answers to those questions, is that life moves fast enough that I couldn’t dwell on them. Being a father has changed me in ways that very few other things have. Having these three kids in my house has forced me to realize a few important things:

My words matter.  I knew this in my first few hours of being a married man, but my words really became heavy when my kids arrived. My jokes matter, my prayers matter, my encouragement matters, my discipline matters, and all in a way that they never really did before.

I can set the tone. I bear the responsibility of what my home feels like. I can decide what mood we are in just by what mood I’m in. This gives me pause each day when I arrive in my house, because I know this won’t always be the case as my kids get older and more independant.

What I do today affects tomorrow. It’s amazing what my kids remember that I don’t. Everyday is an investment into tomorrow. I want my teenagers to talk to me when they are teenagers, so I’m trying really hard to make that happen when they are 7, 9 and 11.

Time with them is important. I’ve learned that 30 minutes at bedtime is more valuable than any 2 hour Skype chat or Facetime interaction. Being with them is sometimes the only thing I have to bring, and thankfully it’s usually all they want.

 

Calling all fathers. Anything being a Dad has taught you?  

 

The Friday Family Bag

Family Bag

Field Trip! 10 Books That Will Send Kids Exploring - “Spring 2013 has been a very good year for children’s books that spark the imagination and make kids (and grownups) want to do a little more exploring.”

Radical: Three Years Later -  Just over three years ago, a little orange book titled  Radical  was published. In the post the author, David Platt looks back on the success of the book, and it’s impact on reader and his own church in the 3 years since publication. Personally, this book has been a great inspiration for Starr and I. Couldn’t encourage someone to read it more!

BBC News: Why Finnish Babies Sleep in Cardboard Boxes - “It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1930s and it’s designed to give all children in Finland, no matter what background they’re from, an equal start in life.”

Popular Books on GoodReads - I can’t totally agree with everything on this list, and of course I haven’t read them all. I just appreciated the lists. Here are list for my kids ages:

Zach Sobiech is a 17 year old diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. With only months to live, Zach turned to music to say goodbye.

 

Parenting Outside the Bubble

parentbubble

There are two sides of this “responsible parenting” red-rover game. The Experience parent wants their kids to see what the world is all about. The Bubble parent wants to shelter and protect their kids from anything worldly. The Experience  parent says that we should let our kids see and experience the world  from the safety and comfort of our own. The Bubble parent says that it’s our duty to protect our kids from an evil culture and world that wants to expose them to things before they are ready.

The Experience  parent says that if you don’t expose your kids to some things, then they will grow up wanting to eat the forbidden fruit of rated R movies and alcohol, and then not know how to manage their freedom successfully. The Bubble parent says that if you expose your kids to too much, then they will begin to feed their sinful desires from a young age and will never develop healthy guard rails against sin.

Who’s right?

How much of the world should I expose my kids too?

Why should we expose them at all?

How much of my own experience should I take into account?

Could we add another segment of parents, while agreeing that both sides carry some truth on their sides?

I’ll call this alternative parenting style, “my own personal style.” I’d encourage you to develop your own as well. Do what your experience tells you, and more importantly; what you feel is most spiritually important for your own family and kids.

Here’s some of what I do:

  • We do things together. There are some PG-13 movies I’d let my 9 year-old watch, but only when watched with me. I prefer to watch those movies from the comfort of my own living room, thereby giving me the luxury of the “PAUSE” button. Sometimes there are scenes with language that should demand some conversation of our own about what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate.
  • We talk about everything. We talk about the scary things, the dirty things, the sexy things, the inappropriate things, and I lead the discussion. When you talk about the “unmentionables” then you take away their power.
    • For example, a few weeks ago I got my 9 and 11 year old to share with me every, single, dirty word they had ever heard. I told them what they meant, in some embarrassing detail…  Why did I do this? Because the words themselves don’t have power. The reasons behind someone would use this language holds all the power. That’s what I really wanted to talk to my kids about.
  • I control what happens (movies, music, conversations, etc…) I’m the dad, and I get to be in charge. I wish some other dads would stop being embarrassed by what their kids already know.
  • We do hard things together. I’ve walked through hard things with my kids. Those experiences in foster care, and moving cross-country have been painful and helpful all at the same time.
  • I admit to not having all the answers. I really don’t have them all. I need some help. I pray to God for help. I seek out guidance from those older and more further along this journey than me. Most importantly, I let my kids see my own struggles to come up with the right thing to say in every situation. Sometimes, I just don’t know what to say.

Sucky Parent Syndrome

THIS-IS-HARD

Parents are struggling to feel like they do a good job. How do I know that? Easy. I’m a parent.  I know I’m not terrible, but I’m so far from being who’d I like people to think I am. I lose my temper to often. I forget what’s really important too many times to count.

I keep trying. I keep learning, and I’ve learned to get really good at asking for forgiveness. This is the world that I live in, and it’s a familiar place for many other parents. Yet, I’m not depressed…in fact, I’m far from sad about it. I’ve learned to keep striving for the ideal and perfect, while accepting that I will never be able to actually get there.

My reason? Jesus. Jesus was forever calling us to live the ideal. He said children should obey parents, and wives should serve their husbands, and husbands should lay it all down for their wife, and fathers should speak words of grace to their children. All these things he called for, we often fail at.

Why would he call me to something so unbelievablely difficult to maintain?

Because He wants us to strive for the ideal. He knows we can’t even come close when we rely on our own strength. We need him to lead and guide us. He doesn’t judge us by our ability to be ideal, he judges us by our willingness to accept him or not.

You and I are not bad parents, but we are so much better when we let God lead us in our parenting. When we continue to grow in our relationships with our father God, then we continue to grow in our relationship as a father. When we learn to let God lead us, we learn to lead those around us.

Don’t give up on the ideal.