Willing to Watch

 

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This a post from a fellow blogger Matthew Warner from his blog the Radical Life: http://theradicallife.org/willing-to-watch. This is a great post and one I’ve been wanting to write about.

Enjoy!

I have the privilege of taking my son to his Taekwondo class every week. It happens to be during the normal work day, so I build my work schedule around it.

But when I go, and he’s out there practicing, it’s always tempting to pull out my phone and “be productive.” Especially when he’s waiting in line for his turn to do something, listening to the instructor, etc.

But how does my son see it all? For the most part, he’s too caught up in the moment out on the floor to notice me. He’s usually focused on kicking a target, learning a new block or watching a more advanced student.

But every once in awhile he looks up for me, over to my spot on the sideline. And not just to make sure I’m still there, but to make sure I’m watching. He’s excited about something he’s doing and he instinctively wants me to share in that moment with him. He’ll have this look on his face that says, “See what I just did, Dad!? Are you proud of me? Do you care? Are you with me!?”

These are important moments, and I’m convinced that the summation of these seemingly trivial moments will contribute more to my relationship with my son and who he becomes than almost anything else. They help determine whether *he* cares about what he’s doing, how much he values himself and how proud he feels.

And the thing is, these moments are unpredictable. They can happen at any moment. And if every time he looks over to connect with me I’m looking at my phone or my work or somebody else instead, I’ve missed that important moment. And I’ve given the impression to him – rightly or wrongly – that I’m not watching him at all.

It’s simply not worth missing those moments. Whatever extra work I would have gotten done. Whatever entertainment I could have engaged on my phone or in conversation with another parent won’t have been worth it.

I even used to spend time during his class typing reminders on my phone of things to work with him on after class — advice on a particular technique or how he needs to bow more deeply or say “yes sir” more loudly. But even that, if all he sees when he looks over is me on my phone, I won’t be giving him what he needs most in that moment.

Now, instead, I watch the whole time as best I can. I try not to take my eyes off him, just at the small chance I’ll get to give him another smile that says, “I’m with you, son!”

I watch him run. I watch him listen. I watch him help others. I watch others help him. I watch his eyes light up when he breaks a board with a single kick, as he realizes just how powerful he is. In that moment, how could there possibly be a more “productive” way to spend my time?

Sure, when he’s older he’ll appreciate a dad who loved him by putting a roof over his head, worked hard all his life, carted him around to his various activities, celebrated with him and encouraged him to be his best. But I think what he needs even more than that is a dad who’s willing to watch.

Categories: children, distractions, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daddy’s Lap

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Claire is on my lap. We are in an doctor’s waiting room. She cries and screams because she is in pain. I hold her on my lap soothing her, living with her pain. It hurts me more emotionally and spiritually than it does her physically, that I know for sure. I rub her legs and run my fingers through her curly hair. I hold her tight against my chest and whisper, “Daddy is here. It’s going to be okay.” Claire calms down and then moves away from me as if trying to deal with the pain on her own. She stops, cries, and runs back to me. I begin the comforting process again.

While Claire is on my lap I am able to soothe her. The pain is still present and will not go away. However, I am with her through the pain. Somehow this makes a difference.

Her father is present in a very real way and going through this pain with her.

This isn’t the first time you have encountered this story. This is your story. Our story. You have had pain: emotional, spiritual, and physical. You have hurt, been upset, maybe even cried. As I held Claire in that room I recognized very clearly that the pain we experience often doesn’t make sense, at least not right away and maybe never on this side of heaven. The pain is there but so is our Father. In my imperfect fatherhood I am able to recognize God’s Fatherhood. My fatherhood is an image of His. My love for Claire is powerful because it is based on His Fatherhood.

Maybe it is tough as a man to picture yourself as a child on the lap of God the Father. Think of the times you have held your child on your lap. You can’t take the pain away but you can live in the pain with them. Our Father does the same thing. He isn’t taking the pain away, but He will endure it with you. Most of the time you and I jump out of the Father’s lap and try to deal with the pain on our own terms. Instead of coming back to Him like my daughter did we run away and find other ways to cope with the pain. Some of these ways lead to more pain. I think God the Father is waiting for us to run back to Him so that he can rub our legs, run His fingers through our hair, hold us tight against His chest, and whisper, “Daddy is here. It’s going to be okay.”

May we have the humility, wisdom, and desire to let Him take care of us in the deepest of pains.

Categories: children, daughters, fatherhood, God, humility, Pain, Sick kids, Suffering | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Metamorphosis

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I am changing.

I am not the same person I use to be.

There is a change. It is gradual, but noticeable.

When my wife and I first got married sometimes we would have different days off. My normal response was to rent a new video game and play it for an ungodly amount of time, or watch movies, or binge on TV shows. It was ok. I enjoy video games, movies and TV shows.

Every now and then I get a day where my wife and daughter will be away from the house. Sometimes I spend time watching TV or a movie, but most of the time I am thinking about things like house projects: staining the fence, painting the rooms I never got around to, dry walling the basement we had to gut, etc. More often than not it’s smaller things like taking the trash out or going grocery shopping or cleaning the house.

A few weeks ago I notice that I had a four hour window of time to myself and my immediate reaction was to do something for my family. It was strange in a sense. I think most of the time in a situation like this I would want to do my own thing, relax and let it be a easy day. Yet, there is stuff that needs to get done for our family. I recognize that my wife and daughter probably would say, “chill out and enjoy those four hours.”

However, there is this change in me that desires to serve.

“People that know about these type of things” say that most modern men don’t really mature now a days until they are in their mid to late twenties. Maybe I am maturing. Maybe this desire to serve is proof that this man has reached full manhood status. My response: about freaking time! I am 32.

In discovering fatherhood I am discovering who I am called to be – a servant. Not someone that aims to please himself, because although it is okay to use four hours for R-and-R I much rather use them to make my wife and daughters life better. I don’t know if I would have said the same thing a year ago or six months ago.

But today there is this change in me. It is gradual, but noticeable.

Categories: best self, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, growing up, husband and wife, Transformation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Pacifier

 

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If you have had a child for more than a few days you will know about the awesome power of the pacifier. Whether you call it a paci, binkie or dummy (the British apparently call it that) it rocks. It is a simple thing, really. A piece of plastic that goes into the mouth of a child. Yet to parents this piece of plastic is essential, dare I say one cannot fully parent without it. We’ll…maybe I can’t. The paci calms the frightened child, it soothes the tired, it makes parents relax and praise God for this most wonderful creation.

The history of the paci is one that isn’t very clear. Some say there is evidence for pacifiers going back to ancient Egypt. Some say that farmers would give the tips of corn husks to their children as a way to calm them. Personally, I believe God almighty brought it down on a golden plate to parents with a host of angels surrounding it while the Halo soundtrack played in the background. “Here is my gift to you my child. Use it wisely.”

There are not many things that cause me to be upset. However, when I have a screaming child in the backseat and I have 20 minutes to go before I get home due to traffic; not having packed the paci is an epic fail that leaves me…let’s just say upset. Needless to say I always check the bag for the paci. I’m ok with not having an extra change of clothes, or missing dippers, but the paci is a must.

Honestly, I don’t get why my daughter can be calmed almost instantly by a paci, but I don’t need to. As long as it works it is all good! There is comfort in knowing the such a awesome tool exists in the arsenal of desperate dads everywhere.

As I was showing my wife this post prior to publishing she brought it to my attention that our daughter will have to be weened off the paci soon. I started to freak out and get upset. The wife put a paci in my mouth…all is good now.

Praise God for the gift of the  paci!

Categories: children, fatherhood, fathers, Pacifiers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fall

Photo May 31, 8 37 01 AM

A few nights ago my wife and I had dinner with friends. We came home looking forward to settling down and getting ready for bed. My settling down was interrupted by my wife’s screaming voice raised in alarm and panic, “Claire fell down the stairs!”

I flew down the steps. Actually I think I teleported because I don’t remember actually going down any steps. Claire was wailing as loud as she could, sitting at the bottom of the stairs. Our hearts were instantly in pain. I picked Claire up and held her close to my chest as if trying to absorb the pain. Jess’ nurse training kicked in and told me to gently put her down so that she could check her. Jess checked for broken bones, bruising and other important things. Claire looked fine. I picked Claire up after her medical exam was done and held on tight…well sort of. I didn’t want to squeeze too hard just in case.

Claire started laughing and moving around almost instantly. Jess and I—after some intense observation and speaking to an on call nurse at the local hospital decided Claire was okay and did not require further medical care (there are great benefits to being married to a nurse). Claire walked around laughing for the next two hours as we kept her up in case of a concussion.

Holy crap that was scary!

I can’t begin to explain how helpless I felt not being able to protect my little girl. The worst part of it is that it was my fault that I didn’t check the stair gate before putting Claire down on the ground. Jess and I didn’t really ever settle down that night. We were tense from the fall and the thought of Claire tumbling down the stairs was worse than any nightmare we could ever have. Our neighbors comforted us by stating that their young son had fallen down the stairs several times and was fine. In a weird way it is comforting to know that we are not the only people who have had their children fall down a flight of stairs. Luckily they were carpeted stairs.

Claire is okay and she is running around like normal. Every now and then she walks pass the stairs and points at them. A healthy fear of the stairs will go a long way for her. This fall has me thinking of all the potential falls Claire has yet to encounter. Not necessarily down the stairs, but in life. Her first betrayal by a friend, her first encounter with a bully, her first fight with the ugliness of evil, her first heartbreak. As much as I want to protect Claire from these falls some will be unavoidable. As I held Claire after her fall down the stairs all I wanted to do was absorb her pain. I think every parent wishes they had this ability. It would bring so much comfort to us.

Falls will continue to happen and this dad will continue to wish for the ability of his hugs to absorb his little girl’s pain. The hugs wont absorb the pain, but they will introduce a new feeling—love—and maybe that will be enough to combat the pain from these falls. Maybe my little girl after falling will recognize that daddy’s hugs can have the power to bring comfort and safety amongst falls, and maybe bring a smile to a once frowning face.

Categories: children, daughters, falling, fatherhood, home and family, keeping kids safe at home, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

The Power of a Child

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There is this couple at my church that when I look at them I think ‘sophisticated’. The wife has a certain elegance that is natural to her. The husband is someone that you can tell is very educated and commands authority. This couple is always well dressed. Wife, in expensive 5th Avenue type dress and the husband in Armani suits and shoes that cost more than my entire wore drove combined.

This couple has two young boys very close in age. The boys are good kids, but they are two and three years old, so the idea of being still in Church does not compute. There have been numerous times in which the mom tries to get the boys to sit still with no success. The father, whose strong stare probably makes his employees straighten up to attention, does little to these boys in Church.

So 5th Avenue mom will get down on the ground inside the Cry Room and sit with the boys as they eat Cheerios on the floor. Armani dad whose authority, importance and rank is unmatched at work finds himself getting on his knees, begging his kids to be quiet and eventually succumbs to playing trucks with his boys because this is the only way to calm them down. The 5th Avenue dress and Armani suit are covered in slobber, cheerios and what looks like snot.

Children have a unique power.

For those of us who wear 5th Avenue Dresses or Armani suits we would never crawl on the ground with them, have people rub their dirty hands on them or noses for that manner. Yet our children have a unique power over our lives that grant them top-level clearance on us. No one else could ever get away with the things our children do or ask of us. This couple also marvels at the power their children have over them to do things that in all other circumstances would be unacceptable.

I once heard it said that if you had the President, Congress and a crying child in the room together the child would have the most power out of these three. Presidents and Congress have authority conferred on them which gives them great power, but a crying child could stop all of them dead on their tracks in order to do whatever it takes to make the child stop crying.

Our children change us. They need to. Things like 5th Avenue dresses and Armani suits matter little when our flesh and blood needs us. Rank and authority seem silly when our child is hungry and must be fed. Power is ridiculous when a child cries and needs to be picked up.

I think about these things and realize that to exercise true power and authority there must be openness to humility. 5th Avenue mom and Armani dad are humble enough to get on their knees in their expensive clothes to take care of their children. This humility is something we need to embrace. We will need to get on our knees to take care of our kids. We will need to accept that they will spill, puke and poop on us. To some this may seem like weakness, but it isn’t. Humility is a great companion to power, without it there is only cruelty. Humility allows mercy, and love to enter in. Power with mercy is justice. Power with love is grace.

I look at my daughter and the power she has over me. At times I do not want her to have that kind of hold on me, but that power humbles me. It changes me. That power helps me to be a man that recognizes the importance of exercising my power over her with great love and mercy.

Categories: children, fatherhood, humility, Parenting, patience, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Tradition

As a Youth Minister I have come to see that 95% of the issues many kids have are in one way or another related to daddy issues. Whenever I have a kid come to me about drugs, behavioral, social, spiritual, sexual and or emotional issues a majority of the time it all goes back to their relationship with their father or lack of one. The flip side to this is that whenever I have kids who are confident, happy, and generally doing well it is because they tend to have a good relationship with their father. When I counsel teens I always ask them about their relationship with their father. Typically, this is where I get many of the answers I am looking for.

I have read several articles and studies on the importance of fathers being present in the lives of their children and they all say the same thing and confirm what I experience in youth ministry. Frankly, it pisses me off. If I can be blunt.

I recognize there are countless of factors as to why fathers can be inadequate, absent, not good enough, but whatever the reasons the result is always a damaged child. Maybe not badly damaged, but definitely with issues.

I do not want my daughter to have issues because of me.

So as of yesterday I am starting a new tradition. At least once a month until my children get married, enter religious life or move really far away I am going to go out on dates with them. I’ll come up with a better name than ‘dates’ for the boys, but for now that’s what I’ll call it. I will take Claire out on a date with me. We will go out just her and I and spend some quality daddy time. We may go to the park, chase things, pray, get Chick-fil-a or all of the above. The point is to spend time with my daughter and build a relationship where she recognizes her dignity, worth and that she is loved beyond all things.

These dates right now will be simple. We will spend them hanging out and helping establish her confidence by going down slides, or walking across the playground bridge by herself. As Claire gets older the dates will be a little different, the conversation will deepen, but my hope is that she will never have the insecurities and issues that are caused by a missing, uncaring, or physically-present-yet-not-there-father.

I’m not crazy. I know my daughter will still have issues—we all do. However, whatever those issues are I pray they will not be due to something I did or didn’t do. I don’t know if there is a list out there that fathers can consult to see if they are doing things right and helping their kids to be confident, recognize their worth and dignity. I think spending quality time, showing you love them and asking forgiveness when we fail is definitely key to this.

So for now I have to come up with creative ideas for taking my 13-month-old girl on a date. I welcome any thoughts!

Categories: children, daughters, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, Parenting, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Year In


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Its still mind blowing to me, but my daughter is a year old. One full year zoomed by. I’ve been looking back over the past year and here are some things I wanted to share a year in:

  • You will never be ready to be a father in the grand scheme of things. You can read every book, go to seminars, pray all day—all of which are great things to do, but you will never be ready. It is okay. Be a father anyway.
  • Prepare your house before the baby comes. I installed a gate on my stairs 6 months before Claire was born. It was soooo smart. Don’t wait till the baby is born!
  • Sleep is over rated. Seriously, we only need a solid 5-6 hours to function. You can sleep when you die.
  • Be your wife’s greatest fan. She had this child come out of her body! She deserves praise! The more you love her and serve her before and after the baby is born the easier her recovery will be and the more she will love you.
  • Get involved! Sure you can’t breastfeed them at night, but you can give them a bottle, change diapers, bathe them or rock the baby to sleep. Don’t be a dead beat—man up!
  • Reusable diapers are good in theory. They absolutely suck in practice. You want to be green and recycle—get a trashcan just for mixed papers. There’s your tree hugger tip of the day.
  • Give your kid quality time. My daughter won’t remember the moments I spent gazing and smiling at her, or playing with her feet. Her memory won’t remember, but somehow a child is able to retain those experiences and connect with those actions, which nourishes and nurtures them.
  • Go out on a date. You will probably talk about the baby all night long, but you deserve and need a night to be a couple.
  • It is possible to cook, clean and do the normal things post baby—you just need to make time for it. If your anal like me, relax and know that some of those projects may take weeks instead of hours to get done.
  • Take pictures and videos. Capture those moments and cute things your kids do that will disappear in the next few months. However, don’t be one of those people that lives their kids childhood through a cell phone screen.
  • Give yourself away. The more you try to hold on to your time the less you will enjoy it, the less meaning you will find. Yes you need some alone time, but remember life is meant to be lived for others.
  • Be interruptible: This is probably the thing I struggle with the most. If I have something planned I want it to go my way, but a lot of time there are interruptions and we have to be willing to give them permission. Sometimes those interruptions are better than anything we had planned.

Being a father is hard work, but also amazing. I’m sure next year this list will look different, but for now these are things that I have noticed and wanted to share about my journey of discovering fatherhood.

Categories: fatherhood, growing up, home and family, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Beams

beam

Yesterday I finished putting together a boxed perimeter around my daughter’s little playground area in our yard. It consisted of a couple of 6x6x12, and other similar sized beams and some metal stakes to connect them. Eventually we will fill it with rubber mulch and put her swing set on top of it. It took me about three days total to put the beams together.

As I was buying the beams at Home Depot I couldn’t help but realize how heavy these things were. As I began to assemble the box perimeter in the yard there were a few times when I dropped the beams, stumbled carrying them or got a splinter from them. These beams were crazy heavy and big—twelve feet of anything is going to be heavy!

It was a labor of love for my daughter.

Yesterday was Good Friday. All of Christianity celebrated the death of its savior, Jesus. As I assembled these beams I had this reality on my mind. Jesus carried his beams. The wood was heavy and as I moved, dropped and dragged it I was reminded of Jesus journey to Calvary. After the beams were set the metal stakes were driven through the wood to connect them. My hammer struck the metal stakes and clinked, each time reminding me that metal stakes are what held my Lord on His beam.

Clink, clink, clink.

As I drove the last stake I got up exhausted. “It is finished,” I thought. I looked onto these wooden beams and found satisfaction. “My daughter will find so much happiness and joy playing here.” I wonder if this is what God the Father thought as He looked on His son and His beams? “My children will find satisfaction through this.” I never expected to have such an awesome, prayerful experience building this wooden box for my daughter. It was truly a gift.

May we see that the beauty of the cross, though filled with pain, exhaustion, and blood, was a labor of love. May we discover more than just our own fatherhood.

Categories: children, daughters, fatherhood, God, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cor Meum

heart in handIt is hard to believe, but my daughter turned a year old two weeks ago. I blinked and she had teeth, hair, and now she moves. Everyone says that the first year flies by and everyone is right.

My wife and I had a little birthday party for Claire at our home with family. Someone asked me, “How does it feel to have a kid?” I gave a simple reply, “its amazing.” It is amazing, but there is so much more to it than that.

This is what I was really thinking.

I feel like the moment my daughter was born my heart was ripped out of my chest. No anesthesia, no scalpel, no warning—ripped out. It was given arms, legs, and the ability to move. My heart was no longer secure and protected by my rib cage. It was out, exposed, and vulnerable. My heart was no longer mine. In this exposed and vulnerable state, I loved it and yet feared for it. My heart—I guess I should call it by her new name, “Claire”—is the most painful and most beautiful thing to ever happen to me.

Claire moves, falls, cries, laughs, and smiles. Each movement, action, and emotion tugs at me. It is an incredible metaphysical-like-experience. She smiles and I feel it, she cries and I experience it, she laughs and I enjoy it. The feeling of this walking, breathing, and exposed heart is much more sensitive. My heart has never felt like this before. I have never had it hurt or be filled with joy so easily.

It is something words cannot fully describe.

It doesn’t just end with Claire and me. My wife and I are united in this indescribable metaphysical-like-experience. We simultaneously feel when our heart falls and hurts herself. We can be overwhelmed by our heart’s piercing laugh and tear up at her beauty as we gaze at her. My wife and I are more vulnerable and exposed than ever before.

It is beautiful and excruciatingly frightening, but love always is.

The crazy thing is that when my wife and I have more kids this will happen all over again. As we all know we cannot give part of our heart to someone…it is all or nothing. So, if we have 3 kids, each one of them will have my heart completely. I can’t comprehend how I can possibly experience that amount of joy, pain, and beauty all at the same time, but that is what Grace is for.

If it feels like this while she is 1 year old I might just die when she is going out to the movies, is hanging out with friends, or—oh dear, God—when she goes out on her first date!

It is beautiful and excruciatingly frightening, but love always is.

Categories: children, daughters, fatherhood, growing up, home and family, husband and wife, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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