boys and girls

Star Wars VII and Fatherhood

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Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert!

 
I recently saw the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie and it was pretty cool. This is not a review, but more of an observation on the theme of fatherhood that is deeply rooted in this movie. As stated above, I am going to share some info that will spoil the movie for you if you have not watched it.

You have been warned.

We are introduced to Kylo Ren, the new Sith character, who is the son of Hans Solo and Leia, and the grandson of Darth Vader. Right away, you see that Kylo has daddy issues. These issues seem to stem from Solo not being present in Kylo’s life and it is clear that Kylo’s daddy issues have encouraged his joining of the dark side. I wasn’t surprised to see this plot in the movie. There are so many young people I interact with that fall into a, sort of, “dark side” due to a broken or absent relationship with their father. What was interesting to see is how Hollywood portrayed the devastating consequences of a young man not having a positive relationship with his father. Not only did the consequences affect the individual, but the surrounding community as well.

Kylo has a moment in the movie where he interacts with Rey, the female protagonist, and Kylo senses that she has some kind of attachment to Solo. Kylo cynically says, “He’ll disappoint you.” In this interaction you see that Kylo is very emotional when he talks about his father. At one point, Kylo is conflicted between the light and dark side of the force. He even asks for guidance from his dead grandfather as he speaks to Darth Vader’s beaten helmet in a room. I believe this struggle is driven by Kylo’s desire to know his father, yet he is angry about being deserted.

Kylo’s anger has distorted his understanding of living a good moral life. This anger has also poured into Kylo’s interactions with the world in general. Kylo murders, orders people to be murdered, and eventually murders his father. The monstrous weapon— the Death Star on crack—destroys several planets all because of this deep anger and rage.

Kylo is a wounded young man. Maybe this is a stretch, but I believe this story can be seen as a metaphor for what can happen to young men when fathers are absent. Solo may be a stand up guy in the galaxy’s eyes, but not being present in Kylo’s life seems to have done some major damage. Maybe Kylo showed great promise to be a Jedi and he was sent away to train and that’s why Solo wasn’t around. Maybe, but clearly Kylo has daddy issues.

In my line of work, young men who don’t have fathers are more likely to be angry and have emotional issues that don’t always remain in their own hearts. Usually this anger pours into all they do and say, and onto those they interact with. I unfortunately have too many stories that constantly remind me of this reality. I’m not saying these young men will grow up to be like Kylo, but it definitely wounds them. There are many reasons why fathers can be absent in a young persons life. Therefore, I cannot make any judgments. Neither can I say that a fatherless child will automatically become a bad person. Individuals with very good, holy and present fathers make bad choices too.

As my wonderful wife pointed out a distinction needs to be made between a father that leaves their child out of selfishness, versus a father that needs to leave due to a deployment, or job that demands a prolonged physical absence. The latter are still present to their children, maybe not in a physical-corporal-right-in-front-of-you sort of way, but the relationship with their child is established. Relationships between fathers and children that have prolonged absences can still communicate via phone, Internet, mail, etc. and continue to nurture those relationships. I know of many young men and women whose fathers are away on business or deployments that have solid relationships with their fathers.

Maybe J.J. Abrams is using this movie to communicate the importance of a good relationship between a son and his father. Maybe he isn’t. Whatever the case may be, the need for fathers to be present, engaged, and attentive to their sons is very important and something that, not only affects the individual, but everyone they come into contact with.

There are many young men who grow up without fathers and turn out to be great people. However, studies (this is just one site out of dozens) show how difficult it is for children—especially boys—to grow up without fathers.

As we close this year and begin a new one, let all fathers be more attentive to our relationships with our sons and our daughters. There is no greater force than the impact you will have on them.

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Categories: boys and girls, dad and the kids, dads, fatherhood, fatherless kids, fathers, importance of fathers, star wars, Uncategorized, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

6 Ways to Wear Your Toddler Out.

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Toddlers have a ton of energy. I know—understatement of the year. My daughter is no exception. Friends of ours that have toddler boys tell me all the time that Claire has the energy of a boy. My wife and I have realized that Claire is definitely the most energetic girl in our group of friends. Actually, Claire is the most energetic out of the girls and boys. Don’t get me wrong; I love my daughter’s energy and enthusiasm for life. It’s just that her energy takes so much of mine.

We have found that if Claire doesn’t do something that can use up her energy, life will get stupid real fast for all of us. So here is this father’s recommendation for wearing your toddler out:


Season Passes:
Amusement parks are not the only places that offer season passes. We have a children’s museum, a local farm, and one of those fall plantation type places that all offer season passes very close to our home. I recommend getting one for each season. Ask for them as birthday, or Christmas presents to lessen the financial burden on you. My daughter loves going to the farm in the summer and early fall. Claire literally chases chickens, plays in a tree house and builds sandcastles (giant pile of sand provided). In the winter months the children’s museum is a place to run around away from the elements and still burn energy. We literally just got back from a plantation farm that’s open only during the fall and Claire ran, jumped, chased animals, saw pigs race and is now in deep sleep.

Malls: My daughter and I have made it a tradition now of going to Costco for a hot dog, soda and slice of pizza. The Costco is connected to the local mall, which allows for us on rainy days to get lunch and also walk around the mall. The mall has an indoor play place that she can go and play with other kids. My neighbor and I did this a few weeks ago and it was great. The play place is enclosed and offers comfortable seating for worn our parents to sit and watch their child’s batteries drain. If there isn’t a play place in the mall you can play chase, I spy, and many more games that have your kids moving and running around.

Classes: Claire has taken a ballet class and now is doing a gymnastics class. Again, this could be something you ask for as birthday or Christmas presents since it can be expensive. My wife recently took Claire to a gymnastics class and texted me after saying, “Claire is sweating from class.” At first I didn’t really know why she was texting that to me, but later that day I found out that all that energy burned resulted in an epic nap and some quiet study time for mommy.

Backyard: We were blessed to have received a free swing and slide play set for our backyard. I actually built the beam enclosure for Claire to be able to play in it. For us, the backyard is a simple way to burn some energy—especially on those days where you don’t have the desire to go anywhere. Whether Claire plays on her play set, or chases the dog we are always able to wear her out this way. Having different games that require thinking, skill and exercise are perfect for backyard fun.

Chores: So I do a lot of chores around our home since my wife is spending most of her time studying for her nurse practitioner degree. Getting Claire to help me with chores is another way to burn some energy. I will sweep our floor and then have Claire take her little toddler broom and sweep up behind me. Claire helps with the laundry, whether it’s putting it in or taking it out. Claire also helps with prepping meals (as best a 2 year old can). These things take more time when my daughter is helping, but it gives her the satisfaction of having helped me. Plus it helps her burn energy.

Special Events: Check your towns website, or newspaper for special events that may be taking place. It is not uncommon for fairs, shows, etc. to come into town. Although these are not things you can consistently do with the kiddos, it may be a one-time thing that really excites them and more importantly wears them out.

 

Hope these are some helpful ideas to help wear the kiddos out.

Categories: boys and girls, chores, dad and the kids, daddy date, daddy time, dads, daughters, energetic toddlers, fatherhood, ideas for play, napping, naptime, toddlers | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh, Boy’s.

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Claire is 16 months old and my usual concerns with her range from whether or not she’s holding my hand while going outside, brushing her teeth, making sure mangos and French fries are not all that she eats, and making sure I have a paci with me at all times—the usual dad stuff. In my mind I know that in a far off distance boys will become a concern, but I never thought it would be this soon.

Most boys that are around Claire’s age are typically busy playing, running circles around their parents and not paying attention to girls in an aesthetically-pleasing-sort-of-way. However, on three separate occasions I have had boys that are around Claire’s age literally gazing at my daughter in that glassy-eyed-stupor that is common to boys 13 years old or older.

The first time it occurred we were at Mass and a boy of 3-4 years old sat in front of us. The entire time he was glued to Claire. I didn’t think anything of it—she is a cute baby. It wasn’t until the little boy turned to his mother at the end of Mass and said, “Mommy, she is beautiful.” that I thought, that’s interesting. The second time was a similar situation that ended with a little boy telling Claire and I that she was pretty. The third time was while shopping. A young family saw Claire and she waved to them. The mother approached us with her clan and shopping cart and waved back to Claire telling her how beautiful she was. This I expect from adults. This woman’s younger son looked at Claire, turned to his mother while pulling on her shirt and said in a very serious voice, “Mommy she is beautiful.”

Oh, boy!

I think my daughter is beautiful—she looks like my wife and Jess is beautiful! Yet, I have never thought of Claire as one of those stop you in your tracks kind of babies. I was telling Claire’s Godfather about these strange incidents (the three above are just a few) and he looked at me and said with a very serious and intense voice, “Dude. Claire is beautiful.”

So here we are at 16 months old and boys are checking my girl out. Sigh…

Since this boy situation seems to be creeping in a little sooner than expected it is a great opportunity for my wife and I to begin teaching Claire about her beauty. I am not speaking here primarily of her outward aesthetic beauty. I am speaking of the beauty that does not fade, is incorruptible no matter what she or someone does. This beauty is the beauty of being made in God’s image and likeness. We want Claire to recognize the gift that this beauty is and how precious she is as a person. We also want to make sure that she recognizes the power and responsibility that an aesthetically beautiful woman has. I don’t know if many fathers have these conversations with their daughters.

Outward beauty can easily be used and manipulated for all the wrong reasons, and Lord knows we don’t need more of that in this world. I want my daughter to see that her inherent, God given beauty is the most important thing and that her outward beauty should reflect the reality of that inner beauty. As a man I am well aware of the power an outwardly beautiful woman can have on me and I think that if this isn’t communicated to my daughter it could be a bad thing. With that being said, I also know the power a woman can have on a man who recognizes her inherent beauty and allows it to shine through. My wife is the perfect example. It can literally change a man.

I’m excited at the opportunity to help my daughter discover all of her beauty and to be the gift that she is called to be in this world. But boys, seriously. Can we wait till she is at least out of diapers? Or 16 years old? Better yet, let’s wait till she graduates college. Oh, boy!

Categories: boys and girls, Crush, daughters, dignity, fatherhood, growing up, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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