dad and the kids

Good Enough is still Good Enough

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A few months ago I came across this article via Facebook. A lot of what it said I had hear before, but the one line of advice that really struck me was this:

“Go for ‘good enough’ instead of ‘best decision ever made on earth’”.

I think that most of us want the best—the best for ourselves, children, spouses, etc. However the reality is that “the best” isn’t always attainable. Sometimes no matter how hard we work, prep and execute we are not able to obtain the best. Even if the “best” is not obtainable should that keep us from seeking the next best thing—good enough.

Our dynamic at home has changed in the last few weeks, which is difficult for us type A, routine-is-our-best-friend kind of people. One of those dynamics has me picking up the kids and then getting home to immediately cook dinner for the family. Inevitably, cooking takes time, which then takes time away from hanging out with my kids. However I have found that we have this 30-minute window between cooking dinner and my wife getting home that I have been using to go outside and play fishes and minnows with my girls. We run around, chase each other and then go on our playground and pretend we are the characters from the Magic Tree House book series.

Is this the most epic hangout time with my daughters? Probably not.

We could be doing lots of other things that are more fun and more memorable, but we don’t have time for it during the week. However this 30-minute window is good enough to bond with my girls, run around a bit and spend quality time together. Sure, I would love hours on end with them, but it’s not going to happen on a weeknight after working all day and getting dinner ready. The realization that good enough is actually good enough has been a much welcome relief for this dad who wants the best all the time.

So for all those dads out there that feel like there’s never enough time, space, room, resources, fishing, hunting, etc. in your life; know that even a little bit of it makes a big difference.

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Categories: dad and the kids, fatherhood, fathers, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Killing Me

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The last two months have been tough. Going from one kid to two has its challenges. The baby has been easy: sleep, eat, poop, repeat. My wonderful wife has been great and for the most part is the one that has to focus on Cecilia (the baby). Most of my time and focus has been on Claire (the four year old). This started of really well, but it has quickly spiraled into chaos.

Everything is a struggle with Claire.

Waking up, getting dressed, eating, going to preschool, coming home, play time, snack time and definitely going to bed at night. There isn’t one thing that we do during the day that doesn’t have the potential to explode on my face, and it usually does. Claire and I will have a great time playing and eating a snack, when suddenly she will fight with me about getting a bath. Claire will be dead tired and fight getting into bed; she will then wake up at 3am, 4am and 5am because she “can’t sleep”. WHAT THE HELL!! There is no rhyme or reason to it (at least I can’t see one).

I realize that change for a four year old is difficult, and lets face it…she is only four years old. Regardless of this fact, I am exhausted. I literally feel dead and spent every single day and night. The nights where Claire decides to wake up at 3am because she’s hungry are the worst. It takes all that I have to not run off to Mexico and seek asylum.

The kid is killing me.

When I am able to see past my exhaustion I recognize that this is exactly what is suppose to happen.

I need to die.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve come to realize that it isn’t my daughters fighting, crankiness, random 3am wake ups that are killing me. Sure this is tough for any person, but the fact is that my comfort, my desire for control and order are being purged out of me. They are unbalanced and unrealistic.

I don’t want to be purged. I want comfort. I want control. I want order.

I have known that I am “particular” about things; I believe its one of the reasons why I am successful at work. However, I never would have consider myself so rigged that I would be stressed out the way I currently am. I guess its always different in the most sacred of inner sanctums like home.

Comfort is good to some extent, but there is no growth in it. Comfort doesn’t allow for testing and purging. Trying to control things and people isn’t freedom, its slavery for them and myself. Order has value, until it turns your wife and daughters into tasks, objects that must be taken care of.

The kid isn’t killing me, she is an instrument of Gods grace that is taking this overly comfortable, control freak, that values order way too much; and is slowly, painfully, yet beautifully changing me into something else. Something better.

Something worth dying for.

I never would have thought that I would have these things messing with me, but I do. My spiritual director and counselor tell me that I am in a beautiful place, a sweet spot of sorts that has exponential opportunities for growth and transformation. I see more and more through this crazy, beautiful gift of a four year old that discovering fatherhood is not just about what I can do to help my children become holy, loving and responsible adults. It is also a journey of discovering that this father has to become a holy, loving and responsible adult.

Man! Never a dull moment in this journey.

Categories: being a man, best self, Catholic, dad and the kids, dads, death, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Four

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A couple of days ago I was outside doing chores. My daughter Claire was out back playing on her playground and running back and forth entertaining her self. At the end of the day before bedtime Claire asked, “I want someone to play with me.” Regardless of how long we play with her, Claire will always want more play time. After Claire went to bed my wife and I reflected on the day and I couldn’t help but hear Claire’s words: “I want someone to play with me.”

Claire turned four a few days ago and it has caused me to pause and reflect on these last four years. What does my daughter see within these four years? Does she see a dad whose engaged, present, kind, forgiving, gentle, calm? I’m not quite sure. I’m those things described above: hopefully most of the time. Still the words, “I want someone to play with me.” echo in my mind and heart. Do I play enough with my daughter? Have I spent the quality time that Claire needs? Am I busy doing things for our life while Claire entertains herself?

Lots of questions now that she is four.

Claire will have a little sister soon. Cecilia. Will Cecilia ask the same question? Will I look back when she is four and wonder; did I play enough with her?

Maybe it’s the realization that my baby isn’t a baby but a little girl. Maybe those thoughts, emotions, etc. are getting the best of me. Maybe I’m doing as best as most dads. Maybe the statement, “I want someone to play with me” is a challenge. Something God is letting rattle in my head. Maybe I need to be pushed to become more, to do less, and play.

Lots of questions now that she is four.

 

Categories: being too busy, best self, dad and the kids, dads, fatherhood, fathers, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Perspective

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A few weeks ago I rented a moving truck to pick up a couch that was given to us. I had my daughter with me so I strapped her car seat to the passenger seat of the rental truck (I made sure the airbag was turned off—safety first). I hooked Claire up to her car seat and as I did she ‘oohed and ahhed’ as she looked around. I didn’t think anything of it at first, but Claire continued to be super excited. I got in the truck, fastened my seatbelt, and off we went to pick up the couch.

As I pulled out of the parking lot Claire said, “Wow Papi! Look at the cars on the road!” I acknowledged that cars were on the road and kept driving. “Papi, look at that (pointing to the road)! Look how fast we’re moving!” I looked down at the speedometer and thought ‘were not going that fast.’ “Papi, look at those colorful chairs on the side of the road! Wow papi!” I turned and said to Claire, “Those are always there baby.” Claire looked at me with a puzzled look and continued to be amazed by everything she was seeing.

This is the same road we take every day to go home or to visit family.

As the hamster began to pick up momentum in my head I realized why Claire was so excited about everything she saw. Claire had never seen any of this. At most Claire got partial views of this road, and heard sounds of cars passing by, or noises. In my car, Claire’s car seat sits much lower and her view is limited. In the rental truck Claire sat high up and had full access to all before her. Claire had perspective.

As I watched my daughter look around in awe and wonder I couldn’t help and think what a great analogy this experience was. Many of us, myself included, can’t always get a full picture of what’s going on or where we are going in life. We might get partial views and glimpses from time to time. We want perspective; we want to sit high up for full access to the whole picture. Claire sits low in my car and has to trust that when I tell her, “We are going home” that this is exactly where we are going even if she can’t see the way. When I say, “I’m taking you somewhere special” Claire tries to push up a little higher in her car seat to get a glimpse, but always realizes that even though she can’t see the way her father will get her there.

It is really hard to not see the full picture. We want to see so badly. We push up a little higher hopping we can sneak a peak.

May we trust that our Father is taking us on the right path. May we trust that although it isn’t always clear, and the sounds might be frightening our Father will get us exactly where we need to go.

Categories: dad and the kids, dads, fatherhood, fathers, God, perspective, trust, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Let Them See

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Claire watching me shovel our neighbors house

Snowmaggedon 2016 has come and gone and we have survived. We have shoveled our way out of 20+ inches of snow, which depending where you are in the world may be laughable. Here in the good ole state of Virginia, 5 inches is enough to shut us down for a while; 20+ inches set a new record and may possibly have us stuck in our neighborhoods for a week.

From Friday afternoon to right about at 2:30pm this afternoon we were buried in. Our back deck had snow coming up to the window. Our dog that loves to run in snow wouldn’t go out because he needed to take a running leap to clear the 20+inch wall of snow that had collected against the French doors. Apparently relieving your bowls isn’t really worth all that trouble.

My daughter was super exited to see snow. For whatever reason, she was also excited by the fact that “Papi” was going outside to shovel the snow. I went out to clear the snow off the porch and driveway when my neighbor yelled out, “Good morning. Want some help?” “Yes. Yes I do.” The words came out of my mouth before my neighbor could complete his sentence.

For the next several hours, my neighbor and I cleared each other’s driveways and vehicles, and 3 other neighbors’ driveways. Another neighbor joined us a few hours in. It was one of those great moments where neighbors unite and make life easier on each other.

While all this snow shoveling was going on, my daughter was watching. Claire saw her “Papi” and other neighbors going around helping each other out. At one point, as Claire was playing outside with my wife, they both came over to the neighbor’s house we were helping. These neighbors had a baby recently, so we wanted to make sure their house was extra clear. My wife grabbed a shovel and Claire helped out as well. Claire’s job was to help me put salt on their steps and walkway. Claire was so excited to help.

My pastor recently wrote in his weekly letter about how important it is to let kids see parents writing checks and placing money into the collection. He speaks of this action as necessary for kids to recognize its importance. My pastor, at one point, wrote, “We watched our parents write the check every week.” The witness of seeing this act of writing a check told my then pastor-to-be that it was important. He ended up giving his whole life to the Church by becoming a priest.

Our kids witness so much in this world. A lot of it is good. A lot of it is bad. What kids witness from their parents sticks most. Your influence on your child is greater than any other. If we want our kids to do good, let them see us doing good. If we want our kids to be holy, let them see holiness in us. My neighbors thanked me for helping them today, but letting my kid see my wife and I helping others is something that I thanked them for.

Let’s show our kids all the good that they can do.

Categories: being a good example, children, church, dad and the kids, fatherhood, holiness, home and family, Uncategorized, working together | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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

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