Parenting

Telling the Story

I posted this last year on Christmas day and no one really read it, which is a great sign that everyone was offline and enjoying family. I am reposting it and hope you all enjoy it.

Discovering Fatherhood

IMG_0603I love telling stories. I’m going to be that old grandfather who tells stories over and over again, while the grandkids say, “Grandpa! You just told us that one!”

There is something about a good story that really can work a person’s imagination, help process through difficulty, or just leave us with a smile on our face. Stories are powerful.

I am very thankful for the “Little People” that Fisher Price puts out—especially the biblical ones. My father-in-law recently got my daughter Claire the Little People Nativity Set and she loves it. I can tell because they all are covered in baby slobber half the time. Baby Jesus is currently in a cocoon of solidified saliva.

Fisher Price has done a good job of creating these cute, little people. The facial features, outfits, and color design—they all do a great job at setting the scene. Yet, the toys in and…

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Categories: christmas, fatherhood, fisher price, God, Jesus, Parenting, teaching, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Diapers

diapers

My daughter is 19 months old but she is the size of a 3 year old. Claire is tall, slender and yet a very solid baby. Since Claire was an infant we have struggled with trying to get the best diapers for her. We have used several brands, disposable and reusable. Prior to Claire being born, in what I can only deduce was a moment of sheer stupidity mixed with no experience and a dash of romanticism, my wife and I decided to buy reusable diapers. It seemed like a responsible, earth-friendly decision but I want to kick myself in the junk every time Claire poops in one of them. I wrote about this last year.

When Claire was born we used Huggies brand at first because advertizing works, and when I think of diapers I think Huggies. We liked the Huggies because it had that convenient racing stripe down the middle of it that told you the baby had urinated. It went from yellow to blue and you knew the baby had taken care of business—very necessary for new dads. After a few months with these diapers we noticed Claire got a bad diaper rash and so we switched to Pampers, but they didn’t really do a whole lot in regards to preventing the rash. We tried the Toys R’ Us brand because someone gave us a pack of them and it was just stupid. We used 2 diapers and threw the rest away. Stick to making toys!

When Claire was 3 months old and the meconium had cleared her system and more importantly wasn’t going to the bathroom every 3 minutes we started using the reusable diapers from Bum Genius. They are a one-size-fits all diaper and they do, but we found out very quickly that they do not hold urine or poop in as well as disposable diapers do. They were kind of hit or miss most of the time. We followed instructions, used the inserts and flap the way they said we should, but it still wouldn’t always work. Maybe its because Claire is so big, but who knows.

As Claire continued to grow we found that diapers didn’t always fit well or hold her large bowel movements—the reusable diapers leaked like a pasta colander. Maybe someday I will blog about the Olive Garden diaper incident…dear…God! Anyways, after much diaper shopping, unnecessary blowouts and traumatizing grandma at the Olive Garden we have found a diaper that has been tried and tested for over a year. Some may be surprised at the brand of diaper that has triumphed and some of you will shake your heads ever so slightly in agreement with this news. The best diaper that we have found to fit our tall, slender yet solid child is Target brand diaper.

What can Target not do well?

I was very skeptical about buying Target brand diapers—especially after the Toy’s R Us fiasco—but they are awesome. My daughter sleeps a full 12 hours a night and when she wakes up her diaper is the size of a small comet, but there are no leaks. The monster poops that she has, caused mostly by mangos and chik-fil-a are kept in the Target diaper. It is impressive.

We still use the reusable diapers around the house, because we spent so much money on them (we have 20 of them in total…) and we still secretly hope that they will not leak. Sometimes they don’t and it makes us happy, but most of the time they do and I want to hurt myself for buying them. When we go outside the house the Target brand is all we use. It also fixed her rash issue, because Target brand doesn’t use any dyes (the racing stripe has dye in case you didn’t know).

Discovering the right type of diaper for your kid can be a daunting task, especially when they are so expensive. I hope that this blog post helps those beginning the diaper search.

Categories: diapers, fatherhood, Parenting, types of diapers | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Us. Together.

chores

A few days ago I was cleaning the house. The floor needed cleaning so I grabbed the broom and began to sweep. Claire has a toy broom and dust pan that her grandma bought her that she keeps by her toy kitchen. As soon as Claire saw me sweeping in the hall she ran over to her kitchen and grabbed her own broom. I saw her do this and thought to myself, “if only I could train her to cut the grass.”

Claire came over to the hall where I was and she began to sweep with me. At first it was cute, but then Claire began to get in the way. The pile of dirt, dog/cat hair I had collected was being knocked around. I guided Claire so that she could use her broom and collect the dirt. For the most part she understood and moved the dirt towards the direction I was sweeping. It wasn’t perfect, orderly or neat but she did it. After a few seconds of this she would inevitably kick the dirt pile or drop the broom and make a mess.

The neat freak in me wanted to pick my daughter up and move her to another part of the house so that I could finish sweeping. However, I recognized that efficiency was not the important thing here. My child collaborating in my work was.

Us. Together.

We had to stop, go back, re-sweep, and re-sweep again. By the time we finished sweeping it had taken 10 times longer than usual. Even then you could still see some of the places we had missed.

What would happen if God decided to do everything on His own? If instead of letting us collaborate with Him, He picked us up and moved us to another room? Sure it would all get done in half the time, it would be perfect, but something would be missing…us.

As my daughter got in front of me and knocked around my carefully collected pile of dirt I recognized that God is constantly inviting us to collaborate with Him—to join Him in His work. If He wanted to, God could do the work on His own. We usually get in the way of His plans and knock things around, etc. Yet I think He prefers it this way—us, together. I don’t think He prefers the messiness of it, or the fact that we can really screw things up. I do think however that the messiness and those screw-ups, etc. are tolerable because it is done together. As I stare at my daughter joining me in the work of our home I cant help but want her there; to serve with me; to create with me; even if it isn’t perfect.

Us. Together.

 

Categories: children, chores, collaboration, fatherhood, God, Parenting, working together | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Fitting Them In

Photo Jun 17, 8 59 25 PM

Recently I heard someone say that today’s generation of parents are trying to fit their children into their lives as opposed to changing their lives for their children. I had never heard it put this way, but as I have been thinking about it I realize it is true. It has always been understood that children change your life and that you therefore must make adjustments for that change.

Children require us to live differently.

We see this on TV and movies every now and then. A man finds out his spouse is pregnant and he states, “Well I guess I have to change my ways.” The man will tend to stop staying out late with friends, be more responsible about financial expenses, and change habits that are not conducive to being a father. Obviously, it isn’t that simple but the idea is that things need to change due to this new life entering the world. Unfortunately this isn’t really happening with many new parents.

More and more we see that my generation and the ones that follow are not willing to transform their lives so that their children can benefit from it. Instead we are attempting to fit our children into the lifestyles we currently have. Square block into a round hole kind of thing.

A few years ago I had a friend that was into the nightclub scene. This friend would go dancing Thursday through Saturday nights because she loved dancing and that was her thing. Baby came along and after a few months of being a mom she attempted to pick up the nightclub life again. My friend would get frustrated because her baby would keep her from going dancing. Thankfully, reason set in and she realized that she needed to change because a nightclub lifestyle is not conducive to a new born.

Another example.

I have an acquaintance who loves hip-hop. He listens to it all the time on his way to work. One day he gave his mother a ride to the grocery store and he had his music blasting on the stereo as usual. His mom turned the stereo off and smacked him on the chest (while driving). “What was that for?!” he asked. The mother began to chew her son out because listening to the cursing, ill reference to women, etc. that this particular hip-hop song had was not okay with a 9 month old in the back seat. Unfortunately my friend didn’t take his moms advice seriously and continues to play his “dirty hip-hop” as his mom calls it, and now has a 3 year old with a seriously messed up vocabulary, lack of respect for his mother and a bad attitude.

When I first heard about this “fitting them in” style of parenting I thought to myself, “those selfish people, how dare they do such a thing”. However, the more I reflect on this I realize I too am guilty of trying to “fit them in”. I have this fence that we have had up for a few months now and I have been attempting to stain it. Part of it is done and the other part isn’t. My goal has been to stain the fence and fit Claire in when it isn’t interrupting the fence project. I’m sure I can come up with more examples, but you don’t need a 6-page post of my ridiculousness.

Clearly we all have things we enjoy doing and things that we need to do that demand our time and attention. This fitting them in thing is more of an overall mentality that seems to be dominating my generation and the ones following. I personally think it all stems from the selfish-its-all-about-me way that most of us in the U.S.A have been led to believe is part of our Constitution. Entitlement I believe is the word. It is scary to have a “fitting them in” mentality about our children because they become just one more thing. The gym, mowing the lawn, and chores around the house—these are all things that are okay to fit into our lives, but not our children.

I believe we have to live differently when we have children. We can’t be selfish about our lives because our children suffer and we also suffer. It isn’t easy. I struggle with this all the time. So from this newbie dad to those who bother to read this blog lets keep praying for each other and keep each other accountable. Lets not fit our children in like we do client meetings, phone conversations or fence staining. Our children are our priority and they should get first dibs.

Categories: children, dying to self, fatherhood, Parenting, selfishness, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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

power of a child

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

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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