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Loser.Sheldon

If you have kids, you know where I’m going with this. Normally, I think we all have kids for a variety of self-serving reasons. No judgment on this, just an observation. It’s because we want those cute little babies in our arms. Or because our friends are all having kids and we want to join in. Or because we feel like it is the next thing we’re supposed to do with life. Maybe even because we’ve always dreamed of that fun family vacations and the picture perfect Christmas. But in the first 48 hours after that sweet baby shows up in your family you’ve made one realization…the seige has begun.

And it doesn’t get any easier when they can walk, talk and think on their own.  That awesome thought you have about the beach trips where you fantasize about white sand, gentle waves and deeply tanned kids running around happily in khakis and white button up shirts or dresses is replaced by a beet red kid screaming at the top of their lungs because they have sand in their eyes and the other kid shoved them into the water and nearly drowned them.  Reality crashes into your vision of getting your family together with other families where you can just talk and let the kids have a good time when you realize that you’ve been at their house for two hours, haven’t spoken 3 complete sentences without being interrupted and the only thing you’ve eaten was the half-finished meal your kids left behind.

Don’t get me wrong, having kids isn’t bad or even always as disappointing as my description here. More times than not, we are so in love with our kids that you couldn’t drag us away from them.  I have moments regularly where I’m having so much fun with my kids that I lose myself in it.  And bed time?  Forget abowd id!  There is nothing I’d rather do than put my kids down at night.  The time with them is beyond joy.  Having my middle son invite me to snuggle with him and play.  Having a wind down talk with my oldest.  To feel the breath of my 5 month old on my neck as I rock him.  You couldn’t pay me to not do those things.  In fact, I can honestly say that I feel sorry for people that don’t have kids.  And not just the ones that can’t have them (of course I feel for them), but for those that are single or married with no kids and no real desire for kids at this point.  They just don’t get it.

Here’s my point: Parenting is for losers.  Maybe more accurately said, parenting really only works for losers.  It works for those that are willing to lose themselves, their egos, their lives for the ones they have chosen to bring into the world.  To remind themselves (and be reminded) daily that this isn’t about them.  In order to get to those amazing things we so naively envisioned before kids, we have to learn to die.  To not do this thing called parenting because it is what was next on the life agenda.  Not because it was what everyone else was doing or because we wanted cool family vacations or something to post on Facebook other than drinking pictures and political or religious “social message spam.”  For whatever reason we ended up as parents, now that we’re here we have to keep doing it because those kids need us.  Heck, the world needs us.

Sound too dramatic?  What makes up a culture?  A nation?  A revolution?  Heroes?  Leaders?  Isn’t it a combination of the character developed by the people that make up those groups, the lessons they’ve learned, the passions they have and the way they think?  And who has the greatest opportunity to impact these things?  We do.  The losers.  Their parents.

If we can do the hard things now we get to have the nice things later.  I’ve heard several people in the financial world use the phrase, “Live like no one is willing to live now so you can live like no one will live later.”  Well that is even more true as a parent.  You can’t over invest in your kids.  (Note: you can smother them.  That is different.)

I for one am enjoying the occasional pains of humility knowing that one day my dreams will come true because I’ve leveraged the greatest power I have…sacrificial love.

footloose1

“I want to dance in Logi’s room!” (That’s Caleb’s pet name for his kid brother Logan.)

It’s T-minus 20 minutes and counting until bed time. With bellies full of Chic Fil A and more energy than can be spent in any day, mom was ready for some down time and the boys were ready to move to the beat. Next thing I know Kanye West is in the room and I’m dancing in rhythmic circles with my 3 year old to the sound of Love Lockdown. Boom boom BOOM boom. Boom boom BOOM boom. Boom boom BOOM boom. “I’m not lovin’ you. Way I wanted to. What I had to do. Had to run from you-u. I’m in love with you.”

Squatted down, hands smackin’ the horse as we jump forward in circles and laughing uproarously – it’s the toddler dance off. Showing off all the moves. From the horse rider to the swim to the 80’s hip hop retro moves we break it down for none to see. Logan, who’s been playing with train’s in the play room decides it’s time this thing got started for real. Toddling in, he tosses his best moves down like 4 aces in a backroom poker match. Jumping up and down and pumping the arms like he means it, now this party is moving.

I scoop both the boys up, one in each arm, and we’re jumping and dancing together to the magical sounds of Counting Crows singing the theme song from Shrek. They’re looking at each other and laugh/screaming. I’m pouring sweat and loving every second of it. The song ends and we’ve hit bedtime. Climbing into bed, I talk with each of them for a few minutes and treasure the moment.

This is every day life the way it was meant to be. Small memories that only take minutes to create but last a lifetime. Joy arising from simple opportunities taken to enjoy each other. Legacy built in my life and theirs. It’s moments like this that remind me that it isn’t just me building value into my boys but just how much value they add to my life. They help me remember that the “important” stuff I did at the office really doesn’t matter that much. They help me let go of all the good and the bad that fighting to make my mark in the world brings with it and just simply…love. By the time we’re done my joy is unshakable and I walk downstairs to hang with the woman of my dreams and write this post. Speaking of which, I’ve gotta go!

Have you ever been there? You’re going through your day happily enough and then you come home and encounter the little creatures that normally engender your warmest affections. But tonight they’re not the cute little Gizmo. Someone has fed them after midnight and they’ve morphed into gremlins. Into everything. Whining incessantly about everything. Daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, DAAAAAAAAAADYYYYYYYYYYYY!

Gremlins

And I snapped.

Not in the crazy, violent, go straight to jail do not pass go sort of way. Just in my patience. I was harsher than reasonable. My tone was intense. My 2 year old hit me in the eye with a dinosaur that he threw (after we’ve told him a million times not to throw things). I slapped his hand. Again, nothing criminal. But I did it because I was angry, not because I was trying to help my son learn it isn’t o.k. to throw.

So I apologized – to both of them.

We talked and I admitted that I was wrong. I told them I was very sorry and asked their forgiveness. Logan seemed especially appreciative of the apology. He smiled and gave me a big hug…then blew on me. (It’s a bedtime game we play. He blows on me and I act like it knocks me down. Lots of fun!) Caleb just said while rubbing his eyes, “Yes, daddy. I love you.” Ugh. My heart melts and my soul is convicted again.

Parenting isn’t about having all the answers or doing it all right. In fact, I’m not sure I have the “right” answer for what parenting is all about. But what I do know is that my kids keep reminding me that I’m not perfect and that grace is there to cover my sins. They remind me of the purity of a child’s love and why it’s so, SO important for me to have love like that for the people in my life. They just accept that I love them and that I want what’s best for them. Even when I make mistakes, they brush it off like sand from playing outside.

So here I am – thankful for my children. Amazed at the blessing and the struggle of being a dad. And feeling the weight of the responsibility they represent. But knowing that there’s nothing I want more than to step up to that challenge and own it. And, when I fall down on the job, my kids will be there to pick me up, give me the grace I need to get back up and do it right the next time.

Rebellion Leads to Pain

My dad was a rebel.  I’m a bit of a rebel.  I think it just kind of runs in the family.  It’s part arrogance, part desire to be different and a dash of ignorance thrown in for good measure.

Sometimes rebellion is a good thing.  Even needed.  But most often if we’re honest with ourselves our rebellion isn’t really noble or even reasonable.  Most of the time it’s downright, well, arrogant.  We just don’t want to do it.  Don’t want to say it.  Don’t want someone else calling the shots.  How dare they think of telling us what to do?!

Maybe it’s because we grow up watching movies and hearing the glorious stories of the American Revolution, but we think rebellion leads to freedom.  I think there is a different reality most of us end up facing.  Rebellion leads to pain. Even when you look at our forefathers in their act of revolution you realize they were very hesitant to rebel.  They went to great lengths to try not to rebel.  It was only when there was no other option that they took radical action.

My dad’s life could almost be written as a cautionary tale for this topic.  He could never submit himself to a boss, his wife or even his own needs.  And the end result is painful.  But not just for him.

When we act like we are not accountable to anyone, eventually we are faced with a person, institution or circumstance that demands our humility. And we may think we can fight to the death in our arrogance because it only affects us. But like a King of a country or a president of a company, as we go so goes the lives of those we are in a relationship with. The consequences of our actions produce pain for everyone around us. Emotional, physical, financial, relational or spiritual. It does produce pain.

And most often, it is because we’re so focused on ourselves that we actually don’t realize that the rebellion is based on ignorance.  When I rebel, it generally doesn’t come after I’ve taken an open mind to the problem, worked on understanding the other side of the fence and then intellectually decided it was time to rebel.  Really.  Normally it goes something more like this: something happens I don’t like.  I get upset but realize I’m not getting what I want by pitching a fit.  I rebel.

Our mistake begins with thinking the issue is all about us.  But nothing…NOTHING…is ever just about us.  Even when rebellion is the right choice, it creates pain for us and those around us.  Our forefathers paid with their lives, material things and in some cases their family’s lives.

In trying to teach my boys how to be men, I realize that my rebellion is something much more dangerous than I thought.  If I don’t want to pass on that attitude it can’t live in me.  So the next time someone says no to me when I want them to say yes or I can’t have something I really wanted I’m going to try and remind myself in that moment that only in humility and submission to principles can I be a really good rebel.

(But please don’t ever say no to me.  It’s just easier that way.)

Ripples

Since my last post on this I’ve gotten to thinking – maybe this whole issue is deeper than just wanting and needing. What if this is more foundational? I feel a need to dig in for a while in my own thoughts on this.

The reason I think this is so important is because I deeply believe that a dad’s life is always forming the future. We are always teaching. You and I. Like it or not we are always role models. If we covet, we pass that along. If we show honor to people around us, that becomes a part of our legacy. Our ripples becomes the waves that push generations in the direction of our hearts. And I’m not talking about coveting in the sense of that XBox you just had to buy (which is the 3rd game system you have) or that one time you opened the door for that lady. I’m talking about the patterns of our lives. The rhythm our hearts have developed. What repeatedly goes on in our minds and hearts which makes us who we are.

Because men, our kids are learning. If you aren’t involved with your kids they are learning to leave. To abandon responsibilities. If you are around but you think your kids don’t know about that thing you’re hiding from them, they are learning to lie, hide and live secret lives. Because it does come across that they don’t know you for real. Maybe not today, but eventually they see it. That’s the thing about rhythms, they’re not like events. You can hide events. You can’t hide rhythms.

So I’ve been thinking about what my rhythms are. Some good, some bad. For example, some good rhythms I think I have:

  • Persistent seeking to become better…spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically
  • Genuine love for my family
  • Desire to be significant and not just successful
  • Willingness to sacrifice for deeper relationships
  • Disciplining myself to develop good habits

But then, others are really bad:

  • Selfishness
  • Arrogance
  • Willingness to justify my own darkness
  • Quick-temper

Each of these things are like rocks I’m throwing into the lakes of my children’s lives and those around me. They create ripples. They send shock waves into their lives that impact who they are, the choices they know how to make and the relationships they have. And to be frank, that scares me. It scares the crap out of me. Because even the things I don’t see will help or hurt my kids. Maybe even more so than the things I’m conscious of.  The worst of it is that there is definitely a lot I don’t see – and don’t want to.  

In the end we can only do what we know to do. But I have to give that statement two caveats: we can always increase our knowledge of what to do and we are most likely not doing all we know to do. In a way, I find this greatly encouraging. This is something we can get our hands on and get to work with. This is practical. It’s not some head job that we have to work through. If I’m selfish – I simply start consciously putting others before myself. And I ask others to hold me accountable to that. If I’m arrogant, I ask people to call me out when it rears its head. And I also learn to ask myself about an action I’m about to take, “Is this intended to make me look good or someone else?” And if it’s for me, I just don’t do it. At least for a while until the beast is tamed.

Now it’s time to close down the computer and get to work. It’s one thing to write about this but it’s another to really experience life change. So this is me asking anyone that knows me to help me be true to my word here. I need help and I want to win this war. My kids lives are at stake…and so are yours.

I heard someone say once, “When you approach any leader, they are carrying a sword and a crown. The angle of your approach with that leader will determine which they respond with.” In other words, it is the heart of the person “challenging” authority that determines if it ends well or badly.

I think the lesson we’re all trying to teach our kids is to think for themselves and when they see something they don’t believe is right to approach it with humble confidence. The confidence to ask the question and the humility to realize there may be more to the issue they than can see.

If your kids approached you this way, wouldn’t this be victory?

Originally in response to a post on http://andimthedad.com/post/24427960853/re-question-authority

Yesterday I decided to take my son out to the local trails to ride his new bike.  I could tell that both of us needed some time together just hanging and doing something active.  He was so excited to get to skip his nap and go out with me to ride his bike.  Helmet firmly attached to his head and bike in hand, we pedaled to the entrance of the trails.  Happy to be outside, even in 95 degree weather, I looked forward to the next 60 minutes or so of just having fun with my oldest son.  Then it happened.  We came to the top of the entrance to the trails and it was a decline.  Nothing huge, mind you, but from the vantage point of a 3 year-old it may as well have been a ski ramp.

Ski Ramp

Caleb looked at me and flatly refused to ride down such an unreasonable slope. “I could fall, daddy.” We’d been having this struggle for a few weeks so I really wanted him to at least try it. But looking at him I could tell this hill was definitely not the one to die on. “You can just walk the bike down the hill and we’ll ride at the bottom where it’s flat.” Hesitantly he began the decent. Sparing all the details, the next 100 yards (60 of them being flat) took about 30 minutes and massive amounts of encouragement, then pushing and finally flat out threatening to keep him moving. Finally, exhausted and pouring sweat while getting no enjoyment from the outdoors anymore I decided we should just take a break. We sat down to some bottled water and trail mix. At this point I just want to go home, throw him into bed and go take a nap myself. Instead, we sit in silence for a few moments and just listen to the silence around us. A few bikes whiz by with mom, dad and kids chatting happily as if to taunt the two sidelined riders sitting there. Finally, I gathered my thoughts and said, “Buddy, look at me.” Slowly he turns his head and I can see that he’s frustrated with me, himself and the whole situation.

“You know I’m not trying to frustrate you, right?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“I’m just trying to get you to ride your bike and enjoy it. You love riding your bike in circles in the driveway. Riding out here is even more fun and it’s something we can do together. I’d never tell you to do something I thought was too dangerous for you. You’ve just gotta trust me sometimes.”

“…” Caleb sits staring off in the distance.

“I’m really sorry if I frustrated you, though. It really wasn’t my intent.”

“Daddy, you really need to listen to people more.”

What?! Where did that come from? But as his statement settled in it drove deep into my heart. I do have a problem with listening to people sometimes. So caught up in what I’m trying to get done I miss the other person in the process. Is that what just happened? And wait, this kid is 3 years old! What the heck is going on here?

“Buddy, did you feel like I wasn’t listening to you?”

“Yeah. If you don’t listen to me I’m not going to want to play with you anymore.”

In a matter of about 10 seconds I’ve gone from daddy teaching his son a lesson to a guy having his heart ripped out like the witch doctor in the Temple of Doom. But I regain my composure and respond.

Indiana Jones - Heart

“Wow, kiddo. I didn’t mean to not listen to you. I’m so sorry you felt that way. Tell you what, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll do my best to listen to you more and not frustrate you if you’ll promise to try and trust me when I ask you to do things that you aren’t sure about. Deal?”

“Sure.” (Pause)

Daddy?”

“Yeah, pal?”

“Will you play with me on the playground for a while?”

“Of course, buddy. Let’s go. You want me to carry your bike back for you?”

“Yeah!”

I knew the day would come when I’d get called out by my kids about something. I’m not perfect and I knew they’d catch me at some point. I just never dreamed it would be that profound of an insight nor at 3 years old. My kids just blow me away.

Previously, we’d tried the balance bike approach with Caleb to no real avail. You know, the bike with no pedals? The idea behind it is you just give the kid something to walk with, then they begin learning to pick up their feet as they go down hills to coast and learn to balance. We saw some awesome videos like this one and imagined our son ripping up the dirt trails with us recording the next viral kid video for YouTube. (OK, maybe that’s a little over-the-top. But we did think it was a pretty amazing idea.)

But the idea breaks down if your kid refuses to go down hills. Hm.  Now we have a pedal bike and he’s the driveway champion.  Strike one for daddy YouTube moments of glory.

I’m Nick Fury

July 22, 2012 — Leave a comment
Nick Fury and the Avengers

One of the best movies of all time.

The Avengers. Easily one of the greatest movies of all time. If you disagree, I’m sorry but all relationship bank account we had before now has been drained. You are dead to me. (Of course I’m kidding, Mom. Love you!)

After seeing a movie that epic you can’t help but imagine what it would be like to be one of the Avengers. Personally, I think I’d want to be Thor. Maybe it’s because my wife has a bit of a thing for him. (Though she heartily denies this.) Yeah, Iron Man’s cool but I just have a hard time with his outright arrogance and selfishness. Captain America runs a really close #2 to Thor and only loses out because Thor can fly and travel inter-dimensionally. Hey, don’t act like you wouldn’t want that. The others are cool, but clearly these guys take the cake.

But then sitting there one day it struck me…I’m actually not any of the Avengers. I’m the guy with an eye patch. Nick Fury. What?! I don’t wanna be Nick Fury! (except the awesome name) He’s a spy that no one trusts and has no special abilities. He’s not particularly amazing in comparison to the team running the show. But there it is – I’m more like Nick Fury than any of the super-heroes.

nick-fury

Think about it. Fury is not the most powerful person in the room. He isn’t able to control the powers he’s dealing with. But he successfully brings out the best of amazingly powerful beings by helping them come together as a team and have a cause. He creates the right environment and finds the right “push” to help them become more than the sum of their parts for a greater purpose than they have previously known. He is a planner. A thinker. A man that is hopelessly outmatched by those he leads and yet still must find the courage and the will to lead none-the-less.

Maybe you think that is a bit dramatic. But maybe it isn’t so out of line with reality depending on how you view being a dad. My kids will very likely grow up to be more powerful than I ever was (if I’ve done my job). I absolutely can’t control my kids lives. (In the sense of guaranteeing how they turn out, the choices they make, the destiny of their lives.) My job is to take this incredibly powerful and yet intensely fragile group of individuals and turn it into a team. A team of love, valor and purpose. A team that comes together when times are bad and challenges each other to stay the course when times are good. I have to observe each member of this team and know what buttons need pushing at times to help them find out just how powerful they are and I have to give them opportunities to overcome their demons.

Yeah, I think I kinda like this. From now on you can call me Fury. I think something epic is about to unfold.

Kid Pitching a Fit

Gimme!!

Ever heard it? It starts as a slow but familiar request.

“Please, please?! I want this so bad.” It quickly escalates in urgency.

“I’ll do anything! I really need this!”

You know what I’m talking about. That grating, high-pitched whine that makes the tension in your shoulders build almost immediately. The pulse quickens, lips press together, eyes close in a desperate attempt to imagine a happy place. Then when you open your eyes you stand there a bit taken back by the fact that the person you’re staring at is…you.

I heard a talk the other day about coveting. I know. It’s a pretty old fashioned word that likely brings up thoughts of an angry guy on a soap box screaming about something to do with brimstone and sulfur. This talk was different. And it got me to thinking: just what is coveting? Maybe it’s what happens inside of me when I want something and it goes from a desire to a “need.” Not a legitimate need, mind you. But one of those “needs” that leads to choices I would advise a friend against making. Then the speaker made this point: we’ve taken covetousness and turned it into a value. When we see someone NOT driven we call them unambitious and look down on them.

Of course, my first reaction to this was that it was probably true for someone else. But the more I think about it I’m starting to wonder. When I see people that are satisfied in life, what do I think? Do I admire them for having the maturity to know their needs are met and to be happy with that? Or do I think that in some way they really just don’t think they can do any better and given up? Is their contentedness something I want to celebrate and use as a reminder to not allow myself to be caught up in the lie of the American dream that says I need to have it all? And when I think about all I have, do I tend toward thinking I’ve gotten closer to reaching satisfaction? (I’ve rarely had that feeling, by the way.)

Funny thing is, when I stop and think about what I want my life to have looked like when I’m 80 it never has a lot to do with money or stuff. Granted, there are aspects of that dream that are material. I’d love to have a house my kids and their families could visit and have great times in. I’d like to be able to travel and even pay for others to come if they couldn’t afford it. Be able to eat at nice restaurants around the world. But those are really small side items.

Maybe you’re wondering where I’m going with this. I guess I’m thinking about what kind of attitude I’m passing on to my boys. I mean, my responsibility as a dad is to help them know what it means to be a man, how to be one and to give them the tools to live a significant life. But if part of what rubs off on them is well, covetousness, that seems like a step backward from those goals.

My challenge is blindness. Am I blind to what I don’t see? Kind of like what the speaker said, “We’ve taken covetousness and turned it into a virtue.” Have I lived so long in a culture that looks at this issue as a non-issue that I’m not able to see its subtle influence on me? And this is such a polarized issue that it’s really hard to get good feedback. One side of the fence says all is well. If you’ve made it you’ve earned it. Spend as you please. Give a little away to appease the guilt and just keep on going. The other side is equally as intense. Sell it all! Move into a field somewhere and forgo all earthly delights! Material things are the devil! (Imagine the Waterboy’s Mama here)


Waterboy's Mama

Material things are the devil!

When my kids get older and they are able to look back on their days under my leadership I want them to be able to say that they didn’t just learn how to be polite and do good things. More than knowing how to make money. Beyond the basics of having the right behaviors. I want them to be able to say they “caught” my attitudes and that they are thankful I had the right ones. That my heart was not only good but well trained.

And so I find myself asking, “Where do I start to evaluate my heart?” And what other issues are buried down in my life that are so normal that they are practically invisible at this point? I wish I had a neat bow to tie around this post. Instead, I just send it out as more of a reflection. This is bound to be a tension I’ll wrestle with the rest of my life. At least I know I won’t be solving it today.