Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Getting Away From Your Kids

Last weekend my wife and I took two nights to get away from the kids to enjoy our hometown of San Diego. Since we don't have family in town it is not always easy to pull off the logistics but when we are able to get our parents to fly down from Seattle we love to get away.

Getting away with your significant other is not only fun for you, it is an important piece of parenting your kids. Taking some time to get away from your kids while you enjoy vacation comes with the added benefit of teaching the following values to your kids:

1) How to treat women (for boys) or how to expect to be treated (for girls).

Our kids need to see how healthy relationships function. They need to see that healthy relationships require intentionality. They need to know that once kids are in the picture the relationship does not go "on hold" for the next twenty years. You may feel guilty or selfish for enjoying life for a weekend without your kids but you are actually not doing your offspring any favors by never leaving their side.  One 2011 study found that healthy relationships between parents directly correlated with healthy relationships between those parents and their kids.

Getting away and investing in your relationship with your wife teaches your boys that they will one day need to keep investing with their spouse. It teaches your girls that they should not settle for a guy who does not want to keep pursuing them. It is no surprise that the behaviors you display in marriage are often the behaviors your kids will repeat in their own marriages so feel free to model a marriage where you take time away from your kids to be with each other. (One day you will be grateful when your own kids ask you to hang out with your grandkids so that they can get a vacation). 

2) You teach your kids they are not the center of the Universe.
Most of the free time (I use the term free-time loosely) as a parent is spent helping kids with homework, watching/ coaching/ teaching recreational activities, helping out at school or church events, or other work related to raising kids. This involvement is important for the development of our kids but if we are not careful we may unintentionally teach our kids that they are the center of the universe.

Some parents actually believe their kids are the center of the universe but a day will come when they discover that this is not the truth. The sooner we help our kids learn that other people have needs, desires, and pleasures that may not directly benefit them the better off they will be.

When we take time to focus on our own relationships as parents, our kids learn that thinking of others is okay and not always getting what we want is okay. In a healthy situation your kids will know you love them and they will learn that loving them does not mean you never take time for yourself. When they learn the importance of allowing others to have needs fulfilled, they learn to be people who are able to naturally think of others and make sacrifices for the good of others. Parenting involves a lot of teaching perspective and getting away is a very practical way for your kids to learn perspective.

3) Extended Family is Important. 
Having your parents or siblings help out with your kids while you get away also helps your kids build relationships with the people who helped shape you. I understand that for some of you this is not possible or even desirable so in those cases your family might include long time friends. For us, we love when our kids get to be with their grandparents and they always like those experiences as well.

My parents dumped me off with the grandparents every summer and would send post cards from places like Hawaii and the Carribbean. I never felt angry or jealous that my parents were enjoying some travel while I enjoyed the beautiful mosquito and humidity infested summers of Minnesota because I was having fun with my cousins and other family members. Your kids will likely afford you the same freedom so go for it.

4) Marriage is fun.
There is no doubt that kids raised in homes with both of their biological parents tend to do better in school, engage in fewer destructive behaviors, become more successful in their careers, and in turn, have healthier marriages of their own and continue the cycle of raising healthy kids.

When we take time to get away with our spouses, we increase the joy we have in our own marriages and we provide happier, healthy environments for our children. They will see the benefits of loving marriages and will be more likely to believe in the institute of marriage and provide the same environment for our future grandchildren.

My wife and I love travel and we love food. When we get away we can do the things we love to do together thus strengthening our bond. Plus we have the added benefit of eating the food we like regardless of what our kids think (even though are kids are also foodies and usually like what we like) and the other added benefit of being able to afford dinner with three fewer mouths to feed.

If you have not taken a weekend or a week away from your kids in a while, look at your calendar and do your kids a favor by doing your marriage a favor. Find a way to get away and teach your kids these valuable lessons. You might also find some other very nice benefits of being in a hotel without wondering if your kids will walk in your room in the middle of the night. (That last one is for you and your spouse to figure out on your own). 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

When Parenting Styles Differ

The Following is a brief article addressing differences in parenting styles. I am a cross between a "authoritative and permissive" parent... oh, and sometimes authoritarian. I guess I have a lot to work on. 

The original article can be found here on WEB MD
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD

When your parenting style differs from that of your partner, tensions can run high.
Take the case of Leigh Henry, 37, of San Antonio, Texas. Leigh doesn't always agree with her husband, Ryan, also 37, on how best to parent their toddler and preschooler. Ryan, an attorney, makes "empty threats," she explains. "He'll threaten to not take our son on a promised adventure if he doesn't behave -- or to leave him in a store. But he won't really do it. He believes that's OK because that's how he was raised." Stay-at-home mom Leigh, conversely, believes in following through on consequences and can't bear the idea of threatening to abandon a child in a public place.
Her dilemma isn't unusual. Many couples differ on the best way to raise children and are often surprised at how strongly they feel about the matter. "Most of the couples I see who have children have differences in parenting styles," says Barbara Frazier, MSW, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist in Gainesville, Fla. "It's really a matter of how great the difference is," says Frazier, who also founded The Successful Parent web site. 

Three Kinds of Parenting Styles

Family counselors divide parenting styles into three categories: authoritarian (a parents-know-best approach that emphasizes obedience); permissive (which provides few behavioral guidelines because parents don't want to upset their children); and authoritative (which blends a caring tone with structure and consistent limit-setting). 
In an ideal world, both parents have an authoritative style, because that's what fosters the healthiest relationships. What makes differences in parenting styles particularly hard is they often stem from forces that are "largely unconscious," Frazier says. "Some people study up on parenting before they have kids. And some consciously work against what their own parents did. A lot more people unconsciously act out exactly what they saw their own parents doing.
"Having differing parenting styles can be a good thing," she adds, "as long as styles aren't too far apart. This gives children a wider view of grown-up values and a chance to have a special relationship with each parent. As long as parents come together as a united front, it's healthy."
Leigh and Ryan aren't yet entirely united. But "we've been working on offering the kids clear messages about what we expect from them and what the consequences will be," she says.

Coping With Different Parenting Styles

What can couples with different parenting styles do to help their kids thrive? Frazier offers moms and dads these pointers:
Get counseling. A professional therapist can help both parents understand how their upbringing drives their parenting styles, as well as how to handle disagreements in a healthy way.
Keep the kids out of it. Asking children to take sides -- or arguing in front of them -- is incredibly destructive, Frazier says. Instead, agree to disagree later, when the kids are out of earshot.
Read all about it. Frazier recommends Between Parent and Child by Haim G. Ginott, MD, and Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman, PhD, with Joan Declaire.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Renaissance Dads

Renaissance: re-nais-sance. n. :a period of new growth or activity.  (French word for "re-birth"). 

Let's face it, being a dad today is different than it was for my dad and his dad. I wouldn't say it is more difficult because the task of being a hero, a role model, a faith instructor, a teacher, a coach, a dicisplinarian, a drill sergeant, a mechanic, a gardener, a punching bag, a sensei, a confidence builder, and a how-to-treat-women instructor has always been a tall task for every man daring to attempt success at Fatherhood.

The difference is the wired and connected world we live in raises the stakes for each task we face as dads. On one hand we have increased access to knowledge so we are better equipped to succeed (Youtube has saved me thousands on car repairs), and on the other hand we are bombarded with the images and stories of dads who are more fit, more stylish, more successful, and who have perfect kids. The connected world has allowed us, or possibly compelled us, to expand our interests and develop in multiple disciplines as we read stories and see images of our peers being loving husbands, involved fathers, gourmet chefs, professional coaches, expert travel agents, community activists, and all-around-perfect people. Filtering through the noise and learning to be the best version of who we are (and not what we see in others) is the most important and perhaps the most difficult thing in this era of information overload.

During the Renaissance of the 15th Century in Europe, mankind was experiencing a "re-birth" of culture as great gains in science and the arts led to another explosion of information. This new access to a range of information led to the existence of the "Renaissance Man". This was a person who acquired knowledge across multiple disciplines rather than simply focusing on one area of expertise.

Fatherhood in the 21st Century is experiencing the same re-birth that occurred in the 15th Century.  We live in a world where the lines of traditional gender roles are blurred and where equality and independence are prized. The new reality compels us to pursue our own interests while at the same time it calls us to look for ways to support our wives and our kids as they pursue the things that make them thrive.

The task of supporting our kids and wives, as well as pursuing our own interests, leads modern dads to a broader range of experiences. A typical week for me often includes coaching baseball, cooking dinner, praying with my boys, being the homework police, fixing something on the car, reading with my boys, surfing with my friends, walking on the beach with my wife, volunteering at the school, working in the yard, and watching "Burn Notice" with my oldest son. All of this does not even mention the routine tasks at home or work. (I know the women out there will say this is what many of them have been doing since time began but this site is about dads so please sustain judgment for the time being.)

This variety in the week is the same for most of my friends experiencing Fatherhood. We are Renaissance Dads who get to, and often are required to, acquire knowledge and experience across disciplines. It is part of the process of loving our wives and our kids and it is often more rewarding than sacrificial.  Being a Renaissance Dad is a challenging and rewarding endeavor but one that real men, modern men, will embrace with fervor.

So welcome to this site about Renaissance Dads. Laugh with us at our failures, find encouragement from our stories, and accept the challenge to be a man and do what it takes to love and support the people in your life that God has blessed you with. Feel free to join the conversation and be a part of the re-birth of Fatherhood.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Summer Corn Chowder


The end of summer is near so it is time to take advantage of the last of the summer ingredients available. (Never mind that I live in San Diego and can get any ingredient, any time of the year).  This week I wanted to make some corn dishes and I stumbled upon a great recipe that only needed a small amount of tweaking. (The original recipe is courtesy of The Amateur Gourmet )

Ingredients

  • Kernels from 4 ears of yellow corn (rinse and slice off all kernels as close to the cob as possible). 
  • 5-6 slices of bacon (5oz) (use fewer slices for less fat) , cut into 1/3-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 red pepper, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 5 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric (gives everything a nice yellow color)
  • 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (Add more potatoes if preferred)
  • 4 cups chicken stock (enough to cover everything)
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives (Plus more for the garnish) * Can use green onions as a substitute

Instructions

  1. Start by rendering the bacon in a 3 to 4-quart heavy pot over low/medium heat. (I do not add any oil to this but you can add a tiny splash of neutral oil (canola, vegetable) to get the bacon going.) Turn up the heat to medium and cook until the bacon is crisp. Pour out all but a tablespoon of bacon fat.
  2.  Add the butter, onion, bell pepper, thyme, cumin, and turmeric along with a pinch of salt. Continue to cook for about 8 minutes, stirring every so often, until the onion is translucent. 
  3. I love the colors in this dish. I used half of a red pepper and half of an orange bell pepper just for the visual appeal. 
      This is the best part when all the aromatics fill the pot.... and the air.  
  4. Then add the corn, potatoes, and stock; turn the heat to high, bring to a boil, and cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Smush some of the corn and potatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon to thicken the chowder. * The original recipe calls for corn starch but I do not like adding it to soups and it really does not need it. If you prefer a very thick chowder, take the time to smash most of the potatoes and it will thicken up the soup. 
  6. Reduce the heat to medium and taste for salt and pepper. Off the heat, add the cream and the minced chives, and adjust for salt. Serve immediately in bowls with the chopped chives.

I prefer chives but did not have any this time so I used green onions as a garnish. 

This is from the first time I made this. This version used chives and slightly more cream.                                      

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How to Let Your Son Know You Are Proud of Him

Check out this clip of a dad finding out his son raised his grade in Math from an F to a C.




The cynics out there will say the father over-reacted. Some will say the problem is he is putting too much emphasis on one grade. The point here is not whether the whole system of giving grades is effective or a worth while measurement of this boy's abilities. 

The point is, as dads, there are times we need to push our kids to achieve more because we know they can do it. In these times when our kids make a change and progress in their maturity, we need to let them know that we are proud and we do not care how emotional we get when letting them know that. Kids love to please those who love and care about them so go ahead and let them know when you are proud of their efforts. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dads Who Stay Involved

The following is a great article about the role of a father published by Huffington Post..


The Important Role of Dad




DADS

While almost any man can father a child, there is so much more to the important role of being dad in a child's life. Let's look at who father is, and why he is so important.
Fathers are central to the emotional well-being of their children; they are are capable caretakers and disciplinarians.
Studies show that if your child's father is affectionate, supportive, and involved, he can contribute greatly to your child's cognitive, language, and social development, as well as academic achievement, a strong inner core resource, sense of well-being, good self-esteem, and authenticity.
How fathers influence our relationships.
Your child's primary relationship with his/her father can affect all of your child's relationships from birth to death, including those with friends, lovers, and spouses. Those early patterns of interaction with father are the very patterns that will be projected forward into all relationships...forever more: not only your child's intrinsic idea of who he/she is as he/she relates to others, but also, the range of what your child considers acceptable and loving.
Girls will look for men who hold the patterns of good old dad, for after all, they know how "to do that." Therefore, if father was kind, loving, and gentle, they will reach for those characteristics in men. Girls will look for, in others, what they have experienced and become familiar with in childhood. Because they've gotten used to those familial and historic behavioral patterns, they think that they can handle them in relationships.
Boys on the other hand, will model themselves after their fathers. They will look for their father's approval in everything they do, and copy those behaviors that they recognize as both successful and familiar. Thus, if dad was abusive, controlling, and dominating, those will be the patterns that their sons will imitate and emulate. However, if father is loving, kind, supportive, and protective, boys will want to be that.
Human beings are social animals and we learn by modeling behavior. In fact, all primates learn how to survive and function successfully in the world through social imitation. Those early patterns of interaction are all children know, and it is those patterns that effect how they feel about themselves, and how they develop. Your child is vulnerable to those early patterns and incorporates those behavioral qualities in his/her repertoire of social exchange.
It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of dad. For example, girls who have good relationships with their fathers tend to do better in math, and boys who have actively involved fathers tend to have better grades and perform better on achievement tests. And well-bonded boys develop securely with a stable and sustained sense of self. Who we are and who we are to be, we are becoming, and fathers are central to that outcome.
Changing family roles.
Only 20 percent of American households consist of married couples with children. Filling the gap are family structures of all kinds, with dads stepping up to the plate and taking on a myriad of roles. When they are engaged, fathers can really make a difference. He may be classically married, single, divorced, widowed, gay, straight, adoptive, step-father, a stay-at-home dad, or the primary family provider. What is important is that he is involved.
The emergence of women into the job market has forever changed how society views the traditional roles of fathers and mothers. Feminism and financial power has shifted classic parenting trends, and today approximately 60 percent of women work. Add to that, the shift in marriage, divorce, lowered birth rates, and family structures of all types, and you can see the emergence of a softening and changing of traditional parenting roles. This transition in economics, urbanization, and sexual roles has led to more opened, flexible, and undefined functions for fathers.
A recent study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development(NICHD), indicates that dads are more engaged in caretaking than ever before. The reasons for this are varied, but they include: mothers working more hours and receiving higher salaries, fathers working less, more psychological consciousness, coping skills, mental illness intervention, self-worth issues, intimacy in marriage, social connection, and better role modeling for children.
Further, children who are well-bonded and loved by involved fathers, tend to have less behavioral problems, and are somewhat inoculated against alcohol and drug abuse. Yet when fathers are less engaged, children are more likely to drop out of school earlier, and to exhibit more problems in behavior and substance abuse.Research indicates that fathers are as important as mothers in their respective roles as caregivers, protectors, financial supporters, and most importantly, models for social and emotional behavior. In fact, a relatively new structure that has emerged in our culture is the stay-at-home dad. This prototype is growing daily, thanks in part to women's strong financial gain, the recent recession, increase in corporate lay-offs, and men's emerging strong sense of self.
Even when fathers are physically removed from their families, there are ways for them to nurture healthy relationships with their children. For instance, recognizing the important role fathers play in daughters' lives, Angela Patton started a program in which young girls went to visit their fathers in prison for a father-daughter dance. It was a successful program that has spread across the country and helped not only daughters find connection, love, and support from fathers, but also for fathers to feel important in the lives of their daughters.
When fathers are separated from their children after a divorce, there are many ways they can remain bonded with their children. Though divorce is traumatizing to boys and girls alike, strong, consistent, and loving parenting from fathers can help make the transition successful.
Thanks, Dad.
Finally, on this Father's day, it is important to recognize and reward dads for being there, and actively teaching important life skills to children. It is important to their children, and meaningful to dads everywhere when you say "Thank you, job well done." This, after all, is what makes life worth living. This is your true legacy: ensuring the health and well-being of your children, that future generation to be.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

How to Make a Kid's (Father's) Day

Two Major League Baseball players rose high in my personal rankings last week when my son and I attended the Padres vs. Nationals game. Like many times before, we arrived early in hopes of catching a ball during batting practice and possibly even getting an autograph or two.

As the players from both teams headed off the practice field and into their clubhouses to prepare for the game, two Washington National pitchers (Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzales) stopped by a young boy who was calling their names and requesting a signature. My 10 year old son quickly joined him and was able to get autographs from these two popular players.

Each time a major league player signs an autograph for a kid he is doing something more than offerring him a valueable collectible. This simple act of taking time to acknowledge that kid and his request is creating an inspired moment for the young fan. It sounds cliche' but one look into my son's eyes after receiving the signature says it all. These players validated my boy's respect for them as people and it gave him a sense of importance to have these "big names" stop and look him in the eyes.


Players who take the time to sign a few autopgraphs and pose for pictures demonstrates their understanding of the responsibility that comes from being a star. These guys play a game for work and in doing so have the eyes of thousands of young people on them everyday. Their job teaches kids about working hard and having fun. It says, "dreams can come true" and, "don't forget to appreciate life as it passes by".

Taking a moment to make a kid's day says, "I remember being young and dreaming of making it big. I remember having heros and how much I looked up to them. I do not take this privilege lightly."

So thank you Strasburg and Gonzales. Your act of kindness last week created a new fan... actually two new fans if you count my son.



Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kids Gone Wild- Grocery Store Edition

The following is an excerpt from the Matt Walsh Blog on dealing with kids when they throw temper tantrums in stores. Since, as Matt puts it, "grocery stores are designed to send kids into crying fits" I thought this was worth sharing. 

Dear parents, you need to control your kids. Sincerely, non-parents
To the fan I lost yesterday:
I don’t owe you an explanation, but I thought I’d offer one anyway. I do this more for your sake than mine. You see, maybe, as you later suggested, I was in a bad mood. Maybe I could have been a bit more polite about it. Maybe I’m more sensitive to it now that I have kids. Maybe I’m just sick of hearing these comments about parents. Maybe I know that my wife has to take the twins with her when she goes grocery shopping sometimes, so she could easily be on the receiving end of your sort of bullying. Maybe I took it personally.
Whatever the case, there I was, walking down the aisles of the grocery store looking for the ingredients for a new chili recipe I wanted to try. I heard the kid screaming from a distance; the whole store heard him. It was a temper tantrum, a meltdown, a hissy fit — it happens. Toddlers are notorious for losing their cool at the most inconvenient times. Nobody likes to hear it, but it happens. You’re out running errands with your little guy, everything is fine, and next thing you know he’s in full-on rabid poodle mode. It’s humiliating and emotionally draining, but what can you do? Pull out that large glass sound proof aquarium you carry around and stick your kid in it so nobody can hear him shriek? That’s a possibility, but the logistics don’t always work. Slightly more realistically, the peanut gallery probably expects you to drop all of your groceries and immediately run into the parking lot, so as to save them from having to deal with the spectacle. But it’s not always that simple; maybe you don’t have time to shut down the whole operation just because Billy’s gone nuclear.
It wasn’t that simple for the mother of this kid. I finally came across her in the beans aisle. She had a cart full of groceries, a kid riding along, and another one walking beside her. Well, he wasn’t really walking so much as convulsing and thrashing about like he’d invented some bizarre, angry interpretive dance. He was upset about something, from what I gathered it had to do with a certain lucky cereal he wished to acquire, but which his mother refused to purchase. I felt his pain, poor guy. My mom never bought me sugary cereal either — “breakfast candy,” she called it. She used to get us Cheerio’s — “breakfast cardboard,” I called it.
I felt the woman’s pain even more. She could bribe her kid into silence, but she was sticking to her guns. Good for her, I thought. Sure, if she’d only meet his ransom demands, my bean purchasing experience would be a bit more pleasurable, but I was rooting for her nonetheless. Not everyone felt the same way, apparently.
I’d met you a few minutes earlier. You told me you were a fan. We spoke for a moment, you seemed nice enough. Then we crossed paths again there by the beans and the screaming toddler. I guess you thought we were friends, you thought you could confide in me your deepest thoughts. You glanced toward the mother and the kid, then at me, rolled your eyes and said in a loud voice: “Man, some people need to learn how to control their f**king kids.” The lady could definitely hear you, but I guess that was your intention. You had this expression like you were expecting a high five. “Yeah, put it here, dude, you really told that young mother and her three year old off! Nice!” Is that how you thought I’d respond? What is it about me that made you think I would react that way? You’re the second stranger in the last few months to say something like that to me about a mom with a tantrum-throwing toddler.
Yeah, I didn’t respond the way you anticipated. Instead, I offered my own helpful suggestion: “Man, some people need to learn how to shut their mouths, watch their language, and mind their own business.” You looked at me like I hurt your feelings, then you muttered some choice words under your breath — as cowards are wont to do — and walked away. Later that day you sent me an email, threatening to tell everyone that I’m “abusive” and “crappy” to my listeners. Well, now I’m one step ahead of you. Now, everyone knows about my shameful “abuse.” Let them decide who’s the bully: the guy who vulgarly insults a woman while she’s dealing with a difficult child, or the guy who tells the guy who insulted the woman to shut up and go away?
After you left, injury was quickly added to insult when her kid bumped into a display and knocked a bunch of stuff onto the ground. I started to help pick it all up, but she said she wanted her son to do it because he’s the one who made the mess. Touché, madam. Nicely played. A lot of people would buckle under the pressure of having sonny going psycho in aisle 7, while, seemingly, the whole world stops to gawk and scrutinize, but this lady stayed cool and composed. It was an inspiring performance, and it’s too bad you missed the point because your feeble mind can only calculate the equation this way: misbehaving child = BAD PARENT.
I’m no math major, but that calculus makes no sense. A kid going berserk at a grocery store doesn’t indicate the quality of his parents, anymore than a guy getting pneumonia after he spends six hours naked in the snow indicates the quality of his doctor. Grocery stores are designed to send children into crying fits. All of the sugary food, the bright packaging, the toys, the candy — it’s a minefield. The occasional meltdown is unavoidable, the real test is how you deal with it. This mother handled it like a pro. She was like mom-ninja; she was calm and poised, but stern and in command.
See, I figure there are two types of people who mock and criticize parents whose children throw tantrums in public. The first is — from what I gathered based on your age (you looked about 19? 20, perhaps?) and what you said in your follow up email — your type: the non-parent who thinks, if they ever have kids, they’ll discover the secret formula that will prevent their hypothetical son or daughter from ever crying in front of other people. Then they promptly scrutinize and chastise real parents for not having this fake, imaginary, impossible, non existent formula. This sort of non-parent doesn’t realize that, unless they plan on using a muzzle and a straightjacket, there is nothing they can do to tantrum-proof their toddler.
Fine. Ignorant non-parents, who don’t know what they’re talking about, imposing ridiculous standards on actual parents because it makes them feel superior. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. As bad as you people are, you’re not nearly as horrible as the second type: actual parents with grown children who judge other parents, as if they haven’t been in the exact same situation many times. I had an older guy complain to me recently about babies that cry during church. He said: “Back when our children were babies, you didn’t have this problem.” Interesting. Apparently babies didn’t cry in the 50′s. The whole “crying baby” thing is a new fad, it would seem. These folks who had kids a long time ago seem to have a rather selective memory when it comes to their own days of parenting young kids. They also tend to dismiss the fact that modern parenting presents unique challenges, some of which didn’t apply several decades ago. I always love the older folks who lecture about how THEIR kids weren’t as “attached to electronics” as kids are nowadays. That’s probably true, but mainly because, well, YOU DIDN’T HAVE ELECTRONICS. You had a toaster and a black and white TV with 2 channels, both of which were pretty easy to regulate. But, sure, congratulations for not letting your kids use things that didn’t exist. On that note, I have a strict “no time machines or hover-boards” policy in my home. It is stringently enforced. I’m thinking of writing a parenting book: “How to Stop Your Child From Becoming Dependent Upon Technology That Isn’t Invented Yet”
Anyway, listen, I don’t think you, of all people, should be telling other folks what they “need to learn.” If you just shut up and paid attention, you’d realize that YOU could learn plenty from mothers like the one we both encountered yesterday. I know I have lots and lots to learn as a young parent, which is why I’m always prepared for a more experienced parent to take me to school and teach me a thing or two, even if they don’t know they’re doing it. Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do. You shouldn’t scrutinize parents when you aren’t one, for the same reason I wouldn’t sit and heckle an architect while he draws up the blueprint for a new skyscraper. I know that buildings generally aren’t supposed to fall down, but I don’t have the slightest clue as to how to design one that won’t, so I’ll just keep my worthless architectural opinions to myself.
That’s a strategy you might consider adopting.
In any event, it was nice meeting you.

Read more at http://themattwalshblog.com/2013/09/15/dear-parents-you-need-to-control-your-kids-sincerely-non-parents/#Kwd7O64Gg5uWAPfs.99

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween and Jesus

Approved Christian Costume
Halloween is one of those events that generates discord among Christian parents and churches. Some advocate total abstinence from any hint of this celebration, some compromise and attend church "harvest" festivals and dress their kids as cute little puppies and Bible characters, and others dive right in with the rest of the community. 

Before I say another word I will "show my hand" and let you know that I am in the third category. We carve pumpkins that sometimes look ridiculous and that sometimes look scary. Our boys go "trick or treating" and I steal all the Butterfingers and Peanut Butter Cups from their loot. Past costumes include pirates, zombies, The Headless Horsemen, Egyptian gods. cute little puppies, dragons, magicians, and Jedi Knights. In preparation we watch movies like Spiderwick Chronicles, Aliens in the Attic, and of course It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. 

Costume of Crazy Bible Guy
Halloween is one of those activities that most people in America celebrate and I think it would be a shame if every Christian hid inside our doors on this night. It reminds me of the time Jesus took his young disciples to Ceasarea Philippi where it was known that people sacrificed to the god Pan and to Caesar. At this place where true evil was taking place, Jesus told his disciples that "on this Rock I will build my church". Jesus declared that the collective gathering of Christians would grow in the very places where people were desperate for hope and prosperity and where they turned to false gods for comfort. Jesus knew He would triumph over evil so instead of being seclusive, He was present. 

Another great moment in Scripture we see Jesus show up at the Pools of Bethesda. These were medicinal pools outside of Jerusalem. These pools became known as a place where the god of healing, Asclepion, was worshipped. Jesus went to this place where no Rabbi would dare be found and he offered healing to someone who was suffering for many years. If Jesus was afraid of being in a place where false gods were worshipped, this man's suffering would have continued. Instead of being exclusive, Jesus was present. 

Life-size costume of Moses.
The 10 Commandments are included!
I'm not trying to convince you to change your convictions, buy a demon costume, and play with a Ougi Board in the name of Christ. I simply want to remind you that Jesus came into a world full of people who are broken and hurting and He met them where they were. He was accused of being a drunkard and glutton and some attempted to insult him by calling him, "a friend of sinners". 

If your faith causes you to abstain from all things Halloween, by all means follow your convictions. But be okay with those of us who join in with our culture on a pretty fun night. Be happy that there are many of us who love Jesus, love dressing up in ridiculous costumes, and who love hanging out with our neighbors. (Even the neighbors who dress like Satan and try to scare the hell out of little children). Also remember that Jesus will build his church even in the most broken and desperate places on earth... and the gates of hell will not prevail. 

Happy Halloween! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holiday Parade Star

Last week my son's class participated in the Encinitas Holiday Parade. I'm pretty sure this parade ranks in the top five best parades in the nation. Its quality falls somewhere between the "Rose Parade" in Pasedena, CA and the "Hey Days Parade" in Tamarack, Minnesota. (This ranking is not official but I'm sure it is accurate). 

Encinitas truly has a "small town" feel so this parade is actually a pretty big deal. Thousands of people line the main street through downtown to watch old cars driven by Santa and the ever-popular "Neuter Scooter" spreading Holiday cheer while promoting safe sex for Encinitas' dogs.

The best part of this parade is that there were literally over 1000 participants. It is a parade consisting of local Boy Scout troops, Indian Princess groups, dance teams, school bands, "Teacher of the Year" classes, city council members, and local businesses willing to pull a trailer filled with people wearing Santa Hats and drinking Egg Nog in reindeer mugs.

All three of my boys were able to walk in the parade carrying a banner for the elementary school so they all felt like the stars of the parade. The truth is that this parade doesn't have any stars and it actually doesn't have anything spectacular. Unlike the Hey Day parade in Tamarack, it didn't even have a local Shriners group driving their purple go-karts like a bunch of junior high kids. (Those of you in the Midwest can appreciate the previous comment). 

The fact that nothing spectacular is on display in this parade is one of the things that makes it great. This event is not about the spectacular, it is about being involved. It is about a community of people coming out to support one another in the normal things in life.

This is the time of the year when many are trying to make everything spectacular. We overdo the decorations on our houses, we overspend trying to give the perfect gift, and we even put pressure on ourselves to host the best parties in the best neighborhoods. Even churches overdo their programming in an attempt to make the season spectacular for all who attend.

The Encinitas Holiday Parade reminds us to be involved and be present with the people in our lives. Rather than going overboard to impress others, go overboard by letting everyone be the star. Give the gift of your presence and your encouragement. Take time to slow down and remember the first Holiday parade of people who went to see the true spectacle of a baby born in humble circumstances so that he could bring peace on earth and goodwill towards mankind.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Marathons and Giving Birth





Carol Burnette once said, "If you want to understand the pain of giving birth, grab your bottom lip and pull it over your head". These words of wisdom came to Bill Cosby during the birth of his first child when he recalled being supportive and encouraging to his wife. As his words of encouragement only caused agitation to his dear wife he says, "She stood up in the stirrups, grabbed my bottom lip, and waited for one final contraction...."

I guess misery loves company sometimes more than it loves empathy.

There are just some things that you have to experience to truly appreciate and if the best you can do is observe from afar, your best efforts to empathize will fall flat.

In just a week my wife will run in her first marathon. She has been extremely diligent in her training, she has improved in her ability to run long distances, and has even been able to improve her time per mile. Last week she asked me to join her as she completed a 20 mile run. By join her, that meant to hop on my bike and ride while she ran. Do you know how hard it is to ride 20 miles at runner's pace? After 10 miles I began feeling the pain in my back side, 15 miles led to sore wrists, and by the time my wife casually ran 18 miles, the sun was beating down on me and was causing great discomfort. Throughout the process I tried to keep encouraging my wife as she ran but for some reason, each mile she ran she was less interested in hearing me talk and even less interested in hearing me say something encouraging like, "You only have 5 more miles to go" or, "That first 19 miles went by like a breeze." No matter how much I tried to be encouraging, it was met with indifference. This made me recall the process of sitting with my wife while giving birth (while she gave birth). No amount of, "you are doing great", or "just a little more" can help the situation. The best I could do was to sit there in silence knowing that this is not the time for empathy, it is the time for silence. Without ever experiencing the process of giving birth, one cannot relate unless he pulls his bottom lip over his head. Running a marathon is very similar and that is why when WE completed OUR 20 mile training run I told my wife how great she did, she leaned over to me bringing her lips close to mine, and then she gently put her hands on my face, grabbed my bottom lip and pulled.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Importance of Dragon Feet

My wife Sara said to me, "Instagram makes everything better".  I've heard the same said of whipped cream, margaritas, and Betty White, but giving such prominence to a computer app seems a bit of a stretch.

To understand Sara's statement you should know that she places the value of photos just below the actual experience to which the photos represent. Read this previous post for a full description of this philosophy. 

I love this about my wife and have learned to accept the fact that she needs the photo for the experience to count. As I look around our home I see photos from all over the world that "prove" blissful moments captured in time. The images satisfy Sara's thirst for nostalgia and they serve as check marks in my selfish and never-ending "to do list" for life. But this is not the point. 

Today Sara used her new best-friend, Instagram, to document her day. My favorite is the photo of our five year old wearing his new dragon feet that they made out of old tissue boxes. Though my wife loves the photo because it give evidence of their experience, I was struck by the fact that my son had dragon feet. 

His dragon feet are in honor of the letter "D" which is the letter Sara and Ben are studying this week. As a mother, she is doing a brilliant job at making learning fun and in helping Ben see the usefulness of letters but something much better is happening. 

What excites me about the dragon feet is that it teaches so much more to our kids. It reminds them that in an instant a kleenex box may transform into dragon feet which is useful because just as quickly the carpet may become lava. The berries on the bushes in the backyard might just make a potion strong enough to transform our dog into a lion and with just one drop, we could be invisible. If he can have dragon feet then it is reasonable when my boys tell me the trampoline is the surface of the moon and that carefully stacked couch cushions make the perfect hiding place for the "tickle" monster. 

We live in naturally pessimistic and cynical world that has no time for dragons. But this is not the world that God created. When we help our kids know that this world is still filled with wonder and it is a place flooded with beautiful places, interesting people, and exciting adventure we invite them into the adventure that God places before us. All of creation declares the glory of God and pleads with us to join in the chorus of praise as we live with expectation that God is in this place. 

When I look at these dragon feet (which do look amazing courtesy of Instagram) I know that Sara is helping our kids develop hearts open to faith. Their worlds are expanding and the belief that there is a God who can create is not so far fetched. The call to join with this God to represent His image to the rest of creation is not regarded as a tiresome act of futility but rather an interesting endeavor. And the freedom to truly live with our hearts wide open is perfectly natural because there is clearly more than what meets the eye.

So thank you Instagram for making the Dragon Feet truly look amazing. Thank you Sara for reminding us that the God of adventures, and dragons, is the most real thing of all.