Archives For Parenting

This week, I had the privilege of working with a team on a video for a wonderful new kids Bible releasing this fall by a client of ours. The most fun part was spending time interviewing kids to learn about what they liked about the Bible, which characters made them feel special, and anything else that would be amusing.  After hearing some of their humorous responses, I felt like calling Bill Cosby or resurrecting Art Linkletter from his grave to re-launch “Kids Say The Darndest Things”.

There were kids running around most of the morning laughing and playing while posing for picture. We even interviewed a five-year old who could memorize each book title of the New Testament and could recite John 1:1-7. I know that most kids haven’t read or been taught every part of the Bible but their experience dictates how they approach their own faith. I was floored by what was happening in front of me.

Here is what I observed from the kids:

  • There was joy in talking about the Bible
  • There was simplicity in the stories of the Bible
  • There were smiles about being in church
  • The kids played so well together when interacting with the Bible
  • The parents smiled and laughed with them

When we grow up, why do we lose this?

Why don’t I act this way about my faith?

Why do I try to complicate the Bible so much?

Why don’t I just stop the everyday madness in life and ask more kids about life?  Some days, I think they have it figure out better than I do. Today we as Christians are always looking for the better sermon or preacher who has more research and insight into what some dead theologian said 400 years ago. There is nothing wrong with that but it becomes our priority over what Jesus calls us to do first.

In Matthew 18:3, Jesus says,

I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

This verse hits me like a 2 X 4 every time.

Heading back to the 1990s, one of my favorite Jars of Clay songs was Like a Child. 

They say that love can heal the broken
They say that hope can make you see
They say that faith can find a Savior
If you would follow and believe
with faith like a child

Let this week be my reminder and your reminder to always approach life with simplicity, filled with a sense of joy, wonder and child-like faith.

Recently driving I heard the radio tagline for a Christian station that said “Safe for the whole family.” Sounds nice, eh? Seems reassuring, right? It’s as if Walt Disney was speaking directly to me and it felt really soft like a cashmere sweater in the fall. I am a marketer so I can appreciate someone trying to create “emotion” and “security” to bring me in and feel good about my choice. In this case, I was listening to a radio station.

I am quite cognizant of what I expose my girls to when it comes to culture, especially music. What parent doesn’t want his or her children to be safe and live as pure of a life as possible? On earth we are realists too and recognize there is only so much we can control when it comes to exposure. The moments our children step away from us, the more the world becomes their experience, not our experience. But they watch my wife and I carefully.

I live in a suburban area full of safe activities but most of it is about staying in a box. This box is full of safe things to do. Drive a safe car. Secure the right job. Protect your kids at school. Do your homework. Check off the list as it goes on and on. I think Satan ultimately wants us as Christians to stay in this safety box. I fall for it constantly and think that this is purely the good life and what is wrong with that?

Life can easily become a “safety dance” because we love to justify our security and dance around what is behind it.

God wants something different from us.

He wants to unleash us in a way that he unleashed his son for us. 

John 14:6 Jesus made it pretty clear about the path. And it ain’t easy.

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

If we are truly going to take this call seriously we must step out of this box, dance differently and do work that takes us into the wild. I’m learning that it doesn’t mean you have to quit doing all of those things I mention above. They are good things and I believe God blesses them as long as we don’t worship them and hide behind them.

My modern-day fictional suburban hero, Lloyd Dobler, said in the movie Say Anything,

I’m looking for a dare to be great situation.

Let’s take Lloyd Dobler’s advice. Let’s get dangerous and seek God’s greatness. Let’s seek greatness in the way Jesus truly calls us.

May you have the passion and bravado of Ernest Hemingway and the faith and sensibility of C.S. Lewis in your journey to dance freely.

 

What dreams are you holding back on because it feels risky or perhaps dangerous? 

Prior to watching the movie Iron Lady (2011) I figured that it would be a typical one-sided look at the conservative mind of Margaret Thatcher. Instead I found it as an intriguing study of an ordinary woman from an ordinary background overcoming incredible odds while the supporting character was her conservatism. It helps that the great Meryl Streep plays her (and well deserved the Oscar). Thatcher in the movie is quite quotable and didn’t rise up to become the longest-serving (1979–1990) British Prime Minister of the 20th century, and the only woman ever to have held the post for nothing.

“We will stand on principle… or we will not stand at all.”

There seems to be some truth to the line, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” But how many amazing women don’t get noticed?  The unsung heroes are also the ones I want to know. Even today as a man it seems more difficult for a woman than a man to succeed in a career outside of the home and we should admire them uniquely. My wife and I are blessed and humbled to raise two wonderful daughters and we feel the responsibility to lead them carefully. I’d love to look up to their mother, grandmothers and other female relatives to learn their stories of perseverance. I want to also intentionally introduce the wide variety of female heroes.

There are great women to admire like Margaret Thatcher, Mother Teresa, Anne Frank, Helen Keller, Susan B. Anthony, Florence Nightingale, Joan of Arc, Sandra Day O’Connor, Sally Ride, J.K. Rowling, Harper Lee, or even biblical characters like Mother Mary, Ruth, Sarah, and Hannah, perhaps.  Like Margaret Thatcher, no matter what political philosophy one holds you can’t deny the spirit and tenacity of modern women like Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Oprah Winfrey. These women did some amazing things whether in the forefront or quietly behind the scenes and slowly their story became told with time. I want to tell their stories to my girls and teach them about these women’s strengths and yes even their weaknesses.  I want my girls to understand that none of these women were perfect but they made a difference because of some specific things and possess unique qualities to admire.

The qualities I’ve always admired in women who have made a difference are strength, faith, humility, gratitude, grace, perseverance, drive, patience, loyalty, and creativity.

Now I’m just white, 30-something male living in the burbs.  But I am also a dad who cares about his girls and wants to introduce them to some amazing women as they grow up.

Ladies, what say you?  

Who do you admire and why? Who inspired you when you were growing up?

Who are the unsung female heroes we can look up to? 

Recently, Brooke and I were finally able to sit down and watch The Descendants (2011) starring George Clooney.  Alexander Payne directed this authentic portrayal of a family dealing with loss and betrayal in the setting of beautiful Hawaii. I have always been a fan of Payne’s earlier films, About Schmidt and Sideways. His films are far from plastic Christian family films and are R-rated, full of characters who are busy, frustrated, but also have had a taste of what joy could look like in life by their ambitions.  These three movies are representative of a fallen world yet a world full of real people with real flaws we all can relate to.  Any movie willing to remove the mask I can appreciate. I’ve written about this before but in all of art, I try to look at where Christ can teach us about how to live, even through a movie like The Descendants.

Years ago I asked an older friend of mine how he was doing with his kids.  He said something like “You know, I have been spending a lot of time with my kids but the hardest part isn’t that, it is how to best engage with them.” I wasn’t a father then but it stuck. I thought of my own parents and the times we bonded best and it was almost always when there was true engagement through conversation, experience, and genuine discussion.

The Descendants reminds me of how I am supposed to be engaging with my kids. As I write, my girls are only 2 and 4 but it seems evident that if I don’t start doing this now, it will be more and more difficult to do like what we see in George Clooney’s character.

As a parent, I am learning these 5 things about what I need to do to be a good parent:

  1. Be present. You can’t be a parent without first establishing that you are there for them. Your job may be important and incredibly busy but there is no more important job than being there for your little ones.
  2. Listen. The more I ask the girls questions, the more I discover about their hearts through what they like and don’t like, etc.  Sometimes this requires me to be extra attentive when they start talking about the most trivial things but they want our full attention.
  3. Be patient. There are days that my kids won’t want much to do with me. Sometimes they just want their mom more (like what The Descendants implies).  Never feel like what you are doing is a waste of time because by being there for them, there will be the right time when they come to you.
  4. Pursue. Don’t be too frustrated if they push you away. Continue trying to engage. Whether kids admit it or not, they want us as parents to show continual interest and keep that hand extended no matter how bad things get.  You may have a broken relationship with your child and I can’t imagine how hard that would be. Give healing some time and never stop your pursuit.
  5. Join them. Go on adventures together. I read a great story in Meg Meeker’s book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters about a father who despite not having a good relationship with his daughter, he did what he knew best and took her camping. Even the trip it didn’t solve everything, the shared experience broke barriers and opened up the relationship to grow again.
Sometimes there will be smiles.
Sometimes there will be pain.
But it is all in the joy of parenting and a reminder that we never should give up.
God has never given up on us. 

I hope you get the idea from reading this blog that I love movies.  I am developing multiple lists of movies to share with my children someday.  When I was a kid I remember being exposed to several powerful movies for the first time.  I was inspired by some of them and some of them haunt me until this day.  My mother and I joke now but when I was eight years old I first watched Platoon (1986).  Although a fantastic Oscar worthy film, most would agree it’s hardly one to introduce to an eight year old.  To this day mom keeps apologizing about that, which makes me laugh and I then remind her that I turned out just fine.  As that semi-innocent eight year old, I dreamed of being a soldier. I think she felt that me watching Platoon would provide some perspective about what the military could look like. Yep, after a couple of hours of Oliver Stone’s Vietnam, that was enough for me to abandon that ambition. (Thanks mom?)

Like anything in culture, each person has their own filter in what they are able to absorb.  We can be molded by the world so I have become quite self-conscious on how my worldview is formed.  It is a reminder that the world can be scary. I’m a parent now and my wife and I are trying to figure out what our kids should absorb when it comes to education and entertainment.  Recently my kids (2 and 3) and I were watching Aladdin and it is one of the darkest kids movies I’ve seen. In fact, most Disney movies are like that I’ve noticed. I recently read about The Top 26 Most Disturbing Kids Movies by Babble.com.  Is your young child watching one of these?  My wife has usually been the wise one to ask the question,

“Should the kids be watching this?”

In your mind you think that it is a great movie about heroes, villains, and a family uniting to save the world.  What is wrong with that? Wait…but they hit and the even (gulp), kill the villain.

The tension is strong because we don’t just want to expose our kids to just fairy tales.  We want them to be inspired but also see what real life looks like.  One of my favorite Christian thinkers and commentators of culture is Phil Cooke.  In his recent blog, The Change Revolution he noted,

After all, if we filmed the Bible, much of it would be R-rated, and occasionally worse. The Bible doesn’t gloss over real life and God apparently wasn’t afraid to tell real, authentic stories. I think the culture would respect our message much more if we stopped producing just cheesy, G-rated films and started telling gritty stories about real life.

Should we sugar coat life?

My check as a parent now is questioning “what, when, and why” I should introduce when it comes to entertainment, learning, etc.  Most parents would agree that the book To Kill a Mockingbird has a life-changing message that every child should read.  But I’m challenged to rethink when the girls are ready for such an important message.  Most importantly, I am are challenged to pray for the wisdom to figure this out on a daily basis. Romans 12:2 cautions us to never forget that we must go ultimately to God for this discernment.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

What was the most disturbing movie you first watched as a kid? 

If you are a parent, how do you filter what you share with your kids? 

Ditching the Pacifier

April 11, 2011 — 12 Comments

The past few weeks my lovely wife Brooke and I have been talking about a strategy to get rid of “The Pacifier”.

Duh duh duh…

Yes, any parent out there knows exactly what I’m talking about.  The pacifier is just about the best and worst invention created for a young child.  We have a 19 month and recently turned 3 year old.  We knew that if we tried to get rid of these things both would need to do it at the same time.

No turning back.

Truth is we have been trying to do this ever since our oldest was 17 months old and our youngest was born.  It just didn’t stick. They love their pacifier.  It soothes them.  I get it. I like a nice cup of java every morning because it does something similar to me. Our girls call the pacifier a “Bobby” anyway.  We keep asking “Who is this Bobby?!?!”  Can we punch this kid because we hate this thing you so eloquently call ‘Bobby’?” Our oldest girl just picked up the name “Bobby” from a friend of hers.  It has stuck.  (In the future I sure hope she doesn’t date some guy named Bobby because I’ll immediately dislike him.)   Nevertheless, I read here about 150 other variations of names that kids call them.  I hate them all and you should too.

As suggested by some friends (I think), we bagged up all of the pacifiers in our house and took them to a toy store.  We promised the girls they could exchange their pacifiers for a baby doll of their choice. We tipped off the person at the cash register that we’d do this and when we made the “exchange of goods” the girls had no problem whatsoever.  But we knew once nap time would come all hell would break loose.  Oh and it did.  The house became like “Nam” as portrayed in the movie Apocalypse Now.  It’s been pure psychological warfare since with lots of crying.  The kids scream out for their beloved “Bobby” and we fight the urge to give in.  When faced with stressful situations like this I get a little bit like Clark Griswold and well…lose it.  If it weren’t for Brooke’s patience with me (her other man-child husband), I don’t know how else we would get through.  Brooke and I have been committed to this so despite the kids’ screaming fits we’ll get through it.  Last but not least, we prayed for strength and lots of it.  God has delivered.

It has been almost 3 days since “Ditching the Bobby” and all is quiet on the Western Front.  We suspect that most of this week they will still ask for it.  It’s a lesson in life I suppose.

I pray that our oldest girl doesn’t lose her naps because of these but this is all part of the growing up experince. She’ll get through it as will we.

My advice to other parents out there.  You’ll make it through. We all will.

I’ve double-bag caddied for 36 holes on 100 degree days.

I’ve worked 70 hour weeks in the office.

I’ve mowed a dozen lawns in one day.

But, there is nothing that could have prepared me enough for the toughest job in the world…

Parenting.

These past few days my wife Brooke has been out of town thus entrusting our two and a half year old and 11 month old to my so called capable hands.  I’ll admit that I have had help as my mother is a saint for coming in town to help.  In these past two days we have looked at each other and said “How does Brooke do it?”

There have been moments I have been proud of this weekend.  There has also been times that I’ve had to ask forgiveness of my mother by stressing out and taking things out on her.  I have to do that often to my wife as well so my poor mom is taking it for the team.  Hey even Clark Griswold got to lose it here and there in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

I can only come up with one conclusion.

It is time to lighten up and enjoy this process.

I thoroughly love my kids and the being a dad no matter how hard it can be sometimes.  This weekend we’ve gone to the pool twice, taken fun walks with our dog Winston, ran around the yard, made up a small inflated pool on our deck, created art, listened to music, ran around the mall, and yes I confess we even watched a little of the PGA Championships and a St. Louis Cardinals game.  This is just part of the dad life I suppose and I’m still getting used to it.

I’d propose an end to trying to do this parenting thing alone.  Even if you are divorced raising children, you are still not alone. The earlier we admit that we can’t do it all and all of it perfectly, the better off we will be.  The more we rely on friends, family, and God to take care of us and give us patience, creativity, and forgiveness, the more fun we will have. I am ready.

If you are single reading this or are married without kids just watch and observe the parents out there.  Learn from their mistakes, learn from their successes. Parents can’t imagine life without kids, it’s an adventure.

Both kids are taking naps as I write this by the way.  Why am I not napping?  Yep, because there is always something to do.

I’d love to hear some of your parenting stories and lessons.  How do you get through the hardest days?

PS  If you need a good piece of entertainment as a married couple with kids, watch Date Night with Tina Fey and Steve Carell. Last but not least if you didn’t catch the “The Dad Life” video, you’ll love this.