Tag Archives: parenting

Guest Posting with Tim Gallen

I am guest posting over with Tim Gallen today. You can read about when I was the worst parent on planet earth. Don’t believe me — stop on by and read my story. I bet you will agree after you read.

If you are visiting from Tim’s page, welcome and I’m glad to see you! Here’s a guide to some of my favorite posts:

You might also like to read some of the other guest posts I have done over the past six weeks:

Have fun poking around!

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Then She Started to Hula

One of my college buddies recently found this blog and commented on it. As I read his words of wisdom to me, I realized something about the short life of this blog: it has definitely been written in the minor key of pain and sorrow. Certainly this has been due to the recent challenges we’ve faced as a family, but it’s unrealistic to write only about difficulties, because we also have a lot of laughter in our home. There is nothing that warms my heart like seeing joy – pure unadulterated joy – on my kids’ faces. Here’s some examples of what I mean, from when my kids were younger:

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Today I want to walk down memory lane with you as I recall a particularly fun day in our family history. About 6 years ago, we visited the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach with my mom and step-dad, and it’s likely not a day I will soon forget. Our kids had such a wonderful time coming face to face with literally hundreds of sea creatures. The day was filled with “Ooohs” and “Aaaaahs” and “Look at that” and “Have you ever even imagined a creature like this before,” and then it got better.

Some professional Hawaiian hula dancers were visiting the mainland, and gave a demonstration to the crowd. Then, they called for volunteers…and our daughter Cynthia was chosen. She was so nervous, and a little confused. She’s never been the most coordinated person on the planet, and she has always had some social anxiety. But we cheered her on, and encouraged her, and she walked up on stage and did her best to imitate the hip gyrations of this master hula dancer. Now, she was preschool age, so she didn’t have a clue what she was doing, but it was adorable. She was hula-ing her little butt off, and grinning from ear to ear. Because of her joy, the whole family was just filled with laughter and merriment, as we watched Cynthia – daughter, sister, granddaughter – smile her head off and shake her booty. It was one of those precious moments where all seemed right with the world. Joy overcame any sorrow, and fear of future problems. It is moments like this that we live for as parents.

I would love to hear your stories – when did you kids’ infectious joy capture your heart?

Fear, Trust and Parenting – Part 4 of 4

My oldest son is 17, in his junior year of school, and now gainfully employed at McDonald’s. In less than two years, he will be done with high school. We are having conversations right now about what college to go to, his top choices for majors, and how to get through his schooling with as little debt as possible. We have come a LONG way from potty training and multiplication tables. He is well past the stage of life where his decisions are easily reversible, and is now moving steadily into adulthood.

My wife and I have worked hard for all the years of his life to teach Jonathon how to live an honorable life; how to love deeply; how to walk purely; how to think then act, not the other way around; how to understand God’s Word; how to worship freely; how to spend and save money wisely.  We have given our best to him, invested all the energy we could muster (and more), in the hope and expectation that he will have every opportunity to succeed in his life, and to surpass us in every way.

Yet even here, fear has a chance to take hold of me, if I let it. What if I haven’t taught him everything he needs to know? What if we missed something really important, and he falls into some trap that he cannot escape from, but he never even knew the trap existed? The questions can go on and on, if I let them. Some days, I do let these thoughts paralyze me, cause me to question my parenting, my love, and my son’s readiness for adulthood? In those moments, when I allow doubt to creep in, I get stuck. And then, a favorite verse comes to mind:

ImageThe key here for me is “when he is old” – as much for what it does NOT say as for what it does say. Proverbs doesn’t say when he is 19, or a college graduate, or a new dad, or a high school junior. No, it says “when he is old.”  My wife Barbara and I have spent literally hundreds of hours building into Jonathon the values, theology, morals, kindness, wisdom, humor and love that he have within our hearts. We have given him our all, and we will continue to do so as he moves into adulthood. We hope and pray he will move forward into a vibrant life in Christ that he has already started, and that we won’t have to pin our hopes on “when he is old.”

I don’t have any answers, and I don’t think Proverbs is a magic bullet for good little Christian families. I have seen too many friends go through the heartache of watching their children walk away from the church, and eventually from God Himself. But I still remember being too young, and believing that I knew EVERYTHING, regardless of how ignorant I really was. I also remember waking up one day, and realizing how foolish I had been. So as my son walks into adulthood, my prayers are for his protection from the darkness of the world, and from the foolishness of youth. But beyond that, I take a stand against the fear that says “Your son will fail,” and trust that he will be the man we have taught him to be.

Fear, Trust and Parenting – Part 3 of 4

As we round third base on this series of blogs on fear trust and parenting, I am going to talk about my youngest son Elijah now. He fits the typical profile of the youngest child – social, outgoing, loves to be the center of attention, dramatic, charming, spoiled, entitled, and handsome. A lot of these traits are commonly seen as the result of birth order research, but some of these traits rest solely on my wife Barbara and I, and we own them. It is exhausting to have 3 kids in 4 years, so we let some things slide.

In keeping true to his outgoing self, Elijah auditioned for a local holiday-themed play about two weeks ago. His attitude coming into the audition was amazing, and sounded something like this:

I assume that I am going to get a part, and probably a large part to boot. I am a very good actor, and have been in every play I ever tried out for. Plus, I have people tell me ALL THE TIME that I should pursue acting more seriously because I am so good. I actually think they might make a mistake if they don’t choose me.

In other words, he looked a little like this:

ImageAs I am listening to him talk about this, I have two completely adversarial thoughts running through my head:

1)      I hope Elijah does not get a part – he needs humility.

2)      I hope Elijah does get a part – it would be exciting for him to be in another performance.

On the one hand, I was afraid that Elijah would walk out with an even bigger head if he got a significant part in this production. At the same time, I didn’t want his heart to hurt, and I was worried it would if he got rejected for this play.  These crossroads in parenting are always interesting to me. Elijah’s emotional needs and his spiritual needs were really at odds with one another in this moment. Spiritually, he needed a reality check, a moment of clarity in which he realized that he was not indeed God’s gift to the acting world. At the same time, his heart is so very tender, and he is so easily discouraged and wounded. I would have hated to see him struggle with the pain of rejection, especially in an area that he perceives as a strength.

Thankfully, this time the decision was not in my hands. I did not have to determine whether to prioritize his spirit or his emotions. The director of the play got to decide this one, and his concern was merely ability, not the condition of Elijah’s heart.

My son received a small but active role in this production, and along with it a dose of humility. As the cast did the first read-through of the play, he realized that he was not ready for a major part in this play. Indeed, he was in awe of the actors with the two major parts:

There are so many lines. I have no idea how I could memorize all those lines in just a few weeks…Dad, did you hear how different her voice is when she is in character, as opposed to real life. I don’t think I could do that…I am SO GLAD that I didn’t get a big part in this play – it’s hard to learn so quickly.

One of the things that I love about our God is that He is ever watchful over every ounce of our being: spirit, body, mind, soul, and emotions. He knew I would face those parenting crossroads long before I did, and He had Elijah’s best interests in mind the whole time. I am so thankful that God does not leave us alone to parent our children, but that rather He joins with us. When we stand at a decision point, He is beside us. Truly, our God is always with us, supporting us, sustaining us, guiding us.

Have you ever had a conflicted moment as a parent, where you wanted two things for your kid at the same time? What happened?

Fear, Trust and Parenting – Part 2 of 4

I am continuing my thoughts on the balancing act we as parents often have between fear and trust. I just spent the weekend talking with my 11-year-old son Sean about purity and puberty (you know…the TALK). I think we both learned a lot about each other during this process.

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For example, I learned more about the girl that he has a crush on, his first crush. He told me that she is very cute to him, but he is embarrassed to even think about being alone with her. He is afraid that she will know what to do, since he knows he doesn’t. He also told me that he does not believe he is mature enough to actually go on a date with this girl, or anyone else for that matter….We agreed.

He learned a bit about my dating history, or rather my relative lack of dating history. He learned that I am serious about helping him to honor God with his sexuality, and that I still remember the pressures that come with being a pre-teen and teenager in this dark world. We had some challenging conversations, and I am not primarily talking about the topics, though the description I gave him of the actual act of intercourse was overwhelmingly embarrassing for him. He challenged me heartily on some of the boundaries I put around his dating in the present and future. Sometimes he got angry with me; sometimes he acted like he wasn’t angry when he was; sometimes he acted impatient when he was uncomfortable. At one point, we both raised our voices with each other. Oh, the joys of raising adolescents, right?

It was really good for us to have this weekend though, for a few reasons. First and foremost, I was rededicating myself to my son as he grows into a young man. Though it has been years, I still remember feeling abandoned by my parents when I was his age, and feeling like nobody could possibly understand what I was experiencing. This weekend then was a stark reminder to him that I do love him, I am for him, I am interested in what’s happening in his life, and I will not fade into the background of his life. It was also a time for us to simply reconnect. There are very few things that allow a father and son to reestablish their kinship like a 3 hour hike, even if we are both only partially sure of where we are going.

Coming back to the issue of fear and trust, this event brought to my mind a whole new array of fears about his son’ and his seemingly quick ascent into manhood. My prayer is that he is able to make wise choices, sexually and otherwise. When he does make foolish choices, I pray that the results are reversible. He is getting to the age where his choices can have far-reaching impact, and the results are much more meaningful than paint on the carpet. I had to consciously make a choice to pull away from fear as we ended our weekend, and choose trust.

Adolescence scares me more as a parent than it ever did when I experienced it. Nevertheless, I will trust my son to make the right choices. I will trust that he will talk to me when he come up against a situation that he is unsure how to handle. I will trust that my wife and I have laid a good moral and spiritual foundation for him to be able to make good choices. I will trust that I remain accessible to him, rather than distant. Alongside these trusts, I will work hard to be available, to continue coaching, to ask the tough questions, to recognize when he is struggling, to not let him live an unexamined life.  But above all these, I will trust my God to be present with Sean, to guide him by the Holy Spirit, to bring good positive encouraging friends and mentors into his life.

Despite all this trusting, the fear lingers. I have to make a choice many times a day to move through the fear. I am finally starting to understand that fear and trust are not antonyms, but companions on this journey of life.

Today’s question is going to be a broad one – any thoughts you would like to share on how to survive parenting an adolescent, while guiding them toward a godly adulthood?

Fear, Trust and Parenting – Part 1 of 4

I will never forget the day I got to be Superman for my daughter.

ImageOur family was at a friend’s house two summers ago, just chilling out and swimming. All the kids were in the pool have a great time, while the adults were relaxing about twenty feet away under the porch. As is often the case, we were half-paying attention to kids, while also secretly enjoying the ability to finish conversations without interruption. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my daughter Cynthia jumping into the water…and go limp in mid-air as she went into an absent seizure!

In a moment I slipped off my sandals, ran to the pool and jumped in after her. I saw her face-down, body limply floating downward in the pool. I grabbed her and rose quickly to the surface. As we got to the pool’s edge, Cynthia was still out of it. I pulled her out of the pool with me and held her in my arms for about three minutes before she came out of her seizure. She looked up at me, completely confused. “Poor girl,” I thought. “She is moved into her postictal state, and is probably done swimming today.” Not exactly….she smiled and said, “Dad? Thanks for hugging me, and I love you too. Can I go back to swimming now?”

I let her go swim with her friends, and stayed on the side of the pool, silently weeping prayers of gratitude. She had been in the deep end playing by herself. What would have happened if I had turned my head to the left instead of the right and missed her jump? What if nobody noticed and my daughter slowly sunk to the bottom of the pool? What if…what if…what if. Even now – over two years later – as I tell you this story, I am starting to tear up. There is actually a possibility that my daughter may have died if things had been only a little different.

It’s not every day that we have true life-or-death moments in parenting (thank God – I wouldn’t make it as a parent!). But we do have choices as parents about the freedoms we give our children, and this is always in contrast with trust – trust in our children, and trust with God. The next four posts are going to be focused on this contrast, and the struggles that I continue to work through in this context.

This was one of those moments that changed the way we parent Cynthia. As you might imagine, Cynthia never swims alone anymore. We also came face to face, really for the first time, with how dangerous this world can be for an epileptic like my daughter. This paradigm shift has impacted our parenting in some really significant ways, some pretty frustrating for our daughter. Our tendency now is to hold our daughter close, maybe closer than we should, and maybe closer than she wants.

ImageRecently, Cynthia has been frustrated, because she sees these safety concerns through the lens of mistrust. I realize that we will need to pull back and give her some chances to experience life outside our watchful eye. I want her to know that we love her, we trust her, that it’s not really about her per se; it’s her epilepsy we don’t “trust.” Yet the fear, the what if’s grounded in perhaps the most emotional moment of my life two summers ago, won’t go away.

I’d love to hear from you – how do you figure out the balance between fear and trust? I’d especially like to hear from you if you have a special needs child, as I think the answers might be a bit different.