Good, Better, Best

I had the great joy the other day of witnessing a good thing happening: a child gave his mother a dandelion.

woman holding flower
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Then, this even better thing happened. He realized what a good idea it was, and picked a second flower to give her.

Then, the best thing happened: the mother received the flowers exactly the way they were offered – as a gift of love from her son. She could, I suppose, have received them as a couple of weeds he had picked up. But she didn’t.

How much of the value of a gift comes in the spirit in which it is given? How much in the spirit in which it is received?

An Argument I Cannot Win

black and white blank challenge connect
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As many as three times a week, I am tempted to argue with my kids. But in that particular setting, I know it won’t do any good. It would be to start an argument I cannot win.

We try always to eat dinner together as a family, even if I have an evening meeting. Then, when I do have a meeting, and I get ready to leave, nobody is happy. I would rather stay home; they would rather I stay home.

Sometimes one of them says something like

You’re always gone at meetings. You never stay home with us.

I know this isn’t true. I am home at least a couple of nights a week!  And, what’s more, I know parents who aren’t able to come home for dinner with their families as often as I do. And I know parents who simply don’t come home, even if they are able.

But when my kids say those things, I don’t respond with reasons, or justification, or by attempting to prove to them that I am doing better than some parents. None of those things would help. None of those are arguments I could win.

Instead, I hug them again, tell them I love them, and encourage them to “make good choices” while I am gone. I think they understand when I have to go to a meeting, and I think I understand how they feel.

I am very sure arguing won’t make it any better. In fact, taking up a case against their wanting their dad to stay home would actually work against me. I don’t want to convince them that I should be going to meetings, and I especially don’t want to convince them that they shouldn’t miss me.

So I accept their love and offer mine in return. Which is probably almost always better than arguing.

 

Is God like this?

When I climb the stairs in our house to check on our kids, I usually don’t announce myself. It’s not that i want to catch them doing something they shouldn’t be doing. I would just as soon catch them doing something they should be doing.Man-Walking-Up-the-Stairs 2

In fact, I would prefer the latter.

But I still show up unannounced. And regularly, I surprise them.

And sometimes, they are (or one of them is) doing something they wouldn’t be doing if they knew I was watching.

I recalled one time, having just surprised them, that children learn much of their understanding and ideas of who God is and what God is like from their early relationship with their parents.

Which has made me reconsider my stealthy approaches.

I don’t want to give my children the idea either that God is sneaky or that God operates by surveillance. These seem to me to be training them to live by shame, or the avoidance of shame.

I don’t get the impression that this is God’s primary posture towards us. In fact, in Genesis 3, right after the incident with the serpent and the fruit, God is walking in the garden, we are told.

NOT sneaking up on the humans.

And the man and women hear God coming and hide.

God calls out to them, giving them the opportunity to approach God, to come to God, to enter a conversation with God. And God does NOT shame them.

I’m going to be more careful  abotu how I approach my children.

 

 

 

I am NOT the (a) babysitter

Rachel has been out of the country for several days. She is leading a team from our Church on a mission trip in Belize. As other times she’s been away, I am humbled by the tasks required to parent alone.

And this is only for 1 week! And I have the incredible benefit of being married to a mom who has raised our kids in such a way that makes it a comparatively easy for me.

But let me make this as  clear as I can: I am not babysitting. I’m a dad.

Sometimes taking care of my own children is part of the title “dad.”

Not a few people have asked me, “How’s the babysitting?”

I don’t know: I’m not babysitting, I am being a parent. Actually providing care to my children goes with the territory. It’s in the job description.

All (due) Respect

wadr-logoI found myself prefacing a comment on facebook last week with the phrase “with all due respect.”  Admittedly, that was more filler than thoughtful; if what followed felt like a blow, I added the preface to soften it.

Then I got to thinking about respect.  My mind can’t go there without quickly passing through 2 thoughts.  The first, of course, comes courtesy of Aretha Franklin. Thank you, Ms. Franklin.

The second thought is from a time when I was in youth ministry. Trying to counsel a high school student through his parent’s divorce, I was struck with an insight that, honestly, impressed me.

I had been encouraging the young man to treat his parents with respect because they deserved it.  I’m a parent, and I like that line of reasoning.

On the other hand, I knew some of the choices his parents were making were not good choices.

In other words, they were not, in many ways, earning respect.

So, here’s that insight that surprised and impressed me: “Sometimes,” I said, “you have to treat people with respect because you want to be that kind of person. Someone who treats others with respect.”

(You might wonder why that so surprised – and impressed – to think of such a common sensical sort of thing.  Be patient with me; I’m still learning this thing called life.)

We who are parents like to think we can command the respect of our children simply because we are parents.  While I would agree we should be able to get some mileage out of this, if the ONLY basis you have for expecting your children to treat you with respect is ‘I’m the parent, that’s why!’ then I’m afraid you are going to be in for a lot of disappointment and heartache.

With all due respect, parents (and adults in general), let’s act in ways that deserve respect rather than just demanding we be treated with respect.

Let’s start with treating others with respect. Whether we feel they deserve it or not. Let’s respect others because of who we are.

 

Parenting by Hypocrisy

My kids were really noisy this morning.

Perhaps this is better than having to drag them out of bed to get them ready for school.

At one point, though, I caught myself yelling at them to stop yelling.

Reminded me of the time I spanked my older daughter (she’s 26).  She was probably 3, and as I spanked her, in perfect rhythm with the spanks I spoke words of correction:

WE — DON’T — HIT — PEOPLE.

I didn’t spank her after that.

I don’t think stopping the yelling at my kids will go away so easily.

I am on my way to becoming the parent who looks up from his smartphone to tell his kids to spend less time with their electronic devices and more time with the real world.

For this reason, Rachel and I gave up cell phones (and tablet, etc.) at meals before Eliza was born. We knew that parenting required at least a little credibility.

Jesus identified this challenge when he asked:

Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Hey, fellow parents: Let’s work on our hypocrisy so that we might not only correct our children, but maybe even model for them better ways to behave.

Hey, Jesus people: Let’s try to be a little less hypocritical in our judgment and consternation toward the world around us.

It’s not like we’ve got all our stuff together.

What comes between you and your children?

What comes between you and your children?  Before you answer, consider this:

what they seeI am about to head out to my children’s preschool spring program.  I am excited to see my own children perform, as well as all the other children.

But what will our children see?  Too often, as I observe, the above picture represents what our children see of us during such “big moments” of their lives.

I will make a concerted effort this morning not to let my camera come between me and my children.

It’s not worth it.  Even if I think this will help my memory of “the event” years from now, I have to wonder what their memory will be.  I don’t want the above picture to by the memory my children have of me.