I Should Be Grateful You’re Irritating Me

Starting off the New Years weekend with an extra day off today, but there were several times where I felt a little stifled from the family time. Maybe it’s the overabundance of family time during the holidays. Maybe it was just a mood of mine.

Either way, I found myself getting irritated with my son and daughter. She’s crawling and growing in awareness where she understand what we are communicating but quickly enters frustration with a full on flexed and arched back when she can’t communicate herself.

I’ve grown to the point where I understand this irritation about others is actually in me, however I couldn’t quite pinpoint where my restlessness was coming from. And then God reminded me to count my blessings.

I received an email about a friend who miscarried her first baby. My wife and I are close enough to her that we cried when we read the email.

The perspective to be grateful for my two children, no matter how much they fuss or beg for candy or push the boundaries, is so elusive. If any of you hold a constant state of gratitude, I’m all ears to hear how you do it.

I must say from my perspective, I’m grateful more often than not, but this evening I think about how blessed I am to hold my pudgy nine month-old daughter. Her giggle when I nuzzle into her baby soft neck is priceless. I think about how blessed I am to have my four year-old son beg to build a Duplo castle.

There have been countless books about suffering, and the question of why evil exists in the world has been contemplated since the garden of Eden.  When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner has been a best seller for years. C.S. Lewis tackles the subject in The Problem of Pain

If there is one area that can insert doubt into my faith, it’s watching good people suffer or die for no reason. Why does a perfectly healthy woman suffer a miscarriage? Why do people die when a seemly perfectly stable bridge collapses? Insert any number of questions here about bad things happen to good people.

The only thing I can come back to is that God has a plan. I don’t know what it is, so I can’t really say what is good and what is bad. There is a plan for our friend. There is a plan for my healthy kids. There is a plan for me.

Maybe the irritation I feel with my family is God’s way of making me grow? Maybe our friend is losing her baby to make her stronger or alleviate worse pain that would have existed if the baby would have lived?

All I know is that through all the struggles of parenthood, that I need to remember it is a gift, as long as I am willing to accept it as a gift. It really comes down to perspective.

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Oh No, Santa Couldn’t Bring Everything

I naturally default to filling the provider shoes in the family (even though role is a joint venture.) Maybe it’s a guy think, part of fatherhood, but I enjoy being able to provide groceries, emotional support and shop for friends and family during Christmas.

So my immediate reaction to my four year-old son’s letter to Santa, was to envision Santa stuffing all of this into his budget, ‘er sleigh and down our chimney. His letter included a basketball, soccer ball, red tape (for crafts), a car that he could drive, a play bow and arrow that shoots darts and a real bow and arrow. There was also the all encompassing mention of “a toy  that’s really cool,” added at the end of his list.

My son is a good boy. I know what you’re thinking. That I am his dad and of course I am going to write this on my blog. But really, he is a good kid. We are lucky to have him. All arguments aside I felt Santa should bring him everything from the list, even the car he could drive (that I despise from an environmental and consumer point of view).

I’m not going to list what exactly Santa brought and didn’t bring but let’s just say that his sack could only fit about half of my son’s list.

Even up until Christmas Eve, I was concerned that Santa wouldn’t be able bring all of the gifts. I felt as if my son would focus on the gifts that he didn’t get (or really wanted most on the list) that the ones he didn’t receive.

santa-claus-gnome

This is when my wife points out to me that Santa’s inability to bring everything on the list teaches him that he doesn’t get everything he wants. After all, have I gotten everything I wanted or asked for? Definitely not. God seems to provide to me what exactly I need right as I need it.

Such as it is with things. Even if God provided me with all the things that I asked for, I would still find things that I wish I could have. Maybe it’s me and the disease of more or maybe it’s just human nature, but my appetite for new things can be insatiable at times. And for me, it’s really only those times where I completely trust Him to give me what I need that I am content.

And when Christmas morning came and Santa had dropped off his deliveries, his presents were wrapped, all except the soccer ball. My son picked up the soccer ball, gave it a little boy hug and said, “He brought me what I wanted.”

So much for my son focusing on what he didn’t get. Maybe it’s me that needs to focus on what I can provide rather than what I can’t.

Can Patience Be Taught?

I want what I want and I want it now. Thanks to the Internet I can instantly look up the answer to table topic questions. I want my burger well done and on my plate as soon as my mouth starts watering, and I lean toward going to the farmers market rather than grow my own vegetables.

My patience is short. Especially when it comes to my child’s behavior, it is hard for me to not react with a “I told you not to color on the floor without a piece of paper underneath your drawing,” instantly. So how can I teach patience?

This recently came up at a church gathering, and my pastor answered that you can’t. He says patience can’t be taught. Patience has to be modeled.

This challenged my whole notion of asking my pre-school son to wait for the chips at lunch until he finished his vegetables. Just one mention of serving chips with the sandwiches sent him into a frenzied tailspin of wanting the chips instantly and screaming for them.

The one area where I feel patience can be taught is in not responding immediately when my son struggles with something, say zipping up his jacket. I’ll often say, in a minute or an I believe you can do it for some support. Even my nine-month old infant doesn’t need to be picked up instantly when whining ensues.

patience

Scholastic Parent’s resources mentions several things that can help teach patience:  using reflective listing, keep expectations reasonable and even using a timer. However, the first bullet in their list of ways to teach patience is to model patience.

There is an old anti-drug PSA where the father holds out the paraphernalia and asks his teenage son where he learned to use this stuff. “I learned it by watching you,” the son shouts back.

And why is the old axiom of do as I say and not as I do ringing in my ears right now?

This question of whether patience can be taught is debatable, but the more I look at it, the more I think it must be modeled. I don’t instantly need to rush in at my son’s frustrating whines. The baby doesn’t instantly need soothing when fussy. And ignoring the tug at my shirt while talking to my wife is healthy, for both our marriage and modeling patience.

 

 

Brightening the World from the Basket of A Shopping Cart, One Isle at a Time

The major meal-planning run for our family of four usually occurs on the weekend.

My wife and I are still playing man-to-man offense (or is it defense most of the time?) with our two kids. This past weekend, I took my nine-month old daughter to the grocery store. And those of you who’ve done it in 30 degree weather know that saying this can be a lot of work is an understatement.

Bundling her into the car seat. Taking her out of the seat. Wrap her in her jacket to get inside the grocery store. (The jacket itself is too large and bulky to securely wrap her in her seat.) Insert grocery cart cover. Jam diaper bag under the cart. And now we’re ready to tackle the list thanks to my favorite shopping list app.

cart_cover

I can still quote Charles Swindoll’s “Attitude” poem, about life being 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. So depending on what I call my spiritual connectedness, I can see this list in front of me as a chore or as a learning, day brightening opportunity.

My daughter is comfortably riding in this seat for only the second time. It’s almost as if I can see this new experience feed her ego, thinking she’s made it to the big time now.

Her whole body excites when I hold an orange out to her and clearly pronounce the name. She’s taking it all in.

I quickly learn that my phone propping method of the device nestling next to her doesn’t work. She of course wants to grab at it and play. So I’m driving the cart with one hand, holding the list with the other and checking things off the list as I set them in the cart. I laugh at myself.

It’s quite an orchestration. And there are certain times where my head fills with overwhelming thoughts, but then certain people light up when they see my engaged nine-month old daughter.

The woman behind the deli counter smiles, waves and offers a teething tip involving freezing apple sauce on freezer paper.

A neighbor of mine asks to take a photo of my daughter to send to her husband.

Now there are plenty of people who take no interest and maybe they’re even annoyed at my unfiltered baby talk. But let them be. Focus on the joy.

The way I see it, loving my daughter and supporting her love for life spreads joy to others. I’m the type of guy who can easily focus on wanting to do “the big things” in life, but when I think about this in perspective, how much bigger can you get than spreading love and joy through simple everyday acts.

 

Love and Tolerance is My Code, Now Get Outside

I love lazy Sundays. And this past Sunday was just that. Time to enjoy family, hang out around the house and cook. My wife wanted to finish the Christmas decorations, and it was the last of a four-day stretch of a wonderful Thanksgiving break.

There was plenty of downtime, and I’m not sure if it’s conditioning or personality, but when my four-year old son has downtime it can mean trouble. Plants hacked, couches demolished, toys strewn everywhere. It’s bound to happen.

This period of downtime involved endless loops of running through the circular track that is our dining room, family room and kitchen while singing a high-pitched five syllable song.

My wife entered from the kitchen, while I was in the dining room, and asked him why her mailed gift marked fragile was laying upside-down on the floor. This was it, and I hollered, “get outside,” to my son. The famous two words every young child has heard at one time or another.

But my son is only four. He started crying, either in self preservation or in confusion of why he had to get outside. After all, he was just doing what young boys do:  run around and burn off energy.

If love and tolerance is my code, then it is in these times of being fed up with not having enough peace and “me time” that I lose all understanding.

As my wife maturely points out, “he’s only four and needs something to focus on.”

It’s good for kids to have free time to be creative, dream and explore. But they also need a framework for this time. I can’t approve if their creativity is cutting up toy ropes and jumping off the back of couches.

But the amazing this is, that when he is given activities he will focus on them for 20 minutes or so. One particular project involved paper, tape and a scissor. He made “wallets” after I explained the particular trend of making art with duct tape.

The wallets project lasted close to an hour, and I saw pride developing with his ability to cut and wrap the paper with tape.

As a father, I have allow this creativity while providing a framework. Otherwise we end up with complete “creativity” that involves whipping pillows or running circles around the house driving my wife and I crazy.

This understanding can give me the framework to love in either situation. I get caught up in life and don’t always provide the direction for a focus activity.