How Much is That Doggie in The Window Correction

My nine-month-old daughter received a mechanical plush puppy that plays the Pattie Page classic “How Much is That Doggie in The Window” when you push a button on the side of its right paw.

It’s funny watching her older brother as she gets gifts, because he doesn’t waste any time jumping in and getting his hands on playing with her toys.

doggieforsale

In this case, he quickly memorized the song to a point of exhaustion. It wasn’t long before I had the song stuck in my head. On one particular cleanup kitchen interlude I sang the lyric, “I am so glad that he is for sale.”

However, my four year old was quick to correct me. “Dad, it’s I do hope that doggie’s for sale, not I’m so glad that he is for sale.”

Deep inside my reactive brain I thought my four-year-old is pretty brave for correcting an adult. How dare he? But then the other side of me said aloud, “Thank you for correcting me. I’m reading through the proverbs lately, one chapter per day, and just this morning I read, “Reprove an arrogant man, lest he hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you” (New American Bible, Prov. 9:8).

As a father I’ve learned you teach most by example, so I can only hope by repressing my reaction toward a how-dare-you-correct-me reaction, I can teach a generous thankful response for when my son is corrected.

I do correct quite a bit as a father after all. Sometimes it’s for safety, other times it’s for simple sanity. In example, please stop driving that large Tonka truck over the wood floor, because I can’t hear myself think.

So I can only expect my son and daughter to be open to correction if I am. Times like this reinforce to me that my son is as much of a teacher to me as I am to him.

The Weight and Responsibility of Defining Your Child’s Self

Be you.

Discover your dreams and chase them.

Don’t let anyone hold you back.

All of these inspiring and motivating sentences are great, and I’m a big proponent of dream chasing and self improvement. But how do I figure out who I am to chase my dreams? Or better yet, as a father, how do I help my children grow with a solid foundation about themselves and their self worth?

I recently dove into Making Sense of God by Timothy Keller, and in a chapter dedicated to hashing out the problems of self he makes an interesting point.

You cannot get your identity through introspection. You must learn about who you are through other people.

He says, “Only if we are approved and loved by someone whom we esteem can we achieve any self-esteem.” My fatherly prospective felt the weight of this, and I was brought to do something I rarely do. I made a note in the margin of the page.

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There are two pieces to this that I feel are striking. One, in order to support my kids with any self-esteem, I must approve and love them. Not only when they are “being good,” but also when they are throwing a fit in the isle of the grocery store.

The other piece is that I must carry myself so that they must respect and admire me. This brings me to, “the base in me–he must not see..” in the anonymous Little Chap Who Follows Me poem.

I can be fearful, resentful, jealous and angry. I don’t want my son or daughter to see this. Granted, we’re family. There has been and will be occasions where they will unfortunately experience me in these states. Hopefully, these instances are minor and are overshadowed by admiration worthy examples.

The love part comes pretty easy for me. Yes, there are always those time when a low blood sugar morning erupts out of my son before breakfast is served, when I wonder why he has to express himself in this way. But if I approach the situation with understanding, I can approach the situation with love.

I can only hope to be carried along in this journey as someone my son and daughter look up to and can really believe my words when I give them supporting “you can do it” compliments.

Have you ever received a supporting word from someone you don’t admire? Maybe I have. I can’t recall. Because chances are, I didn’t hear them even if they were spoken. I was too busy closing off this person from my head.

 

Fatherhood Stripped of Technology, for at Least One Night

The nightmare was real. I had pulled up to my house after ending the work day naked. Not without clothes naked but without technology naked. Stripped of Facebook announcements,  text messages and the ability to check my email five times per minute.

I’m ashamed to admit there was anxiety about missing some important phone call or message, but I didn’t want to make the drive back. So I jumped into the turbulence that is the family of four work to dinner home transition.

Now, I don’t consider myself a technology addict needing to untangle my life. But just the other day, my son asked me in a bold tone over the breakfast bowl, “What are you doing on your phone?” I was surfing news while replying to my brothers invitation to hang out, but still. It hit me a certain way.

cellphone

There is such noise in our high speed world that it impacts brain development. This particular occupational therapist for the Huffington Post makes the argument that the effect of technology on children can lead to depression, behavioral disorders and an unsustainable life.

This slippery slope argument doesn’t sit with me very well, but I have seen reactions from my pre-schooler that are extremely irrational when the TV is shut off or the You Tube video ends. I place trust in healthy support networks and interventions long before the negative affects she threatens.

Technology gives us things like video chat, picture sharing and learning apps that can help support learning and the support of our children’s village. We utilize technology in my house, and my four-year-old has his own Leap Frog tablet. But we don’t give free reign.

So my evening without my 5.5 inch smartphone screen went buy with some withdrawal. I reached for it several times when I wanted to check the weather or take a phone and even thought I heard my ringtone this morning.

But you know what, I found myself reading an extra book to my nine-month-old and even sang to her while my wife was bathing our son. I’d like to think that would have happened anyway with my phone within arms reach (so I could capture it on video of course), but I wonder.

There was this freedom I felt with the inability to check messages and instantly get sucked into an internet search.

And the cherry on top:  two text messages and one Facebook notification when I returned in the morning.

 

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.

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.

Always Seeking New Experiences

The other day my wife and I took the kids bowling. We had an amazing time, and neither of us are that into bowling.

At age four and eight months, neither one of the kids had been to a bowling alley before. This was a saturday afternoon, and there were only about a half-dozen lanes open. The place was hopping.

The beauty of it, was the awe and amazement from the kids. Both were wide-eyed and energized from the experience. From zig-zagging the ball down the lane off the bumpers to the crash of the pins and the action of people, both seemed to thrive off this new experience.

This is the most amazing thing about kids:  being able to see the world brand new. There were no judgements in their eyes. They just loved being out there in the world and in the action.

bowling

 

One of my goals as a parent is to offer this to my kids and to myself as long as I am alive. New experiences not only help the individual grow, but they bring people together. The world has so much to offer.

And the truth of the matter–the truth that I sometimes have a hard time believing–is that everyday is a new experience. It’s easy to get swept into the rhythms of life and feel like you may be repeating yourself over and over. But today, no matter if you read this when posted or years from now, is a new experience that has never happened before.

I easily forget this unless I am doing something new for the first time, like take my kids who have never even touched a bowling ball out bowling on a Saturday afternoon. (I must also give my wife credit as this is what she chose as her birthday celebration.)

But I’ve found ways to inject this newness on a day, without having to travel to foreign lands or go somewhere new:

  • Try a new food, like something off the Korean menu you can’t even pronounce.
  • Clean that closet you’ve been meaning to get to for a long time.
  • Invite new friends over that you’ve never entertained before.
  • Exercise. I was going to write try a new exercise, but this doesn’t even have to be that new. I find exercise in general freshens my eyes to the world.
  • Be vulnerable. Share something that is bothering you or difficult for you.

Keep fresh eyes one whenever you can, for the kids’ enjoyment and your own. The longer I am able to stay in this state, the more open I am to life’s experiences.

I think about the value giving my kids the interest and openness to try new things, and that is something that is priceless. This is also something that any parent can give to their child, no matter the socioeconomic background.

A Day Off or a School Day? It’s What Is in Front of Me.

Is today a day-off? It’s the question my son asked right away after giving me a tired smile at 6:15 a.m.

He is only four years old yet he flipped his body back down on the bed after learning that the answer was no. It’s a school and work day. How is he not excited for all of life’s offerings at his age?

I wonder where is he getting this moan-and-groan sense of dread for school? When him in action in pre-school class, he seems to enjoy the time. He loves bringing home art and showing off his latest creations. He has good friends and loving teachers.

Maybe it’s my relentless urge to leave as early as I am able, so I can be to work on time? Maybe it’s my nagging to get dressed and get you out the door? Maybe it’s leftover from generations of hard working factory, punch-the-clock, industrial age workers? Maybe I’m over thinking things?

I’m grateful for what I have. Most of the time. I may be a perfectionist, but I haven’t hit 100% in this arena (or any arena for that matter). Out of my countless inspirational books and “live your best life” books, all of them stress the importance of gratitude.

The truth is I’m so grateful to have healthy children. Yet, I push for more and more. More money. More car (my four-door compact is getting tight). Better behavior. A cleaner house. It’s a challenge for me to focus on what is in front of me.

And so I want to share a reading titled “Don’t Make It Harder Than It Needs to Be” from The Parent’s Tao Te Ching that helped me put things in perspective the other evening:

Everyone wants to be a wise parent
but few choose this path.
This is unfortunate
for it is an easy path,
filled with joy
and with many rewards.
But it is easy to become sidetracked.
Distractions are everywhere.
As the external pressures mouth
be sure to notice what occurs.

Do you pursue career advancement
while your children choose harmful paths?
Do you buy expensive toys
to medicate your feelings
while your children become
lost in the clutter?
Do you sink into depression
while your children hunger for joy?

Don’t make parenting harder that it needs to be.
It only requires focus.
Worry is not focus.
Attempting to control is not focus.
Distracting yourself is not focus.
Relaxed, non-fretful, attention
to what is in front of you
right now,
is focus.
What is in front of you right now?
No, not your worries or frets,
what is right here,
right now?