Taking Time to Take A Nap

The day was a Saturday prior to an business trip. There was packing, prepping and organizing to do, not to mention family time that I wanted to soak up prior to departing.

But I decided to nap instead. My 16 month old daughter seems to be a little anti-nap when it comes to Saturday. She’s still at an age where she needs them, but she sits up and cries when we put her into the crib. So I held her while we slept.

This moment brought me back to a time when she’d sleep on my chest as a newborn infant, but my mind kept trying to pull me back to to-do lists and other things I should be doing.

But then I thought what option is more important than helping this toddling daughter of mine feel comforted and catch up on some sleep myself. The world slipped away and that hour-and-a-half felt like a day within a day. I drifted in and out, reclined in our Lay-Z-Boy and felt the weight and peace of my growing daughter.

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Every so often, I’m able to step outside myself and experience thorough gratitude, and this moment was just that. It would be five days away on business from my wife and kids, and I enjoyed the silence and warmth of her body in my arms.

We live in a face paced world, and I’ve always had the mindset that getting more done is better. Or that I need to do something just to do something. Add to the list, cross things off, get it done. It’s so easy to be sucked into such a mindset and such a pace that can continually make me feel like I’m on a treadmill while losing position.

It’s like muscle memory. If I don’t run for weeks or haven’t picked up the guitar in longer, my muscles forget what it takes to perform. Relaxing is a muscle. If I don’t keep it strong and remember to just be okay with sitting (or napping) for even just 30 minutes, life can get exhausting.

God wants us to rest. All major religions have a day of prayer or a day of rest, such as a Sabbath.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn fro me, for I am gentle and humble in your heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 28-29 NIV)

 

It’s almost embarrassing that I have to consciously apply myself to take a rest at times, but just like hard work, hard rest pays off.

Additional Reminders to Trust My Kids

My now-walking one-year old went for the cupboards under the kitchen sink. Soaps, garbage and a specific no play zone, I put my foot it front of the doors and said no, explaining that she can’t play in there.

The defiance stage has kicked in, so a mild tantrum ensued. And then of course, as I stepped away to prep something around the kitchen, she went back.

She’s quick, too. I watched as she opened the door and unveiled a fruit pouch top to throw away in the garbage. She nelt up and set it in the garbage, and then made her high pitched ooooha noise in approval as she looked up at me, as if to say, I just had to throw away some garbage.


The surprise and awe could have brought the palm of my hand to my forehead. I didn’t even think she knew the garbage is stored under the sink.

My wife and I work hard to model good healthy behaviors, but I still find myself doubting my kids’ decisions or motives. More often than not though, my kids surprise me with their actions taken.

This morning my wife and I were getting ready to meet friends for a play date. My five year old son was playing in his upstairs bedroom with his sister. And with her being one, I’m hesitant to leave the two of them together alone for very long.

This particular moment was maybe approaching 15 minutes, when I heard screaming from her.

The urge to shout at my son and ask what is going on up there surged, but I held back. I did skip steps as I went upstairs. Working to act casually, I strolled into his room and asked what are you guys up to.

She was still crying a little at this point but it had downgraded from the scream. Turns out my five year old son had only taken a small choking hazard of a toy away from her, and she was of course not very happy with him.

This moment served again to remind me that my kids can be entrusted to make good choices. He was only protecting her with the training I had preached since bringing a sleeping newborn home. And she was just helping to throw away garbage as she had probably seen us do hundreds of times.

God willing shall I continue to trust them, remembering these moments as they grow.

Watch the Struggle and Watch Growth

My kids are now five and 15 months. No matter how hold they get, it is hard to watch them struggle. Whether it’s using a fork to eat raspberries or working their way across the monkey bars, I have this fatherly urge to jump in and help them along.

I’m a fixer. This is what dads do, right? I’m here to help, love and support. But what if all this helping is actually doing harm.

There is an on going debate in the world of raising chickens whether a farmer–backyard or commercial–should jump in and help the chicken hatch.

I’ve read that helping the chicken along can actually cause death, whether that’s by ripping off skin with the shell or taking over for mother nature and not building the perseverance needed to break through the shell.

And let’s face it. Doesn’t breaking through the shell define so much of childhood, whether that is the first three years or the teenage rebellion?

My one-year old needs help in the water. It’s safety. She’d crawl in head first without even being aware of the consequence. But there are times where I should let her work on zipping away at her shell.

A Helping Hand

My five year old pushes her buttons, until she screams in fury. Typically, I jump in and help her, reprimanding her older brother about space and respect. But after reading about the chicks hatching out of their eggs, I wonder if I jump in a little too soon.

She’s coming into her own, and her own involves a big brother to navigate. Lord knows she is going to need perseverance to draw boundaries with him.

Let’s take shoe tying as an example. My son isn’t there yet, but let’s just say that every time he was to get frustrated, I jumped in and said, “here, let me help by tying these for you.” Would he really learn to tie?

Humans learn by trying and failing. Getting frustrated and pushing through. Asking for help after surrendering defeat. These are all natural ways of growing.

There is a balance I’m working toward lately, and that is to support my kids when they are struggling or going through a hard time. I care, and I want them to know I’m here to help guide them through their struggle. But I’m not here to make their struggle any easier.

Life is a struggle at times, and the sooner they accept it or even embrace it, the better off they may be.

Many backyard farmers watch their chicks struggle to get out of their shell for over 24 hours. I’m sure that can seem like a lifetime when you want your chicken to hatch. But if it wasn’t for the 24 hours or more of struggling to get out, they wouldn’t have the strength or confidence to grow into a healthy chicken.

Ninety Percent of My In-Person Time with My Kids is Happening Now

Raising young kids takes up time. Lots of time, as an understatement. So much time is spent feeding, changing, cleaning and playing with them that when I rented The Force Awakens from the library, the DVD was never even inserted before the week loan period expired.

Time. We are here for a short time. You hear it all the time. But recently a blog title Wait But Why popped up in front of me with an article titled The Tail End.

He uses visual charts to display how many months, days and weeks are given to a person who lives to be 90. The charts also display things like how many more times he will see The Red Socks play or how many more chances he will have to swim in the ocean or eat pizza.

The thing that stood out to me was his stat that by the time he left for college, he had used up the 93% of his in-person parent time.

This stat applies to me in the fact that I’m 37 and the majority of my in-person time with my parents has been used up. But applying this to the time with my own kids, this big picture perspective makes me want to spend more time with them.

Time with the kids

My wife and I do a good job putting the kids before dishes, reading to them every night and taking things slow on most weekends.

This idea that 90% of the time I’m going to have with my kids in-person is happening right now makes me want to shut off the phone more, drop what I’m doing when they ask for something, and play. Just follow them around and play. This precious time–as stressful and chaotic as it can be at times–is just that:  precious.

My son is five. My daughter is one. We are in the thick of raising two kids. In the thick of constantly running the dishwasher, tears being shed regularly, short nights of sleep. Sweeping the floor at least five times a day, wiping butts and the inability to have a grown-up conversation for more than a minute and a half.

But we’re also in the thick of the 90% of our time with them. God help me be present and content with our time together. And thanks Tim Urban for writing The Tail End.

The Art of Leaving Your Kid in the Car to Make Drop-Off Smoother

Your son or daughter probably never resists going to school or daycare, but if they do, this could help. At least, I found something that worked for me in this particular situation.

Cease the fighting. My initial reaction can be to say something to the effect of, “You better get your butt out of the car,” when my pre-schooler defies going into school (or insert destination here.)


So today, I let go. I went the opposite direction of my instinct. I said, “O.k., I’m going to go in to drop your sister off,” and I closed the door. I held my one-year old in an arm and we both waved at him, still sitting in his booster car seat.

It was at least five minutes of me going through the morning routine with my daughter’s daycare moms and watching the growing baby settle in to her happy home away from home before I returned to the car. The empty car.

Turns out he had decided to head into his preschool classroom on his own. With no one there to tell him what to do, he made his own decision. The right decision at that. 

One of my son’s friends had pulled up after us and while I was gone my son decided to join up with him into the school. I didn’t have to entice, cajole or even carry him in to the class.

Kind of reminds me of my initial reaction to “have to.” If anyone told me that I “had to” do anything when I was a teenager, my initial reaction was always to think, “I don’t have to do anything.” 

So rather than force my son into a situation, I find the art of getting him to do what needs to be done is to creatively present options, so that he feels like he had a role in making the decision.

It’s kind of like asking the toddler if they’d like to walk or be carried to bed. Either way they are going to bed, but at least they feel like they’ve had a choice in the matter.

The Power of Reverse Psychology

There is some innate force inside us that doesn’t want to listen to direction. Or maybe it is just me and my genes, but I like to find things out for myself. I’ve also noticed my four-year old going against what I ask in what seems out of spite.

I’m sure your kids always listen, so please send me your tips. If they sometimes don’t, well maybe you want to try a little reverse psychology to get things moving along a little easier for all.

Blame it on Adam and Eve. They didn’t listen either. Maybe its the serpent devil speaking to my son. Let’s face it. There is a bit of good in the worst of us and bit of bad in the best of us.

One thing I have noticed though is that as fathers (and mothers) we can use our kids’ desire to go against what we say to our advantage, at least while they’re young.

My son has this habit of whining and often screaming when rinsing his hair of shampoo in the bath. It’s unpleasant for all involved, and no matter how much I tell him it’s okay or to shhhhhhhh, he continues the stream of angst.

Father Through Me

Then just yesterday, I heard my wife speaking to him while rinsing his hair, and their wasn’t a sound coming from him.

She was making various voices, pretending to be an audience watching the hair rinsing. Members of the audience were hoping to hear and see my son scream. And there he sat resisting. Going against what “the crowd” wanted him to do.

“I want my money back,” shouted one of the onlookers in what sounded like an Irish accent. “He’s not screaming. I thought we’d get to hear him scream.” Against the will of the people, my son showed them that he wasn’t going to listen and give them what they want.

And I think my wife enjoyed the process just as much. (My wife does some great European accents.) I know I would have enjoyed the bath that much more since there wasn’t a screaming bloody murder contest going on.

So next time, try it. I’d say take advantage of it as long as you can. My kids are young, and I plan on milking it as long as I can. Soon, they’ll probably be reversing reverse psychology, and trying it out on me.

An Eye for An Eye vs. Turning the Other Cheek

There are many things I didn’t prepare myself for when I became a father. Among these is the great wonder of what I did with all of my free time prior to children.

I also didn’t prepare myself for the fact that children can bring the worst out of you. But the idea that I am focusing on is that I can stop certain behaviors from moving down generations.

There are certain things that I know I said I would never do that my dad did. Now, my dad is a very good man in many ways, but we all have flaws. Whenever I would be upset at a friend, my dad would say don’t get mad get even.

This “tooth-for-a-tooth mentality” built up many resentments within me over the years. I never really sought revenge but rather wished ill will towards people who I felt had done me wrong. What kind of good does that do?

And just yesterday, I’m in church hearing that I should love my enemies, especially my enemies. For everyone loves their friends and family, but how many people can say they love their enemies. Simple basic Christian stuff, right? Sure, but far from easy.

A recent example of this that comes to mind is the representatives from Charleston who forgave the assassin after the Charleston Church shooting in June of 2015. Here are church members who lost loved ones in an act of pure hatred, and they are forgiving the shooter.

I can only hope to model such behavior some day. I know I am no where near capable of this at this time, but I can sense the concept that forgiving others is relief to ourselves. There is something about freeing up my headspace from those negative thoughts.

We are currently experience a strong test against listening in our household, both with our pre-schooler and the almost one-year old. And when I’m in the throws of such defiance, I am one to hold threats like, “please do not talk to me like that or you will need to go to your room.”

This came up just the other day when my pre-schooler was in my face and antagonizing the baby. I had asked for space and he continued.

Drawing the line, I carried him upstairs after numerous threats. I’m pretty sure he wanted to see if I would in fact follow through. (History shows that I can be a pushover a times.) So I did. I set a timer for three minutes, and he took time in his room to think about listening.

I made sure to provide a loving boundary rather than a stomping foot of judgement to make my point. He is obviously not my enemy but there are definitely times where fatherhood can feel like a battle. And in those times, be sure to love your enemy.

 

When to Referee, When to Coach and When to Sit the Bench

My son and daughter are four years apart, so I haven’t experience fighting exactly. I have experienced the my four-year-old becoming jealous and/or hogging toys, utilizing his physical power over the situation. The conflicts I experience have a lot to do with obtaining parental attention and blockading the crawling 10-month-old away from small toys.

But I have noticed something with various disagreements, especially pertaining to “new” toys that managed to evolve from the depths of storage. My son is more interested in the baby toys than my daughter.

The older one will instantly get his hands on it, even and especially if it is presented to the infant first. The baby usually gets frustrated (of course) and screams and cries in complaint, hoping the toy is returned.

My inclination as a father and as a fixer is wanting to jump in and advocate for the one who is just learning to use her voice. And I do. I’ve gotten quite firm with the pre-schooler explaining the importance of sharing, that he is seen as the teacher and that when the younger is older, she will do the same things to him.

These far ranging concepts are close to impossible to understand by someone who is in the moment and wants a toy when he wants a toy. This would be my coaching approach. Teach, encourage and work to direct positive behavior.

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There is also the referee approach. A foul is called and penalty ensues. Usually, the penalty involves me taking the toy back from the older one to give to the baby. Sometimes, I’ll try to mimic the experience he is putting the baby through, with a tackling type hug.

The referee approach gets my point across, but I also feel that this provokes additional hostility, usually toward me (similar effect of snapping as mentioned in this previous post.)

And then there are times where I just need to sit out, ride the bench and let the two of them navigate their new and evolving relationship. I’ve observed interactions when physical play turns into a little more than the baby can handle, and she’ll reach out to grab the pre-schoolers face.

The grabbing often involves a scratch (as those baby fingernails grow like weeds), and I was surprised at the reaction of the four-year-old as if we need to rush him to the emergency room. Referee then called off the play.

After all, he is learning that even though the baby is small, she can still defend herself.

The art lies in balancing the three methods and deciding when to coach, referee or ride the bench. And when I’m lucky, I’m graced with a moment of a deep breath or a light pause that allows me to decide the response, rather than a quick reaction. The end result is ultimately out of my hands.

There are always those inevitable moments where the game is on and it’s necessary to coach and referee simultaneously of course.