Archives For Parents

In life, there are winners and losers.

However, over the course of a generation, we parents have tried to erase the “winning” and “losing” vocabulary from childhood. Our children sign up for little league ball, and everyone gets a trophy at the end of the season. Everyone goes home happy.

Participation ribbons, awards for just showing up, these are derided by many parents as the “wussification” of our society. They demand that we show our children that not everyone in the world wins. You can’t just win by showing up.

I believe that is true.

Some kids were not born to win. Some are losers.

What we parents often do not see is just how much more competitive we have become with our children over the past few generations. Sure, we may tolerate participation awards. But our goals as parents, as a culture, have shifted.

We used to strive to raise good citizens.

Now, we raise our children to win. We need our children to be competitive, against all the other children. So they can get into a good college, and launch a good career, and have a good salary and “win” at life.

It’s our kids versus everyone else’s kids.

The problem is that we used to see all the kids in our communities as our kids. It wasn’t our kids versus those other kids.

I’ve been reading Robert Putnam’s book, appropriately titled Our Kids, and he makes this very point.

Why as a culture, are our kids failing, falling behind the rest of the world?

Because we have raised them in an us versus them society.

So yeah, I want my son to know that there are losers in life. Some kids are losers. They lost the cosmic lottery and wound up without enough to eat. They lost and have to attend a poor school. They lost and have to deal with crime and broken neighborhoods. I am afraid that on both sides of the coin, there is something missing. One side says that all kids are winners, and the other side is super competitive, and I’m not sure either one teaches our children to see the real injustice that is in the world. One trains them to think that everyone is the same as them. The other teaches that it’s everyone for himself.

How do all of our kids become winners?

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All our kids become winners when we adults start treating all children like our children. Children start winning when we stop pitting them against each other.

I want my son to know that there are winners and losers in life.

And I hope he has the compassion to do something about it.

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Read: “Building Sets” and “Crappy Building Sets”

When did we decide that blocks were for boys?

This week, you might be aware, that Target announced that it would soon be ridding its toy departments of gender specific signage and colors. Signs that read “building sets” and “girls’ building sets” will be henceforth eliminated.

There have been a lot of praises heaped on Target…and a lot of criticism. A lot of people who think Target has “caved to the PC crowd.” Plenty of people on Facebook claimed that they would be boycotting the store. Some parents even complained that Target was contributing to the “gender confusion” of children or trying “to turn them gay.”

At first, I really thought the move was unnecessary at best and silly at worst.

But the more I’ve thought about it, and the world I want my boy to grow up in, the more I think that it’s the right move.

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When I was in college, I watched many of my youth group friends leave their faith behind.leaving+the+church

As I grew up through my twenties, I realized that I had lived through what had become a massive statistic. It turns out that most kids raised in American Christian churches drop their faith by college graduation.

Plenty of leaders, thinkers and writers have pontificated over this statistic. Most of them look at the “millennial” generation from afar, decades separating them from the people they claim to analyze.

But now that I’m a parent, this is no longer a remote or abstract exercise in analytics. It’s terrifying.

As a parent, I want my child to embrace my most personal and deeply held beliefs. I cannot imagine what it will do to my wife and I if he should reject the faith we are trying to teach him.

And yet, the numbers aren’t good. The odds are stacked against us. It seems that we will more than likely fail.

But I think I know how to beat the odds. Because I think I finally have an answer to why our kids, raised in church-going homes, have largely discarded their faith.

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A land of freedom…for three days

A couple of weekends ago, Cheri and I left town. We spent a long weekend a few hours away in Omaha, a beautiful city, if you are ever nearby.

We had a great time. We walked the pedestrian mall, explored the art museum and spent a day at the zoo.

We especially had a great time because we left our seven month old with my parents.

Yep, baby stayed away for

Three.

Whole.

Nights.

We had this long weekend planned out in advance, because we were equally agreed on two things. First, that we love to travel and if we could afford it, we would travel somewhere, and secondly, that babies do not make good travel companions. They are better at being homebodies.

I wasn’t surprised that as summer approached and people started discussing their plans, I caught more than one surprised glance. “No baby?” they would ask.

No baby.

And you know what? Cheri and I are better parents for it.

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There is a “crisis of masculinity.”fistbump

I read about it years ago: the confusion, lack of drive and antipathy that seems rampant among young men today. It was scary then. It’s even scarier now that I have a son.

The problem is that “masculinity” is a loaded word now. You can’t talk about there being a “crisis” without dealing with the argument that masculinity comes in many forms. It’s true, and I’m no lumberjack. I am a kind of man, but I don’t meet everyone’s standards of manliness.

But what we mean by a crisis is that a generation of boys are growing up and failing to meet any definition we have of masculinity, or rather adulthood. It’s not that they are confused about their gender. We mean that they lack ambition, obsess over video games, watch porn instead of date women, and generally lack the hustle that young men are supposed to have.

I don’t think it’s too early for me to be thinking about this, because God only knows what my son will have to deal with when he is a teenager. But I’m going to do my best to help my son grow up to be a whole, happy, healthy man.

There are a few things that all boys today need to become men.

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In four months of being a dad, I have realized one unequivocal fact:Processed with VSCOcam with b6 preset

Being a dad is hard.

I have probably had more chances to be humbled in the last four months than in the previous four years. And I suspect it’s going to get harder before it gets easier. Right now, all we really have to do for Calder is meet his physical needs. It’s going to get harder when he begins to have more emotional needs and spiritual needs. It’s going to be hard when we have to talk about sin and death, about money, about sex and relationships, and about all the things that turn sweet little boys into unhappy young men.

The other unequivocal fact that I have noticed is this:

Parents like to talk about just how hard parenting is.

What Did We Expect?

Whenever I go to Google to ask a question, about how to not inadvertently kill my child, I can easily get entangled in endless blogs and message board posts about how hard all this parenting stuff is.

I can get on Netflix and find endless sitcoms and standup comedy routines about how hard it all is. Bedraggled parents who are “just barely hanging on,” barely clinging to their marriage or their sanity in the midst of raising their horde of children.

But I wonder…

I wonder how many of us, upon entering high school or college, actually believed that it was supposed to be easy. I laugh a little bit whenever teenagers complain about how difficult high school life is. It’s not supposed to be easy, I tell them.

I say the same thing to my third graders or even kindergarten students when they comment that the work I am having them do is hard.

I wonder how many of us actually believed as we met our spouse at the altar, that it would be easy.

I wonder how many of us secretly thought that raising kids might actually be easy.

Was It Supposed to Be Easy?

Perhaps none of us actually, truly believed that any of these things would be easy. But maybe we are surprised at just how difficult things actually turned out to be. At this moment, I actually think my life has never been harder.

But…

That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

There are so many shows, blogs and resources that talk about how hard parenting and marriage is. There are blogs and books about how hard faith is. There are resources about how hard building a career or a business is.

But how many shows or books, blogs or message boards told us this is the way life is supposed to be?

Parenting is supposed to be hard. A day with a toddler isn’t supposed to be productive. Life is supposed to move slower with a child. Chores are supposed to take longer. Parents are supposed to be tired at the end of the day.

Marriage is supposed to be hard. Marriage is this miracle where two different people become one flesh, and that is a miracle that takes a lot of work. Nine years in, I think I work harder at my marriage now than I ever have before.

Life Was Created To Be This Way

It’s great fun to bond with other parents over discussions about how hard parenting is. I’m sure that this Mother’s Day, Cheri will have at least one conversation about the challenges of mothering, and on Father’s Day, I’ll tell at least one guy the reality of fatherhood.

It’s a good release to watch a sitcom and see a little bit of yourself in that fake TV family. (Sitcoms have come a long way, and families have become much less perfect since the Cleavers went into syndication.) It’s hilarious to listen to Jim Gaffigan or Louis CK joke about the drudgery of raising kids.

But what the blogs and the comedians rarely say is that it wouldn’t be beautiful if it weren’t so hard.

Easy things are not satisfying. Easy things are not memorable. People don’t bond over the easy times. But God made life to be like this. God made us to do hard things, like raise children.

People bond and faith is grown as we clench our fists and try to hang on through the storms. I cannot imagine where my marriage would be if it had all been easy. I probably wouldn’t remember any of it.

If you are in a hard time today, remember, it’s supposed to be this way. We were born for this. An easy life would not be one worth remembering or writing about.

There is beauty in the hard.