Archive for the ‘teaching’ Category

A Letter to My Daughters

February 8, 2011

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E… and J…

Hopefully, what I’m about to share with you isn’t the first time you recall hearing these things.  And, I know it’s a little weird to see them in the middle of a blog post (you know your weird dad :)).  But, maybe there’s just one dad out there who needs to see a dad express some of these things as  a reminder to share them with his daughter.  Thanks for humoring me, again.

You both know that I thank God daily for giving us (your mom and I) such beautiful girls.  And, you are not simply beautiful externally (which you are) but more importantly, you are becoming more and more beautiful internally.  You’re love for the Lord is becoming more and more evident by the way you serve and love others.  I see a Spirit in you that is helping shape and mold you into the woman God is designing.  It’s what your mother and I have prayed since before you were born, and continue to pray for you each day.

One day there will be a boy, er, young man who sweeps you off your feet.  We’ve watched Father of the Bride so many times that you can almost imagine how I’ll react.  I just pray you don’t have to bail me out of jail for opening bags of hot dog buns in the grocery store.  And, I won’t suggest the Steak Pit for your wedding reception.  Until that day comes, I know that God is continuing to refine you in preparation of that day.  And, He’s refining that young man as well.  I pray that you will let me, as your dad, help you and advise you as you enter into relationships over the coming years.  Not because I don’t think you can make wise choices but because you know that I love you and want the best for you.  And, when it comes to “love”, emotions and feelings often mask reality.  You need someone to help you see how this young man not only treats you in your dating but how he will treat you in marriage.

You are both gifts from God more priceless than anything else He has given your mother and I to raise.  I love you, both, more than you’ll ever know.  Your mom and I are proud of the young women you’re becoming.  We love you and look forward to that day when you announce that you have found the man that you (and we) have been praying for all these years.  Until (and even after) that day, you’re still, my “little” girls.  I love you….Daddy

Being a “Rad Dad”

August 9, 2010

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I remember the first time my kids got into “social media”.  My son asked about something called Xanga.  It was like My Space and Facebook before they became popular.  It was my first entry into this new thing called “social media”.  I didn’t have a clue what it was but it began a journey for me to investigate so that I could enter into meaningful discussions with them about if and how they could use or embrace these new apps.

One day, I sat down with my daughter to look at her iTunes list just to see what kind of music she was listening to.  The purpose of my questions were not just to “check up” on her but also to enter her world.  It’s a lot easier to have discussions about what your kids are doing, music tastes, social media involvement, etc., when you have a little understanding of what they like, don’t like, listen to, and update or read on the internet.  This concept extends to more than online or music camaraderie.

If I were to ask you the following questions over coffee at Starbucks or Caribou (my personal favorite), would you be able to answer them?

  • What kind of music do your kids listen to?  Who’s their favorite artist?
  • What sports do they LIKE to play (not which ten do you have them involved in)?
  • What’s their favorite color?
  • Which subject in school do they feel really excited about when they are in class and which ones make them feel inadequate or do they struggle in?
  • If they could travel to any country in the world, where would they go?  Why?
  • Who are their favorite friends?  Which friends show interest in them?
  • What’s their favorite food?  Do they like to try new foods?
  • When do they feel most loved?

There are hundreds of these seemingly innocuous questions you could think of that would be a great date night tool to help you get to know your kids and the world they live in.  There are a lot of traps out there that our kids can easily get lured into that could harm them.  But, if we don’t take the time to get to know them for who God made them to be, our concerns and admonitions often are heard as “blah blah blah”.  So, my encouragement to you, dad, is to be “rad”.  Get to know the things that are happening and even startle your child by asking them if they’ve heard the latest _________ (you fill in the musical group or artist) and use it as a time of bonding and learning.  They might even think it’s “cool (a 70’s term that is gonna make a comeback–just you wait) that you know an artist that THEY like.  Then, you have a platform of beginning to teach and enlighten them if they are involved in things that might be harmful or even dangerous.  Teaching times are born out of a life that is focused on the child first and then their actions.

Dad Idea:  Write down a list of questions (similar to the ones above) and have them with you as you spend some devoted time with your son or daughter (by the way, this is a great thing to do with an adult child too–the nature of your questions might change but never too late to invest your time and attention on them and their lives).

One-Tenth of a Year

January 7, 2010

I know we don’t normally think of tenths of a year. Instead, we divide years into twelve months. Recently though, I experienced a wonderful “tenth of a year.”

My oldest daughter, Rachel, and her husband live in California, so we don’t see them very often. Since Richard was finishing up a Marine deployment, Rachel was able to be with us for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. We had a great time with her. I even had the privilege of baptizing her just two days after Christmas.

One of the things that makes our time with Rachel so special is how “unspecial” things used to be. Let’s just say she wasn’t the easiest child to parent. I’ve shared it previously, but this is the same child who at the age of eight when asked by me what she’d like to be in charge of, replied without hesitation, “You and mommy.” Those three words foreshadowed the next ten years.

Sadly, I learned this holiday season just how quickly a tenth of a year can pass. You know how it is–one moment you’re waiting for family to arrive and before you know what happened, you’re hugging goodbye.

So the quick passage of a tenth of a year got me thinking–they’re all going to pass just as quickly. January and February aren’t as much fun as November and December, but they will fly by also. Same number of minutes each day. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Before I know it, it’ll be spring break. Then summer. Then the start of football practice for my son and senior year of high school for my third daughter.

It hit me a couple years ago, that once my children leave for college (two already have), there will be many more days for the rest of our lives that we will not see each other. Up until college starts, we see each other almost everyday of our lives. But going off to college changes everything. Oh, I’m still their dad and we can still have a close relationship…but it’s different. They’re not there at the end of the day to hug or tuck into bed.

So it got me thinking about how many more tenths of a year I’ve got with my two remaining kids at home. Amy is half way through her junior of high school now. She’ll start college in August of 2011. I’ve got 16 tenths left. Not many, if you ask me.

Rob is in 8th grade. Feels like I’ve got a lot of time left with him. But I really don’t. I have 46 tenths left with him. I know how fast the previous tenth went by. No reason to think the next 46 won’t be just as fast.

How many tenths do you have left with your kids?

What are you going to do with them?

Dad as Connector – Part 2

November 21, 2009

In my last post, I shared the impact and importance of connecting with my son as his father by inviting him into my world and getting into his.  I’ve also tried to do the same with my daughters.  It’s been more of a challenge and I’m not sure I’ve succeeded but I can say, I’ve worked at it intentionally.

In addition to connecting to my children as their father, I have also worked at connecting my children to other adult men and women to help them mature.  As much as I want to think they just need my advice, I have come to understand, more than I want to admit, that it does indeed “take a village to raise a child” (just keep them away from the village idiot ;).

During the same year we celebrated my son’s entrance into manhood (see part 1), I also asked a few other men that I admire to speak into Bryan’s life during his 16th year.  One of them is a co-author on this blog, Leary Gates.  Additionally, he got connected to some other men of God who could speak to him with wisdom that I didn’t/don’t have and from personal experiences and perspectives of life that I couldn’t possibly offer.  The result has been that my son learned how to communicate, seek assistance and relate with older men.  My daughters have also had mentors enter into their lives to help shape and guide them.  These are relationships that will grow and flourish outside of our home.  And, I’m so thankful they have those relationships for seeking help, information and friendship.

Confession time — it wasn’t easy for me to invite other men into my son’s life.  There’s this little thing called “pride” that gets in the way of doing the things we should do.  While trying to connect Bryan with other men,  it meant laying down my sense of worth in trying to be the “perfect” father (like I could attain that anyway), and letting other men speak into his life.  If they gave him advice that I wished I had given or maybe didn’t agree with, my “nose got a little tweaked”.  Lessons around humility come from many places.  This was one of those that I had to learn–I don’t know it all.  My son is not mine to own but he’s on loan from God for a time to teach, lead and then launch.  He’ll ultimately spend a lot more time with others than he will with me.  Learning how to handle relationships and seek others for help, advice and camaraderie are critical to his maturing into full manhood.

The earlier you guide your children into relationships with other trusted, Godly adults, the more chance they have at learning what it really means to connect at deeper levels with other people.  It’s all part of the maturing process.  Here’s a little guide you can use as you search for these kinds of relationships for your children:

  1. Pray.  Pray that God would give you names of men/women who would be positive role models and mentors for your children.  These might be people you know or those God puts in your life.  Start praying early–like when they’re in the womb :).  If they’re already out, start today.
  2. Talk to your son/daughter about things that interest them and areas they’d like to explore.  These are things that might help you with your prayers for them and who you could pursue to help them build on those areas.
  3. For my wife and I, pursuing men and women who live fully devoted lives to Christ was key.  We believe that our children need to see how others live out their faith.  And, we want them to be able to ask honest questions as they pursue that area of their lives.  Sometimes carrying the title of “mom” or “dad” inhibits that kind of openness.
  4. When you think you find someone, talk to your child about their willingness to meet this other adult?  Determine the setting and frequency that might be best.  If they are a bit older they can start to make those decisions for themselves.
  5. Make sure that both you and the mentor recognize that they will have discussions that will need to be kept confidential and that it needs to be OK for that adult to withhold that information from you (unless to do so would damage the child in some way).  This kind of relationship comes out of trust between you both.  And, make sure your child knows that his/her relationship with the mentor will be kept confidential unless the child OK’s disclosure of discussion topics.
  6. Be a mentor yourself!  Seek out younger men/women that God has placed in your midst and seek to invest in their lives.  You don’t have to be perfect to be a mentor.  You just have to care about others and be breathing.  Perfection is not what they’re seeking.  Caring men and women who have been where they are going is who they want to connect with.

Bottom line–Connecting is a multifaceted process.  You need to connect with your children as I shared in part 1 and you need to connect your children to other Godly men and women who can help them grow to maturity.  Parenting is not for the weak but it is meant to be done in community!

WHAT ABOUT YOU?– How has mentoring affected you or your child’s life?  How have you been positively impacted by someone who shared their life with you in a real and personal way?

Using tragedy to discuss truth!

June 26, 2009

Today, the world is mourning the loss of two entertainment icons; Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett. Big news! Nearly every channel, radio station, news feed and internet site has carried some aspect of these stories.This was a status update from a friends Facebook this morning, “Dang, can’t get Thriller out of my head this morning. It’s on every channel.” We’ll see television specials on it for the next week at least. Last night alone, two of the major networks ran an hour piece on each of the stars.

It’ll soon be like reliving my teens and early 20’s again —Farah Fawcett posters will probably be reprinted and hanging all over town and we’ll be hearing Michael Jackson’s music all over the radio.

We can’t avoid the attention the deaths of these icons of entertainment bring.  Regardless of how you feel about these individuals, there is no debating their impact on our culture during their lifetime. And, their sudden deaths will be a topic for a long time to come.

How are you handling the discussion of the death of Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett in your families?  The reality of life (and death) produces opportunities to discuss pertinent and biblical truths with our children.  Death is a subject we’d prefer to “leave on the shelf”.  Despite the anti-aging craze our culture is embracing, we will age and, eventually, die.  Death’s reality is unavoidable.  When it happens to those seemingly “bigger than life”, it takes on a certain aura that “if it can happen to them, it can happen to me.”  For those who have lost loved ones, that truth is all to real.

As a dad, I’ve used times like these to approach the “unapproachable” with our children.  I consider it a great opportunity to ask questions about the lives of those in the news.  The lives of Farah and Michael were marked by both the spectacular and the scandalous.  One of the most interesting questions being asked out of their deaths is, “how will they be remembered–for their artistic and professional accomplishments or their personal demons?”  Regardless of how you’d answer that (and there is no right or wrong response), it is an interesting discussion topic.

So, dad, I encourage you to use the upcoming media blitz covering these tragic deaths of well known people to spur conversation with your family.  Here are just a few thoughts to help you begin to stimulate that discussion:

  • If your kids are at an appropriate age, discuss the fact that even stars die and that one day so will we.  How will we be remembered?  What legacy do we want to leave?  Do we have the assurance that when our days on this earth are over, we can know where we are heading?
  • Use Farah Fawcett’s reluctance to marry to open up a discussion about why co-habitation is not part of God’s plan for a man and a woman…Marriage and commitment are.
  • Discuss some of the changes in Michael Jackson’s appearance over the years to discuss how God looks at our hearts, not at our external beauty.  What would drive him to be so consumed with his appearance?
  • Talk about how they each used their God-given skills to impact the world.  Yet, they each seemed unhappy in many ways, including the use of drugs, unwilling to commit to relationships, seclusion, surrogate children, hiding in public and living with accusations of child abuse.
  • Financial discussions about how you can make $20 million / year and be $400 million in debt?
  • Discuss the pain of loss and how that loss is not God’s plan.  Death is separation but, thanks be to God and Jesus Christ that it isn’t  the end for those who are in Christ.

Certainly Michael and Farrah have left an indelible mark on this world.  We will listen to his music for the rest of our lives (maybe more than we want over the next few days 😉 and admire and emulate his dancing.  We will admire Farrah’s beauty and recall her roles on TV and in movies, too.  Yet, in the end, the real issue isn’t what they will be remembered for on this earth (what they sang, how they looked or how much money they had or didn’t have).  No, what will matter for them as it will be for us is “how does God see us”.  Remember to share that with your kids!