The Bullied Girl

The other day, my boys and I went for a nice bike ride and we eventually landed at the park.  I love going to the park.  It’s such simple fun, free from the distraction of technology and it invites physical activity and/or goofing around, which is always good.

As usual, I pushed them on the tire swing until they found a friend to play tag with.  So, I just plopped down on a curb, inhaled the fresh air and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the kiddos running, playing and using their imaginations.

A few minutes later, a group of 4 girls showed up, probably around 11 years old or so.  They were swinging and chatting like normal friends.  I didn’t pay much attention to them until I started to hear the conversation shift a little.  It was apparent that 3 of the girls were pretty close and the 4th girl was an acquaintance or something….maybe even considered an “outsider.”

Basically, the girls started proclaiming that they didn’t know this girl, but the girl was sure that they did know each other.  She asked why they were being mean and not including her in a game and they sarcastically called her a stranger (being sure to note that their parents didn’t let them play with strangers) and started to leave, their noses pointing super high in the air.  In a last-ditch effort to defend herself, the “outsider” threatened to slap them in the face, they mocked her and then they all rode off on their bikes.

It was a gut-wrenching thing to witness, it really was.  Being someone who was bullied as a kid, I wanted to intercede, I wanted to yell at them, I wanted to give the “outsider” a big hug, but my gut told me to hang back.

As the girls rode away, leaving this young lady standing defeated and alone, my oldest son did something that made my blood boil…..he told the 3 girls “good job,” congratulating them on their “victory” (luckily the “outsider” didn’t hear him say that).  He had assumed that the girl was being a troublemaker.

I quickly pulled Ben aside and explained to him what had happened to that poor girl…..that it’s always good to know the full story before jumping on board and following the crowd.  He felt pretty bad about it and I explained that he had an opportunity to make things better.  That he should go over and tell her something like “I’m sorry for how they treated you” and invite her to play with them.

So, with determination and without hesitation, he headed over to her and proceeded to chat with her…he showed her love…I was so proud of him.  They all ended up playing and laughing for a bit and it made this dad’s heart smile.  Honestly, it chokes me up just writing about it.

Kids are pretty brutal to each other at times, it’s true.  Adults can be pretty brutal to each other as well and it’s sad.  Here’s the thing though, we all have the opportunity to shine light, to show love and to avoid the temptation of excluding those who are different.

Our judgments of others can be intoxicating and ego-inflating, they really can.  Let us not forget that we all have a story and we’ve all come from somewhere….and guess what, we’re all not perfect either.

Let’s extend our olive branches friends.  Let’s put aside our assumptions.  Let’s walk alongside those who are ignored, marginalized and different.  I was once that lonely, insecure kid who desired someone to walk alongside me.

I WAS THAT KID.

The desperation for acceptance was real and it influenced every decision that I made.  Luckily, I’ve had loving folks in my life embrace me and love me for who I am.

THEIR LOVE SAVED ME.

Like literally, the love of others SAVED me from doing something really stupid (that’s for another post.)

Will you be that person friends?  I really hope that you will.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Letting Our Kids Help Can Be Annoying

I don’t know about you, but there’s certain things in life that I prefer to handle myself.  I’m referring to practical stuff like mowing the lawn, cleaning up the garage, washing cars, doing dishes, hanging Christmas lights, etc.  Most times, the process just moves along smoother and faster when we’re in control, wouldn’t you agree?!

Well, for those of us who have kids (or hang around kids), there is always the opportunity to allow them to help with certain things.  Actually, sometimes the word “opportunity” is the last word that comes to mind…..words like “annoyance” or “burden” or “inconvenience” feel a little more fitting at times, especially when we’re in a time crunch or something needs to be done in a specific way.

There’s definitely the risk that when we do decide to step aside and let the little boogers help, the task will most likely take longer to complete and once complete, the result may look a little different from what we envisioned.  In a way, that’s the beautiful part though…the imperfectness of it all.

I’ll be really honest with you about something…..I have a super hard time letting my boys help with washing the truck.  It’s not that I demand perfection or anything, it’s just that…..ok, I guess I do maybe kinda sorta want things to be done MY WAY!

It’s hard for me to assign them a certain area of washing, like the front grill or something without feeling some kind of weird, unhealthy anxiety.  Whether it’s them missing a spot or the soap drying too fast, I have this impulse to go back over the spot that they “washed” to make sure it’s done “right.”  (Don’t worry, I try to be super sneaky about it so they don’t think they’ve done a bad job 😉.)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for their willingness to help, I just want things to be done perfect 😁.  Yeah, I know, I need to chill.

You see, most of the time, kids don’t really care about the end result of whatever project we’re working on.  They simply care about spending time with us…that’s it!  Us adults get distracted pretty easily with the results vs. the process and that’s ok.  That’s what our culture teaches us.  We all fall into the trap of looking straight ahead, forgetting about the little hands tugging at our pant pockets, looking for an opportunity to learn, hang out and help.  I’ve done this numerous times!

So, as I write this, I’m reminded to be more aware of opportunities to make memories vs. finished projects.  My hope is that by reading this, you’re reminded as well!

The truth is, at the end of it all, we don’t take our projects with us….but we do have the chance to leave a legacy that lasts.  So, let’s try to be happy with crooked bird houses, paint splashes outside the lines, half-swept driveways, streaky windows, patchy mowed grass and kinda clean vehicles!

Little hands have invested elbow grease and sweat just to be around us, friends!  The least we can do is allow amazing memories to be made!

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow’s Going to be a BAD DAY!!!

My oldest son Ben and I drove to get a pizza the other night for dinner.  I always love those one-on-one opportunities to get caught up a little on his thoughts and perspective on life.

Sometimes, he’ll offer a little more confidential, heartfelt info. during these times, which is awesome.

Amidst our conversation about random things, I asked him if he was excited to go to school the next day.  I already knew the answer to this question, but I wanted to hear the full run down.  His answer was definitely a “no” regarding looking forward to school.  He proceeded to make a list regarding why he was going to have a bad day.  It went something like this:

  1. I have to wake up and go to school
  2. I have to take a reading test
  3. I have to go to the dentist to get my braces fixed

There may have been a couple more things, but you get the point.  Tomorrow was going to be a BAD DAY!!!!!

I found this to be a great opportunity to explain something to him about life, perspective and choices.  Before tomorrow had even begun, Ben had decided that the next day would be crappy.  I mean, his challenges were kind of legit.  Who wants to take tests and go to the dentist anyway????!!!!  I totally get it!

BUT, I encouraged him to make tomorrow a good day DESPITE the obstacles in his way.  That life isn’t all about what happens to us, but how we REACT to the ups and downs….something like that.  I think he listened, because he stopped repeating the list of drudgery that tomorrow held.

We all fall into the trap of setting the tone for tomorrow before tomorrow even starts, don’t we?!  It’s pretty easy to do and it takes mind muscles to force those prophetic thoughts out of the way.

The truth is, we often think we have tomorrow figured out, but in reality, we’re just lucky to wake up breathing.

Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow and he also reminds us that we have no idea what tomorrow will bring…..heck, we don’t even know what the next few minutes will bring!  He’s pretty smart and I think I’ll follow His lead on this one.

It’s wise to be mindful regarding the possibilities and challenges of the days ahead, it’s true.  The gritty part comes when we have to make the choice of embracing those challenges vs. dreading them.  We so quickly forget that we can have peace, even in the midst of the most mundane, difficult moments.  Plus, our fears of tomorrow rarely hold water….in other words, situations often turn out better than what we predicted.

As a quick follow-up, the next day, I asked Ben how his day went.  Specifically, I asked Ben if he “made it a great day.”  His answer was pretty funny and he didn’t skip a beat….he said: “Oh, I forgot.”  So, trying not to smile and patting his head, I asked him if the day wasn’t quite as bad as he was expecting it to be.  He did say that it was better than he expected, so we’ll go with that.  Hey, it’s a start at least!

So, go get it friends.  Go grab tomorrow by the…..well, you know what I mean.

God Bless,

Paul

 

How Kids Can Grow From Our Words

Kids are funny little boogers, aren’t they?  They’re fragile creatures, always absorbing life experiences like a huge, porous sponge.  Their creativity is at full throttle and their imaginations are inspiring!  Every single word that they hear tells them who they are.  It’s true.  Their worldview is largely affected by what they hear and boy, does it feel like they have big ears sometimes!  They can hear EVERYTHING!!!  Although this can be annoying at times, it’s also an awesome opportunity for us to be influencers in their lives.

The other day, my youngest son, Will (6 yrs) got really frustrated over a drawing that he was attempting.  Truthfully, I can’t remember what it was supposed to be exactly, but he got mad, furrowed his brow (so cute!) and crumpled the paper and scribbled all over what he had drawn.  He wasn’t happy with how it was turning out.

After his little tantrum, he said something like “I’m terrible at drawing!!!” and I immediately put his droopy, pouty little cheeks in my hands, looked him in the eyes and told him how talented he really was.  He kind of frowned and listened, giving me the “ok dad, whatever” look.  I kept going, saying things like “look at how well you drew that person!” and “wow, you colored so well and stayed in the lines!”  As I continued to encourage him, he loosened up a little and I could tell he felt better about the situation…maybe even better about himself.  He trusted my words.

These kinds of situations have come up many times over the years with my two sons.  I’m sure you can relate as well.  From sports, to school, to bad dreams, to relationships, my wife and I have had the opportunity to encourage, build up and extinguish negative situations with just our words alone.  They can be powerful and confidence-building, if used correctly and lovingly.

I picture a child’s life as a little seed, needing water and nourishment to survive…eventually, with the right amount of love and attention, that seed will grow up, displaying it’s true self and purpose; to be useful and beautiful.  Similar to that seed, our kids need our words to “water” them, building that firm foundation of strength, courage and confidence needed to thrive and live life to it’s fullest.  To put it another way, our words can be empowering and those opportunities to empower are on OUR shoulders friends…OUR shoulders!

Honestly though, we suck at being encouraging all the time.  I know I do.  Mess ups are inevitable and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time just happens and life goes on.  Heck, even when we do encourage or speak the truth in the right way, the guarantee of making a difference in that moment isn’t always there.  BUT the consistent love and effort that we put forth EVERY SINGLE DAY is what makes the difference and solidifies character in our kids.  CONSISTENCY!!!!

Our kids need us friends…especially during the younger years.  They need us to tell them who they are and where they’re going.  Let’s be the voices that pave the way for them.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

Why Marriage Isn’t Just About Feelings

My wife and I just had our 14 year anniversary and I seriously can’t believe time has flown by the way that it has!

I mean seriously, we were just in high school, standing by the lockers while she felt my “swollen” muscles from weight class!  We were just sitting on that couch watching MTV videos while it snowed outside, eventually leading to me getting snowed-in at her house for the night!  We were just watching Titanic, me trying not to cry like a baby while she’s buying a lady a new bag of popcorn that had been kicked over by some punk kids!  Heck, we were just standing at the altar with butterflies in our stomachs, wondering how this “fairy tale” of a marriage would go!  It’s been a journey, full of turns, hills and off-road adventures.  It’s been perfectly imperfect and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Like any marriage, we’ve had our share of struggles.  I’ll spare you the details, but many of the arguments and slug fests have come from our differences, from our imperfections and from our pride.  Many times, feelings of love and affection just weren’t there.  In fact, we still encounter moments like that…I think we all do, no matter what kind of relationship we find ourselves in.

The issue with our culture is that we often view these “lack of good feelings” moments as abnormal or unhealthy.  Our instincts then tell us to run from the conflict in search of a recharge or a “solution” to fill the void….sometimes in a pretty unhealthy way.  We’re all guilty of it in one form or another.

The truth is that we’re all gluttons for good feelings, especially when it comes to marriage.  Maybe we just need to change our focus a bit from the importance of feelings to the importance of commitment.

Don’t get me wrong here…having periods in life where the good feelings flow is totally awesome!  We should all strive for moments of peace, joy and inspiration, especially within our marriages!  The issue is that a prolonged or permanent time in this good feeling-filled-blissful-state is unrealistic.  The mundane feelings that come with the day-to-day stuff can tend to dull life a bit and that’s totally NORMAL!!!

In reality, those calm waters will get hit with some wind, causing that boat to start rockin’ and often, we jump overboard and head for the shoreline vs. riding out the storm together.  We think that shoreline will provide peace and serenity when in reality, the same wind that was knocking your boat around is still blowing, just in a different spot and in a different way.  The grass isn’t always greener, in other words.

Marriage can be one of the most rewarding things in life and it can also be one of the most frustrating, challenging things in life.  How we view conflict and how we view each other amidst the conflict is so key to moving past the tough times.  It really does take effort though…daily, tough, roll up your sleeves effort.

I’m not a pro at marriage by any means and my list of mess ups is super long, but I know that every second of frustration and struggle has led to the beautiful, messy, perfectly imperfect union that my wife and I have today.  The credit goes to God and God alone.

Fight on friends, be the seasoning when things are bland, be the grace and peace when waters are choppy, be the comedy when things go haywire…just “be” and commit.

Feelings will come and go, but that person with morning breath each day is there to stay…wait, maybe not the most glamorous of endings…well, you get the point 😜.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

How Us Parents are Hypocrites and Why it’s Ok!

The other night, I walked by my oldest son’s school and the playground that has provided so many memories for our family.  Nostalgia always creeps in about the experiences we’ve shared and how rapidly the future is approaching.  I’m a sap like that.

I started thinking about my boys and comparing their childhood to mine….what things I want to steer them TOWARDS and what things I want to steer them FROM.  As parents, I think it’s safe to say that we always want to protect our kiddos and provide them with a great childhood, far better than our own.  It’s a great goal to have.

Often, in pursuit of a great life for our kids, we provide boundaries, rules and discipline, hoping that these things point them in the right direction.  The “do this” and “don’t do that” list is long and boy, do we get frustrated at those little boogers when they goof up sometimes.  There is some comedy to the progression of life….us kids (you and me) becoming parents….shaking our heads as we enforce and guide our own children.  Here’s a simple truth:  AS PARENTS, WE’RE A BUNCH OF HYPOCRITES!  It’s true and you know what, it’s ok.  Let me explain.

A partial definition of hypocrisy is:  “The behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do.”  (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).  While this definition is in the present tense, you could also tweak the sentence to say; “The behavior of people who HAVE DONE things (us parents) that they tell other people not to do (our kids).” 

We definitely all fall into this finger-pointing, “I can do it, but you can’t” category at some point, don’t we?!  It’s just one of those pesky flaws that we possess as humans.  Being a parent really highlights this whole double standard thing.  I mean really, when was the last time we sternly told our kids to stop whining, or to share, or to have a better attitude about school or to clean their room or to talk nice about others….the list goes on and on.  We’ve all been there, sternly enforcing the same things over and over and over and over and over again it seems!  It’s easy to forget that we were young once, disobeying our parents, hitting our siblings, pulling some random kid’s hair out of their head (ok, maybe that was just me), crying on airplanes or in grocery stores, receiving glaring stares from old people and other judging parents.  Now we’re the old folks, glaring at those punk kids…how dare they do those things!  🙂

The positive note to this whole parental hypocrisy thing is this: ALTHOUGH WE’VE DONE SOME STUPID THINGS AS KIDS, OUR LIFE EXPERIENCES HAVE EQUIPPED US WITH THE KNOWLEDGE TO PROTECT AND TEACH OUR OWN CHILDREN.

This has gone on for generations and although hypocrisy is not a great character trait in most cases, it’s played a big role in successful parenting for centuries.

So, before we get pissed at the crying kid on the airplane (super annoying, right?), let’s remember that we were once that crying kid, causing a scene.  Those rug rats will someday grow up to be parents, full of hypocrisy, just like us, getting mad at their kids for the same things that they used to do as children!  God must be so proud, ha!

Happy parenting! 😉

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

The Dinner Table

My wife and I love being parents.  It’s such an honor, a challenge, a frustration and a blessing, all at the same time!  The whole “I wish there was an instruction manual for these kids” comment has been thrown around a few times for sure!

I think I can safely say that Pam and I feel like students, constantly learning new things about parenting.  Oftentimes, it seems as though us parents are the students and our children are the teachers, doesn’t it?!

One of the most recent lessons that we’ve learned as parents is fairly simple, yet so important.  Here it is…drum roll please…: SITTING AROUND THE TABLE AT MEALS IS SO AWESOME AND SO NECESSARY!!! 

You may be thinking, “duh, of course it’s important to eat meals around the table!” and we thought the same thing for years…until our lives got a little busier.  I confess that we got comfortable throwing a towel on the ground in the living room, flipping on the TV and contently eating there collectively gazing at the Food Channel or whatever….like for every meal.  I know there’s worse things in life, but my wife and I realized that we needed to make some changes.

Don’t get me wrong, eating in the living room isn’t a cardinal sin and I certainly don’t condemn others for doing that!  Life gets busy, I totally get it!  For my family, it just didn’t work out, at least not as a regular thing.

When planted in front of the TV, we noticed a huge lack of conversation and the only comments made were things like, “hey, pass the Sriracha” or “I can’t believe Henry Danger did that!”  Recapping the day didn’t really happen and we started to feel a little out of touch with each other.  Things just felt “off.”

So, we decided that most nights (not ALL nights), dinner would be shared around the table together.  The boys complained a bit at first, but I can understand their disappointment….parents vs. TV…hmmmm.  They’re used to it now, but it’s not like they had much of a choice in the first place 😄.

You know what, it’s been great!  It’s funny how a meal together around a piece of wood can sync things so nicely.  We’re all present, we talk about the day, we laugh, we’re together mentally, not just physically, sitting in the same room staring at the screen.  It’s beautiful.

I do understand that this may seem old fashioned to some folks and that’s ok!  If eating around the table isn’t your thing, I encourage you to find that face-to-face time with your family.  Whether it be taking a walk, reading books, playing games or whatever, it’s time well spent!

Let me know how it goes, friends!

God Bless,

Paul