Dad Fail

A couple of weeks ago, my oldest son had a soccer game.  I’ve always loved watching him run around on the field, giving it full effort, working with his teammates, going for it.  To be honest, this last game didn’t really represent these things.  He wasn’t playing to his full potential and I could tell he was being timid out there.  As a dad, my competitive juices start flowing and I admit, it’s hard to be super positive after a game like that.

As we were walking back to the car, we recapped the game.  We talked about the challenges, set backs and some positive stuff as well.  I told him that he did great and that I was proud of him for getting out there and playing.  Then the dad-fail came….immediately after the compliment, I mentioned that he seemed a little tired, maybe intimidated and that he didn’t really seem to play like the kid I know.  Stupid mistake.

Soon after we got home, my son called me out.  With frustration in his voice, he told me that I had really discouraged him.  That I told him I was proud of him one second and then immediately went to something negative, deflating any encouragement given.  You know what, he was right, I messed up.

Sure, it’s ok to offer constructive criticism to our children, but at the proper time.  My timing was bad and I apologized.

What a great lesson for me to learn as a dad.  Sometimes, kids don’t need us to fix them or offer them advice.  Sometimes, they just  simply want to know that we’re proud of them.

God Bless,

Paul

The Night We Looked Into The Mirror Together

mirrorThe night was winding down and it was time to brush teeth and get ready for bed.  It was just me and Ben, my oldest son in the bathroom.  After we were all done going through the routine, I felt the need to have him do something different….something outside of our usual order of things……I said, “come here Ben, let’s look into the mirror together….what do you see?”  We stood there for a few seconds, my hands on his shoulders…my adult frame acting as a large backdrop against his small 8-year-old body.  It was a great dad/son moment for me….pretty cool.  He sat there pondering as his eyes wandered, investigating all of his features.  “I see my birth mark.”  That is the first thing Ben stated.  We went down the list of his other physical features like ears, blue eyes, hair, etc.  He then said “I think I look weird.”  I appreciated his child-like simplicity and honesty.  At first, his statement made me kinda sad, but it created an awesome opportunity to talk about some good things.

I think we’ve all gone through stages in life where we think we look “weird” or we’re not satisfied with who we are as people.  I know I have.  Growing up, looking in the mirror was a constant struggle for me.  For some reason, I was ashamed of myself…..I’m not sure why, but I was.  Because of this, my time with Ben in front of the mirror was special.

We were able to discuss how important it is to be different.  That we are all special and handcrafted by a God who loves us.  That we’re all weird, but in a good way!  That, out of the billions of people alive today, not one person is exactly like the other.  That Ben is special and every mark and crease and gap and color and detail makes up his very own identity.  Fantastic!

Next, the conversation led to purpose and exploring God’s plan for Ben.  I asked him what he thought he was created for.  He said, “well I know one thing that I was created for.  I think I am a peace-maker.”  That was awesome to hear.  I wish I was that insightful when I was a kid!  He then asked, “do you think God has a plan for me?  Do you think He has a plan for you, dad?”  I obviously gave an enthusiastic “absolutely!” and explained that we are all created for a purpose.  That, as we go through life, our purpose will hopefully become clearer.  I also explained that even though I’m an adult, I’m still trying to figure out my purpose, but I know it’s out there, ready for me to find!  He nodded his head in agreement, shifted his eyes to the side as he pondered the conversation, we gave hugs and “I love you’s” and then we were done.  Simple stuff, yet such a sweet space in time.

I’m learning that our children often become what we speak into them.  As parents, we are shepherds, doing our best to guide our little ones down the right road.  Although we can’t force our children to become anything or anyone, we can sure clear a path for them, love them, speak confidence into their lives and pray for them….trusting that God has them in His hands.

I invite you to join me in being intentional with our kids our nephews and nieces, our cousins, our friend’s kids….basically any kids that we have contact and relationship with.  They need us….oh yes, little imperfect “us.”

We are responsible for molding the next generation…..what a privilege and honor!

 

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

 

Why It’s Ok That My Son Doesn’t Play Sports

016My oldest son, Ben is such a cool kid.  He’s smart, caring, loving and pretty darn handsome.

A little while back, we had a conversation that I never thought we would have…..he told me that he wanted to take a break from sports.

To be honest, my first reaction was to convince him to stick it out.  I tried to sway him with my best arguments, but to no avail.

He had played soccer for a few seasons and he was getting really good at it.  I thought he should keep playing.  I thought he should keep practicing and getting better.  I thought it was fun to see him practice.  I enjoyed being outdoors with the family, I enjoyed…..I, I, I, I, I.  There’s a lot of I’s there, I know.  It’s about Ben, not me, right?

As Ben and I continued talking about his reasons for not playing, I learned something:  Ben’s likes and dislikes are different from my likes and dislikes.  It’s a pretty simple concept really, but it’s been a little challenging for me.

So, to try something new, he wanted to learn how to cook.  My wife, Pam is so amazing in the kitchen and luckily, she’s open to sharing her skills with Ben.  It’s been really cool to see.

We also got him plugged into Cub Scouts.  What a neat, old-fashioned deal they have going there.

Oh yeah, he’s having fun learning how to swim as well.

Excitement, passion and contentment are shining through his big blue eyes as he pursues these new interests.  That excites me and it blesses me.

The truth is, I need to be supportive no matter what he pursues.  More than that, I need to walk beside him in love as his interests change and mature.

As a dad, I want the best for my son.  I’m learning a very important lesson as I see Ben grow:  Happiness and character don’t just exist once we reach the final destination….it’s the steps along the way that mold us most.    The journey is where we discover God’s purpose for our lives….our passion or calling, so to speak.

That’s where Ben is right now.  He’s finding his footing in life.  What a cool journey to witness and be a part of.

My job is to be there, always, with supportive words, fist bumps, forehead kisses and a whole bunch of “I’m proud of you’s.”

Truthfully, this isn’t only Ben’s journey, this is my adventure too.

God Bless,

Paul

Playing Ninjas on the Playground

SwingsetI’m really proud of my son, Ben.  He just started 1st grade and we all can’t be more excited for him.

Unfortunately, Ben had his first real experience with a bully.  This kid wouldn’t leave him alone…he called him names, made personal attacks, nagged him to death, etc.  I have to admit, I’ve envisioned myself hanging this little twerp by his underwear on the flag pole outside the school.  I know, I know, I need to calm down.  As a victim of bullying myself, it’s tough not to get heated.

Although I would never want my son to get pushed around, it’s been a great learning experience for all of us.  My lovely wife gave him some sound advice and I paraphrase: “sometimes, mean kids just need somebody to be nice to them.  Jesus was nice to mean people all the time.  Sometimes, that bully could even end up being your friend!”  Brilliant.  This great advice made for some deep dinner conversation.

A couple of days later, Ben blew my socks off.  He proudly called me at work to explain a conversation between himself and the twerp…..I mean kid  :).  They spoke in the bathroom at school.  Ben approached the kid and said something like “I’m sick of us fighting all the time.  Can we just be friends?”  The kid responded with a quick “yep.”  It was a simple exchange with profound results.

At recess, they played ninjas on the playground.  In Boy Land, that means that all is right in the world.  That some healing and acceptance has taken place.

Due to Ben’s love and grace, the kid has left him alone.  Apparently, he’s still causing trouble in other ways, but the direct harassment once focused on Ben is no longer there.  Most of the time,  love can be the best deterrent against negativity.  It’s pretty cool how God designed things.

My son inspires me.  I see Jesus in his eyes, in his demeanor, in his hands and in his feet.  I’m proud to be his dad.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

Scars Are Cool

bruise on the boy's legThe other day, my oldest son fell off his bike and hurt his knee.  There was some blood and dirt involved.  You know, the usual carnage that we’ve all experienced as bike-riding kids.

He whined a little and had that, “I’m scared, make it all better!” thing going on.  It was pretty cute really.  Kind of a “welcome to manhood” moment.

So I did what any loving dad would do……I made light of it.  I started cheering him on and emphasized that scars were cool.  After that, I pulled out my phone and took some pictures.  His grimace slowly became a grin.

After the drama subsided, I was able share some of my own bloody knee stories.  I told him about the different scars that I’ve collected and the accidents that caused them.  He thought that was pretty cool and the pain/fear suddenly became a distant memory.  We were both now a part of the “scar club.”

My son felt comforted by the fact that I’ve experienced pain too.  That I’m human.  That I understand.

My boys want and need a dad who shows them his scars too.  I think all kids want that.  It opens avenues of trust.

You see, if our only role in a child’s life is that of power, a disconnect happens.  The transparency is lost and the door of communication remains slightly cracked at best.

My goal as a dad is to provide freedom.  Freedom to fail, freedom to hurt, freedom to be independent, freedom to choose, freedom to approach me with anything, anytime, anywhere……because I love my kids.  Period.

Within that freedom also lies boundaries and discipline.  There’s a fine balance there….one that will take me a lifetime to figure out, story by story, scrape by scrape.  By God’s grace only.

My son acquired a cool scar that day.  I acquired a full heart as we bonded over cool stuff like blood and dirt.

God Bless,

Paul

 

 

Little Eyes Are Watching

Dad and sonLately, I’m trying to be more aware of 2 little sets of eyes, always watching me.  My boys pay attention to everything that I do.  They repeat the words that I say, mimic how I move and observe my reactions to life.

My main job as their dad is to show them how to be men…..men of integrity, men who love Jesus, men who respect women, men who are servants, men who are humble and men who embody love.  As I attempt to achieve this, I’m always praying for opportunities to teach them things.  Whether it’s big things or small things, it doesn’t matter.

For example, we were on our way to dinner last night and there was a truck in front of us that had just broken down.  It was stuck at a light, right at an intersection.  I decided to jump out and help push the truck through the intersection, over to a safe place.  We made it happen and all was well.  I hopped back in the car and we were on our way.

My boys thought it was pretty funny to see me out there, pushing this random truck down the road.  I’m sure it looked funny.  After the laughter subsided, we had the chance to talk about the importance of helping others.  It worked out well and I thank God for the opportunity to share the lesson.

That was a positive lesson to teach my boys.  On the other hand, I’ve also had the humbling experience of teaching them how NOT to do things…..based on my mess-ups of course.  They’ve seen me lose my cool in traffic, screaming “idiot!” at the car in front of me.  They’ve experienced my wrath directed at them for something small and unnecessary.  They’ve seen me get frustrated at doing projects around the house.  The list could go on.

When I mess up, I try to apologize quickly.  I’m a firm believer that a true man is one who is willing to admit his faults.  To admit when he is wrong and to have the courage to say, “I’m sorry.”  So, when the opportunity presents itself, I like my sons to know that their daddy isn’t perfect.  Better yet, I want them to know that I don’t expect them to be perfect either.  I think love and respect grows when there’s the freedom to be less-than-perfect.

Overall, there’s a lot of responsibility in being a dad.  It’s a responsibility that I’m willing to shoulder.  Actually, it’s one that I’m honored to shoulder.

It’s cool to know that I can set the foundation for their future….with God’s grace and help for sure.  I know they may choose a different direction as they grow older.  I just hope that the learning and love that they learn now will somehow provide a level, solid path for them to follow throughout life.

I’m a blessed man.

God Bless,

Paul

Wrestling With My Boys

Father sonA question that my son asks almost every night when I get home is, “can we wrestle tonight?”  My boys and I love wrestling, we’re pretty good at it.

We come up with our own versions of “superman”, “airplane”, “hit daddy in the face with slippers”….you know, cool, painful games like that!  I love it.

The other day, my oldest had a great day at kindergarten.  He got a medal thingy for being safe and responsible, along with some other kids in his class.  I was really proud of him.  I told him that he could have some ice cream after dinner for a reward.  He was pretty excited.

So, after dinner, the boys and I were goofing around and I noticed that it was getting late.  We hadn’t had ice cream yet, so I gave my son the option: either we could keep wrestling or we could stop wrestling and have ice cream instead……he actually chose wrestling over “cookies and cream” ice cream!

I tell you what, that made this dad’s heart melt.  It made me realize how important our rough-house time was.  To me, it doesn’t seem like a big deal really.  To him, it’s interaction with his dad who loves him.

So, of course I caved after that.  He got ice cream and wrestling….I know, I’m a softy.  I was happy to give in that night.

Some nights, I don’t feel like getting beat down by a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old.  You know what, no rest in the world is more important than creating memories to last a lifetime.  I’m blessed.

God Bless,

Paul