Category Archives: Family
“You mean we get to take her home?” I remember my wife, Krista, putting into words the very thoughts I had been having since the nurse told us that we would be discharged from the hospital. Our daughter had been born not even 72 hours before we got into our Ford Focus and headed home. Were we ready? We thought we were…
Until we realized that “getting ready” meant much more than baby showers, putting cribs together and stocking up on diapers. In reality, our efforts to make our home a place that was absolutely perfect for our baby girl were vain attempts to control a situation that was out of our hands to begin with. What we only realized in part, was that God was yearning for us to fully surrender our newborn baby over to him. He was still certainly going to use us to raise her, but He had something very important for us to learn that we could not find in the pages of a self-help book. We would learn it by raising the white flag.
In the single act of surrender, we were doing more for our child than years spent striving to be a better parent or know enough about child-rearing. Our surrender meant that we believe God holds the victory in our daughter’s life and that we can choose to join him in it or be his adversaries. Whether or not we were enough as parents didn’t matter if we had gone “palms up” and handed her over. This surrender meant that we would have to become better listeners. We wait for God to speak. He does and we hear, then choose to continue on with the white flag raised. This surrender means that we may not have clear answers. We do not negotiate the terms, we simply trust.
When we raise the white flag and surrender our parenting over to God, he takes us where we are and begins the victory dance. In fact, he invites us to join in with him. When you dance with the Victor, the parenting battles become boogies, the tantrums become tangos, the wrestling turns to a waltz. We dance with God in the joy of surrender and let him take the lead.
This is Jhulon. He is an 8-year-old little boy from Bangladesh. He has made a huge impact on my daughter. We have been sponsoring him for about two years. Technically, our 6-year-old daughter is sponsoring him – it’s her name he sees when he gets a letter from us. She is also the one in our family that most fervently prays for him. Every night his name is the first thing that comes out her mouth when she starts her prayers. A letter we received from him describes his home life and living conditions and our compassionate daughter desperately wants God to give him running water in his house. She wants God to give him a house made of bricks instead of leaves. She wants him to have carpeted floors and an education. She never finishes a prayer thought without praying for the most important thing she desires for him…
That he would know how much God loves him.
We thought it would be a good idea for us to sponsor a child with Compassion International because we knew it would change the life of a someone. It has been amazing to see the role praying for this little boy has played in our daughter’s walk with God. She has a global perspective of what God is doing to redeem the world. Because of Jhulon, I am able to see just how God is working in my own daughter’s heart. Growing her. Stretching her.
September is blog month at Compassion. I have agreed to accept four blogging assignments from them in hopes that throughout the month, more children will be sponsored than ever before. If you blog, consider blogging for them. If you can, consider sponsoring a child. It’s made a big impact on a little 8-year-old boy in Bangladesh and a little 6-year-old girl in middle Tennessee.
“Daddy, can a woman with no husband have a baby?”
Uh… Quick… Don’t panic! Don’t panic! Hmm… What exactly is she asking here? How much do I need to tell her? Why is Krista upstairs? Uh….
“Well, that’s a good question sweetie! Why are you asking?”
This is what started our conversation over the breakfast table before church this morning. I was caught totally off guard and for a short while had absolutely no clue how to respond. Luckily a well-crafted question bought me some time to think as well as figure out just what my 5 year-old daughter was wanting to know.
Turns out she was at a church consignment sale with my wife yesterday and they had posters up advertising an adoption information meeting. We also have been sharing openly about a family from church that has just adopted a little boy from a teenage mom. While we have gone into just a little detail recently about how boys and girls are different, we haven’t had that talk yet. I surmised that what she really wanted to know was whether it was okay or not for a child to be in a family with no daddy. I think she was also wondering why a mommy would choose to give her baby up for adoption.
I am often amazed at the weight of things kids think about. Our daughter is surrounded at church and homeschool events by families that have adopted. We talk about adopting into our own home and how much of a blessing it would be to both the child and our family. We had never really given much thought about how, for a five-year old, it wouldn’t make much sense. I wanted to be sure to respond carefully.
“You know, I love how you are always thinking of other people. I can tell this is important to you. Remember how God made everything and had a plan for how it would all work? Sometimes things don’t work out the way God had planned. This isn’t because God was wrong or couldn’t make it work. Sometimes people think it would be better to try a different plan. God’s perfect plan for babies is that they would have a mommy and a daddy who are married to each other. There are lots of reasons that a baby might be born without a daddy. Sometimes it can still work out good, but God’s ways are always better.”
I was amazed at the attention span of my little girl. I didn’t want to keep talking if she had checked out of the conversation so I asked her if this all made sense. She nodded that it did but I could tell that she needed a little more explanation. I began telling her about the family from church that just adopted a little boy. I explained that the mommy just felt that it would be better for the baby to be in a family that had a mommy and a daddy who were married to each other. I shared how difficult it must have been for the little boy’s mommy to make that decision but because she loved him so much she wanted to do what she felt was best for him.
Our conversation seemed to answer her questions for now. She will likely have additional questions soon so we will continue talking about it as she puts pieces together. I love these talks we have because it just broadens the communication pathways between us and our children. Without reacting we set the stage for future conversations that might be more difficult. I also love them because it gives us a chance to share with our daughters God’s heart. I didn’t go into any detail about mistakes that people make with pre-marital sex or how families end up divorced. But through talks like this we communicate a very important message: God loves his people and wants what is best for them. This will be a thread woven into future conversations with our kids. We want them to know that God’s love is bigger and better than anything we could want. Because of this, he can be trusted with our plans.
I would love to hear from others who have had conversations like this with their kids. Share what your conversation was like in the comment section and how you felt it drew your children closer to the heart of Christ.
Someone was interested so I thought I would share our newly devised chore system. We have two daughters (Ages 5 & 3) and have recently begun a new system for getting things done around the house. Except it accomplishes so much more. It certainly is not perfect and we revise it nearly weekly. For now it works for us to accomplish some goals we have for our family. Before I describe the system, here are some of the things its getting done BESIDES helping our house look abnormally clean.
- Confidence – We have noticed HUGE changes in our daughters’ assurance in their own abilities to accomplish tasks.
- Money – Yes, allowance is associated with part of our system. They are learning at an early age how to manage it.
- Bonding – Nothing brings a dad closer to his daughters like being able to encourage them, dote on them, show them grace, and challenge them to raise their own standards.
- Routine – There’s never any guessing what is expected and when. There is a rhythm to our day and the whole family is better for it.
- Me time – I have more time to do things on MY list because I am no longer doing things THEY can do!
So… How does our system work? The key to our system is adaptability. We needed to be able to make small changes to our system without it messing up the routines the girls desperately need. So each day the girls have seven chores they need to do. They are supposed to do these chores every day. We chose seven for the simple reason that the chore charts Krista found at Target had seven spots. Each day at chore time, they go down the list and after each chore is completed they get to put a sticker on the chart.
A few words about chores and age-appropriateness. Our daughter’s chore charts each have different chores on them. At 3 years old, our younger daughter is working on basic tasks – making her bed, getting dressed, picking up her toys, etc. These are on her chore chart because she is still learning to do them. Eventually, they will become things that she is just required to do without any compensation. Our 5 year old has a “first things” routine every morning. When her alarm clock goes off (yes, we set an alarm clock for her) she is to make her bed, get dressed and say a good morning prayer. She does these and doesn’t get a sticker. As adults there are things we have to do around the house that we do not get paid for and as children they must learn that certain things we do because we are members of the family and other things we do because its our job and we get paid. Our 5 year old waters plants, washes windows, and empties bathroom trash cans among other things. These are sticker chores. She is old enough that when we tell her its time to do chores, she is able to complete them with little oversight from us, freeing us up to supervise and help our younger daughter.
So what happens if your child’s bed looks like it was made by a preschooler? Well… if your child is a preschooler, CONGRATS! She did it perfectly! Give lots of hugs and encouragement and tell her how proud of her you are. Jump down the hall together and put a sticker on the board! Doing age-appropriate chores is lots of fun when you hype it up like this. It’s easy to sacrifice having an immaculate home when you are focused on giving a boost to your kids’ self-concept. Don’t rob this from them by going back behind them and re-doing the job. If it bothers you that much get tags to put around the house that say “Cleaned with pride by an incredible 5-year old!” or “I dressed myself today!” All your house guests will get the idea!
At the end of the week we take the charts of the fridge and sit down to dish out allowance. Our older daughter gets 1 dime for each sticker on her chart. Our younger gets 1 nickel for each sticker. On their turn we hand them a handful of dimes or nickels and they get to cover up each sticker with the coin. This helps them know that they are getting paid for the work they have done. Once all of the stickers are covered up we have them count out ten coins from the chart. 1 out of every ten goes into their church bank, 1 out of ten goes into their “bank” bank and the other 8 they get to do with as they please. They could put the rest in their “spend” bank but most weeks they decide to evenly disperse the money between all three. We continue to do this counting out 10 coins and separating them out until all the coins are off the chart. We then remove the stickers and start the week over!
Feel free to comment with what has worked for you in your house! I love to hear new ideas about getting kids to become more responsible!
It seems that all my most exciting parent observations happen at Chick-Fil-A. I truly think it is because people feel at home there and can just be themselves, letting others glimpse both the good and the bad! Today I got to spend some one-on-one time with my youngest daughter. Given the choice between Moe’s and Chick-Fil-A, my daughters will always choose the latter. I really do love this place. There is no other restaurant that can beat their customer service. You would think that at a place where it is always their pleasure to refresh my beverage that everyone would be at their friendliest. Not so today.
My daughter was playing in the play area along with another little boy who was two years old. His grandparents and I were sitting just outside the glass door, watching where we could swoop in and rescue them at a moment’s notice. Though I may sounds like a helicopter parent, I am not. As you will soon read, I believe with my whole heart that children should experience the consequences, however big or small, of their actions. The price tag only goes up as they grow older so now is the best time to learn the lessons – while the price to pay is minimal. Not too long after she began playing, three older kids sauntered into the play area. When I say older kids, all that really matters is that in their sauntering, they walked past the cow holding the height restriction sign, heads bobbing well above the arrow indicating 54 inches. They were probably 10, 12 and 15 years old. The youngest made a bee line straight up the slide (everyone knows this is on the no-no list). The 12-year-old made her way up the steps and the oldest ran through the little toddler area, around the steps and enthusiastically chased his brother up the slide. My daughter and her little friend just stared blankly at the commotion. As they entered I groaned a little more loudly than I realized because the boys grandparents sitting next to me groaned in agreement. No words were necessary; we all agreed. The older kids were too big to be playing in there, especially with toddlers.
So here, we were left with some choices. As I mentioned above, I realize there are consequences with every choice – even my own. If I swoop in and take my daughter out of there, she will miss out on play time. Chick-Fil-A, until today, had become a place where I could sit and get my beverage refreshed while my kids played behind sound-proof, glass walls. I wasn’t quite ready to leave my mini vacation yet. Another option would have been to go and notify the manager that there were three rowdy kids in the play area. I didn’t feel I could risk leaving her in there while I notify the manager. Though there may have been other choices, I went with a third option. I opened the door as the oldest was making his way up the slide and crouched down where the slide let out and said, “Hey guys, I really think you three are too big to be playing in here while there are little kids running around.” That was it. I didn’t even ask them to leave. I partly wanted to give them the chance to make a choice of their own, but also felt that my statement was just shy of actually telling someone else’s kids what to do! With grumbles they acknowledged what I said and began making their way out.
As I went back to my seat, I gave the boy’s grandparents a look that indicated I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Just as I was sitting down, the older kids’ mom was approaching to enter the play area. I always feel it is better for parents to hear about conversations I have with their kids from me first so when mom made eye contact with me, I said with a smile, “I told your kids I thought they were a little too big to be playing in there with little kids.” Before I could finish my sentence, with a voice loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear and finger waving in my face, she exclaimed, “How dare you tell my kids what to do! NO ONE disciplines my kids.”
Thinking back on the situation, I realize she and I aren’t really as different as I felt at that moment. We were both acting out of the protective instincts God gave us. I was trying to protect my daughter, she was trying to protect her children. I may have reacted differently than her if the situation were reversed but her reaction came from the same place mine did. I have thought all day about what her life may be like. Has she had it rough? Have her kids been through things that I could never imagine? Hearing her say, “NO ONE disciplines my kids,” I was thinking about how they were missing out on the blessings of boundaries. Rather than saying that, I fumbled through an apology and tried to explain that I was concerned for the little kids but she was not interested in hearing anything I had to say. She quickly got her kids, got her food and went to eat outside. The little boy’s grandparents were in just as much shock as I.
So, was it in my place to say something to the older kids in the play area? Under the right circumstances I think anyone could justify it, even if there are other ways of removing my daughter from the situation. Really, it’s not a question of what was going to be best only for my daughter. What happened to me today is a sad indication of where a lot of families find themselves. I was able to brush off rather quickly being scolded in public by another parent. The lasting effects of today’s run-in at Chick-Fil-A are going to take their toll on the three kids who missed out on a teaching opportunity from their mom. I certainly do not want other kids to learn their lessons at my daughters expense. The cost now might have been a few bumps and bruises for the little ones and some temporary guilt for the older. The cost later on could include hospital bills and years or remorse. I have no earthly idea the impact of my actions on those other kids. Their mom might not really be bothered by their carelessness around other people. Or, perhaps as they were sitting around eating their spicy chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, a conversation was happening that might have been neglected otherwise. I can handle an irate mom, complete with finger waving in my face. If, indeed, no one disciplines her kids, she will have much worse things to be angry about later on.