Wednesday, March 19, 2008


It's probably the new "energy drink" phenomenon that really caught my attention, but other than being a legal addiction, caffeine is a great example of the concept of addiction itself. One can put many other things in the same boat, like meth, cocaine, heroine, prescription pain killers, narcotic cough syrups, money, attention, the list goes on. When one is addicted to something, they have to have that thing, and once they get it, they want more. I remember when Mountain Dew had the most caffeine of any drink, now it's hardly comparable to Monster and Red Bull. I have even heard of water with caffeine in it, and if you made coffee with it, you increased the caffeine content.
So what's the big deal? Sure, some of the list above are illegal, some bad for you but legal, like caffeine, and some allegedly good for you, like money, or attention. Who ever heard of anybody younger than mid 50's dreaming of a smaller house? Fewer clothes? Less to do? I've spent my life wanting more, more money, more fame, more house, more car, more everything. And once I get what used to seem like "more", it becomes the norm and I again want "more". That's addiction. The bar keeps getting higher, what once was considered satisfactory just no longer makes the grade. So...what about attention? That's not bad, is it?
Consider your first child. That child got a level of attention that you won't be able to provide for any subsequent children. And is it enough? Is that child ready to share that attention when #2 comes along? Or is that child asking for more attention? The level you previously provided is not enough anymore. Always more. As humans, we must be built this way. So what's my point? Other than to tell you not to get into illegal or harmful addictions? 
I want you to look at reality, accept the fact that with your kids, whatever level of attention you currently provide won't be enough for them in a year. No matter how much you give. No matter how big a deal you make of how well he colors in the lines or she recites her abc's, they will each want more attention and recognition than you gave previously. It's human nature. So start low! When they're babies, meet their needs. Feed, change, burp. Hold them and look at them and count their toes and fingers, but only because you want to. When you find yourself holding the child because if you don't he or she will scream and cry, you're witnessing addiction at one of its earliest levels. So start low. Don't neglect, I'm absolutely not saying that. But don't overcelebrate early success, because you're always going to have to top your last celebration or "you don't like it, daddy?". Once again, I'm not speaking of meeting needs. I'm talking about that basic human right as far as the liberal educators are concerned, "building self esteem". Be very careful here. Self esteem is built in. That's why the 2nd great commandment according to Jesus is "love your neighbor as yourself". He didn't tell us we had to love ourselves. That's a given. Back to your kids - rip off the "my child is an honor student at..." bumper sticker, peel off the  cheesy baseball icons or cheer icons with your kids' names beneath them on the back window of your SUV. For whom do you do this? Do the kids say, "mom, you don't have my name on the back of your Escalade and that hurts my self esteem"? No! To tell the truth, they are likely embarrassed that you've messed up a perfectly good - though overpriced and a gas hog, with 4 more seats than you have people to put in them - vehicle (I digress, sorry, hard to not run down rabbit holes). Do you need to go to all their games? From the time they're 3 and chasing butterflies instead of pop flies? NO! Hell, no! You're creating an addiction. In you and in them. You're setting their expectations for your attendance and attention so high that by the time it really matters, you'll be the rabid dad who comes out of the stands to tackle the coach because your kid didn't play enough or hit the kid who hit your kid in the football game. You are getting them addicted to you being there all the time. OK, if it's fun for you, just like holding the baby in the illustration above, that's different. But I'm talking about the mandatory attendance at anything your kid does anytime, anywhere, because somewhere you've been convinced that to NOT attend all those events you will crush that fragile thing labelled as self esteem and your kid is going to be the next "troubled youth" who shoots up a school or a mall. Stop now, before it's too late. 
Realize that the level of attention that you give your child now, whether for reading a certain number of books or peeing in the pot or showing up at the soccer game or making good grades or being in the school musical or drawing a picture that got chosen to be shown in the mall with a bazillion other pictures that look like 3rd graders drew them, will set the level of expectation for the future of attention in your child's life. So, set the bar low. Love your kids. Don't worship them. Be with your kids, but not always at an "event". Have dinner together, skip soccer practice, show your child that you treasure the time with him or her more than the commitment you made for him or her. Relax. Enjoy your children. I'm not telling you to neglect or fail to notice accomplishments. But only to the level that those accomplishments deserve. Making the honor roll in middle school doesn't deserve a bumper sticker. In fact, have you ever seen a bumper sticker that says "my kid got into Harvard"? NO. You celebrate more personally and less publicly, more appropriate for the level of accomplishment. I think something of this thought is in my "birthday party" blog from a while back. Just remember, you are growing a kid who someday will expect a medal for showing up to work everyday if you reward the normal, expected things in life. Show some restraint. Just because everybody else on the block is touting their kid's accomplishments, you don't have to. Your kids will know that you love them by your attention in the areas that matter, and by your attendance at things like - baths, bedtime prayers, dinner, church, impromptu fishing trips to the neighborhood pond, Braum's runs after dinner "just because" - that's what they'll remember. 
Save something for the big stuff later. Don't throw all your good pitches too early in the game. Remember, they will always want more, so if you start low, you can peak at the right time.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


OK, I'm going to get "religious" on you for a minute. I want to try to tie together the concept of trials and tribulations in life as Jesus speaks of them, and the troubles we have with our kids, and make a point. Wish me luck. For excellent spiritual advice and discussion, please see my wife's blog at 
My wife references Oswald Chambers a lot. I read his devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, almost every day. He's got some cool insight into how God works. I like it, maybe you will, too. In Bible Study Fellowship, we are studying Matthew, and this week there's a part where Jesus tells the disciples that things aren't going to be easy, and that they will have to drink His cup, too, and that it's going to be tough, but for all the tough stuff they endure, it will be worth it both here on earth and definitely in heaven, where eternal life is the prize. He tells them not to be surprised when trials come.
So...trials and troubles don't sound fun, do they? But, basically, no pain, no gain. 
How do we handle them? How are we supposed to handle them? Are the answers to these two questions the same? I doubt it. I know it's not that way for me. 
Here's where Oswald Chambers comes in with a quite hip (for the 1910's) analogy that I think illustrates the point and the correct handling of trials and tribulations. He references the verse in Romans where Paul says "in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us". Oswald then goes on to say that "the surf that distresses the ordinary swimmer produces in the [surfer] the super-joy of going clean through it". So, picture Hawaii and the big waves and you don't see people swimming and splashing around at the beach, you see the surfers paddling out and waiting for the best, the biggest, wave they can find to ride in as far and as fast as they can. Never having been there, I'm just guessing, but I'm thinking that swimming in that kind of surf is dangerous to say the least. In fact, people probably drown all the time there. But they travel there to surf.  The waves that would drown a swimmer are the exact things that make it fun for the surfer. 
So...the waves are the trials and tribulations. The swimmer is the person who tries to plow through the surf on his own strength and he drowns. The surfer is the one who sees the problems as opportunities that can provide fun (rejoicing) if one has the Holy Spirit (surfboard).  I really like that metaphor. It hits me where I live. When I'm swallowing a lot of water trying to swim, I try to conjure this idea up in my mind, rise above it with God's help, and surf. This is probably what I mean when I say parents should be "detached" from their kids' lives some of the time. If all you see are waves one after another, and all you're trying to do is swim, you're going to drown. So surf! If it weren't for the waves, you wouldn't know what it was like when the waves were quiet. You might even (gulp) wish for some waves!
We expect things to be easy. We sure hope they're going to be easy. We get a baby and that baby should be perfectly healthy at all times and present no problems to us, and maybe an hour goes by and something goes wrong. The baby spits up, has a stuffy nose, is constipated, has a rash, breathes funny. And you haven't even left the hospital with your newborn! Then there are ear infections, colds, stomach bugs, strep throat, 5th disease, shots, fussiness, biting, temper tantrums, defiant behaviors, the list is endless. We should not be surprised at these problems. In fact, if we are "surfers" we should really be looking for the next wave, and in my experience, if you're looking for a wave, one doesn't usually come! Reverse psychology! The last shall be first and all that stuff that Jesus talked about. 
My point? Don't be surprised when bad things happen. They're going to happen. If they didn't, you wouldn't be able to enjoy things when they're going well. You wouldn't know any difference. Sort of like a "Twilight Zone" episode where the guy died and thought he'd gone to heaven because he got everything he wanted right away and always won when he gambled and always got the girl he wanted, then he found out it was really hell. With no down, up can't be appreciated, with no sound, silence can't be enjoyed, etc.
So, surf! You don't have to enjoy your kid being sick, just realize that you're in Hawaii (it's a metaphor!) and there are going to be waves and you should expect them and you've got the Holy Spirit to help you surf, so detach from those waves, stand on them and ride! You might find that when things are going great, you get kind of bored. Maybe, maybe not.
Last point: waves are going to come. Don't be surprised or overwhelmed by them. In fact, if you do it right, you might be surprised at your attitude when your kid doesn't have as many problems you thought they would. Not that you look forward to problems, but in a way, you really do. And in the same vein, you enjoy the lack of problems that would overwhelm you, and you might even be able to help people who are trying to swim and about to drown!