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Posts Tagged ‘lessons’

So, once again I am preempting my scheduled blog for a blog about my son and being a parent.

I am divorced.  My oldest son is almost 11 (October 24).  He has a three-year-old brother and a nine-week-old sister.  I am sure in his mind he had eight glorious years of being an only child.  Now despite having to share his home with two other young siblings, hs has always had the escape of visiting his mom on the weekends to have a place all to himself.

Yesterday, he received the news from his mom that she is going to have a baby, and he was not happy about the news.  Now, if you are an avid reader of this blog, I hope you have garnered that I take parenting seriously.  I am not a perfect parent, but I do the best I can.  I mention this because I have thought long and hard about the lessons that I must teach my children, more specifically, my son who is getting closer and closer to becoming a man.

As my son becomes more and more independent, I want to make sure that he has the tools to be prepared for what life will bring.  For example, we preach healthy eating in my house.  We know that he will be in many situations in which the food will be presented in large amounts with many unhealthy options.  My wife and I have had multiple conversations with him to talk about what it means to be healthy and hope that he will choose to make healthy choices whether we are there or not.

Last week we talked about tithing.  We talked about how we believe that all we have is a gift from God and He only asks for 10%.  Brett does not attend church with us, so we have made it a point to at least discuss some of the things that we feel are important in regards to our faith.  He has a lot for a 10-year-old, and we want him to not take it for granted and appreciate all that he has.  I also think it is a good lesson about finances, something that I think many of us were not taught by our parents.

So, when my son came home last night and made it very clear to me that he was not happy about his mom having a child, I knew it was time to have another talk, and this is what I said (Thanks to my friend, Doug, for his inspiration of this chat):

Isaac was in the stroller as Brett and I walked and talked around the neighborhood.  “Brett, first of all you are a great big brother.  You have handled the arrival of your brother and your sister very well.  You have done great.  And I know it is hard dealing with so much change, but you have done an excellent job.  What I want to talk to you about today is what it means to be us.  We are Woods men, and that has meaning.  I want to tell you about two things that I believe is something that we do.  One, we do our best in everything that we do.  Whether it is school, violin, football, or Taekwondo, we do our best.  That is why it is important to practice, read or study, we do our best.  Do you know what pride is?  Well, we have pride in everything that we do.”   And we talked about this for a while. 

“The second thing we do is we help people.  That is very important.  When we see people in need, we help them.”  Brett asked, “Just friends?”  “No, everyone.  We open up doors for people.  We help strangers in need if we can.  We help our friends.  And we especially help our family and that is why your job as big brother is so important.  You have been a great big brother to Isaac and Violet, and I know you will be a great big brother to your new brother or sister.  You will help your mom when she needs it, and you will do your best to make her happy, because that is what we do.”  We continued to talk, and he was surprisingly engaged in the conversation, adding his own comments and questions about things.  By the time we got back home, we had moved on to other things, such as Ben 10 Ultimate Alien.

So, I have been thinking, maybe that is our mission statement.  We do our best and we help others.  It makes me wonder if every family should have a mission statement.  It helps with family identity, unity, goals and understanding of who we are as people.  It might make it just a little easier for our children as they grow older having a clear understanding of what they are about.

You see, Brett was significantly more positive after our conversation.  I will never forget the moment and the power of talking and teaching your kids.  It is a conversation I will definitely have with Isaac and then one day with Violet.  I am sure it will be modified, but it will still be our Woods Mission Statement.  The cool thing is that Brett spent the next hour playing and talking with Isaac during dinner.  It was a lot of fun to watch.  Striving to improve and be better, that’s another thing Woods men do.  I’m just sayin …

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So, originally I was planning on posting on the hypocrisy of people wanting to modify the 14th amendment.  It is as hypocritical an idea I have ever heard and as far as I am concerned it is yet another veiled act of racism.  Although I wrote that post (coming soon), I was distracted by an idea I had about an experience I had at the gym involving very naked and very old men (also coming soon).  Unfortunately, I had an incident today that I feel compelled to talk about in this post.

As some of you may be aware, my son is taking football for the first time.  The coaches tell me he is doing great.  They have been extremely supportive and I have had great conversations with them and their insights to how they think they will use him in the game.  He is slated to play defensive line.

In the beginning, I don’t think he liked it because the first week was all conditioning, but whenever we talked about how he would hit people in the future, his eyes would light up and it was clear he was excited to play football.

Now don’t get me wrong, my son is awesome, but his interactions with the world and other people are not the same as other 10-year-olds.  It is for this reason that I worry about him constantly.  I worry that he will have difficulties making friends, understanding his teachers to be successful in school, and now being able to learn a game he has never played before with several coaches giving multiple instructions.  He is a big kid, and like most people who are especially big, tall, or strong, certain expectations/assumptions are made upon them.  Although he is large, he is also the sweetest, nicest, and most unassuming kid you will ever meet.  He is a pleasure to be around, and probably not a single aggressive bone in his body.  The funny thing is, I was the same way at his age, and I believe I am trying to fix MY “flaw” in him.  I stated in a previous post (Parenting: Raising Children in a Bubble) that “nothing will make you more angry than when your child does or experiences something that is a direct reflection of your own flaws.”  You see, my son did nothing wrong, yet I saw in him something that I wish I would’ve done when I was his age.  It was as if I could fix my flaws through him.

You may have kids and if you do, I’ll ask you this: What is your flaw that you try to fix in your kid(s)?  Maybe you think that if only your son/daughter would apply their God-given talents they would be more successful than you ever were.  Or maybe you wish your child wasn’t so lazy, because you know how lazy you were at their age.  Maybe your child gets too emotional, not emotional enough, no initiative, not prepared for the future, or dating the wrong guy or girl.  But I will ask you to seriously think about it.  Is the thing that annoys you the most, also your flaw?

If you don’t have kids, my guess is that the parent you have the most struggles with are most like you.  If you don’t believe me or you think that it isn’t true, just ask someone else.  For example, my father and I are very alike.  He has an annoying way of saying things to you that are not exactly kind.  They are often true, but it is in the tone that is truly irritating.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my father, and he is significantly more tolerable than he used to be (I think age does that), but he can get under my skin like no one on the planet.  And today, the tone I used with my son after his football practice was from page one of my father’s handbook.  It was like I was acting just like my father, something I promised I would not do, but it was like I was hovering over my body and it was channeling my dad’s tone.

I think we all struggle with our parent’s “mistakes”.  I have placed the word in quotes because I am no longer convinced they were mistakes, but consequences of being human.  My friend, Doug posted a comment (Don’t Have Kids … Please) that I believe states it best:  “But as Don Luis Miguel said in his book, “The Four Agreements,” we hear these things, make an agreement with it, and then later on spread this same negativity. Hopefully today for that mom, and in the future for that child, they begin to break that cycle by making new agreements. 1. Be impeccable with your word. 2. Don’t take things personally. 3. Don’t make assumptions. 4. Always do your best. I have had to work very hard at not doing some of the same things to my kids that my parents did to me. At the same time, I had to let go of resentments about those things and realize that my parents did what they were taught and did the best they could with what they knew.”

I don’t resent my parents.  I think they did a bang up job, but it does not mean that there aren’t cycles I would like to break.  At the end of my little tirade at my son today, I apologized.  He did not deserve my tone.  I told him how great I think he is and how his dad unfortunately gets carried away sometimes.  It was not my intention to make him feel bad.  At dinner I told him that I did not need to be at practice, and he could ask me when he felt he needed my help.  Before he went to bed he said he wanted me at practice, and I was very relieved.

I know I am not the best father in the world, but I hope I am the type of person that can learn from his mistakes and continually strive to be a better person.  I don’t know if I broke the cycle as my friend Doug discusses above, but I do know that I apologized to my son for a mistake that I made, and I am pretty sure that is different.  Maybe the cycle has been broken after all.

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My father is not perfect, but he has been supportive to all his kids and you will not find a more stable, supportive, give the shirt off his back, did the best he could father on the planet.  Not funny, but true.  I’m just sayin …

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So, for some bizarre reason I have had several conversations in the last few days regarding opinions on how to raise children.  I got into one “argument” with a woman at church because I said I did not think that allowing my son to watch a movie with violence was going to turn him into a serial killer.  This is also a hot topic between Leah and I as she is very very anti-violence.  She would argue that she is not over the top, and perhaps she isn’t, but she and I are definitely at different ends of the spectrum.  Now, don’t get me wrong, my son is 10 years old and he does have restrictions.  For example, he is not allowed to watch  Batman: The Dark Knight, which is probably a good indicator movie for where I draw the line for him.  On the other hand, I have no problem with him watching Iron Man 1 or 2, any of the X-Men movies, although after watching X-Men 3 he said “I think that was a little too violent.”  Which means he is probably able to discern among levels of violence (more of an influence of Leah, than me).  And isn’t that the ultimate goal?  Is our goal as parents to shield our children from “evil” or teach them how to discern and make intelligent choices?  I do NOT want to raise our children in a bubble.

I know parents that do not allow guns of any kind/type in their house.  The kids make guns from sticks found in the yard.  I know parents that do not allow their kids to watch movies or TV with any kind of violence.  The kids see these movies at their friend’s house and can’t wait to see more, and the more violent the better.  I know parents that do not allow their kids to watch TV or movies (except parent selected) at all.  You should see these kids when they are someplace with a television.  They are mesmerized.  They literally look like someone gave them crack cocaine.  I am not saying that their should not be rules or boundaries, quite the contrary, but I do believe that the tighter the box, the wilder they will be when released from parental chains, like a chained animal released for the first time.  The most important question in my mind is how to raise a child that when confronted with bad, will make the right choice?

Practice.  Kids need choices.  I have no idea who you are as a parent, but if your children do not have choices, then when they are released on their own, they will have no idea what to choose when confronted with horrible options, or they will be so depended on your guidance that they will never leave the house.

Kids need to be allowed to make mistakes.  How else do we learn?  Think of your biggest lessons in your life.  I almost guarantee they are from your past mistakes.  This is a tough one for me, because I want him to NOT make the same mistakes I made.  Don’t we all want this?  But why?  If our past mistakes made us who we are today, if we learned valuable lessons from our own mistakes, why would we want to deny this for our children?  With choices comes mistakes, from mistakes come learning and from learning comes independence.

Kids need to be parented.  I have worked with youth for a long time now, and this is the biggest problem I see with kids today, absentee parents.  Absentee parenting occurs regardless whether the one parent or two parents are in the picture.  As a matter fact, I see it more common in homes in which both parents are working.  The nice thing about raising your kids in a bubble is it releases you from parenting.  If you are not around, the bubble is a requirement.  Of course, if you are not around, then the bubble walls are easy to break.  The bottom line, I think it is more important to talk to your kids about the things they see and experience in the world: Parenting.  Talking to my son about his experiences is an area I wish to improve the most in my own life.

Finally, I want to share a parenting issue that I have found to be amazingly true and annoying.  And even if you do not have children, but hope one day to have children, consider this a warning.  The issues that your children face, the issues that will bother you the most, and the issues that will make you the angriest and the most frustrated, are the issues you face yourself.  Nothing will make you more angry than when your child does or experiences something that is a direct reflection of your own flaws.  I hate this and I am actively working to improve this aspect of my parenting life.

So, strive to raise independent children.  You want them to be OK without you.  And remember, they are NOT you.  Let them make mistakes, and their mistakes are not always yours even though it may feel like it sometimes.  Besides, if they don’t may make mistakes, they won’t learn nuthin’.

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All babies are cute.  You look at any animal and you will find that babies are cute.  I teach my students this fact of nature.  It is important that babies are cute because they often do things that make you want to kill them, but you see their sweet smile and it steadies your hand.  And just like in the animal kingdom, by the time babies stop being cute, they are too big to kill.  I’m just sayin …

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