Of Pancakes and Chocolate Milk

Hours spent at breakfast with my oldest daughter… 90 (or so)

Dollars spent on donuts, coffee, hot choclate, pancakes, and muffins… $1170.00

Moments of significant depth and connection from one soul to another… 1

Totally Worth It!!

I have been taking my oldest daughter to breakfast once a month for at least 6 years now.  I have only missed the Sunday morning breakfast dates with her when I have been away from home.  I started these 1 on 1 breakfasts with each of my kids in hopes that we would develop an emotional connection early in their lives.  If we can develop these early connections, then when they are in the midst of the teenage years, we will have a foundation in our relationship in order to have good conversations about some of those hard teenage conversations…  you know…

I have written my ideas about connecting with my oldest daughter before.  I call her my little sweetpea.

This last Sunday we went about our normal routine.  We got up and walked to our local Dunkin Donuts, paid for breakfast and coffee, then walked to Church.  All in all about a mile and a half.

When we got to the Church, we sat down on one of the rail ties that is used to delineate the parking areas.  Makes for a pretty good little bench.  She got to go to a friends house on Saturday for a few hours and she loved it.  I was asking her questions and just “following the emotion” in what she was saying which lead us to talk about her and being shy.  I learned several things that morning.

1)  She told me she is shy because other people are so nice to her and she doesn’t know how to say Thank You.  We talked about this one and what she is really saying is that she feels as though she cannot repay people for being so nice to her, and that if she cannot repay their kindness to her, they will stop being kind.

2) She thinks that she has nice stuff, but not as nice as other peoples stuff, and when these other people see the kind of stuff that she has, they will think that she is not a good girl and that is why she does not have nice stuff.

I expected to hear her tell me that she thinks people will think she is ugly, mean, stinky, boring, etc.  I was ready to tell her what I think about her regarding those things.  I was a bit blown away when I heard that she is afraid that she cannot repay the debt of kindness and grace that others have given her.  Before rooting around in this though, I decided to just keep asking questions and helping her put into words what she was feeling.

I asked her if somebody she knew told her that her stuff was not as nice as theirs or that she was not as nice as them.  (I think “nice” is a bad word but that is what she was saying… I’ll write about that later.)  She immediately… as in with no pause or break to think about it…  tells me that she was picking blackberries with a little girl from our neighborhood in Washington along with a couple other kids.  This other girl announced to the rest of the kids that when she starts making a clicking sound with her mouth, they should hold her hands behind her back.  This sound, she said, was a warning that she was about to go get a knife from her house and cut the head off of my little sweetpea.

I remembered this incident.  I remembered having to intervene with these 2 little girls in the past.  They both had little attitudes while playing together and I would get on to both of them from time time.  I also remember seeing a very manipulative and mean spirit from this other girl.  I figured it was just little girl attitude, just like mine has sometimes, and didn’t worry about it.  It is good for my kids to face those kinds of people so that they can learn how to interact with folks who aren’t all sunshine and butterflies.

The rest of the conversation went swimmingly.

She ended up sitting on my lap, we talked for a while after that and then went into the gym to play a pool ball shuffleboard kind of game.

I felt great because I was able to intervene in my daughter’s life early on in order to root out some of the damage done to her little soul and to affirm that she really is a good and sweet girl.

I felt great because, after 6 years of breakfasts in which I sat thinking about the rest of my day, wiping syrup off of little hands and cinnamon and sugar off of little dresses, drinking coffee from fast food chain cups, wondering if there is a better way to lay these foundations, wondering if I should have started these breakfasts a little bit later…  a bridge was built into her heart upon a solid foundation… of donuts and coffee, pancakes and chocolate milk.


How to Connect With an Introvert

For those of you who read this blog but do not know me personally, let me make something clear…

I am not an introvert.

Though I do not always enjoy being the middle of the crowd, I do enjoy being around people.  I love backpacking.  The only thing better than backpacking is backpacking with somebody else.  I have spent quite a few hours by myself sitting in the woods on hunting trips, but I would much rather spend that time sitting in the woods with somebody else.  I have found that I enjoy bird hunting more than big game hunting because it is a more social event.  Drawback… you have to kill a lot of birds to equal a deer.

I love who I am.

I love how I am.

There are still things about me that need to mature and develop, but on the whole… I love being me.

I have four kids.  When they were very young, they were your typical toddlers.  Into everything, running around, making noise, making a mess, spontaneous.  Our house seemed to vibrate constantly with the activity and noise that simmered perpetually within the walls.  My home is not a safe place for an introvert.  I understand that and so, when I am hanging out with an introvert, I meet with them outside of my home.  We meet somewhere quiet… like the mall…

I have all these ideas about ways to raise my kids.  I have these ideas about things to do in order to communicate just how much I love them and to really connect with them in a meaningful and intimate manner.

It never crossed my mind that any of my kids would turn out to be a calm, quiet, introvert.

What do I do with that?

How on earth do I communicate my love to a little girl who would like to just sit and look at a book… or look at art!

How did this happen?

On a more serious note, it really is pretty fascinating to see the budding personalities coming out of my kids.  My oldest is displaying her individual personality more and more.  The girl loves art.  We have a friend of ours who graduated with an art degree teaching private art lessons to my daughter.  I have found myself reading blogs from artists, both Christian and non, in order to broaden my ability to appreciate the same things my daughter appreciates.

Instead of going places and doing things with her, I have started making it a point to simply sit next to her.  We sit down to watch a movie and I invite her to sit next to me.  I try to make it a point to have her sit in my lap when I read books to them instead of always letting the toddlers sit on my lap.  I have started paying closer attention to which kids are running around downstairs and when I don’t see her, instead of calling her down to see what is wrong, I go upstairs just to sit on the floor of her bedroom with her and make small talk.

I take each of my kids to breakfast on Sunday mornings.  The oldest gets the first Sunday of the month, the youngest gets the last.  One of my kids wants to go to a busy sit down style place that serves great pancakes.  My oldest prefers to buy a donut and a juice in a grocery store and sit in the front of our car to eat.  I used to ask her why she preferred to sit in the car instead of going to a restaurant.  I do not ask any more.

I know she values these moments with me and I know they are good for her, good for me, and good for our relationship.

I have no clue how to evaluate these moments.  I see these times through my own perspective as an extrovert.  If I am comfortable, I am talking or doing, not sitting and stewing.  So when I sit with my daughter and we just sit there… something feels wrong.  When I ask a question and get a little short answer, I feel as though something is wrong.  I believe that things are not wrong, but that is how it feels.

It makes it very difficult to relax and just enjoy being with her when everything in me is convinced that something is wrong.  She must be upset with me.  I have to have hurt her feelings in order for her to sit so quietly for so long.

As I sit and analyze this, my questions tend to drift from wanting to connect with her to wanting to diagnose the break in our relationship.  It is so difficult to diagnose a problem that is not there.

I love my little girl and I know she loves me.

But I really wish I could figure out how to connect with her, and her introverted little soul.

Painting a Car

I’m a Supermodel

That’s right!! I said it.

It seems the purpose of the runway walkers, and I do not mean FOD walk down, is to provide us an example of the fashion designer’s vision for their latest clothing line. In that same line of thought are the fitness and body building models. I’m thinking the marketing folks use these as examples of what we should look like and if we use their products or read their magazines, we will be like them.

“Bro… what on earth made you want to write a post calling yourself a Supermodel?”

Good question!!

Kids and I

So there I was, sitting in Row R, section 20 something, at the Paramount Theater in Seattle with my wife and my 2 older kids watching The Piano Guys… great show too, by the way. At one point in the show, one of the fellas starts telling a story about his development as a musician. He says that one of his music professors said something pretty powerful to him one day. Something akin to,

“I cannot teach you a passion for music, I can be passionate about music in front of you and hope you catch it.”

Then he tells us about his parents. He said that his parents had a deep love and passion for music. They would listen to classical music in their cars and talk about the composer, they would play instruments and dance, they would listen to music as a family. His parents were passionate about music in front of him, and he developed a passion for music because of them.

Is this a fail proof way to ensure my kids love music, or enjoy the outdoors, or become passionate readers? I do not think so. Will me being passionate about the things in my life tilt the scale, or encourage my kids to enjoy, consider, and maybe even develop a passion within them for the things I value? Possibly… and I think more likely than not, the things that I am passionate about will end up defining who they are in the future. Good and Bad.

This is where it gets kind of scary as a parent… with my attitudes and shortcomings… and my volatile past… and the stuff I still carry… with 4 kids watching me…

I feel a pressure to persuade them to fit a certain set of expectations. Are these expectations appropriate or healthy? If they are healthy and appropriate, is it wise for me to “persuade” them to live up to these expectations? Am I living up to these expectations? The thing about this is that, though these are the questions that resonate deep in my heart sitting around campfires drinking a glass of wine, I am not so sure that these are the questions I should be asking.

If my children will be greatly influenced by what I am passionate about, the expectations don’t really come into play. My desire for them is that they live peaceful and fruitful lives experiencing fulfillment and joy.

And this is where I start moving down the runway.

I feel deeply fulfilled in my life right now. I have finally started experiencing a peace and joy that I have not ever known before. Do not get me wrong, I am still pretty mixed up, deeply conflicted, and carry a heaping load of sorrow, but mixed with all that is a soothing rest for my weary soul. This… This is what I want for my kids. Garbage is going to come to them. I cannot prevent the garbage that is inbound. They have already taken some and, at times, it has come from me.

I can try to persuade my kids to be like me and think like me and believe like me in a hope that, as they grow up and start experiencing the ruthless, painful world on their own, they will one day experience the peace in the middle of it all like me. I can try to demonstrate the actions, disciplines, and philosophy that readers and thinkers say lead to this peacefully fulfilled life.

But the musician did not become a musician because his parents told him that music is important and that they would like to see him become a musician.

This is what I choose… I choose to let my kids see that I am passionate for the things that I value. I will try not to make these things expectations upon their shoulders, or lessons for them to remember, but vibrantly lived life demonstrating with gusto that I am deeply moved by, devoted to, and a disciple of the things which I value.

Of the 3 options, expect… persuade… demonstrate, I choose demonstrate. Is there a chance they will not pick up on my values, or will see what I value and choose not to adopt those things as their values. Yup. There is a chance. Is there a chance that not living up to my expectations will leave them with crippling insecurity. Si Amigo. Is there a chance that my kids would see me trying to persuade them to adopt certain disciplines and values that I do not submit to and have not adopted and, in so doing, drive a wedge of distrust between me and them? Sigh… So from my perspective, in this little cramped cockpit, I have 3 choices here, and two of them hurt my kids or hurt my relationship with them. One option allows them to choose what they want as adults and allows me to love them fully while maintaining my relational integrity with them.

All three options have a risk of my kids being hurt. But no option I know of will keep that from happening. My eyes get wet often when I think about this.

So there it is. I am a model. I think I am a Supermodel. My kids see me as an example of what a man is and what a man should be. Regardless of whether or not I am a model of a good man or a bad man is not the point. The point is that I am a model… so the question stands… What, exactly, am I modeling for my kids?  … and why?

A friend of mine told me almost 12 years ago that one of the best things I can do for my kids is to let them see me spending time praying and reading my Bible in the mornings. He seems to think that this will have more impact on them than if I try to teach them the things to believe or set my expectations on their shoulders.

Do I read my Bible and pray in front of them because I want them to do this as adults, or do I read my Bible and pray in front of them because I am passionate about my time with Jesus?

Do runway models and bodybuilder models walking the runway and giving photo shoots because they want to persuade me, or because they are passionate about their art… and the cash that comes from it?  Did they come up with their own fashion line and marketing strategy, or did they submit their talents to a designer and publisher in order to enjoy the fruits of their labor?

I am a Supermodel!!

… and I really hope I am modeling well