I know this is a fairly lofty title but my life experiences have shown that it deserves such. For how valuable these things have been to me I’ve never read them anywhere and hear them talked about none and I believe that they deserve more airtime. These are some things that I have learned from observing many relationships around me but especially my own with my wife. There may be presuppositions that you disagree with but I would encourage you to look beyond the differences and see if there might be any truth that you could learn from my experiences. It was quite possible for this entire post to be one continuous disclaimer about how much we’re all different and how much I don’t know but I decided to forego all of that and just assume that we have some things in common and that it was better to just put my thoughts out there. These are more thoughts and impressions than scientifically proven facts so please engage the ideas as such. Some of the thoughts are redundant and this was written more as a flow of consciousness than to be a published masterpiece. These thoughts assume the reader has a belief in marriage, agrees that there are differences in male and females in physiology and role, and is pursuing a gospel centered approach towards life. Others are welcome to read but the discussion should begin on a much more basic level.
I’ll start off with a story. 7 years ago my friend and I planned a surprise trip for our wives to Hawaii. It was to celebrate our 5 year anniversary. We had arranged childcare and announced the trip with less than a weeks notice. In the short time we had to prepare, Kami confided that she was worried. Our son was 9 months old and it would be her first time away from him. We went on the trip, had a blast. It was our first time in Hawaii, we had a great week with friends, snorkeled, and I impulsively got Kami’s name tattooed on my arm. To this date, Kami and I think of it as one of our best memories. And it almost didn’t happen. My guess is that if Kami and I would have discussed it democratically the trip would have been a coin toss because of Kami’s difficulty in leaving the baby. I’ll speak more on this later but this and many other smaller (and some bigger) examples have led me to the following conclusions: The only thing women want more than what they want is for a man to love and understand them more than they love and understand themselves.
Let me draw this statement out a little more to clarify. In a typical marital conversation it is expected that 2 people approach the table with 2 opinions that they want to see win. When the husband and wife disagree, often the best case scenario we picture is the man acquiescing to what the woman wants. While not always, this often concerns issues of what is best for the family, children, or things of a more practical nature. Sometimes it comes along with some statement like “Whatever you want, Dear”. It also comes along with feelings of buried resentment and de-masculinization for the man. But both people are happy ish because they feel like they are equal and have done the best they could in a democratic process while not stepping on anyones toes or taking any huge risk. The statement I am making is that there is a better story out there. It is better because it involves more risk, more love, more sacrifice, more understanding, more unselfishness, and a better outcome. It does assume that one party is more responsible than another party. Not in an earned or qualified sense. But in an accountable and design sense. While we have seen the abuses of the burden of more responsibility lets take a break for a minute and imagine a world without the baggage. The man and the woman would come to the table to discuss something. There would be some different viewpoints but hopefully common goals. There could be differences. But in these differences the woman would feel cared about and understood. Input would be received by both parties but a past history should make no specific piece of data a huge surprise. The man would make a decision based upon what he thinks will best love his wife and his family and satisfy their collective and agreed upon mission as a family. If there is a track record of this the wife does NOT feel taken advantage of, manipulated or second class in any way. The primary goal is NOT to come to a conclusion that feels good to both partners instantly. The goal is to develop the type of relationship that practices and displays sacrificial love. This will never be the easiest path.
Let’s focus on a few aspects of this…
For the last 3 months I have been learning to run. Here is how:
Step 1 - I read Born to Run.
It was super awesome, educational, easy to read, and most importantly, inspirational. Instead of making you guilty for not running or watching TV, by telling stories of super disciplined olympic athletes, it told stories of individuals and even cultures who ran just because they liked it. It reminded me of my days in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade when I used to race the bus to school and ran just for fun before competition and fitness ruined it for me. I’ve bought the book as a gift for 3 people and you should consider checking it out. If you do, let me know what you think. BOOK LINK
Step 2 - I set up a way to run naturally.
I knew that treadmills weren’t going to cut it. I wanted it to be a part of my life so I incorporated it into something I’m already doing. For me, this is going to work. I decided to run into the office. It’s 6 miles roundtrip and I don’t need to provide myself some imagined or lofty purpose with my runs. I’m just trying to get to work and enjoy the outdoors and city on the way. It’s a great way to decompress and clear my head after a day of meetings too. It was kind of a pain to set up but I gave myself 2 weeks to get everything in place. For me this means extra clothes and shoes at the office, I bought an extra laptop to leave at the office because I want to run light, and I don’t plan any engagements 45 minutes before or after my last meeting. Continue reading
Today, Dove (11 year old daughter) came to me crying saying that Seven (7 year old son) had called her a “stupid bully”. Our default is to have Dove express her feelings to Seven and then reprimand Seven and have him apologize. Today I tried something different.
I asked Dove if she, in fact, was a “stupid bully.” At first, she seemed taken aback. She then quickly reiterated that she told Seven not to say that and that he wasn’t doing it out of love. I said that I understood all of that but that she didn’t answer my question. I once again asked her if she was a stupid bully. I could tell that she didn’t know how to answer the question so I opened it up to a broader audience. I asked around the table if there was anyone in the room that was, or had been, a stupid bully. I rased my hand. I shared that I had a history of being a stupid bully. Kami also raised her hand and shared that sometimes she bosses the kids around in anger. Then…… Dove raised her hand. I was able to embrace her with a high 5 and say “Oh, I’m really glad your mom and I aren’t the only stupid bullies around here.” I then expressed how crazy it is that the Bible claims to love us given the fact that we are all stupid bullies at times and far worse. I told her she was loved and has full freedom to accept this and other parts of her identity that are hard to swallow sometimes. Then I suggested that she could actually thank Seven for being honest and pointing this out to her. (He was listening to this whole conversation). She then half begrudgingly/half smilingly/half seriously said “Thank you Seven for bring honest and pointing this out to me.”
Then we talked to Seven about love and his use of hurtful words.
In parenting, we’re learning that modifying behavior and controlling chaos is the easier and far more temporary solution to life. Moments that allow us to teach children about how deeply they are loved and accepted will soften hearts and change a child and a family from the inside out. This is permanent. So, I would like to take this moment to assure you that if you are, or have ever been a stupid bully it is ok. The Bible claims that you are fully accepted for who you are, because of what Jesus has done, and not based upon anything you ever do or anyone you pretend to be.
If we actually were able to embrace our identity as a fallen yet accepted people it would remove the power that we give to others to define our worth. Insults true or un-true will not matter. It doesn’t come from denying reality though, it comes from accepting it.
It’s strange that our children (and even us) may grow up thinking that water comes from a tap or a bottle. That’s not where it comes from. It comes from the ground and the sky. From glaciers, snow, and rain.
I think there is a benefit to putting your children in a situation where you can imagine them dying. Although they are probably more likely to die on a freeway than the wilderness we have adopted an illusion of safety that prevents us from true appreciation and faith.
In our culture it’s unusual to spend an extended time in close proximity with your children. I’m not talking about hours in the same house. I’m talking days within 20 feet of each other. For 9 days we were staying in a 8 foot tent. It was practically and emotionally uncomfortable. At the end of it all, we came back to a nice house with beds and privacy. We now found our family separated by stairs, doors, and walls. Both Kami and I actually found ourselves missing our children even though we are in the same house. It makes me wonder how many cultural living norms in the first world are an actual advancement for relationships.We had a strange interaction where we met a family that recognized us as “the family from the computer”. They had seen our previous YouTube videos of the trail and said that we were the reason that they were out here. This launched into a talk with our children about how beautiful the gift of true freedom is and how exciting it is to show and share that with other people. True freedom is deep, personal, emotional, spiritual, financial, rare, and contagious.Our culture sees babies as a very cute major practical inconvenience. They are so much more than that. One baby can completely transform an entire trip by unifying a team towards servanthood and providing a re-orientation of what un-hindered joy, curiosity, and discovery are like. Having Filia on our trip did not just add a 7th wheel. It completely changed the depth and enjoyment of the experience for every single member of our family. Leaving her behind would not have made a very permanent difference in her life but it would have for everyone else.
To generalize, there are 2 major way of interpreting the existence of a beautiful mountain range. The first is that it’s a unintentional geological byproduct. The second is that it’s a very personal expression of a God who wants us to more know and understand him and his beauty. If you believe the latter, we should be putting a fair amount of energy and resources towards understanding this God though the expressions that he has given us. This will probably come at the cost of the comfort and technology of our modern word.
For more details about our trip..
You can watch the video on YouTube
Or you can view our Facebook photo album by clicking on the image.
Yesterday my my two oldest girls and I talked for almost half an hour. They poured their hearts out to me and each other and at one point all three of us were crying. It was one of my proudest moments as a father but it wasn’t always this way. Among parents (and especially among religious, traditional, or intentional parents) there is so much pressure to raise good and obedient children. Our proudest moments are when we hear things like “Oh you’re children are so well behaved” or “You’re children are so quiet”. And, as a result, the majority of our energy goes into reinforcing this behavior and our biggest fears become the moment at the grocery store or in front of friends when a child freaks out or rebels.
But our proudest parenting moments should not be about obedience, they should be about intimacy. This was modeled to us by a God in the Bible who wanted to walk with his children in a garden. He brought them to a mountain to see them but they sent a representative. He wanted to rule them directly but they preferred a king. The more this happened obedience began to replace intimacy in our relationships with God. It has also done this in our parenting.
What’s the alternative? To begin to prioritize the type of relationship with children where we draw them to our hearts. In doing this we model how our God draws us to his heart. Instead of freaking out about disobedience start freaking about the patterns and moments where we resort to behaviors and wrote verbage to feel good. To begin to brag about how close the Heavenly Father wants to be with us and how close we want to be with our children. As our children draw closer to our heart and the heart of The Father they will become obedient. But they will also become more compassionate and humble. And a whole bunch of other things that just following rules never seems to accomplish.
PHOTO: Grandpa with grandkids on lap at Speghetti Factory.
Yesterday we split the kids up for a few hours. They each got a separate experience and when they came back together they each started bragging about how special their’s was. Eden said that she got a full hour on the computer. Dove and Seven said that they got ice cream and hung out with their cousins. Today we sat down and talked about it.
We asked them why that was the first and most important thing to share. Seven blurted out “we wanted the other person to feel bad.” Kami and I asked why. None of the kids knew the answer. So I shared with them why. Deep down we’re all afraid of being loved the least. That’s why it’s hard for us to see others succeed or to have more stuff or happiness than we have. But the way to combat this destructive force is not just to create rules and boundaries. It’s to un-do the lie that each child is not loved the most. So, this morning we asked our kids the question :Which of you is loved the most? After 3 or 4 incorrect answers Seven got it right. He said “we ALL are loved the most”. It’s true. At least we would like it to be. I think the degree to which us as parents believe that we are all loved the most will determine how we can pass this love on to our children. Then they(we) will be able to celebrate in each other’s joy instead of feel threatened by the love that they are not receiving.
This is a newsletter we wrote for our friends, family, and neighbors…
Filed under Business, Family
Explanation of INFOGRAPH
If you are a parent of multiple children, your children tell on each other….all…the…time. It goes something like this:
One child comes and tells you that another of your children broke a rule. Then our immediate response is to play detective, figure out which rules were broken, and try and enforce the rule that was broken with the child that broke the rule ….when we have the energy.
I’m starting to believe that the majority of parenting should be directed towards molding the hearts of our children. I have also come to believe that the majority of our energy is spent modifying behavior and surviving situations.
We are teaching our children that the state of their actions takes precedent over the state of their heart. To take the story of the prodigal son we are rewarding our children for being the rule following older son who respects the rules instead of the rule-breaking younger son. It’s not to say that rules are not important or should not be taught but there is a much more difficult and valuable lesson that underlies it all. The far greater lesson of this story and each instance with our children is the opportunity to present them with the love of the Father God and the impact that this has in giving us compassion and a desire to pass this love on. How do we do this?
I’ve recently come to the conclusion that dealing the VERY common instance of tattle tailing is the quickest way to undersand and implement change. And instead of facilitating and even encouraging children to come and turn other children in on the basis of rules we should start to look at the hearts of both children; the one doing the reporting and the reported.
Here’s a loose framework of the process with some notes in yellow but it all begins with the question of trying to understand the heart of the reporting sibling by asking “Are you trying to help or just get someone in trouble?”
(CLICK TO ENLARGE)
About 2 and a half months ago I sat in a meeting where a 55 year old mentor and and friend read a letter that he had wrote to his son 8 years earlier. It was sobering and inspiring hearing how powerful the written word can be and the process of writing and reading things that often go unprocessed and unsaid. After about 2 weeks of procrastinating I wrote my thoughts to my oldest daughter Dove. That same day we went out to Starbucks and I read it to her. I was crying, she was not. It’s hard to know who was more impacted by the process. I do know this though, the older she gets the more I think something like this will mean to her. When we were leaving the coffee shop she asked if I was going to post it online. I asked her if she thought I should. She said that she thought it would be a good thing to share for “other fathers and daughters.” So here it is.
I wanted to take the time to write down some thoughts before I forgot. Sometimes life can go by pretty quickly and before you know it a lot of time has passed. Can you believe that you’re 9 now? That may not seem like a big deal to you but to your mother and I it’s pretty crazy. It didn’t seem like too long ago that your mother had just given birth to you and I was holding you in my arms crying and we decided to name you Dove. To this day, Dove is one of my favorite names.
Well, there’s a few things I wanted to tell you because having kids is kind of strange. Continue reading
For the last 3 years the biggest area of change in philosophy and action has been in regards to how Kami and I see family. This is a training discussion that we lead in our home with about 20 people sharing our story and the things that have had the biggest impact on us. In short, we discuss the difference between holding a more American or individualistic viewpoint of family vs a more historical or international viewpoint of family as a multi-generational team.
You may be interested if:
- You struggle with having enough time for work/family
- You or your kids struggle with sibling rivalry.
- As a working man you derive more satisfaction from accomplishments at work than family
- You have no idea why people would have kids.
- You feel bad sticking your parents in a nursing home someday but not as bad as having them stay at your house.
- You’re looking for an excuse to be self-employed.
You can DOWNLOAD the MP3 HERE
Also if you want to see the slide deck from the Keynote Presentation to follow along visually you can VIEW the PDF HERE