You are different

Our family is different just like everyone else’s family is unique.  This past Christmas we were lucky to have all of my brothers and sisters in town, which means 14 nieces and nephews (counting my two children) spending a lot of time together. In the span of that week we experienced sick kids, tired kids, kids not wanting to share, etc. What was fun to watch is the different styles of each parent.

What was different about this time for me was that I realized how different each niece and nephew are, not only in comparison to my children, but even to their own brothers and sisters. As soon as I gained that insight, I stopped comparing parenting styles, thinking one is better than the other. Yes, there are basic principles that all parents should seek to include, such as, listening, patience, and consistency to name a few, but at the same time, each child needs something a little bit different.

Sometimes it is time out, sometimes it is special privileges, it all varies from situation to situation and from child to child. I truly feel there is no formula to how to be a good parent. All parents should seek to love and understand their child and learn the needs of their children, which I have seen great examples of in my life.

So many of us try to replicate parenting styles of certain books, or others we know in our lives. Sure it worked for them and their kids, but what works for them may not work for you. Why? Because you and your child are different people than they are. Look for principles rather than specific applications in other parenting styles, then seek to apply the good principles in a way that fits your needs.

What principles of parenting have you learned from?

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Consumption vs Creation

Go to Wikipedia…see how long you can stay on there…ok don’t! I was kidding, but I think we all get the point. Even on one website you would spend centuries (literally) trying to read everything on there. So that brings up the question,

How much time do we spend consuming information daily?

Some information is necessary whether for work, school, being a better parent, etc., but do we need to spend as much time as we do consuming. As you may remember I gave up facebook a while back, and to be honest, I don’t miss reading mindless updates. I do miss seeing some pictures of family members, but now I live close to those family members, so it isn’t such a big deal. I now keep in better touch with those I care about through other mediums; more personal mediums.

The opposite of consumption is creation. Here are a few ways of creating:

  • Writing
  • Painting
  • Playing an instrument or singing
  • Playing with your children
  • Cooking

There are many more examples of creating. What I have realized is simple.

 I am happier when my time creating is greater than my time consuming.

I think we should all try to spend more time creating. Take 5 minutes today to create. Write down your thoughts, pick up your old instrument, toss you kids in the air a few times. Then tomorrow take some more time. Creativity enlivens our souls and brings joy to our hearts.

How this Christmas was different

Christmas is a unique time of year. The beauty of the season and what it means in terms of people’s attitudes is usually positive, but this time of year is always coupled with the stress of decorations, parties, and most especially the burden (time and financial) of buying presents.

 

I have been wondering what we could do to change this Christmas a little bit, what we could do to make it more focused on the true meaning of the season, focusing on Christ and the spirit of giving. Despite some degree of stress, I feel this Christmas was better than years past for one main reason.

 

We focused on others.

 

On Christmas Eve, we were able to make cookies for our local firefighters. Since I have entered a profession (healthcare) that is a 24/7 operation, I have realized there are a lot of people who sacrifice time away from family and friends on the holidays to keep us safe, so we wanted to thank them. We sang a few songs and then the firefighters proceeded to give us a tour of the truck and let the kids sit in the seats. It was so fun to watch the excitement of the kids. We had come to say thank you to these men, but instead they gave us a great memory. I could give my kids all the toys in the world, but what toy can beat out sitting in a real fire truck?

 

There were other activities, but that one sticks out the most. These are the types of memories I want to have with my children in years to come. I do not want to focus on the presents, but would rather focus on building relationships, saying thank you, and making someone else’s day a little bit brighter.

You go first.

There are many times when we see our children do something that causes us to be proud.

For me, the first time this feeling came was when my daughter folded her arms and bowed her head for a prayer. I started thinking, why did she do that? We never asked her to? Then it hit…we did it first.

I am not going to be a parent who says, “do what I say, not what I do.” That will get my children no where in life. Instead, I would rather set the example and show my kids what I expect of them. Instead of leaving my dishes at the table after a meal, I can put them away in the sink, and then it becomes much easier to ask them to do the same. Instead of letting piles of stuff stay on the floor, I can keep my room clean and make my bed, making it easier to expect them to do the same.

The power of an example is huge.

 Again, these good things in my life came from good examples around me.

If there is something I do not like about my child’s behavior, I should ask, do I do anything that says that behavior is acceptable to her? What message are my actions sending?

For me, I gained my love of exercise from my father’s example of rising early each morning to go running. I remember eating cereal on Saturday mornings when my dad would come in the door in his sweaty running clothes looking energized and refreshed. It has never been a burden for me to exercise because I always saw my dad exercising. Now, my daughter is always asking to go outside to go running and we will take her running around the block a few times.

What are some things y’all learned from your parents, good and bad?

Giving up…

So over the past few months, I realized there were things I chose to waste my time on, which I didn’t even want to be doing. Maybe some of you know what I mean. You sit down to “take a break” from work, cleaning, the kids, and find yourself 15 minutes, 1 hour, maybe even a few hours later feeling like you just wasted away precious time from your life. Trust me, I think we have all been there. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t take a break once in awhile, but sometimes we need to do other things instead of wasting our time watching television, or surfing the internet.

The hard part is changing. It is always difficult to change. What keeps us from change? The fear of not being connected, worried that we’ll be even more tired if we actual use our brain power a little longer to do something creative, or read a book. There are countless reasons. I decided to flip the switch on one thing, in essence, an experiment. I did it and it feels great…I have not been on facebook for over two weeks and I love it. Since it is an experiment, I had my wife change my password, but I am not quite ready to give it up completely. I am not against completely getting rid of my account. Maybe I just don’t have the guts to burn a bridge with a website quite yet (maybe that tells you how bad of a problem I had when I use phrases that are usually described with our interpersonal relationships to describe my relationship with an inanimate object).

What do I do instead? I spend time with my kids, I spend time reading, I spend time on what I care about. I spend time helping out around the house. Sometimes I just sit and watch. I would rather not be reading endless updates from acquantances about what they had for breakfast, that their husband is currently cutting his hair (really??), or what song someone has listened to and what news articles they are reading. I would rather live my life, than following the lives of others, that apparently are so important they feel the whole world needs to know how their date went last night.

How long will I stay away? It’s indefinite, but the longer I stay away, the more I want to stay farther away.

What distractions have you given up recently?

Rules of a Father: Your needs are not always the most important

Prior to becoming a father, I had time to sleep in, go out when I wanted (even afford to do so), go visit friends, run at anytime of day, and a host of other activities at my convenience. What’s changed? My family takes precedence over my wants. I want you to realize I said wants there instead of needs. The question then becomes, what are a father’s needs?

  1. Food
  2. Sleep
  3. Shelter
  4. Fitness

Those are a few of the basics. There are certain things I cannot forego in order to be a more effective father. I need to eat, and healthy for that matter. A father needs energy to keep up with his kids. I need sleep (the amount of sleep is going to differ by each person, for me, it is about 7-8 hours of sleep to feel energized). The topic of sleep is definitely one for another post. Shelter is an obvious need. Finally, fitness…for me, I need to be in good shape to have energy to play with my kids. It is important to me.

These needs didn’t change since I was a bachelor and had no children. I had these needs before, but the difference is how I meet these needs. Instead of going to bed at 1 a.m., and waking up at 10 a.m., I now have to go to bed earlier because my kids wake up at 7 a.m. regardless of how much sleep I got. Also, in order to take care of my body and still pay attention to my children, I need to exercise when they are asleep (this has changed a bit since we bought a double jogging stroller). I have tried to workout at home when the kids are awake, but it has become difficult to finish a workout with them asking for juice or snacks or for me to read a story.

The conclusion:

Rule #2: Your needs are not always the most important.

I take care of these needs to be a better father, but I have realized I can care for myself, without taking time away from my children. Let’s face it, for those of us who work, we already take enough time away from our children.

Would I change this?

Not at all. I love the discipline I have learned by putting someone else’s needs ahead of my own. I love the joy I feel when I get to spend time with my children, knowing I have taken care of the important things in my life.

What are some ways you have adapted to take care of yourself while having children?

Just Fishin’

My wife found this music video. It always make me smile to see fathers who spend time with their children. I think a lot of us dads worry about what they will do to spend time with our daughters. The answer is, we should do whatever our daughters wants, and more often than not, it is no different than what our sons want. Wrestling, sports, etc.