Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Book Review – Being Dad

April 17, 2018

Being Dad:  Father as a Picture of God’s Grace by Scott Keith

I purchased this book on a whim a few weeks ago at a conference.  I’ve met Scott a few times and was interested to hear what he has to say.

This book is encouraging in several ways.  Firstly, it stands rather starkly against the mainstream insistence that mothers and fathers are interchangeable and optional.  For those who are used to this steady stream of nonsense, and have perhaps begun to buy into it, this book will be a cold splash of water to the face.  Unexpected and perhaps unpleasant initially, but I argue ultimately refreshing.

As such, it is encouraging to both fathers and mothers.  To mothers, because they have to (get to?  should?) be partnering with their spouse and father of their children, but may be perplexed or frustrated by differences in subconscious parenting styles.  To fathers it should be encouraging because it is also a challenge to the notion that dad’s ultimate authority derives only from his strength and ability to enforce the Law.  Rather, Scott argues, father is a role of Gospel rather than Law.  He utilizes (loosely) the Prodigal Son parable (Luke 15).  But the book is far less a theological treatise than both a paean to an influential mentor and a celebration of the joy of fatherhood.  Towards these ends Scott enlists perspectives and inputs from moms and dads who also happen to be colleagues and friends.

This wasn’t the book I was expecting, but I think perhaps it is a book that I needed.  Knowing Scott’s interest in catechesis and faith transmission, I’m hoping that this first book (second edition) will serve as a launching pad for more in-depth study and struggle to regain the dignity and value of fatherhood in the Church as well as the larger culture.

 

 

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Real World Education

April 10, 2018

I  awoke this morning, the first full day of vacation, to the sounds of our kids inquiring about breakfast.  It was about 8:30am.  We instructed them to start getting breakfast ready and we would be up and out shortly.  The routine is fairly consistent.  Heat the water for tea (and my daughter’s coffee).  Start toasting the bread.  Set out the hard boiled Easter eggs.  Wash the fruit.

I emerged groggily a few minutes later.  The kids were in action and everything was going well.  I noticed that they had the gas stove apparently turned up to high and there were some flames on the outside of the kettle.  I told them to turn down the burner a bit as I went to the bathroom.  Whilst there, I ruminated on the blessing of having older, responsible children.  I suppose I could have mused about the wonderful job of parenting and educating we’ve done, but of course that task is not finished yet.  Instead, I pondered how we should prepare the kids better for the real world by teaching them to use a microwave.  We haven’t owned one in over a decade now.  We know we’re an anomaly, but our kids ought to at least know the basics.

I emerged and was puttering with the kids to get things ready.  The kettle was still flaring up at the bottom and now it was smoking as well.  What’s wrong with it?  the  kids wanted to know.  Why is it dripping oil? they wanted to know.  I went to take a closer look.  Something about the kettle didn’t look right.  What’s that odd tab at the bottom?  Wheels and gears cranked angrily and fuzzily into gear.  I lifted up the kettle and peered under it.  The bottom had separated.  Odd.  If the bottom was separated, why didn’t the water all pour out?  And what was that mess of smoldering wires in between?

It was at this point that I realized the kids had mistakenly placed an electric water pot onto the gas stove.

Whoops.

(In defense, the kids *do* know how to operate an electric water pot – we have one at home!  But this one looked very much like an actual tea kettle!)

So I did have the chance to give some microwave lessons after all.  And to purchase a new electric water pot for the owners of the Airbnb we’re staying at.  What a wonderful learning opportunity!

Ugh.

 

Acknowledging Mistakes

April 3, 2018

One of the hardest things for people to do is acknowledge that mistakes have been made.  It seems so harsh and judgmental.  So in the interest of avoiding pointing fingers (especially at ourselves!), we often times continue down a path that was started years ago simply because the idea of changing course seems too depressing or offensive.  The result is that there are times when we end up someplace we never wanted to be, yet claim that there can’t possibly any alternative options that might begin to lead us where we’d prefer to be.

The Church is like that sometimes, just like families and cities and nations and PTA boards and any other gathering of people can be.  But it’s vitally important to be able to say This isn’t working and move down a different path that might lead us to different outcomes.

I agree completely with this brief essay, and the conclusion that separating children from their parents in worship is – while aimed at a good goal – a big mistake.  Parents do need breaks, but there are a variety of ways that breaks can be given without removing children from worship until they’re 18, at which point they are expected to become adult members and proponents of the congregation, to be involved in something they’ve actually been excluded from all of their life.

There are other ways to help parents without removing the children.  Parenting is hard work, to be sure.  But it’s work that has to be done and it has to be done in Church just like it has to be done at the grocery store and restaurants and everywhere else we take our children.  Church as a community should be able to find all sorts of ways to assist parents in receiving the message and worshiping without breaking up the family to do so.

This essay has apparently sparked a lot of controversy.  But we need to remember that we can decide that something wasn’t a good idea without demonizing the people who initiated it – with good intentions and towards good goals.  We just have to be able to say that it was a mistake and we need to change direction.  Too much is at stake not to.

 

Important Words

February 26, 2018

This is an excellent essay reminding us of the important function of community, both towards families as well as the state.  In the ultimate discussions of solutions to the hopelessness engulfing our youth, we need to remember that it isn’t laws or tools that should be the focus, but neighbors and community.

(Un)Common Sense

November 7, 2017

I can’t find any sense in the growing insistence over the past 50 years that gender and sexuality and gender roles and all such related things have no real meaning beyond whatever we choose to assign to them.

As a Christian who believes that we were divinely created specifically in the image of God, and that male and female together comprise the whole of humanity, the idea that we can redefine these things however we want of course makes very little sense, and certainly runs strongly against the grain of Scripture.  The Church is called to maintain the very uncomfortable but very historic teaching that men and women exist, that they are equal in essence, but not necessarily in function, and should stand against those who would deny and unravel these identities as well as those who would abuse and exploit them.

I don’t see how someone who holds with natural selection and evolutionary theory could reasonably see these as arbitrary constructs suitable for rearranging or redefining on personal whim either.  Millions of years of evolutionary chance and natural selection are somehow to be completely discarded as irrelevant?  Doesn’t this amount to a monumental arrogance, that we are capable of undoing or redoing what has been done over and over again for very good and important reasons?

Common sense is no longer politically correct, but that is not the same as saying that it isn’t still true.  Here’s another article summarizing several aspects of current research into the importance of gender roles (mother) particularly in the early years of a child’s life.  Of course this is to be rejected by those who insist such roles are arbitrary and even completely unnecessary, and that children can just as well (or even better!) raised in a pre-school collective as in the home with their actual mother.

To those mothers who might read this and realize that they have hurt their children because they weren’t there for them in the way they needed to be, we must be quick to speak forgiveness.  Multiple generations have been lied to about what is good and healthy, based on nothing more than ideology.  We are always prone to being misled in one direction or another, sometimes to harmful ends.  Research and articles like this are not cited in order to condemn, but rather as a means of encouraging current and future generations to think carefully about the choices they make and why, because they may have long-term repercussions.

 

Holding the Line

October 21, 2017

Thanks to Blake for sharing this timely and helpful article on the value of Christian sexual ethics as opposed to the sexual licentiousness our culture has adopted not only as inevitable but actually admirable.

If sex is the unspoken possibility any time two people of any gender are in contact with each other, the possibility for problems to arise is incredibly high.  Only in the movies and on TV is unrestrained sexual indulgence something wonderful and easy – free of the fear of STDs, unexpected pregnancy and emotional entanglement.  To sexualize every potential encounter and relationship in our lives is unhealthy not just to those who want to act on that possibility, but those who don’t want to, but have to be on guard all the same.

Being prudent, wise, aware – these are all good and admirable traits that have been highlighted and honored in cultures around the world and throughout history.  But now they are decried as restrictive and unnecessary and unwanted.  We should be free to indulge ourselves in any way we desire, to any extent we desire, without any worry about consequences of any kind.  Such a demand might be appropriate to a utopian society, but in case people haven’t looked outside the window recently (or into their own hearts), we don’t live in a utopian society.  Not by a long shot.

I wish my kids didn’t have to worry about predatory sexual behavior as they enter their teen years and adulthood.  And by predatory I don’t mean illegal, but rather the predatory assumption being drilled into both girls and boys that sex is wonderful and good and fine wherever and whenever and pretty much with whomever you like, so long as you both agree.  Whatever agree means.  It seems clear that agreement will only mean agreement if you still agree after the fact, which of course often is not the case for a variety of reasons.  It’s easy to read coercion or intimidation backwards into a situation once you’ve decided you’re not happy with the decisions you made.

So my kids are entering a world where sex will be assumed or expected with and from them as they begin dating.  My sons will face this as well as my daughter.  We’ve  taught them the inappropriateness and danger of this, provided rational explanations for why it isn’t a healthy way to live, both for themselves and those they meet.  We’ve tried to model and describe a Biblical sexual ethic that holds sexuality to be far more valuable than our society pretends to think it is.  But they’re still going to encounter those expectations.  As such, they’re going to have to conduct themselves in such a way as to enable them to live consistently with their morals and beliefs.  Part of this means being modest – both my sons and my daughter – and there’s no harm in that.  It only makes sense in a sinful world where things get misinterpreted all too easily.

People may want to laugh off Biblical sexual morality as antiquated and outdated, but compared to the massive harm inflicted on people in an open sexual culture, antiquated and outdated should start looking better than it has in a long time.

Sears

October 10, 2017

I don’t like to shop for clothes.  I told my wife before we married that I would gladly help wash dishes or do the laundry or clean windows, but I would not go with her while she shopped for clothes.  I’m too cheap and impatient to even enjoy shopping for myself.  I can still remember taking my Mom with me many years ago on an annual shopping trip.  I think she was in shock from the speed of it all.  My distant memories of going shopping with her as a small child to the mall are of endless hours spent wondering if we were ever going to go home.  On that particular shopping trip with my Mom, I got all the clothes I needed for two years in less than two hours.

But even a cheapskate recognizes that shoes are a necessity and when they are all worn through the soles, it’s time to go shopping.  Since my FAVORITE shoe store of the past decade was gone the last time I stopped by the outlet malls, I had to resort to a new shoe store.  I went to Sears.

Let me just say that not only have the door handles to Sears not changed in at least 50 years, it smells exactly the same as I remember it decades ago.  The only slight difference being that this Sears doesn’t have a candy stand selling chocolate covered peanuts.  That’s definitely a change for the worse!

But it’s not the only change.

I volunteered to do some shopping for our youngest son, who had no interest in going to help pick out his own clothes.  I located the boys clothing area and started looking (in the discount racks, of course).  I was surprised as I shuffled through hangers full of shorts to find a girls skirt tucked in there.  I chalked it up to some hooligan’s work.  But I noticed other girls clothing items mixed into the rack.  All the racks.  Then I noticed the signs – indicating that these were boys and girls clothes.

I have enough trouble shopping as it is.  Now I have to differentiate which items are boys and which are girls?  Or is the assumption that boys and girls clothing is interchangeable?  I suspect that it’s the latter.  Rather than risk offending some customer upset that the skirts are in a segregated girls clothing section while the shorts and t-shirts are segregated in the boys clothing section, this Sears decided to just combine them.  Not completely, mind you.  There was still an area that seemed more girl-oriented and an area that seemed more boy-oriented.  But there were also places where the two were mixed together.

Sears isn’t as unchanged as it seems.  Maybe, like much of our culture and even we as individuals, it has and is changing a great deal, reluctantly or eagerly, to accommodate new notions of gender identity and how to raise children.  I suspect that’s a more difficult and complicated and ultimately unfortunate change than getting rid of the chocolate covered peanuts.

If You Give a Moose a Muffin…

September 22, 2017

I couldn’t help but be reminded of this children’s book while after reading this blog post.  Apparently a news reporter interviewed a Nazi who was publicly assaulted, and the writer of the blog post was angry that they did so because it could make Nazism sympathetic and end up leading others to follow that ideology.  The alternative, the author insists, is that you never give a Nazi a platform.  Never allow their message to go out.

At first it makes sense.  I don’t like Nazism.  As a student of history I’m well acquainted with the evils perpetrated by that ideology.  I don’t want there to be more Nazis.

But the more I thought about it, I realized why this approach didn’t sit well with me.  It presumes that the hearers/viewers are helpless, passive, and incapable of understanding either the context of the interview or the ideology that the Nazi might espouse.  It presumes that viewers/hearers need to be protected less they fall under the sway of this virulent ideology.  It reminds of the way some conservative Christians choose to raise their children – by trying to shelter them from the junk in the world and never expose them to anything that hasn’t been thoroughly sanitized.

In both cases the result is the same.  By failing to prepare people for the ideologies they will encounter in our increasingly hyper-connected world, we make possible our worst fears.  The way to protect people against whatever charm Nazi ideology might utilize is to teach them about Nazism.  Teach them about history.  Teach them about the Holocaust.  At the same time teach them about democracy, and in particular teach them about the beauty and value of free speech.  Then, if they view or hear a Nazi who was the victim of a crime talking about their ideology, they will be able to distinguish the value of free speech and protection from assault from Nazism.  They’ll be able to say I disagree completely with what this person espouses, but at the same time they deserve protection under the law and the right to speak, because that is the democracy we live under.

Which is different from the censorship that the Nazis used to control what people thought, and which mirrors, ironically enough, what the blog author espouses.  In a democracy people should be educated so that they can make good decisions.  Not everyone can or will.  But it is better to risk that some should not make good decisions, than to deny everyone the freedom to make a decision.  An educated nation will be able to reject ideas and principles that are incorrect.  Maybe not immediately, but eventually.  Hopefully.  But that requires education.  It also happens to require a strong moral common ground, something that has been decimated by many folks who also argue that some groups shouldn’t be allowed to speak freely or aren’t entitled to the same rights that they themselves are.

Reject Nazism.  But don’t destroy democracy in the process.  Nobody is better off with an insulated, poorly educated population who relies on censorship to keep away things that they would prefer not to deal with.  Nobody is better off under such circumstances.  Other than those who happen to be championing them and insisting that their ideology is the one that should be implemented.

Vocationally Challenged

September 6, 2017

Talking with your kids and grandkids about what they want to be when they grow up is a cherished, necessary and important task of family.  These days, however, make sure that you’re providing them with some good perspective on what vocations are going to be challenging for them in the future.   The cultural landscape is shifting rapidly, and if you hope that your family member will remain firmly rooted in Christ, yet still be able to avail themselves of the career options that were once so open in our country, I have bad news for you.  At the very least, it’s sobering news that needs practical application.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein today criticized a nominee for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals because of her Catholic faith, something which Senator Feinstein basically stated was a stumbling block for conflicting with the ideologies of others.

Senator Feinstein criticized and questioned Amy Coney Barrett because of religious writings and lectures she produced as a Law Professor at Notre Dame.  Feinstein specifically questioned and challenged Barrett’s actual adherence to and defense of Roman Catholic theology that Feinstein correctly assesses to be at direct odds with the prevailing spirit of the day.

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.” (And let’s ignore that large numbers of people have fought against some of these big issues.)

In other words, any dogma that challenges the status quo dogma is dangerous.  And to protect against any such outside dogmas, we’re going to pretend that dogma is not permissible to a judge.  Unless of course the dogma is in complete agreement with the spirit of the day.  So if you are against abortion on theological grounds, you shouldn’t be a judge because judges are supposed to support abortion because it’s been legal for almost 50 years.  Since we can’t legally – yet – prevent someone who disagrees with abortion from being a judge, we’re going to pretend that anyone with a strongly held belief is ipso ex facto inacceptable as a nominee.  Unless, of course, they happen to agree with abortion, in which case we’re totally fine with that because it’s not really a dogma.

So if your little darling wants to go into law, and hopes to one day be a judge, and may aspire to be an important judge, they may have to decide whether they would rather be an important judge or an actual follower of Jesus Christ.  Because if they’re going to practice what is preached to them, they might not be allowed to progress up the vocational ladder of judge-ness.

Isolated and unique situation, you say?

  • What about pharmacists?
  • What about if you believe that sexuality and gender confusion can be clarified and resolved through therapy?
  • What if you want to be a teacher?
  • How about a doctor?  Are you going to prescribe your patient enough medication so they can kill themselves if they choose to?  Doctor-“assisted”-suicide is legal in several states today.

The reality is that in more and more fields, being a committed Christian is being defined as a career liability.  And parents and grandparents and other key people need to be aware of this to help young people make sense of the rapidly shifting career landscape.  Especially before you take out $100,000 of student loan debt to achieve your goal, only to find you aren’t employable.

 

 

 

 

Quiet Victories

August 21, 2017

My oldest son started school this morning.

Facebook is littered with smiling kids preparing to depart for their first day of school with placards indicating the year and the grade.  They’re cute and I’m happy for them, of course.  Then again, going into the next grade is sort of expected.  It was never a big deal when I was a kid.  It was what was expected.  It was my job, if you will.  To study and apply myself and do what was necessary and expected to complete one grade level and move on to the next.  We didn’t have commencement ceremonies for kindergarten or elementary school or junior high.  You didn’t get that until you were really finished, which was graduating high school.  At that point you had accomplished what was expected.  Everything leading up to that was nice and all, but not exactly worth celebrating.

That’s what my son is doing.  It’s what all three of my kids are doing, to be sure.  And I’m fiercely proud of each of them.  But it’s usually a quiet pride.  However I have to say something about my oldest boy today.  He’s continuing school, but it’s the first time he’s left home for school in eight years.  He attended a charter school for kindergarten and first grade before we were ready to begin home schooling.  For the last eight years he’s studied at home, and with that goes all the uncertainty and hope and doubt and angst as parents that is perpetual companion to the decision to do things differently.  Are we preparing him adequately?  Are we doing right by him?  What are our goals?  Who is he going to turn out to be and how do we both help form and shape that person as well as enable and equip that person as they grow?

So today he leaves home for school.  At 15 he’s entering the formal classroom again.  But it’s not a sophomore or high school classroom.  Instead, he’s entering a dual-enrollment program at the local community college.  He’s sitting in a college classroom with a college professor and peers that are, with the exception of his good friend who is 16 and taking the course with him, much older.

I don’t know how he’ll perform.  I don’t know whether it will be easy for him or not.  I don’t know what grade he’ll get, or even if he’ll finish the course.  At the moment, none of those things matter.  I have high hopes, to be sure, and the utmost confidence in both him and our ability to help him be successful.  But for the moment, I’m simply proud of who he is as I walk out the door to work.  Smiling.  Confident.  Excited.  Eager.  Willing.

To me, that’s one kind of accomplishment I can already credit my wife with in home schooling our children.  They have a sense of confidence and capability.  They assume that if they put their minds to something, they’ll be able to accomplish it somehow.   That’s a great place to start.

There will be disappointments and failures undoubtedly.  Hopefully small and manageable.  But to at least begin with the belief that you can make things work, that’s a beautiful thing to see.  And I have to believe it will make the disappointments easier to deal with when they come.  It will make getting up and starting again or starting over easier.

But for the moment, I’m so happy and proud of him and the glow that surrounds him as he prepares to head out into the world.  I thank God for all He has given me in my wife and family and the hope I have for this world and myself because of them.

Go get ’em, boy.  You can do it.