Archive for April, 2013

There…but not Present

Posted: April 16, 2013 in Resources
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After a long day of work  full of stress, attitudes, noise, and a long commute, you want nothing more than the peace and quiet that your home is suppose to bring. You just need time to shower, get out of those stiff clothes, kick off those hard shoes so that you can sink into your recliner and relax (aaaahhhhhhhh).

Well, not long ago, I felt that way. When I got home, I just need a minute to regroup before starting my real job of being a parent. As I sat in my recliner, I could see my son out of the corner of my eye run down the hallway. I assumed he went into his room, because he came around the corner with a few small cars. I had greeted him earlier as I came through the door, as I always do, with our traditional “Incredible Hulk Hug.”   He gets a running start and jumps up into my arms and we squeeze as hard as we can. He played beside me and appeared to be content with just being close.

After a few minutes, he got up and ran back down the hallway and took a sharpe right turn at the end of the hall. A few seconds later, he emerged with new toys and plopped down right at my feet to the left of my recliner. As before, he played for a few minutes and ran back down the hall and came back with little action figures. His play intensified, but I thought nothing of it, because if you know him, you know his imagination. Alone or with 100’s of people around, when he has action figures (or a paper clip that in his mind he has now turned into Larry Boy or Spongebob).  He is in another world fighting so hard to save it!!

Then it happened…he started to cry uncontrollably. He jumped up and ran away. The squeal that he let out was so piercing that I ran behind him, not know what had happen. “What’s wrong, what’s wrong!?!?!” I worried as I chased behind him. My mind was racing…did I step on his hand, did the recliner rock back on his finger…? What happen?

I picked him up and he wrapped his little arms around my neck. His mother jump up when she heard it all. She ran in to see what was going on and she ask the same question. “What’s wrong? Why are you crying?” His reply is something that I will never EVER forget, “Daddy will not play with me!!”

Whoa…Now tears are about to stream down my face. “I didn’t know homie! Daddy thought you were playing by yourself!!! I didn’t know!?!??!” I exclaimed!

Needless to say, we spent the next several hours playing with every toy that he has in his room! LOL I played those moments back in my head. All day, he was probably thinking about what “we” would play when I got home. When I finally got there (cause 5 mins is like a day to a 3 year old), he tried to get my attention with the first toy…no response from me. He tried a second, then a third, nothing. He likely concluded that I did not want to play with “him.”

Our kids are always watching and taking in everything that we say or do…including what we do not say and don’t do. Parenting is intentional. Our kids will learn things from us because we intentionally teach them or they learn it by watching. We may not be intentionally trying to teach them something, but if we are not intentional about what we do NOT want them to learn, guess what…they will.

We can not wait to get home so that we can unwind, but our kids do not understand (or care for that matter) how bad our day was or how tired we are. We owe them the same attention that we have given to the rest of the world all day long…undivided (most of the time). It is our obligation to figure out how to set the right expectations and parameters so that I children (and spouses) do not feel like they are always getting the short end of the stick. We make countless sacrifices to work late, go in early, travel days at a time all so that we can look good in the eyes of someone who does not matter (when you compare to those in your home). When was the last time we told our bosses or job NO for the sake of our families, creating true balance.  #Sacrifice

Worklife balance is important. It is important to maintain a sense of self and to value what should be our #1 priority…Family.  Balance has become increasingly more difficult with the rise of smart phones. There was a day when if you responded within 30days, it was acceptable (snail mail).  With the invention of email, our expectations shifted to 24-48 hours, due to people giving you time to get back in front of your computer.  Now with the invention of smart phones and wifi, you are always on (or expected to be).  Some Skype, no answer, they text…no answer, inbox you…no answer, call 911 ’cause they assume something MUST have happened to you.

I have witnessed (and even been guilty of) families being out for dinner and the mother, father, and kids are all “plugged in” (cell, ipod, tablet, T.V.). “Relationships” are being forged with screens and with imaginary friends while we neglect the people who are sitting right in front of us who really “like” us.

Fathers (and mothers alike) boast about being “there” for their kids, but many of us are not present. Our kids require and deserve our undivided attention and not the scrapes of what we have left after a long day at work.

Recently on the Today Show, many corporate executives have shared their regrets of devoting decades to building a career and either never started a family or, now, do not have a relationship with their children, because they spent so much time away. Many of us brag about being there, but we are not really present (while living in the same household).

Take a lesson from me…you do not want to hear those words or anything like it (if you really care). Many of us think that we are doing “it” (working) to provide for our families, but ask yourself, at what cost?  I just do not want you to wake up are realize that they are 18 years old and do not want to even look at you, because you did not take the time to foster a relationship and invest the time required to not only be there, but BE PRESENT. At that point, you will realize that all of the money you worked so hard for, you would give it all, just so they would just be “there” for you.

Couple Ideas to be More Present
1. Adopt “No Technology Days” Have your entire family “Unplug” for a day, meaning use nothing that has a battery or plugs in.

2. No TV during dinner.

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theoriginalmentor

What is a MENTOR anyway? We seek them. We long for them. We need them (do we?) Of course we need them. How else would we get to where we need to go? We admire people from afar, even through the many screens (remember when TV was the only one), watching, reading, tweeting, being a cyber stalker…waiting for that one quote to be that “shot-in-the-arm” that we need to take our lives, status, position to the next level.

We try it, it works for a little while, but when we really think about it, we realize it is only half the answer. ”If I could only talk to them and ask them…what about this or what would you do if…?” We twit, we send cleverly worded post hoping to get a reply, #nothing.

Now what? I guess I will just call my girl (or my homie) they know me, how I feel, what I have been through and where I am trying to go. I will ask them. Yeah…ok. Let me know how that works out.

The reality is, God gave us parents for a reason. The problem is, too many parents misuse the “miracle” that He has given us charge over (someone’s life). A parent was meant to be “the original mentor”. By definition, a mentor is someone whose purpose is “to advise or train someone” A mentor can best advise and trains someone because they know them and what’s best for them.

TheOriginalMentors goal is to provide resources, guidance, and advice for parents to prepare and position us to be the mentors that God intended. My hope is that parents and parents-to-be would realize their role and responsibility and become INTENTIONAL about how they parent their child(ren) based on who God has called their children to be. This is a major task that I am hoping we all can help one another get through. To whom much is given, much is required.

Now ask yourself, what is your child’s purpose in life? What intentional steps should I be taking, to ensure that they develop into who God has intended…not what I would like them to become?

To help our kids maximize who He has purposed them to be…you must be (or at least realize) who He needed you to become. Or, instead of focusing on raising them, some spend too much time on searching that they forget or do not have time to be intentional parents.

TheOriginalMentor

Your Fear, Their Limitations

Posted: April 3, 2013 in Resources
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No Fear (well a little)

A couple summers ago, the family and I decided that we would spend the entire summer doing new things.  We live in the Chicagoland area, and hear of all of the “new and exciting” things that tourist do when they come in town, but we (who live here) have never even heard of them.  This summer would be different.  We were tired of the same ole, same ole.  We were going to be intentional about exposing our family to things that would add culture, awareness, and excitement!

Sometimes we get into a set routine and we call in tradition.  We are ok with tradition, because they can create lasting memories.  However, we do not want to be a slave to them.  Being open and doing new things keeps the relationship fresh and even provides a platform for which your children can thrive based on them being exposed.  Our theory, try everything once.  You never know if God has gifted you to be the greatest of all times if you never try it.

Well, we did not realize that we were about to be tested.  After making our declaration of “this will be a summer of new things” we received a call from the parents’ of our son’s classmates.  They invited us to go out on their boat for a weekend of water sports; skiing, tubing, snorkeling, etc.  We like water, but not enough to spend the weekend doing it.  Besides, our son has been in swim class for the past 5 weeks and has not let go of the side of the pool yet!  That was only about 2 feet of water, so we can only imagine how he would be in Lake Michigan!

We debated for a few hours.  They are such nice people…always considering Micah, because he and their son are buddies.  They have invited our son to spend the night at their home; they took him to musicals, plays, horseback riding, pottery making, etc., and now a weekend of water sports.  Again, we said, they always consider our family, but we had never spent a significant amount of time with them in a confined space, will it be awkward?

Then it hit us.  We had just declared that this would be a summer of new things.  We had never been on Lake Michigan, especially with the purpose of doing watersports!  It was also at least one night away from home in a hotel, which is always fun for our family!  Let’s Do It!!!

Everything was great!  We were having a great time.  We stopped by the Indiana Sand Dunes, docked and had lunch on the boat.  Many families were out that day, enjoying the unusually warm water.  The sky was a radiant blue, without a cloud in site.  Perfect.

Our son had watched his friend and siblings water ski and tube like pros.  We asked him if he wanted to try and he shouted, “NO!.”  We asked again, but he was emphatic about not having a turn, so we stopped asking.  Silently, I realized that I was actually happy that he had said that he did not want a turn. As I looked out at ALL OF THAT WATER, I was reminded of him holding on to the swimming instructor for dear life, just a few days before.  He barely knew how to hold his breath under water and I was asking him to strap to the back of a boat, sit in a tube and be pulled in the wake of a boat at X number of miles per hours (or knots cause we are on water).  Whew…I am so glad he said no.  Then I heard it, “I want to do it”  As I turned my head around slowly, hoping that it was not his voice I just heard, trying to now put a smile on my face so that I would not appear to be as afraid as I was. Then he said it again…”I want to do it!”  We exchanged eye contact as if to say, “you say no and I will agree with you…no you say it.” By this time, they had already started moving our son to the back of the boat, instructing him and preparing him to step out of the boat into the tub.

So many things raced through my mind…wait, we are the parents and we must protect him!  We cannot let him try something NEW!  We are scared, fear is taking over, I have to do something.  I stood up and looked him in the eyes and he said, “this is going to be so much fun!!!”  Fun…you do not know what fun is!  As parents, we exchange another look, this time it said, “DO SOMETHING!  This is dangerous!!!  Stop, our son cannot do this!”  But, I hear a statement that calmed me down, “Do not limit him because of your fear.”  Who said that?!?! It was like a voice from heaven Wow…it hit me so hard, but I was still afraid, but had to put my game face on.  I pulled out my phone, because I could not miss this defining moment.  I need camera shots and video (see snap shot above).  This is our summer of new things!!!

Well at this point the roar of the engine was starting.  Our son was getting further and further away as the tension in the line increased.  I attempted to calm myself, “I know how to swim. I will just jump in if something happens.  He has on a life jacket that is designed to keep him a float until I get to him…breath in, breath out.”  They gave an instruction before our son went out, “if you want us to go faster, just give a thumbs up.”  At that moment, I see him give the sign.  “What!  Now you are pushing it homie. No, slow down!”, I thought to myself.  However, the engine purred a little louder as they slightly increased the speed.

Then it happened…My heart seemed to stop.  Our son stands up in the tube, to reposition himself to lie across the top of the tube, while the boat is in full throttle!  I thought, “this boy has lost his mind!”  “Stop the boat” I shouted.  Yeah…words came out that time.  However, due to the wind and the engine, they could not hear me.  “Stop the boat!” I screamed again as my head turn vigorously to look at them and back at my son.  They kept going.  After a few seconds, I realized that he was ok, but the fact that he was now laying across the tube instead of securely sitting down in it, made me even more uneasy.  “What if we hit a big wave?  He will flip out!” I thought.  Ok, enough is enough.

As I was about to walk over to give tell them to stop the boat, our son finally he gave the signal to stop.  We slowed down and we pulled him back into the boat.  He had the biggest Kool Aid smile on his face.  He had done something new and enjoyed it.

The next week in swim class, he ran to the pool, jumped in and started to move his arms in the way his instructed had been trying to get him to do for weeks now.  I saw her glance at me with the most surprised look ever.  I just shrugged my shoulders because I did not have time to explain.

As I sat and watched him THRIVE in swim class that day, I reflected.  As parents, how many defining moments have we prevented because we are afraid to let our children experience new things?  Our scape goat is to say that we are protecting them, but protecting them from what or who?  I am not saying put your child in harm’s way.  Ultimately, as a parent, we are responsible for ensuring that we are not putting our children in a position where he or she will be injured physically, mentally, or emotionally.  However, I am asking that we consider how an experience could add perspective, enlightenment, self-confidence, in a way that will take them from clutching the neck of the swim instructor to jumping in the pool without fear.  It is possible that our fears and lack of exposure significantly limited their possibilities.  Please understand, for weeks and even months after his tubing experience, every time I watched the video my stomach dropped and I thought, I (we) cannot believe we let him do that!?!?!?  Now…he wants to swim any chance that he gets.

As parents, it is our obligation to discern who God has created our children to be, and then help them become.  When our focus is on what they will become, I believe that we become blinded and narrow minded, therefore, missing the moments that could shape, mold, and prepare them for who they are supposed to be.

We learned a valuable lesson that day…guide him, but do not steer; push, but not too hard; pray, but do not limit.  This experience had the potential to go oh so wrong, which is what we used to base most of our decisions on.  Usually, the worst that could happen never does.  Instead, we now consider the worst, then pray and prepare for the best.  Our default button is no longer set on “what’s the worst that could happen” but now, it is “consider the possibilities.”