Posts Tagged ‘dad’

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.”


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Let me start by saying that God does not make any mistakes. He is sovereign and knew exactly what He was doing and how to do it.

Now, that we have that out of the way; let us use our imagination for a minute. What if…God chose who would carried the baby for 9 months? Man or Woman? When a husband and wife “got together” (you know what I mean) there would be no way of knowing who would be impregnated? What if, there was a 50/50 chance that the man would carry, care for, and nurture that little miracle until birth.

How different would the world be?

According to Wikipedia.org, “About 16% of children worldwide live in a single-parent household.[9] In 2006, 12.9 million families in the US were headed by a single parent, 80% of which were headed by a female. Unfortunate, but it is a well-known fact that so many men skip out on the responsibility. I believe that it is an out of sight, out of mind experience for them. In reality, God chose the female to be the blessing and have the opportunity to take part in the miracle of carrying a child to term. Men can (I did not say should) stand back to decide the role they will play in the child’s life…deciding what is convenient for them. Since the female does not have a choice, she is forced into a posture of “I gotta do what I gotta do.” Again I ask, How different would the world be if God chose at conception who the carrier would be? What if, females then take the same stance as so many men? Would she react in the same way if the situation was reversed? Would there by a more overwhelming number of single fathers instead?

The first inclination is to say “No…women are naturally nurturers, therefore, they would not walk out on their responsibility of aiding in raising the child.”

Take a second to really consider….What If?

My opinion, if fathers did not know if they would be chosen by God to carry the baby, I am willing to bet a penny that rate of unprotected sex would go into extinction! Sexually Transmitted Diseases (viruses…or whatever the correct term is now a days) would diminish, A.I.D.s may not exist, I can go on. It is actually pretty comical to sit and consider how different the world would be with just this one small adjustment took place (quite big actually).

What If…The seemingly innate male fear of commitment would be challenged with every stroke taken (no pun intended). One would think that the females would still react in the same manner; however, it would be sort of a butterfly effect. If you change, this, what else and how else would everything else be affected? Would women now have the same issues with commitment and lack the innate ability to nurture a life into what God has intended? What men and women alike possess what is needed to do what you gotta do? Things that make you go huuummmm? What If?

This brings another question…Why do so many men skip out on the responsibility and opportunity to care for another life? I have an opinion, but I will deal with that in my next post.

So what do you think? What If…?


Hardwork

As a mentor, it requires you to interact with the parents of the young people whose life you have been given charge to lead and direct. I would spend time talking to their parents to gain perspective and insight on the lessons and angles to take to be relevant, which is one of the only ways to make a connection. By default, a relationship formed between myself and some of the parents. They are entrusting me with their most precious gift, a life that God has blessed them to raise. Some days, I could see the defeat in their eyes. They hope that I would have “the” answer to why their teen was acting that way. “I give them everything! Why are they talking to me like that?” The pain was too much for some of them to take. Tears would often streamed down their faces and drip on the paper as they unfolded the report card so that I could take a look.

The vulnerability and feeling of inadequacy that can come when raising a child, especially a teen, can become unbearable. Even though I did not know many of them personally, in one conversation, exactly who they are and who they wanted their children to become would be crystal clear. They would articulate their optimisms and passion for their children to do much better than they had, but did not understand why the life of their child was starting to mirror their years as a teen. #disappointment

They would share some intimate details about who they were as a parent (or who they were not); things that they have tried, demands that was outlined, discipline that was laid down. The level of intimacy from the parent was not always intentional. I had another perspective that came from building a relationship with their child. Hearing the other side, I could sometimes put two and two together (but it did not always equal 4). Go figure.

Then…I had a LIGHT BULB MOMENT. It is amazing the things that you can find out when you hear the same story told from 2 people who do not realize that you will gain another point of view. Time and time again, parent after parent, mentee after mentee, year after year, I realized something that greatly impacts how I parent and even live life today. You may think that this is elementary and even a given, but what I figured out is that just like every other principle, it only works when applied.

I was watching a movie called Love & Basketball (great movie I might add) and there was a scene of the movie where the son was upset with his father for cheating on his mom. The son asks the father a question that pierced the depths of my soul, ”Why couldn’t you be the man that you have always try to make me?” (((Whoa!))) As I sat in silence…thinking that is a statement that I NEVER want to hear from my son or daughter. There is nothing that father could say to that? Really…how are you supposed to respond? I had to watch the movie again to see what happened after that, because I think I blacked out thinking about how powerful that statement was. I guess thinking back I realize just how early I have had a passion for parenting.

One day, years later…it happened again. I was talking to a group of youth and one of them asked me a question that solidified it for me. After one of my “talks” (I have been accused on blending in a life lesson into everything I do and say), a youth looked me straight into my eyes, almost with tears and asked, “you are holding me accountable for the things say and do, but who is holding my parents accountable? What I am supposed to do if you are telling me not to do something but my parents are doing it? I’m trying, but what am I supposed to do?” ((((Double Whoa!!!)))

I mean…WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THAT!!!!!!!! This is a moment when you just wish you could shrink as small as possible or just run. I can’t tell them not to listen to their parents, but wrong is wrong…Right?

Ok, here it is, parents! I warned you, it may seem like a given, but I realized that as parents:

The Greatest Lessons Are Not Always Taught, But Lived. The lessons that parents are trying to teach their child(ren) are not always the lesson that is being lived. Therefore, we must realize that kids are watching us far more than they are listening.

I love my mother and I think that she did a great job in raising me and helping me to become the person, man, parent that I am today. However, I thought she coined a phrase that I later found out was a statement that was a parents excuse to do whatever they wanted. “Do what a say, not as I do.” Hello!!! That does not work…well it might when I am standing in front of you, but me seeing you do it makes your words sound like the adults from Charlie Brown…Whomp, WhomP, wHoMP, wwwhoommmpp.

So, now I felt it burning inside, so I decided to do a little experiment. I asked my mother, what was the greatest lesson that you tried to teach me going up? Because I asked her out of the blue, I saw her contemplate it for a second, look up left then right. I saw that she wanted to ask me why I was asking the question, but figured there was not right or wrong way to answer the question. She then replied, “To never tell a lie.” That’s great. Every parent wants their child to be honest!

Well to her surprise, that was NOT the greatest lesson that I had actually learned from my mother. The greatest lesson that I had learned was the value and importance of an education. My mother became pregnant at 16. Therefore, she dropped out of high school to raise me. Years later, when I was almost in middle school, we were sitting at the dinner table and she said, “Baby, I am going back to finish school. How will I be able to tell you to graduate high school if I never did?” She then started taking night classes, in which I attended many of them with her. I was in “day care” as she attended class, but I remember eating the Kraft Mac N Cheese and Goldfish crackers while waiting (what seemed like forever) for her to come back to get me. I still recall taking a picture with my grandfather, with my mother in her cap and gown…she did it!

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a match ladies and gentleman. Her words and deed aligned. She was “intentional” about teaching me a lesson. Being a parent is about communicating the lessons, but also living the lifestyle as well. I recall the day I walked in the door after school and she had an envelope in her hand from Michigan State University. She wanted me to open it. When I read, “Congratulations, we are pleased to announce that you have been accepted…” she hugged me so tightly. She was so proud and happy for me (tears are coming down my eyes right now). I remember thinking that it was no big deal. She had already taught me the value and importance of an education. It was something that was a given in my eyes. After high school comes college.

Later as I reflected, I cannot recall my mother EVER talking to me about college. However, I do recall talking to my guidance counselor about where I may go and she giving me the application to Michigan State and ensuring that I attended the early admissions seminar (I can see her face, but cannot recall her name…thank you). I said all of this to say, Parents, when you are intentional about the lessons and teach your child what they should know, 9 times out of 10, they will respond without you having to take any effort at all.

I continued to test my theory by asking my friends and some of my friend’s parent’s the same questions (separate from one another) and to date, no one has had an answer that has matched. As parents, the lessons that we think we are teaching our kids are not always the lessons that they are picking up on. Actually, some lessons may be ones that you do not want them to learn at all. Remember…the greatest lessons are not taught, but lived. “Do what I say, not as I do” is not an acceptable way of parenting in this day and age. We must be intentional and live the lifestyle that we want to model for our kids.