Posts Tagged ‘mom’


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Years ago, I was sitting on my back porch enjoying a summer day. I may have just finished cutting the backyard, which was a blessing and a curse. I loved the fact that it was large enough to run, jump, flip, and play with my son without going to a park. However, I had to cut every square inch of it, weekly. My backyard tapered into the 8th tee of a golf course (par 3 where you had to clear a pond and escape the 4 bunkers surrounding the green). The 8th hole cut across my view, then the fairway of the 9th hole (500 yard, par 5) was directly in front of me…as far as I could see.

It was a very picturesque view. We loved to sit, watch, and enjoy all of Gods splendor. This was one of those days. I recall the sky being clear, a slight breeze in the air, birds chirping, squirrels scurrying, geese swimming, nothing but what God had created.

As I sat taking it all in, I looked down to my left and noticed a couple ants busy at work. As I watched them carry items from one place to the other, they eventually started to walk out into the backyard toward the golf course. I wondered if they lived in my backyard. Did they consider this to be there home (I know I’m weird, just go with me for a sec). Again, as the ants started to disappear as they made their way toward the golf course, I wondered how long would it talk these little ole ants to get from here……all-the-way to the end of the 500 yard, par 5, 9th hole? What would he encounters as they traveled on their journey? Golfers swinging clubs, driving golf carts, spikes on shoes, rainy days, dark midnight skies…would he finish?

Then I wondered…perhaps this backyard is as far as he would ever go? It could be so large, in his eyes, that it could take him years to explore all of the possibilities right before him. He would never know that there are millions of other backyards and thousands of other golf courses that he will never even know existed. Then it hit me….

We look the same in Gods eyes. He sits high and looks low. He has given us the responsibility to manage everything in our “backyards.” As parents, I feel that it is our responsibility to take our children “beyond our backyard” to help them explore other possibilities. Our role is to guide them and help them navigate the swinging golf clubs (enemies), golf carts (fast pace), rainy days (frustration), dark nights (distractions) that we know the world will throw at them. Sometimes our natural inclination is to overprotect, which to some means to shelter them and prevent them from being exposed to all that the world has to offer (good and bad). The mistake in this overprotective approach is that they may develop a false sense of reality, believing that the world is just like the serene “backyard” where we spend the majority of our time. However, the day will come when we, as parents, are not there to help our children manage and navigate life.

Exposure helps them discover who they are to become, while allowing them to think through the options.

The discovery process can and should take place within the safety of our backyards, but we should not let our fears build an ant farm that prevents our children from even experiencing the wonders that are in your backyards and beyond.

Allow them to explore, and as they learn, expand their boundaries to what they can handle. Sure they will test the limits, you and I both did. It is apart of growing up. My prayer (our prayer) is that they will take what we taught and apply it when we are not around. The last thing that we want is for them to discover the golf cart (fast pace) and we never told them about the golf cart or that there is a thing called a seat belt (well not really on a golf cart).

My point…because we have been exposed, we can sit and pier out into the world (from our backyards) and prepare our sons and daughters for all that the world has in store. Teach them to take the proper precautions, but encourage them to explore and grow during the process.

Please, please ensure that you look “beyond your backyard” and not limited the potential of their tomorrow, because we never expose them to what is possible.

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“You defend the system that trains you.” is a quote from Pastor Smokie Norful. What is a system? A system is a series of events or processes that work together to get a desired result. Systems can be, but are not always positive. For example, an abusers sets up a system to isolate the victim (process #1), lower their self-esteem (process #2), give them a false sense of what true love is (process #3), until they get that person to believe that this is not only the best way of life, but the ONLY way. In many cases, the victim will choose to stay in that situation even though it is harmful to them. The victim may even begin to defend the abuser, because they have begun to believe that “He/She loves me!”

Just like a person who is in an abusive relationship will defend the abuser and say that they “love” me, a child that has grown up in “dysfunction” will defend the system and lifestyle that they were raised by, because that is all they know. To change their lifestyle (system) is to turn their back on or to disrespect the way of life that had gotten them to where they are. Wait? Are you striving to go further, achieve more, “be better?” “So you think you better than me now?” It is not that they think that they “are” better, it is simply that they desire more. I grew up in this environment as well. I was the first in my family to go and graduate from college and some of my family actually fought my mother, because they thought that I thought I was “better”. Not True! This mentality has caused many kids with amazing potential to never realize it because their life is filled with “haters” who do not want to see them do more and thrive instead of just surviving.

When I first heard the term “hater” I was so happy, because I thought, “This is progress!” It is the realization that if someone does not want you to accomplish more, then THEY are the one who is wrong, not the one who is trying to achieve. It is inspiring to see that some people would like to rise above their current state, that has become normal, and thrive beyond the limitations of the enviornments that they are currently exposed to. It is the desire and determination of those individual(s) to obtain more, that has become the seeds of hope for other family members, friends, and generations to come. If they can do it, so can I…Haters!!!

It takes a person who has broken the barriers of lack to realize that dysfunction had become their normal. Once you discover a new system, it is important to share it with those who may still be lost or blind to the fact that they can have more…not just stuff, but more peace, love, joy. They can take the responsibility of spending much time with others who suffer from that same false reality of “this is all we will ever have or be” to carefully fertilize, till, and replant seeds that will produce life and create a new normal that can harvest into a life filed with love, joy, peace, happiness, abundance, and so much more.

So…I ask, what type of seeds are you planting in your children? Guilt, regret, shame, hate, envy, hurt? What system(s) did you grow up in that you are now recreating or “planting” in your children because that is all that you know? Just because it was done to you, does not make it right…even if it worked! Just because you had the resiliency to bounce back does not mean that your child(ren) will have that same bounce back power!? We have to really explore the reasons why we value what we value, why we think the way we think, and why we do we what we do, before passing it along to our children. The systems that we build to raise our children, may need to be adjusted to fit who they are and who they are supposed to become.

Sometimes parenting has nothing to do with the child, but everything to do with you! It is amazing to me that we get trained and prepare for a vocation, but will not do the same introspection when it comes to being prepared to fulfill our purpose as parents. When God entrusted us with a miracle (baby) we now hold purpose in our hands. Our role is to create the right environment and plant seeds of Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control so that they can reach their full potential. It requires us to get out of their way and to not plant weeds that are limiting or that push them in a direction that we think is right. Is it the right way? Maybe? Are you sure? If so, good.

Again I ask, what type of seeds are you planting? You can not plant what you don’t have. Maybe it is time that we rethink our systems to ensure that the processes (lifestyle) is working together to get the desired positive result. If you don’t plant seed in the right soil (environment), water it (nurture), give it the proper sun (oversight), the seed will never grow to its greatest potential.

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Posted: July 9, 2013 in Resources
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My son is 8. His grandparents (and other family members) have asked if he can spend the SUMMER with them? “ARE YOU CRAZY!?!?” At least that is what I thought, well I kinda say it too. There is no way I can go an entire summer without my LiL Homie (that’s what I can call him). I guess we should think of it as a complement, that someone would want to spend an entire summer with our son…and they asked us.

I asked someone the other day, at what age does a parent switch from dreading their child being gone for so long to asking “wanna take em for the summer?”

Well, we gave in, a little, and allowed him to go with Grandparents for 2 and a half weeks. He is in North Carolina spending much needed time with aunts, uncles, and cousins. But, we are only half way through and it feels like an eternity.

What is it that causes us, as parents, to press the “panic button” when our children are away for long periods of time? Fear that something might happen? Yep…but I have gotten passed that phase (with much prayer). But let’s fast forward about 10 years, to a time when it’s a bit longer than a summer vacation with family. A friend of mine said something the other day that made my stomach drop. He said, “You realize you only have another 10 years with him? After that, he will be moving on to college. Value and cherish the time now.” As I reflected, what made my stomach drop was the feeling of “not being needed” by him any more. Huuuhhhhh!!! (you know the sound you make when someone punches you in the gut?)

As a parent our goal should be to work ourselves out of a job. Parents have instincts to nurture, teach, and develop, but we still want to hold on forever. The Discovery Channel displays how animals and other species help their young discover their “kill or be killed” instinct…fly or fall to your death reality. There comes a time when a momma eagle will push her baby out of the nest and they better flap their wings before they hit the ground (or else).

There will come a time when we will have to trust what we have placed inside of them. A time when they can make decisions for themselves.

As parents, we can not hold on so tight (at 8 years old) and expect them, at 18, to be ready to make decisions and live apart from us if we never provide them with the opportunity to practice their decision making (while they are still within our reach to guide them when they made a mistake

They will make mistakes, that’s apart of the growth process. For some, success starts to feel like failure when their child begins to stand on their own two feet, realizing their independence, not needing us for every decision. We may mask it or not realize it, but empty nest syndrome is very real! We have to trust what we put inside them or start today preparing them for a life apart from us. The reality is, we will not be by their side all the time, but we should want them to use what we taught as a reference as they stand at the crossroads of life…having the moral compass to know right from wrong, good from bad, success from negative consequence, their decision not ours.

My wife and I now see it more as passing the torch. We want our son to be exposed to more than who we are so that he can discover who God has made him to be. It’s a big world out there and we can not possibly teach him all that he needs to know. We are imparting God’s word in him, so he will seek Gods voice as a guide instead of ours who could possible steer him wrong. We want him to realize who we were depending on to guide him in the first place. If you want to know the purpose of a thing, you must ask the one who created it. He is the only one that “knows the plans that He has for us, to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

When we take the focus off ourselves and focus on preparing them, our feeling of failure transforms into a feeling of joy as we realize that what we see them doing is flapping their wings right before they hit the ground. Now…we just have to let them fly.


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My first job out of college was as an intake worker in foster care. Great experience, however, at the ripe age of 21, it shaped my perspective on parenthood. That experience is for another day (soon…I promise).

As an intake worker, I had to build the case files for case managers. In the process, I had to enter the social security numbers of the parents and their children. Back then, I was amazed at the fact that after entering the numbers, they seemed to be forever etched into my mind. The same was for my family and friends phone numbers…I just remembered them. Not long ago, someone asked me for my wife’s phone number and I could not tell them without looking into my phone. What happen???

I trace it all back to technology (Cell Phones, Computers, etc.). I did not have a need to “clutter” my mind with senseless information that I could easily access. At least I thought. Now I realize that it was more than knowing, it was exercising a side of my brain that I must not readily use now. We do not have to “think” any more. We just need to read or access a resource that contains the information we need. Some may argue, “what’s wrong with that?” My reply, “nothing, as long as you “always” have access to that “thing” that you depend on.

Let me get to the point…I believe problem solving is the single greatest attribute that a parent can teach their child (next to fearing God). My mother was a problem solver. She was a teen mom and embodied the principle of “where there is a will there is a way.” We did not always have, but we never lacked what we needed. I watched her “figure life out” sometime out of nothing. She did not have the luxury of running to the store to get what was needed for dinner. She pieced this with that and I was full and well nourished. This quality, problem solving, has been lost. I am witnessing an up and coming generation who are sometimes paralyzed when all of the pieces do not fall in place.

My parental peers appear to be too concerned with making sure that their kids have everything that they did not have (#Stuff), that they are forgetting to pass along the characteristics that got them to this point.

This evolution of parenting has created a generation of 20 somethings who are waiting at the bus stops of opportunity wondering when their ride will come, instead of doing what is necessary to prepare or create an opportunity for themselves.

This evolution of parenting has created a generation of 20 somethings who are waiting at the bus stops of opportunity wondering when their ride will come, instead of doing what is necessary to prepare or create an opportunity for themselves. To reverse this trend, parents, we have to act now by allowing our children to suffer, go without, and earn their keep. We had to work to get everything, now we give them everything and they do not have to work.

Problem solving is having the ability to identify that there is actually a problem. Some of them do not even realize that they are lost and losing!!! I know it is tempting to jump in quick when we see that our children are on a path to destruction. I agree. I will be tempted to do the same thing. That is what a parent is supposed to do. What I am asking is that you include them in the process. If you resolved it and they never understand that they were in danger, the possible consequences of their actions, the steps you took to resolve it, why you took those steps, and how to actually resolved it…how do you expect them to resolve it in the future.

Please teach your kids how to problem solve while they are young, if not, they will expect you to solve their problems when they are old.

Steps of Problem Solving

  1. Identify the Problem: Your child must have a morale compass of what is right or wrong (As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord). At the tender age of 8, my son knows the 10 commandments and holds us all accountable for breaking any one of them. He also respects authority. Authority is not always a person in leadership. For example, one day we were out shopping and we were about to walk into a store. He stopped outside and we walked it. I turned around and he was outside the store. I went out and told him to come in, but he was eating a bag of chips. He said, “daddy, the sign says no food or drinks in the store, so I had to finish before I came in.”
  2. Think it Through: Do not be so quick to solve their problems, no matter how small. Ask them questions and wait on the answer. There are times when I ask a question and it may take him 5 mins to respond, but I do not let him off the hook. “I do not know” is not an acceptable answer in my household. You have a brain, use it!!! I have a couple questions that I often ask when he does not know what to say; 1) What would you do if you did know (this is a good one when they try to sneak that infamous question in “IDK)? 2) What do you think should happen? 3) What would you like to happen? Then just wait. I will sometimes say, “Still waiting…?” Be patient, eventually the wait time will get shorter if they know you will not give in. If they get stuck, brainstorm with them by providing suggestions (but not right away). Eventually, they will come up with ideas on their own.
  3. Consider the consequences: As a kid, this is what kept me out of trouble. I loved my privileges. Anything that I did that was going too take them away, I avoided (or prayed I would not get caught…LOL). I was no angel, but I always thought “If this, then that”….If I do this, that could happen. When they present a solution, throw a “What If?” back at them. The “What if” is the possible consequence to their solution. Then let them decide if they want to take the chance. Continue this until they make a final decision. Remember…all consequences are not bad.
  4. Walk along side them: After they make a decision, support them in it. As adults, we know that sometimes we have great intentions, but our delivery or how we do something spoils it all. Help them understand the importance of doing things decently and in order so that it does not make matters worse. You may have to model it for them and have them watch you a couple times , while you explain “why” you did what you did. Then, they can do it and you watch, continue to provide coaching along the way. Eventually, they will be able to do it on their own.

As I mentioned earlier, I believe problem solving is the single greatest attribute that a parent can teach their child. You will not always be around to guide them. However, they should be able to remember how you modeled the way. Parents are also battling a society that has evolved into a at-your-finger-tips-you-do-not-have-to-think-or-use-your-brain society. My wife witnessed kids at the community center that because of cell phones and tablets do not know how to tell time on a analog clock.

Subtle, but I think we must pay attention and adjust or our children could be walking around life lost with a map that they can’t read, because their GPS ran out of batteries and their phone died asking us…”wht time u say dat bus comin?”


Mother’s Day is a time for us to honor God’s gift to this earth. The vessel that He chose to use to bring another life into this world. In an earlier post (“What If…”), I imagined what the world would be like if men carried babies (shaking that off). We should do all that we can to appreciate the countless sacrifices that mothers make on our behalf to ensure that our needs are met. Although fathers do not carry the baby or “actually” bring life into this world, I still think that this time of year is as important for fathers.

She’s not my mom…she is the mother of my son and my wife. Everyday, but especially during this season, I see my role as modeling and teaching my son how to cherish, honor, respect, and LOVE his mother. By doing this, correctly, I plant seeds that will be nurtured and watered over time. Eventually,they will blossom into how he cherishes, honors, respects, and LOVES women, his wife, his daughter(s), and so on.

Children do not understand all of that “grown up” stuff. They do not understand what mommy did to daddy to make him so upset. All they see is his lack of love, gentleness, and respect, which plants different seeds. Later, when they begin to manifest themselves, we wonder where that attitude or behavior came from???

This is true whether your child is a boy or girl. If it is a girl, she is learning to cherish, honor, respect, and LOVE herself, because that is what daddy has modeled toward her mommy. She will learn to expect and accept whatever daddy is teaching and modeling for her (if anything at all).

In my view, Mother’s Day is about the children honoring their mother for who she is and what she has done for them. I believe that Mother’s Day has take on a new form, because too many of us (men and women) are planting the wrong seed about mothers. Instead of teaching our kids to cherish, honor, respect, and LOVE their mother’s during this season, others must fill in to ensure that the sacrifices of those mothers do not go unrecognized. Equally, we now have to recognize those who stepped up and stepped in where other mothers feel short.

She’s Not My Mom, but I so appreciate the mother, wife, and helpmate that she is to us. I will continue to do all that I can to ensure that my son acknowledges and appreciates his mother for who she is and what she does.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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.


What is a MENTOR anyway? We seek them. We long for them. We need them? But, 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 fail to recognize the “miracle” that He has given us charge over (someone’s life). Perhaps they realize it, but are not ready to embrace the responsibility that comes with shaping and molding the heart, mind, attitude, body, and soul of another person. Often times, we (parents) are still so consumed with becoming that we subcontract our role to others to mentor our kids.

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.”


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.