Tag Archives: parenting

Apocalyptic Parent Conspiracy!

No, not Al Qaeda. Not the NRA. Not even high fructose corn syrup.

While you weren’t paying attention, it has slowly and quietly crept in and is now, as we speak, destroying the souls of the most vulnerable among us—our children.

No, its not bullies at school. Not choking on food. Not even rock and roll.

It’s the parents. It is us. And it is all in the name of cleanliness at the mercy of fear. It must be stopped.

Last Sunday I took my kids to the playground where there is this sand table with a water faucet. See? Already you’re thinking mud and guts. I know! It was a little chilly outside too. But I can’t tell you how awesome it was. It might even go down as one of my favorite memories of watching my kids play. They were cooperating, they were laughing, they were chatting, and their eyes were as bright as the turning leaves. And they were soaking wet and disgustingly dirty. They sat in the puddle of sandy water. The sand got into their fingernails. It got in their hair. It got into their butt cracks. Do you understand? It was everywhere!

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After about two minutes my kids realized they had struck gold. It was the World Series of playtimes. Other kids noticed the commotion. Big kids, almost too cool to play in sand would saunter over to see what was happening. Little toddlers, barely able to walk would trek across the sandy divide, itching to dive in. From every corner of the earth they came to look and stare. But not one stayed. Why?

Parents. Damn parents.

“Oh honey, let’s go down the slide instead, THAT looks REALLY dirty and you’ve got a brand new shirt on.”

“Sweetheart, don’t get wet, you’ll get SOOOOO cold.”

“Lollypop, we just did your make up.”

“Tinkertootle, that sand-water combination will give you a rash!”

I cringed every time as a little part of each kid died that glorious autumn Sunday morning. And to be honest, I can be one of those parents too. I get wrapped up in making a plan for the day. I get an idea of how I want things to go. I don’t want to do the work of cleaning up after the mess. I don’t like to see my kids uncomfortable when they get wet and a little cold on a cool fall day.

And they did. As we began the long walk back, the whining and crying started. But you know what? Kids are strong! They are resilient, within reason of course, but usually much hardier than we give them credit for. Sometimes I wonder if we are unknowingly creating an entire race of floppy, cryhappy couch potatoes, ya know? Anyhow, when we got home, they dove straight into a warm bath. Their clothes went straight into the washing machine. You won’t believe it, but within an hour all was clean and well again. Everyone was safe. I had a cup of coffee and– here’s the kicker– the kids took a killer nap.

Children need to be outside and feel dirt in between their fingers if they are going to develop a relationship with the earth, and eventually learn to care for her. They need to learn that they can overcome any amount of discomfort that life can throw their way if they are going to live a courageous and happy life.

Let’s do this together. Send little Lollypop outside without his coat. When you see Tinkertootle get into the dirt, let her linger as long as her concentration will hold her. Please put away the wet-wipes and the hand-sanitizer. They are useless for human development.

Outside is where real people are made. Let’s embrace it, for the sake of our children.

Why Doesn’t This Make Me Mad?

A GUEST POST BY HEATHER BURSCH:

When I read Ben’s post last week about caring for our environment, I was aware of how foreign the concept has been to me over the years. I grew up being told all kinds of things about what it meant to follow Christ and honestly not once do I remember caring for the earth being a part of the discussion. I don’t think that’s because everyone in my family or surroundings dishonored the environment. But something for me was lost, perhaps never taught and for sure not caught as they say.

One day while driving down the freeway my son angrily said, “This is stupid, they are making the roads bigger and chopping down more trees. Why are they doing that? How can they just do that?” I was a little shocked because he was so mad. He went on to explain that natural homes for animals will be destroyed and that birds (which he is extremely fond of and spots throughout our urban environment) will not have a place to live and thrive. I heard him a little but it wasn’t registering as mad for me. Without thinking I just started saying how this road is so bad and the traffic at certain times of the day is horrific. By the look on his face, he wasn’t having it. He shot back with “who cares and we should never have invented cars in the first place.”

Now wouldn’t that be crazy? Think of all we can do because we can get from point A to point B: work, provide, shop, see friends, and play. But my son would say, think about ALL we do to our world to get from A to B, oh and as fast as possible: tear down habitats, destroy our ability to sustain, damage the air we breathe, and all that our environment needs.

Why doesn’t this make me mad, I wondered? And at whom? Me? Why is it so easy for my brain to rationalize a need and overlook the consequences? How did I get so far removed?

So I’ve been wondering about what Ben said around taking this conversation to a higher level. While I agree, what if higher is simple? Not childish but childlike. I believe children are innately connected to the earth and caring for it comes from within, a connection to the Creator. But it can be lost and changed and like all living things it can lose its life. Sadly as a parent, I can actually have a part in that death. Thanks to my mad man and the ways he doesn’t let me off the hook, I’m realizing that caring for the earth isn’t lost on me yet. What’s the next step? I don’t know, but before I spend too much time getting lost in my head I’m going to go ask my kids.

What are the little people in your life saying about the environment? What if we all started paying attention?

Heather Bursch is a non-conforming full-time mom and part-time foodie. She loves to create space for conversations and experiences to remember. Heather began her post college years by teaching 1st graders. After saying she would never homeschool, that’s exactly what she’s doing. When she’s not helping her kids publish books, Heather is cooking, creating, writing, moving furniture, learning to garden, and getting ready for kid number 3. You can read more of Heather’s thoughts at olds and news or follow her on Twitter.

Scandinavian Baseball Fan vs. The Two-year Old

“No popsicle! No smoothie!”

She didn’t seem to get it so I put my nose about an inch from her nose and raised my voice, “NO POPSICLE! NO SMOOTHIE!” I left my then two-year old daughter wailing on her bed and slammed the door shut as I walked out of the room.

Honestly, I can explain myself. Really.

See, my wife was at work, my parents were late to babysit, and I had a friend waiting for me (I had the tickets in my pocket) to get into Game 2 of the Division Series, Twins Vs. Yankees at Target Field. After naps that day, Esme decided to have an epic toddler attack and throw an hour-long tantrum. She wanted a popsicle and since we were out (and I’m a nice guy) I made her a smoothie. She took one sip and chucked it on the ground screaming, I…WANT…POPSICLE!!!”.

So, being a typical Scandinavian who doesn’t like dealing with an insubordinate toddler, I freaked out.

Fortunately, after I slammed the door, my conscience finally caught up to me with a light tap on the shoulder. I took a breath, cleaned up the smoothie, and went back into Esme’s room to calm her down and apologize.

Have you ever apologized to a two year old? You feel like an idiot. No other adults were around, yet it was incredibly difficult to formulate words.  I was embarrassed. “Um Esme, yeah, dad got kinda mad, and ah, it wasn’t okay that I yelled at you, and I’m very sorry.” Of course she continued her tantrum the next moment. I didn’t get any relief until my parents finally showed up and I was off to the stadium.

My outburst stayed with me for the rest of the evening and into the week. Do you ever have that happen? When you do something stupid and it just seems to haunt you for a while? I kept replaying my own words in my head, “No popsicle! No Smoothie!” In the process, some questions came to mind:

What did my face look like in that moment (furrowed brow, bulgy bloodshot eyes)? Will this be her first memory? Will she use this experience to nail me to the wall during our first family therapy session? What was happening in me that would allow me to act so childishly towards my own daughter? Did she forgive me? And finally, what do I need to do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

On the surface, this whole thing might seem inconsequential or insignificant. For me, it is a story that I have re-told countless times. In The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes that our “knee-jerk reaction” in these moments tell us something about our character. They’re like smoke signals, advising us that something needs our immediate attention. Under the surface, there was something very important happening. On the inside, I was looking for a new way of being, a new me. I don’t want to be that dad– the Scandinavian who’s yelling, angry, impatient, or falling apart when things aren’t going my way. I want to become a better person and be a patient, loving presence in my family.

These are the days when I can almost hear Jesus say the words out loud: “Then neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.” Translation: that’s not who you really are. Now learn from it and start over.

This is realistically going to mean toddler tantrums, adult outbursts, and countless apologies. This is family, and this is what I think might be my best shot at what ‘being a loving presence’ really looks like– pause, regroup, apologize, reflect, start over. And I believe that in the meantime, under the surface there is a foundation being laid for lasting relationships and solid character. Even though sometimes it only feels like failure.

And yes, the Twins lost that game to the Yankees… again.

Discipline of Presence

As a parent of a three month old, I’ve noticed a few rhythms that inevitably surface in the baby’s schedule: feeding, awake time, and rest. Funny how I go through these same rhythms myself but with complete mindlessness. However, when it’s a person that I’m responsible for keeping alive, I’m forced to pay a little bit more attention. It’s amazing how difficult it is to align myself with these new rhythms. While feeding Esme her bottle, I want to be doing something else. I’m inclined to go on the internet, read a book, call a friend– do something that is productive and worthwhile.

Any pediatrician will tell you about how important it is to make the feeding time “special”. And the most important thing is to make eye contact. Eye contact lets the baby know that I’m there, that I’m paying attention, and that I can be trusted. 

 In spiritual terms, this is called ‘being present’.

What would it look like for me to apply this discipline found in feeding the baby to all of the relationships in my life? Funny how I interact with people with such mindlessness and capitalistic urgency. I’m always on my way to something else, constantly thinking about the next thing on MY agenda, and don’t have time to ‘give’ anyone. Unfortunately, most of my urgency is related to furthering my social status, material wealth, or any other form of total selfishness. Our glorious American human nature is all about capitalizing and maximizing.

Interestingly enough, when I really don’t want to engage in authentic conversation, I’ll avoid eye contact at all costs. It happens when I’m passing a stranger on the street, the teller at the bank, or the clerk at the grocery store. Not only that, but when I want to avoid human interaction, I’ve noticed I’ll even avoid eye contact with my friends, my wife, and my three month old daughter. Its really just the best way to isolate myself and stay in my own little world.

So as you can see, feeding the baby has become so much more than just feeding the baby. It’s practice. I practice my own habit of healthy human interaction. I practice focusing on something other than myself. I practice looking at someone straight in in the eye. So the rhythm of hours spent staring at Esme’s eyeballs while she sucks down her formula might actually develop a discipline of being present to others.