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0 In Marriage/ Parenting

We’re Fighting in Front of Our Kids

“Let’s just try to have a nice family dinner.”

“We can all just try to get along here at the table.”

Sounds like something you’d expect parents of four young kids to say when they were all out to eat after church and the kids were being wild. Right?

Nope. That was our oldest, Titus, trying to get Lindy and I to stop disagreeing (let’s not call it fighting) at the table over dinner.

Lindy had a handful of errands she’d wanted to run that morning but wasn’t able to because, you know, kids. I wanted to spend the night on the couch watching Cars with my boys, but instead I’m one town over driving laps in the Michael’s parking lot. Lindy wanted to eat at Chick-fil-a, but instead I dragged us all to a place specializing in greasy cheeseburgers. I paid for a Very Berry Strawberry shake and it never showed up.

It was kind of a long day, we were both pretty exhausted, and neither one of us was doing a great job listening to the other while we each made our case for why it was ok for us to feel the way we were.

And there was Titus trying to get his mom and dad to stop arguing.

I’m reading a book called Released from Shame by Sandra Wilson right now trying to help untangle some of the knots of confusion and lies in my life to help me move forward as a better man, husband, and father.

Chapter 3, Unhealthy Families, starts out with these words:

It has been said that an unexamined life is not worth living. It might also be hazardous to your health and to the health of those closest to you. Especially as you loyally and thoughtlessly repeat painful patterns learned in childhood.

Here’s the reality – no family is perfect. And none of us were born in to two families so we could compare healthy vs. unhealthy parenting – we just have our parents and the ways of thinking we developed as they raised us. So it’s hard for us to compare the differences between how we act and think and how a healthier version of ourselves would act and think.

Lindy and I are almost 8 years into our parenting journey and the deeper we get in to it the more respect I have for my parents because this stuff is just hard and no one knows what they’re doing. Wilson writes that:

“healthy families are not problem-free families. What distinguishes healthy from unhealthy families is how they handle the inevitable problems they encounter.”

Justin two or three years ago would not only be arguing with his wife over dinner, he’d be overwhelmed by shame in the middle of the conflict and that feeling would translate to anger. Justin today was able to look at Titus and say “Thank you, buddy. You’re right, but we need to figure this out right now.” Or something like that.

Wilson continues to say

“parents in poorly functioning families deny problems and emotional pain. To preserve the illusion that the family is perfect, these parents expend their energy on appearance management instead of problem solving.”

Man, that punches me in the face. Titus’ words trying to silence our conflict at the table were basically a direct reflection of my soul. I want everyone in our family to happily suck down their favorite flavor of milkshake over a super fun dinner and I want to take a photo of it so we can share it on Instagram and preserve the illusion that our family is perfect.

And I can convince myself this is the right thing to do – that this is healthy parenting. My inner monologue says “the most important thing for your kids is for them to feel safe in this family, this conflict is going to screw them up.”

But my inner monologue is wrong. My kids need to know that life isn’t easy, they need to see Lindy and I acknowledge our emotional pain and problems, they need to see us expend our energy on problem solving. Our children need to see that our family isn’t perfect – and that is ok.

I’m not ignoring my children’s emotional needs by arguing with their mom in front of them. I’m ignoring their emotional needs by ignoring the conflict in front of them.

My kids will be better off in a family that admits Daddy can be a jerk to Mommy sometimes, when they see that you don’t have to be perfect parents to be good parents, and when the things their parents ignore are unrealistic expectations, not emotional conflict.

We sometimes fight in front of our kids, and I’m ok with.

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0 In Faith/ Family/ Parenting

Easter Book Recommendation for Families: The Miracle Man

We found a great book to help our family prepare for Easter and I wanted to share it with you. Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus, by John Hendrix is a beautifully illustrated retelling of the life of Jesus that bring his words to life. I read it to the boys out under a tree while their sisters napped earlier this week.

I love the artwork in this book. The written words themselves are art. The words are not simply laid upon a picture. The words become the picture on every page. It’s so creative and there’s so much to look at. Our boys were intrigued.

Each page tells the story of a miracle Jesus has done. We see Jesus as many things in the Bible, but I love seeing him through the perspective of a “miracle man”. He has done and is doing miracles in our lives. I love our kids thinking about Jesus that way and looking for his miracles in their lives.

Justin’s favorite part of the story is how it ends with “one last glorious” miracle. It’s kind of a cliff-hanger in that it ends right at the moment of Jesus’ resurrection (perfect for Easter). It lets us pick up where that story ends and sets us up for a conversation with our kids about what it means for Jesus to be alive in our lives.

Here’s the link to Amazon so you can pick it up before Easter, but we also think it’s a great book to read year round.

2 In Family/ Parenting

Why I Want My Kids to Wake Me Up Way Too Early

When Titus was first born he slept in bed with Lindy and me. Honestly, I was never a big fan of this setup. I had this idea that our bed was supposed to be our bed and letting our kids in there would somehow undermine our marriage.

I know, I have issues.

Thankfully, I started going to counseling and Lindy didn’t leave me on the grounds of my stupidity. I’ve learned a lot and loosened up quite a bit since those early days.

Slowly, I discovered the joy of snuggling my kids in bed.

Titus eventually progressed to a co-sleeper thing and then a pack n’ play at the foot of our bed. Now some of my favorite memories from those first few years of our little family were the slow mornings with everyone up way too early, but spending forever snuggling and playing together in our bed.

As timed passed Titus moved into a crib in his own little room and then a “big boy” bed in that same room when his little brother, Boaz, was ready to takeover the crib. Now that they have two little sisters they’ve been ousted from that room and sleep in bunkbeds in a bedroom across the house.

No Such Thing As Sleeping In

One of the universally agreed upon worst parts of having little kids is how early they wake up. And there’s, like, nothing you can do to change it. I’ve tried keeping the boys up way past their bedtime and they’re still up before the sun.

So a year or two ago I set a goal to train the boys to turn the television and cartoons on all by themselves in the morning. For about the last year they have successfully pulled this off and it’s kind of been awesome. Titus will even serve up some morning snacks for Boaz now.

Every few weeks Boaz has a hard time sleeping all the way through the night and he’ll come into our room at three in the morning or something awful. Once again, I’ve trained him to just bring his pillow and a blanket. He doesn’t even wake me up anymore, he just sleeps on the floor next to our bed and all I have to worry about is not stepping on him when I wake up.

Training My Kids to Leave Me Alone

I had a realization the other day that broke my heart.

My little boys don’t climb into bed and snuggle with me in the morning anymore.

For whatever reason I found myself awake at like 4 AM with this awareness that no one was going to come climb in to my side of the bed; I lay there and was just overwhelmed with sadness.

About an hour or so later Boaz came in with his pillow and blanket and begin to lay down by himself. I heard him quietly getting settled on the floor and decided I’m not having that anymore. So I grabbed his little hand and pulled him into bed with me for snuggles. He fell right asleep in my arms and I just lay there enjoying his quiet breathing.

Just this morning I got lucky because Titus came in pretty early. The TV wasn’t waking up and he needed my help. I pulled him in bed with me, and while he didn’t sleep we did get to whisper and snuggle for a bit.

Sleeping In is Overrated

I’ve made my mind up: I was dumb about all of this sleeping and stuff. One day really soon my boys are never going to come snuggle me in bed anymore.

I don’t care how tired I am throughout the day or how great those extra few minutes of sleep sound; I’m going out of my way now to get my kids into bed with us as early in the morning and as often as possible.