Why Am I the One That’s Nervous?

May 27, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

How many times in the last 5 years of my life has this been the scene?  I am standing on the sidelines of a soccer practice and watching Lauren.  I choose to not try and calculate that number.  (The answer will be troubling, like the time I calculated the number of sermons/talks I’ve heard in my life.)  However, this one was different.  This is her first “tryout.”  We are moving from academy level to club level.  What does that mean, you may ask?  First, it means they take more of our money and second, it would seem, that they take more of our time.  As they describe it though, I realize this team we’ve played on this year was already acting like a “club level” team, so we are already prepared for the time that competitive soccer can take.

Anywho, she is now trying out for the team as we move to this next level.  I am watching this tryout and I am as nervous as I have been in a long time.  I remember the first time I spoke at Fellowship Bible in Little Rock and I knew that I was going to speaking to thousands.  I was nervous.  Seriously, I was more nervous yesterday.  It felt silly, but I couldn’t help it.

I’ve felt this way before.  I took Maylee to an audition for a musical a few months ago.  I couldn’t get that stupid knot out of my stomach.  I was pacing down the hallway trying (unsuccessfully) to not listen in.

What is this neurotic behavior? Where does it come from?  It happens in a lot of parents for different reasons and manifests itself in different ways.  For me, I just don’t want them to be disappointed–ever.  I want them to always win, always be happy.  I want to give them everything they need and as much as they want as I can (within the bounds of good behavior, grateful hearts, anti-materialism, etc).  9 times out of 10 if they say, “Can we go to Sonic?” we go to Sonic.  Same for ice cream and renting movies.  The answer is almost always yes, if it is possible to do so.

Here I am though in situations that I can’t control even in the slightest.  I cannot ensure (good post on difference between insure, ensure and assure here) outcomes here, like I can with producing cherry limeades.  So perhaps, this is, at least in part, control issues.  However, it is so much more than that. I want them to win. I don’t want them to experience disappointment.

Unfortunately for some parents, this leads us to drive our children harder than they want to be driven.  “You must succeed.”  This makes it more about us than them.  Similarly, yet differently (nice, huh?) it can lead us to discourage our children from taking risks.  “It’s better to protect them, so they won’t get hurt.”  I think this also is about protecting us more than them.  It also isn’t realistic.  They will be disappointed.  That’s one of the sure things of this world.  Disappointment will come and it will hurt.

Are we preparing them for it? Are we walking them through it? Do we lovingly encourage them the whole way? These are the questions that we need to ask ourselves, not the question I wish I could: how can I make sure they are never disappointed or hurt?

As the reader(s?) of this blog know, I love my daughters and am overwhelmingly proud of them. I want them to win and I want them to know that I am their biggest fan in the world.  Our kids need to know that.

Just don’t tell them that I’m nervous, because it makes them nervous, and then they don’t do as well and then I get more nervous, which…you get the idea.

How Do I Keep from Breaking My Daughter?

May 19, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

This is an actual question put to me on a golf course recently by a friend and fellow dad of daughter.  I don’t know if that is word for word what he said.  If it wasn’t “break” it might have been “ruin” or “mess up.”  Regardless, it was something like that.

I love the question because it really gets at the heart of most guys’ fear about having a daughter.  We consider daughters to be significantly more breakable than a boy.  Boys are durable and tough, and girls are fragile.

Disclaimer: I am not saying that there is such a difference between boys and girls.  I’m saying that is how dads feel.  Little boys are significantly more fragile than most dads realize.

Clarification: Fragile does not connote weakness, at least not in this case.  It really is better understood as valuable and precious.  All things that are valuable and precious are breakable.  That’s how we feel.  You can’t judge our feelings (I may or not be crying now).

I think this belief that a dad can ruin a girl, easily leads many men to becoming passive in their parenting of their daughters.  “Since I am a blumbering idiot, I cannot be trusted.  Wife (I know, no one calls their wife, “wife”), you take care of it.”  If it is not that kind of passivity, a different kind emerges.  The second kind of passivity eliminates discipline.  “She is my beautiful princess.  She never does anything wrong.”  This is seen even more in dads that have sons first.  “Boys are punks like me and need beatings (exaggerated word for effect.  You guys are sensitive today) just like I needed them.  But my precious girl, she just needs more smooches and to be held and given everything she ever wants always.”

I think in my verbiage (turns out it’s not verbage, but verbiage and connote not connotate. Thanks red squigglies. Even though I’m ignoring you with the word “squigglies”) in that last sentence, anyone can figure out what one of my pieces of advice was–your daughter needs to be disciplined as well.

Despite the fact that she is beautiful and sweet, she also has a sinful, selfish heart that needs to be shaped.  She needs to be corrected, disciplined and punished, just as you would your son.  “Just as you would?  That can’t be true.  It has to be different.”  I can agree with that for the same reasons that I would say that you have to discipline different boys differently.  They have different personalities, tendencies, respond to different punishments uniquely, etc.  However, despite the differences between children in general and girls and boys specifically, one similarity remains–they need to have their selfish desires and hearts shaped by a loving parent.

I told my friend that your daughter learns that she is your beautiful princess when things are going well.  She learns to restrain selfishness and sin and (gulp) that she is not the literal or figurative center of the universe when she acts out.  It is possible to be the “fun one” and the “tough one,” to be the “doting dad” and the “disciplinarian.”

We risk “breaking” our daughters when we are one to the exclusion of the other.  Most guys, at least with girls, tend to dote and not discipline.  I certainly am not advocating the other extreme.

Balance, no not balance, but the appropriate role at the appropriate time under the appropriate circumstances is what we need to strive for as dads.  But that is a blog post for another day.

Family Tag Month

May is Family Tag Month.  Wait.  You didn’t know?  Well, that could be because we just invented that a couple of days ago.  This was Lauren’s (of course) idea, though the rules were a collaborative effort.

Assuming that we all understand the basic concept of tag.  Here are the rules:

1) Person who is initially “it” is picked by a random drawing.  No discussion is allowed as to who is it.

2) You can only tag someone when it is just you and that person in the room/area. (to protect the anonymity of who is it)

3) You have to wait 1 hour after you are tagged to tag someone else, this allows for “tag backs” but not immediate tag backs.  However, even after the hour, tag backs are discouraged, because you want everyone getting tagged.

4) At the girls’ bedtime, whoever is it gets a point.  (Like golf, points are bad)

5) At the end of the month, the person with the fewest points wins.

So, go for it.  Make May Family Tag Month.  Between this and the Toenail Ogre, you now have some great (?) ideas for having some ridiculous fun with your kids.  But, as always, my encouragement is to make your own ridiculous games.

UPDATE:  It is May 2nd, 8:30 at the time of this writing.  Heidi got May 1st’s point, and I’m currently it. I was tagged at 7:20.  Very well-timed, since school starts at 8:00.  My plan is to tag Heidi this afternoon at around 2:05, because she will leave the meeting we are at around 2:45 (can’t tag me back) and will be picking up the girls at 3:05.  I considered popping in at school and tagging one of the girls.  I’ve got all month for that trick though. I threatened both of them, just so they’re thinking about it.

Proud Dad

February 24, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Would you be surprised if I told you that I don’t know how my posts are going to end when I start them?  What if I told you that I wasn’t even always sure what my “point” (funny, right?) is sometimes until I start writing? My guess is that’s not surprising.  If it is, I will introduce myself to you later.  We probably don’t know each other.

Anywho, as many of you know, my older daughter Maylee was in a play last week.  It was part of a community kid’s theater called Arts Live.  I was beyond impressed with the people there, the director of the play, the exec director of the group, the kids.  It was all very well done.

Obviously, I was most impressed with one of the actresses in particular.  I was so proud of her.  I was incredibly impressed with what a natural actress she was.  (You know, being dramatic at home is not the same as being a good actress.)  She did a great job.  You never would have known watching it that it was her first play, compared to some of the veterans that were there. (You may think I’m biased, and I am. If she hadn’t been good, I would have known, not told her and said nothing to you)

However, her acting ability is not what I think I’m the most proud of.  I have talked about her tenacity in continuing to audition after getting a couple of “no’s.”  That was both impressive and convicting.  In addition to that, I was impressed by the way she interacted with her fellow cast members (At first I put teammates.  That’s not right.  Playmates seemed weird).

Almost all of these other kids were in high school, which can very intimidating.  Also, some of them talked about things, that let’s say she’s not used to hearing.  That can be overwhelming.  However, she handled herself with a tremendous amount of confidence and grace.  She loved them and they loved her back.  I liked watching at a distance the way that they loved her and the confidence she showed.  She was the “nice one.”  Often in those kinds of environment, “nice one” can be weird one or too good for us one.

From all accounts, she loved them, was a good friend and shined as an example of sweet, godly character. (Is it just me or is the point developing now?)

“You are the light of the world,” Jesus said. To be the light of the world, you have to both shine and be in the world.  Too often, we avoid the world, letting our light shine on each other.  Or, we’re in the world and we don’t shine, because there is neither anything attractive or different about our lives.

As usual, my kids are teaching me as often as I teach them, and I’m very proud of that.

Parenting the Old Testament Way

January 12, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

What a catchy title that is. I am sure that no one is clicking on the link to come read this, so I essentially am writing to myself.  “So Cloften, how is it going?”  “Pretty good just writing myself a brief post on parenting.”  “Sweet.”

You see, from most people’s perspective, you don’t want to do anything the Old Testament way, certainly not parenting.  There are some crazy-bad examples of parenting in the Old Testament.  I do not want you to emulate any of them.  Actually, what I had in mind was something that I have been thinking about as I’ve been getting ready for our Nehemiah series.

This last Sunday I did basically an OT History review lesson.  You can listen to it here.  During that sermon, I explained how and why God called the Jewish people and the big picture of their relationship from the time of Abraham until the beginning of Nehemiah 1.  While I was getting ready for that Sunday and thinking about the OT, a random parenting thought hit me.  I tried to share it on Sunday, but I think pretty ineffectively.  I will try again.

The Jewish people in the OT did a lot of complaining and rebelling (Isn’t the parenting parallel already apparent?).  There is a lot of complaining and rebelling in all households with precious little ones under 18.  Typically as parents, we have our one standard reaction that we have to complaining, whining, etc.  Some of us are big “natural consequence” people.  We let them do the bad thing they want to do, they get hurt, they learn the lesson.  Some of us are “peace at any price” or “grace-based.”  We respond to the whining by loving on them, giving them what they want.  Some of us “bring out the stick.” (I don’t think that requires any explanation)

My default is the stick, not literally a stick, but punishment.  Classic Cloften parenting line, “In all of your life has whining and complaining ever gotten you what you want from me?”  “No (dejected face)”  “What could possibly make you think it would work this time?”  Then there is some kind of punishment.

What I am struck by is how God incorporates all of those methods at different times.  They complain in the desert and say that they want to go back to slavery.  Sometimes God blesses them with manna, quail, water from a rock.  When they ask for a king in total rebellion against God and his leadership, he warns them, they ask again and he gives them what they ask for and leaves them to natural consequences.  Sometimes, he brings the stick.

He integrates all of these.  He doesn’t always punish.  He sometimes gives in, and sometimes with no bad consequences, natural or otherwise.

Maybe I am only talking to myself, but I believe that we need to have multiple “tools in our belt.”  Every circumstance is different and each child is different.  Sometimes you need to punish, sometimes you can just let it go.

“That’s right Cloften.  Now put down the stick.”

Watching Your Kids Get Hurt

September 14, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

It had been quite the buzz on my daughter Maylee’s Facebook page that she auditioned for a musical last weekend.  She did a great job.  I was so proud of her.  She had never done this before.  She had been in children’s musicals at church (a little different), but had never auditioned for something like this.  To be in musicals and plays is a dream of hers.  She practiced this song all week and went to this children’s theater and belted it out.  I was frying in the sun at a Ft. Smith soccer tourney, but Heidi says that she did great.

Well that was Saturday, and the next couple of days were full of anxious anticipation.  Over 200 kids tried out for about 10 parts, so she knew the chances weren’t great, but she was giddy with anticipation.  We didn’t understand why she had to wait from Saturday to Monday, even though kids were auditioning on Sunday.  We didn’t understand why as soon as those auditions on Sunday were over that the results weren’t up.  We didn’t understand why we didn’t know before we went to school on Monday.  We didn’t understand why when we got picked up from school that the results weren’t posted.  We don’t understand why when it said “by 7 pm” that they waited until 6:45.

I’m not being cute by saying “we,” because both Heidi and I in different places probably hit the refresh button on our computers 100 times each on Sunday night and Monday.  When it wasn’t posted on the internet when I picked Maylee up from school, we drove across town to see if it was posted at the facility.  We really wanted this for her.

Well, at 6:45 it was up, and Maylee had not gotten a part.  I was at home, and the girls were at a soccer practice.  I was tasked with telling Maylee.  It was not easy.  I hated every bit of it.  After I hung up the phone, I almost (?) cried.  I think I can honestly say that I was more hurt than she was.  She bounced back rather quickly.  I didn’t.

She is getting ready to do another audition in the next few weeks (she is trying to keep this one on the down-low.  She went pretty public with the last one. So you will get no details, and don’t ask her.).  She has tremendous courage and is pursuing her dream with conviction.  I know all the right things.  Disappointment is good for kids.  It’s teaching her to work hard. Life isn’t handed to you. Blah blah blah, leave me alone.  When my baby girl hurts, I hurt, often worse.

I thought that if I wrote this post, I would ultimately process through all of this and it would come together with some sort of teachable moment that would make it worth your time to have read this.  Don’t know that I have one.

I just wish that my girls didn’t have to face disappointment.  I wish I could protect them from that, but I can’t.  I can however, walk along side them, love them, praise them, cry with them and be their biggest fans.  I can love them and support them so much that I am as happy as they are when they are happy and as sad when they are sad.

(P.S. Despite rumors to the contrary, I will not be going after the director.  “Great, Cloften, way to ruin the teachable moment.”  Sorry, my bad.)

Date Your Daughter

I just got back from a date with my younger daughter Lauren.  We went to go see Alvin and the Chipmunks the Squeakuel (more on this later) and then had lunch at TGIFridays.  However, what we did doesn’t matter near as much as that we did it.  I love spending time with her.  I love spending time with each of the three ladies in my life.  It is amazing how lucky I am that I am the most important person in the world to three different ladies.  Last night when I told her that we would have a date today, her face lit up.  I would do anything to see that look on her face.  How special it is that spending time with me would be enough to make her light up like that.

How do I want her to remember her dad growing up?  My dad was so cool, he had a blog.  My dad was great, no one could watch sports on TV like him.  He was great at playing video games.  I think not.  I want her to know and remember that I would often take time out of my week to spend one on one time with her, talking to her, doing the things that she loves to do.  I want her to remember how much I loved her and how valuable she was.

What I have to remember and all dads need to know is that how I treat her greatly affects three views she has.  How does she view herself?  Is she beautiful? Is she valuable?  How does she view what to expect in a boyfriend/husband?  How will he treat me? What does love mean?  How does she view God?  She will continue to read in the Bible and hear at Church that God is Father.  What image will she have when she hears that?  What is a father like?

I want Lauren to know that she is of immeasurable value, and that a date should treat her with utmost respect.  Most importantly, I want her to think that a father, like her heavenly Father, loves her unconditionally and would sacrifice himself for her the way God did/does through His son, Jesus.  I want her to know that her dad loves her deeply.