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.

When You Gonna Let That Girl Date?

May 10, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

This is a post where the scope of audience is limited.  Not a lot of Cloften readers out there with pre-teen or teenage daughters.  However, I know that there are some out there with a curiosity about our dating philosophy as parents.  I know this, because you have asked me.  Regardless, it doesn’t matter if you are interested.  I am compiling all my thoughts on parenting into a future book called “The Daddy Your Daughter Needs.”  This will go in the teenage section.  Anywho…

Do you let Maylee (13 yrs old) date?


When will you let her start dating?

Short answer: TBD

Not quite as short answer: When it makes sense for her to start dating.

“Come on Cloften, give us a break.  What we need from you is some arbitrary selected date that is not based at all on the individual girl or her circumstances.  We need you to make dating a carrot that dangles in front of her until you finally relent and let her do it.” (I deleted a sentence in that rant. It was tasty.)

Before I go too far, there a couple of things we have done that way–earrings (10) and make-up (13).  However, those are relatively small things compared to dating.  Those are, in part, tasks that need a level of maturity to manage.  Dating is another level.

Dating is exposing my daughter to the opportunity to have her heart broken by a kid without the maturity or hormone balance to have any clue as to what he is doing.  This is entrusting the heart of my fragile teenage girl to a boy.  (I just deleted an adjective in front of boy. You could probably guess it, if you tried.)

Dating doesn’t make sense for a 13 yr old girl.  “Jim and Tina are going out.” “Going where?”  “Nowhere.  It means they’re dating.”  “Do they go on dates?” “No.” “Do they sit together at lunch?” “No” “Then what does it mean?” “It means they like each other.”  “If they don’t sit together, or really even talk to each other or go places together then why call it dating or going out?” “…” (Based on a real conversation.  Only the names have been changed to protect the ridiculous.)

“Ted broke up with me, and I cried for, like, forever,” said the 12 yr old girl, in my car.  “Really? Forever, that’s a long time,” said the snarky dad of another girl in my car.  “Well, just a few hours, but the next day I started going with Fred so I’m OK now.”

Do you see now what I mean by “it doesn’t make sense?”  I would only be exposing my daughter to unhealthy thinking and perspectives on “love” and “dating” by doing it when it doesn’t have the capacity to be love or dating.

She is completely free to like boys, even particular boys.  She doesn’t tell them. Why should she?  She would tell you there is freedom in that.  That’s right. She would tell you that.  When that boy acts like a boy, it disappoints her. It doesn’t crush her.  She moves on and learns what she likes and doesn’t like in a boy.

Her heart is God’s first and mine next, and I will not let someone I cannot trust have access to it.  Seriously, she is more happy and content than any of the boy-crazy girls I have ever met–by far.

Surely Cloften, you have a date in mind.  I really don’t.  I can imagine that in the next couple of years girls and boys in a group going to the movies together, not paired off.  You can call that group dating, I guess.

But if you are asking when I would let a boy take my daughter somewhere alone for an extended period of time at night without supervision?  The answer is some time after I would let that same boy take my car out under the same circumstances.  You see, the worst thing you can do to my car can be fixed with money.  The worst thing you can do to my daughter’s heart and innocence cannot be.

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.

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.