Why Men are Scared to Have Daughters

November 19, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Being Daddy to a baby girl is the best

Being Daddy to a baby girl is the best

Most men would have to confess that when he first finds out his wife is pregnant, his first thought is that he hopes it’s a boy.  Men do not want to admit that and most feel quite guilty about it.  Most of us have a hard time articulating why we feel that way, but we do.  I believe that there are different reasons why men feel this way.  The first and most stereotypical reason has to do with sports.  A man imagines himself playing sports with his son, throwing a football around the yard, shooting hoops in the driveway, etc.  He wants to watch his son grow up and be the sports hero that he always wishes he had been.  The psychology of dads living vicariously through their sons is a topic for another day and another book though.  However, I believe that there is a deeper reason that men are afraid of being the father to a baby girl.

We are scared to death to have a daughter.  The very thought is terrifying.  First and foremost, we do not understand women.  I know that can seem like a stereotypical joke.  “We men sure don’t understand women, do we boys?  (canned laughter)  No way.  Women, am I right? (shrug shoulders)”  But it is more than a joke.  We have not understood any of the women in our lives up to this point—mom, sisters, friends, wives.   We do not understand them and these are grown up women.  If they are that complicated and mysterious, what must they be like growing up?  What does it take to raise one?  Who knows?  I do not know what to do when my wife cries, what do I do when my daughter cries?  The ups and downs of my mom’s emotions were too much for me.  What am I supposed to do with my daughter?  If we as men are going to be honest, we would admit that we believe that maybe we can handle one woman (our wife), but to add more is more than we can handle.

Furthermore, again if we can be honest with ourselves, we are scared because we fear that somehow we might “break” them.  We are scared to be entrusted with a daughter for the same reason we do not want to be the one carrying anything fragile and valuable.  This is not to say that we fear responsibility. Most men loved to be challenged.  Give us a big challenge.  Give us something heavy to carry.  We may not be able to lift it, but we will embrace the opportunity to try.  Heavy is fine; however, delicate is scary.  We will work as hard as we can to move or carry something heavy.  We will not give up.  We will not admit fear.    But if we are talking about something fragile, that is a different story.  What if I break it?  What if I drop it?  Please do not make me responsible for protecting something breakable.  I would rather you pile two more boxes on my load then make me carry something fragile with my index finger and thumb and my pinkie sticking out, tiptoeing around scared to death that someone will bump into me.  Whether you believe what I am about to say is insulting or chauvinistic or not, it does not matter.  This is how we feel.  We believe little girls are fragile and delicate.  We think that we can easily break them and that we will do irreparable damage.

Drop a boy on his head and it will make him tough.  Eventually the boy will learn to love it.  In fact, he may ask you to drop him on his head again.  Yell at a boy and if he cries, that’s his problem.  If you tell us that we might hurt our boy’s feelings, we will likely shrug our shoulders and say that it’s good for him.  “My dad hurt my feelings, his dad hurt his feelings, his dad hurt his.  I am just continuing a sacred circle and tradition.”  Perhaps someone with boys can write a book and tell us that we should not view boys that way, but we do.  We believe that boys are durable.  They can “take it.”  But what if I say something and my daughter cries?  How will I make her stop?  What if I hurt her feelings?  Will she forgive me?  Will she be mad at me and scarred for life?  What if I break her?  Is that possible?  Will I do any damage that cannot be undone?  I do not want to find this out.  As a man, I would rather avoid the conflict.  I would rather not risk it.

So, in our hearts we think that it would just be simpler and easier to just have boys.  I know what boys are like.  I used to be one.  We are not easy to deal with, but at least I understand us.  I do not believe that I can break a boy permanently.  I know what boys like and I know what we would do together.  We can go outside and play catch, go fishing, and wrestle— things that I know how to do.  I have never had tea parties before.  I have never played dress up and changing clothes on a Barbie doll makes me uncomfortable.  Seeing a little girl cry, because of something I did?  I do not even want to think about it.  Let’s just move on.  Let’s just have boys.

Then the moment comes.  You find out that you are having a girl.  Everything in a man’s life is turned upside down forever.  We have no idea how much at the time, but we instinctively know that we will never be the same once we become a daddy to a little girl.  We know deep in our hearts that we are finished.  We once were strong, independent men, but not any more.  Now, I am about to be the daddy to a little girl.  She is going to own me.

But what I know and many of you do not, is that I would never, ever go back.  I consider it a great honor and privilege to be the Daddy to 3 amazing girls. Many of the greatest joys of my life have come from this sometimes scary but always awesome role of raising girls.  I am the most important man in the world to 4 women.  I can’t imagine much greater than that. So if you find yourself a Daddy to girls, about to be or scared to death you might be, don’t run, don’t hide and don’t be scared.  Run full speed ahead to one of the greatest adventures and joys that God can give a man–a lifetime of being a girl’s dad.

10 Signs That You Are a Dad of Only Girls

It all seems very normal to me.  However, I can tell by the look on a lot of people’s faces, that it doesn’t seem normal to everyone.  My family is my wife, my three daughters (at this moment 17, 14 and 3.  Soon to all have birthdays.), and me.  One guy, four girls, that’s us.  I love my family.  Don’t ever ask me if I wish I had had a son.  You will receive sarcasm at best.  I live it every day and it seems normal to me because I live it.  However, I know it’s unusual and I do feel it sometimes.  So here you go, 10 signs that you are a dad of only girls.

I guess our family looking normal is a relative term

I guess our family looking normal is a relative term

1. You go to someone else’s house and you freak out a little bit inside that the toilet seat is up. There are no toilet seats up at our house–ever.  Maybe I have forgotten a couple of times in 21+years, but I made a decision to serve my wife and now my girls in this way.  So now when I go somewhere else and I see a raised seat, I think, “Is this OK? Someone is going to be in trouble.”  Then I have an incredible internal struggle when I finish going to the bathroom.  Do I put it down?  I mean it’s not my house, but still the seat is up.  This is how I found it.  So, I leave it up, but I don’t feel great about it.

2. You know the Disney Princesses. Do not misunderstand me.  I don’t just know their names and can identify them.  I know just about everything that there is to know.  I can identify them just by the dress, hair color, hair style, associated Prince, whatever. I know which ones aren’t technically Princesses (I’m looking at you Mulan and I won’t even get into the  Pocahontas controversy)  I also know that for the most part, your favorite princess is the one that looks most like you, i.e. hair color and eye color.  Does that make Jasmine my favorite then?  No, I pick my favorite based on movie quality, and honestly I’m more of a comic relief minor character guy myself.  Gus-Gus is the man.

3.  You have ever been at lunch, work (bonus if you were preaching in front of hundreds of people), etc. and someone says to you, “Do you have glitter on you?” Yes, that has happened to me.  Apparently, the stage lights at our church really brought out the sparkle in the glitter that found its way onto my shirt.  It has also happened many other times, in less embarrassing contexts.  How does it get on you? (you may ask)  If you have to ask, you don’t understand.  There are seasons where glitter is just everywhere all the time.  Just like there are seasons where cheerios are everywhere, or Barbie shoes, or orthodontic rubber bands. Glitter is like cat hair, but more fabulous and I’m less allergic.

4. No one borrows your stuff. All my shirts are right where I put them.  Same with my shampoo and soap.  No one wants my stuff.  My stuff looks and/or smells “like a dad.” I don’t take that as an insult, but I assure you that it is not a compliment either.  It’s ok for me to look and smell like a dad, but no one else wants to.  On the rare occasion that someone uses my shampoo (that smells like Old Spice), it doesn’t happen twice.  “AAARRRGHH! I smell like a dad!!!!”  Notable exception: my long sleeve t-shirts make great night shirts.  I don’t wear long sleeve t’s very often, so when they claim one, it becomes theirs.  So technically they are not borrowing them.  They are stealing them.

5. You leave about 30 minutes later than you want to when everyone is going together. I’ve been observing this phenomenon for years, and I can’t really explain it.  I can only describe it.  There is always one who forgot something, lost something, needs to do something, whatever.  Just when that person finds or does whatever and there is a glimmer of hope, that sparks the memory of another.  Now they are gone.  They can’t do these things concurrently and I’m not sure why.  It just the way it is.  So, you have to implement the “say we need to leave at 2:00 when we really need to leave at 2:30″ policy.  As everyone gets older and wiser, they ask, “Is it really 2:00 or are you just saying that?”  Poker-face.  Give them only the poker-face.

6. Similarly, it takes 5 extra minutes to leave when you are going somewhere by yourself. This is because you have to make sure that you equally distribute the hugs and kisses.  It’s not as easy as it seems, because if it takes you too long to do this, then the girl you first gave a good-bye hug to will forget that you already hugged her or will decide she needs another.  It is possible to get caught in an infinite loop here.  It’s OK though, I don’t mind at all.

Strong Selfie Game

Strong Selfie Game

7. Your selfie game is stronger than other guys. If you do not understand the phrase “selfie game,” then you probably don’t even have one daughter.  Anyway, I have been in countless selfies with my girls and have been known on occasion to send selfies back and forth to my girls.  I know what situations call for what kinds of selfies, soft smiles, awkward looks, cheesing, whatever.  My game is strong.

8. Game time at your house is relatively quiet. You may think that this is counter-intuitive.  The girls aren’t interested in the game, so they make noise and talk.  Nope that’s not how it works.  The girls are not interested in the game, are repulsed by it and don’t want to be in the room with it, less they get infected by it or die of boredom.  The battle is in gaining control of the TV.  However, once you have it, it’s pretty quiet, except for the occasional mocking comment as someone is walking by.  (Just tune it out. Tune it out.)

9.  You can almost immediately tell the difference between Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Adrianna Grande, etc. music. Furthermore, you know which ones put out good music and which one’s don’t.  Yeah, that’s right.  I said some of it is good.  Are you judging me? Don’t make me throw glitter on you.  In fact, I use the opportunity that I can tell the difference to explain to them what auto-tuning is.  I’ve been known to say, “The computer is singing pretty well in this song.  I wonder what ___________’s voice sounds like.”  I give a lot of freedom in what we listen to on the radio.  Did I say radio? What they play in the car through their phone.  One rule.  No Bieber. No exceptions.

Finally number 10, you knew it was coming.  The cheesy one…

That's a lot of love (Look another selfie)

That's a lot of love (Look another selfie)

10. You are overwhelmed with love. Being the most important man in the world to 4 girls is one of the greatest privileges in the world.  I would not trade it for anything.  People ask me what it’s like to be outnumbered.  I tell them that I wouldn’t know, because they are all on my side.  I feel very blessed to have the family that I do and be the sometimes sparkly, but always loved dad of girls.

So You Want to Date My Daughter, Do You?

September 2, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

Seriously, this isn't illegal?

Seriously, this isn't illegal?

I have what some would say are old-fashioned ideas about when and whom my daughter can date.  Others would say that they are not old-fashioned, they are just plain weird and they’ve never heard of anything like it before.

The assumption people have is that since I have only daughters, and that I have weird rules for my daughters dating, that my goal is to intimidate boys–that I somehow am the guy who cleans his shotgun on the front porch when the boy comes to the front door and makes menacing statements about holes in the backyard as he is walking up.  Allow me to put that myth to rest.  First, I do not own a shotgun.  Second, what people describe seems highly unsafe and might could be characterized as terroristic threatening, which is, in fact, a felony.  Finally my goal is not to intimidate anyone.  Allow me to explain “the rules.”

First, you cannot date or say that you have a boyfriend until it makes sense.  What does that mean?  I’ll give you an example.  A second grader having a boyfriend doesn’t make sense.  A 6th grader saying they are “going out” with another 6th grader doesn’t make sense.  “You’re going out, huh.  Where do you go?”  “Nowhere.” “Do you sit next to each other during lunch?”  “No.”  “So what does it mean that you’re going out?”  “…” Doesn’t make sense.

Charlie it doesn’t have to make sense.  It’s cute.  Nope.  Not cute.  Confusing.  Kids imitating grown up behavior without the emotional and mental maturity to back it up is confusing and potentially dangerous.

You see, the river of relationships flows one direction. Every relationship you are in needs to get deeper and progress and every new relationship needs to be deeper and go further than the one before. That often gets defined as verbal, emotional and physical commitment–things that kids aren’t ready for.  Best remedy for that is to keep them out of the river as best you can for as long as you can.

“Wait, wait, wait.  You are supposed to tell me when they can start dating! Give me a number! 15? 16? 32?”  To me, this is not some rite of passage that is determined by your age.  You can’t date when you are 15, but suddenly you go to sleep one day 15 and wake up the next day 16 and you can date.  It depends on the girl’s maturity, the culture of where we live, the potential boy we are talking about.  It’s not a number. It’s when it makes sense…for that particular girl.

Second, when it starts to potentially make sense that my daughters could start dating, the boy has to come meet with me.  He has to ask for my permission to take her out, even if it is in a group context and even if it is just as friends.  “Whoa! That seems intense.  Not many boys would be willing to do that.”  Correct. Similarly, there are not many boys that I would trust to go on a date with one of my daughters.  This is, in part, a simple process to weed out ones that lack the maturity to be on a date with a girl.  If you lack the maturity to have one face to face conversation with an adult, you lack the maturity to be trusted to be with my daughters.

If you were asking to borrow anything else that was mine, you would ask.  This is one of the most precious things that is mine.  You most certainly will ask.

Ok, so you meet with them, and this is where you intimidate them, right? Nope.  The situation is intimidating enough without me trying to make it worse.  My goal is not to intimidate them.  My goal is to influence and lead someone who clearly has a measure of influence on my daughter.  His influence could theoretically grow.  I need to build a relationship of influence with this guy.

“Have you done this before? What do you say?”  Yes I have.  Twice now. Both times were when I didn’t think it was appropriate for the girls to be dating someone, i.e. have a boyfriend/relationship.  However, I was willing to let them go on a group date to a function of some kind.  I communicated 2 things primarily to them during these meetings.

First is that perhaps the greatest role that I play in my life, pastor included, is the protector and guardian of my daughters’ honor and purity.  It is my responsibility until what I call “the handoff” to guard and protect them.  On that day I will literally and figuratively give her hand to a man.  Until then, it is my job.  I need him to understand that what he is asking me to do is to entrust him for a brief window of time with guarding her the way that I would.  That may sound deep and more than a boy could grasp.  You are partially right.  A boy that would have the courage to ask out my daughter and meet with me, can handle it.  We are 2 for 2 so far.

Secondly, I make sure that he and I both understand what dating as friends mean.  We could use the same words and mean different things.  What I mean primarily is we are friends in how we talk and touch.  We don’t say that we are in love with her, that we need her, that she is the most important person in the world…those kinds of things.  We also don’t make out, kiss, play grabby grabby, etc.  This is definitely uncomfortable but it is our unwillingness to have uncomfortable conversations with kids that gets those kids in trouble later.

As serious as I can be, I am not trying to intimidate, I am trying to call them up.  Just like my teenagers are in an awkward position transitioning from girls to women, the boys are struggling as well.  I can help.  I was one of them once.  I really do want the boy to win.

But more than anything, I want you to know and my girls definitely know that this is birthed completely out of a love and care for them.  They know that I am their guardian and protector and they want that and are comforted by it.  A loving protector is what they need and it is my great privilege to be called by God to do it.

(Bonus tease: As some of you know, one boy passed that gauntlet, dated my oldest as “friends” for a year and now they are “boyfriend/girlfriend.”  In the process, he and I have a great relationship and so do they.  It can work.  That’s a blog post for another day.)

Adventures with Laylah

August 26, 2015 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

It is hard to imagine that it has been so long since I’ve blogged that there is nothing on here about Laylah.  For those of you who don’t know, Laylah is our 3, almost 4, year old daughter.  For those keeping score, that means we have 3 daughters–17, 14 and 3, all with birthdays this fall.  People always make a face when they hear the spread for the first time.  “Got a surprise, huh?”  “Yeah, but not how you think.”  I’ll tell you the story some time in the future for sure about how God brought the awesome Laylah Sue Loften into our lives, but that is for another day.

Today we are talking about adventures.  About a year ago on a Saturday morning, mom was headed out garage saling (Red squiggle for saling, huh?  So “to garage sale” is not a verb? Agree to disagree.) and Laylah was not happy so I asked her if she wanted to go on some adventures.  Not exactly sure why I used that word, because what I had in mind was not, by most definitions, adventurous.  That perked her up quickly and we were on our way.

As we were getting in the car, I asked her what she wanted to do first.  She said that she wanted to go to the gas station and get a sucker.  Adventure! So we went to Kum & Go (Where & Means More!) and she got a sucker and I got an obnoxiously large fountain drink (The smallest drink is the medium and it’s 32 oz). I was hungry, so we then went to Chick-Fil-A (Home of the Original Chicken Sandwich) for some breakfast. Adventure! The Chick-Fil-A we visited happens to be next to Barnes and Noble (Unleash Your Imagination) and Petco (Where the Healthy Pets Go).  So after lunch we went to “The Pet Shop.” Adventure! Then we went to “The Story Store” (You see the story store is different than a library because you have to buy the stories instead of take them home with you). Adventure!

After about two and a half hours, she gets tired and she is all adventured out.  We go home get some lunch and she passes out for a nap.  Little did I know that I had begun a weekly tradition.  This is now what my Saturday mornings are–always.  In the last year, we have expanded our repertoire.  We go to Toys ‘R Us (Where a Kid Can Be a Kid) sometimes and occasionally run the aisles at Wal-Mart (Always Low Prices).  We also have southern adventures with a different Kum & Go and Chick-Fil-A, but includes the Fayetteville Public Library (strengthening our community and empowering our citizens with free and public access to knowledge) and the Farmers Market (where our commitment to fresh, locally grown produce and goods has helped Northwest Arkansas grow into a healthier and greener community) Adventures!!!

We do some version of this every Saturday we are in town.  We’ve even been known to do it in Branson (There’s Only One…) on occasion. Too Much Adventure! Laylah asks almost every day if tomorrow is Saturday or “Adventure day.” It is one of the highlights of her week and mine as well.  We have a blast together.  For a relatively small investment of 2-2 1/2 hours, I get so much.

She knows that I love her and that I value spending time with her.  She is building up a huge memory bank of a dad that consistently and lovingly gave her part of his time.  I’m building up the same memory bank.  Big picture, there is going to come a day when her eye is going to be looking to other guys.  The more I serve and love her, the less and less likely it becomes that she will settle for some selfish guy that wants something from her but gives nothing.  I am teaching her what it means to be loved by a man, what a dad is, and in 50 years or so, when she starts dating, I want her standard to be high.

Dads, I can’t say this to you enough.  Search the site, and you will see that I have been saying this for years.  You need to start now, investing personal regular time in your girls.  You need to love and date and serve them. The payoff now and in the long run is huge.  It doesn’t take a huge investment–you’d be surprised how much mileage I can get out of a 20 cent sucker.  While the investment can be small, the dividends will echo for eternity.

We are too cool for these bike helmets, Wal-Mart, and everything

We are too cool for these bike helmets, Wal-Mart, and everything

Dating Rules and a New Kind of Feminist

October 3, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

If you’re going to ignore your blog for a couple of weeks, the least you can do is come up with a catchy title when you come back.

Heidi had an interesting conversation with someone last week.  She’s a sociology major and has been taking a lot of classes in women’s studies.  She’s a feminist (such a broad term now that lots of people want to adopt and others want to destroy to the point that it is almost meaningless. Like evangelical or even Christian.  However, let’s pretend that we still know what that word means.) and was asking Heidi questions about how we are raising our daughters.

The inevitable questions about dating came up.  “Do we let Maylee date?” “Why not?”  (For some background on our thinking on this, click here.  The short answer is that we don’t let our girls date or even tell boys they “like” them.  You know, “like, like.”)  She was very intrigued by what we were doing.  She really connected with some of what Heidi was saying and was confused by other parts.  It was a very pleasant conversation.

As Heidi and I were talking about parts of it later, we discovered that we actually have a lot in common with parts of the modern feminist movement.  Two major things specifically.

1) The system (society, TV shows, movies, music, etc.) is set up in such a way that we are teaching young girls that there identity and fulfillment is found in a boy.  Changing your relationship status on Facebook to “in a relationship” gets a bunch of “likes.”  Changing it back to single gets frowny face emoticons.  Girls NEED a boyfriend.  They are out of place without one, devastated when someone “breaks-up” with them.  This is not healthy.  This produces girls with unhealthy views of themselves and relationships.

2) The “end product” of raising a healthy girl is a strong, confident young lady.  She should have a healthy body image, be confident and secure in a relationship or out of a relationship.  She doesn’t NEED a man.  She is pursuing relationships that make sense and are healthy.

Where we (might) disagree is on the how.  We have technically restricted her freedom as a pre-teen and teenager to get to where we are going.  She cannot go out on dates.  She cannot declare to a boy that she likes him.  We don’t have boys over.  However, what I said in that post referenced above is that we believe that she has more freedom in the end.  She is free from boy-crazy drama, the issues that boys have (I struggled with that phrase there.  I had much more descriptive ways of saying that.  But we all know what “issues” teenage boys have, right?) and the unnatural heartbreak that comes from breaking up with a boy you were “going” with for 2 weeks, though you never went anywhere.

I am incredibly proud of both of our girls.  They are very confident young ladies.  They have a healthy view of themselves, dating and that God is the most important person in their lives.  I am hopefully confident or confidently hopeful that in the end we will be launching out confident, mature young women–a new kind of feminist.  They will be ladies who will gladly introduce healthy dating relationship when it makes sense and they are ready and when boys are worth dating.  They will confidently face life in or out of relationships.  They will depend on God, their family and their friends.  They will become whatever it is that God calls them to be.

That may not be a new kind of feminist, it may simply be what we all have wanted from the beginning, but we just weren’t sure how to get there.

Silliness and Parenting

November 18, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

So Cloften, where have you been?  You know, I’m not really sure.  I think it has been a combination of a lot of things.  Things have been pretty busy in the new town, new job, etc.   I’ve been a little distracted.  Moving so fast in my paying job, that I have been doing a lot of nothing, and avoiding this–my non-paying job.  I also think in part, in the old days (you know, earlier this year), this was a great outlet for teaching/communicating when I wasn’t teaching a lot on Sunday morning.  Teaching 3 out of 4 weeks has changed that.

Then when you go a couple of weeks without blogging, you feel like the one that brings you back should be huge or, using the word of the season, epic.  That’s a lot of pressure, even if it is only internal.  So after being a headcase for a few days, I have decided to go the opposite.  This is not epic.

First, a little background.  (BTW, you know what I like about blogging compared to writing papers for English teachers? I can have a “sentence” like “First, a little background” with no subject or verb and it’s OK.  No one is grading this)  Over the last couple of months there have been a couple of strange developments in the old family.  There is a storyline developing around our house involving 2 fictitious people and some semi-celebrities.  It is way too silly to even get into.  There is a love triangle, a dude with a snaggle-tooth, everything you would need to make a great novel.  Now there is a song.  The song tells the story.  This song is called “advice,” though there is nothing remotely close to advice in it. This advice must be sung every morning, or like a couple of days ago when the song was not sung, I accidentally drove my car in a lake (not really.  settle down, Mom).

In addition to this, we all have characters that we play now.  We are not only the Loften family, we are part of another family as well–the Poc family.  Many of the stuffed animals are in this “family” as well and they have roles to play.  Some are too sophisticated; we don’t like them.

At this point, you are likely having one of several reactions.  “That sounds like a lot of fun.” “Do I know any professional family counselors in NWA?” “I wonder what other churches there are in NWA?”

Irregardless (take that English teacher), we have fun in our house.  Unlike that uppity Penguin, Dolphin or that chowder pants Tuxedo Dog, none of us are too sophisticated to just be silly and have fun with each other.  Much of life is serious.  Adjusting to a new town, school, job, church are all very serious.  They are time-consuming and emotionally draining.  Great reasons to feel like you just don’t have the energy to deal with Cheetah-Poc trying to intimidate everyone.

However, it is exactly these times where you need to find extra energy.  When you are tired and drained is the perfect time.  When they are still young enough to want you to do this is the perfect time.

We have a reputation with some to run a pretty tight ship when it comes to discipline.  I can’t deny that, but we also be trying to do our goodest to make it a fun ship as well.  (Hee hee, English teachers)

Some Wins for the Home Team

October 18, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

It has been a wild couple of months in the lives of the Loften family.  Moving is never easy.  Leaving friends is never easy.  Getting adjusted to a new town, new school, etc. is never easy.

In some ways it has been easiest on me.  I’m the one who instantly has something to do, a base of people and relationships.  I go to work, meet with people from the church, etc.  The girls on the other hand have a had a more difficult time.  Being the new girl in school is not a role that either a 4th or a 7th grader wants (Clearly, I must be speaking hypothetically now, because there is no way that my two baby girls are that old.)

So sweet.

So sweet.

It has also been rough what with the house not selling and all.  Two bedroom apartment with said 4th and 7th grader sharing a room and also an apartment so full of allergens that I’m pretty sure stock in Zyrtec has gone up in just the last couple of months.

But more than that it has just felt like we can’t catch a break.  We want our house to sell.  We want to be in “our place,” but we can’t get there yet.  It just feels like we’re taking a lot of losses and we’re ready for the big win.

Well, I wouldn’t say last week we had huge victories, but we had some small ones.  Maylee and a friend of hers entered a lip-synch competition at Ozone, a local para-church youth ministry.  They won!  It was really cool.  They practiced for weeks and did a great job.  Her prize was a $5 Chick-Fil-A gift card.  (Her response:  Dad, if I give this to you, would you just give me five bucks?  Sad and proud at the same time)  She and her friend were very excited and we were excited with her.  There is a next stage in the competition next week where she and her friend could win $50 each.  So we are still rehearsing and refining.  Girls Just Want to Have Fun haunts my dreams.

Introducing the Radical Chix

Introducing the Radical Chix

The next day Lauren won a Trailblazer award for her grades, attitude and citizenship in class.  About 3 kids from each class got one.  She was very excited and as you can see, her circle of goofy friends were excited for her as well.  We celebrated that together as a family as well.

She has found her new peeps

She has found her new peeps

There are a couple of things that I’ve discovered over the last couple of weeks.  First is that you cannot celebrate these small victories with your kids enough.  In fact, small victories may not be the right way to describe them, because I assure you they are not small to them. (Although Lauren was unimpressed with the magnitude of the button she received)  They are huge to them.  They need to be huge to you as well.

Also, for you dad types out there, I cannot emphasize enough how important your strength and stability are to your family and your kids.  Transitions and difficult times may be tough on you, but they are tougher on them.  That gets multiplied if you are not engaged and focused and loving and serving them.  Celebrating their wins, and hugging them when they hurt.  They need you, more than you think, a lot more.

Because “Daddy dear, you know you’re still number one, but girls they want to have fun.”

(Sorry for that)

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.)

Oh Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say

August 31, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

7:40 is an early time to start Middle School.  I’m just sayin.  We live relatively close, yet we leave at 7:20, because apparently they are pretty serious about giving out the tardies.  I would be too if I started at 7:40, otherwise folks like me would be like, “It’s just homeroom.  We get there when we get there.”  Wait, I don’t mean folks like me, but folks with passive-aggressive tendencies who aren’t morning people.  Clearly, that’s not me.

Anywho, to leave at 7:20 and having the responsibility of getting a diva up and all the time it takes for said diva to get faboo, (Loften shortening of fabulous, which I gladly stole from Wakko from the Animaniacs.  BOOM! Dated reference.  FYI, if you google “boom dated reference” with the quotes, you get 7 hits, all from cloften.com.  “Hey! Cloften, get on with it!”  Sorry, feeling a little punchy this morning.) we have to get up pretty early.  So here is the morning tradition.  When Maylee gets up she texts me that she is up and getting dressed.  If I get up and I do not have said text, I text her.  If I get no reply then I go in there and wake her up (respecting the privacy).

Well this fine morning, I texted her, “U up?”  The response I got back made me lol (I’m such a hip, cool dad with my texting lingo.).  She texted back, “no.”  Where on earth would a girl get such a smart mouth?  Why on earth would Cloften’s daughter answer a straightforward question with a smartalec response?  Either you know these are rhetorical questions or you found this post by googling “boom dated reference.”

We never once had a lesson in how and when to give smart answers to questions.  No lessons in sarcastic humor.  I never once told them that they should do that, because it would make them a hipster doofus (that’s right.  say it with me now.  BOOM! Dated reference) like their dad.  Although, I will confess that I have given comedy lessons to each of daughters before.  We talk mostly about timing and keeping a straight face.  They didn’t need a formal lesson in sarcastic, silly humor and being a punk when asked a question.  They get lessons in that each and every day.

They see what they see every day, and they assume that what they see is what you should do.  If Dad does it, it’s funny and cool and I should do it as well.  It never fails to stop me in my tracks when they do something like that.  I laugh, and I’m proud.  Then I chase that with a good old-fashioned feeling of being overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed?  Yes.  They are listening to everything that I say.  They are watching everything I do.  They aren’t just putting stuff in the “funny” category.  They put all of it in the “godly man” category.  All of it.  That is overwhelming to me.

My girls are getting older.  This year they will turn 13 and 10.  The stakes are getting higher and time is running out.  God has called me as Dad to lead, to shape the culture of our home and show them what they need to become and what they need to expect in a husb…nope not going there today.

Ok, maybe I will go there briefly.  I want them to bring home someone that loves and honors God and treats them well.  Someone that I will reluctantly, but somewhat willingly hand my girls to.  That will depend, to a large degree, on what they see and hear from me.

I certainly don’t want them bringing home some Urkel (You saw this coming.  Didn’t you?  BOOM! Dated reference.)

Offloading Your Kids, Early and Often

June 14, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

We met my parents at Fergusons restaurant near Marshall for lunch on Saturday.  They then took our girls back to Branson for a few days.  It’s been about 36 hours now and this is when I really start to miss them.  They say they miss me, but water slides and roller coasters tend to make my girls forget that they even have parents.  I digress, as always.   We have done this a lot over the last 12 years, not the meet at Fergusons, but the offloading of kids to grandparents for days of eating bad, partying hard, and sleeping rarely.

Being at Fergusons reminded me of one of the first times that we did this.  Maylee was 2 and Lauren was still internally attached to her mom.  We met my folks there and we had not told Maylee that she was leaving with Mimi and Rowr (my parents).  She had spent the night with them before and been fine, but we didn’t know how she would react to know in advance, so we said nothing.  After lunch (It might have been a late breakfast.  Does that even matter?), we walk outside.  Maylee gets ahead of all of us, opens Mimi’s car, sits in the back middle seat, buckles herself with the lap belt and then doesn’t make eye contact with anyone.  We all start laughing.  She has this look on her face that says, “I don’t know what you think the plans are, but I am going wherever the people in this car are going.”  Lucky for us, that was the plan.

From the time both of our children were little, they have had no anxiety about spending the night or a week with either sets of grandparents, other family friends, going to camp, whatever.  They both are very adventurous and brave.  A summary of your likely reactions :

1) “You evil ogre of a father.  You left your kids with other people over night at age 2?  You should be ashamed”  It’s worse than that.  They were both 15 months when we first did that, as soon as they were no longer externally attached to their mom (We’re all adults here, right?).

2) “I’m so jealous.  I can’t get my spouse to agree to stuff like that.”

3) “You are so lucky.  My kids would never do something like that.”

I have heard all three of those reactions.  People have said, in one form or another, all of that to me.  Here is what I believe–whether or not spending the night away from parents is scary to a kid is almost exclusively a function of the parents’ attitudes.  Little kids think that anything that is new is scary.  Anything that is different is scary.  Anything that is unknown is scary.  It is our job to tell them what is our is not scary. (I have talked about this before, with regard to speaking to adults and roller coasters.  See here.) 

Be honest, it is you that are scared to leave your kids with family for a couple of days.  It is you that gets nervous when you drop your kid off at their class at church.  Right?  “No Cloften, you big judgmental jerk.  You should see how scared they get when I drop them off.”  Of course they do, they are feeding off of you.  You tell them that they are going to have fun, that you love them and walk away.  Then, they have fun and are significantly less anxious the next time.  Hopefully you will be too.

Now I know that even the most confident of kids will go through some separation anxiety.  Some day I will tell you about the time when toddler Lauren literally tore down the walls in her class (It was a make-shift hallroom class made of temporary walls.)  You know what fixed it?  Consistently dropping her off with no drama from us, never going to “check on her” (which translated means, calming my own nervous heart), and lots and lots of Teddy Grahams.

In what I want for my girls, closely behind passionate love for God, respect and kindness, is confidence.  I want my girls to believe that they can go through life, depending on God and believing confidently that they can be and do whatever it is that God has called them to be.  I never want their fear and insecurity to hold them back.

There are some things that are scary.  Snakes–scary.  Dudes in trenchcoats with candy–scary.  Life–not so much.

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