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Not My Job

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When one child recently told me “not my job” when asked to do a household chore, and another told me “you are not the best anymore” when I was honoring what I’d said about not getting dessert without eating dinner first, it got me thinking…am I starting to become more your friend than your father? That’s a slippery slope to navigate, so, I want to set the record straight right now and be crystal clear in where I stand on the answer to that question…

It’s not my job to give you a cookie when your siblings are eating one for dessert and you want one too. It’s to teach you that there are rules. Eating your dinner before you get dessert is one of them. It pales in comparison to the rules you will experience as an adult…and when you’re an adult, you can choose to eat dessert first if you want. 😛

It’s not my job to ensure you’re happy. It’s to help you find joy…even in your darkest moments.

It’s not my job to ensure you get what you want. It’s to teach you the skills you will use to provide for yourself and your own family some day.

It’s not my job to keep you from falling. It’s to teach you how to get back up and try again.

It’s not my job to get involved in every argument or fight you have with siblings or friends. It’s to teach you how to respectfully interact with others who have opinions and beliefs different than your own…and to show you how to think outside the box…and to admit when you’re wrong.

It’s not my job to think for you. It’s to teach you how to think for yourself.

It’s not my job to pick up after you or to clean up your messes. It’s to teach you how to care for yourself so that you can be a contributing member of society, not a drain on it.

It’s not my job to make sure you never lose, or that you always win. It’s to teach you how to lose without losing your cool…and how to win with grace and humility. There are winners and losers in life. There is no prize for participation when you become an adult. The sooner you learn that, the better your odds.

It’s not my job to keep you from being hurt. It’s to teach you how to see when others are hurting and to help them.

It’s not my job to serve you. It’s to teach you how to serve others.

It’s not my job to pay for everything you want. It’s to instill in you a work ethic that says “If I work hard for it, I can buy it myself.”

Likewise, it’s not my job to give you money (i.e. allowance) for doing nothing. The government is doing that well enough for all of us. It’s to teach you money management so that you have the ability to live a debt-free life if you choose wisely. You need to know that merely existing as part of our family (or society in general) is not worthy of getting a handout. You want money from me? Earn it. Know, though, that in life there are things we adults do without reward or compensation. Likewise, some chores around here are expected of you…without compensation…simply because your existence contributes to the wear and tear on the things we have.

It’s not my job to see that you never experience anger, frustration, disappointment or sadness. It’s to teach you the sanctity of life and that every life matters…and how to control your emotions and to show respect for others regardless of how you feel.

It’s not my job to teach you to avoid conflict. It’s to teach you to approach conflict like you’re walking up to a small fire with a bucket in each hand. One is filled with water…the other with gasoline. How you react to the situation (I.e. which bucket you choose to pour on it), is what will determine the outcome.

It’s not my job to keep you from making mistakes. It’s to help you learn from them. Many of the best lessons I’ve learned in life came from the mistakes I made. There will be times you’ll make the same mistake more than once. Until you learn from them, you’re destined to keep repeating them.

It’s not my job to make sure your heart is never broken. It’s to show you how to lead your heart, not be led by it.

It’s not my job to make sure you have friends. It’s to show you how to be a friend to others.

It’s not my job to make sure you’re right all the time. It’s to teach you truth…and that there are absolutes in life, regardless of what society wants you to believe about this. There are some grey areas in life, but there also exist a set of absolutes that are true…regardless of whether we believe them to be true or not…and it’s my job to equip you to defend those truths.

It’s not my job to make sure you don’t ever miss the school bus. It’s to teach you time management…and how to make a plan and execute the plan, and to have a contingency plan…because “when you fail to plan you plan to fail.”

It’s not my job to stand over you constantly to ensure you don’t sink. It’s to teach you how to swim. In the beginning that means providing you a life jacket to keep you afloat until you can stay afloat on your own. And when you do sink, I’ll be there to extend a hand to help you up…not out…up. Because there’s a lesson to be learned in sinking…one you won’t learn unless you get yourself out.

It’s not my job to fast forward through the commercials and previews for you. It’s to teach you patience and self control…and that good things come to those who wait.

It’s not my job to fight your bullies for you. It’s to teach you how to protect and defend yourself from tyranny. And that in some situations, the best defense is a good offense.

It’s not my job to keep you and your siblings from ever fighting. It’s to remind you that some minor conflict within the family is a natural thing, but that family comes first…we stand on our family’s side in times of conflict from sources outside our family.

It’s not my job to ensure you always have a roof over your head. It’s to teach you to be thankful for what you have…because camping out with nothing but the stars overhead is fun on occasion, but the harsh reality is that it’s all the “roof” many in this world have. We’re blessed beyond what we can comprehend. Don’t take it for granted.

It’s not my job to teach you how you should vote or who you should vote for. It’s to instill in you a love for your country and a respect for those who’ve served, bled and died to protect your freedoms, including your right to vote…and that it’s not your right to vote…it’s your responsibility. When you don’t vote, you give up the right to complain about your elected officials and anything they do.

It’s not my job to solve all your problems. It’s to teach you critical thinking skills…how to explore multiple options until you discover one that works to solve the problem for yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you catch a fish with every cast. It’s to make sure you know how to fish. When Jesus told the disciples to put down their nets and taught them to be “fishers of men”, not even they “caught” every man for Christ. It’s called fishing, not catching, for a reason. We win some…we lose some. But you won’t win any unless you cast the line.

It’s not my job to respond to your every request for my attention. Likewise, it’s not my job to be with you 24/7…that’s not healthy. It’s my job to teach you independence…and to take care of my spiritual, mental, physical, and psychological well-being…because when one of those is out of whack, I’m of no use to you or anyone else. Trust me, my sanity is important for your well-being…and as much as I love hanging out with you, I need to be away from you sometimes too.

It’s not my job to argue with your teacher for not giving you an “A”. It’s to teach you that we get out of something what we put into it…and to earn the “A” yourself.

It’s not my job to shelter you from the storm. It’s to help you weather it. The strongest trees in the forest are the ones who survived the storms, high winds and forest fires.

It’s not my job to see that you never lack what you need. It’s to teach you the survival skills that will help you overcome adversity. Trees that survive drought do so by sending their roots deeper into the ground in search of water. The deeper roots provide more strength for the tree. They’re stronger because of the drought than they were without it. The deeper your roots, the stronger you will be.

Likewise, it’s not my job to see that your every need is met instantly. It’s to teach you how to recognize the needs of others and to show love and compassion to those less fortunate than yourself.

It’s not my job to provide you the latest and greatest “thing”. It’s to teach you to be content with what you have. I grew up without 24/7 internet access, cell phones, DVR’s, or iPods…and I survived. You will too.

It’s not my job to put only foods you like on your plate. It’s to teach you where your food comes from and how to provide food for your own family some day, whether by working a job for the money to buy it…or hunting it yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you have fun at school. It’s to teach you respect for your elders and those put in charge over you. For that matter, it’s not my job to provide you nonstop, fun-filled activities throughout the day or to constantly entertain you. You want to have fun? Do what I did…pick up a book. Go outside. Explore your world.

It’s not my job to see that you grow up to become a firefighter like me. It’s to let you see how much I love my job and to instill in you a passion to serve your community. I will love and support you, no matter what you do with your life…that’s what dads do…it’s how we roll.

It’s not my job to love you more than your mother. It’s to remind you that she and I existed before you…and we have to live with each other when you leave out on your own. She comes first…yes, before you. I love you, but I love her more. Get over it. Guess what? I love God more than her. She’s over it.

It’s not my job to force you to believe what I believe. It’s my job to share what I believe and allow you to choose for yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you never feel lost. It’s my job to show you that you’re already lost. So am I. It’s only through the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ dying for us that we are ever found.

It’s not my job to be your friend. It’s to be your dad…and to teach you how to be a dad someday too. I don’t always get it right, but I’m trying my hardest with every day.

Love,

Dad

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The Ultimate Do-Over

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I just seem to really be missing the boat here lately. I’m sitting here waiting while SD is at her Therapeutic Horsemanship session, and I reread my previous note. Perhaps I didn’t see it when I first wrote it this morning because I was rushed trying to get to our Daddy Daughter Date Day. Or, perhaps I was just so focused on saying what I needed to say, that I couldn’t see past what I wanted to say. Either way…for whatever reason…I missed the boat.

The “Do-Over”…of course I believe in it. If I didn’t, I would be unable to receive the forgiveness offered in the grace and mercy of my Savior, Jesus Christ. The ultimate giver of the “do-over”.

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” – Colossians 1:13-14

I’m thankful and appreciative beyond words that I can go to God and confess my sins. That I can spill my ugliness at the foot of the Giver of Life. That He takes my sin and washes it away. That He cleanses me and makes me new. That He forgives me when I don’t deserve it. That no matter how many times I fall…no matter how many times I seek forgiveness for the same sin, He hears my sincere heart every time and accepts me into His kingdom…through the redemption of the Son. Thank you Lord for being, and remaining, the Author and Founder of the ultimate “do-over.”

I pray daily that you, my children, would one day know Jesus like I do…even better than I do.

Love,

Dad

The Do-Over Only Works on the Playground

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Do you believe in “do-overs”? In giving grace and showing mercy to someone and allowing them a chance to do something again, to try to right a wrong? I am. Unfortunately, that’s nearly impossible to actually do when our “do-over” is needed after we say something we shouldn’t have said. We can try, but we’re just never really able to completely wipe the memory of our words away.

It’s been almost a week since I wrote. For me, that seems like an eternity. I’ve just not had the passion within me to write much this past week. My last several notes took a lot out of me, and I’ve not had the desire to even think about or discuss the root of my problem, the incident at work that threw my emotions into a tailspin.

This morning, mom and SI had left for school, and while waiting for NE’s bus to pick him up, I enjoyed sitting and watching him play. I haven’t just sat and watched you or your siblings just play in awhile. I’m usually sitting with the computer on my lap, a phone in my hand, or while walking around doing stuff around the house…I don’t remember the last time I just sat and watched. And in my time watching NE this morning, I heard God. For the first time in at least a week, I heard God’s whisper. It’s amazing how clear He is when we when we sit and be still:

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

In God’s whisper this morning, He convicted me, and immediately I knew that I had handled a situation last weekend poorly. And just to drive the point home even further, I spent some time in the Word afterward…and this is what God showed me:

“for we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a mature man who is also able to control his whole body.” – James 3:2

I spent almost all of last month in the book of James, but apparently in all that time, I didn’t learn what God had brought me here to learn. God spent a month preparing me for last weekend’s email, and had I heeded James’ warning, perhaps I would have handled it better. It’s apparent, I’m not as mature as I’d like to think I am most days. At 39 years of age, I’m obviously as immature as they come. The rest of chapter 3 talks about controlling the tongue…and chapter 4 talks about being proud or humble. I read these words dozens of times last month…literally several dozen times. So when the email from a family member arrived in my inbox on Saturday, I recognized that I needed to take some time to digest it and put some thought and prayer into my reply. What I failed to actually do was put some serious prayer into it. You see, controlling the tongue is not just about watching what you actually let cross your lips…it’s also about what you write. I should have picked up on that before last Saturday…my immaturity is painfully obvious.

For what it’s worth, I did wait to reply. I prayed some throughout a busy day at work, and I put some thought into my reply. I should have put some more thought and prayer into it, because I almost instantly knew it was the wrong reply. I don’t fault this family member for reaching out to me. I don’t fault the family members who asked him/her to reach out to me. I know that everyone’s intentions were in right place. That they were trying to help me through a difficult time. I tried as eloquently as I could to word my response in a way that made that clear…and in a way that did not put this person on the defensive for what I claimed was an attack at my faith.

I failed…because if I had written back with what I believe God would want me to have said, it would have been much different. If given the opportunity for a “do-over”, I would simply say:

“Thank you for caring enough about me to write to me. Thank you for having the courage and for loving me enough to reach out in faith to try and help me through this. I appreciate it more than you will ever know. It means the world to me that you care enough about me as a person to write to me. Please know that I’m good. I’m working through my issues with this incident, and God is carrying me through it. I may sometimes walk through some dark places with my emotions, but I won’t be there long because I have the resources to get through it. I’m good. Thank you again for loving me. I love you too.”

But, that’s if we lived in a world where the “do-over” actually worked. Learn from my mistake child…because we don’t. The “do-over” only works on the playground.

Love,

Dad

Happy Tears

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I never understood happy tears…until I became a dad. I just put my NE on the bus to school, his first day of kindergarten.

First Day of School

Excited For His First Day of School

 

First Day of School

Ready To Go

 

My little man is growing up. It literally seems like yesterday we brought you home from the hospital…all 5 pounds of you snuggled in a pumpkin seat. As I sit here with my youngest buddy, a 3 year old SI on my lap, a wave of emotion is flowing over me. I think today (and this week) is going to be harder on me than you.

I never understood happy tears…until I became a dad. The “firsts” in life are often the best. And the most bittersweet. Your first words…your first steps…your first time going “Wa Yay” on the Potty…those milestones in life we celebrate a little more than the rest. By the end of the year, I’ll be used to this, and it won’t be so dramatic. But for now…I know happy tears.

It’s not easy trusting your 5 year old to the world. It’s all I can do to pray that we’ve made the right choice and trust in God to protect you. That’s harder to do than I thought it would be. Until today, we have controlled almost 100% of your life. When you eat…sleep…play…what you watch…who you play with…what you see…what you hear. And as I reflect on giving some of that up today, I know happy tears. Because I’m happy to watch you grow into a young man…and I’m sad to know you’re growing into a young man.

Sending my little buddy out into the world is hard…and quite honestly, I’m having a hard time typing this through the tears. I trust that God has your back. But I’m your dad…my trust in God is not often tied to my emotions. Your brother misses you already. He’s been hugging me over and over for 30 minutes. Perhaps he senses my sadness and knows its what I need. Either way, you two have been together almost 24/7 for 3 years. Where you go, he goes. Your momma said it best: “He’s gonna miss his partner in crime.” So am I.

And yet it’s time to stop wallowing in my sadness. I find comfort in this verse today:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10

I find comfort in knowing God is preparing you for a great work. He’s preparing you for the world…and the world for you. For Him to do that, I have to let go…and let God.

So I will continue on with my day because I have the attention of my 3 year old Bubba all day. He has me all to himself today, and I am going to soak it all up. Because two years will pass in the blink of an eye, and tomorrow he’ll be getting on the bus to kindergarten too. And I’ll again know happy tears.

Love,

Dad

Big Fish Big Fun

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The boys and I went fishing today. The first time for NE and SI. There are no words to describe the joy I experienced watching you two this morning, but I’ll try.

It took a bit to set up the new poles…honestly I don’t have the finger dexterity to efficiently handle fishing line, small hooks, weights and bobbers…so it took longer than it should have. Thankfully, Mr. Brad was on hand to help. NE, you cast first…with my help…and caught one right away.

First Fish

NE’s First Fish

 

Not to be outdone, SI quickly followed suit on your first cast, with Mr. Brad’s help.

First Fish

SI’s First Fish

 

What followed was about 30 minutes of pretty much non-stop catching fish, back to back…to back. The prize fish for the day goes to SI for this catch.

Big Catch

Big Catch

 

I was helping NE with one when you caught it, but Mr. Brad says it almost pulled the rod right out of your hands. Can’t imagine why.

Big Catch

It Was THIS Big!!

 

As we left, it was SI who proclaimed “I had big fun!” Me too bud. Me too.

Love,

Dad

A Spikey Hair Riddle

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I have a riddle for you. What will make you age faster while at the same time keep you young longer? To find the answer, we have to look to a small green jar.

After a 12 hour shift at the part-time 911 dispatching gig earlier this week, I came home to the regular, excited hugs from SI and NE. Shortly after settling in, you both became enamored with the new green jar on the counter. Upon hearing that it’s for my hair, and noticing my new haircut, you immediately wanted to have “spikey hair” too. This is the result of our laughter-filled 10 minutes spent working on your hair.

Spiked Hair

Spiked Hair

 

Brothers Forever

Brothers Forever

 

As I lay down that night to text these pictures to your mother, who was at summer camp with SD, I took a longer look at them…and within seconds, I was welling up with so many different thoughts and emotions. To see these pictures of you boys cracks me up because I was there in the moment to experience the giggles. But looking at them each as just a picture, so many thoughts come to mind…in particular, how tight and close you will both be growing up together…you are already very close, even though you fight and bicker daily. That you’ll always have each other’s back…and will be there for each other…and your sister. That you’re already learning how to stick up for each other when forces from outside our family attack. You’ve already started applying the truth that while it may be “okay” for you to pick on each other, it’s NOT okay for someone from outside our family to pick on us.

Your mom and I consider ourselves SO embraced by the hand of God, so deeply and richly blessed to have been given not just one of you, but both of you…that you would have each other to depend on throughout life…that together you’ll be able to help look after the needs of your sister when we’re gone. Just these two pictures, independent of the memory of the moment in which they were taken, make me smile and cry at the same stinking moment.

So, the answer to the riddle…what will make you age faster while at the same time keep you young longer? The answer to that is easy for any parent. You all have been (and will for a long time continue to be) the cause of so many of my grey hairs, worry, stress and tears…and even more of my laughs, smiles, fun and joy. I would not give up one grey hair…not a single one!! As I age, I will wear my grey (and maybe still “spikey”) hair as a badge of honor, displaying for everyone to see and know that each and every one was bore from a love so deep for my children that when they look in my eyes, they will see the excitement, energy, laughter and smiles of my youth, lived through the joy you bring me daily.

Love,

Dad

You Did This To Me

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I wasn’t always this way. I used to be smart. I used to be able to sit and read an article or a book and remember what I read when I got up 30 minutes later. I could have a conversation with someone and remember it two days later. I could actively participate in a conversation that required me to use more than single-syllable words…and say it all without taking 5 minutes of awkward silence to form in my head what I wanted I say. I could sit down and write a ten page essay on any topic without stopping to remember what I just wrote in the last paragraph. I could look at three people and in the heat of the moment call out their names correctly. I could choose one side of an issue, more serious than who stole whose Legos and whose turn it is to wear the Spiderman underwear, and present several logical and well thought out points to support my case.

As the saying goes, “the good with the bad”… I’ve been blessed with many good fathering moments in my short tenure as your daddy, and I pray many more to come. I just never realized that the bad would include losing the ability to form a rational thought and convert it into a sentence that doesn’t leave my mouth sounding like it came from an ape.

You don’t see it now, but you will. As you grow into your teenage years, you’ll start to notice it more…and you’ll think I’m an idiot. You’ll glance over at me with a disgusted look on your face as I try to counsel and guide you. You’ll think to yourself (and most likely mutter it aloud to me at least once) “dad, you’re so old. You don’t know anything about being a kid. You’re so dumb.” When that time comes and you have the urge to break my heart by saying it aloud to me, I caution you to consider this before you do: I wasn’t always this way. YOU did this to me! And revenge is bittersweet.

Love,

Dad

P.S. Oh, and before you start fighting with each other to figure out whose fault it is, you’re all equally guilty. Accept it.

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