Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fighting the Spirit of the Season

If I ever doubted the inherent sinfulness of man, all I have to do is look at my daughter on a Sunday morning.

(Wait, what?!?! How can you say that? She's adorable! And on a Sunday, no less! What kind of horrible father are you?!)

Now, hear me out. Sunday mornings are our "chill at home" morning. Caylah has this new thing of wanting to go out and get the paper all by herself (picture a 3' tall redhead running/toddling in Barney slippers and you'll understand why I smile every time watching it), and then we all read our own sections over breakfast. I read the pop culture magazines and the comics, while my wife, the more serious one, reads the "actual" news.

My daughter, not wanting to be left out, has taken to looking through the ads, which, at Christmastime especially, are plentiful. One habit that she's fallen into, which I don't know to do with, is pointing to different items and saying, "Me want (fill in the blank)". Me want this, me want that, me want doll, me want car.

I don't want to rain on anyone's Christmas parade here, but for all of our talk about this being a season of giving, there is definitely an over-abundance of "wanting" during this time of year as well. And my little two-year-old, as cute as she might be, is no exception.

So dads, here's my question - how do you fight that with your kids? When a highlight of every kid's Christmas is to go sit on Santa's lap and tell him what they want him to bring them, how do you then turn around and convince them that this is, in fact, a season of giving? How do you get your child to think of others, when they're really predisposed to think of themselves? I'd love to hear some practical suggestions on what you've done that's worked, and even roads that you've been down that haven't been as useful. I want her to enjoy the season in every aspect, and I'd love some thoughts on how to make that happen!

So, how do you parent your kids through the Christmas season, making sure they love to give as much (or even more) than they enjoy receiving?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Being Thankful

Tomorrow being Thanksgiving and all, I thought it appropriate to do a post about being thankful. However, instead of me telling you what I'm thankful for, I asked some moms that I know what they're thankful for about their husbands, specifically in their gifts as a father. Some of these below are grandmothers, others are just about to be moms for the first time. But they all had great stuff to offer up:
  • Wisdom and humility are the two characteristics that come to mind first. He has always let me say how I feel about something, and rather than telling me his point of view may be different, he begins asking me questions as to how I arrived at my position. 
  • I appreciate his ability to play. It's heart-warming to me to see him engaging with our nearly four year-old daughter on her level. 
  • One of the things that I love most about [my husband] is how he is so intentional to focus on the important things with our children, when I would usually tend to overreact... like when they break something, he immediately responds with, "Oh no, did it break? That's ok. It's just a (blank). That's not what matters though. What matters is that you're ok!" His calm, careful reaction helps me to do the same. 
  • He regularly asks me what he can do better in our relationship. I appreciate that he takes the initiative to improve our marriage.
  • He plays with our kids. He comes home after a long day and work and as soon as he changes his clothes he is down on the playroom floor wrestling our boys. He is always the fun instigator. His joy fills me up and relives the strain of day. 
  • I love it that [my husband] is such a great problem solver for our kids. He really has the patience to walk through with them options, suggestions and strategies to help them get through growing up. I also love it how he is such a protector. Especially now since [our daughter] is becoming a teenager. 
  • (As said to her) - I may not be the best at relating to people in the world as we know it, but you definitely want me on your side during the zombie apocalypse. 
  • I love when [our son] wants [my husband's] attention, he has it 100%, regardless of what major or minor task he is involved in at the time. I love the rough housing, and the encouragement and praise he gives [our son]. I love his sensitivity to when my patience is running thin and willingness to take [our son] at those times and his desire for [our son] to love Jesus.
  • I am looking forward to watching [my husband] protect and provide for our daughter. And I love how excited he is to hold her and love on her. (hopefully soon!)
  • I love that my husband recognizes that as a stay at home mom of 3 kids close in age - that I work and live in the same place. It's hard to separate yourself from parent to spouse- in many ways ! I love that he sees and wants to get us both away to reconnect. In turn , it makes you better parents. I love that [my husband] verbally tells the kids how cool their mom is and how much he loves her. It shows them our love and dedication to each other , but also shows them how to love / treat / expect love from their spouses in the future. 

I don't know about you, but hearing any type of encouragement like this makes my day. Honestly, I don't think I'm alone in that. I am thankful for wives and moms (mine included!) like these who make the time and effort to encourage their husbands in this crazy and incredible journey of fatherhood. Like nothing else, it helps us "dare to be daddy" even more!

Happy Thanksgiving!

You wives/moms out there reading this, what are you thankful for about your husband's gifts as a father?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Breakthrough!

Today's regularly scheduled blog post (which will be posted tomorrow and will be outstanding!) has been interrupted with some important news...

It happened.

And I have Dora the Explorer to thank for it.

My wife came home yesterday with a Dora potty (actually it was just the seat part - you know, the kind that you just put on top of the regular potty). It even made cheering noises when you push the side of it! Caylah was so excited to have it that she sat on the thing for about 20 minutes last night - nothing happened, but she wanted to sit there, nonetheless.

So, this morning (of course, after I'd already left and my wife is trying to run out the door once the babysitter had arrived) Caylah announced that she had to go pee-pee on the potty. AND SHE DID!!

Not wanting to miss celebrating this momentous occasion, I immediately called the babysitter from my office, and had her put Caylah on the phone. And, very loudly, I cheered, "Yay for pee-pee on the potty!!!"

And, yes, I think my entire department heard. And no, I don't care.

This is daddy-hood.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Time Has Come

I love the holiday season. Christmas music is being played on the radio. Shopping malls are decorated, and Santa's spot to sit and hear all of the wishes of the little boys and girls is set up and ready to be occupied. I'm already making plans to get our tree, and can almost smell the pine scent in my house. Nothing can ruin my joy at this "most wonderful time of the year."

Well, almost nothing.

We're approaching the thing that I have dreaded more than anything else, save Caylah's wedding day. I knew it would come, but knowing it's coming and have it actually arrive are two completely different things. If I had a "bejesus," it would be scared out of me at the thought.

It's potty-training time.

My wife says that our daughter is ready. I have no idea how she knows that. I guess that's where the "mommy instinct" comes in. To me, it seems like Caylah is more content than ever to use every ounce of her diaper and have that be that. Nevertheless, they brought back enough toilet books from the library the other day to potty-train an army and we've begun using the phrase "big girl" in every third sentence. Underwear is going to be shopped for, and M&M's (her prize candy of choice) are being bought in such bulk that you'd think we were stocking a bomb shelter. If she can be prepped for an event of this magnitude, we're doing it.

Still, I've heard horror stories of families trying for multiple weekends, devoting time to nothing else other than making continuous trips to the potty, stopping only to eat and sleep. And it still doesn't work. Some put tarps down in their house (?!?!?!) and just let their kids run around naked until they just magically decide they want to go to the bathroom in the bathroom (somehow, that seems to be effective).

Don't get me wrong. I want our daughter to be potty-trained. It just freaks me out. So I need your help, dads. I'd love to hear your experiences with potty-training. What did you do right? What do you wish you had done differently? What "method" did you use and how did it go? Thanks so much!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Get Out the Vote!

My wife and I did early voting last week, and more than one person mentioned how great it was that we were already teaching our kids about fulfilling our civic duty at such a young age. Truth be told, we both wanted to vote, and bringing them along was preferable to getting carted off by Child Protective Services for leaving them home alone. But, of course, I smiled politely and received the compliment, as if we totally deserved the praise.
Caylah couldn't get enough stickers!

On this critical Election Day, I hope you get out and cast your ballot for your chosen candidate(s). Here at D2BD, we don't play politics, other than to encourage to be a part of them. And be sure to tell your kids what you're doing, and why you're doing it. You don't have to go over the articles in the latest issue of Time, complete with highlighted passages of the foreign policy stance you most agree with, but I do want Caylah to know what voting is, and why it's a good thing.

Rarely do I get the opportunity to point out to my kids such an obvious example of being a part of something bigger than ourselves, so I don't want to pass this up. I'd love to hear, though, how you've explained and talked to your kids about voting and why it's important.  

What have you found to be helpful as they learn from you why taking part in Election Day is a big deal?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween, Pooh Bear, and Fear

Last night was our first Halloween as a family of four. Now, families all approach Halloween in different ways. There are some that will dress up their kids, but they themselves will only offer a slight nod to the costume tradition, if any at all. For these parents, a Halloween-themed shirt will suffice, as it's their kids that are actually the centerpiece of the evening, they're the ones that are heading up to front doors, bags outstretched, eager to see what goodies will be dumped in there. Other parents might don a pair of cat or lion ears and paint some whiskers on their face, or do some other type of halfway costume. This is normally because by the time they finished sewing on every last sequin on the princess costume (which, incidentally, was chosen one day earlier, as up to that point we were supposed to be wearing a girl pirate costume, until somebody changed her mind), it was all the parent could do to swipe an eyeliner pen across his or her face as everyone is running out the door.

And then there's the Vias. Neither my wife nor I grew up doing Halloween half-heartedly, and so now that we have kids, we get to relive our memories, and in 3-D, no less. As you can see to the right, our inspiration came from none other than The Hundred Acre Wood. If Caylah had her druthers, she would have worn that costume from first "up" when we bought it to final "night-night" time, every day it wasn't "icky." As for me, my Pooh Bear costume was piecemealed from thrift stores across town, teaching me that trying to find yellow pants in my size was a task more appropriate for Sherlock Holmes that a suburban father. Nevertheless, we ventured out to take on our block, determined to not return until the candy was ours.

On the whole, my daughter was a rock star. She would bound up each set of stairs to front door after front door, shamelessly using her cuteness to persuade each neighbor to give her their best candy. Mark my words, the girl will be training others in the neighborhood on the shameless use of cute before kindergarten.

When we got to a house about halfway along, however, she changed. The people in that house had constructed a haunted maze in their garage, populating it with some pretty scary characters, complete with ghouls in black robes, ready to freak out whoever would dare approach the interactive display. And "freak out" they did, at least Caylah. I'm sure the man in the black robe, black mask, and long nails that Freddy Krueger himself would have envied, was a nice man, but all my daughter could see was evil personified and she wasn't about to go anywhere near it. In fact, the rest of the evening, she wouldn't let me put her down to go to other doors, and all she could talk about was "that man scary."

My wife and I were talking later about where she might have learned to be scared of that ghoulish figure. We weren't scared of him. I don't think we even said anything like, "Ooooh, Caylah, that man's scary!" trying to get her to go along with the night. I think she was just plain scared. And as many times as we tried to tell her that it was ok, she was still scared. I told her that he wouldn't hurt her, but she still wouldn't have anything to do with him, clinging to me, in fact.

What is it about fear? There's the healthy fear that (sometimes) tells my daughter that jumping off the stairs might not be such a good idea, but this was different. This was the fear that someone (or something) could physically harm her. And it doesn't seem that it's a learned reaction. This is inborn, like smiling or laughing.

Unfortunately, I think fear is just a part of the human condition. Adam talks about being afraid in Genesis 3, and I wonder if fear was a result of the Fall. We don't see it mentioned before that, so it makes me think it didn't exist until then. And as many times as the Lord says, "Do not fear," we still continue to be driven by that emotion far more often than we should. It can be paralyzing, causing us to cling to what we know or what is familiar. It can be crippling as fathers, for sure, this fear thing.

This is much easier said than done, but it's important for us as dads to figure out what's worth being afraid of, and which things are...just halloween costumes. For me, it's important to try and discern the difference - pray, find Truth from the Bible, ask other people who have done this before. I do know, however, that the more I find myself strapped down by fear, the worse off I am as a father. So it's important for me to do whatever I can to move past it and strive to be the kind of father that I am called to be.

What about you? Do you ever feel like you're strapped down by fear? What have you done to move past it?