Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I love this kid

I can't help it, he's really amazing.

Sometimes I wish I didn't care soooo much. Yeah, I know that sounds strange. I just mean that it feels like it would be easier if I could put some distance between my heart and his. But I can't, and I won't. And even if I could, I wouldn't, because it's not about me at all - it's about him.

Love is so funny that way.

The more I love him truly, completely, and unconditionally - the more vulnerable I am to be hurt. And oh, ouch, wow, sheesh, yikes, hj&^&9(*(* it can REALLY hurt.

But so what? I don't mean to diminish the hurt, because when I'm in it I'm wallowing like a stuck pig. (Am I turning country? I just said, "A Stuck Pig" bubba! ut - oh...)

But then you forgive, and move forward. And I think to myself, 'be cautious, this could happen again' (if I was smart I would say, 'this WILL happen again!'); but I just can't resist throwing caution to the wind and loving with reckless abandon!!

I marvel at the way this child is growing right before my very eyes. He's sensitive, smart, clever, witty, charming, personable, engaging, honorable, respectable, he loves his mother, and he loves the Lord.

He's my son, and I'm proud to be his step-dad. We don't concern ourselves with steps, as they lead us away from one another, so I'm just proud to be his dad.

Tonight we went to the Milwaukee Bucks basketball game. We go, a lot. We are rabid fans. It was the preseason opener, and it's a 2 hour drive (1 way) from our home. After school I asked him if he was interested, and he lit up like a Christmas tree. So we went, and had a blast. And incredibly, right in front of me - seemingly overnight, this boy has become a young man. We now (literally) see eye-to-eye. He is 15, and I know time is slipping through my fingers faster than I can hold it.

Our relationship is evolving. Our dialogue is more mature. I listen more, and talk less. He shares, and my opinion comes more by request these days than unsolicited. And as we sit court side (our seats got upgraded for free!), he leans in to me and says, "Dad, this is great. Thank you so much for bringing me!" I look at him and think, 'there's no where else I'd rather be than here, with you, now..'

I tell him, "Son, thank you for coming. You're really fun, and I love doing this with you. I love you." We smile at each other and start cheering for our team.

And I realize, these are the days. These are the times. These are the memories we will hold on to for a lifetime. These are the stories the other kids, and grand kids will one day hear.

This is it.

I love this kid.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sticky Nate

Jill & I have been married now about 6 1/2 years. Our blended family consists of two teenagers (Andrew, 15 & Hannah, 13) and Maddie (9). Our son Nate will be three years old on October 20.

From the onset, we have been very fortunate that each of our children have given us "parental rights." Meaning our kids act, talk, and generally consider us (regardless of DNA) to be their parents. We do not spend any time worrying about step/half/etc. siblings, parents. We work hard to love each child individually, fairly, and appropriately. Parental rights have to be earned over time in a blended family, but I contend that unconditional love given is an incredibly powerful, spiritual force that over time overcomes all.

So Nate is getting bigger now, and his life represents so much that is good to us. Although he has a disability and at times that can present its own challenges, we firmly believe God created Nate perfectly, and we wouldn't change him even if we could. Similarly, a blended family can be a challenge at times, but to us it's our family and we are thankful for it just the way it is!

Having a child with a disability is, frankly, great. Maybe not for everyone, but all the people I know share this sentiment. And the truth of the matter is, I'm not trying to paint some rosy picture over a dark cloud in my heart. I genuinely love being this kids parent. But that's not the point of this post.

Seeing what Nate has done in our family is far more impressive. He was born 3 years ago, 3 years in to our marriage and 3 years in to our clan being fused. The kids were 12, 9, & 6, and generally getting along really well. However, those ages are when selfishness and division can really set in. And then there was Nate...

Just adding a baby to the mix would surely change the dynamic. But this isn't just any baby, it's Nate.

Nate is contagious. He's highly addictive. He's charismatic and clever. He's funny. He's charming. He's needy and clingy (in all the right ways). He's affectionate. He's adorable. He's unforgettable. He's one of a kind, he's just Nate.

So at a time when selfishness could easily take hold of this home, Nate comes along and forces everyone (including me) to focus on him. Not in a bad way, but in a necessary one. All of Nate's triumphs are earned. Every milestone is achieved by everyone in this home working together. And when we take ourselves out of the mix and collectively focus on Nate, we find our family is bonding. Growing closer, growing together, growing.

In so many ways and in so many times I am grateful for Nate. He's not only changed me in countless ways, he's also helped bind this family together. Everyone here is hopelessly and unapologetically stuck on Nate. Among all the other amazing things he is, I believe he's like heaven-sent glue that brought, and holds us together.

Sticky Nate.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In my mind, I'm the perfect parent

That's right, I said it. In my mind, I have a good handle on things. Well, that may not be entirely accurate. I willingly concede that many of my concepts don't always translate well from my brain to to my mouth. But in general, I think my approach is spot-on.

But then when I get to thinking about it, I bet everybody feels that way. It's easy to justify my behaviors and reactions as a parent. I find myself thinking a lot about how the kids need to get on my wavelength. The reality is, I'm the adult, and I need to get on their plane, not vice versa! I can't stand it when the kiddos show such little regard for the material things that have cost a lot, or even a little. But before I can get too worked up all I have to do is look in my car, my closet, my garage, my basement, etc....

Another thing that really torques me off is the back-talk. Man oh man, it really irks me. Sure, there's common respect, and kids need to be taught it, but I wonder what kind of example I set when I smart off in frustration to their mother? I've taught my kids to be sarcastic (I think it's funny, and clever - at least that's how I've justified it), to tease ("it makes them tough"), and to be judgmental. Whether it's other people's driving habits, personal quirks, or other things I find amusing, I've actually taught them to notice and exploit these differences in others.

I've reasoned that children are immature, although that's what I've modeled to them. I've said that this is not a democracy, and I've made sure everyone knows it. I've dismissed their input and disregarded their feelings by calling it invalid and hormone-induced.

I want my kids to be caring, understanding, passionate, merciful, humble, wise, affable, and reverent toward their Creator while fully surrendered to their Savior.

I have not done my best in developing these attributes.

In my mind I may think I'm the perfect parent, but in reality I'm far from it. There's a bible verse that says, "Love covers a multitude of sins" and it really speaks to me about my errors and missteps. Mercifully, my love both for them and Christ covers me and them alike.

Today I'm committing to becoming the best parent I can be. Will you join me?

No matter how good or bad it's been up until now, there's always room for improvement, and it can start right here and now! And no matter how old or young our children, it's never too late to make a fresh start.

Our kids are counting on it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How was school?

I bet almost every parent in every corner of the world asks their children this question on a daily basis. "How was school?"

No matter the culture, language, school district, or child, most every parent is at least mildly interested in finding out how junior did in school today. Any drama? Suspensions? Fights? Expulsions? Then by all measures, a decent day.

When I ask our normally chatty-cathy's this question, they suddenly become tongue-tied. Maybe the question short circuits their brains or something, because I always get the same answer. You know you do, too. "How was school?"

-every child in the world, "good."


"Good" just isn't good enough any more. I've wised up. I've figured out new ways to ask an old question. I ask follow up questions. But they've apparently braced for this, too.

Me, "So, what was good about your day today?"

Say it with me...EVERY kids response, "I don't know."

Defeat. Stonewall. Iced out. They're just not budging, no matter what. I've even gone to the very creative, "tell me the most interesting thing you learned so far today." I mean, come on, THAT'S a conversation starter.

But no, still I hear, "I don't know..."

So now it's time to get serious. A new, fresh approach. A way to make them understand. Be the ball, Danny...speak their language....

Any kid in any town, anywhere..."Dad, can I go outside and play?

Dad: "I don't know."

Kids: "Dad, can I have some money for the movies?"

Dad: "I don't know."

Kids: "Dad, can I go to the Justin Bieber concert with my friends?

Dad: "I don't k..."

Kids, interrupting: "But Dad, he'd awesome, I mean, come on...even YOU must think he's....

Dad, smiling: "....good."