Posts tagged ‘children’

August 5, 2010

Relational Stewardship and The God Perspective

As a father of seven, with quadruplets in the middle you might say I have become the experienced conductor of a large domestic locomotive. Nearly nine years now as an at home dad for teens to toddlers, 4 girls, three boys with four at one time might just have given me a bit of insight but you tell me.

Parenting, to my thinking is a trust executed as an art. It is practiced with intention, instincts, passion and planning or it becomes something akin to a train wreck. The wreckage of which is not twisted cars and broken rails but warped lives and ruined futures. There are so many opinions, how-to’s, materials and experts in the parenting universe. How does a well intentioned mom or dad tell if they have their family on the right tracks? Well, I suggest you might try to consider this; see yourself as a relational steward working from a God perspective.

Now I know a lot of folks just run away at the mention of terms like Stewardship or God these days. So, as a courtesy to those that may find an unintentional offense at my terminology, do this little intellectual exercise if you feel you must. Whenever I use the word “Steward” mentally insert the word “Conservation” and for my use of the word “God” just mentally insert the word “Useful”. Feel free to cut and paste this whole rant into your word processor of preference, title it “Relational Conservation from the Useful Perspective” and edit it up before consumption. Then judge my rhetoric, zeal and advice as to whether they affect any meaningful persuasion. Don’t just tune-out because of one little word! That would not be well, not “useful” to anyone.
I am convinced that nearly all parents have a genuine desire to do the best for their kids. However, for many, due in part to the tidal wave of materials, services and advice offered some have become too performance driven. This creates a restless “how do I stack up” mentality. Indeed parenting for some seems almost competitive. These find their focus becoming askew if not careful. Their efforts gradually more driven by appearances and anxieties than by healthy attainable goals based on the near and far term.

Also as families world-wide are breaking down. Sociologist and other researchers have shown that much of the dysfunction is generationally related. If one is raised by parents or a parent struggling with, poverty, addiction or some other challenge their children are most likely to as well. If children are raised with no standard or poor standards of behavior, low expectations of success or little true acceptance their probability of recreating these conditions is sadly almost assured.
These are two distinct sets of parenting groups. One set hyper motivated, insecure and performance driven. The other set under motivated, generationally dysfunctional with grave situational and societal challenges. Both groups have this in common a misplaced focus and distorted view of success. This is where my wife and my use of relational stewardship from the God perspective has kept us on track and on schedule.
Every individual has given talents and abilities. They also have given relationships. We do not get to choose our parents and siblings. Our family of origin is out of our control. Yet as seasons pass we will take our turns in the parade of parents and generations. This is God’s perspective. The parade goes on and on and He sees it all. He sees it in whole. It is hard for people to think this way but the effort is very useful.
You see that family of origin that we could not control may have given us some bruises and broken templates to build upon. We have the power to not allow an out of control spiral to continue by changing the goal-line. All we were given, the good and bad we must steward, manage and utilize. We do this in light of what the parade was like before us and how we want it to look after we turn the corner and fade from ground level view.

To do this we must make relationships the priority. The materialism of our time is deceiving. The toys and technology will breakdown. The opinions and approval of other will shift and wane. The cars, homes and clothes will age and fashions change. The relationships and the seasons we are given will ever be a part of the parade. Our ability to shape and direct them relies on the priority and focus we give them. Not recreating the dysfunction, changing the downward spirals and ending the anxiety driven, image motivated and competitive relational approach make God’s perspective a place where approval can be found and becomes healthy.
Perhaps this sounds simplistic all I can tell you is it come with practice. Take a quiet moment to reflect on where your family train is heading. Consider what that parade looks like once you get past street level. Where ever you are along the line and down the boulevard change is just a purposed mental step away if you can get the right perspective. From my unique perception this might be the most useful if not Godly thing any of us can do.

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July 19, 2010

Don’t Run in the House

As a boy in the days of black & white, my best friends were identical twins. Most kids got them mixed up but I could tell the difference. Matching clothes, hair cuts or not I knew Mike from Mark. At puberty and beyond many of us drifted apart but not this pair. To this day, decades later, they speak and see each other weekly where I have not seen them for a good decade now. I guess it’s no accident that some relationships have built in connection and staying power.parenting.ivillage.com/baby/bmultiples/0,,43wt-p,00.html

So, it was not much surprise when my Quad-son Matthew, after recently sitting in the waiting area of our local “Doc in the Box “ for a long, long time (by five-year-old standards) sighed and said “ I miss Jonathan, Franchesca and Nathaniel, when can we go home to them?” No mention of Mom, neither older nor toddler sisters and not much comfort from my presence. The other three were missing and this, not his impending medical procedure, was his growing concern.

Now a scant hour before, Matthew was in the car with a compress to his head demanding justice. Jonathan had knocked him down. “When we get home Jonathan’s gotta get a spanking daddy!?!” was his refrain. Of course there was no mention of the multiple times their mother had just asked them to not run in the house, pleaded for them to slow down and sagely predicted dire result should her warning not be heeded.

You see, I had just come in the front door with our oldest; the self-described “band-geek” when Franchesca met me with news that Matthew was bleeding “all over his face.” http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-cuts/FA00042Years of parenting with advanced Graduate work as a quad-father has left me with iron nerves. Though you might expect I’d have none left at all. Still this type of information gets rapid response, quick reaction and top priority but no panic.

While running in multiple orders, two or more, in this case four, when in the lead and you are the smallest do not make a sudden stop. Commuters know this. Camry’s and Kia’s do not lock em up in front of Suburban’s and Mack trucks. Matthew stopped, Jonathan did not. The resulting transfer of energy put Matthew on the floor soundly. http://www.lifespy.com/2007/how-to-prevent-accidents-indoors/The blow must have been evenly distributed like a square shot from a boxer’s glove. There was no growing bump or bruise just a clean split, 3 quarters inch long, 3 eighths inch wide just above the right ear. kidshealth.org/teen/safety/first_aid/falls_sheet.html

Mom had the situation in hand but there was more than a trace of, shall we say, blood spatter. There was no need to collect the abundant evidence. Three eye-witnesses and a confession seemed amble to find Jonathan guilty of bad breaks and greater body mass with no malice of forethought. Minor quad-sibling calamity number 72 thousand, eight hundred and eleven all resulting in the need for our first Quad-Stitches or actually, Quad-Staples.firstaid.about.com/od/bleedingcontrol/ss/bleedingsteps.htm

At 8:15pm we finally rolled out of the “Doc in the Box”. Matthew was sporting two shiny new stainless steel staples which were administered “sans” numbing meds. Only the barest wince on his part did more to make me feel better than Matthew might ever know. I mean he took it better than I think I would have. This is the type of stuff that Dad’s see in their sons and just nod, knowing what degree of wimp or weenie they themselves have been in the past.www.freemd.com/lacerations/home-care-stitches.htm

On the way home, fun meal in hand, justice was no longer a topic. Matthew could not wait to show his brothers and sisters his new little medals. He had triumphed and all was forgiven even if he had been the one to stomp the breaks with no warning. The next day at Kindergarten Matthew was a hero. Nathaniel, Franchesca and even Jonathan were falling over themselves to show off their brother with the shiny staples in his head to all who might find wonder.

Multi’s seem to just do better together. Even in the N.I.C.U. way back when, space was made so all the “Fab Four” could be close to each other. It seems multiples have a 20% greater outcome if they are with in three feet of each other or so I recall. In some ways I have to wonder if the rest of us are missing out on something. I mean in our Quad’s world even an accidental bloody boo-boo and stapling gives rise to closer ties and group excitement. parenting.ivillage.com/baby/bmultiples/0,,lz_6r9n,00.html

Oh that we all had the power to be and stay this close. Even from just outside our little quad lateral the best part is still being a part and watching as the show unfolds. For me none of this is by accident. I purpose to hope and pray the same for you but remember stay off the sudden breaking and “don’t run in the house.”

July 11, 2010

Just Past the Challenges

Mornings around here start out with a nearly peculiar amount of peace and quiet. Around 5am inside our mountain home near the Crest of the Blue Ridge little stirs in the wee hours. That is except my wife Pam who by my wake-up has been rolling for an hour or more. Her fleeting fingers in a whirl across her computer firing data via satellite to several servers that know no rest. The servers are located in Pam and her partner Melissa’s secret downtown headquarters. It is there that the combined efforts of several dozen employees situated in five states and the District of Columbia converge at a silent, shaded city locale. All these coordinated from somewhere way up in the hills where the air is sweeter and life just a wee bit neater.

Rolling down the long stairs, having hazily greeted my already busy spouse, my way is straight to the fresh coffee that is waiting. Ground with care some hours before, the black and silver high tech brewer having been programmed with precision to jump start my day to the appropriate R.P.M.’s needed for an at home dad of seven with a set of Quadruplets in the middle.

This early, easy time is set aside for pronderance, prayer, caffeine and a quick check of current events. A sweet morning respite set in the calm of a large, warm and temporarily silent family room. All to allow for my much recommended emotional, psychical, spiritual and intellectual refocusing that is so needed after one of our “average” days and before the next.

You see, 9 breakfasts, 7 lunches, several showers, a slew of tooth brushing, the removal of 20 pounds of “jammies”, donning of 40 pounds of clean “school clothes” one quarter mile trip to the bus stop and a quick jaunt to pre-school will all occur in the 90 minutes following. Of course there are always multiple questions, several side tracks and special instructions particular to that day’s special activities. Not to mention a few chores, at least one false start and some adjustment or the other for weather conditions. Usually meaning either, “Yes, I said you need a jacket!”, “No, it’s raining, no flip-flops!” or the classic “Those are your brothers shorts, that is why they are so tight and you need long pants!”

Once this bit of introductory goings-on are settled it is time for a deep breath. It never fails around then that the growing green beauty that rolls into blue hued peaks just past the little church and country store across the pond and pasture always steals my attention for a quick moment. After this it is time to deal with the upkeep of 8 horses, eight dogs, Lord knows how many spayed and neutered cats; I am guessing around 8, a smattering of cattle and all the other things that need attention on a 40 acre mountain farm.

Now do not get me wrong. On most mornings Pam and I are able go about several pleasant mutual activities and responsibilities. Sadly many of these have been compressed between doctors, therapy and occasional medical procedures for the last several months. All of which the result of someone running a most conspicuous country stop sign and our unexpected deceleration from 40 M.P.H. to 0 M.P.H. in about .8 seconds. Yea, this slows you down for some time to come but it has not stopped us or our mini-mega-family of nine. It has just added a bit more unwelcomed challenge.
You see the moral of this story is that life is a challenge. Raising higher order multiples, running a mid-sized small business, at home daddying, overcoming a bit of pain, bush-hogging the back twenty all might seem a bit daunting and it is. You have to take those moments, deep breaths and sweet respites. In them the blessings given and beauty surrounding awaits to be appreciated. Chock full of healthy perspectives and a selfless sense of purpose that comes from being thankful. I know Pam and I are one lucky couple here at the Crest of the Blue Ridge. Even if our days are way full, our strides temporarily a bit slower and most of them still up hills and down.

Taking this quick peek at our world, whether you see the challenges, the blessings or both understand that we are all pretty much the same. Just in a different place, with a different scene outside our windows. So, take a bit of hybrid-hillbilly advice and take your own moment to breath it all in. City, country or suburb surroundings make little difference. What you do on behalf of that next group of at home dads, moms, parents, entrepreneurs and busy adults of the future is your chance to bless back in the face of all your blessings and challenges. If you will stop and look hard, just past the challenges you will see the blessings right there. Asking those questions, putting on the wrong pants and wearing their flip-flops out into the rain.
Blessings,

July 7, 2010

Parenting for Fun and Profit?

By now everyone has seen the merriment and mayhem of parents and their multiples on “Reality TV”. All the free VIP tours of resort parks, major tourist locales and name brand shopping chains have sent many flocking for IVF treatment. Or was there anyone beside Nadja Suleman? Take it from me what you see on TV is about as reliable as the “Mixxie Chopper” for $5.99 that dices, slices and screens annoying calls. Of course the “mixxie “will fall apart the 1st time it leaves your dishwasher and so sadly do most of the made for TV family cash ins. Remember this, whatever they are selling on TV; if you don’t buy it, it goes away! The trouble is too many are buying into these concocted “family” circuses.

Parenting today is a most serious business. Just Goggle “parenting books” you will find 14 million 5 hundred thousand hits! Try “parenting author” you get a mere 18 million 6 hundred thousand. Forgive me if I sound a bit jaded but I have an unusual perspective. Yes I am an at home dad, of quadruplets plus three. Yep, teens to toddlers with 40 acres, 8 dogs, 8 horses, a smattering of cattle and Lord knows how many cats (all spayed or neutered).

Now I am not alone here in the mega dad pool, Brian Reid http://www.rebeldad.com/, Dennis Ross http://www.iparenting.com/dad/0702.htm , http://personalweb.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=personalweb&cdn=compute&tm=191&gps=219_383_1020_567&f=10&su=p284.9.336.ip_p504.1.336.ip_&tt=11&bt=0&bts=0&zu=http%3A//quads9.homestead.com/ and maybe a few more deserve some acclaim for having made it through the challenge of a domestic male in the middle of mega multiples and more. I believe myself, Mr. Reid, Mr. Ross and many amazing everyday at-home dads, at-home-moms and just regular moms and dads, grandparents and a myriad of steps all have one thing in common. Our priority and focus is on our kids. Not so much the next round of “Dancing With the Stars”, finding a spot on the “Today Show”, revamping our failed “shows” to keep cashing in on Cable TV’s big-top sideshow revue.

People who parent as a priority, not a profession, let alone as a media personality are the greatest asset our kids and culture have. Some simply prioritize family in an effort to recreate the warm healthy home they flourished in. Others purpose not to recreate the disruptions and confusion of a home life broken, bruised, confused yet overcome. Still more are a little lost having no healthy template to go by and circumstances out of their control. In some of those 14 million 5 hundred thousand hits for “parenting books” there is actually some really good stuff but the real help is closer to you than cyberspace or Books-A-Near-Billion.

Clubs and organizations are out there but they are only as great as the successful parents in them. Those that are making it happen and doing it well must reach out and share their victories, wisdom, heart and purpose. Daddys Home http://www.daddyshome.com/, Mothers of Preschoolershttp://www.mops.org/ , Mothers of Multipleshttp://www.mothersofmultiples.com/, Parents without Partners http://www.parentswithoutpartners.org/ and many others are great resources but it is the personal connections, friendships and outreach they offer that can make the difference.

So as summer brings us the promise of refurbishes and reruns of somewhat entertaining yet potentially destructive, exploitive and dysfunctional “family” entertainment check around for some real relational space you might share with a real family that deserves some help. Offer to baby-sit, call to include or strike up a casual affirming conversation. You do not need to write a book or give a sermon, just set some examples and offer a sincere hand. Your real life connection and caring might mute some of the noise our cash-in culture keep blaring like a crazed carnival barker. Near desperate to promote their half-baked household cabarets with their highly lucrative commercials and freaky future episode promos that keep all three rings roaring along.

July 6, 2010

I’ve Got Mail : So Do You!

Being a dad or a mom is not always easy. It has always seemed as if parenting provides a small view of God’s perspective on folks in general. There is that protective and nurturing season, where the nearly helpless infant needs nearly everything to be done for them. Then the progressive independence that leads to a time of teenaged near blind rebellion. Yep, parenting is a lens that shows so much about our own shortcomings and seditious spirits. That is if we make the humbling effort to distinguish it in the clutter a busy day of parenting.

It is far too easy to just barrel through and not take notice of how we act and react to our kids in all their twists, turns and sputters towards maturity. Many times we find ourselves regretting how we handled a circumstance or two. It is a tricky business dealing with the various differences in stages, personalities and temperaments. Even more so, I suppose for those like we who have several at the same age at the same time. Indeed, I find myself wishing sometimes that our Quads were back at that hectic but predicable infant age. That was a time consuming stage but if planned properly it was manageable and easy to understand.

I guess what I am attempting to explain is what God has dropped in my mailbox today. I am inadequate to the task. I cannot grasp it all from toddler to teen in our home here today. I cannot see over the horizon to what adult kids with tweeners and kindergartener will look like. I cannot guess what grandkids and teen Quads with a tweener will require. On even until all the kids are gone and ….

What God seems to telling me is that I am not sufficient. Even I and my amazing wife together are still not sufficient. But we are able if we accept the Grace to be inadequate, insufficient and less than perfect. That Grace is sufficient. Having done all things we must stand in faith of His Grace. Humbled by the overwhelming realization that in all our season until nothing but pictures and fond memories remain of our unique time. His Grace is more than able to accomplish all that is before us and more. Indeed it will accomplish His will. Even more so if I will let loose of my own!

There, I feel better having shared the mail. I can do this with my peace restored and full of happy expectation because I am not in control. So if you are having one of those out of control kind of days. Stop and check your mailbox or just write your name over this address and let the weight slip off of your shoulder and on to His.