I read an article about this subject, being a good parent. Basically the guy said that when he was growing up his dad would drag in from work and collapse on the couch. Whenever he (the son) would ask his dad to play with him: throw a ball or anything, his dad would say “later.” The guy said now that he’s grown up he totally understands how his dad felt, but when he’s tired and on the couch and his son comes and asks him to play, he remembers, and he says “absolutely.”
I want to be that dad, and I try. “Tickle monster” is a favorite. Jacob and I play a mean Ratchet & Clank, and Lorelei and I color Disney princesses like pros. But I find myself saying “later” to way too much.
Shannon and I talk about them being teenagers a lot. We talk about the kind of parents we want to be. We don’t necessarily want to be the “cool” parents. We want to be the parents their kids can talk to, the parents that their kids want around; the parents their kids respect, not because they’re told to, but because we’ve earned it. And I think we’ll be those. I hope we will. I spend a lot of time thinking about the education I want to give my children—the stuff they won’t learn at school or church or with their friends. How to make awesome salsa. Music and movies. How to shoot & edit good video. What the word relationship really means. I can’t wait till their old enough to appreciate Aaron Sorkin.
But that’s just the thing. I can’t wait. It starts now. It started when they were born. If I want them to listen to me when they’re thirteen and eighteen and twenty-two, I have to listen to them now. I have to make them a priority. Even if it’s easier to park them in front of Noggin. Even if I don’t really have time to color because the script isn’t finished and I’m leaving town for a week and the yard has to be mowed.
I’m a dreamer and have big dreams. I have major goals I want to accomplish. And I look at people that have accomplished stuff like that and I wonder what kind of parents they are. I wonder if they have sacrificed their relationship with their children to Make It Big. Or are they Superhuman? Are they amazing artists or professionals AND top-notch parents? Do they sleep? Is that my problem? I sleep too much?
I like to think I’m superhuman. But maybe I’m just mediocrehuman. What if I don’t have the chops to be both? Can I live with that? I know I’m going to wound them in some way. Many ways. I’m too broken not to. It’s unavoidable. But I also know that one of my biggest dreams is to help them find their passions and cultivate those. Will I sacrifice my dreams to cultivate theirs? It comes down to my major character flaw as a dreamer. When I look at the romantic Big Picture I say “absolutely!” But in the day to day? In the moment by moment living out of that Big Picture? I say “later” way too much.
Of course as soon as I posted yesterday I started freaking out about what to write for today. I considered posting something previously written, but thought it was too soon to do that, since it’s only day two. You, The Reader, might not know, but I would, and I’d feel like a cop out. Piper (9 week-old daughter) cried out around 3:15 this morning and I lay awake for the next hour thinking about What To Write. And then I started thinking about my upcoming trip to New Mexico and what a butt it’s going to be to try to keep this up while I’m out there. The consequence of this was oversleeping.
But that’s the deal. It’s what I signed myself up for (“foolish!” he thinks now).
So what to talk about?
I had lunch with an old high school friend I hadn’t seen in years. Of course there was the slightly awkward “we used to be best buds but that was fifteen years ago and now we’re catching up and kind of feeling the situation out” vibe. But really, it was just great. He’s recently (four years or so) begun a deepening relationship with Christ and his passion and joy were etched on his face and in his words. It was beautiful. Even more beautiful is his desire to serve, to do whatever his Lord and his church need him to do and, as an extension of that, the impact it’s had on his family. How it is changing his wife and molding his children.
Later Shannon and I were talking about the blog and flossing and good habits and she said “it’s about discipline.” She pointed out that we have crappy discipline and we agreed that we have to be more disciplined in our own lives if we plan on doing anything other than scarring our children. But how does one go about being more disciplined? And THAT made me think about a conversation Ben Moon and I had a couple years back about the difference between commitment and discipline. (I’ll write about that tomorrow.)
Raising a kid is like drinking from a fire hydrant. Keep them clean, keep them fed, baseball, taekwondo, golf camp, swim lessons, zoo camp, soccer, school, after-school clubs, reading, homework, bike riding, computer: and that’s just one. We’ve got four. Shannon doesn’t recall the last time ALL the laundry was done. The dishwasher runs at least once a day, and only once leaves the sink full of dishes. Shannon’s friend’s son (he’s six) is already doing piano recitals. Piano?!? Crap! Our kids aren’t doing anything musical! We’ve got to have some sort of music education!
We don’t read enough with them. We don’t sit as a family for dinner enough. We don’t have a “Cohesive Parenting Strategy.” We talk about doing these things. A lot. But between laundry and cooking and dishes and baths and practices and a job that travels…
This is messy. I wanted this to be about the decision to be a good parent, an involved parent, about making “being a good parent” a higher priority, but all I’ve done thus far is show what a lousy parent I am. And I’m over my word limit.
This is me living, as P.J. says, naked & unashamed.
So I guess I’ve gone from not knowing what to write about to having too much. I’m going to put a cap on it here and pick back up tomorrow. For those of you who think it’s okay for me to go over my limit and that I should just keep going…that’s kind of the point of this whole exercise, and this blog in particular. Being a better parent is about being responsible. And being responsible is about setting limits. I’m already past my word and time limit today.
I’ve had a lifelong struggle as a writer. Creativity wages war on Perfectionism. Perfectionism turns around and forms a secret alliance with Laziness and they lay siege to Creativity, hoping to starve it into submission.
I love words, especially words spoken. I love crafting them. The well-crafted spoken word is the most triumphant and inspiring instrument man has. Words are what place us in the Imago Dei. Without the capacity for words (thought) we would be just another animal. I learned a while back that this is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing—crafting words: telling stories. And while I read a lot and love reading, it is the spoken word that stirs my soul, that incites my passion and drives me to action. So every word I write I hear in my head out loud. The Words I write, I write to hear them heard.
But every word comes hard. I believe there are two kinds of writers: writers for whom WORDS COME EASY (Stephen King, C.S. Lewis: the prolifically good, I call them), and writers for whom WORDS COME HARD (J.D. Salinger, Brennan Manning). I definitely fall in this second class of writer. Every word is a struggle, a battle to get on paper. Because I want it to be perfect. I want it to be inspiring and funny and brilliant. I want you to think it’s the best thing you’ve ever heard (or read, although I’d rather you hear it). I think it all comes back to my primary sin, pride. I want to be the best and, more importantly, I want you to know I’m the best. It cripples my daily thought, and my writing. But my pride is not the topic today, my writing (or lack thereof) is.
I’ve read, listened, asked questions, blah blah blah about how to get over this. And while my head knows the answers, he and my heart don’t see eye to eye and wrestle for control of my fingers, so that I stare at the blinking cursor. But what everyone says is that it’s a habit, something you have to build. My problem when it comes to good habits is that I can’t ever make it the twenty-one days. I get bored or distracted or it’s just not exciting enough for me to continue. (Postscript: Just read that last sentence Wow. How shallow am I?) But recently I’ve encountered writers in several places talking about the therapeutic and encouraging habit of blogging. They’ve all said it’s the thing that keeps them writing, that keeps the pump primed. My pump needs some desperate priming.
But I wasn’t ready to tackle trying to form a writing habit (see above writing struggles). So I performed an experiment on myself: Form a good habit. I needed something simple, something I could do in a minute or so each day, an accomplishable goal. I decided to floss. I’m the guy that NEVER flosses, except right before a dentist visit, because I feel guilty about not flossing. (Sidebar: this sounds eerily like my spiritual life, which is frightening. Something else for another day.) So in the interest of forming a good habit, I began flossing. And both to Shannon’s and my surprise, I’ve become a flosser. Woohoo! Good habit created.
So based on my flossing, I’ve decided to try another good habit: I’m going to see if I can blog every day. Stephen King says he writes five thousand words a day, and he won’t allow himself to leave his cpu until it’s done. Since he’s in the WORDS COME EASY class I support him in this habit whole-heartedly. My pride problem causes me to want to match him, which is the source of most of my failings. So I swallow said pride, and assign myself a far humbler goal. I’m thinking 500 words or less. And while I’ve already exceeded my limit for the day (YES! I’M AWESOME!!), I’m sure there will be many days when all we get is a sentence or a haiku.
So let’s see what happens, if I can form this good habit, if I can make the words flow a little easier. I’d appreciate your help.