When Your Kids are Better Than You

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Have you ever had a moment when you realize your kids are learning things, without you even realizing it?

This happened quite a while back at Christmas.

We had a busy day trying to get the kids out for school, catching buses and drop-offs. And, I had an early breakfast meeting, only to come home and realize everyone was still sleeping and we are now late.

And by late, I mean late.

It’s at this time that my son, Hudson, starts to ask about his allowance. About how much he has, how much he gets and if he can have it all now.

Like, right now. Like, “I need cash, dad.”

I respond like any parent would with a “No, go get your stuff on” and proceed to run around like madman trying to get things ready.

We make it out and I give Hudson $5 reluctantly, because apparently it’s a day when they can buy presents at school that they will wrap for them. And, he wants to spend his allowance money (hence the “How much do you owe me dad?” conversation).

That’s all I thought of it, until I picked up Hudson after school and he walks in with a wrapped gift. And, he’s proud, excited and shows me what he’s bought. On it, in big bold letters, it says, “Asher, Merry Christmas, from Hudson.”

He used his allowance money to buy a gift for his brother. His brother he often wrestles. His brother he often fights with like any child. His brother whom he loves and showed it with a gift.

Ever feel like your kids are teaching you?

Here I was all mad about giving him his allowance, and all he wanted to do was buy something for his brother. Because, as he told me, “That’s what we do at Christmas.” (He also told me that if I’d given him more of his allowance, he could have bought Eden something too.)

So, I write all this to remind you that sometimes your kids are picking up more than you realize.

And I think we need to pay attention to them and what they are learning, because truth be told they learn faster than we often do. I should have learned to trust my son 6 months ago, but I didn’t. And this last week the exact same dynamic played out again. He asked for money, needing his allowance, this time though it was so he could buy food for kids in Africa.

So I write all this because, while you think they are not listening at all, as you are just trying to get them to school, hockey or piano, they are paying attention.

And, sometimes, if you are paying attention, they have something to teach you.

Like how my first response when Hudson asks for his allowance should be “what for” 🙂

Celebrating the Right Decisions, not Just Disciplining the Wrong

Hudson Sweeping Driveway WORDS.pngHere is the truth about me and my parenting: I am far more likely to try to correct bad behaviour than to really praise good behaviour. And, what I mean by that is I tend to focus in on correcting poor behaviour and, while I’ll appreciate good behaviour, I can forget to really celebrate it.

Of course, it matters to correct bad choices, but what about encouraging good decisions? This is something I want to change in my life. I don’t want all my efforts going into course-correcting bad decisions, but rather I want to celebrate and really encourage my kids when they make the right decision.

The other day, we had a chance to practice this. I came home and found something totally unexpected. I drove in our driveway to find Hudson sweeping my neighbour’s driveway with her chatting away with him. Apparently, he was playing outside, saw her sweeping her driveway, got a broom and went over there on his own to help. He just took the initiative and acted.

When I went over to see him, Hudson told me why he was helping her. He said, “Dad we help our neighbours. That’s what we do, right?” Which I agreed to, and then he said, “Also Dad, she needs help. She is O-L-D.” (Hudson spelled it out loud because apparently he thinks older people can’t spell, and this, of course, was the way to share that fact sensitively. Now our neighbour is quite a bit older than we are. In fact, her kids are all retired along with her. So, different life stage).

But, here is why I mention this story: This was an opportunity to celebrate a really great decision. A chance not to just say, “I’m proud of you,” or “Great job Hudson!” but an opportunity to really show him that I was proud of him. To celebrate this, I got him his favourite donut from Tim Hortons, and we shared his donut while I shared why I was proud of him. For sure, this is a little thing, but it made a huge difference for Hudson.

I write all this to remind us all of one thing: What if you celebrated someone’s good decision, rather than just complaining or trying to correct their bad decisions? What if we put some effort into really encouraging, thanking and appreciating the surprising and unexpected good decisions that happen around us? Because, what I think might just happen is we might see more good decisions happen.

So, I’m learning to celebrate the great little decisions that happen each day. Because, I don’t want my kids to just not do bad things. I also want them to do the right things.

Toilet Paper Races

IMG_6814So I had this moment today when I realized I often want my kids to be perfect, rather than…well kids. And this happened when they had been quiet for quite a while, and I went to check on them and they were just giggling and giggling.

What I found was them racing toilet paper down the stairs in a giant mess.

And my first instinct was to get frustrated, to tell them to pick it all up. My first instinct was to be a fun-killer. My first gut reaction was I wanted them to be perfect (not playing with toilet paper) rather than kids (people who play with toilet paper).

But I realized honestly – they aren’t wrecking anything really, they aren’t being disrespectful, they are just being two boys playing with toilet paper. And it hit me sometimes in our quest to have our kids grow up well, we expect them to grow up too fast. In our desire to raise them well, we raise the bar too high. Sometimes we forget that seeing a stack of toilet paper to a kid is hours of fun.

So I write all this for one reason: enjoy those moments with your kids, grandkids, or neighbours. Don’t force them to grow up too quickly, acting like adults. Let them be kids and join in a bit.

So I gave them an extra roll of toilet paper, some tape so they could build a ramp, and then helped them clean it up in the end.

The Kingdom as Imagination and Dreaming

10274327_10156636848740643_4770778223963690522_nRecently I’ve been thinking about Jesus saying we need to become like little children to inherit the Kingdom of God. And I’m sure there are lots of really great interpretations of this verse, with lots of really meaningful applications.

But the one I’ve been thinking about today is what if Jesus is talking about imaginations?

I mean as I think about my own kids, the one thing they have is so much imagination. And imagination, along with wonder, seems to be something we lose as adults.

Just recently I’ve had two interactions with Asher that remind me of the wonder of imagination. One, I was sleeping and he hit me with a stick and said, “Wake up daddy – I hit you with my magic stick. See it work you wake up” and he bounced off singing, and waking up all his animals. Then we were wrestling and he stops me and says, “I win daddy – I have laser eyes *blink blink* I got you again.”

These are things that never ever occur to me…

And I know that Jesus could be talking about a lot of things, but what if he’s talking about how we won’t be able to enter the Kingdom unless we can imagine it? Unless we can maybe dream up what it might look like? And how it might actually affect our lives right here and now?

What if part of the problem of us seeing the Kingdom really changing lives and changing communities ~ is because of our lack of imagination for how it might happen? What if our shrunken imaginations are actually shrinking the possibilities for the kingdom?

Ever since Asher beat me in wrestling with his laser eyes I’ve been thinking about that question. What possibilities might Asher see for the Kingdom that I’m missing? What might Asher fearlessly try that I wouldn’t? What might I see if I had the imagination and wonder of a child fully invested in the Kingdom of God?

I don’t have any great answers to that question…but I think it’s a great question to start with. And so while I don’t how it all plays out, I’ve been praying a new prayer recently because of my kids, “God give me eyes to see your world with childlike imagination.” Because once we start dreaming, and imagining we can also start following.

Do You See the Good or the Lack?

12523184_10156725505805643_6099962064558674436_nThis week I started taking Asher to skating lessons. He did well…and by well I mean at one point he was flopping around on the ice like a fish out of water. But he did stand and skate on his own having a great time.

As I was waiting for him to come off, I heard a parent immediately share with their child how they can improve, what they need to do better, and how they can try harder. They were kind and quiet but still affirming all the work to be done.

Asher came off and immediately said – loudly and proudly – “Daddy I great at skating. I great skater”

Now objectively this is utterly false unless great skating means lying on the ice for 5 minutes. But I realized I had a chance to affirm the good in him or his lack. He was skating on his own which was new, learning to stand up from falling on his own, and he was trying hard (hence the tired lying on the ice). Was he gliding around the ice doing pirouettes…no of course not.

So the point though is this: so often we have chances and choices to affirm the good in people or their lack. We can affirm how they are growing, doing well, or where they are lacking. And I think we often choose to affirm the growth areas rather than the good already present. And I think that affirming the good in people is a little difference, that can make a huge difference.

And this is actually what God does so often as well.

He affirms the good in us rather than our lack: you are holy (Colossians 1:22), you have a new nature (Colossians 2:10), you are God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). And if God does that, I just think we should too. We should affirm the good we see in others. We should celebrate the imperfect steps people are taking towards good goals. We should be people who affirm the good rather than the lack.

So of course I said to Asher, “You did Great Asher – you’re a great skater”

Dad You Be Happy

UntitledThe other day I was feeling very overwhelmed, tired, and just didn’t have much to give. Unfortunately rather than owning that, when my kids – were well kids – and did something wrong I got really mad. Like no reason to be that mad. And I couldn’t shake it.

The truth was I was already mad before they did anything, their little lapses just gave me a reason to let it out. The sad part is that sometimes we don’t get angry with the people who cause us hurt, just the ones who are easier to take it out on (our kids, spouse, etc).

But my kids did something amazing, because I think they are occasionally better people than I am.

My guess was that they hadn’t seen me that mad probably much. Because Hudson gave me a hug, got changed, and went upstairs and went to bed on his own and just waited for me to turn off the lights. This has never ever happened before. Asher also went upstairs, brushed his teeth, and while I was putting Eden to bed came in and said this to me, “Dad this a happy house, you not be mad. You be happy, I happy too, we happy family.”

Sometimes with a simple little phrase you realize how much you blew it, and also how much you have to learn and grow.

But here is the beautiful part of parenting even when you blow it; you get to keep trying, learning, and growing. You get to take moments like that where you blew it and ask for forgiveness, and be thankful for your family. Because parenting is not a sprint, but a journey – and sometimes it’s your kids who actually point you in the right direction.

Mirrors, Kids, and How They Pick Up Your Habits ~ Good and Bad

1376728_89968538Krista and I have started working out for the past couple of weeks in the mornings. My guess is that by the time you read this, we might be done though. Who knows how long we’ll keep it up.

The point though of this post isn’t on working out, or anything like that. It’s actually on habits, kids, and faith.

What I’ve noticed is that as we work out each morning, Hudson will often come quietly downstairs and do the exercises with us. He now talks about exercising, the importance of being healthy, and wanting to exercise. He now tries to do sit ups, in which his legs seem to go everywhere and is really funny.

The reason I mention all this is because we have never once talked to Hudson about working out, encouraged him to work out, or even shown him how to work out. Hudson has picked up all of this, just through watching and following.

The reason this stuck out to me is this: what else is he picking up from us without us realizing it? Is he picking up bad habits from us when we’re grumpy? Is he picking up good habits about being caring and friendly? And most importantly – is our faith so active and regular in our lives that he is picking that up too? That’s the real question that I’ve been thinking about.

Is our practice of following Jesus so explicit, regular, and everyday that our kids are picking it up naturally? Are they developing the habits and practices of faith because we are practicing them, just like Hudson is picking up exercising without any explicit mention of it?

I think that if you are a parent, grandparent, or have friends who are parents this is an important question. Do you/we have regular habits that demonstrate the importance of faith to our lives? Are we praying at meals – because it forms habits? Are we praying at bed-time and being grateful to God? Do our kids or grandkids ever catch us reading the Bible? Do we make a habit of church?

The point I want us to think through is this: if someone were watching our lives, would they start to pick up natural and good habits about following Jesus? Because what I am learning more everyday is that little people are always watching, and following our lead. So it is important to make sure we are leading them in the right direction.

“Daddy Snow It Must Be Christmas”

1457457_10153541584360643_258669238_nHudson has no filter whatsoever. I doubt many three year olds do. I’d love to tell you some examples…but I think most of them are better left out of print…

The point though is that you have no doubt what he is thinking. And he has an ability to just change your perspective on so many things.

Earlier last week with the first kind of snowfall, as I was getting ready to shovel the snow, grumbling about the cold, and not loving the early morning – I was taking Hudson to daycare.

And as soon as he steps on the porch, he starts yelling and dancing instantly. “Daddy it’s here, it’s here, snow is here. Daddy, look ,snow, and that means it’s Christmas…Yeah!!!!” And he started running around, making tracks, jumping up and down and yelling “yeah it’s Christmas.”  I saw quite a few families who were walking their kids to school, look at Hudson, smile, and laugh.

And it dawned on me that I was missing something. I was missing some of the joy, anticipation, and excitement about Christmas. I was missing out because I wasn’t entering in.

So of course we ran around in the snow, and I started rediscovering the joy of this season.

So my question for you is this: have you lost any of the joy and anticipation of the season?

Because Christmas is a great season, there is so much to celebrate, and there is joy to be found. Don’t let the familiarity with Christmas rob you of its wonder.

Because Hudson taught me, and I think any of my neighbors outside, that there is something coming worth getting excited about.

Pure Joy and Pure Wonder

This is a picture of Hudson. I think it just shows pure joy. I love this picture because it is who Hudson truly is. He is a boy with a lot of joy.

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And to be honest Hudson shows his joy and thankfulness a lot. His prayers at supper and lunch tend to be long as he thanks God for everything he can think of. They are full of joy of what he has done in the day and hopes to do.

What amazes me is how much he has to thank God for, things I don’t even think of. He thanks God for all his cars (often by name…so it takes a while). He thanks God for our family, for Grandma and Nana and Papa (often also praying that he will go there on Tuesday), and for sunshine, for his backpack, for Skylanders, and for everything else.

I got to wondering if part of the reason Hudson is so joyful in this picture is because he is able to be so “present” to things?

Every experience for Hudson is like a brand new experience. He enters into with eyes-wide-open. We have been to the Splash Pad in that picture dozens of times, but he loves it like it’s new each and every time. There is a sense of wonder that permeates his life. There is a sense of joy that spills out.

I wonder when was the last time I felt like that?

When was the last time you looked like that picture?

I think this is something to strive for. I think this is something to seek, about being at a place of pure joy. So this week practice being thankful, practice entering into familiar places and relationships with wonder and awe. Practice being fully present. And if none of those things work. Why not try running through a splash pad…

“The insights of wonder must be constantly kept alive…I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And you gave it to me”. Abraham Joshua Heschel

Chasing Bubbles ~ Developing Wonder

I’m just going to state the obvious. My son has more fun than me at any given moment. Seriously. My life compared to his is dull, dreary, and lacks luster. Any parent knows immediately this truth: kids love to play with bubbles proportionally more than we really like to do anything. Bubbles bring out this amazing sense of play, awe and excitement in my son that happens so naturally and easily.

This is important to note because Jesus says in Luke 18:16, “The Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.” And as I ponder this verse in connection with my son I’ve realized something. He has more wonder than me.

I think this is part of what Jesus is saying in this verse and that if we are to become childlike I believe it means, in some sense, to regain our sense of wonder. Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “The whole earth is full of his glory, but we do not perceive it; it is within our reach but beyond our grasp”. He continued to write of the importance of wonder, awe, and astonishment. I believe children grasp what we do not perceive as adults: that there is wonder, awe, and God’s presence all around us. If we want to grow closer to God we need to allow a spirit of wonder to capture us. Heschel says, “The insights of wonder must be constantly kept alive. Since there is a need for daily wonder, there is a need for daily worship”.

This is what I am learning to do through Hudson. I now stand in awe of bubbles as they move, sway, and swirl through the sun. We stare at the stars in amazement as he yells “that one, that one, that one”, as he personally seeks to discover each star in the sky. We slow down and watch butterflies dance across the sky holding our breath in excitement.  And as I do this with him he is teaching me wonder, and teaching me to find God…

So today do something that is truly “wonder-full” and seek to discover God as a child would, with wonder, awe, innocence and joy. Then share where you found wonder or who it was with. For me obviously the best “wonder-hunter” in the world is Hudson. So today we’re going to explore this world together and find God in the midst of it…go have fun!