Again, Fathers Know Best (Tim)

I’m repeating a few posts for my own good. Even though, in every case, families have grown and aged, I hope you enjoy this interview.

FF: Describe your family.

TW:  I have a beautiful wife (Kristi) of almost 8 years. I have two wonderful children, Kayla and BJ. Kayla will be 4 and BJ is 2.

FF: How has fatherhood changed you?

TW: Fatherhood has given me a greater understanding of how God loves and disciplines His people. I love and care for my kids, even though they don’t always appreciate it. I still feed them and clean up their bodily waste, even when they protest cleaning up their toys. Fatherhood has given me a greater appreciation for and understanding of how my parents raised me.

FF: What mistakes have you made as a dad? Name at least one and talk about what it meant to you.

TW: Since my children are at home with mommy all day, they are always screaming for mommy. When I come home from work, I enjoy brief celebrity status, then all attention switches back to mommy. So, at times, it was easy to distance myself emotionally, given that they didn’t seem to need me for anything. They are young and that’s usually how it works, but I would sometimes allow the pain of that to become an excuse to just let Kristi bear the burden of meeting their needs, instead of taking initiative. This was a big mistake that I used to make. I have progressed beyond that, and even forced them to come talk to me about something. I’m pretty confident that many fathers deal with this same issue.

FF: What’s the most helpful advice you heard when you were becoming a father or advice you’ve gained since you’ve been a father?

TW: My dad always taught me how important it is for Kristi and I to be in agreement and to keep our love for each other strong. When children come into the picture, it’s easy to put all the focus on them and neglect each other.

FF: How do you attend to your relationship with your wife outside of your being parents, and has parenting changed your marriage?

TW: Kristi and I always try to maintain some sort of a date night, even if we are just at home. Now that we are living in the city, we have greater access to babysitters. This has allowed us to go out more frequently than ever. Of course, parenting has changed our marriage. It’s forced us to be more creative and intentional with our time together. It’s something that we always need to balance.

FF: What are some of the things you’ve struggled with as a father?  What are some of the things that have given you the most joy?

TW: As for struggles, I mentioned one earlier. That’s been the main one. It’s very discouraging when they choose to get attitudes and disobey. What gives me the most joy is to watch their personalities develop as they mimic what Kristi and I do and say. I love watching them as they play and converse with each other.

FF: Describe adding a second child to the household.  Does having two children feel differently than one?

TW: Adding a second child presented new excitement and new challenges. Having two feels very different because these are two little human beings with very different personalities, issues, joys, needs, etc. It’s definitely more work. They both require individual attention in different ways. Different things make them upset or frustrated. So as we teach them, they are also teaching us.

FF: What surprises are there along the way for parents? What do you wish you were told to expect?

TW: Children have extremely different personalities. It’s also interesting to see them do and say things that remind you of yourself, or other family members. I wish there was an entire book in the Bible or at least a few chapters that were completely dedicated to raising children and what to expect. When we experience the challenges of parenting, I jokingly say to Kristi, “The Bible doesn’t say anything about this.” I love the word of God, I just wish that God would have put a lot more content regarding the “spiritual gift of parenting.”

FF: What is one recent memory you made with your child?

TW: We are currently potty-training BJ. One moment, we are congratulating him on going pee pee in the toilet. The next moment, we are reminding him that we go pee pee in the toilet, just after he has an “uh oh” moment. Sometimes we’ll ask him if he needs to go pee pee, and he will say “no”. The next minute, what does he do? He pees in his underwear. It’s been a fun and challenging experience. We’ve only been at this for the past 2 weeks. I think he’s getting it, slowly but surely.

Again, Fathers Know Best (Gerald)

I’m repeating a few posts for my own good. Even though, in every case, families have grown and aged, I hope you enjoy this interview.

FF: Describe your family. 

Zoe, Vivian, and Gerald Liu

GL:  The family is made up of my wife Vivian and I (both 33 y.o. married almost 7 years), daughter Zoe (10 1/2 months), and our soft-coated wheaten terrier Colbie (4 years or is that 28 in dog years?).

FF: How has fatherhood changed you?

GL:  I think fatherhood has enhanced my interpretation of joy.  Through the challenging early goings of being new parents (with my wife Vivian BY FAR doing the most heavy lifting!) I think we grew to appreciate the small victories like when she first cooed, giggled, or slept through the night.  Even just returning home from after a long work day and seeing my daughter’s face or just dancing with her in the living room bring me the most satisfaction and joy.  I think it also helped me to have a higher appreciation for my own mom and dad and has given me a new viewpoint of the immense love of God.  I sometimes find myself pondering how my love for Zoe is completely eclipsed by God’s mighty love for me and that truth blows me away every time.

FF: What mistakes have you made as a dad? Name at least one and talk about what it meant to you.

GL:  Over protectiveness is one of my many mistakes.  I guess another result of fatherhood for me is an increased sense of fear for my daughter’s well being.  There have been situations where in my anxiety and panic I have spoken a bit harsh or unfairly to Vivian.  For instance if I thought a piece of food was too big for Zoe to swallow, I would in a panicked-tone question Vivian why she would give that to her (clearly it probably wasn’t too big.  I’m just a freak!).  I’m trying to get better, thanks for being patient Viv!  I think another mistake would be to take better care of my wife Vivian.  I think I some arguments we’ve had stemmed from communication or just the lack of simply asking Viv on how I can help.

FF: What’s the most helpful advice you heard when you were becoming a father or advice you’ve gained since you’ve been a father? 

GL:  I think people gave us a healthy fear of anticipating the challenges in the first few months.  I think that helped us prepare for the nightly feedings and sleepless nights.  A realization for me was understanding the statement “they grow up so fast!”.  Zoe’s only 10 1/2 months and everyday it seems like she has learned to do something new or something about her has changed (i.e. teeth).  So advice I give now to parents is “Don’t blink or you will miss something!!”.

FF: How do you attend to your relationship with your wife outside of your being parents, and has parenting changed your marriage?

GL:  People told us how important “date-nights” are for parents and we try to set aside time to connect and concentrate on our relationship.  When there is time we try to do things together like workout in the house, take walks, or watch a favorite show.  I definitely think our relationship has changed as a result of being parents.  I think we both cherish the time we have alone and are more communicative.

FF: What are some of the things you’ve struggled with as a relatively new father?  What are some of the things that have given you the most joy?

GL:  I think adjusting to new routines as a result of fatherly responsibilities is a general struggle.  Also another big struggle is balancing my friendships.  I think it takes much more planning and intentionality to get together with friends and its hard at times to relate to friends that live generally care-free lives.  The most joy I experience is in small things as I mentioned before.  When Zoe learns how to wave, or clap, or just laughs and giggles it makes me proud and happy.

FF: Would you be willing to talk about how your faith has been shaped or changed in the process of you and Vivian becoming parents?

GL:  There were some really dark times for us as we struggled for a number of years with our inability to conceive.  As couples around us became pregnant and other families grew, we often times felt envious, isolated, and alone in our struggles.  It was a load to bear and our focus and anxiety on conceiving became an unhealthy obsession that damaged our faith.  It was only after we begun to share our difficulties with others that we realized our situation was not uncommon and as we reached out to others for support we felt the “body of Christ” and its loving embrace for us in our time of need.

During one Sunday (Check out the podcast on thenewcom.com from 11/21/2010 towards the end 45 min or so in) where Viv and I were probably feeling the least hopeful, Pastor Peter preached on Jonah and talked about “rival gods” and how anything that we tell ourselves we “must” have is our real God and idol.  As he was preaching, I could not help to think that even our “good” and “reasonable” desires to have children was keeping our selves away from God.  Our “idol” was in having a baby and I realized that my hope was in our future family and not Christ.  After the sermon, Peter asked for people to come up and pray.  Without talking to each other or hesitation, both Viv and I stood up, walked to the front, and were in tears.  That moment confirmed to Viv and I where our hearts and minds were and that we were going to try to be, from that point on, ok with whatever God had planned for us.  Child or no child.  We both wanted God without condition and with an undivided heart despite our circumstances.

Little did we know, God was about to give us miraculous news.  Three days later, right before thanksgiving we confirmed that we were expecting.  God has a funny sense of timing and I truly believe that our journey was meant to be a testimony of how even the “good” things we naturally desire have the ability to wrestle our hearts away from the God who loves and desires our undivided hearts.

Now when I think of God while holding my daughter I am reminded of our family’s journey and know that as much as I love Zoe that my ultimate source of my joy, love, and salvation is in my God.  I hope to teach my Zoe that truth one day.

FF: What surprises are there along the way for parents? What do you wish you were told to expect? 

GL:  I would say that the surprises are in the amount changes to your own life, personality, and character are so many that after being a parent you may never comprehend how life was before your baby.  I wish I was told to expect how much baby stuff costs!  Yowzas!

FF: What is one recent memory you made with your child?

GL:  Swimming with Zoe for the first time.  While on vacation in Florida I’ll never forget how Zoe loved being in the pool and her enormous smile as she splashed the water with her hands.

 

Teach Your Daughter (and Son)

Photo Thanks to The Typical Female Magazine

Photo Thanks to The Typical Female Magazine

Teach your daughter how to cook kale.

Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.

Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.

Read Sarah Koppelkam’s full article here.

 

Panama Jackson’s Letter to a Friend

Photo Thanks to Blake Verdoorn

Photo Thanks to Blake Verdoorn

Dear Homie,

If my math is correct, you’re set to become a father next month. Congratulations. There are few times in the life of a person more exciting (and nerve-racking) than the birth of your first child! As your friend and brother, I couldn’t be happier for you and the wife on this life-changing event. (it’s good to know how to use insurance terms, since in your case, the baby will be born during most open seasons—good timing!). I look forward to watching your daughter grow into the young woman she’ll become with the wisdom and guidance of her great parents.

And since I’ve been around that mountain a few times, I figured the least I could do was tell you a bit of what life is going to be like in the near term.

Basically, you’re going to miss a lot of it because of sleep deprivation. I mean, you’ll be there, but you won’t be there sometimes. Once, when #YoungPanamontana was an infant, I literally had a dream that I rolled over on her on the couch and woke up terrified that I’d killed my child, only to realize that she was upstairs asleep with her mother. Do you understand what I’m saying? I was so tired that I dreamed I was asleep, except I committed murder in my sleep WITH MY SLEEP. Which gets to where I’m going with this.

There are probably countless people who have told you to get all of your sleep now. And though you can’t, it’s one of those things that scientists should be working on: a sleep bank. Right now you can go to sleep at, say, midnight, and wake up at 8 a.m. after a night of uninterrupted sleep—assuming the wife allows you to sleep all night, since I’m sure she’s super uncomfortable right now.

But let’s say she does. Yeah, that’s going out the window the DAY young Homie-ette is born. See, babies, they have to eat every two hours for the first few days (weeks) of their lives. You don’t have to do the math to realize that means that at least 12 times a day—maybe less if she’s doing 2.5 hours—your child will be awake seeking sustenance and attention. Many of those hours come at times when you’d normally be asleep.

I don’t know what you all are going to do regarding breast-feeding (if your wife decides to breast-feed, it saves a FORTUNE on formula; if not, price matching and Amazon.com are your friends). But if she is going to, she’ll be up all night after short naps, only to arise to continue giving life to this person you two created.

Trust me on this one, fam: Wake up, too. Just be awake. Stare at the ceiling fan. Cut your toenails. Hold her boob. Do something so that she knows she isn’t up by herself. There’s a good chance she’ll be scowling at you even if you are helping, but it gets better. And if you’re asleep, there’s a great chance that she’s going to wake you up. I promise.

Read the rest of the letter here at the Root.

Fathers in Varied Stages (5 of 5)

I’m thinking over materials I’ve been reading, namely stuff about human development, faith development, and theological perspective. I’m bouncing around suggestions, mostly for myself since I’m trying to keep good notes on things I read that are worth keeping.

Photo Thanks to Pixababy

Photo Thanks to Pixababy

Here is a list of suggestions for fathers (and the people who love them), particularly those above 70 years:

  1. Call your children, biological or not. Even if they’re busy, put a call in. Make sure they know the sound of your (aging) voice. It’ll connect you with you and you with them. In other words, find a way to connect with them. Resist the temptation to “wait for them to call me” or to believe they’re too busy for you to call. Be a parent to them now. They need you so don’t talk yourself out of that truth.
  2. Tell your story in every possible way. We suffer when we’re robbed of our individual and corporate stories. And we’re blessed immeasurably when we tell them. People need to know you and your story. Write it. Record it. Podcast it. Whatever. You need to tell as much as others need to hear it.
  3. Make a friend for each decade behind you. I swiped this from someone, probably Dan Radakovich. I think he told me that he has a friend for each decade. He told me that we need to connect with people as friends who are younger. And we can make 7 new friends in a year. Of course, Dan makes that many friends in a week.
  4. Start a project for which you’ll never see the result. There’s something to be said for starting projects when you’re old. It reminds us all that old folks are able folks. Beyond that, it’s an effort in making a contribution in faith that that contribution will end well. In doing so, you honor that life continues beyond you. So give yourself wholly to a cause, at this stage in your life, because you aren’t so stuck on the ending. The process will nurture your spirit.
  5. Mentor one or two fathers. You need to keep in touch with parenting. You need to give, even if you’ve broken ties with your kids or if they’ve died or if you’re far away from family. Go to a church or an organization and find a father who’s open to learning. Find a newly married husband who’s mentioned wanting to learn. Teach.
  6. Stay faithful to your best values. Name what matters to you, and stay with those things. In a way, everything else fades as you age. What remains is what will remain. Those stubborn qualities are what has brought us “thus far on the way.” Those are our best values. They’re usually things like love and justice and hope. When all else fades, when sickness comes and memory goes, those things stay.
  7. Be intentional about spiritual growth. I am a pastor and chaplain, so this suggestion is no surprise. But not everybody believes what I do. Whatever your beliefs, take them as seriously as possible. In doing that, in taking your beliefs seriously, you’ll exemplify fidelity. Believe with all that you have, and in this stage, you have a lot. That’s an essentially spiritual undertaking. Stay with it.

What would you add?

Fathers in Varied Stages (4 of 5)

I’m thinking over materials I’ve been reading, namely stuff about human development, faith development, and theological perspective. I’m bouncing around suggestions, mostly for myself since I’m trying to keep good notes on things I read that are worth keeping.

Photo Thanks to Alex Holt

Photo Thanks to Alex Holt

Here is a list of suggestions for fathers (and the people who love them), particularly those between the ages of 60 and 69:

  1. Move your body. Keep exercising rather than slowing down until you stop moving altogether. The longer you sit, the harder it is to reengage. It’s true if you’re in a chair or if you’ve checked out of life after retirement. Take that intellectually, emotionally, physically. Locate the things that capture you and keep going.
  2. Consider things well. Inspect your life’s fruit. Evaluate your choices. And make changes to adjust yourself so that this next phase of your life is as consistent with your hopes as possible. How will you align yourself so that what you wanted and couldn’t have before this phase is within your reach? If there are cracks in your relationships, they’ll be on display. Consider what you see.
  3. Grieve what needs to be grieved. You are growing older. You’re not only that, but certainly at this stage, you are aging. You notice it because it’s unavoidable. Where you have lost things, begin accepting those losses, grieving them if you haven’t, and embracing a new relationship with what’s passed on. If you couldn’t have the relationship you desired, create the one you can have.
  4. Build something. Be creative. You are the result of the creative genius of a God who loves you, and some of that creative ability from God is in you. Tap it and explore all the things you can make. What do you have in you that is a hidden gift that needs to be offered? How can you turn what’s in you now into a contribution worth giving? Locate it, build with it.
  5. Give. Related to the above, rather than waiting, be purposeful about giving. Experiment with giving to your significant others while you can see what they’ll do. Share with people, not because you don’t want things but because you’re generous. In a sense, be generous. It’ll make you more joyful. Spend time in the rooms and buildings that are reflective of your values. Give your time and wit.
  6. Revisit major decisions. Have conversations with relatives about your wishes for yourself; complete advance directives around your medical care; and make sure your life policies are updated and current. These are expressions and gestures of care for the people who you’ll eventually leave. It’s not morbid to do these; it’s loving. It’s an extension of your selflessness and care to think through such things.
  7. Worship. Connect with God in some way. People have many ways to do that, but find one that represents the inner voice in you. No one chooses that for you. That inner voice–in my words–is God speaking to God’s self within you, and you can grow increasingly comfortable with that God. Acknowledge God’s love for you at this time, in this stage, of your life.

What would you add?

Fathers in Varied Stages (3 of 5)

I’m thinking over materials I’ve been reading, namely stuff about human development, faith development, and theological perspective. I’m bouncing around suggestions, mostly for myself since I’m trying to keep good notes on things I read that are worth keeping.

Photo Thanks to Olu Eletu

Photo Thanks to Olu Eletu

Here is a list of suggestions for fathers (and the people who love them), particularly those between the ages of 40 and 59:

  1. Consider reasons to stay. I have a friend whose propensity is to leave. I once said this friend what I mean here. We need to find reasons to stay. As life changes in us, being a great father needs to remain a high priority.
  2. See a spiritual director. Spiritual directors aren’t counselors. They’re spiritual friends who listen to what’s happening in you. They don’t consider themselves problem solvers and may be uncomfortable with the label “guide”. They hear you, and as a man you need someone in your life whose role is to hear you well.
  3. Take your health seriously. If you need to modify your diet, do so. Make and keep an annual appointment with a physician. Do it because you want to be around as long as possible and be as strong as possible.
  4. Concentrate on touching. Men need three times more intimate touch than women. And we don’t get it or give it. Our bodies don’t sense that physical communion because we focus on other things. Change the focus. Concentrate on good touch for your children, good touch for your spouse. Let your children touch your face, smash your ears, feel the wrinkles on your forehead.
  5. Speed up or slow down. If you’ve stretched out adolescence, speed up and get beyond that childish time, but if you’re super driven, you may need to take counsel in Sabbath. Don’t go into cardiac arrest because of a goal you’re driven to meet. Instead, meet a different goal: being around for the length of it.
  6. Renegotiate relationships. Your friendships need attention because you’re likely feeling stress from parents who are sick and dying, children who need more, and your own personal decline, how ever slowly you notice it. You will probably sense some notion of the divine under the surface of your busyness. Create quality relationships that enrich your mental, emotional, and spiritual life.
  7. Say “thank you” and “I love you” more often. Gratitude is a gift to those who have it and give it away and to those who receive it. And so are the rest of our emotions. As we age, we need to express all our feelings because that expression makes us more human. It, in other words, keeps us human. It also teaches our children how to be appreciative of all their gifts and how to acknowledge their feelings.

What would you add?