2 Personal Reflections from Vacation (Part 2 of 2)

The abundance of joy that comes from parenting, marriage and leading your family well.
This is also something I tend to take for granted.  Sometimes Kelly and I take a weekend away without the boys, but this was a week way from the boys.  Although our marriage and our family are not perfect, they are joy giving fountains.  It was tough to be away that long, yet good.  I remember the day when I was really hesitant about kids and even figured that I probably wouldn’t get married until late in my life.  Well, that all changed in a hurry.  In my life, as in yours, there are times when God’s timing is completely different than ours.  I met Kelly when I wasn’t even looking.  Kelly became pregnant with Eli before we were even planning on starting a family.  Yet both came into my life at the exactly right time.  

Simply stated, Kelly makes me a better person.  Do we have arguments?  YES.  Am I selfish and rarely admit I am wrong?  YES.  Do I learn from her? YES, but don’t tell her.  She is amazing at making our house a home.  Keeps it clean, well decorated and has more motivation to do this than anyone I have ever met.  She is my example of being a hard working, innovative and ethical worker.  She challenges me to be a better parent; it is hard to keep up with her ability parent.  Those boys love her.  

Speaking of the boys, Eli and Owen are, as I stated, joy giving fountains.  If you are having a bad day, talk to one of them.  Eli will hug you, Owen will punch you – either way you will feel loved.  I think some people who say they do not want children are selfish or using it as an excuse for something– just as I thought in my early 20’s. Yes, there are times when being a parent is tough and patience can be thin, but nothing changes your life until you have a child.  You just don’t understand what parents feel until you are one.  You may get a slivering glimpse of it if you have a relationship in your life like a parent to a child.  Kids bring joy; help you to be a better human being and give you better perspective.  Nothing beats pelting your children with NERF guns, our random dance parties, listening to them tell stories about their day, laughing with them and crying with them.  NOTHING

My challenge to myself and others:
1 Rethink how I am shaping my children.  Be more specific in my conversations with them.  What moments am I letting pass by as just another “little” moment instead of a worthy conversation.  How am I uniquely catering one on one interaction to the individual character of each of my children? 
2 Laugh more with your children, wrestle more with your children, play dollhouse more with your children, whack the crap out of them with a NERF weapons, etc.
3 Pray for them more specifically, Pray with them more specifically and teach them to pray for others specifically. 

This is my responsibility


2 Personal Reflections from Vacation ( Part 1 of 2 )

The art of raising my children not to be American while raising them to be American

This is apparently something I have not mastered yet.  The boys love fighting over who gets the turtle that glows at bed time or whining about not being able to go to McDonald's every night for dinner as much as they have a heart for sharing.  While vacation on the cruise ship I was able to play witness to grown children (adults) whine like children who did not get their way because the ship had engine problems and could not make it to its original destination.  Despite the trip to a different island and a decent refund /person, all you could hear for the rest of the trip were temper tantrums, feet stomping and foul mouthed attitudes towards the crew of the ship.  Demands for full refunds were flying left and right at the same time we were passing by Haiti.  I mean; HELLO?  You have been born into one of the richest countries with freedoms and possessions few are blessed with. You are wining and dining on a traveling city and when you paid for it clicked "agree" on the fine print that the destination can change for any reason.

When we returned home we put forth more initiative in talking with the boys about appreciation for what they have.  Not that we didn't do this before, but a refreshed effort has kicked in gear here.  What led me to admit we have not mastered this yet is some of the boy’s responses.  Although they are two of the sweetest boys I know who truly love others, it is difficult for a 4 and a 6 year old to have, for example, a full appreciation for the devastation in Haiti or what it would like to not have any toys and live in a one room hut.

My challenge to myself and others:
1 Keep the conversation going.  Talk about this stuff at the dinner table, before bed as you pray with them or with teachable moments throughout the day.  Get them serving with you at local charities, shelters or at church.

2 As any parent knows, our children mimic us.  This includes our attitude and reactions.  This also includes the people we allow in their life.  A smart parent gets rid of the whiners, complainers and piss poor attitudes that surround their children.  Reflect on your relationships and how they may influence your children.  Get rid of them and be the example of gratitude.

3 This may sound extreme, but eliminate everything from their room and make them sleep on a mat on the floor without a blanket.  This will work trust me!  Okay, maybe a little extreme - so maybe just get better at not spoiling your children.  As hard as it is to not want to give your children everything they need and sometimes want, they really can get by on much less.  For example, Kel and I are big proponents of only a few gifts at Christmas and one small item for their birthday. 

The last thing you want is your child at the age of 40 laying into some guy from Africa working 365 days straight on a ship away from his family living in a village without a decent well for clean water all because the "more than generous" refund that they received didn't compare to the heartache of having to go to Nassau instead of Jamaica.  Could you imagine the disappointment?