Being a Dad

Maddox

My first born, Maddox, turns 4 today. Birthdays always cause me to reflect and become more sentimental than usual. I can’t believe he is already 4. I know it’s cliche, but it seems like yesterday he was born. In his few short years, he is wildly imaginative, energetic, and loving. He never forgets a name. He is extremely extroverted, oftentimes biking up and down our neighborhood simply looking for neighbors to talk to. He loves to “preach” and “lead worship” in creative, imaginative ways. He doesn’t stop talking, except when he’s asleep. Sometimes I look at him and can’t even comprehend how God has knit him together.

Since he is turning 4 today, I thought I would offer a few thoughts on being a dad.

Expectations are suffocating for everyone

Today, I wrote in my journal: It’s tough being a first born. I’ve placed so many of my expectations on him: How I expected to act as a dad, how I expected my wife to act as a mom, how I expected him to turn out, how I constantly expect him to act older than he really is.

Of course, we set rules, discipline when those rules are broken, and attempt to instill values. But there is a major difference between suffocating expectations (what you hope) and values/boundaries (what is responsible and right).

Responsibility to manage his feelings

Emily, my wife, brought this one up yesterday. At this age, we are responsible for managing his feelings. When he’s angry, we have to show him to be angry in a healthy way. When he’s sad, we have to show him how it’s okay to be sad. He is simply incapable of processing his feelings correctly at the age of 4. Therefore, we are responsible. It’s not easy to do, however. When he’s angry, it’s hard for us to not be angry as well. But being a dad is about rising above the feelings of your 4 year old and showing him how to deal with emotions correctly.

The most important role is Spiritual

When Maddox was born, we gave him a theme verse: Jesus, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again.” John 6:35. Time and time again, we remind him of this verse and pray that he would realize this truth. My role is to pray for him, to pray against evil, to show him how to have a personal relationship with Christ, to not pressure him into faith, and to surround him with other Christ-centered people. There is no more important role in being a dad. To show him what it’s like to love and be loved by the true Father.

Being a dad is the greatest joy, challenge, responsibility, and gift I’ve ever been given. I pray that God will give me many more years to love my son with everything I possess. Happy birthday Maddox!

Learn to Lose

This is a re-post I wrote for the EBC Family Blog.

Beginning in Little League baseball, I hated to lose. It wasn’t an “Ah shucks, we lost—now let’s go eat some pizza” type of hatred. It was a “I’m going to cry, throw my gear, lock myself in the room until the day was over” type of hatred. This continued throughout my college baseball days—maybe minus the crying.

But my older brother Ryan and my dad taught me something early on.

They taught me how to lose.

Here were the rules:

  • I was allowed to be upset.
  • I was allowed to tell them why.
  • Then I had 30 minutes in my room to wallow in my sorrow.
  • When those 30 minutes were up, my brother came in to get me and my time of “losing” was over.
  • Then we discussed how to improve for the next time.

In college, I carried this same mentality with me after games. When the game ended, shower time become the time to let the losing wash off me, and when I came out of the shower, it was time to focus on how to win next time.

I know you want your kids to win. You want them to succeed. You want them to be the best. In reality, they’re going to fail more often than succeed, lose more often than win, and will most likely not be the best in the world at anything.

Therefore, it is vital they learn how to properly deal with losing and with failing. It is a skill—in a paradoxical sense— that will teach them how to succeed more frequently.

Furthermore, we are teaching them to live less for the American Dream (you can achieve whatever you want to achieve) and to live more for Jesus.

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” Philippians 2:5-8 (The Message).

One of the few things young people truly control is their social influence in school. Not money. Not time. Not material possession. But their social status and influence.

If we are always teaching our kids to be the best, to win at all coststo not accept losing, I wonder if we are indirectly encouraging them to be and do these things at the expense of other people. Bullying occurs. Social in-grouping and out-grouping occurs. Comparison wars rage. Because social influence is one of the few areas young people can control, they may be exerting their “win at all costs” mentality in these areas.

Here’s my suggestion: If you have kids, teach them how to lose. To lose well. To lose like Jesus lost. That humility follows. Teach them to understand suffering. Teach them to learn from their mistakes and grow after losses. Teach them that there is only one true source of winning—God.

If you don’t have kids, learn to lose well yourself. Learn to look in the mirror and see the victory that comes from Christ alone. Don’t search for hope and redemption in worldly wins (job promotions, money, houses). Don’t equate winning with these things. Equate winning with how well you lose.

I was once told that God is far more concerned with our character than our circumstances. In the midst of losing, how is your character being formed? How are you teaching your children to improve their character, not achieve more wins? How are you teaching them to lose well?