Parenting Decisions You Can’t Prepare For

Father SonI don’t know if my boys have ever seen me cry, but they did this week.  And it wasn’t one of those manly tears that fall at the end of Braveheart.  No, this was full blown bumbling, snot dripping, tears running off your chin crying.  And for many people, including my wife, it was probably for a silly reason.  I returned a guinea pig to the pet store.  It was more than just a guinea pig moment though.  It was an adult decision, a parent decision, a father decision that I knew would leave a lifelong impression on both me and the boys.  A decision that I didn’t think would impact me the way it did and I could have lived without.

It all started about two months ago.  After having a rough couple of days with our oldest son, we decided to challenge him with some responsibility that would reward and motivate him.  Anyone who has or has had kids knows maturing wreaks havoc on their minds and emotions.  It’s really a cruel joke of nature on both kids and parents.  He had been asking for his own pet for a while and after some research decided guinea pigs would be a good fit.  As hoped, he responded remarkably to our challenge and we soon day came where we drove all over town to pick out the right two guinea pigs.  We had to get two because apparently they are extremely social animals and do best in pairs.  So each boy picked one out.

One of the reason’s we had to go to four different stores was to find two female guinea pigs, because they get along better than two males and obviously can’t breed.  The boys immediately fell in love with them and picked out perfect names, Squeakers (for my oldest) and Nibbles (for my youngest).  Every day when I came home there the boys were, sitting on the couch reading with a guinea pig on their shoulder.  Things were great as my oldest researched guinea pigs and taught us all about what they eat, trimming their nails, brushing them, and all kinds of random facts.  The guinea pigs thrived and grew.

Then came Tuesday night.  I had just got off work and called to check in as normal.  My wife was outside with the boys and the guinea pigs letting them get some fresh air and munch on grass (the guinea pigs, not our boys).  As we talked she said something was up with the guinea pigs.  One of them was humping the other. Now, this isn’t unusual even for same sex animals when they get older as one tries to establish dominance.  But just to be sure she flipped them over to double check.  Sure enough, what we were told were two females by the pet store was actually a male and female.  And they were old enough to start mating.  As with all decisions my immediate response was “What would you like me to do dear”.

There were several options at our disposal: neutering, separation, or see if the store will take the male back.  We agreed the easiest and most cost effective was to take the male back to the store.  When I got home I went directly to the cage.  They had been used to us now so he didn’t run away and was easy to catch.  I put him in a box and proceeded to the door, trying to get out before the boys got back from the park and hoping to avoid a scene.  It didn’t matter.  When I got to the door there was my youngest.  He saw the box and knew I was doing something with the guinea pigs.

“What are you doing dad?” came the simple, innocent question.

“Don’t worry about it, go have dinner with mom.  She’ll talk to you.” And I hopped in the car.

The pet store manager was amazing as I explained the situation and she let me pick out a new guinea pig without any charges.  As I concluded my business with the manager is when things changes.  Everything began to sink.  Up to that moment I had moved forward coldly and logically, walking through the decision without emotion.  Now I was on the way home to face my son.  I told myself this was what was best.  But that didn’t make the sick feeling that was building in my stomach go away.  Next came the hardest part.  The talk with my son.  I was choked up before I sat down.  He was braver than I gave him credit.  Braver than I was at the moment.  I set him on my lap and held him tight as we talked.

“Do you know what I did?” I asked, trying to compose myself.

“Yes, mom explained it and it makes sense.”  He replied.

Then I caved.  My wall was gone.  The weight of my parental decision attacking me from every side.  I separated two innocent animals who trusted me to take care of them and who had become attached to our family.  I had taken away my son’s pet.  No warning.  No discussion.  Not even a goodbye.  I explained everything.  Why we did it.  How hard it was on me and mom.  How important he was and how parents have to make hard decisions some times.  And if he wanted I would take him to the store to say goodbye.

Nothing can prepare you for those decisions.  No one writes books about things like this that hit you in parenting.  The life of a parent is filled with hundreds of thousands of decisions that you hope in the moment are the right one.  Decisions that you make with little to no previous experience or knowledge.  You pray that down the road you don’t regret it or that your kid doesn’t wind up in therapy because of it.  Sure, you can rationally and reasonably make decisions that are logically the best move for you and your family, but is that always the best way to go about making decisions?  No matter how rational a decision is and how reasonable it is, doesn’t there have to some heart that ultimately impacts it?  Is moving into a new house the best?  Is changing schools the best?  Is it piano lessons or violin?  Sports or science?  The list goes on and on and on.  It’s overwhelming and exhausting.

What amazes me is how you keep so many of those emotions at bay as you make decision after decision for your family and they hit you in the least expected moments. I didn’t even try to hide it from my boys.  Many fathers would have.  But I don’t want my boys to believe their dad has no emotions and doesn’t care.  I don’t want them to think what we do as parents is easy and we just had kids so we had slaves to do the dishes.

I think about how I worry about my boys every day.  Am I a good dad? Will they turn out okay because of how I’ve raised them and the decisions I’ve made?  I can only hope so.  I’m still beating myself up about it.  In the grand scheme of things I know guinea pigs are such a trivial part of us.  What I also know is my son rebounded without a blink.  He understood and loves his replacement guinea pig with the same gusto he loved the other one.  So, I guess I’m doing something okay.

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I Took My Kids Away From My Wife for Mothers Day

This past weekend was mothers day.  I feel like mothers day has become a hallowed day of reverence towards mothers that no other minor holiday achieves.  Even fathers day barely registers as anything more than a good day to shop at Lowe’s.  But mother’s take up a difference space in our personal and national agendas.  Mom gave us life.  Mom kissed our owies and gave us baths.  Mom cleaned our rooms and our homes.  Mom cooked dinner and did our laundry.  Mom took care of the pets we got bored of.  Mom held us at 2am when we were scared or sick.  Mom got angry when we got bullied and cried with us when we got dumped by our first girlfriend.  Mom is undeniably important.  (I love you mom).  So it surprised our friends when I told them my mothers day gift to my wife was not flowers, breakfast in bed, and handmade cards from the boys.  No, it was to take her kids away from her for the day.

No one will deny that the vast majority of moms don’t get the credit they deserve.  Whether they are a stay at home mom juggling household duties with running kids around to practice, or a working mom trying to squeeze in a job along with the other stuff, moms are also typically running on empty by the time they get to sit down at the end of the day.  (note: if you’re a stay at home mom, don’t read too much into that last sentence.  You work just as hard, just differently than mothers with paying jobs).   So when it came time to figure out what to do for my wife, giving her a break from all of her male children (including myself) was a no brainer.  I got up early, got the boys ready and headed to visit my mom for the day, leaving my wife to do as she pleased.  Of course by the time I got out she had already started the laundry and been grocery shopping, but that also meant her schedule was clear.  When we got back and took her to dinner that evening, she told us how great her day was doing exactly what she wanted to without anyone elses input or interruption.  It was a perfect day.

But there’s a group of people out there who think that story is incredibly horrible and sad.  One of my wife’s co-workers was appalled that she didn’t spend the day with her boys.  (her co-worker also doesn’t have kids by the way).  No matter what explanation she gave, her co-worker didn’t get it.  The same thing happened to model Rachel Finch this week as she shared that she sends her kid away every weekend to get a break from them.  Apparently the full-time mom and model sends her two year old daughter to spend Saturdays with grandma so she can get some down time.  As usual, social media exploded with infuriated people condemning this act of parental neglect.  They couldn’t believe that a parent would be so calloused as to not want to spend every moment with their child.  But is that really such a good thing?

I’ve seen parents so burned out with their kids that the kids are borderline neglected.  There’s no relationship anymore as the kids and parents basically co-exist in the same household with the adults functioning more as living chaperons keeping the kids from killing themselves.  The parents are exhausted and the kids are in their own worlds with friends, toys, or electronics.  I’ve been there myself.  The stress and worry of work eating away at me to the point I didn’t want to come home.  I couldn’t handle what the family expected of me on top of what was already eating away at me.  I just needed some space.  I turned out to be not so great a parent as I snapped at my kids and did what I could to find “me time”.  I wasn’t happy with myself or proud of my parenting, but I didn’t know what else to do.

So taking weekends off sounds like a fantastic idea to me.  It’s not like the kids were going to foster care for the weekend either.  It’s grandma.  Growing up not really knowing or connecting with my own grandparents, making sure my kids have a strong relationship with my parents is extremely important for me.  The best mothers day gift I can give my mom is time with her grandkids.  And who is going to spoil them better than grandma anyway?

I have friends who have intentionally moved closer to family so that they have the additional support.  They can drop the kids off with the grandparents any time and get a much needed date night and time away.  However, for most of the world that’s not an option.  If you don’t live near family, have a close network of friends, or the disposable income to pay for a sitter, time away from the kids to catch your breath isn’t possible.  You take any moment you can.  Sleepover at a friends?  Can both kids go?  Summer Camp?  Do we get a discount if we send them for more than one week?  I know there are plenty of parents out there who agree.

Now none of this is to disparage having kids.  No parent who agrees they need more time away from kids would in any way trade those kids in or give up parenting.  Our world revolves around our boys and our family.  And it saddens us every day as we realize how fast they’re growing up and how much less they need us already.  But in a world self-absorbed in it’s own personal fulfillment, I don’t understand how people are outraged over parents wanting, needing, and deserving a break from their kids.  Think about it this way, even if you worked in your dream job with the worlds greatest boss and co-workers, would you want to go to work 365 days a year with no vacations?

Movie Review: Captain America Civil War (No Spoilers)

I went to see Captain America last night.  I admit, this wasn’t my number one film to see this year.  That spot was reserved for Batman v. Superman and I’ll get to comparing the two in a little bit.  Nonetheless, I was anxious to see the movie since I had read the Civil War comic series and loved it.  I wanted to see how the story was interpreted to the big screen in one film.  I went in with low expectations for screen adaptation but was very happy with how it turned out.  Obviously with it being Captain America’s movie the plot revolves around him, but as always Robert Downey Junior isn’t far away reminding you that he’s really the one in charge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  You have most of the holdovers from Avengers Age of Ultron – Cap, Ironman, Black Widow, Hawkeye, The Vision, War Machine, and Scarlet Witch.  I will admit though, that I missed Thor and Hulk, but the addition of Spiderman and Black Panther make up for it.  And whether you liked his movie or not, Paul Rudd as Antman will quickly become a favorite secondary character.   Continue reading

When Did Religion Start Holding Us Back?

inquisitionWhen did religion turn into a system that retards society and culture rather than a progressive force pushing it forward?  The thought occurred to me this week in a conversation about the lack of response from Christians to the atrocities committed by ISIS and Boko Haram towards women.  As 10 and 11 year old girls are kidnapped, raped, and sold as sex slaves it feels like most Christian’s are more concerned about Donald Trump “restoring our Christian nation” to drive out the gays and atheists.  Believers across the world and from across religious spectrums are seeking to bring society backwards to some golden era of belief.  They seemingly forget that religion is what has moved us forward more than it’s held us back. Continue reading

Ben Carson’s Campaign Manager Attempts to Defend Him and Fails

Las Vegas Prepares For Final Republican Debate Of The Year

LAS VEGAS, NV – DECEMBER 15: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson prepares for a television interview before the start of the CNN republican presidential debate at The Venetian Las Vegas on December 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Thirteen Republican presidential candidates are participating in the fifth set of Republican presidential debates. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

As Ben Carson not so surprisingly stepped out of the presidential race this past weekend and shockingly endorsed Donald Trump, many people (including myself) wanted to know why.  (See my open letter to Dr. Carson here).  Well, his campaign chairman responded via Facebook over the weekend.  The response is below and I will honestly say I’m even less impressed with Dr. Carson now.  I’ve added thoughts and responses to the statements in blue italics.

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March 11, 2016; General Bob Dees, Campaign Chairman, Carson for President 2016 on Dr. Carson’s endorsement of Donald Trump:

Team Carson,

You are no doubt aware of Dr. Carson’s official endorsement of Donald Trump at a press conference today, the rationale for which he reiterated on his Facebook page this morning. Continue reading

Dear Ben Carson, Please Tell Me Why

ben-carson

Dear Dr. Ben Carson,

When when you announced your candidacy for president I was intrigued.  When you trended well in the polls I was surprised.  When you kept getting bullied and knocked around during debates I felt sorry for you.  When you withdrew his candidacy I was relieved; you can do better.  But when you endorsed Donald Trump I was disappointed.  And not just a little bit.  I actually lost a lot of respect for you. Continue reading

What Movies Should Your Kids Be Watching?

deadpool-tickets-166826

It’s 11:30pm on a Wednesday night.  My friends and I have been counting down for months, waiting for Avengers: Age of Ultron.  We’ve already been at the cinema for hours waiting in line to get the right seats.  Despite it being a work night and my 35 year old body not responding to the lack of sleep like it did in college, I’m here past my bedtime and excited.  As the theater starts to fill up I glance around to see the people coming in.  I love opening night.  It’s truly for the fans.  Half the people have some sort of superhero logo on their clothing.  Some are in costume.  Then I see it, the one thing that can ruin the whole night.  Some parent brought their kid.  And I’m not talking about their teenage son.  No, the kid’s probably not older than six or seven.  They’re carrying them in because the kid is already sleepy.  And it makes me angry.  This is inconsiderate movie going.  And it’s irresponsible parenting. Continue reading

What is Appropriate Sabbath Keeping?

Sabbath.  The single most important thing that separates Seventh-Day Adventists from every other Christian denomination.  In short it’s the observance of Saturday as the day of rest told to Moses by God and etched into stone as part of the 10 commandments.  For Adventists the Sabbath starts at sundown on Friday and concludes at sundown on Saturday as followed by the Hebrews.  Sabbath is a welcome respite from the other 6 days of the week.  Adventists don’t work jobs that require Sabbath hours (unless it’s healthcare related), nor do they buy or sell.  Traditional Adventists won’t do strenuous activities like sports or things that are too playful such as swimming.  Sabbath is a day of rest and worship.  At least that’s the theory.  In practice, keeping the Sabbath is much more complicated that many would have you believe. Continue reading

Donald Trump, Not the Leader We Need. The Leader We Deserve

Donald Trump

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at his South Carolina campaign kickoff rally in Bluffton, S.C., Tuesday, July 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

“He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.”  It’s one of the last lines uttered in one of the greatest movies ever.  At the end of The Dark Knight Commissioner Jim Gordon explains to his son why Batman is running.  Why he can’t come out of the shadows and be a welcomed and gloried hero to Gotham City.  Batman, like Gotham City is full of deep flaws, haunted, and dark.  The vigilante hero of the city is every bit an embodiment of who they are as the countless villains that terrorize it.  Like the citizens of Gotham who have embraced their cultural indiscretions and the anti-hero that represents it, so too have Americans received the embodiment of their sociology in the form of Donald Trump. Continue reading