Category Archives: Being a Dad

Marvel vs. DC

I walk into the kitchen and hear #3 exclaim: “You can’t use Wolverine because he can’t die!” Three of the kids (2, 3, and 4) are in a heated debate about which “human” Marvel character is comparable to the Joker from DC. They are testing their memory of the Marvel encyclopedia, which they have nearly memorized. #2 is done with her school and chores for the day so she’s lying on a bench arguing with #3 who is trying to climb out from underneath the mountain of dishes in the sink he left there since the morning. I ask 2 if she is helping her brother or making it more difficult for him to finish. She leans up and, with a big grin on her face says: “both”. I sense an ulterior motive here.

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The Hair Cut

We were talking about funny things the kids have done and I was reminded of a story. I was getting ready for church one Sunday morning and decided to cut my hair. That involves getting out the clippers, putting on the smallest attachment, and cutting it all down. Since I’ve been doing it for so long I usually do it by myself without missing anything. This particular morning I was in a hurry and did not check it as thoroughly as I should have. I left a thin line of hair going down the back of my head. Not just a few hairs either, it was about an inch and a half long. I showered, changed, dressed, had some breakfast, spoke with at least three of the kids, and then left for church without knowing. No one said a word.

I spent two hours before church in meetings, and was two hours into the actual services, when finally someone stopped me in the hall and said “you missed a spot.” He pointed it out and as I reached back it was obvious everyone had seen it. I had interacted with family, friends, and acquaintances all day at church and no one pointed it out. Why would no one say anything?

I decided to mention it to a few people and the flood gates opened. One by one, with a laugh and a grin, my friends acknowledged that they had in fact seen it and were holding back. Ok, they were friends and maybe they didn’t want to embarrass me in front of everyone, but surely they knew I would figure it out sooner or later.

The kicker came when I arrived home and asked the kids if they noticed anything about my hair that morning. Surely if a family member had noticed it they would say something. Right?

I was met with the usual blank stares for a second and then #3 giggled and said he did. After confirming that he had in fact noticed it BEFORE I left, I asked why he didn’t say anything. His reply – “I didn’t want to embarrass you.”

What!? Not embarrass me? How could letting me go off to church, stand in front of 150 people and interact with them for 3 hours with a streak of hair running down the back of my shaved head not be more embarrassing than telling me while I was at home?

Of course he had no answer, and by that time no one could contain their laughter. Apparently no one wanted to be the one to tell me.

So thanks to the friend at church who didn’t care enough about what I thought to actually point it out. Or maybe he cared more? Either way, I learned something about the lengths people will go to not embarrass someone.

And – I thoroughly check my hair after each cut.

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Image credit: 0Four/Flickr

How Movies Teach Manhood

I asked my children this question the other night: How many times do you think I have solved a conflict in my life through violence?

They sat there quietly for a moment, glancing at each other trying to avoid being called on to answer, and I let them. I wanted the question to settle in.

After a moment, my oldest son said “probably none”. Immediately the other children nodded their head in agreement. Granted, as a child I had an occasional spat with a sibling that ended with a hit or pinch or push, and there were a couple situations that almost developed into a fight as a teenager, but in no case did the violence accomplish anything.

“You’re right”, I said. “None. Now, how many times do you think I have solved a conflict by cooperating with someone else?”

Immediately they responded: “All the time.”

We don’t have cable television in our home. We don’t watch the Disney channel or Nickelodeon, or many of the other popular children’s shows and we limit television watching most of the day. My wife and I do this because what we see on that screen is not what we want our children to become, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that children who are fully immersed in popular culture have the challenges they do. It’s not a human development or “terrible teenager” thing. It’s cultural. There are plenty of examples of teenagers who are not self absorbed, conceited, disrespectful towards themselves and others, full of anger and resentment, and wanting to mimic every bad adult behavior they see.

Even though we limit television watching, we like movies. I share this talk because I think it is a great perspective on what we learn from movies. These are the stories that are influencing the lives of our children. These are the stories and images that rattle around in their heads as they develop their character. I don’t believe that all movies are bad, but I do believe that all movies are not good. We need to be deliberate about the things we watch, and as parents, we must take the lead in teaching children how to choose entertainment that is appropriate, positive, uplifting, and that teaches them how to be a cooperative adult.

http://www.ted.com/playlists/180/the_10_most_popular_tedx_talks

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Noise

We are sick. #1 told her seminary teacher this morning that we didn’t make it to church on Sunday because everyone’s sick. She wasn’t exaggerating. Seven of the nine kids and both parents are battling this virus in one stage or another. I was hopeful that it would be on the way out when I returned from my business trip, but no such luck.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t do sick well. I ache from head to toe, and when everything hurts the littlest things set me off. One in particular that really gets me is noise.

I am sitting on the couch clicking through my email and #4 drops the broom. The metal handle bangs the tile sending a blast of discomfort through the air. I shoot a frustrated look in his direction and ask him to put it away. He apologizes and walks of and I return to my emails. A few minutes later #7 and 8 come into the room with handfuls of little metal matchbox cars, the kind that bounce and vibrate several times producing a terribly sharp, annoying sound when they fall on the hard floor.

I cringed at the first bang, but ignored it. The second one a few seconds later resulted in a glance in their direction. Useless at is was, since they were paying no attention to me, #8 reached down to pick up the car and dropped two. Bang. Bang.

“Oh  my goodness!” I exclaimed holding my head, unable to hold it back. “Please put the cars away.”

They looked at me, reached down to pick up the two cars, dropped three more, and then left the room.

I’m sure I’ll step on those later.

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Wait, did you say nine?

It’s always fun to see reactions from other people when they find out I have nine kids. Most people at work know me as the guy with lots of kids who must be super patient in order to live that kind of life. I’m not so sure about the patience, but I try. The truth of it is, having a lot of kids just means we have different priorities.

A few weeks ago we stopped by a cracker barrel store looking for some fun candy for the kids Christmas stockings. If you haven’t been in a while, they have a lot of old favorites there. One of the ladies at the counter overheard my wife’s conversation with the cashier who commented on the amount of candy we bought. My wife’s response was that we can’t ever buy a small quantity of something. Think about it – two candy sticks per kid means we have to buy 18. That adds up fast.

Before leaving, the lady approached us and said she was one of 10 kids growing up. Even though she didn’t have that many of her own, she remembers her life and is glad to have shared it with so many siblings. She said that they didn’t have many things growing up, but even though her parents were gone and they were all older, they are all still close. And she’s not alone. I hear that often from people who were raised in large families.

It’s true that our kids don’t have as many things as others – but that’s not a bad thing. They have to appreciate what they have and be patient for things they want. Besides we didn’t have nine kids to give them things. We had them because we wanted that closeness of a large family. We wanted them to learn to cooperate, to share, to live happily with others. It’s not easy, it requires a lot of patience and work, but it’s worth it.

It’s nice that, for the most part, people are supportive and positive about it. But just in case you were wondering:

  • Yes – we know how this happens
  • No – we don’t have cable
  • Yes – we are the crazy type that also homeschools
  • No  – I don’t need another hobby, I have enough to do
  • Yes – it’s awesome.