the reckless dad

‪reck·less /rekləs/ adj. without thinking about the consequences. rash, heedless, impetuous, impulsive, daredevil, audacious, madcap‬

Category: Being a Mom (page 2 of 3)

All Saint’s Day

574797_3631959845175_594874501_nEven though I am a day late writing this, I wanted to share it with anyway.

November the first is All Saint’s Day. This is a religious holiday that was created as a response to All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween as we know and celebrate it. All Saint’s Day commemorates those who have attained sainthood as a response to the commemoration of the dead (and presumably evil spirits) which happens on Halloween. Unless you are Catholic, you probably have no idea what this holiday is about.

November 1, also happens to be my mom’s birthday. I was afforded a special treat and had her at my house on her birthday this year and I was able to celebrate it with her. I don’t recall the last time I was in her presence on her birthday. Before you brand me a bad son, keep in mind we live 500 miles a part. We had a joyous time joking that the day is called All Saint’s Day thanks to her being born on that day. We tried our best to make her feel special and celebrate her.

What I want to share with you, is not thoughts on Halloween or All Saint’s Day… I want to share a few thoughts on my mom. As most sons will tell you, their mother is the best mom and I am no exception. She is the best mom I could have hoped for or wanted or deserved. I’m not sure how she put up with me all these years, because if as a child I was anything like I am as an adult I am sure I was challenging. There are many things my mom has taught me, but three things stand out to me.

  1. She taught me to never give up. This may seem simple, but it really isn’t. There are many times throughout our lives where we will want to give in, to throw in the towel, to just give up. I have seen my mother deal with some very difficult situations and to take on responsibilities that are very heavy and overwhelming to her. But each day she never gives up. She continues through the difficulty, through the hardship and through the toughness. My mom taught me, that no matter difficulty or obstacle is in front of you you must overcome it, you take it head on and you must not give up.
  2. She has taught me the power of enjoying the little moments of life. No matter what is going on around you, there is never not enough time to enjoy those you love. There is always time to share an experience, to snap a photo, to slow down and enjoy the little things which bring joy to those around us. Enjoying the little moments keeps us from getting uptight and upset about trivial details which don’t matter anyway. She taught me to not get hung up on little inconveniences when they result because we allow kids to be kids.
  3. She has taught me above all else, never stop trusting God. Each of us have experiences and encounters which lead us to question and wonder where God was in the midst of our pain. Why would he allow us to suffer? Why wouldn’t he step in and stop this from happening? Why? Despite these questions and pondering, we must not stop trusting that he is our father and that he loves us and that is still in control of the things happening around us. She has been an example of trusting God through the good times, the easy times, the bad times and the utterly difficult and unthinkable times.

My mom is an unsung hero in my life. These aren’t the only things she has taught me… it would be impossible to write everything I have learned from her. But these highlight the character and essence of who my mother is: a Godly woman, a woman who is able to find joy amongst the whirlwind and a woman who will never stop. These are characteristics I try to cultivate in my life and hope to cultivate in lives of my boys.

I love you, mom. Thanks for being who God created you to be. Thanks for being my mom.

The Ordeal

strategic therapyOne of my favorite classes in my counseling program was the Brief Strategic Therapy class I took while we lived in Jacksonville. One of the things which made this class so enjoyable for me was the professor. Had I not taken the class at a Jacksonville campus, it would not hold such a high place in my heart. The professor was a straightforward, no BS, cuss like a sailor professor who told you how it was. On the first day of class, she shattered the strongly-held precept of mental health counseling – the client must have insight into the struggle before real, lasting change can be made. The first day of class she comes in and tells us we don’t care if the client understand the why or gains any kind of insight at all… all we want is for their behaviors to change. We don’t care if they understand why they act the way they do or if they understand why they need to change or why the changes work. All we want is for the client to change.

This literally, was a slap in the face to everything I had learned in my program prior to this and it was exactly what I had been screaming in my head as I sat in class. What I didn’t understand at the time, is that you want change first to allow time for the understanding to come. In a brief, strategic scenario you are time-limited and need to change to occur quickly allowing the client time to reflect later. This approach was refreshing and laid some solid groundwork for me as I began to formulate and design my own approach to counseling. Since then, I have become more convinced that real, long, and enduring change can only come when you take time to reflect and understand what the root cause of your anguish is. Having said that, there is also a time and a place for a brief, strategic approach which doesn’t waste precious time assisting the client in gaining insight, but rather forces a quick, necessary change immediately.

This morning, I arrived to work and found one of the youth in our Residential Group Care (RGC) home refusing to go to school. I walked into his room, woke him up and said, “You have two options – 1. Come sit at the conference room table in my office and let me get all the tasks on my list for today done that require me to sit in front of a computer. For this to happen, you don’t have to tell me anything… I don’t care what’s going on, I don’t care why you don’t want to go to school, I will leave you alone to sit at the table and do nothing all day long. 2. Come with me to run some errands, a different set of tasks on list for today. For this to happen, you have to give me something… you have to help me understand what is going on inside your head and heart which explains why you don’t want to go to school. Help me to understand there is something churning inside you and that you just aren’t choosing to be a turd this morning.” He replies, “I’d rather go to school!” And I say, “And there is option 3, get up and get dressed so I can take you to school.” He got up, got dressed and I took him to school.

This is a Directive technique called the Ordeal. The rationale here is to give the client something to do which is harder to fulfill than following through with the symptom you wish to alleviate. I wanted him to go to school, so I gave him options that were less desirable to him (i.e. harder) than going to school. Additionally, I utilized several Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) techniques in the process. First, I empowered him to have a choice… have a voice in the process. He was given the freedom to choose any of the options and I would have been ok with whatever he chose. This also employs the compromise technique. He doesn’t get what he wants, but he can choose from two alternatives and we roll with what he chose. It was a win-win for everyone this morning. He was empowered to choose and we did what he chose and I got him to go to school and didn’t have to have shadow all day long because he refused to attend school.

When working with the youth in our RGC, it isn’t always this easy. There are times when it goes much less smoothly. However, the key ingredient in each interaction which continues to prove successful is authentic engagement. Many times, the youth we work with haven’t been given a choice, they are shown respect, they are lead to believe their voice doesn’t matter and that no one cares for them. But we do. I do. By authentically engaging in the life of this youth, we establish a relationship where we can accomplish much simply because we take the time to engage in their lives in an authentic way which demonstrates that unlike so many others in their lives, we care about them and they matter to us.

The Beginning of Another Year.

As we begin another school year, we have a fifth grader, fourth grader & a kindergartner.

We also have a safety patrol.

This is the only year they will all be at the same school.

These little dudes rock! So happy to be their dad.

I find as I get older, it is the little things in life which bring me the most joy. Sending the dudes to their first day of school for a new year. Celebrating the little things in life that make them who they are. Getting excited about our safety patrol in the family. I joked with my parents, that we all have to be on good behavior because we now have law enforcement in the family.

Noah had a pre-season soccer tournament this weekend. His team ended the tourney 1-2. He was a little disappointed, but happy for the win. Ronda and I saw a lot in Noah over the weekend and we spoke with him a length about playing the best soccer he can. I know he thought we were coming down hard on him, the reality is we see something in him and we want others to see it too. I told him (and his bros) I only push him for more, because I know he is capable of more. I know he has more inside him. I have seen it. He agrees. In the midst of our discussion, he conceded Hayden (our middle child and Noah’s arch-rival) was putting out more effort in soccer than he was. I asked how he felt about that… he said he was glad for Hayden and a little disappointed in himself. He said he was going to do better. He was going to put more effort into it. He left the house with a soccer ball today, to spend time at recess and in his free time working on his skills.

With all the boys, we are pushing them to work on the skills/drills each of their coaches assign them as homework. Additionally, we are trying to play more pick up games and encourage them to practice juggling the ball to improve their footwork and touch on the ball. We are trying to make it fun again. This is one of those little things I spoke of. Making soccer fun. Making it a friendly competition between them and me to see who can improve themselves quicker. I have decided I need to practice my ball skills too. I try to do the drills they do also in order to improve myself, but to also model the commitment they need to see.

Commitment. It hit me this weekend, we are asking our boys to commit to touching a soccer ball for 20-30 minutes everyday. Using the argument, the people who really want it, who want to be the best, who want to get better do this. You have to be committed to putting time in everyday for this. If you love it and want it, you will do it. As I gave those words of encouragement and instruction, I felt convicted there are many aspects of my life I give lip service to their importance but don’t follow through with any real commitment to them. I felt convicted to be serious about my life and the things which are important to me. It felt a little hypocritical to be asking them to do something I wasn’t willing to implement in my own life.

What does this mean for me? I hope it means I will take stock of the things in my life, identify those I wish to excel at, and them implement a strategy to excel at those endeavors. I want to take my own advice and become a father and leader they look up to and follow because they see me modeling in my own life what i am asking of them.

When Parenting Happens and We Aren't to Blame

boysAs a parent, each day is full of moments where you are sure you are doing it wrong. On occasion, there is a moment when you know you have done it right. And then there are moments, when it is right and you know it wasn’t that you had done it right as much as the character you have been working so hard to instill in your children shows through their actions.

Recently, our oldest son has been having a bit of a philosophical dilemma with friends at school. He is finding himself in need of locating new friends. As we inquire as to what is going on, we have discovered the ‘cool kids’ are being mean to the ‘uncool’ kids. My son typically falls into the cool category, but he is having a problem with the way his friends are treating other kids. So he had started to hang out with others at school, because he doesn’t want to be cool if it means being mean to others.

As a dad to three boys, I feel like I spend a lot of time trying to instill a sense of justice in my little dudes. As brothers do, they constantly fight and argue and get on each other’s nerves. They love each other, but they also love to fight each other. What inevitably happens, the youngest and smallest gets pushed around (although, in all honesty he can hold his own… he doesn’t know the phrase dog eat dog yet, but he is aware of the principle!). When the little guy gets pushed around, I try to instill in the older boys a sense of the injustice inherent in picking on the little guy. It really irritates me. I want them to know that it isn’t ok the push the little guy around just because you can. As a side note, this is an important lesson for them to learn in my kind because I want to ensure as husband and fathers, they don’t use their size to push their families around. We call those men batterers and abusers. If I teach my dudes nothing else in life, I will teach them not to abuse or batter their family. I wouldn’t necessarily say I have an inflated or big sense of justice, but I would say I want justice to prevail as much as I can help it.

So when my popular, athletic, electric, outgoing, tons of friends oldest son says he is struggling with his friends because they want to pick on and be mean to the less popular or cool kids, my heart is warm. It’s not that I did it right as a parent, as much as my son is becoming the man I have prayed and hoped he would be. It’s not that I have done it right as much as he had the character of a man who has a heart after God’s heart.

And the icing to this cake of awesomeness is when you realize the other two boys are walking through the same struggles with their friends too. When they are also beginning to see and understand it isn’t ok to pick on kids to be cool. For one son to demonstrate the character I hoped for is great… for all three of them to demonstrate that kind of character is indescribable.

I’m not some super parent who is awesome… but I am happy with who my dudes are becoming as men.

The Battle Hymn of Parenting

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I have three awesome boys. They really are great. Most of the time they are the light of my days.

Some days they are not. Today is one of those days.

Today is a day where everything is a battle, especially with our oldest son. He is fighting us on everything. Everything. For no reason at all.

I suppose I have come to accept the reality there are some days that are going to be battles. All day long. All day long.

It continues all day today. He is fighting about everything and accepting no responsibility for his actions at all. I don’t expect him to accept responsibility like an adult, but he is old enough he can accept responsibility for his actions. Nothing is his fault. We are the bad guys.

Again, some of this comes with the territory of being parent and I accept that. But this is going beyond what is to be expected as normal.

I accept I am not the world’s greatest parent, but I know I am not the world’s worst either. I’m somewhere in the middle, nestled in mediocrity as a dad who does good sometimes but also drops the ball sometimes.

My wife and I have tried tough love today, we have tried cuddly love today, we have tried ignoring, we have time out, we have tried spanking, we have tried restriction, we have tried it all to no avail.

It’s days like these that cause even mediocre parents to question themselves and wonder whether they really are bad parents. I’m not a bad parent, but I sometimes wonder what am I doing wrong. The question “why do they hate me so much?” does come to mind sometimes. Gentle reminders and encouraging words between each other parents help to keep us on track remembering we are good parents.

Honestly, these battle days are the days I realize I am a good parent. Despite all the frustration, I did not beat or abuse my child. No matter how he acted or responded to me, he was treated with respect and dignity. I never humiliated or made fun of him. I did not cut him down or degrade him.

He is still my child. He is still my son and I love him more than he will ever know. He has captured a place in my heart that can never be taken away. From the first moment I laid eyes on him (and all my boys for that matter) he nestled his way into my heart and can never leave it… no matter what he does. He will always be my son. He will always have my love.

He may push the limits and test to see how far my love extends, but what he will find is he can never reach the end of my love. He will never push beyond its limits.

I love him without measure, beyond comparison.

I have the greatest boys a dad could ever hope for.

Even on days like today, where everything is a battle.

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