Thursday, August 14, 2014

Three Things We Did to Raise Awesome Kids!

Two of my eight kids have made it, to college, that is. Two home schooled students, accepted to major universities, and receiving scholarships. If this doesn't do it for you, they both choose worship experiences, quiet times with friends and service projects when they are free to make their own choices. SO, how did we raise such awesome kids?
I would like to say there was some grand plan, but to be perfectly honest, we have mostly taken a one day at a time, allow the child to find their way approach, while offering lots of guidance, clear cut guidelines for behavior in our family, and as many opportunities to do the things they were passionate about as we could afford.
I know that's not very specific, so here at three things we did that I think all parents should do to get great kids.
  1. Know them. This may sound flippant, but it's not. In this day and age, most parents spend maybe an hour or two per day in the presence of their younger children, and almost none by the time they reach high school. We not only home schooled our kids up to high school, and my oldest son until graduation by his own choice, but we are also self employed, a choice that allows us to know our kids. We are there for them, one hundred percent. We attend every concert, every game, every play. We know those who pour into their lives and we know their friends.
  2. Build fences judiciously, and make them clearly marked. We set up a lot of rules in the beginning, too many. So, over time we boiled it down to love God, love others, and built our household rules around that. For instance, if you ever treat your best friends better than you treat your siblings, the best friendship will be long distance, or not at all. We tried not to change the rules, unless it was necessary, we tried to make consequences fair, and we kept conflict to a minimum by not making rules we did not need to make. I learned this from my own parents. We have restrictions, but they are fair, consistent, and few.
  3. Share your faith and ideas, don't indoctrinate. There is no way to force children into your belief system. It doesn't work. There is no way to restrict them into righteous behavior, or make them quote enough scripture to engrave it on their DNA. Share with your kids, often, tell them what you believe and why you believe it. Tell them what you expect, and what kind of consequences life will dish out for bad choices. Ask them what they believe, and use that as a springboard to converse more deeply. Point out logical flaws, and work to fill gaps in understanding, but you have no choice at all when it comes to what your children ultimately believe to be the truth.
There is so much more, that I am sure we have done, some intentionally, some intuitively, but I hope this saves somebody some frustration. Ultimately, it has been my goal, and we seem to be batting 1000 on this so far, to raise children who do not turn out to be a**holes. That's my advice, good luck, and relax, it isn't as hard as it looks. The hard stuff is up to God anyway.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What Are You Afraid Of?

What would I do today if I did not care what anyone thought? Would I be awesome, take chances, make something happen? Or would I continue working only hard enough to remain comfortable, fearing the great risks of life.
For most people who have met me, fearful would probably not be a word they would use to describe me. Brash, outspoken, a bit of a radical thinker, perhaps, but not fearful. But, that doesn't make it any less true. I am afraid. I may even be addicted to safety.
I started out in life, like so many, with a lot of promise. I have several obvious talents, scholarship being among them, I rose to the top of every classroom. I started acting at a fairly young age, and got a lot of praise for my efforts. I started my first businesses as a kid, and was fairly successful. I can speak in front of any crowd, on almost any topic without embarrassing myself, but yet, I am stuck.
It seems that potential and gifts are simply what we make of them. As a wise man once said, If you think you can, or you can't, you are probably right! And so, I start another day in the life.
Right now, I am an itinerant carpenter (sounds familiar) trying to keep enough work to pay the bills, without falling off the edge in to workaholism. It isn't easy, with eight kids, two headed off to college.
I think one reason I have never ventured further is that I have romanticized my life. Surviving in the tough and gritty world, just slightly counter cultural, not caring too much about anything, critiquing it all, as if I am somehow outside the “system”. But, I'm not.
I am just as much as anyone else, caught up in the unfolding of history, and going kicking and screaming into whatever future lays in store will do little to curtail it.
I have tried, from time to time, to get in touch with who I really was meant to be. I thought I had it all mapped out for 25 years. In the end, it has always come back to how people would perceive me, and whether my mask was skillfully crafted enough to let me get by. I have mostly felt like an outsider my whole life, either feeling that I didn't understand enough to fully engage, or that I understood too much to participate, since it was meaningless anyway.
So, what to do about it? I am letting the mask slip a little today. I'm lonely. Not alone, and not unloved. I have a wonderful wife and children who make up the closest thing to a perfect family I could dream of. Not friendless, I have several very good friends that I count on whenever, although not often enough. I want community. Something larger than family, but smaller than social media. Ha!
Well, while I am at it, let's go a little deeper. I am scared. Not afraid that my life means nothing, I will probably have a greater influence than most, just by sheer numbers of offspring. Not afraid to meet God, although I know I can do better, He and I are at peace for the most part. But, I am afraid that I will miss it! What? You may ask, are you going to miss? I am afraid that in the busyness of my life, I will miss my opportunity, or that I have already had it and blown it. I am afraid that I will never be everything that I could be, or want to be. And so, I sit, afraid, like the servant with the talent buried in the ground, afraid that I will try, but no one will pay attention, afraid that I will succeed, and forget who I am in the process, afraid that I don't even know where to begin to try, and so, day after day, I drive screws and cut lumber, all the while dreaming of something more, but afraid to take the first steps.
Let me tell you who I want to be. I want to be a storyteller, and I got to do that on a small scale for a lot of years, but I want more. I want to change the way people, not everyone, but some people, how they view the world!
I have always been a writer, even did it for a living for a couple of years, and as you can see, spent quite a bit of time in the past on this blog. But what I have in mind is bigger. I want to be seen. I want people to read me. I want to make my books into movies, and even have an idea to create an entirely new form of entertainment using today's broadcast channels.
So, what am I going to do about it? I am going to begin to think as if it were already a reality! So, when you see me posting my new stories, go take a look. Tell me what you think, even if you don't agree with it! Tell me how it makes you think, does it effect the way you see things? I hope so, even if you never agree with me. I want to wake people up. I want to inspire.
This is mostly brought on by changes happening in my own life, but, Robin Williams is a personal hero of mine, in the stories he chose to tell. Not all of them, but many, were very worth telling and he did it with a passion that has only been equaled by a very few. So, what about you? What would you do today if you really did not care what anybody else thought?