As a dad, I definitely have my dark, pessimistic side. I feel like way too often, this quote by comedian Louis C.K. perfectly summarizes my outlook:
“The hardest thing about having kids is the days that you spend with them. That’s really the hardest part. It’s just everyday that you have them.”
In other words, parenting is tough. How do I make it? More importantly, how do other people make it?
If we knew all the answers on what to do as parents, I suppose we wouldn’t be reading blogs like this.
But not only do I not have the answers, I don’t have the patience nor enough of a positive attitude. I just don’t, on my own.
By default, I’m way too greedy when it comes my sense of personal free time; which doesn’t help when you’re trying to take care of another little human being.
Plus, I get easily irritated (and grouchy the next day) when I can’t sleep through the night without having to get up a few times to soothe my son back to sleep.
I don’t simply mean these things annoy me: I’m saying they anger me. I don’t like that about myself.
These tendencies of mine keep me from being the dad I want to be.
Strangely though, the best help I found was when I re-programed my radio to WAY-FM, a national, non-profit broadcasting network which features The Wally Show.
Here are 5 reasons why keeping my car radio on a station like this as I drive my son around in the car helps me to be a better dad:
1. Relevant conversations. I get my news updates (and lot of my blog topics) from The Wally Show‘s real conversations about real life events going on; from buzzing parenting topics to pop culture.
2. Positive, yet realistic attitudes. It has become very evident to me that since changing to this station, starting and ending my work day with it, a lot of my own negativity has been re-wired. I catch myself thinking about encouraging nuggets of knowledge I heard on their show when before, I would have focused on the negative instead.
3. Solid, uplifting music. While the songs played in between conversations are largely Christian, they are more importantly positive. Sure, they play stuff like MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine,” but they also play Mat Kearney’s “Down” as well.
4. Good humor. I can always use a laugh, and I always get it when I have this show on. Just look at Wally’s wedding photo (above) for the evidence. I used to be a Free Beer and Hot Wings kind of guy. But now I can listen to goofy comedy and still have a clear conscience for the rest of the day.
5. Opportunities to help others.The Wally Show is a big supporter and fund-raiser for Blood:Water Mission, a grassroots organization that empowers communities to work together against the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa.
Simply put, listening to The Wally Show, as opposed to the average radio station, integrates positivity into my life. And I am an often pessimistic parent who needs that kind of reinforcement that lasts throughout the day.
There’s a really good chance you live in an area where you can pick up The Wally Show on your radio. Click these colorful words to see a list of cities and find out for sure.
Worst case scenario: You can still very easily listen to The Wally Show‘s podcasts by clicking these colorful words if you happen to live in one of the few cities that doesn’t have radio access to the show.
Everyone has their own approach to it that they feel most comfortable with and find to be the most effective. But I’m for certain that no parent disciplines their child in secret hopes of making them suffer indefinitely for their offenses.
Instead, we want our children to mature and become less selfish. We want the best for them. By doing so, we make the world a better place.
So here’s something I think is messed up about us as adults: It’s way too easy for us to want to see other people cursed and suffer when they offend us, rather than them being blessed and enriched.
If someone cuts us off in traffic, they are automatically a jerk who deserves to be flipped off.
No matter how good of a person they may be outside of that single moment. Forget about how hard they work for their family and how they help others out of the goodness of their hearts.
For cutting us off, they become labeled as idiots who have no hope of redemption.
In fact, in that heat of the moment, the thought of that person being redeemed is absurd. It’s natural and easy to generalize them into an evil and moronic imbecile who intends to make your life hell; or at least annoying.
Simply said, we want that person to suffer. Who cares about forgiveness, redemption, or reconciliation.
And then, for all we know, the next day we coincidentally see them at the gas station and they say to us, “Excuse me, but you dropped this.”
They hand to you your debit card which slipped out of your wallet. You thank them; neither of you even aware of the incident the day before.
We discipline our children to help them, not privately wish bad things upon them. Yet we so easily want to judge and punish those who slightly offend us or have the opposite view as we do on a political or parenting issue that doesn’t even personally concern us.
By the way, if you live in Nashville, I’ve probably cut you off before on the road. But only because you seemed to be going slower than you actually were, but I realized it only after I had already pulled out in front of you.
Oops. My bad.
Here’s a quote from my favorite song right now, performed by 10th Avenue North:
“Why do we think that hate’s gonna change their heart?
We’re up in arms over wars that don’t need to be fought
But pride won’t let us lay our weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up but just to burn them down
We think pain is owed apologies and then it’ll stop
But truth be told it doesn’t matter if they’re sorry or not”
Maybe you recently read “8 Non-Religious Reasons To Take Your Kids To Church” and now you’re thinking, “Okay, I see how that could be a good thing for my family but there are so many churches out there, I just feel overwhelmed. I simply wouldn’t know where to start.”
For someone who is new or unfamiliar to the church scene, I recommend the kind of church that meets at a school, where everybody pretty much wears jeans to the service.
Often the names of these “purpose driven” churches include phrases like family, life, community, and fellowship as opposed to official denominational ties, such as Baptist, for example.
They are easy to Google and definitely have a constantly updated website letting you know what exciting activities are going on there.
These churches are typically designed with you, the newcomer, in mind. They have a much more casual setting with a more open, feng shui feel. No pews, for example.
Churches like this are a natural magnet for younger families with children. And that’s hugely important for you as you consider joining a church community.
There may be a band leading the worship music in some likeness of Coldplay (or Lady Antebellum) while coffee and snacks (often free) are served nearby.
I predict at a place like this, you won’t feel like you’re being held over hell like a marshmallow, but instead will feel welcome and part of the crowd.
You can also expect the pastor to be less preachy and more teachy. You’ll feel like he’s talking to you, not at you.
That’s not to say that churches that don’t follow the “purpose driven” model are predictably stiff, outdated, and judgmental, but I do think that a church that fits the model I have described is going to have a better chance of not making you feel out of place, as a newcomer.
What matters is that you find the church that is the best cultural fit for your family so you will want to go back, not feel like you’re supposed to or have to.
I don’t think church is supposed to be boring. I think it’s supposed to be full of abundant life. That’s the kind of church I hope you find for your family.
Year after year, polls like this recent one by Gallup show that “churchgoers” not only experience more positive emotions but also less negative emotions than people who do not regularly attend church, synagogue, or mosque.
So maybe you’re not like me; having been intrigued since Kindergarten on how we all got here and what happens to us after we die.
This is for the agnostics who are curious about taking their kids to church, as well as, for those who haven’t had much exposure to church but are curious enough to consider checking it out.
Therefore, I am attempting to explain why going to church is a good idea for you and your kids, not from a religious perspective, but from more of a scientific one.
1. Friends. For you as well as your kids. Most of my friends and my wife’s friends are somehow traced back to our church. In fact, we met each other through a mutual friend that I met through a group of friends I knew through my church.
2. Community. Similarly, you find yourself among other people who are bound to have things in common with you and your children; even if it’s just the fact you are parents with kids around the same age at the same place.
3. Activities and events. There is always something happening on the church calendar and much of it involves free food. Not to mention, most of the activities themselves don’t cost anything to participate. Basically, it’s free entertainment with families you have stuff in common with.
4. Child care. Free child care. While you are in the main worship service, as well as Sunday School, your kids are being supervised and taught in their own age appropriate Sunday School and worship service where they make you crafts out of construction paper and popsicle sticks.
5. Family values. Church is a great place to get moral reinforcement. It’s no secret that pop culture, everyday life, and even just our own negativity can be a drag on our ideal personal standards.
6. Motivation. Imagine the hope that comes out of the belief that the creator of this universe not only loves you but has a plan for your life. When you go to and belong to a church, you are exposed to a way of thinking that ultimately affects how you see the world, yourself, and others.
7. Opportunities to help others. You’d be amazed at some of the unique ways you can help others and your community through your church. It is likely you will find a venue to serve others in a way that is framed around your talents and abilities.
8. Routine. When you expose yourself and your kids to all this positivity every week, after a while you’re bound to see a noticeable difference in the way your family interacts.
Even if you have trouble believing in all the religious aspects of going to church, there is evidently something to the fact that people who go are generally more positive and less negative.
The way I look at it; even if at the end of my life I was wrong about God this entire time and when we die, we just die and that’s it, I still wouldn’t regret having believed.
Because if nothing else, I had a sense of hope amidst all of life’s uncertainties. Not to mention, as the polls show, I lived a happier life than had I not believed.
But I do believe. And I invite you to check it out. Even if it’s just for your kid.
Feel free to email me (look at the top right side of this page) if you’d like for me to personally help you find some good churches in your area. I’ll try to make sure you don’t end up going to some kooky place where they drink poisoned Kool-Aid or attempt to catch a ride in a UFO that follows a magical comet.
Anytime I’ve ever heard another parent say “I just let him out of my sight for one second…” it never turns out to be a delightful story.
So as to prevent myself from ever saying that phrase, it’s simple:
I never let my son out of my sight for one second.
Obviously, he goes to daycare during the day and he sleeps in his own bedroom at night.
But what I mean is that as long as he and I are in the same room or as long as he’s with me out in public, I am the kid’s bodyguard.
I believe that all of us as human beings were born with a nature that causes us to want to, by default, make destructive decisions.
No parent ever has to teach their child to lie or to be disobedient.
While we also have a nature that causes us to want to be good and help others, we still are often driven towards destruction in our thoughts which lead to actions.
Likewise, I know my son will run straight for the cars in the street or into the crowd at the store unless I physically restrain him from doing so.
My verbal warnings aren’t yet enough for my toddler son.
He is all but handcuffed to me because at this point, I can’t trust him to keep himself from hurting himself.
Not to mention that as a father of a son, I’m acutely aware of the fact that a boy’s chance of surviving to adulthood is a lot less than a girl’s.
Mark J. Penn, in his book, Microtrends, explains it this way, in regards to statistics done here in America:
“There are about 90,000 more boys born every year than girls, setting up a favorable dating ratio. But by the time those kids turn 18, the sex ratio has shifted a full point the other way to 51 to 49, because more boys die in puberty than girls. Researchers call it a “testosterone storm,” which causes more deaths among boys from car accidents, homicides, suicides, and drownings.”
I don’t mean to be morbid or grandiose, but I think about that. I should.
Whenever I’m with my son, even in a seemingly safe environment, in my head I have to constantly be thinking, “What’s the worst that could happen right now?
Simple risk management.
Because sure enough, the moment I don’t ask myself that would be the day I would find out.
I’m not sure if I really am an overprotective dad or not.
After seeing these pictures of how I let my son play with big wooden stick, I bet some readers out there are actually thinking the opposite about me.
But that’s part of the paradox:
I’m his dad. I’m supposed to encourage his adventurous spirit. And I really like that part of my job as a dad.
Hey, I want to have fun too.
As long as it’s not too much fun.
(Kids, don’t try this at home. Unless your dad is there watching you through the camera as he encourages your adventurous spirit.)