Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Joys of Grandparenting

Our grandson, Odin, 3 1/2 months old now, and he is a joy to have around. In a way, I feel less and more stress now as a grandparent then I did in raising my own kids. Less stress because when I'm tired, and Iam done with grandparenting, my daughter can take the little guy back to her own house, and I can do my own thing and relax.

That said, I feel some anxiety for my daughter and her husband. I feel their pain when they worry about his health. I worry when they worry about his growth and progress. I get anxious when Odin cries and his mom doesn't know what to do.

So, we all learn together, and we are all in this journey we call life. Together. Supporting one another. I wouldn't have it any other way. So, what have been your own experiences in raising kids if you are at that point in your life?


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Compassion: A Lesson in Overlooking our Past Mistakes

One of the worst fears that had often come across my mind in raising kids, especially teenagers, was the day they would ask my parents, point blank, what kind of son I was growing up. And so, my kids asked my father on a couple of occassions.

Pause . . .

Gulp! "Oh, please. I hope you never found out the times I went rafting in the swollen creek after heavy thunderstorms with no life preserver and one of us nearly drown."

"Oh, yeah. I really hope you don't say ANYTHING about the time got into a car accident when I was 16 years old, especially because I tell my own kids that teenagers are unsafe for the roads."

OH, YEAH! I please, PLEASE don't say anything about the time . . . well . . . I can't talk about THAT episode online. Too embarrassing."

. . . . and so, those were my thoughts. I felt somewhat like crawling into a hole. I knew I hadn't been all that bad. I got decent grades in school, and I wasn't a member of any gang. I was pretty normal, but what would my dad say?

Then, my father said something I'll never forget . . . He said, "I couldn't have asked for better kids (speaking of me and my brothers)."

I waited for him to qualify his statement, like "Well, except for the time that . . . " But it never came. Wow, I came out okay. I'm just so thankful that my parents have selective memories and that they have shown understanding and compassion to an unperfect son. A lesson in forgiveness, compassion, and love.

Too often as parents, we forget that our children have emotional bank accounts, and that everytime we say something negative, we withdraw from that account that can leave people emotionally drained. Showing a little more forgiveness for our youthful (and even current) follies and shortcomings in life can brush away the memories and hurt of past misdeeds and shortcomings and can certainly build better relationships.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Life isn't Fair

 "If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere."

Over the years, I've heard kids exclaim that life isn't fair dealing with the wide range of activities from whose turn it is to get the milk out of the fridge for dinner (once again, happening 15 minutes ago in our family) to more serious issues dealing with life-threatening illnesses or even death.

And on numerous occasions we've all heard the exclamation, "Life sucks!"

Well, what's new with that? Life's experiences can be pretty lonely and cruel at time.

Of course, many (most) things in life don't go the way we plan, and if we go running around complaining about this fact---that life isn't all bliss---we certainly will feel robbed. Of course, we must recognize the reality of the pain that comes along with life's challenges, for that is real, and trying to dismiss those feelings doesn't foster understanding either.

Many years ago while our young family was living in Japan, we elated at the future birth of next child. My wife was in the very early stages of pregnancy, and everything seemed to be proceeding as normal until serious medical circumstances arose in which the doctor (who didn't speak English) stated that the baby wouldn't survive. Separated from family for thousands of miles, with few friends, and with a very VERY limited ability to communicate in Japanese, I felt like ominous clouds were drawing around us. For five months, my wife remained in bed with a great deal of uncertainty as to how things would turn out. The waiting game---the gnawing uncertainty---was one of the hardest things to endure for me because we didn't really know what the next day would bring. Life, death? I'm sure many people have suffered similar and even more tragedy than we were going through.

People often ponder of the fact that bad things happen to good people, and yet, for all that we are enduring or have endured, I wouldn't trade any of these experiences because adversity has been a good teacher. Of course, I didn't feel that way in the midst of the specific trail, but having passed through it, I have a clearer and better perspective of things.

Friday, May 19, 2017

I'm growing kids, not tomatoes!

As a parent, you try your hardest at times to make everything just right, and sometimes minor inconveniences can appear to be major catastrophes. This is particularly true when you have limited perspective on how tragic and painful life can be.

While living in Japan years ago, my wife was attempting to raise cherry tomatoes on the balcony of our apartment. It wasn't a major gardening effort, but with space at a premium in Tokyo, my wife wanted to grow a few things to supplement our dinner plate. Then, one day we realized that our 2-year-old daughter had discovered the joy of picking the tomatoes and tossing them down the stairs (and they don't bounce very well either).

Now, while it wasn't a life-threatening scenario, it was somewhat disappointing to us to have missed out on a potentially nice load of delicious tomatoes. Yet, reflecting back on that, her picking them didn't raise the event to a category 5 hurricane. It was one of those things that you just need to brush off and laugh a little.

By doing so in similar situations, anyone might be able to build some resilience when (not if) real dire circumstances blow our way.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Kids are like a Garden

In some ways, tending a garden is like raising kids. You simply can't toss a few seeds out into the garden and then expect some results with out preparing the soil (teaching good principles), watering it as needed (giving constant love and attention), pulling out weeds (correcting our children and protecting them from negative and unhealthy influences, when and where possible), and channeling their energy to grow tall.

In our garden as you see here, we grow our melons vertically using different supports. Melons have the energy to grow just about anywhere, but you have to direct their energy and give them the right support to reach their potential.

Over the years, we have had a good harvest by using this method, but we have to give it proper attention. Kids, in like manner, will flourish with the right amount of teaching, correction, support, and love.