Why it is important to let your kids struggle as they grow up

NOTES FROM THE ALIENATED DAD ON THIS ARTICLE:  One of the key issues I have faced over the years of my marriage (and that are now affecting me as the alienated dad) is the issue of “rescuing my kids” in every situation. I love the approach from this blogger. I think the pernicious trend to bubble-wrap our kids and helicopter parent them will have a huge impact in our society in the future. It already is. I read the other day about a major employer’s HR departments complaints about 20-something hires who had their parents call when they were reprimanded or not promoted in their jobs. Much like they did when their kids played soccer or didn’t get the role in the school musical, they are advocating for their kids even in their 20s.

 

The problem with my viewpoint is that my kids have been taught by their mother to believe that I have this attitude because I don’t love them. “See how much mom loves you, she’ll call and set up a teacher’s conference if you think you’re teacher is being unfair.” Because Dad’s response is to investigate the situation: “What’s going on… Could it be because of X?” instead of just assuming that my son is absolutely correct and the teacher is nefarious.

 

I don’t think I should stop my non-bubble wrap approach, and I won’t, but it’s interesting to me that it’s being used against me. What is love but wanting the best for your children? Is it best that they learn to handle conflict and struggle through their emotional hurdles themselves (with a great parental safety net) or is it more loving for parents to repeatedly bail them out, so they kids have no idea how to navigate the treacherous waters of adulthood?

Empowered Parents by Jayna Haney

cocoon

Have you heard the story of the cocoon and the butterfly?  It is one of my favorite stories, and has helped me to get through the teenage years of our children.  It is rich with lessons about life and growing up (and parenting, as well).

(There are many versions on the web. I found this one at http://instructor.mstc.edu/instructor/swallerm/struggle%20-%20butterfly.htm.)

Once a little boy was playing outdoors and found a fascinating caterpillar. He carefully picked it up and took it home to show his mother. He asked his mother if he could keep it, and she said he could if he would take good care of it.

The little boy got a large jar from his mother and put plants to eat, and a stick to climb on, in the jar. Every day he watched the caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.

One day the caterpillar climbed up the…

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The Power of Play

I’m enjoying a weekend with my 5 and 3-year-old nephew and niece this weekend on a family getaway.  Some time ago, I had heard an interview with a Doctor who specializes in treating people with “play.”   He literally sets up games and fun things to do for family members to do together that would help them see each other in a different light and heal some of the wounds of their pasts.  I searched this morning to see if I could find this book or link it and the best I could find was the link below, but I don’t think it’s from the same guy I’d heard.  The concept was initially child-based, but there was talk in the interview about how adults even benefit from this type of interaction and begin to heal as well.

I think that is definitely true for me.  I was miserable after the altercation with my daughter and ex-wife that resulted in our separation and divorce.  I spent a sleepless night in a hotel room and an anguished day just trying to understand what had happened and praying almost non-stop, when I wasn’t on the phone.  That night a colleague of mine who lived in the town where I was meeting clients the next day had agreed to have dinner to discuss covering her accounts during her maternity leave.  She called at the last-minute and said she couldn’t make it because she had to watch her 5-year-old step-daughter.  I told her to bring Izzy along and we’d have a great time the three of us.  So she did.

My colleague and I got through most of the work stuff without much of an issue while Izzy colored and kept herself busy.  She kept asking questions of me by raising her hand and I would call on her like she was a student.  “You in the yellow top, with the cute curly hair, yes, did you have a question?”  She got the biggest kick out of that and halfway through the meal she slid under the table and joined me on my side.  We kept talking about school, her friends, her future career (hysterical from a 5-year-old perspective) and just genuinely had fun together.  As I was getting ready to leave I asked if I could have a hug goodbye.  So Izzy backed all the way to the rear wall of the booth and ran full speed the length of the booth and threw herself into my arms.  I caught her and swung her around a bit just grinning ear to ear. Then she did the thing every normal 5-year-old does. ” Can I do it again?”  Four times later her step-mom decided it might be causing a distraction in the restaurant and said it was time to go.  I told Izzy that I was incredibly blessed to get “jump-hugs” because those are always the best kind and went back to my hotel and cried for a half hour.  Not necessarily out of sadness, but because I had literally felt like God had gifted me that dinner to help get me through the ordeal.  I literally felt so blessed.

I think that was mostly due to play.  There is something so freeing and innocent and loving about truly playing with someone.  Whether you’re kicking a ball around or climbing a tree or playing a video game or giving piggy back rides, a child can help us break out of the shell of despondency and the self-doubt and recrimination and emerge on the other side a more well-rounded person.

Sports are a form of this, but can often be waylaid by hyper-competitiveness or unrealistic expectations.  I’ve found in my volleyball games that if I spend the night encouraging every good thing I see from others, we all have such a great time together.  It’s only when someone starts ripping on someone else’s playing ability that people get frustrated.  So sports allows some of this healing, too. I’m not any kind of expert on medical things, but the endorphins released during exercise have similar ability to heal emotional wounds.  Running, lifting, getting in shape all help us rise above the emotional pain we are struggling with.  Yes there are times when we need a day curled up in a  fetal position on the couch.  There is a time for everything.  But at some point we need to rise from the couch and get active.  There’s freedom, growth, healing in that activity.  Go play today…

Jim

The Church and divorce

English: An illustration from Fables in Rhyme ...

In the process of the divorce I am discovering something very sad about our churches.  They are built for women and this is never more obvious than during the divorce proceedings.

I see statistics all the time about how men are not attending church as much as they used to and that women are still pretty committed to churches.  I think that is partly because of the wussy way we portray Jesus (meek and mild, holding little lambs, wearing a dress, etc.).  For those who have read John Eldredge, Walter Wangerin and Philip Yancey, you’ll understand a very different view of Jesus.  Most of the solid Christian men I know are NOT this kind of man, they are strong and wise and work out and love football and aren’t wimpy.

Yet in the church, we have a ton of women’s ministry things and very few men’s offerings.

We tend to overprotect our kids in the kids program and not allow room for adventure or (God Forbid) any kind of risk or danger.  As any boy knows, the memories we have of growing up always involve both risk and danger.  Why does the church have to be so safe all the time?  No wonder many men don’t want to keep coming back.  I’m not talking about safety things like sign-ins or security issues, but I am talking about how we sit and talk about everything, but don’t often experience things.  Guys are all about experience.  When we do sit and talk small groups, we get bored and want to do something about it.  Maybe mixing in the sit and talk with the get out and do in a 50/50 environment would be helpful?

Since this is a blog about alienated Dads, it might help to get back into the real reason for noticing this now.  Part of the “safety” of the church is convincing Dads to be safe and side with their wives during any divorce situation around them.  I joke with my (new) friends about “losing my church in the divorce.”  But it is not a joke.  I am serious.  I led a small group for 3 years for couples, I led a small group of jr high boys for 2 years.  I worked in the children’s ministry for 3 years.  I was INVOLVED in my church.  I knew a ton of people who were my friends, who knew my wife, who’s kids were friends with my kids.

Interestingly enough, as close as I was to the men in my small group, only one of them (my best friend) has reached out to me in any way over the months since the separation.

Please understand, I am not bitter about this.  I’m a bit saddened by it and frustrated with it, but I totally understand why.  I was in the same boat before my separation.  What is “safe” for men is to NOT get involved, to NOT try to understand both sides of the story.  Why?  Because that could breed conflict with their wives.  It didn’t matter that I was closer to the men than my wife was to the women.  I would do lunch with them, work on projects with them, go to retreats with them.  My ex-wife wouldn’t do any of these things.  She really only interacted with these women at church or in the shared events with the kids.

Yet when the separation occurred, I think largely because the kids stayed with their mom, all of these friends immediately rallied around my ex-wife, and completely abandoned me.  In the same way, none, literally NONE of the people I have worked under in ministry in the church have reached out to me one time to check on me or to help.

I think I’m finally writing about this because I’m not angry anymore about it.  I think I understand the whys behind it.  It’s less painful and scary to just have a “goat” in the equation.  “This marriage ended because of Jim’s actions.”  While we all intuitively know that there are two sides to one story, but it is much easier to live on one side of the equation.  There’s a lot less cognitive dissonance that way.

For those not familiar with the term, Cognitive Dissonance is the ability to carry two thoughts that are opposing in your head at the same time without your head exploding.  I’m a Celtic fan, but I can appreciate that LeBron is a great player.  I voted for Romney, but I see value in some of Obama’s ideas.  I believe in traditional marriage, but have friends that are gay.

It is much easier in churches to drink the kool-aid completely and not allow room for variance.  Even in the examples above, the people that don’t value Obama ideas, or don’t even like gays seem to be more acceptable than those who can live in a world that allows competing and different thoughts.  Here’s the aha about all of this.  Jesus LIVED this.  “Go and Sin no more” to the lady in adultery.  He LOVED her, yet encouraged her to leave her sin.  “While we were yet sinners, Christ loved us.”  Jesus does this constantly.  He is not only able to carry these competing thoughts in his head, he seems to relish it.  It is so countercultural and so unusual, it makes him stand out significantly from the rest of the world.  And this is the example that we should also carry.

I’m working on this with my ex-wife as well.  There were many, many things done against me and to help ruin our marriage that are very difficult to comprehend.  I can’t imagine treating someone I love in the way I was treated.  Yet I am working very hard to not see myself as a victim or to not blame her for the failure of the marriage.  It does take two people to make a marriage and two people to break one up.

I think the hard part of what I experience at the church is that this Cognitive Dissonance is a much harder road to navigate than the blame one, support the other road.  It is always easier to judge than to be understanding.

The church I have landed at is literally “designed for men.”  This is a quote I found online about it.  They literal floor plan and architecture is built to help men feel at home.  I do agree that it is very cool in the way it looks.  But this also extends to opportunities for men — to serve in traffic control, rebuilding cars, doing construction projects, etc.  There are also many, many places for Women, and I haven’t yet seen how the youth or children’s ministries are structured, but it is a good start.  I have mentioned to a couple of new friends about going through a divorce and the first comment both times was, “We’re not here to judge, just to help you get through it.”

How refreshing that is.  So I’m not giving up on the church, but I am struggling with how to advise churches about how to get out of this “siding with one spouse” tradition and helping them provide a place for both to work through the divorce and emerge stronger on the other side.

A long walk of Obedience

English: The Long Walk, Windsor. This photo is...
English: The Long Walk, Windsor. This photo is looking south down the Long Walk. It is very popular for walkers, joggers and picnicers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I heard a message one time that compared Holiness to a long walk of obedience in the same direction.  The implication was that there might be slight detours on the way or pauses in the journey or stops and starts or even back tracking, but that the journey to live like Jesus lived is a long journey.

I was reminded of this as I was telling a friend recently about a soccer game experience with my kids this last week.  Both kids had games at different locations, about 60 miles apart, so I knew the ex would be at the youngest child’s game because she had to drive him.  My oldest had told me in a text message earlier in the week that she wasn’t going to go to the game.  I suspected (turns out rightly) that she was telling me this so I wouldn’t go and she’d planned all along to play — after all it was her last game of the season.

So I went to her game, thinking if she wasn’t there I’d just drive up to the son’s game and be a bit late.  When I saw her vehicle, I got out my chair and made my way to the field to watch and met some of the other parents near me and got settled in.  As the scoring started, I texted the ex to keep her update on the progress.  My daughter got hit by another player in the head near the goal and I relayed that information (she was fine and popped right back up).  Later at the end of the game, she tweaked her knee or something so I communicated that as well.  There was a lot of scoring, so there were probably ten texts that I sent to the ex.  Very short ones.  I think it took almost to midway through the 2nd half to get a text response about the scoring in my son’s game.  I asked how he was doing and didn’t get a response to that.

As I’m telling my friend this, she says to me, “Why are you doing this?  You’re not going to get positive responses.”  I said I had figured as much, but I thought it was the right thing to do.  I would want to know how the other game was going, so I was sure she would as well.  It’s the Golden Rule, right?  Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

My friend was a bit incredulous.  “But it’s like you know you’re going to get rejected and you do it anyway.”  I hadn’t thought of it like that, but I just replied that this is who I am.  I am who I am regardless of the negative reactions from the family.  I’m not going to be a different man because of the negativity and anger coming from that side.  As I have done all year, I texted my daughter after the game and congratulated her on a well-played, hard-fought game.  About 2 hours later (true to normal form), I got a text back from her saying she doesn’t want me at her games or my texts.  I did not respond.  Again, I’m not doing that to get a good response from her today.  I know that won’t happen.  I’m going to her games and texting her because that’s who I am.  It’s what I do.  I’m not going to stop doing good things for her just because she is frustrated with it.  At some point in her life, I hope and pray she can look back and see that in spite of the anger she showed to her Dad, her Dad loved her in word and action continually.  I never stopped.

But even if that day doesn’t happen, I will still be the man that God has made me to be.  I will still write her notes, go to her games, be there for her important days, love her as only a Daddy can.

It’s a long walk in the same direction.

Tips On How To Deal With Stress In Family Court

Great notes about how to Handle stressful court situations. Hope to have this at hand for next week’s sessions.

About The Children, LLC's Blog

Parents Under Duress

            Often times in family law parents are put through the ringer in terms of the stress involved in fighting for custody of their children. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of parents who have been going to court over the same issue for years because their ex keeps bringing it into the court room or they are constantly violating the court order that was originally established or a myriad of other reasons that can cause family legal cases to get drawn out unnecessarily. The best thing you can do for yourself if you find yourself in a stressful court situation is to keep your head straight and your facts straight. Here are some tips for parents going through the family court process and finding the opposition increasingly difficult to deal with.

  • Hold Fast. It’s not uncommon for a mother or father to go to court over…

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