Sultan of Swat

This is a tough post to write but I’m going ahead with it because one of the reasons I started this blog about being a Stay At Home Dad was to use it as a way to be reflective about what I’m doing as a parent. To learn from both the successes and the failures. Over the 14 years I’ve been a SAHD (and the six years before that as a middle school teacher) I’ve done a pretty decent job of keeping my cool. I’m a pretty laid-back guy and I try my best to be patient with everyone, especially my children. Any parent knows that kids can really test you and pester you and do stuff that shouldn’t get on your nerves, but it still does. It’s my experience that this is exacerbated for the at-home parent of small children who often deals with the seemingly endless requests to do this or that from the moment the little ones wake up until the moment they (finally!) go to sleep. Sure, I try to get my little ones to learn patience but, well, herding cats sometimes seems like it might be easier.

Well, rewind to a few days ago, Thursday, to be exact. It was a routine Spring day for us that was highlighted by a trip to a local park to enjoy some of the nice weather.

Playing at the park

Playing at the park

We had an early dinner without my wife, who stayed late to work, so we could be on time to meet her at my 15 year old daughter’s high school water polo game at 6:20 pm. Even though my M, four year old, very thoughtfully served some spaghetti to J, her 22 month old sister, while I finished cooking dinner (yeah, that onesie may not ever come clean), we were on target to leave the house to be, gasp!, ten minutes early for the game. The final hurdle to conquer was changing the J’s diaper. Piece of cake for this seasoned veteran. Or so I thought. As I laid J down on the changing table I noticed M trying to climb up the end of it. I asked her to please get down. Moments later M was standing bedside me at the changing table, trying to tickle her sister. I asked her to please stop. (I’m patient and well-mannered, thankyouverymuch!) Within the next 30 seconds as I was trying to wipe J’s butt and place the clean diaper under her I must have asked M three or four more times to please stop poking, tickling or otherwise prodding her sister because every time she did that her sister would twist her body impossibly as only toddlers on changing tables can do and I’d have to rearrange the diaper all over again. Exhale. I could feel myself getting a little worked up as I asked, for the sixth time in about a minute and a half, for M to Please. Stop. Touching. Her.

SWAT! 

8d8718e763a4a1392f460e9efec731ed35ea1a2eThat’s what I did to her hand as she reached to poke, tickle or prod her sister that one last time. It wasn’t a “hit”, but it might as well have been. And in that moment of frustration I lost my patience with my adorable four year old and violated one of my cardinal rules of parenting: never, ever, under any circumstances, lay a hand on my child in anger or frustration. I felt like smelly poo. How could I have done this to my child? She pulled her hand back and looked into my eyes, giant tears already forming in her eyes. Not as much from the physical pain but more from the fact that I’d swatted her hand out of frustration. I dropped to a knee to be at her eye level and immediately told her how very wrong it was for me to do that to her and I asked her earnestly to forgive me. Through her tears she nodded yes and, as we embraced, hot tears flowed from my eyes as they burned my cheeks. We talked about it some more right then as I finished getting the diaper on J and while we headed to the car.

It’s been just over 48 hours since I became, in my own mind at least, the Sultan of Swat. And I’ve been beating myself up over my lack of self-control and momentary lapse the whole time. It cannot happen again. Period. There is no room to justify my actions by thinking, “If she had listened in the first place…” Nope. Not even remotely an excuse. Yet, I have to be able to forgive myself in order to move on. M forgave me so now I need to do the same. Yet, I can still learn from this experience. While I am a pretty patient parent, I need to realize that I do, indeed, have a breaking point. If/when I feel myself approaching that point I need to do an internal “lemon squeeze” like my kids were taught in elementary school or slowly count to ten. Looking back on this particular incident, I should have counted M using the 1-2-3 Magic discipline system that we’ve used with all of our children for the last 15+ years. (I think I’m going to reread that book this week.) Had I done that, the situation would not have escalated and there would have been no swat. In the end, I have to learn from this mistake, forgive myself and remember that I’m not perfect. After all, imperfection is part of the human condition.

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Dad on Strike?

I was recently contacted by a representative of the Steve Harvey Show to see if I would be interested in appearing on his show.

Hi there! My name is Michelle and I work at Steve Harvey show. We are doing a segment called “Dad on Strike”. We are looking for stay at home Dads who feel that their family is taking them for granted and they want to go on strike! Do you know anyone who would be interested in coming on the show for this? Please feel free to contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx  for more info. Thanks, Michelle

Huh? I thought Steve Harvey was a comedian and host of Family Feud. I didn’t even know that there was a Steve Harvey Show! So, I looked online and found a little more info about this topic. Below is a screen capture from his website.

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Steve Harvey

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Aha! That’s the hook. They’re looking for Stay At Home Dads who don’t feel appreciated who would be willing to go on strike and then talk about it on national television. My experience as a SAHD for 14 years has taught me many things, chief among them is the fact that a career as an at-home parent (dad or mom) is vastly under-appreciated by both our families and society in general. I think know that feeling needed and appreciated is a real need for all people, regardless of their chosen profession. images-3I also know that many people think that it’s enough to just do your job without anyone telling you “good job” or “thank you”. While it’s true that doing a good job is a reward in and of itself, knowing that others appreciate you for what you’re doing is important. I know that when I was teaching (my career before being a SAHD) I often heard from my students, their parents, other teachers or my supervising principal that I was doing a good job; that my students spoke very highly of me as their teacher. As a SAHD I rarely ever get that type of positive feedback about my “job performance”. In fact, the feedback that I often get from my kids is along the lines of whining or complaining. “Dad, I want you to get me this Barbie doll? PLEAAAASE?!” “Dad, why can’t I watch a movie? NOW!” “Why do we have to eat this for dinner? Can’t we just order pizza?” If you’re a parent you know what it sounds like. And you know that you never hear your kids say, “Thanks, Dad, for making me eat veggies so I don’t get backed up” or “Thanks, Dad, for loving me even when I was being a total turd.” or “I appreciate you, Dad.” Okay, maybe that last one a little bit on Father’s Day… You get the point, though.

So, yeah, getting that invite from the Steve Harvey Show to go on strike and then talk about it on national television…um, NO THANKS! What’s not to love about an offer to damage both my career and marriage in one fell swoop? To loosely quote former President George Bush, “Not gonna do it. It wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.” The reality is that I wouldn’t go and rag on my family for not showing me enough appreciation. Could they show me more? Sure. But could I show them more appreciation as well? You bet! I’m trying to be the husband and father that my family needs me to be because it’s the right thing for my family. I don’t do it for any awards or recognition. A simple show of genuine appreciation such a kind word or hug is enough. I’m trying to teach my children how to be thankful for others and to remember to show them appreciation every day. I’m convicted and reminded that I need to be better in this area, particularly in modeling this attitude of appreciation toward my own wife and kids. Sometimes it’s easy to forget to recognize the positives when I’m in the middle of the daily grind of raising a large family. Always operating in the mindset of what needs to be done next. images-1Yet, I know that I’m certainly motivated by simple acts of gratitude and genuine appreciation. There have been a handful of times over the last few years as my children have grown up and matured that they’ve told me how thankful they are that I’m their father. Those precious conversations are the fuel for my daddying-soul. They encourage me to keep on doing my daddying to the best of my ability.

So, this SAHD is not going on strike. No job slowdown, either. I’m not looking for more drama or politics in my workplace (I tried to leave that behind when I “retired” from teaching in 2002, at age 29). If the Steve Harvey Show or any other media would like to interview some pretty awesome dads I’d be more than happy to not only be interviewed but also to hook them up with some of the hundreds of amazing dads, both SAHDs and non-SAHDs, who are doing a great job changing the face of modern fatherhood.

I would like to challenge you, my readers, to take a moment each day to tell at least one person how much you appreciate him or her. Let me know if it makes a difference to the other person…or you!

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Dalai Lama

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McDonald’s Playplace Judgement

On a recent Tuesday morning my four year old daughter woke up and promptly announced “I’m bored of staying home and want to go do something today.” As I’m the Stay At Home Dad she knew that would normally be music to my ears. Except that a couple of our normal go-to places (children’s museum and zoo/aquarium) were closed that day of the week. And it was too rainy and chilly for the park. So, I decided that it would be fun to bring the girls (and their 10 year old brother who is homeschooled) to a nearby McDonald’s Indoor Playplace after running a couple errands later that morning. We arrived there just after the noon rush to find about four other families eating and playing. Since my 4 1/2 year old is friendly and not at all shy she immediately found two other girls to play with.

My baby was excited to finally be big enough for the play equipment.

My baby was excited to finally be big enough for the play equipment.

My 1 1/2 y.o. adventurously climbed into and up the play structure and was making delighted squeals as she was finally big enough to go with the bigger kids. After I brought my kids their food they came back to our table to eat. Only there was one extra kid, another 4 y.o. girl I’ll call Z. She hopped right up next to my daughter and asked if she could share my daughter’s lunch. In my 14 years as a SAHD this was a new one for me. While I want my children to share, it’s unusual for someone else’s child to ask for food at a Playplace. I responded as nicely as I could, so as to not upset this little girl, saying, “I only bought enough food for my two girls so you should go ask your own mommy or daddy for some. I don’t know if you’re allowed to eat what we’re having.”

Without missing a beat Z responded, quite matter-of-factly, “My mommy doesn’t get me any food here. She says I should share with my friends.” I looked up to see her mom sitting at a booth about 20 feet away, completely absorbed in her phone call, as she had been since we had arrived. I noticed that Z was telling me this while she was chewing an apple slice we had “shared” with her. A moment later Z and my daughter bounded off to the play structure and played together some more. Minutes later my daughter announced (rather loudly, I might add) that she had to go potty. I picked up my toddler and held my older daughter’s hand as I opened the door to leave the play area and walk to the restroom. At that point I noticed that Z was trying to tag along to the bathroom with us. Again, as gently as possible, I told Z that she would have to ask her own mommy to take her to the bathroom. I couldn’t do that for her. Of course Z was already through the door, standing barefoot in the busy counter area. Thankfully, she complied and went back to her mom as we continued to the men’s room. As we were entering the stall inside the men’s room Z bounded in the main door to the restroom, followed by her mother. Still on her phone. In the men’s room! After passing the urinals she finally realized her error and exclaimed that they were in the men’s room and needed to leave. I chuckled a little bit at the absurdity of the situation. Judging her just a little bit as a bad parent.

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As we walked back into the play area and my daughters resumed their fun on the play structure, I was convicted of my own hypocrisy in thinking bad thoughts about this other parent. What did I know about her or her daughter? Had I made any effort to communicate with her? Sure, she was on her phone, talking or texting the entire time we had been there, but still, who was I to judge her? A couple of minutes later she finished her phone activity so I walked over near her table and began a conversation with her that went something like this:

Me: Hi. It appears our daughters are hitting it off pretty well. I just wanted to let you know about something that happened earlier. Your daughter asked to share some of my daughters’ food but I didn’t know if that would be okay with you.

Her: That’s fine. She can have anything.

Me: Oh. Well, she had an apple slice or two. But she appeared to still be hungry. Would it be okay if I got her something more to eat? Maybe a Happy Meal or something?

Her: Yeah. That would be great.

Me: Would you like anything?

Her: No. I’m fine.

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At that moment I realized how wrong I had been to judge this mom. I didn’t know her or her situation. We just happened to be there at the same time with our children. Maybe my purpose in being there at that time on that day wasn’t to be a judgy sanctimonious jerk but rather to do something nice for that little girl and her mom. I contemplated that as I walked to the counter to order a six piece chicken nuggets Happy Meal for little Z. After a few short minutes I brought the food back into the play area and handed it to the mom. She smiled at me and asked if we came there often, making an effort to have a conversation. We talked a bit more and she told me that they came to McDonald’s almost every day after her daughter was done with school since it’s only a few blocks away from her school. Then Z came over to eat her meal and asked her mom where the food came from. Her mom told her that I had gotten it for her and asked her daughter to thank me. After a few moments of hesitation she did as her mother had requested. My daughter asked me why I had gotten Z her own Happy Meal and I told her, simply, that Z seemed hungry and it was a nice thing to do for her. She was satisfied with that answer and happily played with her new friend once she had finished her food. As we got ready to leave my daughter gave Z a hug goodbye and said, as only she can, “Bye, friend. Hope to see you again!”.

Reflecting on that day almost a week later I’m bothered by how easily I started to judge this mom and her child. I’m sure we all do it every day. I know that I do. I also know that I shouldn’t. Instead of judging I’m going to try to be more compassionate and understanding of what others are going through. After all, that’s what I hope my children will do when they meet others. If I don’t do it, how can I possibly expect it of them? Thanks for the lesson, McDonald’s. I’m lovin’ it!

Finding Nora

My oldest daughter, Nora, age 19, is no longer with us. Not that way not with us. Just not here.

My three redheads just before Nora left with her guitar for Toowoomba

My three redheads just before Nora left with her guitar for Toowoomba

I brought her to the airport in Seattle on January 20th and watched her saunter off through security to her airplane that would take her first to San Francisco, and then across the Pacific to Sydney, Australia. Her final destination was Toowoomba, Australia. To get there she flew from Sydney to Brisbane and then took a bus to Toowoomba. (Go ahead, say it out loud. You’re guaranteed to smile. It’s a fun word to say.) She’s on a semester-long quest to find out how God wants to use her and her amazing musical talents. She even started a blog to share her journey with others. You can check it out by clicking this link to Nora’s Blog. Here’s a quote from her first entry.

I’m part of a program for the next five months called “Music and Worship Discipleship Training School” (DTS). The DTS is run by Youth With A Mission Toowoomba (YWAM). For the first three months of the DTS, we’ll be studying the Word and diving deeper into a multi-faceted understanding of God. The remaining two months will be spent serving the city of Toowoomba as well as going with an outreach team to evangelize and be the hands and feet of Jesus in Southeast Asia. My DTS consists of 34 students from all over the world and 24 passionate leaders who give generously of their time and resources to teach us. I’m blown away by the fact that our leaders took up unpaid positions just because they genuinely care about us and want to spread the word of Jesus.

Youth With A Mission believes in championing young people everywhere. Orientation weekend was so great because I was able to connect with all of my fellow classmates and learn about the various cultures represented here in Toowoomba. Our leaders have emphasized that God doesn’t called the qualified; rather, He qualifies the called. No matter what place we come from in society, whether we have a degree or not, God qualifies us to do His good works. We can glorify Him in any job, any country, and in all circumstances. 

I’m guessing that some of you are wondering why I’m putting such religious stuff in my blog about being a Stay At Home Dad. Well, I’m not trying to push anything on your or preach. Nope, I’m just a proud papa sharing some really great news about his oldest kid. As a parent, and specifically as a SAHD, I’ve spent countless hours with Nora since she was born almost 20 years ago. I’ve had moments of success and moments that were learning experiences of how not to parent. We’ve shared thousands of laughs, many tears and many more triumphs. As the eldest, Nora was the one who blazed the trail for her five siblings. And by blazed the trail I mean bore the brunt of my parenting learning curve. Yet, miraculously, it appears I may not have screwed her up as badly as I thought. She’s a pretty awesome person and is following her heart and her faith by going to Australia. I’m grateful for the young woman she has become and excited to see what will be her next step after this semester. If you’re of the praying persuasion please keep her in your thoughts and prayers these next few months. I’m sure she would be encouraged by a positive word on her blog as well.

Ultimately, what’s really enjoyable for me as a parent is to watch my children grow and become more independent, knowing that I played a significant role in their development. Sometimes I get to see it when my youngest (19 months old) listens to me and doesn’t reach into the toilet while I’m rinsing her soiled cloth diaper and sometimes I get to see it from half a world away when my eldest (19 years old) is attending school in Australia. It puts the daily ups and downs of parenting into a little bit broader perspective, especially if you’re a parent of only younger children. What you’re doing now is worth it! Keep it up! G’day, mate!

Moments before Nora left for her journey to Australia

Moments before Nora left for her journey to Australia. Time for one last selfie!

PS-If any of you are interested in sending a care package to Nora, the only address I know for Australia is:

P. Sherman

42 Wallaby Way

Sydney

I guess you’d have to contact her through her blog (or message me) to get the actual one.

The Hug That Defined My Teaching Career

“Can I give you a hug?” It was a simple question, really, spoken by a person who was trying to extend compassion to someone who was hurting. Yet, simply asking that question meant taking a huge risk, possibly putting a young career in jeopardy. It was 1996. I was barely 24 years old, just over a month into my second year as a teacher. I had gotten to school early that morning to prepare for my first hour science class. It was 7:15 am, which meant that I had roughly 35 minutes of peace and quiet before students were allowed in the building. At about 7:25 I heard some crying from the hallway just outside my classroom door. I discovered a girl standing in front of her open locker, sobbing uncontrollably. This girl was in my first hour class, and I asked her what was going on. She was barely able to communicate through sobs that some of the kids on the bus that morning had been making fun of her and said some pretty mean and hurtful things to her about her appearance. I had flashbacks to my own childhood, in which a lot of my classmates had made some pretty mean comments about my big ears and about that one time I had been mean to a classmate. I knew her pain all too well. I invited her to come into my classroom to get herself together before everyone else arrived. I handed her a box of tissues and kept on getting ready for the lab we were going to do that day in class. After a few minutes her sobs became more sighs, but she was still obviously hurting. As a young teacher I thought that I was ready and able to take on whatever challenges I would face in the classroom. I was wrong. There had been nothing in my own education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to prepare me for this particular moment.

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Not knowing what else to do, I sat on a chair near her and asked her if she wanted to talk about it. She didn’t. Yet, when I looked into her eyes I could see that she was barely keeping it together, the tears still welling up. I couldn’t just let this girl suffer like this. What was I supposed to do? In that moment a bunch of thoughts whizzed through my head. It was obvious that this girl needed a hug, some reassurance, some humanity. But, if I gave her a hug I could get fired for “inappropriate contact” with a student, right? Or maybe get hauled off to jail? Bye-bye, teaching career. Bye-bye wife and young daughter. Seriously, those thoughts were going through my mind at that moment. Instead, I looked at this girl as someone’s daughter who needed some help to get through her own teenage crisis. So, I pushed the negative thoughts aside and mustered as much courage as I could as I asked her, “Could I give you a hug?”. She nodded and we embraced. At that time my own daughter was only two so I had never known what it was like for a young adult to literally melt into your embrace. After what seemed like several minutes but was actually probably only 15-30 seconds she took a big breath and sat down again. Only, she looked at me with what appeared to be a slight smile, a marked change from moments before. She excused herself to the bathroom to wash off her face and returned a few minutes later all ready for the school day to begin.

I was glad that she was feeling so much better but still very nervous about what had just happened. Had I crossed some line by giving her a hug? I reassured myself that I had done nothing wrong by showing her some kindness and compassion in her time of need. I was actually feeling pretty good about it when I received a voice mail from her mother the next day. I nervously played the message from her and was greatly relieved when she thanked me for being so kind and understanding. It put my mind at ease that I had done the right thing. A few weeks later I met her parents in person at Parent-Teacher Conferences. The first thing that they brought up was this specific incident and thanked me again for my thoughtful actions. As we talked more I learned that their daughter’s Bat Mitzvah was coming up in a few weeks. Having been raised in a Christian home I had no idea of the amount of preparation by the child that goes into such an event. They graciously extended an invitation for my wife and I to attend the ceremony. It was an eye-opening opportunity for me to learn more about my students and another culture that I doubt would have happened if not for “the hug”.

Looking back on this incident from nearly 20 years ago I think that “the hug” was really a career-defining moment for me as a teacher. It showed me the importance of being real with my students. I had heard some professor during undergrad talk about the importance of developing rapport with students and he tossed out one of my favorite quotes

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. -Theodore Roosevelt

This particular experience perfectly illustrated his point for me. I had been told by some older, more veteran teachers, that I was being too “real” with my students. That they would only respect me if I kept them at arm’s length. Don’t ever let them really know you. Yet, that wasn’t me at all. One of the things that I loved about teaching was the relationships that I could build with my students over the course of the year. I truly wanted to make a difference in their lives and I felt that would only happen if I showed them my humanity; showed them that I cared.

Before writing this post I contacted the girl I wrote about above. Of course, she’s no longer a “girl” because, well, that was 1996. We talked on the phone about this incident and how it impacted her life. She agreed to let me use her first name but I sensed some hesitation so I’m not going name her. Interestingly enough, she is a teacher herself. She told me that there were three teachers, one in elementary school, one in middle school (guess who?!) and one in high school that really impacted her in a positive way. She lives in a major city on the East Coast and teaches third grade. She said that she, too, has discovered the importance and value of being real with her students, something that she learned way back in middle school. I have to admit that it made me a little nostalgic for my teaching career. I miss the relational aspect of it. But not enough to give up my current gig. (Not even close.)

Finally, while I believe that “the hug” was a defining moment in my teaching career, I know that it has also impacted my career as a Stay At Home Dad. I try to show my kids how much I care every single day. Sometimes it’s a hug, sometimes an encouraging word, sometimes just a safe place to let them vent. All I know is the importance of being real with them. I’ve worked hard to establish a trust and rapport with them so that they will feel comfortable with bringing big stuff to me for us to deal with. Together.

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Spanking the Time-Out Away?

Another Stay At Home Dad that I’m friends with posted a link to a TIME magazine article entitled Time-Outs Are Hurting Your Child, which essentially makes the case for eliminating the use of the popular child-discipline technique of the time-out. You can read the article for yourself by clicking here. That got me to thinking about all of the news over the last month covering Adrian Peterson’s arrest and indictment on child-abuse charges for beating his four year old son with a switch. Peterson has publicly stated that he uses that form of discipline because it’s the same thing he endured as a child growing up in East Texas and that it taught him discipline. Of course, there are plenty of studies that decry the effectiveness of physical punishment. In an article from the American Psychological Association it was noted that

Many studies have shown that physical punishment — including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems for children. Americans’ acceptance of physical punishment has declined since the 1960s, yet surveys show that two-thirds of Americans still approve of parents spanking their kids.

Interestingly enough, just last week I had a conversation with six other friends about this exact topic. I mentioned that I was spanked as a child and it didn’t cause me to become aggressive, antisocial or develop any other issues mentioned in studies like the one above. Interestingly enough, the five men and one woman in the group also all experienced some form of physical punishment as children and none of them (to my knowledge) had experienced problems related to their punishment. In fact, most shared stories of a parent or teacher or coach who laid down the law in a manner that wouldn’t be tolerated in 2014.

In my house on Quarry Lane my parents had the rod. It was a 2-3 foot long wooden dowel, maybe the diameter of a dime, that sat atop the refrigerator in the kitchen, ominously peeking at us from above. My parents believed in the Bible verse that says

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. (Proverbs 13:24)

When I was a child, I got spanked. Not often. But for the big stuff. Maybe a handful of times my whole childhood. And every single time I deserved it. I learned from it. I stopped the behavior that warranted the spanking and made better choices. I did not become physically aggressive as a result. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m anything but antisocial. But, that flies in the face of the quote above. So, why did that physical punishment not affect me so negatively? I’ve thought about this answer quite a bit, especially over the last month or so since the Peterson story broke. I think it’s because my father, at least when he spanked me (I cannot speak for my three siblings), did it the right way. He never did it out of anger or in the heat of the moment. Instead, what usually happened is that my mom (who was a SAHM) would catch me doing something really bad and I got sent to my room to wait until my dad came home from work. Once he got home my mom would talk to him about what I had done and then he would come get me from my room and we’d go to my parents’ room. Sitting on the edge of the bed my father would instruct me to lay over the flat area of his quads. Before he spanked me he told me a few things. “Carl, I’m doing this because I love you and want to correct  (fill in the blank bad behavior) . I know you’re probably not going to understand this until you have children of your own, but spanking you hurts me more than you.” With that he would tell me the number of spanks I would get (usually 5-6) and do the deed. He never pulled my underwear down and he never swatted my bottom more than the number of times he told me. And I never saw him spank me in anger. In fact, after the spankings, while my butt was still sore, I would give him a hug and then go and apologize to my mom or whoever I had wronged. Once that was completed my punishment was over. (Except for the one time that I was grounded for 10 days for making a fire on some rocks so close to the house that some of the aluminum siding was warped. But that’s another story.)

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From my spankings I learned a few things. First, I learned that what I had done was wrong and needed to never happen again. I needed to change my behavior. Second, I learned that my parents loved me enough to discipline me to correct my behavior. And third, I learned that I still needed to apologize for my actions after receiving my spankings. I didn’t learn that it was okay to hit other people or be physically aggressive toward them. I didn’t learn that “might makes right”. I didn’t learn that violence was the answer. I wasn’t damaged physically or mentally because of the spankings. But, here’s the thing. Even with my positive experiences with spanking my wife and I chose years ago to not spank our children. She didn’t have such a glowing experience with corporal punishment as a child and I also saw my dad spank my little sister one time the wrong way. She was a toddler and he was spanking her to try to make her stop crying. Obviously, it didn’t work and all it did was send him into further anger. Thankfully, he stopped before taking it any farther, but it was enough to scar/scare me to really question its effectiveness. Obviously, it was his problem and he wasn’t doing it properly. But, I believe it goes to show the slippery slope of physical punishment on children. All it takes is one time where the parent loses it – just for a few moments – and the spankings become beatings and a situation like the one Mr. Peterson is facing.

Please hear me when I say that in no way do I support what Peterson did to his son in beating him so severely with a switch that he left cuts on the boy’s back, arms, neck and testicle. I understand that he had good intentions but he lost it as a father when the discipline transformed into child abuse. He’s a small and very strong man who gets paid millions of dollars to play a violent sport. I’m a tall and very strong (not the same as Peterson, of course) man who gets paid millions of kisses to be a SAHD. Yet, I’ve come to realize that I can discipline my children without spanking (or beating) them. I think that the key to the success of my father’s spanking is the same as my success of not spanking. It’s relationship. Even while being disciplined, I knew that I was loved and could trust my father to not hurt me. Like my father, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I yell at my kids. But I don’t hit them. I love them. I take the time to correct their behavior when needed. We’ve used 1-2-3 Magic Parenting with some success since my oldest was a toddler. She’s now 19. I look at her and my other kids, ages 15, 12, 10, 4 and 1, and note with a great deal of humility and thankfulness that they’re all pretty good people. Sure, they have their moments of sibling conflict, but they’re all pretty polite and kind and helpful most of the time. I love them and I even like them! I’d like to think that being at home with them for the last 14 years has had an impact in shaping them as the individuals they’re becoming today. Helping to guide them through conflict into a place of peace can be difficult. Tiresome. Yet, in the end, it’s worth it. My kids are living proof of it.

Happy Birthday to Me! (42 Things For Which I Am Thankful)

It’s almost 1 am here in Washington and my four year old is still going strong thanks to a long late-afternoon nap. If you’re a parent you know the double-edged sword of such a nap. My wife told her that she could watch a movie if Daddy stayed downstairs with her (um, thanks?). She unloaded the dishwasher and practiced writing her name (part of the deal) and ran to the sofa, requesting me to get Netflix on for her viewing pleasure. While she’s snuggled in her sleeping bad watching My Little Pony I decided to make some late-night Mt. Dew lemonade out of these here lemons. Oh, and it happens to be my birthday today. Thanks, Mom, for having me on this date in 1972, just a few miles away from where I now live. Crazy how life works like that! Back to my lemonade. I’m going to try to stay awake to compose a list of things for which I’m thankful, one for each year I’ve been alive. The order is going to be pretty random as it’s now past 1 am.

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Just past midnight birthday selfie. That’s our family’s birthday hat. (Obviously.)

Forty-two things for which I am thankful.

  1. My parents. Duh. They had me! Thanks.
  2. My wife. She’s put up with  loved me for over half my life.
  3. My children. All six of them. They fill every day with so much love and laughter.
  4. Being tall. Usually a pretty good thing. Except when I hit my head on a door frame. Or take out a light fixture on a cruise ship.
  5. My English teachers (I must be tired) who told me that I wrote well and encouraged me to write. Even if it took me over 20 years to heed their advice and start writing regularly here.
  6. Netflix. I’m too tired to actually parent right now. Thanks for the small break.
  7. Headphones for my iPhone so that I can listen to my music instead of the awful music and dialog of My Little Pony.
  8. Sunshine. You won’t hear me complain about the sun and heat (even now in mid-September) because I know the cloudy and rainy season is coming soon enough.
  9. Rain. Seriously. I don’t have to shovel it like all that snow that I had to take care of when we lived in Wisconsin.
  10. Football. I know, there’s been a lot of bad press lately about some awful actions by some players. But, I still love to watch my Green Bay Packers. Glad my kids like to watch with me as well.
  11. Christmas music. Guess what I’m listening to right now? Pentatonix PTXmas. Amazing any time of year.
  12. Trains. Just heard one blowing its horn. Reminds me of growing up in Neenah, Wisconsin, and hearing trains at all hours of the day and night.
  13. My bed. Where I should be now. It’s so comfy and warm. And long enough for me. Unlike this comfy sofa.
  14. My sense of humor. I crack myself up daily. I’m hilarious. Seriously. (See what I did there?)
  15. My church. I look forward to going every Sunday and am so glad that my kids also are excited to go with me. Speaks volumes about the kind of community and ministry there.
  16. Leftovers for dinner. That means that we are so blessed to be able to have extra food from a previous meal. It also means that they kids are guaranteed to complain about the menu of “leftovers for dinner”.
  17. The dishwasher. It was broken for six weeks when we first moved here almost three years ago. Enough said.
  18. Dishes, pots, pans, or knives that can’t go through the dishwasher.
  19. FaceTime. It’s not the same as in-person, but it’s a great and affordable way to catch up with family and friends.
  20. Indoor plumbing. I cannot imagine how horrible it would’ve been to have to use an outhouse every day. I mean, where would I find any private time to read? (I’m laughing. Told you I was tired.)
  21. Camping. Ususally at a state park. Although, my son is currently in our large family tent just outside our house. For the 10th night in a row. Accompanied by our dog.
  22. Sleep. Yeah, I went to bed. Well, fell asleep on the sofa while my child watched My Little Pony. Woke up at 4:39 am and trudged up to my comfy bed for two more hours. Hopefully the crink in my back and neck from sleeping on the sofa goes away in a day or two. At least I made it halfway through my list of 42 before crashing.
  23. Reliable transportation. I take it for granted that my car will start every time I turn the ignition. Except that one time that one of the kids left some of overhead interior lights on overnight.
  24. A pile of laundry that needs folding and a dish full of dishes that needs to be loaded into the dishwasher. Even on my birthday, I’m thankful for these things because that means we are blessed enough to have a dishwasher and clothes washer/dryer.
  25. Safe travels. Driving my daughter to school this morning we saw an SUV blow through a stop sign at about 35 mph. Had we been about 5 seconds farther along on our way to school that vehicle might have ended my life. Thank you, Jesus.
  26. The National At Home Dad Network (NAHDN) and the upcoming convention in Denver later this week. Looking forward to seeing my fellow SAHD brothers again. The support and friendship from that group of guys this past year has been nothing short of amazing. My only regret is not knowing about such a network for the first 12 years as a SAHD.
  27. Mountains. I love going to the mountains for recreational purposes. I also appreciate their beauty on clear days as we have a beautiful view of the Olympic Mountains across Puget Sound from our house. I love how the rising sun wraps them in a blanket of pink.
  28. Siri. Yeah, that sometimes annoying iPhone/iPod voice. She’s hilarious. Especially when she mistakes a request to play Jingle Bells and states, “I’m sorry. I’m not familiar with Vagina Bells.” Actually, neither am I.
  29. Good health. Ever since I was a child I’ve been blessed with a strong immune system. Even now, as a long-time Stay At Home Dad who gets exposed to all sorts of germs and such I seldom get sick. I joke that I have a deal with God. In exchange for not complaining about caring for or cleaning up after my wife and kids when they are sick, I don’t get sick.
  30. Computers and technology. Sometimes it seems like we depend on them too much, but overall I enjoy having them in my life. And I’m not even that tech-savvy. I’m sure I’m just using the tip of the technological iceberg, but it sort of works for me.
  31. Credit cards. Really. I use them for most everything that I don’t carry much cash around. So convenient.
  32. Airplanes. Making long-distance travel so much easier. Even if I often feel like a sardine squished in my seat I still don’t mind it.
  33. America. Or ‘Murica. Despite being a flawed Republic with a messed up political system that can’t get out of its own way, there are still a lot of great things about our country. We enjoy a lot of freedoms and privileges that the rest of the world envies.
  34. Being a SAHD. Despite basically working 24/7/365 I love my job. And, for the love of everything, don’t call me “Mr. Mom“. Really. It’s not as funny as you think.
  35. Words With Friends. Scrabble. I enjoy playing word games. Keeps my brain working. I think.
  36. The Bible. God’s word. I’m constantly challenged and encouraged by His words. They’re just as relevant today as they were 2,000 years ago.
  37. Music. I love to sing, play/perform and listen to music. Still cannot dance. And I’m okay with that.
  38. Facebook. Yeah, they keep making those annoying changes. Why can’t we just go back to the 2007 settings? Really, though, I enjoy keeping in touch with all of you. Okay, maybe not all of you, because of the weird metrics that screws up my newsfeed so that the sponsored stuff gets shown more. But you know what I mean. The love I’m feeling today from all of the birthday greetings is so uplifting. Yeah, that was a little cheesy, even for me. I really do appreciate the friendship,networking and support from social media.
  39. Netflix. Thanks for the quality shows to watch when I’m cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry after everyone else is asleep. Did I mention that I finally watched LOST last December? Only a few years too late.
  40. The silly humor that my kids inject into my daily life. Like my 10 year old son. This morning he came into the kitchen (while I was making his lunch sandwich) and sat at the table. He set his iPod down and asked Siri, “What is my name?”. Her reply made me laugh until I cried. “Your name is Cornelius. But since we’re friends, you asked me to call you Junio Ten Why Cheo.” WHAT?! (I might still be a little slap happy from the lack of sleep. But that was crazy.)
  41. Perspective. Counting my blessings instead of my shortcomings. Over the last year or so I’ve known far too many people who have gone through some tough times, losing loved ones to cancer, car accidents, and other causes. Life is too fragile and short to focus on anything else.
  42. Friendship. Not just the virtual kind but the people I see in real life. Just this summer I was able to reconnect with a few friends that I had not seen in years, in one case it was a friend who I hadn’t seen since 1991. Even if I have not seen my friends in person I love being able to call or virtually reach out, knowing that our friendship remains. And, I do not mean to ignore the new friends I’ve made since moving here almost three years ago. My life is so much richer for knowing all of you.

I look forward to whatever God has in store for me this coming year. In parting, I leave this passage I just came across last night while finishing my Bible study. I hope it encourages you as much as it did me. It’s from Isaiah 43:1-4, paraphrased by me.

This is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze…Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.

If you’re bothered because this is a “religious” quote from the Bible, I would encourage you to reread it, but this time think of it as a father (or mother) talking to his (her) child. The love that drips from that passage is what I’m striving for with my own family. While I’m certainly not perfect, I am trying to be the best husband and father that I can be for them.