Tag Archives: children

I Love You The Brownest

Madeline, my (nearly) 10-year-old daughter, had to write a poem for a school assignment last week. She has kindly given permission to me to post it here.

I Love You The Brownest

I love you, Dad, the brownest.

Your beard is like a soft bear’s fur.
I love you like creamy chocolate.

I love you like a sweet gingerbread
cookie, like the chewy taste of caramel.

I love you like the smell of warm,
fresh baked chocolate cake. I love you like
the fuzziness of the cat-tail plant, like the
wheat field swaying in the breeze.

I love you like the oak tree’s rough
bark and I love you like a monkey’s fur
as it swings madly through the trees.

I love you like the rolling hiss and warm,
creamy hot cocoa after being out in the
cold winter.

I love you, Dad, the brownest.

~ Madeline Vandersluys (December 2012)

My quiver is full.

Psalm 127 stood out for me a couple of weeks ago, particularly this portion:

Children are a heritage from the LORD,
offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them. (127:3-5a, TNIV)

There are moments when I am overcome by the beauty of my children, the wonder of their existence–the brightness in their eyes, their smiles and laughter, their little growing bodies, their clever minds. In these moments I am sometimes brought even to tears because I am overwhelmed with love and pride and wonder and all sorts of things.

But the truth is, those moments are not the norm. Unfortunately and shamefully, I often behave and feel as if my children are a nuisance, getting in the way of the things I want to do, wasting my time, which could be used on things I find more fulfilling. Thankfully, I am quite self-aware in this respect–sometimes I even apologize to my children when I have said or done something wrong; often I feel terrible guilt and regret at the mistakes I have made (sometimes also to the point of tears).

Even with this awareness, however, some days it remains a struggle against my deep selfishness and bad priorities. Some days I set my selfishness aside and we will play hide and seek or tickle or a combination of both and we’ll run around the trailer laughing and screaming or we’ll go outside for an hour or two for an adventure. A couple of weeks ago I even made up a treasure hunt (“three drops of river water; three rotten tomatoes; a grey brick; etc.”). Other days, the victory against selfishness is much smaller and all I can manage is to lay down on the floor with them in passive, semi-attentiveness for a couple of minutes. Other days I manage to do nothing.

I realize that we live in an age of “helicopter parenting” and child psychology where we are almost guilted into doing everything to make our children well-adjusted, and I can’t help but wonder if this over-attentiveness may just make them maladjusted in a different way. Sometimes I imagine the world a century or two ago–did parents worry about spending enough “quality time” with their kids? Were the children or the parent-child relationship any worse off?

I don’t know. Yet I feel I can be a better parent–if only because some days the things which are not important in any imaginable way get priority over my children, and no matter how anti-helicopter-parenting you may be, that can’t be right.

The first half of this Psalm probably has some useful things to say about this as well (“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain…”), but for now I focus on the second half.

May I gratefully receive and enjoy the blessing of my children.

Like a child

At the supper table today, the kind of honesty you rarely get between adults:

Madeline: From the side your head looks like it’s really skinny.

Me: Does it?  But I really have a fat head?

Madeline: Well, you have sort of a fat head.

. . .

Madeline: You should really dress up as Santa Claus for Halloween.

Me: Why?

Madeline: Because your belly is so jiggly when you do this.  [she pats her belly]

A plain post about regular things.

Well, Dixie is on her way back home from The Field.  I expect her home in two hours or so.  Apparently she’s a changed woman.  So would I be, after a good number of days in a Field, with miles of nature in every direction.  Well, not a changed woman, but changed or at least renewed.  I’m glad it was a good trip for her.  Hope they arrive safe and sound.

Dixie and I have both wondered when in the next 6 months or so I could possibly find time to make use of my birthday present–the weekend away at a solitary/silent/spiritual/what have you retreat.  I’m looking forward to it, whenever it may happen.

The week-ish with the kids went well.  It was broken up with some help from family–Uncle had the older kids for an afternoon; Gramma and Papa had all the kids for a morning and Olivia for a couple of nights.  At the beginning of our alone time I was stressed about this and that, so I probably was edgier than I should have been with the kids.  Sometimes it feels like my only recourse with the kids is yelling, even though I know that doesn’t do anything except upset them (and me).

Saturday morning we went to the mall to see Safari Jeff and Shannon.  Madeline and Luke seemed to enjoy it.  It was a very slick presentation with some real animals (alligator, some kind of monitor, albino bull snake, albino reticulated python, etc), but there was probably more information presented than the kids could retain.  Other than that, we didn’t really do anything special.  I got some studying done–nearly done all the lectures!  But still an enormous amount to do!–and a little cleaning (not as much as I would have liked).

I led worship at church this morning.  I always find this stressful for some reason–more stressful than preparing and “presenting” a sermon.  I imagine that’s because it’s an organizational thing: songs here, announcements there, scripture here, prayer there, etc.  Organization isn’t my strength.

We’ve been having some trouble with the sound card on the power-point computer, so I had a friend do some work on it this week.  It seemed to be working fine, but at practice this morning the computer kept freezing during or immediately after bootup and it would reboot as soon as I put my USB memory stick–where the lyrics for the powerpoint were kept–on the port.  Eventually the computer booted up propertly and I got everything going (in roundabout ways), but the remote for the slideshow wouldn’t work.

In practice we prepared for the worst and ended up reworking the order of service, changing it to an all-hymns-with-the-hymnbook service.  It went well, I think, all things considered.  There’s nothing wrong with hymns, of course, but it was a bit odd to see everyone standing there with hymnbooks in hand.  And the service was a bit rough around the edges.  But that’s OK.

But I definitely need the powerpoint to work next week, because I’ll be leading worship alone (all the other instrumentalists are female and will be away at a retreat) with my guitar.  Hymns and guitars generally don’t mix for this ol’ fella.  Next week will probably be all choruses.  (Of course, I’m of the opinion that the difference between hymns and choruses is essentially fictional–it’s simply a matter of how they’re presented.  “Shine Jesus Shine”, that classic chorus of the early to mid 90s is now in the hymnal, for pete’s sake.)

It’ll be a very busy week, I think, and I’m not sure how I’ll get everything done.  My real estate co-worker is on holidays and it’s month end this week.  I have a sermon and service to prepare for next Sunday and some other church stuff to do (including that ornery computer).  Plus all the usual things of school and life.  I’m not complaining. Honestly, I’m not.  But it will be a busy week.

The Father is younger than we.

By the way, it was never officially announced, but The Eagle & Child (this blog, for the unitiated) went out of beta back in December 2003.

But I digress.

G.K. Chesterton, as quoted in The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People (John Ortberg):

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged.  They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead.  For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.  But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.  It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.  It may not be automatic necessity that makes daisies all alike; it may be that God makes every daiy separately, but has never got tired of making them.  It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. (p. 65, emphasis in the book)

I am not strong enough to exult in monotony, I have learned that this weekend, housebound, looking after the children, trying to keep the house in order.  I felt like a grumpy old sinner this weekend—and because of that, like a failure.

I woke up this morning ready to start again, start anew.  But by noon it had all gone to pot, as it were.

Lord have mercy.

Bed time

Isn’t bedtime supposed to be a special time of the day?  A time of cuddling with your children, telling them stories and singing them quiet songs, and then tucking those precious little yawning gems snuggly into their beds?  Isn’t that how it’s supposed to go?

Why is it that in our house bedtime is the time that Angry Marc comes out to play?  Before we had children, do you know how often Angry Marc would appear?  Rarely.  He’d maybe make an appearance when there was injustice afoot, or perhaps when someone was making repeated false accusations in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  At all other times—which was most of the time—Even-Keeled Marc ruled the day.

One of the reasons Angry Marc rears his ugly head is that bedtime looks more like this: disobedient children ignoring the quiet song, getting mad at each other, fighting, not listening, refusing to go pee and put on their pajamas, then not staying in bed and going to sleep, when all I want is some peace and quiet, kids rested for the next day, and some time to ourselves.  That’s an acceptable desire; but—God!-–am I getting tired of walking away from their bedroom regretting whatever disciplinary action I have just taken and then coming back later and staring at them teary-eyed, touching their soft faces, maybe saying a little prayer.

There’s got to be a better way to be a father.

. . . and Luke’s out of his bed again.