Archives For parenting

the door

August 28, 2013 — 1 Comment

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August 25, 2013. Ruthfred Lutheran Church in Bethel Park, PA.  Luke 13:22-30

Jesus fields a question about what happens to people when they die. It’s a theology question. About other people. Jesus’ answer burns away the arm’s-length safety of the question and reframes it in a way we can’t ignore. Instead of answering “How many will go to heaven when they die?” Jesus requires each of us to ask, “Will I go to heaven when I die?”

Everybody dies. The door to heaven is narrow. We all live on in eternity, but not everyone will be in heaven with God, enjoying His favor forever. If you hope to make it into the Kingdom of God – through the narrow door – you must enter alone before God. We come one at a time.

What about you? Here is the GOOD NEWS. There is a Door. And it’s still open. Right now.

>> This message is found in Luke 13:22-30. You can read it online here.

 

Click on the tab below to stream the audio…

http://www.jskogerboe.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/08-25-13_JoshuaSkogerboe_TheDoor.mp3

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“the door” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

May 2, 2013. AFLC Schools Chapel in Plymouth, MN.  James 1:17-21.

My dad has my back.  I don’t want to disappoint him. I love spending time with him, because I know that he loves me. We’ve got a good relationship, and that has been formative in my life. I’m literally not the same person I would be without him loving me the way that he does. In some ways, our relationship with God is like this. That’s why he invites us to call Him “Father.”

Far from the remote, disinterested God-idea many people struggle with, and a far cry from the buzz-kill God of to-do lists and do-nots, the Bible describes a God who INITIATES. A God who loves first. A God who created us to be RELATIONAL beings, just as He is a RELATIONAL God. God wants us to live in close relationship with him through His Word.


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“A Relational People for a Relational God” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The primary difference between Moms and Dads, as far as I can tell, is the length of leash with which we are comfortable letting our kids run.  While 99% of the time Dads know that their children can run far afield with no more than a few near misses, the occasional potential debilitating accident, and a brush with death now and again, we can all say a collective “THANK GOD” for Moms during that other 1% of the time… when it really matters.

As the father of boys – five of them – my leash is even longer than the average guy.  Boys have gotta take an occasional ER run in order to experience the fullness that life has to offer.  No pain, no gain, right?  Boys don’t climb to the treetops because it just looks so safe up there.  Boys don’t launch their bikes and skateboards off ramps, steps, and railings because they shy away from risk.  Boys don’t try to light stuff on fire because they simply long for serenity.  No sir.  They are as addicted to adrenaline as they are to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  And somewhere in the heart of every Dad is that 12 year old daredevil explorer we used to be.  We understand.  Climb that tree, kid.  I’ll drive you to the hospital if you break an arm.

However, there are moments.  We Dads know that there is a threshold.  We know because we’ve had to cross it a thousand times ourselves.  These are the “big boy” moments along the road that lead to growing up.  We can see it in the eyes of our children, and we remember.  They are the times when we wish the incline wasn’t quite so steep and the roller coaster wasn’t quite so aggressive.  Sometimes the hard path is a necessary one.  Sometimes the hard path may not be entirely necessary – but good, nonetheless.  These are the times when we must look our boys in the eye, and with all the compassion we can muster, utter the words every child needs to hear once in awhile…

“Man up, Nancy.”

Sure, there are people out there with kids actually named Nancy.  I don’t think that makes it any less effective.

Real life example:  This past weekend I drove my 11 year old son Isaac to meet up with a youth group from our church on their way to a weekend retreat across the border in Wisconsin.  I had to drop him off at a suburban Applebee’s where the van would pick him up about 15 minutes after I left.  His bags were packed, the list was double checked, Bible securely stowed, sleeping bag and pillow in the back of the Jeep, and Ike was a bundle of energy.  I could tell that his adrenaline habit was being fed right now.  Heading off to a retreat away from the family, out of state, no older brother with him this time.  His first “on his own” outing with the youth group.  He was stoked.

But his eyes were sending mixed messages.  Flashes of trepidation between the smiles.  Traces of concern peeking out the corners of his eyes, betraying his “I can do this” adventurous gaze out the windshield.

“Are you nervous?”

Pause.  “Nah.  I’m excited.” Pause. “I mean… first time I’ve really done this.” Pause. “Seth’s not gonna be there…”  Pause.  “But it’ll be awesome.”  He said it like a declarative statement, and then his face looked at me like he had just asked a question.

I grabbed the bill of his baseball hat and jerked it around with a grin. “You’ll do great, Ike.  You’ll have a blast.”

That was it.

Sometimes the “man up, Nancy” moments – the big boy moments – don’t require many words.  I knew he’d be OK.  And this independent moment was both good and necessary.  He knew it was worth a few butterflies.  The best rides are, right?

Someday I won’t be dropping him off at Applebee’s and waving goodbye for the weekend.  Someday it will be a college dorm.  Then he’ll be the excited one, and the tears will be mine.  Amy will likely be giving ME a much needed “Man up, Nancy,” when that day comes.

The point here, after all, is that I am not primarily seeking to shield my boys from pain.  I have friends and family in the Marine Corps. who tell me “pain is just weakness leaving the body.”  My boys love it when I quote the Marines.

Pain avoidance is not our job, parents.  Character development is.  Maturity is the goal.  These objectives are long term and require stretching.  Sometimes, the hard path is the best one.

Isaac and I never talked all of this through.  But I knew that getting dropped off at Applebee’s with his pile of bags to wait by himself for the Youth Group van was a big boy moment for him.  And when he came home, among the hugs and high-fives, I was sure to look him in those just-a-little-bit-older eyes of his and tell him, “I’m proud of you.”

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“big boy moments :: why i tell my boys to man up, nancy” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I always want to be a better dad.  When I finally achieve “best dad of all time” staus, I’ll still want to be a better dad.  Today’s post is meant to inspire us dads to be intentional in our dadliness.

My friend Carlos Whittaker (known in the Twittersphere as @loswhit, father of viral video star ‘lil los, and the uber-creative behind ragamuffinsoul.com) continues to be inspiring on so many levels.  But I gotta give him props for this one as a top five on the all-time greatest dad moves of the 21st Century.

I don’t have girls… I’ve got my own hockey team of boys, but no mascara, barrettes, no pink, no lip gloss.  However… if I were a dad of girls, I’d be all over this stuff.  Carlos’ daughter just turned 8.  As a Taylor Swift fan, she wanteded to host a Taylor Swift party.

But in the words of Carlos, “if you know the Whittakers, you know that did not mean Taylor Swift cups and plates from Walmart.”  No sir. They invited a pile of her friends over and produced a video, complete with make-up and hairstyling, lighting effects, plenty of dancing about and general frolicking in wee cowgirl boots.  Dads, whether your home is full of Barbies and ballet slippers or cluttered with baseball gear like our home is, we can all learn something from Carlos here…

Don’t wait for the moments.  Make the moments.  Amen.

If you want to drop Carlos a note about this, find his original post here and check out ragamuffinsoul.com often.  He will inspire your faith, fuel your creative energy, and encourage you.

May we dads be intentional in our parenting.  A little planning goes a LONG way, guys.  God bless you and of all our kiddos.

“Hustle! Hustle! Hustle! Hustle!”

I was 11.  I heard this word more than any other word during my Little League days under the summer sun in Bemidji, MN.  Coach Whitey Anderson could say HUSTLE more times in a minute than anyone I’ve ever known.  I loved baseball.  Still do.  In large part, thanks to Coach Whitey.

“Skogerboe, you’re a ball player, son.  You’re a ball player.  You can play this game right here.  Yessir.  Skogerboe’s a ball player.”

Coach Whitey was like encouragement on steroids for a young second baseman who otherwise wouldn’t have considered himself much of a ballplayer.  I was moderately athletic, but overshadowed by the up-and-coming superstars.  I could hold my own in the field and maintained a somewhat below average track record in the batting box, but I kept in the game year after year, growing better in my skill-set and deeper in love with the game.  Coach Whitey fueled me to keep getting better, to learn why “hustle” had more to do with a healthy competitive attitude than just physical “hurry-up,” and he helped build into me a deep love of baseball that has never gone away.

Now I have a 10-year-old out there under the lights.  I see his coach picking up the mantle from Coach Whitey for the next generation.  I see him FEEDING encouragement and high expectations to the young men under his charge.  And the boys are thriving.  When Isaac talks about baseball, his eyes flash.  Coach Haberlie is not just getting the bases covered, and he’s not just getting results…  he’s building baseball lovers.

I just got an email from Coach last night, asking me to encourage Isaac, that he was so proud to have Isaac on the Team, and he is consistent in saying, “He is made for this game.”  I hear echoes of Coach Whitey… “You’re a ball player, son.  Skogerboe’s a ball player.”

These guys are both great leaders, and I hold them both in high regard.

The consistent ingredient in great leadership isn’t enthusiasm.  It isn’t deeper, better, higher knowledge.  It isn’t the ability to control outcomes.

The consistent ingredient in great leadership is this:  INFLUENCE.

Coach Whitey literally changed my life.  My childhood years are full of great memories, and I was a ball player.  I believed it to my core.  And now I see Isaac out there making plays, wrecking the knees of his baseball pants, and it’s better than the Twins.  He’s hungry for baseball.  Isaac’s gone from casual to passionate.  THAT is INFLUENCE.  And Coach Haberlie has been clear from the beginning:  His goal is to help shape these boys into young men of character first, great athletes second.  He’s not only influencing the boys… he’s influencing their dads.  That’s great leadership.

All kinds of people read this blog.  Friends and family, Pastors, Ministry leaders, Worship leaders…  All kinds of people in all kinds of leadership roles.  Here’s where ball meets bat, rubber meets road, hammer meets nail on the head…  LEADERSHIP = INFLUENCE.

This has implications for two groups today.

First of all, if you don’t consider yourself a “leader,” you are WRONG.  Think about your circle of relationships.  Certainly among those relationships are a handful over whom you have some kind of influence.  If you have influence, you have leadership.  You may lead badly, of course, and influence those around you to make bad choices, to turn away from God or from wise counsel.  But make no mistake:  if you have influence, you are a leader.  Lead well.

Secondly, if you THINK you are a leader, or if you are a leader by position, this is a good measuring stick for you.  Are you herding a group, or are you leading?  Are you steering outcomes, or are you leading?  In other words, are you truly INFLUENCING the lives of those you lead?  If you are in a position of authority, take a cue from Coach Whitey and Coach Haberlie… don’t just steer.  LEAD.  Don’t just point people.  INFLUENCE people.  Stop, pray, and think about how you can not just get the job done, but how can your influence lead to changed lives.  If you are a leader, then LEAD WELL.

The consistent ingredient in great leadership is INFLUENCE.  If you don’t have influence, you’re not really leading.  And if you think you don’t have a role as a leader, invest in those you have influence over.

We only get one life.  Wield some influence and change some lives, because time is short.  And in the spirit of Coach Whitey… HUSTLE.


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“leadership focus :: if i build it will they come?” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

So we were having a… discussion. Do you have those?  All married people have them, I suppose.  You know, our marriage would be just about perfect if I wasn’t in it.  🙂  I thought for sure I was right this time. Just one time…

But no.  As it turns out, I wasn’t right this time. In fact, after I had said my piece, Amy quietly reminded me of a few of my idiosyncracies – my own personality quirks – that transcend rational thought.  It was one of these quirks that had started all of this in the first place.

This was one of those times.  She had, through no fault of her own, stumbled unwittingly into my irrational headspace.  And therin lay the impetus for the aforementioned discussion.  I had to concede, when faced with actual facts instead of my own irrational emotional personality quirks, that – doggone it – she had a point.

And no… I’m not going into the details.  Let your imagination run rampant.  I’ll never tell.

Suffice it to say, she was dead on about a few of my personality quirks.  I didn’t see myself as an unusually quirky person… but oh yes.  I let my quirk flag fly more often than I realize. And the glory of it is, people who love me roll with it, and love me anyway.  And that is a gift.

Today, my message is this…  Most likely you have your own set of irrational quirks.  Guaranteed, the people you love have their own, as well.  My advice:  instead of butting heads against those quirks, and as long as they are not causing the rest of the family undue stress, I’m encouraging you to roll with it.  Go ahead and enable those quirks.  Yep, I’m talking full-on quirktastic co-dependancy.

Because real, powerful, life-affirming love means “who you are… I love.” And there’s plenty of time for “who you are becoming… I love, too.”  But an open discussion of personal quirks within a home or among roommates or close friends seems  like good juju to me.  Get ’em out there in the open.  Respect the quirks, baby!

Example: My mom, God bless her, is a top-calliber cook/home-maker/guest-entertainer.  People love to come to her home for meals, conversation, and good coffee.  It was a great home to grow up in.  But the kitchen is MOM’s domain.  You do not mess with the kitchen.  I repeat: you DO NOT MESS with the kitchen.  Every detail matters.  Case in point, when we load the dishwasher, knives go point down, but all other silverware must go eating-end-up, so that as the water rinses off the utinsels it runs DOWN the handle, away from the eating end.  That, right there, is a grade-A quirk, in my book. But here’s the deal… this is Mom’s passion.  The kitchen is HER arena, and she uses it to love and serve people.  And she’s great at it.  And we love her for it.  So, you know how we express our thanks and love back to momma?

We put the knives pointy-side down and the other utensils eaty-side up.

I don’t know that it makes a lick of difference, but my Mom wants it that way, so…  good times.

So, in the spirit of transparency and personal confession (which is good for the soul, I’m told – and makes for more interesting reading), here is a short list of some of my identified quirks.  Again, these may not seem rational to you, but that’s not the point.  The point is, they seem not only rational but downright IMPORTANT to me… at the time. Of course, it is also therapeutic to be self-aware enough that I can identify when my personal quirk is taking over rationality in my inter-personal interactions.  Therefore, here’s a short list from the inner-mind of Joshua Skogerboe:

(1) When beginning to do laundry (which isn’t often – Amy has to shoulder this one most of the time), I must scour the house for every piece of dirty clothes.  Like the random sock that ends up under the boy’s bed.  The baseball shirt that got wet in the rain and then hung up in the closet when mom and dad weren’t looking.  The PJ’s that my seven-year-old took off while in bed and which now are stuffed under his covers instead of in his drawer or the dirty clothes basket.  Before I begin, I want to get EVERYTHING together so it can be properly sorted into piles before the process begins.  I know it’s borderline OCD.  I know.  And we have five rowdy boys who, unless herded with a cattle prod, tend to shed their clothes in a moving explosion of laundry, leaving a trail behind them.  So my quirk sometimes needs to take backseat to reason to keep that laundry train a’ movin’.

(2)  We must eat hot food. This increases exponentially (a) when I cook it, or (b) if I have cooked it upon the grill, or especially (c) if the meal involves eggs or toast.  This is peculiar to me in a frighteningly irrational way when it comes to eggs and toast.  I would prefer the toast to jump hot out of the toaster into my mouth before it cools in any way.  This way I can savor the toasty crunch of the golden brown outer shell and still enjoy the soft core…  Mmmmm, toast.  But let’s say I put bread into the toaster and get sidetracked with another task, allowing the bread to pop up and sit in said toaster for more than 14 seconds.  No good.  Bad juju. The toast must be thrown out.  I know.  Starving kids in China.  Consumerism run amok.  I’m evil and wasteful and bad.  But dude… you GOTTA eat fresh toast.  And that is all.

(3) When the family is going to watch a movie, there must be no extraneous shuffling about or donning of jammies or last minute drinks of juice while the previews run.  No how. The trailers are sacred nuggets of extra enjoyment BEFORE the actual movie gets started, and I’m not about to concede this moment of extra goodness.  Now you kids SIT DOWN and CLOSE YOUR YAPPING MAWS and I mean NOW!  We’re going to have some FUN around here, or ELSE!  Keep on talkin’… that’s it.  I don’t care if you have to pee.  WE ARE HAVING FUN RIGHT NOW or, so help me,  I’m going to send you to your room for the week with nothing but gruel and  cold toast!  …wait. Did I say that out loud?  Sorry.  Quirk alert.

Ahhh.  I feel better. Not so much for my confession of irrationality but for the fact that many of you now, surely, are nodding your heads in silent approval.  Darn right you get every piece of laundry. No doubt eggs and toast must be consumed within seconds of leaving their implement of cookery.  Doggone straight the DVD trailers on family movie night are sacred and must be enjoyed silently or else.  Can I get an AMEN?!

OK, your turn… confession is good for you.  Besides, we want to laugh at you.  Or WITH you, I mean.  What are YOUR quirks?


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“let your quirk flag fly :: of trousers, toast, and trailers” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I lie to my kids.  I do it for fun.  It’s cheap entertainment.

Tonight’s episode was a personal triumph.

Amy and Seth and I helped lead worship for a Living Hope Church retreat last night and all day today.  By the time I got home, I laid down for a 10 minute snooze that turned into a two hour plunge into REM state.  I was exhausted, and I needed the rest.  Amy and I agreed that tonight was one of those rare times when we were HUNGRY for real food and lacked ANY DESIRE whatsoever to cook.

So I loaded up the boys in the van to pick them up some tasty 99 cent chicken nuggets and sandwiches from Wendy’s (don’t judge me), and proceeded to pull out my cell phone to call the a local steakhouse to order a tasty rib-eye for Amy and myself (don’t judge me… you’ve done this, too… you know you have.  Or if you hadn’t thought of it before, you’re now doing a silent fist-pump of thanksgiving, and you will commit a similar act of culinary inequity soon.  You know you will.)

“Who ya calling dad?”

In a moment of brilliance, the idea simultaneously was birthed in my brain and came out my face in a smooth flow, with that perfect blend of assurance and non-chalance that is needed to convince a van load of rowdy boys that the bologna you are selling them is trustworthy.  In a flash, a new hi-tech food delivery enterprise was born.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:  1-800-GET-BEEF.

Me:  “They’ve got this network set up across the country… They’re everywhere.  They guarantee a fresh, grilled-to-order steak, ready for pickup within three miles of your current location anywhere in the Continental United States – cooked and ready to go in 12 minutes.”

Boys:  (pause)  “Really?”

Me:  “Yup.”

Boys:  (longer pause)  “That’s AWESOME!”

Yes it is.  It is SO awesome.  Who doesn’t want a freshly grilled steak available at a moment’s notice?  Unless you’re vegan, this idea is pure grade-A awesome sauce with a side of extra tasty goodness.  Of course it is patently absurd, and logistically impossible, but let’s not let reality tamper with my sweet moment of victory…

Boys:  “Wait… Dad?  How do they know where to send it?”

Me:  “Uh… GPS.  They track your cell phone call and send your steak to the nearest drop point.  It’s pretty cool, really.”

Boys:  (pause)  “AWESOME!”

Dude.  They are buying this.  I’m a horrible father.  And yet…  I’m enjoying myself immensely.  No need to wrestle with those lingering pangs of conscience.  That would just bring me down, man.  Let me savor this sweet sweet tangled web of lies.

As I pulled into the  into the busy parking lot of a local supper club, the boys pause their ruckus in the back of the van to ask, “What are we doing here?”

Me:  “Oh… this is the local drop point for this area for 1-800-GET-BEEF.  They’re all over the place.  It should be ready by now.”

In amazement they watched me return to the van with a freshly grilled steak, Medium, baked potato, and side salad.  As the smell of the hot, savory rib-eye filled the van on the ride home, I got to enjoy my two eldest sons discussing ways to beat the system.  After all, if 1-800-GET-BEEF “guarantees” local delivery within 12 minutes, there must be some way to finagle some free steak…

“We should, like, go hiking in the mountains, and once we’re WAY up the trail, call 1-800-GET-BEEF.  Yeah.  There’s NO WAY they’ll make it to us in 12 minutes…

While I can’t argue that logic, I fail to see how this plan would actually work in the real world.  Are you going to hike cross country to pick up your steak at the nearest drop zone?  Three miles is a long trek through the brush on a mountainside, after all.  And wouldn’t it cost you more than the price of the steak itself to equip yourself at the local REI in backpacking gear?  They clearly haven’t thought this plan through.

As Amy and I sat at our table tonight, savoring a delicious meal which we did not cook, I smiled to myself with each bite.  Sure, I lie to my kids.  It’s just rare that they all fall for it in one fell swoop.  Or in this case, medium…

I’m not sure just when they’ll figure out that I’m full of beans.  In the long run, this probably won’t help my case in arguing for the reality of the Tooth Fairy,  but I refuse to back down.

In any case, tonight’s deception worked so well, I may just run with the theme.  This is America, after all.  Home of capitalism, the unfettered entrepreneurial spirit, and consumer-driven ingenuity. 

Surely there is a market for 1-800-MY-BACON?

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“i lie to children :: pride cometh before the beef” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I’ve failed as a father.

Perhaps there’s hope.  He’s only seven.  So I figure I have 11 more years with him under my roof, where his very food and shelter may be leveraged in the shaping of his character.

Levi Kyle is our precocious, out-spoken, Type-A+, heart-on-his-sleeve, leader-in-training, seven-year-old tornado-on-wheels of a boy.  He says what he thinks.  All the time.  I love that kid so much.

Where little girls (from what I’m told) only ripen into ever-increasing layers of complexity and emotional nuance, we are the parents of BOYS.  There’s not so much nuanced about their snips and snails and puppy dog tails.  And Levi has been endowed with an extra measure of boy-ness from His creator.  What Levi thinks comes out his face in a rush.  We’re working on it.

One of the blessings of people with a Levi-like personality is the immediacy with which you know exactly what they are thinking.  Whether solicited or not, you will get their opinion on the matter.  Whatever is the matter in the moment.  So listening to Levi as he grows up is an open window to his character development.  It’s fascinating.  Equal parts thrilling, comedic, and on occasion… a little unnerving.

“Dad, I want a credit card.”

“No.”

“Why not?!”

“You’re seven.”

“SO?!”

“You have to be older.  They won’t give you a credit card.  It’s a big responsibility.”

“What’s the big deal?  You just give people your credit card, and they give you whatever you want. Easy.”

“Right. But then you have to pay for that stuff.”

“WHAT?!  It’s NOT FAIR.”

Not fair.  Nice.  I’m a failure.

I’ve written before about Levi before and one of the most important values we are trying to instill in our kids… GRATEFULNESS.  I firmly believe that beyond a dynamic relationship with God through Jesus Christ, the most powerful indicator of happiness through this one go-round we have on the planet is the degree to which we embrace and practice the value of gratefulness.  Or thanksgiving.  Or gratitude.  Call it what you will, but that right there is at the top of my list as Dad.  I want to raise sons who are deeply grateful – for their life and breath, for their freedom, for the forgiveness of sins and the inheritance in heaven which we don’t deserve, for their future spouses, and for every cookie and every cup of coffee and every soul with which we have the privilege of interacting.  To embrace life to the full (John 10:10) and to be joyful always, full of thanksgiving.  For EVERY good thing.  THAT is what it means to live truly deeply profoundly happy.  And I want that for my boys.

“Dad?”

“Yes Levi?”

“When you get your driver’s license , do they give you a free car?”

“No.  You have to buy it.”

“WHAT?!  Sheesh.”

I’m failing here.  See, the opposite of gratefulness isn’t indifference.  You might think that.  How many people do you know who walk around and breathe the air and take in the sunsets and drink their coffee and haul their kids to soccer practice without a shred of “thank you God for this moment”?  Honestly, how many times has that been ME?  How many times just today?

But that kind of non-acknowledgement isn’t the opposite of gratitude.  The opposite of thanksgiving is ENTITLEMENT.

He’s only seven.  I’m going to cut the kid a lot of slack.  For now.

But Levi, and the rest of us, need to constantly be reminded that every blessing is a gift.  And there is a Giver.  And the Giver pours out blessing like rain upon the redeemed, the searching, and the hostile.  Even more, he has given us energy and creativity and the freedom to EARN even more blessing – like that shiny new car Levi expects to be granted unto him with no real investment of time or sweat.

Well dude, I’ll give you some grace.  You’re only seven.  But we’ve gotta get a handle on this entitlement stuff.  From now on, you will understand the value of that PBJ you ate for lunch and the IKEA bunk bed in which you wrap up at night.  According to a June 18 US NEWS article, the cost of raising a child to age 18 is roughly $222,360.  If I’ve done the math correctly, in your seven short years you’ve already cost us $86,473.

Levi, I’ll go halvsies with you.

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“i’ve failed as a father :: why my seven year old will be paying rent from now on” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

High noon.Lunch time.  We’re eyeball to eyeball.  I size him up, and time slows to a stop.  I hear a clock ticking.  Somewhere, high overhead, the distant screech of a bird of prey.  I steel myself for the coming volley.  Only one of us is walking out of here victorious. And it ain’t gonna be him.

‘Cause he’s seven years old.  And that would be embarrassing.  Right?

“Dad, can I have some crackers?  Dad can we play Wii?  Dad can I go sledding?  Dad, can I have a brownie?  Dad can I light the couch on fire?  Dad…?  Dad??”

(…to be continued…)

Moms and Dads out there, I need you to do me a solid.  Take a moment and look down.  Like, just below your waist.  Quick question… are you wearing pants? Let that be a lesson to you.

Too many kids are wearing the pants.  I’m going crazy.  I was in a convenience store yesterday afternoon, and I observed a pants-less mom, looking defeated, haggling with her two pants-wearing kids.

“What?  We only get FOUR?  C’mon mom, pleeeeease?? I really want it!  No fair!  C’MON!  I want the sucker, too!  C’mon Mom.  It’s just five.  WHAT?!  We only get FOUR?! What??

That’s right.  A prolonged battle – in public – about whether mom would finally cave under the weight of her embarrassment and acquiesce to a FIFTH candy bar for each of her kids.

In my mind, I picked up each lad and drop kicked their ungrateful butts out of those pants and back into the minivan of shame where they belonged.  Then, I returned the pants their mom, who should have been wearing them all along, with a tip of my hat.  In my mind. It went down just like that.

In reality (where I would get arrested for kicking a stranger’s kid in the rear end) I could only stand by and watch it happen… the sad, slow, but sure relinquishing of the pants.  They got their fifth piece of candy from the rack alright.  But they got something more.  They got the pants.  And here’s the thing…

No kid – deep down inside – really wants the pants. They don’t want the responsibility of being the one in charge.  No parent in their right mind would let a child under the age of ten get behind the wheel of the family suburban and pull out into traffic, right?  It might look like fun for the kid, at first.  But on a deeper level, it would be terrifying.

Just like the pants.  Most kids think they want ’em. But on a deeper level, if they know they are the ones wearing the pants… it’s terrifying.  Scientific studies have proven that children exhibit much more freedom to run and play in a fenced-in safe area than they do in a wide open space.  Fences = safety.

One of the most important pieces of parenting advice I’ve ever heard came from family and parenting expert Dr. James Dobson.  He said that in any conflict situation with a child who is wrestling for authority – testing your parenting mettle – trying to steal the pants – he said one thing is absolutely necessary.  You must win. Parents worry too much about trying to pacify and avoid conflict.  But in the very act of negotiating you are affirming the child’s “equal footing” with you, the adult, the authority figure.  Kids don’t need to be pacified in this situation.  They need to learn who wears the pants.

Now, I’ll insert a brief disclaimer here.  Does this mean we should never listen to our kids’ point of view, or never explain our reasoning (when appropriate) for a parenting decision?  Not at all.  And this process gets more nuanced as children become young men and women.  (Click here for my last post.)  But it does mean that at no time should we hand our pants over to our children, or try to share out pants with little ones who need to learn that obedience and respect come before their momentary whims or manipulation tactics.

Back to my pre-lunch showdown scenario.  Just about to eat.  My seven-year-old fires a volley of requests for snacks, activities, and shenanigans that would disrupt the lunch plan we are about to execute.  Calmly, I reach down and check.  Yep.  Pants securely in place. Parenthood authority intact.  Without even batting an eye, I return fire…

“No.”

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“showdown at whowearsthepants pass :: you know you’re the parent, right? by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Here’s my theory:  At some point on the parenting path with each child, you must give up control to gain influence.  Let’s discuss…

My oldest son has that look on his face again.  Wide eyes.  Forced blank stare.  Trying not to convey anything.  Underneath he’s angry, but he’s trying to look unruffled.  Unchallenging.  He’s trying to avoid hearing his parents say, “Don’t look at me that way.”

But Seth is tenderhearted, so the forced nonchalance doesn’t suit his face.  There’s still that anger around the edges, in his posture and his hands.  And there’s hurt in his glazed eyes.

We’ve been here before, but not often.  Seth is a deeply good kid, and I’m so very proud of who he is becoming.  I can’t even type this without tears coming up, just under the surface.  I’m so proud and grateful he’s mine.

But he’s a normal kid with an independant streak a mile deep, and we, his parents, are actual people with attitudes and character struggles, too, so we’re bound to butt heads once in awhile.  In those times, I’m shifting my parental strategery.  I’ve begun to have these conversations differently…

From “The Silence of Adam” by Dr. Larry Crabb:

“Manly men release others from their control and encourage them with their influence…  Manly men nudge their family and friends to the same crossroads where they, as men, have found that trust [in God] or unbelief must be chosen.  Unmanly men require their friends and family to meet their demands.”

Do we require obedience from our kids, then?  Yes, we do.  And we don’t always have the time to answer the “why?” questions, so we require our kids to verbally agree with an “OK, Mom” or an “OK, Dad” after a directive is given.  This has been a VERY helpful piece of our parenting tool kit.  This assures that our boy is making eye contact and acknowledging that the directive has been heard.  Further, it reinforces the understanding that obedience is the expected norm.

But when kids grow, they gain complexity as they become more independant.  We still expect obedience, and we will not allow disrespect even when our boys disagree with our decisions.  But there is no question that parenting Seth requires a different kind of nuance.  And this is where being a manly dad means leading more by example and clear expectations , and less by demand.

So I’m trying to park my pride in my parenting.  I’m trying to be clear with expectations, and I still give PLENTY of directives.  But when I see that blank/hurt/angry/stubborn/conflicted/growing/complex/young/old/forced calm/frustrated face, I’m shifting my parenting gears.  I’m doing more nudging, and letting him choose.

Instead of, “Go apologize to your mom,” I’m encouraging Seth to choose the honorable way. “When you settle down and think it through, I think you should consider talking to Mom.  I think you owe her an apology.  And real apologies don’t come with any ‘but’ connected.  You think about your part of this, and you decide what to do.”

Seth will be a teenager in a month.  He has a living faith in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit feeds his conscience with a steady data stream.  He’s becoming a young man, and he’s not blindly falling into moral traps at this point… he is choosing.

My job, as I see it, is to help him become the man who will choose what is right because his character won’t allow him to do otherwise.  And that means prayer, trusting in God to shape him, and letting go of control in favor of influence.

Seth, and all of our boys, are miraculously wonderful kids.  Lord, help me not mess this up.

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“being a manly dad :: control vs. influence” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.