Donut Day

The arrival of each new child in a family is a blessing; unless you happen to be one of the kids who already staked a claim in that territory. Claim jumping is serious business. It’s hard not to feel a little displaced when everyone’s so focused on the new guy.

We tried to be sensitive to this. When Philip’s birth approached we talked to the other boys a lot about how important their role was going to be in their new brother’s life. They got “I’m the Big Brother!” buttons and t-shirts. They helped us get the room ready. We tried really hard to make that seem important, but it still sounded like it was all about their little brother.

So we came up with a plan. Read more »

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Fame

Reputation is a fickle thing. A young man of good character can successfully navigate the uncertain waters of life for years, only to have a single moment of bad judgment erase all the progress he has made. The speed of the descent from “fine young man” and pats on the back, to sidelong glances and whispers can be dizzying. And disgrace has unfortunately bad aim. In addition to staining the offender it often paints those around him with equal shame. Whole families can be labeled.

Family names can become infamous. Read more »

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Discipline

I have alluded to some of our philosophies on discipline in previous posts. Perhaps it’s time to address the issue more directly.

Deciding how to discipline our children is a highly personal matter. Most of us bring a lot of what we know about the matter from our childhood experiences. Whether we decide to use the same methods as our parents, or we are determined not to, our thinking on the issue usually has a lot to do with what kind of family environment we grew up in.

Whatever grand designs we may have beforehand, most of us have to refine our approach to discipline once our children actually arrive. In the army there’s a saying that, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” I’m not implying that children represent the enemy here, but as they develop and start to exhibit their personalities and exercise their independence we often find that our best intentions fall short of what’s necessary to achieve the desired results. Read more »

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Allowance

Like so many other topics in life the subject of money eventually catches our kids’ attention. After years spent riding in the seat of a shopping cart they’ve seen a magical process take place, again and again. Apparently you can walk into a store and take anything you want, as long as you give the nice lady at the cash register some money. And sometimes even that isn’t necessary; you can just slip a card through a little machine instead.

There’s a documentary called “Beyond the Gates of Splendor” about five missionary men who were killed by members of the Waodani people in Ecuador in the late fifties. The story of how their families turned that tragedy into a triumph is powerful. Toward the end of the film, Steve Saint, son of one of the missionaries, brings the man who killed his father to the U.S. He now calls him grandfather. Upon his return to Ecuador, Mincaye tells his fellow tribesmen about a wondrous place in the states called a supermarket. It is an enormous room filled with enough food for a whole village, and it is all free for the taking. Steve corrects him, assuring the tribe that he did pay for the food.

“Remember, grandfather? I gave her that little card.”

“Ha! That is true, grandson. But she gave it right back.” Read more »

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Wrestle Time

Establishing a routine at bedtime is good business. We started the practice when our boys were still infants and carried it on until they started going to bed later than we did. No matter what else was going on we tried to keep to our routine of taking baths, wrestling, reading books, praying together, and finally getting tucked in. Before they learned how to tell time, we could start the whole process as early as we wanted and the boys would just follow along like always. That was especially useful on those days when mom and dad needed a little more time to themselves in the evening.

As the years went by, we made adjustments. Bedtimes got later. The boys moved from baths to showers. Books went from picture books, to books with words, to chapter books. They started to read along, and then eventually they were allowed to read on their own for a while after we tucked them in. Wrestle time also evolved. Read more »

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