Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Talking To Your White Kids About Race and Privilege In America

I've been super hesitant to write about this topic for a number of reasons.  I'm white. I live in suburban America.  In this blog, I've loved talking about marriage and raising kids...but race conversations are difficult,  I wonder often if I have any real ability to add anything helpful to the conversation...because of my aforementioned biological and demographic disposition.  But as my Facebook feed is blowing up on this topic from friends of mine on all sides...a few things just continue to grieve me;

1. I am the father of 4 little kids, who right now, love everyone and everything...they have no fear of others with regard to race, ethnicity, social status or other...and their only opinion right now on race relations is that not everyone has the same skin color. They will most likely grow up where the majority of their relationships are with other white kids...their social interactions will be predominately with other white kids and they, like me and their mom...will have little to no understanding of what white privilege in America is really like, because we are subjective white suburbans...and we don't even realize such a thing exists.  And this is part of the problem...we don't get it.  We don't face the same trials that our American brothers and sisters of color face on a daily basis.  There is a great article that highlights this disparity.  Here is the link if you are interested...

Two lines stood out to me...

"Clearly white Americans see the broader significance of Michael Brown’s death through radically different lenses than black Americans. There are myriad reasons for this divergence, from political ideologies—which, for example, place different emphases on law and order versus citizens’ rights—to fears based in racist stereotypes of young black men. But the chief obstacle to having an intelligent, or even intelligible, conversation across the racial divide is that on average white Americans live in communities that face far fewer problems and talk mostly to other white people."

The other brings me to tears as I think of what it would be like to parent my children in these ways...

"Jonathan Capehart’s Washington Post column after the Brown shooting contained a personal and poignant account of his mother’s lessons to him as a young black man:

How I shouldn’t run in public, lest I arouse undue suspicion. How I most definitely should not run with anything in my hands, lest anyone think I stole something. The lesson included not talking back to the police, lest you give them a reason to take you to jail—or worse. And I was taught to never, ever leave home without identification."

2. It's easy to look at the "facts of case", as people are saying...and make statements around why this is just another example of "a man" who attacked a police officer, who wouldn't surrender, who was a violent criminal, who got shot by a police officer who was fighting for his life...here are some of those "facts" as noted by the Washington Post;

It's easy to talk about other cases of inequalities for whites.  It's easy to use examples of blacks killing white's.  It's easy to make these comments about this being nothing about race...it's easy...especially if you are white.  This again, is part of the problem...we (forgive me for speaking in general on behalf of white Americans), are not listening.  The Ferguson protests, riots, looting and more are the collective voice of tired souls crying..."Mercy! When will it end?"  Ferguson highlights once again the continue distrust between police and minorities...and a cry from many asking, "Will anyone do anything about it?"

So what will we do?  

  • I hope we will work on listening...I want to hear more about what it means to be a "person of color" in America and how that shapes ones daily interactions in life.  I want to know what I can do to help...because I know that I have a lot to learn.
  • I want to talk to my kids all the time about how their worldviews shape the way they care for others regardless of their race/ethnicity/other.  Maybe in the generations to come (praying it will come sooner)...we'll see the mercy that Ferguson is calling for. 

  • I also want us to work hard at not growing calloused toward one another. I have shared this before, as a status post on my FB profile but I think it's worth saying again...When my dad was murdered, I thanked God for the hard work and perseverance of the officers who investigated and solved the case...and I am still grateful today, more than they know. I am praying for police officers around the country, for tirelessly providing safety, security and peace, so I can sit at my computer and post things on Facebook, while they literally put their life on the line every day for me and my family...and I'm praying for those police officers who have become calloused because of a broken and brutal world...may they care again. Thank you, to all who serve.
This Youtube video link is worth the 3 minute perspective on how hard it must be to serve in situations I'll never understand.  "That is why I love them, that is why I grieve them."...

Lord in your mercy...hear our prayers! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2 Reasons Why We Don't Let Our Kids Have Their Own Room

Raising kids has become one of the greatest joys and greatest struggles of our marriage.  Many of you know, Kari and I have 4 kids, all age 11 and under.  We have so loved seeing each of them become such unique, fun, and challenging little people.

You may have noticed I used the word "become" because, when our kids were all under six years old, every time someone would say to us, “Enjoy it, it sure goes by fast!”...I would throw up a little in my mouth.  “Enjoying” chasing, changing diapers, cleaning up several times a day, making meals, wiping noses and behinds is a bit of an oxymoron, all the while feeling like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, living the same day, over and over again…the monotony was sometimes painful. While parenting toddlers can be tremendous...it can also often feel like survival on so many levels.

Hindsight is 20/20 for sure...looking back on those times, there is much I miss.

When our kids got to the age of "needing" their own room, we made an intentional decision to have our kids share one bedroom.  Over the past several years, I've had a lot of conversations about this with folks, wondering how/what/why we would do this and so I thought I'd take a few moments to share what we have found to be helpful in this decision.

First though...let me qualify it (a ton). :)  This idea is obviously not for everyone...I think you could easily write a blog about why it's important to give every child their "space" in your home, and I get that.  If this is you, bravo...I am in no way challenging your parenting choices nor trying to brag of ours.  This past year as I've written a few blog posts on marriage, I've realized how much people are longing to join the conversation (almost 10,000 visits to this blog) in how to flourish in their marriage and in their parenting...so, this is only an attempt to give some thoughts on adding to the "flourishing parent" conversation.

So, for what it's worth...here are 2 Reasons Why We Don't Let Our Kids Have Their Own Room;

1. Selfish Autonomy That Leads to Entitlement - I've spoken on this a bit before from a pastoral perspective when I wrote about entitlement being the number one killer of the American Church.  But this is the case in general for humanity...we want things our way.  We are selfish, and prideful, and while we fight to serve and care for others, at the end of the day...most people (probably not you) care more about themselves then they do the interest of others.  We look at the man on the corner with disdain, believing he'll only use our charity to fuel his addiction.  We publicly celebrate the promotion of others while privately loathing that it wasn't "me".  We struggle to honestly and earnestly serve the other with no strings attached...I know this from the hundreds of conversations I've heard and had with statements like, "She didn't even say, 'Thanks.'", or "I don't need anything in return, but it would have at least been nice to have been acknowledged..."  My point is this...my kids are learning this idea of autonomy and entitlement on their own.  They live in a world that is all about it; Look good. Smell great. Have the perfect body. Get the right job. Get great grades so you can get into the right college. Wear Axe hair spray and ladies will literally jump you...basically, be perfect and nothing should stop you from that...it's truly all about, YOU!  But it's not actually...the reality is, the job you get, the spouse you marry, the roommate you have in college...they will all demand sacrifice of you, and your autonomy and entitlement will be challenged in every stage of your life.  So, in our home, we want to create a space where you have to intentionally know how to operate in a community...sharing a bedroom forces you to compromise your selfishness, especially when you are 11 and your little brother is 4. When you are trying to read a book and he's making bombing noises destroying all things in his imaginary sight in the bunk below.  Or when she leaves her smelly socks on your "clean" jeans and you've got to figure out how to resolve your frustration, because you'll be waking up with her in the morning.  When our kids get mad, they can't just go to their room, shut the door, and listen to music...they share that room with 3 other people.  Living in community is one of THE BEST ways to fight your selfish autonomy that leads to entitlement.

2. Creating a Generous Heart - I spent the past 20 years working with families, in an organization called, Young Life.  I've had countless conversations with parents about their kids, and each of them LONGS for their child to flourish in life...all of us want our kids to grow up to be great participants in society, and to contribute in a way that makes a difference.  One of the things we want our kids to have is a generous heart.  We want them to absolutely care about "the other".  There are several ways you can foster this in your kids, but for us...sharing a room together is one intentional way we've tried to accomplish this.  Creating a generous heart is not just in giving or sharing, but it also can be seen in how we resolve conflicts and frustrations.  Our kids will have plenty of opportunities to think about themselves (see point number 1), but in the community of their bedroom...they have to figure out how to be generous with their space and "their things".  Because again...every stage of their life will require working with others, and I pray that our kids will be givers and not just takers.  Some of the first words our kids learned (after of course, "Dad-da" and "Ma-Ma"), were "Mine!", "No", "Mine!", "No!"...in fact when our kids were toddlers, it was everything we could do to get them to share with others...they could have a toy on the shelf that they never played with and as soon as one of their siblings went to play with it, it became absolutely the most important thing for them to have at that moment, and the fighting commenced.  Sharing a bedroom, has forced our kids to figure out how to share their space and time and I'm convinced it is helping create in them a generous heart.

The truth is, one day, we may change our mind on this approach of a shared bedroom...but for now at least, we are going to keep helping our kids work on their charity, care, generosity, community, and benevolence.

In whatever ways you and yours are doing this in your home...keep going!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Staying Connected With Your Spouse When You Feel Like Two Ships Passing In The Night

It's been just over 6 months since I wrote, "The night I wanted to divorce my wife, and why 4 years later, I am so glad I didn't"  If you didn't get a chance to read it, here is the link;

It received a huge response (a couple thousand peeps read it).  I didn't realize at the time, how many couples were longing for language to help them work through their difficulties.  For those of you who are married (or once were), you know just how hard marriage can be while simultaneously being the most tremendous gift you've ever received (when things are going well!) :)  When couples are able to work well together and intentionally fan the flame of their relationship in ways that grow it...there is simply nothing like it (insert here all of your favorite synonyms of, "Joy"!).  While at the same time, you are fully aware of the Jenga like nature of your relationship, where just one wrong move can send the whole thing crumbling.  The good news (sticking with our Jenga theme), it can be rebuilt (sometimes daily...sometimes hourly).  

This fall, was another change for our family and marriage...my wife (Kari) received her dream job, but it meant our schedules had to change.  She is up and out of the house early, and I am up to get our 4 little ones moving, dressed, fed, with some semblance of good hygiene (and by good hygiene, I mean minimal bed-head).  Once the kids are off to school/pre-school the fun hasn't stopped, it's just begun for the day...once school is out, Kari picks the kids up to start the second half of the crazy (homework, activities, sports, etc...).  Throw in the carpool routine and you've got a family of 6 running around from wake-up to 8pm, with about as much marital connection as a wet band-aid (wet band-aids aren't sticky or "connected" well...for those of you still kicking that visual around) :)

So, in an attempt to help you start thinking about being better connected with your spouse in the midst of the busyness of life...here are some thoughts that have helped Kari and I stay connected when we've felt like "two ships, passing in the night."

1.  Stay Intentional!  Do you remember when you started dating your spouse...you were busy then too.  You both had individual lives, working, going to school, studying, etc...you had to be intentional about getting time together, and you loved it as you were excited to spend time together.  Why has today's busyness caused you to stop being intentional about your time together?  A few years ago, Kari and I decided that we would plan at least two significant times together throughout the year...one of those times would be a few nights away just the two of us, and one would be a time away with our kids.  It's an intentional act to take a pause from the busy and to invest in the most important thing to us...our marriage and family.  What ways are you being intentional in your marriage?

2.  Never Stop Dating.  Dating is related to the first point in that, it has to be intentional...people love to be sought after.  We love to be longed for, to be needed, to feel wanted.  Dating is one way you can tell your spouse, "I need you...and I want you to know it!"  If you only took two trips a year together, my hunch is, you'll have a pretty disconnected marriage...but dating can take place any time and on a regular basis.  Sure it can be a dinner out, a movie, or drinks...but if you are on a budget, and can't afford these things, there are hundred's of things you can do at no cost; Go for a walk, play a board game, play frisbee golf together, read a book together, lay in bed naked as you talk about your day (you probably want to do this when the kids are gone), watch funny animal videos on YouTube together...do something!!!!  If you don't date on a regular basis, you are missing out on an incredible opportunity to grow your relationship.  When is the next date you have on your calendar with your spouse?

3.  Talk positively about each other, to each other, and back it up with your actions...I know this sounds like a "self-help" idea, and perhaps it is, but there are power in words (positive and negative) and telling each other what we like about the other is work that cultivates growth.  I had shared in my previous post on marriage that I had stopped thinking positively about Kari, and it was killing the way I viewed her and our relationship...my heart was growing hard.  Once I started thinking positively about her, telling her and showing it through my actions, it not only changed the way I was thinking about her and our marriage it changed the way she was responding to me.  This is one of those areas that we neglect in the midst of the crazy...and it's perhaps the easiest thing to do.  When you walk in the door from work/school/activities...just stop, hold your spouse, look them in the eye and tell her/him what you like about her/him...even just one thing.  Not only will this grow your fondness to each other...your kids will see it and you will be modeling what it looks like to grow a great relationship.  Lastly, be sure to back this up with your actions...I could tell Kari how great she is all day long, but if I don't make the bed, help with the dishes or help around the house in ways that speak her love language, then my words are deafening to her.  So here is my question for you...how are you speaking positively about your spouse and showing it through your actions?  

As you surely know by now...to be good, marriage like anything, takes intentional work...in marriage it takes the intentional work of both people to truly flourish.  Keep working at it friends...your marriage is worth every moment of intentional work you put in to it.  Now stop reading and go on a date with your spouse!