My wife and I recently started watching a very popular show because we heard so many great things about it. One of the things that I noticed right away about the show was the use of man’s strength. There are several male characters and for the most part all of them play the traditional role of strong males, mainly expressing strength via physical means. Big muscles, force, etc. are what you see played out. These guys push through to accomplish their goals even if they are tired, hungry or in pain, which is great and something men should do.
As a family man I have to be aware of when my “push through” attitude is too much. I personally may be able to push through a situation but my wife or daughter may not. There is a need for all men to understand when it is appropriate to take physical strength and express it through gentleness. Gentleness is too often associated with weakness. Yet, gentleness is far from being weak. Gentleness actually requires significant amounts of strength, but more importantly mastery over this strength. Maybe this image will help explain what I mean.
Think of a woodworker carving a piece of wood. His hand must be strong enough to use his tools to cut the bigger chunks off, but when he gets to the more fine detailed work his strength needs to be used in a different way. He can’t simply force the wood into fine detail: he must be gentle, intentional and precise. A gentle motion to perform fine woodwork requires the right amount of strength. Too much strength and the fine detail is forced and damaged. Too little strength and the wood can be misshaped and ruined because the pressure was off.
Misuse of strength leads to abuse or cowardice two things that are unacceptable in any man.
Physical abuse we see so often. Men choosing to force their strength as a means to accomplish their will and often damage those they are responsible for protecting. Cowardice we see when a man chooses to do the easy thing instead of the right thing because it isn’t as difficult, time consuming or will simply cost them less.
I am finding more and more that a strong man is one that can master the discipline of gentleness in all situations. Whether it’s telling a coworker that what they are doing is bad for the company, confronting someone that has wronged you or finding out that your daughter has been sneaking out to have sex with her boyfriend. In all these situations the way a man applies his strength in the precise measure that is required reveals his true strength.
As I raise my daughter I recognize that I must master gentleness. In order for my daughter to be a fine human being I must be precise and intentional with her. This is soooo difficult. Emotions get stirred so easily and our strength as men can too quickly become forceful, or too lenient. That sweet spot that is so precise requires mastery of self, which can only come from a man’s realization that he is called to apply his strength in the proper way, a powerful way, a gentle way.
Have you ever had one of those days when you find you are sulking in your sadness? Maybe work isn’t going well, or family life is a little nuts. Whatever the case may be you feel down, sad, maybe even depressed. These emotions are very powerful. For some they are crippling.
I had a friend in college that was from Iraq and he would tell me about growing up there during the Desert Storm conflict. This was pretty depressing stuff. There was one thing he said in passing that stuck with me and it wasn’t until now that I recognize its truth and power. This friend recalled the explanation his father gave him in regards to how he kept hope during these difficult times. Although war and conflict surrounded my friend’s life, his father would find peace and comfort in the laughter of children. My friend’s father explained to him that even during something as terrible as war children would play and they would laugh.
Their laughter pierced through war.
Fighting, chaos and death surrounded their lives but laughter; particularly children’s laughter could cut through all of it. This father found the strength to hope not via the government, money, and power but through something as fragile and ungraspable as a child’s laugh.
My first world problems are nothing compared to this friends experience, but the antidote to my moments of sadness is the same–laughter. I can be in the worst of moods and hearing my daughters laugh as she runs throughout the house pierces right through it. Whenever she cracks up and does her full belly laugh I am instantly transported into an experience of joy that is indescribable. Claire’s laughter is brighter and sharper than any darkness, or sadness I can experience.
Laughter, especially that of a child is dripping with joy.
Joy is so necessary in times of sadness and misery. Happiness is an emotion that primarily dependent on a persons mood. I have steak and I am happy. I listen to good music and I am happy. Happiness can be stripped away in seconds because it’s driven by emotions that are affected by our biology (hormones, etc). Joy is different. Joy is something that the soul experiences. A man can be surrounded by war and see destruction (not happy) and still experience joy. A woman’s body can be ripped open as a child is being born (not happy) and yet experience joy. A man can be nailed to a cross (not happy) and experience joy because of what that cross will mean. Joy goes beyond our circumstances. It pierces through them and reveals that although we may not feel happy we have something more powerful at play—joy.
My daughter’s laugh brings me joy even when I am sad, depressed or just blah. It is an incredible gift from someone so small. I think this is why we see such popularity amongst these YouTube videos of children laughing. If you find yourself watching them, the sadness melts away. The pain we may be experiencing isn’t taken away, but joy is given the opportunity to pierce through and that is a beautiful thing.
The day begins with breakfast. I have made banana pancakes and they are really good. The little dictator has not had a taste of the pancakes but she yells that this is not what she wants. I try to reason with her but she yells and throws her sippy-cup in protest. I go back to the kitchen and prepare something else. I come back into the dinning room and present my new offering. The little dictator is still not pleased. Apparently she is not in a good mood this morning.
Breakfast ends and we head over to the little dictators toy area. The little dictator wants to play and so do I, but I have to use the bathroom. This is not acceptable to her. The little dictator screams “play!” I tell her that I will be very quick and the little dictator screams some more and demands that we play now. I head to the bathroom in defiance and the little dictator pounds on the door demanding that I stop this disobedience and that I return to the room to play. I leave the bathroom and proceed to fulfill her demands.
Playtime starts off pleasant. The little dictator pulls out her blocks and makes a tower. Not more than a few seconds go by and she demolishes the tower. The little dictator smiles ever so slightly and turns her eyes towards me. I am not sure what she is thinking but I wonder if she is trying to send a message.
The little dictator demands that we now color with her markers. I grant her wish and pull out the drawing pad and markers. The little dictator cannot be limited to such a thing as a drawing pad. Her imagination is much bigger than that. It encompasses the carpet as well. I encourage that she stay on the drawing pad. The little dictator refuses. Markers are taken away and a new rage comes over her. Crying, followed by the usual rant of, “mine! Mine! MINE!”
Suddenly the little dictator realizes that markers are overrated and that she is hungry once again. I sarcastically point out that we have some great pancakes, but the little dictator is not amused. I think sarcasm is beyond her. The little dictator proceeds to the fridge where she awaits for me to open it and grant her whatever she wishes. Ice cream and mangos are at the top of her list. Ice cream is denied, which causes another rage, but quickly she realizes that mangos are just as good. The mangos have just touched the plate and I hear the little dictator calling out, “Sofia! Sofia!” This is the little dictator’s favorite TV show. She is quite obsessed with it. “Sofia! Sofia!” I finally cave and allow her to watch one episode. There is no sound from her for 22 minutes.
The show ends and the little dictator demands that another episode be played. “Sofia! Sofia!” I refuse and a hissy fit ensues. I ignore it and the little dictator proceeds to go play in her room. She calls for me at full force. I go in to see what the little dictator needs and she runs at me full speed and says, “Daddy! Daddy!” She reaches for me and greets me with, “Hi Daddy.” I smile and pick the little dictator up, “hi baby.” I stare into the beautiful bluesih, gray eyes that are before me and smile.
This is my little dictator. My baby girl.
When we went shopping for a diaper bag I was totally out of my element. My wife understands this realm of existence better than I do, so I deferred to her decision. We bought a black Fisher Price bag that literally fit anything we needed for the baby. The bag was roomy, but not well built so after 7 months of use it started to fall apart. Also the shoulder strap was not very comfortable which is a big deal.
We were on the lookout for a new bag and this time I had some say on the matter since I had been carrying it for months. I wanted something less gigantic, but with space in it. My wife and I went to a weecycle event that had consignment baby clothes. We found the baby bag section and began to search. I found one that was a little more rugged and my wife found one that was new, but kind of girly. We went back and forth for a few minutes and finally we picked the black Kenneth Cole bag with double loops (like a purse) and no shoulder strap. When I say, “we picked” I mean I unconditionally surrendered and my wife had her way.
After just a few days of having the bag I hated it. I couldn’t carry it. The double loops made it look like a purse and I was not going to carry it like one. So I would basically grab the double loops together and carry the bag in that awkward way a husband carries his wife’s purse. It sucked.
After almost a year of carrying this stupid bag I decided that I couldn’t be the only guy who hates his wife’s choice of diaper bag and so I Googled, “manly diaper bags”. There were lots of different companies that had options but I finally settled with DiaperDude. There were several types and all were manly looking—no purse loops. I got their black bag with the three-zipper pocket front. The bag is awesome. The front three pockets are great for wipes, diapers and snacks. The bag, I believe is made for an outing with baby that could last a few hours. I don’t think it’s the type of bag you could carry everything you need for a full 8+hour outing. However, if you are going out for a few hours and require a bottle, some diapers, wipes and a change of clothes this bag will work for you.
One of the great things about this company is that they have multiple styles of bags and they come in very cool, guy friendly colors and patterns (like cammo). If you have a favorite sport team and want their logo on it you can get a bag with it. At the end of the day there are two things I need from a diaper bag: functionality and that it not look like a purse. Diaper Dude delivered.
The one thing I did not like about the Diaper Dude bag was the price. On their website they are asking $60. I think $40 is more reasonable. This is just my opinion. I tend to be very frugal so take that with a grain of salt. I went on Ebay and found a lightly used black bag with the three-zipper front for $20, which was a great deal.
I have been using the bag for about a month now and I have no complaints. It is supper comfortable, easy to access while wearing it (very important) and most importantly—it doesn’t look like a purse.
I was talking to some friends who are getting ready to have their baby about what type of chair they should have in their nursery. To most people this sounds like a ridiculous thing to think about but the type of chair you have in the nursery is pretty important. You’ll be doing lots of sitting and sleeping on it.
Before we had our daughter we were recommended a glider chair with the accompanying gliding ottoman. We tried them but they were not very comfortable and most of them were really expensive. The gliders had these cushion seats that although some were well made, it really didn’t do the job as far as comfort goes. They were not thick enough, or the cushion would come off too easy. No one ever sits straight in a chair so slouching on a glider was pretty rough on the back.
Next we turned to the old school wooden rocker. The nostalgic image of seeing someone rock on those is heartwarming but not comfortable. Although Cracker Barrel does a good job of trying to get people to buy them they really are not ideal for late night feedings and baby/parent naps. Still some people do it.
Finally we decided one day to go to a furniture store and see what they had to offer. We figured there might be a broader selection to chose from. There was more of the same there, but then we saw it. The recliner. My wife and I looked at each other as the scales fell from our eyes.
Screw the glider. We want a recliner!
We instantly knew that a recliner chair was the way to go. It was half the price of a glider and a million times more comfortable. My wife loved it and it was pretty roomie. The upside too was that once the kid outgrows being held on the chair daddy could move the recliner to his man cave. Everyone wins.
We have had our chocolate color recliner for over two years and it is great. We have slept in it with kid in arms. When they are new born it’s perfect because your arms are raised on the armrest and it creates this little area for them to sleep in. If they somehow moved they would bump onto your arms and still be safe. As our daughter grows the recliners size allows for us to still sit in it with her and be comfortable. The cushioning is great and I have never felt wood against my back, or the need to reposition because the cushion moved. Our recliner also rocks back and forth which is pretty awesome since that’s one of the selling points of most baby gliders. I think most importantly the recliner reclines. There is nothing nicer than pulling that lever and instantly having your feet raised and your back dropped to a semi-horizontal position. It is the epitome of relaxation.
Another thing we love about the recliner is the fact that it’s cushioned enough that when your two year old bounces onto the arm rest it doesn’t bust her nose up. If a kid did that on a glider or rocker that’s pure hickory on the snout and a potential trip to the ER. Claire has jumped from her toddler rocking chair (I know it’s ironic) onto the recliner and has been caught by cushion every time.
So those are my thoughts on a nursery chair. Ultimately you need to decide for yourself, but let’s face it a glider in your man cave is gonna be weird. Just saying.
A few days ago Claire was having some digestive issues. I don’t know if it’s the mangos or what but it was interesting. Claire is also getting use to the whole potty training thing, which started of well, but now we have now regressed. So we are hanging out playing with her toys and suddenly I notice that Claire is doing this weird dance. I ask her if she needs to go to the potty and she says “no”, which means she really does have to go. I put her on the potty and she sat for a minute and kept trying to get up. Finally, I had enough and picked her up from the potty. I guess that the upward motion of picking her up followed by gravity pressing her butt back down onto my arm caused bombs to drop on the floor. It kind of startled me at first and when I looked at my arm and saw a giant lump of poop I was brought back to reality.
My wife took Claire, changed her and I cleaned up. A few minutes later we had restored order. My wife went to work and Claire and I continued playing. After 10 minutes or so I got a big whiff of Claire’s work…again. I picked Claire up and changed her and we continued playing. Another 10 minutes went by and Claire moved away from me and hid. I was confused. “Baby what are you doing?” Claire continued to move away from me, her face showing what I first thought was concern, mixed with fear. I had never seen her do this before. Was she scared? Did she see or hear something that caused fear? Finally, my nose told me what was wrong. Claire had pooped again. I approached her and she coward with that same weird look on her face. Finally I recognized what was happening. I had seen this look before in others, but I did not expect to find it on my baby girl.
Shame. My daughter felt shame…
I slowly walked up to Claire and she began to cry and yell, “no, no!” She continued to run away from me. I bent down and took Claire’s hand, “It’s okay baby. Lets go change your diaper.” Claire wasn’t sure what to do. She resisted some more and continued to have that shameful look. I picked her up and changed her diaper. I wiped away all the filth and told her how much I loved her. Claire’s shameful look disappeared with each wipe that took away her stains.I put Claire down and she went back to playing. I watched my little girl run, shout and laugh. I smiled and had one of those moments where you just take it all in and thank God that life is so good.
Its difficult to put into words how painful it was to see my innocent daughter experience shame. I don’t know how Claire could ever think that she needs to hide from me, even if she pooped 3 times in a row. I guess we all experience shame at some point, I just didn’t think it would begin this early on in my daughters life.
Shame is never helpful to a person. Guilt is the recognition that we’ve done something wrong and our conscience responds appropriately (at least it should). Guilt helps us to make the change or seek forgiveness for the wrong we have done. Shame however, is different. Shame tells us that the wrong we have done is bad and that we are bad as well. Shame diminishes us as a person. Shame tries to rob us of our dignity. Shame makes us run away and hide. We do this with God all the time. We fall and think that somehow what we have done is too bad. Unforgivable. Yet God the Father comes searching for us—as if we could actually ever hide from Him.
As a father I recognize that I must do whatever it takes to help my daughter process her emotions in a healthy way. When she is guilty of doing wrong she needs to properly recognize this and respond accordingly. There is no room for shame in anyone’s mind and heart because all it does is distort and lead us away from those who love us, especially God. My hope is that in any occurrence where shame tries to creep its head in my daughter’s heart and mind I will be able to help her recognize it so that instead of hiding she runs to her Fathers arms for healing, forgiveness and peace.
My daughter is beautiful, stunningly beautiful.
The above picture I believe captures her natural beauty, personality, character, innocence and playfulness. I realize that my interpretation of her beauty is subjective. You may think that my daughter is cute, but find that your child is actually the most gorgeous in the world. And so it goes with every parent on the planet. It is easy to be blown away by our children’s beauty. To be captivated by beauty of any kind is necessary to all of humanity. This is why we need great paintings, music and films. We need beauty to captivate us, inspire us, and move us from complacency to action, to transformation. As one of my favorite authors, Fyodor Dostoevsky once said, “Beauty will save the world.”
It does. It has. And it will continue to do so.
I had never really thought about beauty as a saving power. Since the birth of my daughter this has changed. I am surrounded by many beautiful things my wife being one of thee most beautiful. Even though beauty surrounds me often I tend to ignore it, or not allow it to drive me towards transformation.
I used to drive across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in the state of Maryland all the time. The view from that bridge is pretty spectacular. On one side you have a great shot of Washington DC that is postcard worthy. On the other side sits the National Harbor, which has become a visual masterpiece, particularly at night with its lights. Most of the time my focus was on the traffic that builds up on the bridge. Not postcard worthy. Getting to work on time and wishing I could live closer to work were the usual domination thoughts and focus as I slowly crossed this bridge. Beauty literally flanked me and these were my thoughts.
We do this often.
We put on the blinders and push through because we have deadlines, places to be, and people to meet. Yet, beauty continues to call on us; to draw us in so that we can seize to be complacent; to move us into action; to transform us. Beauty asks us to slow down. To see. To listen. To gaze. Life is too good and too beautiful to be lived at 90 mph. If we want to enjoy it we have to take it in, slowly. Driving past the Mona Lisa is very different than standing in front of it for a while.
This is why a relationship with God (the originator of all that is beautiful) necessarily requires that we slow down, listen and spend time in His presence—what I would call gazing. Beauty draws us into an intimate place where we are able to see, listen and gaze, but it also draws out the gifts we have been given. Beauty stirs within us and in that stirring those gifts surface. We recognize these gifts and are challenged to use them. Action. Transformation. My daughter has helped me in this tremendously. All it takes is a moment in front of her and beauty moves me.
A new year lies ahead of us. We can chose to put the blinders on and go through it as if it were a race to be run. Or, we can allow ourselves to be stirred by the beauty that surrounds us, because “Beauty will save the world”. It does. It has. And it will continue to do so.