Archives For parenting

Several years ago, I had the brilliant idea that our family should become chicken farmers.  We ordered baby chicks from a good friend, and I set out to build a chicken coop – actually a deluxe chicken palace.  Our chicken coup had two floors, a four-seater nesting box, and spectacular picture window.

When our baby chicks arrived via the U.S. Postal Service, our adventure began.  For the first several weeks, we kept the chickens in the shed under a heat lamp.  Over time, the small baby chicks grew feathers and became big enough to move to the chicken palace I had constructed earlier.

Our chicken raising experience brought us many amazing stories and delicious farm-fresh eggs.

When we were getting ready for the baby chicks to arrive,I had a couple of challenging conversations with my son, Isaac. Here’s how it went:

On my way to my saxophone lesson with both kids in the car on Saturday morning…
Isaac: “Dad, what happens if we crack an egg and there’s a chicken inside?”
Hannah: Snicker…
Pause
Me: “Well, we won’t have to worry about that, because we aren’t getting any roosters.”
Another pause.
Isaac: “What do roosters have to do with it?”
Hannah: Snicker, snicker…
A longer pause.
Me: “Well, you can’t have baby chickens without roosters.”
Isaac: “Oh…”
Me: “Maybe, we should talk about this later.”
That evening while I was washing the dishes, Isaac is hanging around me…
Me: “You remember that conversation we had this morning about the chickens and the roosters?”
Isaac: “Yes.”
Me: “Well, maybe we should talk about that some more.”
Brief pause.
Isaac: “I think that will be an uncomfortable conversation.”
Me: “No kidding.”
A few weeks later, Isaac and I were alone in the car on the way to the mall, and we had a chance to discuss the 30,000 foot view of the fact that roosters and chickens were needed to have baby chickens just like dads and moms were necessary to have babies. We didn’t get into all the details, but this laid the foundation for more conversations.
As I think about this topic, I’m extremely grateful for the model my own dad gave me for talking openly and frankly about an “Uncomfortable” topic.
As fathers, we have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to talk with our kids about things that really matter in life.
If you are struggling when it comes to having the “uncomfortable” conversations with your children, remember these three things:
  1. Your kids will find out one way or the other.  Our kids are actually pretty smart.  They will find things out from friends, from the internet, or from other resources.
  2. Your kids deserve to hear the truth from someone they can trust – namely you.  You have a responsibility to talk with your kids and to teach them about life.  Too many parents shirk this responsibility.  They let their kids learn from others instead of from you.  You are both missing out when you rely on other sources.
  3. You don’t want your kids to get the wrong messages.  Let’s face it.  A lot of the sources outside of your house are simply unreliable.  Culture sends the wrong messages about sex, identity, and other things that really matter.

Have you been putting off an important conversation with your child?  Take time today to initiate that conversation.  If you are struggling with how to start, take time for yourself to plug into reliable resources and mentors to help you prepare for the conversations you should have with your kids.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Frederick Douglass

How have you handled the “uncomfortable” conversations with your children?  How did your father handle these conversations with you?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Time to Man Up

December 19, 2016 — Leave a comment

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“A real man loves his wife, and places his family as the most important thing in life. Nothing has brought me more peace and content in life than simply being a good husband and father.”

– Frank Abagnale

As men, we chase so many pursuits.  We want to climb the ladder at work as fast as possible.  We want to be the best athlete we can be.  We want to have the best things – the nicest car, the biggest house, the greenest lawn.  We over-involve ourselves in a variety of hobbies.  And we put so much attention on our favorite sports teams.

I’m not saying that any of these things are wrong, but I think our focus is often misguided.

If you were to create a list of your priorities and the way you spend your time, where would your wife and kids fit into the list?

If your marriage and your kids aren’t near the top of your list, it’s time for you reconsider your schedule and your priorities.

Last week, I announced the new Stretched Men Group website (www.stretchedmengroup.com), and I opened up sign-ups for first three-month mastermind in 2017.  For more information about the group, click here.

The Stretched Men Group is designed to help you understand your current list of priorities, to help you establish your desired list of priorities, and to help you create action steps required to get you from where you are to where you want to be.

The Stretched Men Group is also designed to help you find the accountability you need to make sure your good intentions become a reality.

Your wife and kids need this from you!

It’s time to man up!

If you are curious and want to learn more, I’d love to talk with you.  Sign up below, so we can set up a time to talk.

 

Men – It’s Not Too Late!

December 12, 2016 — 2 Comments

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“It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

– George Eliot

Do you feel as though life is rushing by and your opportunities for influence are slipping away?

Does it seems like your parenting journey, your marriage, and your life is a blur as the calendar pages change at rapid pace?

Do you think it’s too late to be the dad, the husband, the leader, or the man you want to be?

You are not alone!

“THE MASS OF MEN LEAD LIVES OF QUIET DESPERATION”

– Henry David Thoreau

Today, I’m excited to announce the launch of the Stretched Men Group and the new website that goes with this paid mastermind.

www.stretchedmengroup.com

The Stretched Men Group is designed to help you take the next step in your journey to becoming the man you were meant to be.  Through valuable teaching, customized coaching, and essential conversation with other men, you will be challenged and held accountable to take the next step as you go through the next three months with the men in this group and me.

For more information on the Stretched Men Group, click here.

Also, if you know a man who needs to take the next step, I’d love to connect with him.  Let him know about the group and send him to the site, so he can sign up.

I’m accepting new sign-ups for a group launching in January until December 31, 2016.  Don’t wait.  Sign up TODAY!

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Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving.

Amy Grant

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, I introduced the Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition.  This is a tradition our family started 15 years ago, and it has helped ensure we intentionally reflect on God’s provision in our lives over the past year.  To read more about the tradition, click here.

This week, I’ll be sharing the things I’ll be writing on the tablecloth this year.  (Monday, I shared the first thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.  Tuesday, I shared the second thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.  And yesterday, I shared the third thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.)

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Today, I’m thankful for my kids.  They have kept me busy and proud this year.

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I’m thankful for Hannah, our oldest.  She kept us busy this year graduating from high school and starting college.  We’re excited to have her home this week to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.

And I’m thankful for Isaac.  He has also had a year of milestones – his first job, driving, and working on his music and scouting programs.

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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.  They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.  Psalm 127:3-5

Who are you thankful for this year?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

SENDING YOUR CHILD TO COLLEGE-1

Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted.

Garrison Keillor

IMG_5087One week from yesterday, we will be delivering Hannah, our oldest child, to Messiah College for the start of cross-country season and her freshman year.

Hannah will be spending this week working, finalizing her packing, and saying her goodbyes to her friends.  Hopefully, she’ll have a few minutes for her family.

Hannah is ready to go.  And as hard as it will be for Leanne and me, I think we will be ready as well.

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t want to rush things.  We will miss Hannah dearly and we will look forward to seeing her whenever possible, but we would fail as parents if we didn’t launch her onto this next stage of her life.

As parents, we do our best to point our children at the right target.  Like an archer holds an arrow on the bowstring keeping his sights on the target, we’ve kept Hannah on the bowstring of our family.  We’ve done our best to point her to the right target – spiritually, financially, socially, and in other areas of life.

But an arrow is not meant to stay on the bowstring forever.  An arrow is meant to fly towards the target and ultimately to hit the target, and this only happens when the archer releases the arrow from his grip.  And our children aren’t meant to stay on our “bowstring.”  They are meant to fly toward the target and to find their way.  This week represents a major step in our parenting journey.  Next Sunday, we will release Hannah to fly.  We pray that she flies straight and free of obstacles, and we trust that our parenting efforts – our intentional efforts to point her to the right target – will pay off for Hannah and her future.

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I was a little sad to be at this point in our parenting journey.  But my sadness is overshadowed by my happiness, joy, and excitement for Hannah.  I’m excited for what this means for our family in the coming years.  Leanne and I will get to spend some more focused time with our son, Isaac, as he heads into a big year.  I’m also looking forward to what this means in our marriage as we draw closer to the “empty nest” stage of our life.

Parenting takes us on all kinds of fun, interesting, and crazy adventures.  It’s important to stop and enjoy the moments and milestones along the way.  And it’s important to be intentional along the way.  The time with our kids goes by far more quickly than anyone can describe.  Make the most of the moments with your kids.  Take time each day to show them your love.  And do your best to point them at the right target.

If you want to connect with other fathers who want to be intentional in their parenting, their marriage, and their manhood, consider joining my new mastermind group just for men.  The Stretch Man Mastermind is all about creating a community of men who want to hit the right target.  If this sounds interesting to you, I’d love to talk.  Fill out the simple form below, and I’ll get back to you.  Spots are filling up quickly in my September – November group.  Don’t miss out!

INTRODUCING THE STRETCH MAN MASTERMIND GROUP

You don’t climb mountains without a team, you don’t climb mountains without being fit, you don’t climb mountains without being prepared and you don’t climb mountains without balancing the risks and rewards. And you never climb a mountain on accident – it has to be intentional.

Mark Udall

Life is way too short to let it pass you by without a plan and without a support team.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life only to realize I had wasted my time here on earth.

I want to be intentional.  And I want to know I gave it my all.

Being a man – and specifically being a father and a husband – can be pretty challenging.  We have careers, family, friends, hobbies, and finances to balance.

I believe many men want to have deeper, more fulfilled lives, but they don’t know where to start.  Guys wander around through life afraid to ask for directions, and they miss out on living their best life ever.

Over the past several months, I’ve had multiple guys approach me in search of a mentor or a guide.  While I’m not a perfect parent or perfect spouse, they have seen something in my family and in me that makes them want to learn more.

These conversations are humbling, and I want to help.

Today, I’m excited to announce the launch of the Stretch Man Mastermind Group.  (To learn more about the mastermind group concept, click here.)

What is the Stretch Man Mastermind Group?

The Stretch Man Mastermind Group is a group of men committed to meeting together for three months.  The group will meet every other week in September, October, and November.  The meetings will be held over video conferencing software, so an internet connection, a webcam, and a decent microphone will be important.

Meetings will last 60-90 minutes.

Most meetings will start with a 20 minutes teaching time where I will share on a topic designed to help guys stretch themselves.  These topics will focus on helping us become better fathers, better husbands, and better men.  Then we will have a rotating “hot seat”.  Each meeting, we will focus on a challenge or question brought to the group by one of the mastermind members.  The “hot seat” will rotate from meeting to meeting, so everyone has the opportunity to be on the “hot seat” and to focus on their challenge/question.

The first meeting will provide an opportunity for the group to get to know each other.  And we’ll jump into our normal format for the second meeting.

In between the bi-weekly meetings, the group will correspond with each other in the group’s private Facebook group.

During this inaugural three months, I will also offer two one-on-one calls with each participant to tackle your additional questions and challenges.

This paid mastermind is designed to provide the support, community and accountability you need to intentionally STRETCH your parenting, marriage, and manhood to the next level.

Spots in the Stretch Man Mastermind Group are filling up fast, and I don’t want you to miss out.

If this excites you or you want to learn more, connect with me in the comments or by leaving your information below:


CELEBRATING PARENTING MILESTONES

Parenting takes you down all kinds of roads.

Some of the roads are bumpy.  Some of the roads are smooth.

Sometimes is feels like you are moving along the road like a turtle – slow and steady.  Sometimes it feels like you are moving along on cruise control.  And sometimes it feels like you are navigating hairpin turns at breakneck speeds.

For me, it feels like the pace of my parenting journey is moving along at the speed of sound (that’s really fast for those of you wondering).

Sometimes it’s healthy to stop and reflect on what is actually happening.  That’s what this post is all about.  It’s a chance for me to stop (although it may be a brief stop), to reflect, and to rejoice in what God is doing in the lives of my children.

Family 2016 Mothers Day

Let’s start with my son.

Isaac Permit Test

Isaac just turned 16 last week.  He is turning into a man right before my eyes.  He is almost as tall as I am.  In fact, I would suspect I will no longer be the tallest person in the family by the end of the summer.

Isaac successfully passed the Pennsylvania Permit Test, and he is now eligible to drive under the instruction of a licensed driver.  I’ve been out with him twice so far.  Our initial “outings” have been limited to a couple of empty parking lots, but we will quickly be graduating to roads with other cars.  He’s doing a great job, and I’m excited for this step in his journey.

Isaac has been working outside of school to raise he level of his academics – specifically his reading.  I have been amazed to see the level of effort he is putting into this pursuit, and I can see that it is paying off.  Recently, he created a letter to send to a few music directors and teachers requesting some feedback to help him clarify his musical focus for the next few years.  Before he sent out the first letter, he let Leanne and me read it.  We were blown away by Isaac’s ability to clearly articulate his thoughts and questions into this letter.  Isaac is growing up.

At the end of April, Isaac had his last piano recital with the teacher he has had since he started playing the piano at age four or five.  His teacher is releasing him to pursue a higher level teacher.  She has taken him as far as she can, and she wants him to keep stretching.  Last week, he had his last lesson with her, and he will begin lessons with a new instructor this week.  I think we were all a little sad to say goodbye to Mrs. Clemmens, but we were honored and humbled by her wisdom in sending him on to an instructor who can advance him further.

Finally, Isaac is diligently working on his Eagle Scout project.  He is designing and building a disc golf course at our church.  At first, this sound easy.  If you think it’s easy, you would be wrong.  He has to fully document his proposal.  He has to get buy-in from several people in and out of scouts.  He has to raise funds to pay for the materials required to build the course.  And he has to coordinate manpower to actually build the course.  He is making steady progress, and I’m excited to watch him complete this project.  I know he his learning as a result of this experience.

Hannah Messiah

My daughter is keeping it interesting for Leanne and me.

Hannah PromHannah is on track to graduate from high school in June.  Last week, she completed her last official day of classroom time, and she moves into a three-week period of career study.  She will be working alongside a Spanish teacher at one of the area elementary schools.  I’m sure this will give her fantastic opportunities to see what it might be like to be a Spanish teacher.

Hannah had her last high school track meet this weekend.  She finished 8th in the 3200m and 3rd in the 4 x 800m relay at the conference championship meet.  Her team just missed winning the conference championship by a few points.  Running has brought Hannah a lot of opportunity to build her confidence, her running ability, and her leadership.  In addition, she has met some fantastic friends as a result her high school running career.  She is looking forward to running at the collegiate level.

Hannah finished up the academic side of her high school career by taking six AP (Advanced Placement) tests in a week.  Leanne and I are amazed by the intelligence and drive that comes out of our oldest child.  She is ready for college.  She’ll be attending Messiah College in the fall where she’ll be a Spanish Education major enrolled in the school’s Honors College.

Hannah TrackHannah’s moving into a period of time in which we celebrate the past and look ahead to the future.  She has received a few scholarships already, and we’re looking forward to celebrating the end of her high school career at several picnics and parties over the next few weeks.  It’s just hard to believe I have a child old enough to graduate from high school.  It seems like yesterday, Leanne and I were bringing Hannah home from the hospital for the first time.  We are proud of who she has become.

If you’re a parent of young children, don’t blink.  Don’t wish time would move faster.  Don’t rush through life to get to the next stage.  Life moves along fast enough by itself.  Learn to schedule margin into the busyness of life.  Learn to enjoy each moment.  Learn to celebrate along the way.  Learn to be content with the here and now.  Tomorrow will come sooner than you think.

Enjoy the journey!

What parenting milestones are you celebrating now?

AND DAD MAKES 7 PODCAST INTERVIEW

Yesterday, my friend, Rocco DeLeo, released the first part of our interview for his podcast – And Dad Makes 7.  In this part of the interview, we talk about being “On Track” in the various aspects of life.  Please stop by and give it a listen.  I had such a blast talking to Rocco, and I believe our conversation will encourage you.  Get to the interview by subscribing to his podcast or by clicking here.

After you give it a listen, let me know what you think in the comments below.

Can Johnny Come Out And Play?

December 22, 2015 — 9 Comments

CAN JOHNNYCOME OUTAND PLAY_

I remember coming home from school when I was a kid.  I threw my book bag on the floor, and I briefly recapped my day at school with my Mom while I ate a quick afternoon snack.  Then I rushed out the door to meet my friends somewhere in the neighborhood.

We played hockey in the cul-de-sac.  We raced our bicycles around the block.  Or we met in the woods for an imaginary game of war.  Our playtime was not structured by a coach, parent, or schedule.  Instead, we talked at school or on the bus ride home about plans for getting together as soon as we arrived home.

Where ever we ended up in and around the neighborhood, a parent wasn’t too far away to help us out if we found ourselves hurt or in trouble.  The other mothers in the community were empowered to reprimand us if necessary.  My parents were still my parents, but I was definitely raised by a village of other parents spread throughout the neighborhood.  And this is how it was for the kids in my neighborhood.

Fast forward twenty to thirty years and things have changed dramatically.  I am a parent of two teenagers, and they are growing up in a world drastically different from my own.  In today’s fast-paced American culture, either both parents are working, or children are being raised by single parents.

Our kids have schedules that match the busy demands of a society which tells us our children have to be star athletes, academic wizards, and well-rounded individuals.  No longer do kids have the freedom to experience unstructured play in and around their neighborhoods.  Instead, they are coached, taught, and directed by adults.  Each activity is structured in an effort to produce superhuman kids and to provide child-care while parents work (or recover from work).

And when kids aren’t busy in structured play, their iPads and other electronic devices become babysitters and places to escape the pressures of interacting with others.  Kids hardly know how to answer the phone or interact face-to-face anymore.

In the neighborhoods in my area, every garage door is controlled automatically from a button in the car.  People come home from a busy day of work.  They open their garage doors and drive in.  Before they get out of the car, the garage door is on its way down again.  When they aren’t busy running from one activity to another, families are closed in their homes with minimal interaction with their neighbors next door.

What impact is this having on our kids and on the future of human interaction?

The high-speed online world we live on is having an impact on the healthy rhythms of daily life.

Is there an easy solution to this?  I’m not so sure.  I am just as guilty as anyone else who has been captured by technology and the lure of making the great American dollar.  Perhaps, the solution lies in regularly examining our priorities and learning to say no to a few of the things that disrupt the types of interaction we were meant to have.

Why is unstructured play so important?

Unstructured play provides an opportunity for our kids to use and expand their imaginations.  It teaches them to resolve conflict themselves.  And it teaches them independence.

Unstructured play is enhanced when communities join together to encourage free play and less busy schedules.

Is it practical to re-inject unstructured play back into our society?  Probably not, but it is possible if families individually decide to resist the urge to schedule every single minute of our kids’ days.  Here are five practical ways to inject unstructured play back into your kids routines:

  1. Intentionally leave at least one afternoon or one night free on your calendar. Encourage your child to plan this time.
  2. Invite other kids over to your house to play with your child. Have a snack available (kids love food), and let the kids figure out what to do from there.
  3. Spend time in your neighborhood, outside your house. As the weather warms up, get outside and make yourself and your kids available to your neighbors.  At first, this may seem strange to your house-bound neighbors, but their curiosity will most likely eventually get the best of them as they emerge from their homes to the world outside.
  4. Talk to other parents in your neighborhood about unstructured play. This type of dialogue will invite others into your efforts.
  5. Encourage your kids to go outside. They will not die if you limit their technology time.  And a little fresh air will actually benefit them in the long run.

Do you think it’s important for our children to have time for unstructured play?  Why or why not?  What suggestions do you have for encouraging our kids to pursue unstructured play?

(My article, Can Johnny Come Out And Play?, originally appeared at The Good Men Project.)

PREPARING KIDS FOR THE FUTURE

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I’m the softy.

When it comes to parenting our children, I tend to be lenient.  Thankfully, Leanne helps to balance our parenting.  This isn’t meant to say she’s mean or overbearing.  It’s just an observation on how we’ve had to navigate our parenting journey together.  Ultimately, we want what is best for our children.

We don’t want them to experience pain, but there are times when pain can actually help our children for the future.

This was a milestone weekend for us.  On Friday, Hannah, our oldest, turned 18.  (How did that happen so fast?)

She had big plans to celebrate her birthday by heading to the Poconos on a retreat with our church’s high school youth group.  Hannah typically works Friday and Saturday nights, but she can take off if she provides enough notice to her scheduling manager.  Unfortunately, she didn’t give notice, and she couldn’t find anyone to substitute for her on either of these nights.

Hannah talked to us about working on Friday night, and missing work on Saturday night so she could go on the retreat Saturday and Sunday.  Leanne and I really wanted her to go, but we knew it wasn’t responsible or fair to her co-workers to simply not show up for work.

Through a tough conversation and some tears, Hannah came to the same conclusion.  It was hard for her to miss out on the retreat especially on her birthday weekend, but she ended up learning some valuable lessons as a result of the experience.

As we parent, it is not our job to be best friends with our kids.  And it’s not even our job to make life easy for our kids.  We must be diligent in preparing them for the future.  Some times that means difficult decisions, and it always means grace.

What tips do you have for preparing your kids for the future?  What did your parents do to help you prepare for adulthood?