Young Women with Husbands and Kids

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PhotoI recently read a blog post entitled, “I Look Down On Young Women With Husbands And Kids And I’m Not Sorry”.  If you haven’t read it yourself by now, you’ve probably seen it go by in the headlines or in your newsfeed, usually attached to some comment of shock and disgust.  The title is meant to be an inflammatory attention getter, and the writer doesn’t disappoint.  The author has bought our culture’s lie that women who choose to have children have no value.  In her rant, she calls these women “average,” while describing the act of parenting as “stupid” and, “the path of least resistance”.

While her viewpoint is clearly extreme, she is a product of a society that is waging an all-out war on women.  Perhaps most people wouldn’t express it as harshly, but much of our culture today is in line with this same warped value system.  We’ve placed a higher value on corporate achievements and wealth accumulation than we have on building a marriage that will last a lifetime or raising well-balanced children.  This is a sign of the times we’re in and a trend that is unsustainable if we hope to keep our nation from imploding.  A majority of Americans agree that our society is in sharp decline, yet we continue to devalue and deface the family unit that was once the core of our society.

Here is the meat and potatoes of her argument:

“We have baby showers and wedding parties as if it’s a huge accomplishment and cause for celebration to be able to get knocked up or find someone to walk down the aisle with. These aren’t accomplishments, they are actually super easy tasks, literally anyone can do them. They are the most common thing, ever, in the history of the world. They are, by definition, average. And here’s the thing, why on earth are we settling for average? … I want to have a shower for a woman when she backpacks on her own through Asia, gets a promotion, or lands a dream job not when she stays inside the box and does the house and kids thing which is the path of least resistance.”

While marriages and child rearing are common in occurrence, they effect our lives in a very uncommon, life-altering kind of way.  To compare either of these two achievements to backpacking through Asia shows a level of ignorance in the “things that matter” department.

Here’s another gem of wisdom:

“If women can do anything, why are we still content with applauding them for doing nothing?”

The irony of her argument is that the very “nothing” that she speaks of is how she came into existence in the first place.  In fact, behind every one of us there is a mother that put the needs of someone else before her own.  It doesn’t take much life experience to know that parenting, and specifically mothering, is one of the most significant and influential occupations throughout all of history.

Ultimately, it appears to me that her argument is rooted in selfishness, but it’s uneducated selfishness.  I selfishly sacrifice my own pursuits for my children so that I can live a love-filled life.  I selfishly want to enjoy my grandkids and leave a legacy.  I selfishly want someone to change my diapers and keep me out of a nursing home.  But what do I know?  Maybe I’m the one with misplaced priorities, but we’ll let the future be the judge of that.

What Kids Really Want

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My boys love it when I play with them. They love it when I read to them. They love to go camping in the woods and they love to build sand castles at the beach. They love it when we play rough and tumble with no volume limit. My boys love a lot of things about their dad, but what they want most from me doesn’t have much to do with them at all. The best way to make my kids feel loved, the best way to make them feel safe and secure, is to show them that I’m madly in love with their mother.

Nothing tops it. A love filled home starts with a love filled marriage and there’s no way to fake it. You can’t manufacture a loving home and you can’t buy one. Kids need to experience the love for themselves, not just be told about it. Much like the flu, they have to be in close contact to catch it.

Kids that are raised in a loving home are more confident and less likely to be negatively influenced by outside sources. When they know that they are loved unconditionally they can spend less time seeking the approval of other kids, teachers, coaches, or girlfriends. When they know they are loved unconditionally they can take a leap of faith and go after that thing in their life that’s too hard and too crazy, knowing that at the end of the day they’ll never be a failure in the eyes of those who matter most.

My boys know that I will always love their mother. I will always love her more than I love myself, and I will always love her more than I love them. They know this. They love this. I have purposely made it clear to my children that there is no one on earth that loves them more than I do- but I love their mother more. This doesn’t make the child jealous. It doesn’t make them feel unloved- it has the opposite effect. There is no greater security for a child than knowing that the two people they love the most will forever love each other. A strong marriage is the foundation for emotionally stable kids.

I realize this philosophy is counter-culture. I realize that the institution of marriage is crumbling in today’s world and many have embraced the “kid first” philosophy, anticipating that their marriage will probably fail, but parenthood will last a lifetime. That wasn’t the attitude that was modeled for me, and it’s not the attitude I want to model for my own children. My children are the result of the love I share with my wife, and not the reason for that love. I commend all the single parents out there that are doing the best they can in their own situation, but I am speaking to families that have both a mom and a dad in the home, or anticipate having that someday.

My boys sleep well at night knowing that their family unit is a strong one, but some day they’ll have families of their own. When my wife and I live out a loving marriage in front of our kids we are modeling for them what a healthy family looks and feels like. If I scream at my wife or degrade her, I can expect my children’s marriages to suffer because of it. If I model healthy, self-sacrificing love, I am building healthy habits and expectations in my boys that will make them more successful as fathers and husbands. Loving my wife unconditionally isn’t the only thing I do for my kids, but it’s one of the most important.

Brotherly Love

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Army brothers2As parents, we’re always trying to do the best with what we are given. Our parenting style is influenced by the books we read and the people we meet, but often, the largest impact is made by the parenting style that’s modeled for us as children. Having all boys, we tend to look to other families that are heavy on the testosterone for insight, taking what we like and discarding what we don’t. The “all boy” dynamic is a unique one, and we have a lot of fun doing our best with our little army.

I grew up in a large family (10 kids under one roof and sharing one bathroom), so I learned a lot about people, personalities, and how those different personalities interact with one another to build relationships. I am blessed as an adult to still have strong relationships with all nine of my siblings, each relationship with it’s own flavor and intricacies. While I love each sibling dearly, I have always been the closest with my older brother. He was the firstborn son and second child overall, and I followed him into this world 21 months later. “Hoop and Goop,” as our father called us, were inseparable. I have difficulty recalling any childhood memory that didn’t center around him, in fact, we shared a bunk bed from before I can remember until we were in our 20’s serving together in Iraq. No, literally- we shared a bunk bed in Iraq. We had a lot of fun over the years, and got into a lot of trouble together. I made him my unwilling accomplice when I gave him stolen candy bars (ages 5 & 7), and he once hit me with a Ford Ranger at 50 mph (ages 15 & 17). To be fair though, I wasn’t in a crosswalk. We were thicker than thieves the first 22 years of my life, until I went and ruined everything when I married the girl of my dreams seven years ago. Now that we’re all grown up we do the best we can, but big people responsibilities make it hard most of the time (he’s currently flying helicopters down south).

littleboysWhen I look at my oldest two boys I see the modern day “Hoop and Goop”. Their looks and personalities are almost mirror-image of their predecessors, and I can’t help but think that I’ve been given the opportunity to raise my own dynamic duo. My hope is that our little guys will build and sustain the same type of relationship in a 21st century that doesn’t give us many examples of that. In a world that breeds jealousy and selfishness, our goal is to raise boys that have enough self-confidence to root for one another’s success.

One of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me was a built-in best friend, the cop to my robber, the cowboy to my indian. My brother.

What was the family dynamic like in your house growing up? How have you incorporated that with your own kids?

7 Things I’ve Learned During 7 Years of Marriage

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I should clarify right now that when I say I’ve ‘learned’ these techniques, I don’t mean that I’ve mastered them, to be fair, most of the time I’m less than adequate. What I mean is that if you gave me a written exam I would answer most of the questions correctly.

1. Be aware of her feelings. The key word here is ‘feelings’. It doesn’t necessarily matter what reality is, in fact, most of the time it’s best to leave logic out of it. The way she feels is her perceived reality, so don’t waste your time trying to convince her otherwise. If something upsets her, don’t systematically prove why her feelings are unfounded. Let her know that you understand where she’s coming from and that you can see why she might feel the way she does (maybe even pretend that you’re upset too).

Bottom line: Care about what she cares about.

2. Compliment her in public. Build her up, don’t tear her down. You would never try to fix a flat tire by slashing more holes, yet so often men will publicly criticize their wives and don’t see the damage they’re doing. We work so hard to gain our wives’ trust and make them feel valuable, but in a moment we’ll surrender all the ground we’ve gained by speaking harshly to her. I’ve heard it said that it takes 10 positive words to make up for just 1 negative comment (this also applies to your kids). Save yourself some trouble and cut down on the negatives while sliding in some tactful praise. Also- try a sneak attack where you speak highly about your wife to one of her friends when she’s not around. It’ll get back to her.

Bottom line: Kind words spoken with an audience earn double the reward points.

3. Appreciate her. I’ve been guilty of yelling at my favorite wide receiver (through the TV screen) when he drops that wide open pass that would have been a sure six points. I get upset because I think I could have done it better, but the reality of the matter is that I wouldn’t have made that catch because I wouldn’t have even been there. I would have been lying on my back 5 yards past the line of scrimmage where the defensive back hand-checked me out of my cleats. We take for granted all the God-given talent, work ethic, and three-a-day practices those players put in to become world class athletes and have the opportunity to drop a ball on Monday Night Football. We take him for granted because he makes it look easy. It’s easy for me to take my wife for granted too. I come home to a clean house, a home-cooked meal, and three boys that haven’t killed each other. I can usually keep everyone alive in her absence, but the boys are more likely to get chicken nuggets than chicken cordon bleu when I’m in the kitchen. It takes a lot of work to keep our little world spinning around, but she makes it look easy. It doesn’t take much effort on my part to show a little gratitude, but it means a lot to her.

Bottom line: Take notice of her efforts and give her thanks.

4. Help her. This could really be ‘3(a)’. One of the best ways to show her that she’s appreciated is to pitch in and provide some relief. Not only does it show her that you’re aware of what she’s trying to accomplish, but it gives you the opportunity to see how difficult it can be to catch that ‘wide open pass’ sometimes. My wife makes getting her three boys (four if you count me) places on time and looking presentable, and she does it without breaking a sweat. One Sunday I had to get the boys around myself before meeting her at church. We made it there almost on time and the two big boys were wearing clothes that almost fit, but the baby had lost a shoe at some point along the way and smelled like he was due for a diaper change. I had alertly grabbed the diaper bag on the way out the door, but had failed to notice the lack of diapers. Since then, I have tried to be better about contributing to the mobilization effort.

Bottom line: Lend a hand

5. Take her away. For me, home is a refuge. It’s my escape from corporate America. When I see an empty space in our schedule a few days out, I tend to see it as an opportunity to have a low key night at home. My wife on the other hand, tends to see that same time slot as an opportunity for a change of scenery. ‘Netflix and Popcorn Night’ (NPN) has its place, but every once in while my wife needs to leave the kids with a sitter and run away with her man. Take the time and effort to make that happen as often as possible. It lets her know that she’s still a priority in your life and that you’re willing to spend the time and money to get away for awhile.

Bottom line: Make date night a priority.

6. Pamper her. Take the time to make your wife feel special, whatever that means for her. For my wife, that could mean roses on a random Thursday in October, or a Redbox DVD and a jumbo bag of peanut M&Ms. Foot rubs are never a bad thing. Every girl is different, and that’s the whole point. Show her you know her better than anyone else by catering to her unique inclinations. Like most of the advice I’m giving, this is an investment that will yield excellent returns.

Bottom line: Spoil that girl.

7. Continue to woo her. Remember when you first met her? Suddenly you cared about which shirt to wear with those pants, and daily showers didn’t seem like such a chore. You paid attention to who she was sitting with and what she was listening to. You worked hard to separate yourself from the herd, and once she took the bait you showered her with your time, attention, and money. You competed for, and eventually won her affection. Women love to be pursued and that desire doesn’t go away when you seal the deal with a ring. As men, our tendency is to turn our attention to life’s next challenge, usually noble pursuits like protecting and providing for your newly acquired mate. It’s important to continue the pursuit, showing her that she is your top priority and the rest of life’s adventures pale in comparison. Acting out the things on this list proves to her that she is still that top priority. The truth of the matter is: there are plenty of guys out there that are more than happy to compete for your wife. Don’t give them the chance.

Bottom line: Fight for your girl.

Mom (according to the kids)

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The boys spill the beans about mom..

How I Met Your Mother

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Young Love

Your uncle and I returned from Iraq just in time to get our Christmas shopping done in 2005. I had just finished paying the Wal-Mart cashier (nothing but the best for the folks on my list) when I turned around and realized I had been abandoned. After some searching, I caught a glimpse of my brother in the attached Subway, and started to meander in that direction. As was often the case in those days, your uncle Sam had found a pretty girl to talk to, and was standing across the counter from the sandwich artist while he chatted her up. I waited for him at the restaurant’s entrance, and briefly admired his talking mate, before pulling out my phone to check some imaginary text messages. He was at my side a few moments later when I offered a half-interested, “Who was that?”

“Jenna Shaylor. She’s home for Christmas break and she’ll be working here most days.”

“Jenna Shaylor? Isn’t she like 15?”

“18.”

“Really…. let’s get a sub.”

That was the first of a few subs I bought over the course of a week or so before sitting the girl down to have the inevitable conversation. I told her that while I thought she was a great girl, I wasn’t really looking for a relationship. Besides, there were a few other girls I was talking to and it wasn’t fair of me to lead her on like that. This was mostly over-hype of course, and was really just a ploy to increase demand and raise my stock price.

“Ok.”

The reply came without any hesitation or even a hint of disappointment. She must have misheard me. I restated the bad news, and this time, said it with a soft face that let her know, ‘You can cry if you need to.’ Still unmoved, she acknowledged my remark, and then continued the conversation as if she couldn’t care less. This conversation wasn’t going as planned. I needed some emotion. I needed a fight. I needed her to realize how close she had been to the best thing that could have ever happened to her. But the only thing she needed was one last text book before the next semester started, and it was in the mail.

“Should be here by Tuesday.”

Two hours later we were on page 8 of the ‘getting to know you’ conversation, and a week later I stood in my mother’s kitchen and told her and my sisters, “I’m going to marry this one.” It wasn’t until years later however,

that I realized that I had been the one who got played that night.

This month marks eight years since I met that blue-eyed blonde, and seven years of wedded bliss.

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Comment below with your story!

Decisions, decisions…

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Here’s a cute video of our #2 son – who we will call Eli for the sake of this blog. If you would like to know which Christmas ornament is his favorite – watch this video. If you don’t care, you should still watch because he’s really cute!

What is your favorite ornament on YOUR tree?