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Time to Celebrate: My Parents 50th Wedding Anniversary

Time to Celebrate: My Parents 50th Wedding Anniversary

Some things need to be celebrated. Celebration is founded on gratitude and joy. Today my parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. There aren’t many things I can think of worth celebrating more than a successful, healthy marriage of people you know and love dearly.

Today is a day we’re going to celebrate my mother, my father, and more importantly their marriage. While my parents themselves are important, what they’ve committed to — and accomplished together — is way beyond the sum of what each of them could have accomplished individually. Today we are celebrating just that: their faithful commitment and work to selflessly create and contribute to something greater than just themselves. Today we celebrate love in action over a long period of time.

They have seen and done a lot over that time. They lived overseas for two years while my dad served our country in the military during Vietnam. They have started and mostly ended two incredibly successful careers. They have raised three children who all cherish and appreciate their family. They have worked tremendously hard to build their life, their careers, their family, and their marriage.

50 years does not come easy or by chance. Behind this joyful celebration are moments of pain, loss, and heartache. There were challenges, frustrations, and tremendous work. In life, we often try to ignore and forget these moments. We seek comfort and try to craft our life to avoid discomfort. But this is where the real magic happens. This is when your commitments get tested, your faith confirmed, and your love solidified. The greatest acts of love come from sacrifice, not abundance.

When you have three young children and all of them are sick at the same time, is when you learn you need to lean on your partner to get by.

When you lose a loved one, and life around you continues to move on, but you need to grieve, is when you learn to truly rely on your spouse for support.

When you are faced with uncertainty and fear of what curve-ball your health, career, or family has thrown your way, you turn to your spouse to help figure it out together.

These are the moments when the bond of marriage gets built. This is love in action.

When we marry, there is a joyful new energy and excitement that eventually fades. To endure in marriage you must have the fortitude to build a foundation worthy of a grand palace to house your hopes and dreams. No one has ever said that building a foundation is wonderful and beautiful. It’s the palace for our marriage we seek, but it’s the foundation that we really need.

My mother and father have slowly built a tremendous foundation for their marriage. Their bricks are selflessness, communication, commitment, work, respect, courtesy, kindness, loyalty, faith, and sacrifice.

My father cherishes my mother.  My mother respects my father. My parents love each other. They are fully committed to one another. They sacrifice, communicate, and compromise continually for one another.  They are patient, selfless, and kind. They are true partners in life. They are best friends.

May my wife and I be fortunate to see 50 years of marriage ourselves. For 39 years I have had a front row seat to this marriage we celebrate , and I am in awe of the unwavering strength and beauty. It has forever left its mark on my life and soul. It has undoubtedly has given me a tremendous head start in my life and marriage.

So, today is a day we celebrate, with hearts full of gratitude and joy, my parents’ tremendous journey, their commitment, and their love.

The Best Times of My Life

The Best Times of My Life

My oldest son just turned five years old. While reflecting on the last five years, it is very clear that my son has brought tremendous joy and fun into my life and I’m extremely grateful for it.

Our boys are 2 and 5 and they are starting to play together. What I love is that they really get excited for all kinds of different adventures. Even, if it’s just heading into the backyard with a shovel in hand. Recently I was talking with my mom about the stage of parenting that we are currently entering.

When my sisters and I were young, my parents would regularly put us all in a van, with friends, and travel a few hundred miles south to Lake Cumberland, KY for some boating and recreation. It must have been a ton of work for my parents, who were both working full-time jobs. They had to coordinate with our schedules, communicate with our friends’ parents, grocery shop, pack suitcases and boxes of food, pack the van with 8 people and all weekend luggage and supplies, and drive 3-4 hours to get there.

Then while we were there, they had to clean the house and the boat, make sure we the proper life jackets and safety equipment on the boat. They had to make beds and cook all the meals, do all the dishes, repair the house as we did our usual wear and tear that only 6 kids can do. They paid for everything, gas, food, games, boat gear, activities in the car.

And this, my mom says was the best time of her life.

With the ability to reflect on a few years of my oldest son’s childhood, it is very clear to me why my mom feels this way. Children have the ability to bring immense joy into our lives. And while they require a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice, nothing else is nearly rewarding.

My mother has had some significant adversity at various stages of her life, and this middle aged phase that she reflects on with such fondness was no different. She and my father worked their tail off and sacrificed a ton to give us children an absolutely tremendous, joyful, adventure filled childhood.

The hardest things, closest to your highest values in life, are the most rewarding. Parenthood offers this tremendous opportunity. 40 years later, I’m pretty confident that nothing else in this world brings my parents more joy than spending time with their children and their families.

Last night, my wife and I asked our oldest son what he wanted to do for his birthday dinner and gave him some ideas to get him thinking. Without hesitation he wanted to invite his grandparents over for a pizza dinner. So we called, and they came with joy and love.

Now that my sisters and I are a few decades into being adults, my parents can see the fruit come to bear from the seeds they planted in our lives. Now that some of us are parents ourselves, they are able to reminiscence about when they were in our shoes. They were working and sacrificing almost continuously to provide us as much joy and opportunity as they could.

It was selfless and hard, yet it was the best time of my mom’s life. It was filled with purpose and generosity. It was full of love and patience. They had all kinds of heavy responsibility and yet it was still the best time of their lives.

On my son’s 5th birthday, I spent the quiet morning before he woke and reflected on the last five years. And I feel the same way that my mom does. My son is high energy and at times strong willed, but he also brings me more joy than I ever could have dreamed. He challenges me, makes me grow, always finding a new way to test my authority. But he loves me tremendously and gives me the sweetest, and most tender moments filled with pure joy and innocence that only young children still possess.

He has renewed my ability to find joy in the simplest of blessing that life brings.  Whether it is a silly dance song, a train, or a beautiful sunrise, he lights up with glee and it is absolutely infectious.

Parenting is absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but just like my parents, it is the best time of my life.

The Power of Saying No to Your Children

The Power of Saying No to Your Children

The other night as I was putting my four year old to bed, and he started asking some questions about Santa. The one that I remember the most and which has no perfect answer was, “Dad, why doesn’t Santa get us all the presents that we ask for?”

This question could be replaced with many things my son asks for. “Dad, why didn’t you let me watch another TV show?”  or “Dad, why didn’t you let me have another cookie?” These represent the daily tension we currently have in our house with a four, almost five year old. He asks for things, and sometimes we say yes and sometimes we say no. And often when we say no, the drama, questions, and conflict come quickly. It is almost guaranteed to come when it involves snacks, treats, TV, or going to bed.

“Dad, can I have another cookie?”

“No.”

“Dad, you are not my friend. I hate you. You can never play with me again!”

All for just a cookie?  Sheesh.  What’s gonna happen when I tell you can’t have a phone or car in a few years?

We teach our children to ask good questions and be willing to challenge the answers so they can be independent, thoughtful people. I love to foster my children’s questions and encourage them when they ask thoughtful ones. As they get older, I will encourage them to occasionally challenge authority in a respectful, and peaceful manner.

But then our children quickly turn these new found skills around on us when we tell them no! We are immediately being tested as they ask us questions that are skeptical of why we denied their request. Why cannot I not watch another show dad?  But mom said.. But so and so got…

Why does saying no as a parent have to be so hard?

Saying no is hard, but, it’s also powerful. It’s exhausting and it tests our patience and memory. It requires my wife and I to over-communicate so that we can be on the same page. And it requires resolve.  And did I say patience yet?

But in my heart and soul as a father, I relish at this opportunity. I want nothing more than the ability to shape my children’s character for the good. These are some of the best moments to do so, even though the emotional turmoil we feel in the moment tries to tell us otherwise.

The moments when we give them presents and say yes is not how we shape their character. It’s when we choose to say no and how we communicate it that will leave a bigger impact on their character. It allows us an opportunity to help them be grateful for what they do have. This test and challenge helps make me a better man by often testing my convictions and consistency.

These moments and conversations with us are the training grounds for real life. Sometime life isn’t fair, doesn’t make sense, yet we still get the short straw. Sometimes our children need to be told no without a rational explanation and learn just deal with it.

But saying no is hard. We don’t want them to be mad at us. We don’t want them to miss out on many wonderful experiences life has to offer. We want to be cool and like us as a friend.

This inner conflict can test our judgement and throw us into emotional turmoil. We need to acknowledge that we feel this way and we’re a bit afraid of making our child upset, especially in public. But we want to do the right thing which often requires us to stick to our guns and say no.

We will be tested, after a stressful day at work, when we’re tired and sick, or when we’re distracted with something else going on in life. This all the more reason to be present when we’re with our children.

We’ll also be persuaded. The puppy dog eyes and manners will come out in full force. Promises of chores and obedience will rain down like we’ve always dreamed and hoped of.

But sometimes we need to just say no. Often saying yes is easier, but that doesn’t mean we should.

Saying no is a habit or a muscle that requires practice and training. And it should get easier over time. Our children will learn where the regular boundaries are and if we’re consistent, they may not ask for the same thing over and over again.

We also need to stop negotiating all the time. When they are emotional about a situation, we will not be able to persuade them effectively to understand why we say no. We do not have to continually provide detailed explanations. Sometimes this is hard in the moment but we have to remind our children that they do not run the house.

Younger children will benefit by hearing us say no to certain things to older children. They may learn to not even ask for them or if they do, not put up a fight knowing it’s futile.

Currently my kids are asking for more cookies, more TV, more french fries, and to stay up later. Soon it will be sleepovers, staying up even later, and video games. Then it will become cell phones, graffic video games, and fancy clothes. Later it will be a car, no curfew, and money. I imagine that the conversations will get harder as they get older as their intelligence grows. This makes it all the more important to set the standard now on what no means.

So as we approach the holidays, ask yourself this question, is saying yes to every request our children ask really loving them after all, or is just easier in the short-term?