Hope and Disappointment (An Ellie Lesson)

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My daughter is a hopeful person.

She wakes up every single day at around the same time excited for whatever the day will bring. There is never a sad, “Oh man, what will I do?” moment with her. Each morning, she awakes not remembering the day before but anticipating the joy that is to come.

Ellie’s hope is SO big that when she gets bad news, she falls hard. The other day we noticed that her eyes ACTUALLY well up before a single tear falls. Just like in the movies. Ellie will stare off into the vast distance and those green eyes just go. (Side note: that will get me every time…).If Ellie finds out that she can’t go to a friend’s house or that a trip is postponed, her life is OVER.

Until the next day when she awakens to new hope. New chance. New possibilities.

Today, she was hoping that her friend could come over for a playdate. Wifey and I weren’t sure it could happen and wisely said, “we’ll see…we don’t know…” because we’ve been bad at telling her we’d be doing things only to take it back because of broken plans (funny how adults shape disapointment in their kids through the little things. A little, “I know I said we would BUT…” goes a long way.)

So we didn’t place any hope in the situation. But Ellie did. For over an hour, Ellie sat on the couch with her play backpack on…waiting in anticipation for the arrival of her friend. And when her friend came, she responded with a defiant laugh and jump of “I knew it!” At that moment, hope won the day. And it was awesome.

Now I know she’s 3 and that one day she’ll be older and possibly miserable as only a teenager can be. But for today? I love that she’s filled with hope. Hope that we’ll always go to McDonald’s. Hope that her favourite sitter will come over and take her out to buy a fish. Hope that Sid The Science Kid will come on TV JUST when she says so. Hope that the sun will come out so she can play outside (or snow for winter). Hope that everyone will like her and be her friend.

I pray she always “keeps” her playdate backpack on as she gets older. I pray that as she puts “…childish things…” away that she never loses the hope found in believing “…like a little child…“*

And God help the person who ever ruins that.

Meaning? God help me.

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*Scriptures found in 1 Corinthians 13:11 (KJV) & Luke 18:17 (NIV)

Sleepless in Ajax

ImageIt is currently just after 6 AM on Friday, March 1st (Happy birthday 25 Tamika Chase, btw!).

I haven’t slept a wink. Not because I hate sleep. On the contrary, I love it muchly. It’s because where I am sitting (in our living room on my sofa), across from me on our love seat is my daughter Eliana. She is so peaceful; a mixture of curly hair, random eye rubs and light snoring.

Why is she on our couch at 6 AM and not in bed? Well at around 11:30 or so, she began to whimper and couldn’t be consoled back to sleep. When she gets into those mode, Wifey and I know that we’re in for a long night. After doing some visit (which consists of checking on her, giving her some water and singing songs), she told me something that really made me sad. She said, “I don’t like it when you leave.”

Now context: Today I go away for a few days on a retreat with some of the best people around (#insideout13) and had my bag packed. This is my first retreat, as pointed out by Wifey, that doesn’t have Eliana attending. And though my daughter knows I love her, she was sad that I had (and still have to go). So I did something quite fun. I took her out of bed and brought her down to watch a basketball game with me.

Now this might not be a big deal to you but this is something I would have wanted my dad to do with me when I was little (he’d more likely do it now if he had the time again…he’s a good man). I sat her on my knee and explained who was who and why this would be her favorite game. And I know she would remember who Kobe Bean Bryant is  or why the Lakers are important but she’ll always remember the time she fell asleep on Daddy after reading two Bible stories and watching the Lakers mash the Timberwolves.

I often don’t think of myself as a good husband or father (I mean I know I am but sometimes in the busyness of life and my own mistakes, I feel I fall short) but tonight? Tonight was a win. And so all night I’ve just watched her sleep (while also watching sports scores…) and EVEN got to hang with Liam too, which is normally NOT fun at 4 AM:)

Making memories. I’m glad early this morning I got to make some.

PS. – She just woke up and said “I had the best dream ever!” Now she’s talking about her cousin…

Parent Blog: Don’t You Forget About Me…

“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did WAS wrong, but we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is … a brain…and an athlete…and a basket case…a princess…and a criminal…Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.”

This quote from one of the greatest movies of the 20th Century which then cues up one of the most recognized songs of the 80s, titled “Don’t You (Forget About Me). The scene, where the song is introduced, is punctuated by one character (seen above) pumping his fist in the air in a classic freeze frame shot (man wouldn’t that be awesome to do, eh?!). Truly unforgetable.

This scene, along with the song has been on my mind as of late because of my daughter. While she can’t write legibly yet, she left me a letter of sorts the other day. I was preparing to go to work after playing with her in the AM when she ran to me and give me two pieces of her puzzle and said “Daddy, don’t forget about me, okay? This is so you don’t forget!”

A purple star and green circle.

She’s 3.

As I drove to my Siri-led destination, my brain moved overtime:

  • Am I too distracted with her when I am with her to give off the impression that I’m not really with her?
  • Am I not home enough?
  • Why would she say that? Who does she think she is?

You see, with adults and ESPECIALLY with spouses, we graduate from talking directly to passive agressive conversations when we’re upset. Example:

Person 1: Hey, I’m leaving now…

Spouse: Okay…well have fun. I’ll be here. (subtext: You get to be out and I’m with the kids all day…with no car.)*

Person 1: I could stay a bit later. Do you want me to stay? (Subtext: I’m sure I did SOMETHING…can’t figure it…)

Spouse: No. It’s fine. (subtext: I shouldn’t TELL you to stay. You should just stay, dummy!)

But kids, just come out and say it: “I want you to stay with me and play and laugh and make a mess and have snacks and (big breath……) tickle me and play hide and seek and giggle and watch the Lorax right now, okay?”

And so, as a father aiming to be a better one, I HAVE TO reevaluate how I do my time spending. I have to let her words sink into my soul and reform my way of being, because if she said it, she feels it. And if she feels it, I have to work on fixing it. Here’s what I think so far:

So you love/hate/tollerate Halloween, eh?

When I was either 8 or 10, I remember being on Rue Des Cageux in Pierrefonds, Qc out getting candy on Oct 31st, when I rang a door to no answer. stubbornly, I rang the door again; I was NOT going home with a half empty bag. The door opened and a man said, “We don’t celebrate Halloween. We’re Christians.” He then closed the door and went back inside. I was perplexed. “Shouldn’t Christians WANT to give and be nice?” my young mind questioned as I walked to the next home.  I mean isn’t it better to give than to have a dark house and sit in your basement until 8 PM?

I bring this up because Each year on the last day of October, millions of kids get dressed up after school and either among their friends or with their parents, go to different doors in their neighbourhoods to collect candy. To most kids, it’s an excuse to be Iron Man, Captain Jack Sparrow, a Cupcake, a lion, a ghoul or a witch while (and I’m emphasizing here) getting free candy. The houses that give candy always have their outside light on, some steps are covered with pumpkins and decorations. And the houses that have their lights off either hate kids and visitors, have a religious stance against it or simply aren’t home.

Now for Christians and people of other religions, Halloween comes with its own, how-do-I-say struggles. On one hand, we want to be lights in a dark world no matter what. This is why we go to war-torn countries, get involved with pulling people out of sex trades and the like. So it’s funny that on the supposed darkest night of the year, many Christians house lights are off. And on the other hand, Halloween in its current form highlights the occult and many evil practices, and so churches do Halloween “alternatives” (candy, games, prizes with no costumes so church kids are away from the ‘world’) and protect themselves from the evil outside. These same Christians, I hope, want to reach their neighbors for God and have it in their hearts that their stance is a part of their witness.

Some Christians don’t do Halloween because it’s “Satan’s Birthday” (never proven). Some Christian do Halloween because they weren’t allowed when they were kids and this is their rebellion. Some Christians don’t do Halloween because to do it is to accept evil in the form of costumes. Some Christians do Halloween because they enjoy dressing up and acting (not in the hypocrite sense…I mean actual acting). Some Christians don’t do Halloween because it celebrates all that the Bible speaks against. Some Christians do Halloween because the same Bible compels them to go into evil without being of the evil world.

What about me? I’m a pastor at a church. I aim daily to shun evil and cling to the light. And for 3 years, I have skipped my church’s Missions Mania Halloween alternative night and taken my daughter trick or treating. And the event is a really good one that many people love and come back to year after year. So why am I a Halloween-er? (Click on next page to find out!!)

Netflix, TV and My Kid – A Parent’s Tale

“It’s not easy to juggle a pregnant wife and a troubled child, but somehow I managed to fit in eight hours of TV a day.” – Homer Simpson, B.A. and father of The Simpsons.

This, for many people, is their unspoken motto. A life filled with sitting in front of a flat screen/laptop watching hours of episodic television, 24 hour news TV or March Madness. That statement is much of my life’s story (minus the troubled Bart-like kid), for growing up I had 3 parents: Mom, Dad and TV. Much of my pop culture nerdish quotes and ideas come from hours as a kid, teen and at times, adult, watching and learning from TV. From Perfect Strangers to Community, Summer to Winter Olympics, from Lost to Fringe, from live to PVR/Netflix and online, TV had been a part of my framework and a part of how I see things.

Now I’m not writing this blog to tell someone to turn off their TV and get to running outside or fasting or something.  Nor am I writing to invite that for myself from a loving commentator. I think there’s someone much Bigger than I am who can do that. I’m writing because I have a daughter who like her father loves TV. And because she loves it and we let her watch it (with we hope, wisdom), it’d be good to talk through how we do it and hear from other how they walk their kids through it, if at all. So here’s how we’ve done TV with Ellie and what I’m learning in the process.

  1. Some cartoons aren’t good for her. At first we simply left a Canadian channel called Treehouse on all day while she played for background noise. And in all honesty, sometimes we did it for a break too (any “Oh man I’m not alone!” chants starting?)! And what we would hear would most often by fine but some shows, even for kids, would promote behaviors that we didn’t want her to see as approved. And this goes for me (and you) too. I talk about that on number 4.
  2. Know the limits. Winters are the worst for this. It’s not like you can go outside at minus whatever to ride a bike and Lord knows craft time, if you’re not a craft person, can be draining. So the easy decision is to simply turn on the TV and walk away. And for a time we would do that. Now we let her watch some educational stuff for a bit then turn the TV off and enforce play time. And that might be in her room with toys, might be coloring, but it is something away from the ‘tube.
  3. Talk with her about what she sees. I think good parents know when to simply say no and when to explain a no, even to a 3-year-old. The reason to explain isn’t to get them on your side or even the Lord’s side but instead to help them start to think critically over what they take in. This past summer Ellie was watching a kids show on my iPad through Netflix when a character said something I found inappropriate. My initial instinct was to take the iPad and walk away. Instead, we had a short talk about being nice and kind with our words. Did it stick? She’s three. But I do believe that the seeds are there.
  4. Set an example. Man this is hard. Am I on my phone in front of her all the time, checking emails (not tweets, if you remember)? My iPad? Even a book? Am I paying more attention even to writing this blog than to playing with her and her brother? It might not be a TV but if it’s something and it’s for a long time, it might at well be a TV. I have to take my own breaks, even when she’s sleeping. And I also have to constantly reevaluate what is appropriate and not. As I read today through Jon Acuff’s Quitter, “Discipline begets more discipline.” How I do things will affect her greatly, to make better calls, take better breaks and know when something shouldn’t be in her life.

So, thoughts? Ideas? Do you own a large TV but never use it because of different principles (side question: then why have the TV? But I digress…)? Was TV never a big deal for you? If not, what do you find is? How do you help your kids think while they do? If you don’t have kids, how to figure out what you watch and how much is too much?

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Parent Real Talk: Feeling Sucky

If you’re a parent, you’ll understand this feeling: inadequacy.

This isn’t what we’d project on Facebook with our fun family pics or on Twitter with our happy 140 character notes, but more often than not, behind the front door of our homes, we sometimes feel this way. Especially when it comes to how we raise our kids.

The other night, Ellie was taken by SOMETHING. She was kicking her brother, crumpling her face while crossing her arms, cry screaming (which is a mixture of both crying and screaming) and just not listening to us at all. The night ended up with her in bed crying at 7:00 with no snack, me standing outside her room angry that I yelled at her (there is a difference between being stern for her sake and simply yelling because I lost my cool) and Liam picking his nose.

That night I felt like…I wasn’t a good dad. I know I am but there are days where I just feel…inadequate.

Question for Parents: Ever known that feeling? What seems to trigger that for you?

It’s worse when you’re out somewhere and you kids seems to…dare I say “embarrass” you. You know those times when they are the only kid who throws themselves into a foam-at-the-mouth, roll-in-the-dew (#seewhatIdidthere, Cobourg Camp peeps?), punch-kick-claw-yell-cry state while other parents look on with that face? You know the face…that smug look that says, “If that was my kid that would NEVER happen!” And it is so embarrassing, isn’t it? I know it is for me.

The real talk truth is that every kid has moments like that, whether we want people around us to know it or not. If a kid doesn’t:

– Sleep long enough or sleep too little
– Eat enough or sleep too little
– Play enough or play too little
– Feel the sun or to the moon
– Find out there is no Santa or some fictional character
– Suffer from first world problems like “Sorry no McDonald’s, kiddo” or “No Ellie, we’re not getting Starbucks banana bread (told you…first world yuppie problems)”

…They will freak out. And the younger they are, the harder it is to explain to them why they can’t have what they want and why they shouldn’t respond they way they do. So there are only a few things I can do.

1. Pray a lot. Becca and I picked up a cool booklet by Mark Batterson called “Praying Circles Around Your Children“, based on his book “The Circle Maker.” Without giving away too much of the book, the main gist is to help give parents direction on HOW to pray for their kids on a regular basis. The other night, I made a list of things I will speak over my children. For Ellie, kindness and honesty (among other things). For Liam, humility and love.

2. Apologize. I lose my cool sometimes. If you’re a parent, you know what that’s like. There’s nothing more embarrassing than having to say sorry to a three-year-old who would rather play than listen at the time but if I live a life of apology, maybe when they are older, they’ll learn that being wrong and admitting it is okay.

3. Say “I love you” a lot. Today Ellie asked me, “Daddy, do you still love me when I do bad acts?” I told her that I could never NOT love her no matter what she did. Out of that, on her own, my three-year-old said, “Daddy, I’m sorry for hitting and yelling…”. She apologized for something she did the last week. Love brought out honesty from her, not my yelling.

4. Still discipline. Sometimes my kids are going to need to be disciplined and as a good dad I have to do that. But I have to talk afterwards.

5. Not compare myself to other parents. Hey other parents: I know you have sucky days when you get mad at someone else because you had a bad day at work or something. Because I know that, that face don’t mean nuthin! People without kids, know this: Your kid will mess up. Your kid will do dumb things. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It just means you’re like every other parent, whether they say so or not:)

6. Remember that kids remember. Today I saw a tweet from Mark Driscoll that made me pause (Thanks Taigan Bombay for retweeting him). It said, “Men, we need to be the kind of men we want our sons to become and our daughters to marry…because they will.” I think that goes for all parents. Our kids will be like us no matter what, so let’s all aim to be the best we can be.

…Tonight when I got home, Becca and I had to have a long talk with Ellie about her recent behavior. It was crazy to see Ellie embarrassed and saddened by her actions. She even tried to hide, reminiscent to two people who tried to hide from their own discipline so many years ago. Yet when all was done, we had a dance party.

Thankfully when things are done right, the ending is always sweet and filled with awkward attempts at dance moves meant for teenagers and NOT 30 year olds.

Parents: Please pass this along to other parents to hear their thoughts! How have you dealt with your own feelings of inadequacy?

If you have a similar story, I’d love to have some dialogue with you on it. Leave a comment OR email me at cchase101@gmail.com. We’ve all got a story, so let’s share them. Also, feel free to subscribe to this blog by clicking the “subscribe me” button. Thanks – Chase

Married. With Children. And Telling Secrets.

Before actor Ed O’Neil was married to a younger Columbian woman named Gloria on the hit show Modern Family as Jay Pritchett, he was first Ed Bundy, a…very different type of husband to Peg and father to Kelly and Bud on Fox’s first primetime program called “Married…with Children”. While crude in content (we didn’t have Fox for a long time in Quebec and when we finally DID, i spent my time catching up on Martin), it spent 10 years on air, to the joys and popularity of many.

While I’m not a TV character (though some would say I am a character...cue up the rim shot and applause, people.), I too am married with children. Becca and I have a precocious and ‘chip off the old block-ish’ three-year old named Eliana and a seven and soon to be eight month old linebacker son named Liam. They’re our “Ellie and Meatball” combo. Becca and I love them very much. They are the two funnest, funniest, faith-firming part of our lives. That being said, life with kids doesn’t always shine and glisten.

Sometimes it’s hard.

Sometimes it even sucks.

And here’s why…

Life was simpler without kids. Not better, but simpler. Some examples:

1. Eating was simpler

Chris: Hey babe, what do you wanna eat?

Becca: I don’t know…you?

C: I don’t know…maybe cake?!

B: Awesome! Let’s do it!

(Please note: the conversation in question never actually happened and instead is a composite of conversations in an exaggerated tone.)

What I mean is that before kids, we could eat at 7. 8. 9. And whatever we wanted. And wherever we wanted. Which brings up point number 2.

2. Going out was simpler

Before kids, Becca and I could hit up movies, malls, friends homes (on invite only), events, concerts and more with reckless abandon. One such evening, we arrived late for a movie, missing both the previews (which was a big deal before YouTube made everything quickly accessible) and the first 15-20 mins. So once the movie ended, we decided to stay back and watch what we missed…only to be re-enthralled by the tale of love, family, pre-hipster like qualities and its soundtrack…for the entire movie.

Then we went out for coffee.

Life now consists of babysitters who sometimes cancel, bad planning on our part, mix up of dates and times and of course, bath and bedtime for the kiddies.

3. Sex was simpler

Notice: I didn’t say more or less frequent cause frequency always varies on the season of life, mood and Marvin Gaye-ness-ness.

Before kids, sex was initiated by simple moment of eye contact in the kitchen, hand brush while eating cake for dinner, certain mode of laugh or simply saying “Hey, we should TOTALLY do it right now!”

Which was then followed by doing it right then. And maybe even there. Awesome.  

Now, all those things happen between the spouses (the eye contact, the hand brush, the laugh, the statements of need) but they are followed by the following:

“Okay…put on Dora and meet me upstairs in 5 minutes!”

“Okay i will. Wait. Wait. What if Liam starts to (Liam instinctively begins to cry)…”

Moment over. Or.

“Keep that energy! After the kids have been bathed, prayed with, put to bed and put back to bed 5 times, the kitchen has been cleaned up, the lunches have been prepared for tomorrow and such…at 11:15 PM I am going to rock your world!”

11:15 PM comes 

“So…how about tomorrow?”

4. God was Simpler

No kids meant no distractions for prayer, Bible reading, fasting, etc. The house could be a sanctuary of silence where thoughts could be shared, Voice could be heard and journals filled. The Spirit-filled life was for two…and it was nice.

5. Sleep was simpler.

I only had to get out of bed if I had to pee. Or if I had a craving for food. Now the prayer is “Lord, let pee stay in diapers and potty-trained bodies. We rebuke all monster nightmares and over-excitement for tomorrow’s activities. We also pray for them both to sleep well past their normal times so that we may sleep in just a little bit. It’s gonna be Saturday, Lord…you get that, right? Rest? Sabbath? Thanks! Amen!”

———

Now I say all that not in a complaining way but as real as I can because every couple with kids feels this, but rarely do we say anything aloud to our partners or even to each other. And that’s not cool. I also write this because while kids haven’t made life simpler, they have made it more enjoyable in each of these areas. I’ll explain with more facts and less exaggerated tales.

———

First, Eating is a family filled challenge.

Ellie is picky like her father which forces meal time to be time-sensitive and meal helpful. But now we sit at the table to eat instead of in front of the TV like Becca and I did when we were just us. We talk about our day. We teach Ellie to pray for her meal, friends, teachers and the like. And Becca and I also learn patience through spilled juice, dropped rice, hatred of pepperoni and abrupt leavings of the table. While I miss the couch, I love the table. It’s home there.

 Second, Going out is an adventure and privilege

Sometimes it means a double stroller, diaper bag, snack bag, toy bag and extra clothes bag. Sometimes it includes a bike or scooter, trip to the mall (which is much shorter now), park or the expensive zoo. Sometimes it’s a drive from what seems to be hell with tears, whining, poopy diapers, yelling, discipline and parental arguing.

But it always means fun pictures and videos. It always means new memories. It always means seeing the kids in grown up settings. It always means fun in the end.

And as for Becca and I, when we get a date in, it’s always a treat. Without kids, you really don’t notice when the motions of marriage become so routine that you can actually miss someone or drift from them even while living in the same home. And it’s in the drift that the destruction within a marriage can easily come in (Another blog. Another blog.). Date nights remind you that you need time together to reconnect, regroup and spend 2 hours over eats talking about the kids that you left for 2 hours to have alone time.

 Side note: A cool book by a guy named Timothy Keller writes that the notion of soul mates is dumb because of how much people change after marriage. The girl I married is still there in scope but life has changed her so she is the same but different too, as am I. Marriage is loving each other through these changes…I think:)

Third, God makes more sense

To have children and to deal with them everyday in their carnal states gives a better understanding of the love, discipline, grace, justice and care of God the Father, the willingness to sacrifice like God the Son and the desire to mold them into something great like God the Holy Spirit. God time is different (with the kids asking questions, interrupting thought and Dora music) but setting a teaching model…hopefully.

Fourth, Sleep is a luxury

This one goes without explanation. When you get it, give thanks.

…and Sex still happens.

It may mean having coffee beforehand to stay awake. It may mean finding nursery rhyme books in your bed or accidentally kicking a toy that plays the ABCs and wakes up your newborn. And it may be a lot…quicker than you both like at times for fear of that moment where you scar your 3 year old forever (Hasn’t happened yet!). But, thankfully it still happens. Except now, the purpose is to keep the fam at 4 among other things:). Also, sometimes it creppily involves using Ellie to relay messages as this one was this past week:

“Daddy…mommy says she wants to be on you. Ummm, what does that mean, daddy?”

Peace.