Why Can’t Men Be More Like Women?

I’m sure that there have been some women in our lives who have asked this question, probably as an expression of their exasperation with some foible of ours.

Soon, we may find that this question is the catalyst behind male-specific medical practices. Take a look at this op-ed piece and leave an opinion…especially if you’re male because you may not live long enough to comment later.


Why’s it been so quiet around here?

It’s been a while since I (Robert) have posted anything to Daddyspeak. Daniel’s been very good at picking up the slack somewhat over the last 4-6 weeks. But there is a reason for my infrequency, and I wanted to give a rundown of what’s been going on, and say a few words about where Daddyspeak as a blog is headed.

Shortly after the experience described in this post — the last substantive post I had written for this blog until now — I began to have what you could call a crisis of faith. The crisis grew from the experience of having a felt certainty about what the will of God was, and then being totally wrong about it. The experience described in that post — of going forward with buying a house only to have it bought “out from under” us — happened actually once again a couple of weeks later, although I didn’t bother blogging about it.

After those two experiences, I realized that I no longer trusted what I knew about God. It wasn’t that I was mistrusting God Himself, but rather I had no trust in the information I had about God or what conceptions of God I had assimilated from it. The internal conversation I had with myself went something like this: “Does God has characteristic X? Well, I thought He did, but then again I thought I knew that He wanted us to buy this house, and look how wrong I was about that.” The certainty about the house and the certainty about everything else I thought I knew about God are coming from the same place, and when trust fails in one instance there then it fails everywhere.

This is what I’ve been dealing with. As such, I’ve been singularly reluctant to blog about anything having to do with faith, which is one of the cornerstones of this blog. If I’m so unsure about my own faith, then what business do I have writing about it for other people? Hence the lack of posts. I guess I could be posting about my daughter, but honestly, the posts I could make are either stuff I would really rather just keep to myself or else they’re just vacuous, like photos from going to the playground or something. You can probably trace this back to the overall reluctance to post anything. (Although I’ve been pretty active at my other blog; that’s not quite such personal stuff there.)

Whether I get back on here regularly and try to blog my way through this episode in my faith, or whether I’d really rather just retreat from the semi-public eye and deal with it among family and church only, is yet to be determined. That’s why posts at Daddyspeak are going to continue to be sparse. Daniel and I have agreed to put Daddyspeak on a hiatus for an indefinite period of time. We might post, but we’re not going to make the effort to post something every day like we were doing for a while. I certainly need the time and space to regroup and figure some things out. And Daniel has his own blog for stuff about his kids, and it’s very good already.

So thanks for those out there who are still making the effort to read our stuff. If you have some thoughts about this blog please leave them in the comments. We appreciate it.

Didn’t We Already Know This?

I’m sure that this article is going to get some commentary by the blogging-father community. Here’s mine.

A psychologist has written a book that explores the effect that fathers have on their sons’ performance in the workplace. Seems to me that the underlying premise of the book could be stated as, “Parents, (especially fathers), impact the values and behaviors of their children.” This general principle is then applied to the specifics of the way sons (and daughters?) behave at work.

We knew this didn’t we? A quote from the author of the book appears in the article and reads:

Styles of fathering can affect whether their children get along with others at work, have an entrepreneurial spirit, worry too much about their career, burn out or become the boss, Poulter writes.

Isn’t this what is meant by such aphorisms like, “Like father, like son” and “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree?” I mean, don’t fathering styles affect how children get along with people everywhere, what kind of spirit they have in general…and nearly everything else?

I haven’t read the book so I won’t comment on it directly but indirectly I’ll say this: I imagine that the merit of a book like this is that it could get some people to reflect upon their performance at work which may become the side-door through which they enter into a place where they can work on the larger issues of their father-child relationships. If so, then it’s probably a good thing that someone wrote a book of this kind…but I don’t think that the author is breaking any new ground here.


What are you reading?

Lately I’ve been failing to read what looks like a very good book by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. It’s about how to raise great kids, a topic that I’m interested in. My wife (speed reader) has read it and she’s been implementing some of the advice she’s found and she’s seemed much more satisfied with her parenting. The boys haven’t changed so much as she’s changed in her attitude and approach to them and I’m thinking that this is just what I need.

So often, the boys are just doing what’s normal for their developmental stage. They are not the one’s with the problem. It’s usually me. I usually expect too much or fail to be consistent in my dealings with them or lack understanding and consequently I end up irritated and blaming them for not obeying me in some manner. (Boy, if the word “obey” doesn’t get some hostile comments then I’ll know for sure that no one is reading my posts.)

There is a section in the book about parenting with grace and truth. If I finish this book someday and as a result of following its advice become able to parent with grace and truth, then I will have attained what would probably be the greatest achievement of my life.

Do you think that’s too much to ask from a book? :)

Amazon.com Huggies promo

If you’re a Huggies family, you might want to check out the promo deal going on at Amazon right now. If you buy $99 worth of Huggies products through Amazon (I think that’s about the equivalent of five day’s worth of pullups, right?) you get a $30 gift card. Evidently Amazon runs this promo regularly, so if you miss it, just wait for it again.

[Hat tip: Parent Hacks (one of my new favorite parent blogs)]

Parenting Advice Ain’t Worth 50cent

If you’re outside his target audience but still know who rapper 50cent is, then you probably don’t care what the “crack-dealer-turned-rapper” says about parenting. Perhaps if he would just correct the grammar of his stage-name and adopt the moniker “crack-dealer-turned-loving-participatory-father-and-child-psychologist”, then you might be interested in his views on the relationship between hip-hop, violence and parental responsibility. But even if his “street-cred” leaves you unimpressed, go ahead and read what he says in this excerpt from a Reuters article.

Wishful Thinking

If I could wake up tomorrow with one aspect of my parenting changed without going through an ardurous, character-building process that God prefers to use to mold his children, I would choose to no longer express my lack of patience through angry shouting.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to building character…mine and theirs.


Rapidly Approaching a Milestone…or Two

As I walked up the sidewalk with the necessary documents in hand to the administration entrance of the school, I marveled that I have a son about to enter kindergarten. Like the man in the big white suit says, “How did I get here?”

The decision to homeschool was rescinded when J and I reached an agreement to enter into production of Offspring 4.0. As I understand it, having the fourth child is also a milestone of sorts.

I’m going back tomorrow to pay a fee for them to hold a slot for my son. After that, we’ll arrange for him to have his placement test and we’ll check the school out. We already know the principal, some teachers and some colleagues who have children at this school, so it’s not a completely unknown quantity. Even so, putting our first born into his first school is a big step for all of us.

Honestly, there are times when I feel something like guilt for not homeschooling Samuel but when I reflect rationally on the series of choices we’ve made about living abroad, having four children and spacing them roughly 22 months apart, I understand that we’re doing the best we can for him…and for my wife. After all, the thought of trying to homeschool the 4 year-old, contain the two year-old, nurse the one year-old and incubate a fourth child simultaneously is daunting at the least, if not outright terrifying…to me. I can only imagine how my wife feels about it. Fortunately, when the fall semester begins later this year, she will only have to imagine it as well because Samuel is going to school.


Lessons on losing a house

The house that I nicknamed the W house — which we in my household had set our hearts on buying, moving into, and establishing our family long-term in — has sold. And not to us. Although we had a contingent offer for the house submitted and accepted, someone else came along who could buy the house right then and there. So they did.

It’s hard to express the depth of disappointment that we are going through as a result. You could almost call it heartbreak. This was more than just a cool house to us. To us, it was the place that we were going to stay and let time unfold for the next 20 or 30 years. My home office in the front — Daddy’s room, not to be invaded by kids or noise; the great kitchen that would have launched a thousand dinners cooked with the kids; the great backyard. When we stepped into the house, each time we felt like it was OUR house — our home. But that’s not how it was meant to be.

It was the place that we were sure God wanted us to move to — all the “feelings” and “leadings” and everything else said, sell your house and buy THIS ONE. We prayed a lot, and asked others to pray for us, about whether this was the right call, and every indication said YES. And we were wrong. So it’s not only disappointment but confusion — the sort of confusion people of faith face when they encounter the disconnect between the will of the God they believe in, and the inherently flawed means we have to use to discern it. We try our best and attain what we think is certain knowledge of His will in our present lives, and find out that we were wrong.

Maybe this is too heavy-handed. It’s just a house after all. But losing this house is maybe the first encounter we’ve had in which we, as a whole family, have really desired something and invested ourselves in it, only to have it slip away from us and be forced to deal, as a family, with the disappointment of the loss.

I’ve learned a few lessons so far from this experience.

I have the power, as the husband and dad, to set the tone for how we deal with this. I see clearly that when I choose to deal with it by becoming sullen and inwardly-turned, my wife and even our 2-year old will act the same way. When I choose to deal with it by putting on a fake smiley face, everyone else does the same. When I choose to feel honestly the disappointment but try hard to move on, the same thing happens. Whether they or I like it or not, or would choose to or not if I could, I am setting the parameters for how we as a family will deal with this.
Having to face disappointment and loss corporately as a family — where each family member is taking a direct hit — is a powerful and constructive thing. Moreso than when one family member faces it and the others come around him and sympathize. It’s in situations like this that familiy members learn things from other family members, and in which a point of family culture is developed and tried by fire.
The call for me as the husband and dad here is to somehow be virtuous. But I’m reminded of something C. S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, namely that of all the virtues, courage is the most important because courage is the form all virtues take at the point of testing. I am especially reminded that I am teaching Doodles lots of things by my actions — courage being probably one of the most important. How will she become a courageous woman? By watching Mama and Daddy show courage when depression would be easier.
So we move on; we have some leads on a few other homes, one of which actually has a nicer backyard than the W house. We are more cautious with our offers, and probably we will not do anything until our place actually sells. But the moving on part is the most important thing, moving on to better things.

Parenting lessons from James

I’ve been way behind on my devotional readings, so in an effort to make up ground, I’ve been reading large chunks of Scripture rather than a chapter a day. This morning I read the entire book of James in one sitting. Reading an entire book of the Bible all at once is always eye-opening; you see the coherence of the writer’s ideas, rather than getting those ideas as a bunch of disconnected epigrams that happen to appear in the same place in the Bible*. And you get new ideas from that coherence, like the following thoughts about parenting that emerged for me:

James 1:14 indicates that at the root of sinfulness is a defect in one’s desires. This is a theme that continues through the book. Desire the right things, and good things will happen; desiring the wrong things leads to ruin. Therefore, a large part of my job as a dad is to teach my kid(s) how to desire the right things. Not to stifle desire altogether, which is some people’s approach to parenting — but to have a strong, unmitigated, passionate desire for good things.
Another strong theme in James is that your faith (or lack thereof) is evidenced by your actions (or lack thereof). Therefore the way I teach desire is by my actions. Therefore I have to be the kind of man who desires the right things, in a passionate and unabashed way. I have to take the lead in desire.
I also teach my kid(s) steadfastness, faith, and wisdom the same way — by example. It serves as a reminder that my daughter does indeed notice what I am doing, she does indeed understand what I am saying, and she is indeed using these observations to build her own personality over time. This is done for better or for worse. Whether it’s for better, or for worse, is largely under my control. For now, that is; by the time she’s 12, it won’t be, so I had better get it right NOW in the early stages. It seems like it’s a whole lot easier to teach kids the right things early, than it is to correct the wrong things later.
* On a related note: Why is it that in Christian churches, in America at least, we never read long texts all at once? I mean, the book of James takes up less than four pages in my Bible. If all you did was read and not stop to make comments, it would take you no more than five minutes to do it, and in doing so you get that coherence I mentioned. And yet we don’t ever do this. Are we just that challenged in our attention span? Are we afraid that people — even ourselves — will get bored or scared if we try to dig into a text that’s longer than a couple of lines? Do we value evango-tainment above really understanding the Bible?