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Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

What I Learned on Summer Vacation

July 27, 2010 1 comment

My family and I went to Daytona Beach last week. It was my wife and I, our three children, and my mom, step-dad and two of my step-dads grandchildren. So in the 3 bedroom, 3 bath condo we rented, we had 4 adults and 5 boys between the ages of 2 and 7. (Wow that’s a lot of numbers)Whenever I told anyone about our upcoming vacation they would look at me with horror in their eyes, so I hoped I wasn’t being too naïve when I would respond with, “It’ll be fun!”

There were several times on the trip, when my wife Jennifer would say “You should write about this in your blog.” And I would nod. Inwardly though, I was shaking my head. For whatever reason I have the issue, or neuroses, that I don’t want anyone to read or even know what I am going to write about, until I have finished it. I haven’t even let my wife read any of my posts so far prior to publishing them. I suppose inwardly I am afraid that I will expose myself to outside influence, and it will change or dilute what I really want to say. I am also concerned that I will chicken-out in posting entries on somewhat controversial topics, if I get any criticism prior to publishing. Regardless of the reason, I wasn’t crazy about an entry of “what I did on summer vacation”.

So maybe I will go about this in a different way. I always hope to learn something from my experiences, whether exciting or mundane, so let me expound of some of the things I learned in the last week.

  • Denny’s (At least in Daytona Beach) has a “kids eat free” policy all of the time. This was especially fortuitous when the kids outnumbered the adults. Because of this promotion, we ate at Denny’s three different nights. Two of these nights we sat at the same table and had the same waiter who was very good and took great care of this large and rowdy group.  The third night, the waitress accidently dumped a full glass of Diet Coke directly on Jonathan’s (one of the 2 year old twins) head. It was a mess, to say the least.
  • Restaurants that have free appetizers, such as tortilla chips or bread, are much more kid-friendly. When our twins, or the rest of the boys for that matter sit down to the table, they expect to start eating. We have Goldfish for when we need them, but one evening, at Red Lobster, we realized that we had left the Goldfish container at Denny’s the night before. Oops. Thank goodness for Cheddar Bay biscuits. While at Red Lobster, Jonathan also had some tummy issues and threw up all over Jennifer. Luckily, she was already done eating and just took him to the van to try and clean them both up.
  •  DVD players in vehicles are one of the greatest parent-helping inventions EVER. I don’t like the idea of letting the TV babysit your children, but the 8 ½ hour drive to and from Daytona Beach was much more pleasant than it could have been without it. A long car ride is just one of those times when you need your kids to be distracted. We actually do not let our children watch movies in the car most of the time. We try to save it for long trips so is it more of a novelty and seems special.
  • Once you have kids, vacations are not about relaxation and rest. One of the things I used to love about vacation was that we could do what we want, when we want and do nothing if we wanted to. With the children however, there was no sleeping late (at least one of them was up by 8:00 every morning and one morning as early as 6:15), and not much relaxing. On almost every day, we visited the beach for a couple of hours and the pool for a couple more, but even then, it was swimming, chasing kids, playing and having fun, but no rest. We ate out for supper every night, and made breakfast and lunch for everyone in the condo everyday but one. We even played miniature golf one day. I think this was the first time ever that I came home from vacation weighing less than when I left. We were that busy.
  • I love spending time with my family, but I have to have alone-time too. I told Jennifer that I think our week-long vacation was about a day and a half too long. Our final night eating out (at Outback) stressed me out to the point that I was just ready to be home. I don’t think it was specifically the events of that evening although they contributed. (We were there for an hour and forty five minutes, the food got there about 70 minutes after we did, the twins were impatient and screaming and Alex, our 5-year-old, decided he needed to go ‘poopy’ 2 minutes after the food arrived). I think mostly, it was that I am used to having time to myself during the week, and on this particular week, the only time that occurred was when I was in the bathroom. The accumulation of all of the children playing, screaming, fighting, arguing, throwing up, running, throwing things against the walls, etc. had finally exhausted all of the calmness and serenity I had stored and I finally broke. When I got back from taking Alex to the bathroom (20 minutes later), I took Patrick (who was screaming while Jennifer held him and also tended to Jonathan who was unhappy as well) and headed to the van. My mom asked if I was going to eat (I had only had 3 bites of my steak before I had to take Alex to the bathroom). I answered simply ‘No.’ and walked out with Patrick to the van to wait. I stayed in a bad mood the rest of the evening and finally began to get over it the next day on the drive home. It wasn’t until Monday, when I was working from home, not alone because Alex was there but at least alone in my office for several hours, that I really began to decompress.

When people ask how vacation was, I tell them it was ‘chaotic, but fun’ and it really was. But I can’t help thinking maybe Jennifer had a great idea when she said “Next vacation, let’s just take the time off, but stay home.”

Harry Potter is not Evil

July 12, 2010 4 comments

So… I have now missed my first self-imposed deadline… Oh well… I had intended for this to go up on Friday, but my band had a gig and I got involved with my church’s web site and well, it didn’t. We can live with it just this once right?

I was speaking to a fellow parishioner at my church a couple of years ago, when one of the Harry Potter movies (I think it was Order of the Phoenix) was being released, about whether they were going to take their children to go see it.  Their children at the time were pre-teen and perhaps unsurprisingly, they said “no” because they felt it was inappropriate. Well, the movie is rated PG-13, and has some violence and can been pretty intense, so I didn’t think a lot about it until I spoke about it to someone else, also a pretty close friend. Their response: “Harry Potter performs sorcery and you know where that kind of power comes from.”  Their concern was not about the things that made the film PG-13, it was because the main character, the good-guy used magic.

So, here we are on the brink of a new Harry Potter movie, Deathly Hallows which comes out this fall. So I suppose the question still remains: As a Christian is it wrong to see the movie, or let my children see it? Well, I am not much for suspense, so I will say right away: “No, I don’t think so”. By saying so, I am sure that it will trouble those who feel like my friend above, but keep reading, because you might learn something.

I must make one disclaimer right up front. My oldest child is five, so no; my children will not be watching Harry Potter for a little while at least. We’ll stick to Pixar and Veggietales for now.  Not because of any perceived evil or stain to their Christian beliefs, but because I just don’t think it is appropriate for children that age. But, this question is not just about Harry Potter, right? If you take the argument to its logical extent, any main character that uses magic of some sort would not be appropriate for a Christian child. The list of banned TV shows and movies would include, but not be limited to: Witches of Waverly Place, Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Lord of the Rings, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Pokemon, Fantasia and even The Smurfs (Papa Smurf was a wizard). So, we can certainly find from that list age-appropriate material to discuss.  And no, I do not feel like Mickey Mouse or Papa Smurf are inappropriate for my five-year old. In fact, I cannot remember ever speaking to someone who did. So why the inconsistency?

I get questions from my oldest son all the time such as “Are there bad guys in real life?” or “Are there really such things as aliens?” and I always do my best to answer him in a way that is truthful and makes sense to a 5-year-old without being too frightening. I don’t lie (Except maybe about Santa and the Easter Bunny) and I don’t say I don’t know when I do. So I am very prepared to discuss things like Papa Smurf or Harry Potter with my son and help him to understand the differences between truth and fiction and what is acceptable behavior verses what he sees on TV. I have no problem with him seeing a TV show with someone who performs magic, but I don’t want him to go and try it himself. (I feel the same way about high-explosives) I’m not talking about card tricks and disappearing hankies; he loves that kind of stuff. I just don’t want him thinking he is “casting spells” and the like. I know that he can distinguish TV from reality. How do I know? Because we talk about it and I do my job as a father to help him understand.

It seems that many people are not willing to have these types of discussions with their children. It is certainly much easier for them to block out an entire section of popular TV and film and then they don’t have to talk about it. Except… their kids will see it eventually anyway, and since the parents banned it, it will not be under their supervision. It will have been made into a forbidden fruit, and the kids will bite. The parents will not be there to discuss it with them, and since they didn’t take the opportunity to discuss it before, the children will not have the foundational beliefs that could have been provided.

It’s not the easy way, but communication and honest discussion with your children is the best way to instill in them your belief system. Sheltering them from things like magic in a movie will not help them make good decisions when confronted with decisions in real life. But if you can discuss and help them understand what they see, they will be much better prepared when they have to make choices on their own.

I think somewhere along the way , someone decided that Harry Potter was a good example to make and said to their friend “I won’t take my kids to see Harry Potter because he does magic… and that’s bad.”  And their friend had kids and suddenly felt guilty because they had planned to see it, so they said “Oh yeah, of course not.” and cancelled their plans. Before you knew it families in churches everywhere were saying “No” to Harry Potter and instead taking their kids to see movies with talking animals and vegetables and… wait, now where does that power come from?