You might never guess by reading this blog that I love being a parent to my ten-year old daughter, Anna. I love her for who she is and the person God made her. The life of being her dad is something that I really love, too. Anna is not an easy child to raise, but I don’t suppose that any parent of an adolescent child has a completely smooth journey. Sometimes, I throw my hands up and turn to various authors for some insight and wisdom about raising healthy, happy kids. I start and end with the words of Deuteronomy 6:
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
In between the start and end, I look to parents who’ve been down the road and raised children themselves. What follows are some of the books by moms and dads that I’ve leaned on over the years:
- Babyface: A Story of Heart and Bones by Jeanne McDermott. Science writer McDermott details the birth and raising of her son who was born with Apert Syndrome. I am the father of a child with Crouzon Syndrome, a similar cranio-facial disorder, so there was a lot to relate to in this book. Even without that connection, Babyface is a help for any parent struggling to allow their child to form personal identity and deal with the slings and arrows of life.
What a Difference a Daddy Makes: The Lasting Imprint a Dad Leaves on His Daughter’s Life by Kevin Leman. Leman made the case, long before John Mayer, that fathers really should be good to their daughters.Being a part of a girl’s life, and being there for every step of her upbringing is sort of a lost concept. We as father’s influence the choices girls make as they grow and not all nurturing can be the responsibility of mothers.
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. I know this is fiction, but it’s very good fiction. I read this around the time Anna was born and it made me consider the true depths of a father’s love for his children and the lengths parents go to for them.
- Parenting With Love and Logic by Foster Cline, Jim Fay and Eugene Peterson. The love and logic method of parenting seems a bit harsh until you actually witness children understanding the cause and consequence relationship. Not just the “if I sass, I’ll get a time out” bit, but logical consequences like falling asleep if they choose to stay up all night.
Pat the Daddy: A Parody by Kate Merrow Nelligan. I’m not a saint, and this book offers not much parenting advice. I just really crack up every time I find myself reading it in a bookstore. Every daddy needs a pat once in a while.
One of the parts about parenting that I never really get used to is the amount of structure required in children’s lives. My pre-teenage daughter is starting a second week of musical theatre camp tomorrow, an activity that follows a summer of other meaningful childhood activity. This is the case with many of my friends kids. We pay to keep them on the road, year-round, like a worn out rock band. This may have been common when I was a kid, but I have no recollection of much wholesome activity. I was a fairly unsophisticated kid. My friends and I would go outdoors and play something called “Funny People” for hours on end. The object of the game was…well there wasn’t an object, because the game was just stupid. One participant would punch the other. The puncher would fall down and writhe on the ground while the punchee would stand and laugh, while showing no effects of having been hit. There were several aspects of Funny People that puzzle me to this day:
- Parents and educators would encourage us to go outdoors and punch each other in the head (“Why don’t you go find your friends and punch each other in the head?”)
- For all of the blows to the skull, many of us managed to grow into responsible, caring adults. There are those in every group of friends who wind up in jail, or with uncontrollable twitching, I imagine. I’d speculate more, but my left leg keeps independently kicking the right one.
My parents would tire of all the whining about skull fractures toward mid-summer and shell out $15 dollars to send me for a week at sleep-away camp. This was about as structured as life got, because my friends and I would spend our daylight hours making wallets and license plates in a makeshift compound, deep in the north woods of Michigan. My favorite project was making knife holsters. What 8-year old boy doesn’t want a carrier for his homemade shank? Each morning started with some old geezer sidling up to me in the chow line, asking “der yer warnt ah wiskerr ruub?” My love of the marathon began right there, because I learned to run from unshaven camp geezers. Yeah, now that I’ve purged those memories, maybe driving my child around to her sophisticated activities is a good thing. Let me go get my camp wallet so I can pay whatever amount structure requires.