The other day I was a guest on a podcast and the interviewer asked me for 5 things most people don’t know about me. Here is what I came up with:
- I used to be a certified rock climbing instructor, nationally certified by the American Mountain Guide Association
- I started my first nonprofit corporation my senior year of highschool. I was CEO. We had a CFO that was 17 and Vice President that was 16.
- I have performed many weddings and funerals in the past and still do one about every year or two.
- I have 10 chickens in my back yard and make my boys take care of them as one of their chores to build character.
- I built my own kitchen table, it’s 8 feet long to accommodate my million kids.
I have been struggling with the behavior of one of my sons for some time now. He is difficult, does things half way, bothers his siblings, is disrespectful, etc. I have tried different approaches to discipline, different ways of talking with him, increasing one on one time with him, and the effects of all of these are minimal at best.
I was discussing this with my wife the other night, and when I woke up the next morning, she had texted me a link to this article. It’s a good read for all parents, and I won’t rehash what was said here. But, it sparked in me a notion that I can’t shake, perhaps the problem lies with me.
I don’t mean to say that my son’s behavior is my fault, it’s not. I also don’t mean that my son doesn’t have bad behavior, he certainly does. But, perhaps the way I look at the situation, the way I approach him, my whole way of thinking about this issue is a part of the problem.
Could it be that I need to change the way I see my son? Instead of seeing a discipline problem could I see an opportunity to teach him? Instead of getting angry at him is there another response, a better response? Could the abundance of energy that undoubtedly causes a lot of these issues be a good thing that could be redirected if we just find the right place to direct it?
So, perhaps the problem (or part of the problem) lies with me. My perspective can be better. I can choose to see the virtues of his character over the obstacles in it. I can choose to reshape myself and my point of view to adapt to the person that my son is rather than demanding that he adapt to who I am. I can let go of my frustrations when things don’t go the way I plan and see the opportunity to foster growth in another person.
And, this is not only true with my son, but with so many other things as well. I can improve my perspective in many places.
The next time things are going wrong and everything is frustrating and bleak, the first thing I will ask myself is, “perhaps the problem lies with me?” I will assess my issues, my baggage, my insecurities. I will move forward from there with a fuller knowledge of what is really happening and a shot at a better outcome.
The other day someone asked me what I wish I had known at 18. I wish I had known a lot! But, a few things immediate sprang to mind.
- Have a long term plan. When I was younger the sky was the limit and looking back on that time I realize that I really didn’t think very far out. I would make decisions based very much on the short term without really thinking about how that decision would play out in the long term. Having a written out, long term plan would have been immensely helpful.
- Have humility and listen more than you talk. At 18 I knew it all. Knowing it all makes you a terrible listener and pride is a great setup for a fall.
- Relationships are precious, fragile and require more care than you think. I just assumed that relationships were easy because many of mine had been up to that point. In my young adult life I took too many relationships for granted and didn’t show enough effort and appreciation towards people that were important to me.
What do you wish you knew when you were 18?
When people hear that I have five kids, I get usually get a funny look. If I tell that to an audience where I’m speaking, I often get awkward laughs, with an ever so slight head shake, as if to say, “that guy is nuts!” The response I typically don’t ever get is, “wow, what a blessing.” But, that exactly what it is, a blessing.
Sure, having five kids is a little chaotic. Sure, having five kids means not having much (or any) downtime. Sure, having five kids means money stays tight, groceries are increasingly expensive, and patience is a precious (and increasingly rare) commodity. Sure, having five kids is hard, but, it’s also amazing.
As my friend Jeff (who also has five kids) recently said in a talk he gave, “you never look at one of your kids and go, ‘man, I wish we never had Billy. Having a kid is always a good thing.'” And that’s true. As difficult as some of my kids can be from time to time, there is never a time I wish they weren’t there. The times that make my day difficult are many, but the payoff is huge.
One of the most impactful things I can do for this world is to raise my kids well, giving them the tools they need to change the world. So, while some see five kids as an enormous obstacle to overcome, here is how I see it. I get five times the hugs, five times the kisses, five times the infinite love of a child. I also get five times the hand drawn Father’s Day cards, five times the kids birthday parties, five times the cool kids toys that I get to play with and five times the daddy child dates to get breakfast.
But, I think most importantly I have five opportunities to shape my children into good, caring, loving people that will become good parents for their children. I have five opportunities to teach my kids to become people that will change the world. I think that is an amazing amount of influence and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I am truly fascinated by the difference between how I view myself and how others see me. At one time I would have thought they were very similar, but increasingly I realize they are not. Two great examples of this:
The first is the image above. My son drew this on my whiteboard for me to find. It reads, “my dad is superman to me.” I have to be honest, I don’t feel like superman to my son. In fact, I feel like I’m failing him in so many ways. I’m not as patient with him as he needs for me to be. I’m also not as kind to him as I want to be lately. Of all of my kids, he is the one that I’m butting heads with the most at the moment, and in the midst of that struggle he found the time to see me as superman. That is humbling.
The second example is a conversation I had yesterday with an old friend. He told me that sometimes I’m hard to talk to on the phone and that the conversations don’t go very deep. I would have thought the opposite. I think I’m great to talk to. Apparently I’m wrong and have some work to do in the area of communication, getting past the surface level stuff.
If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that my view of myself may not be entirely accurate. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s way off in a few areas, maybe more than I care to realize and admit. I’m ok with the difference. This is what drives me to examine myself. This is what drives me to want to become better. This is what drives me to be the best husband, dad, son, friend and leader I can be. This is one of the reasons I blog. I’m learning and growing and I’m glad you are on the journey with me. Thanks!
I’m 30 days into my 3-item challenge and have several thoughts about the project.
- Clearly, I have too much personal stuff. If I can get rid of 3 items a day for 30 days and it is pretty easy overall, that tells me something.
- This tells me that my family also has too much stuff. There is stuff stored in one room of my basement that I haven’t touched in years. It’s time to go.
- I like the idea that if an item doesn’t give me joy, it needs to go. Sometimes I hang onto something out of fear of losing it. That doesn’t make sense.
- I have given a lot away and missed none of it.
- Having less stuff makes my life better. My closet is cleaner, making it easier to find what I want.
I want to continue to pursue the idea of minimalism in my life. I’m not yet sure what that will mean or how it will play out, but I am sure that my time of hoarding junk that I don’t need is over.