Parenting Spirituality

For the first time that I can remember, I went back and read a couple of my posts, specifically about parenting. There is an unnerving gap in not only my own thoughts, but popular culture as a whole, concerning parenting with a comprehensive, inclusive spiritual mindset.

I can’t stomach the establishment religion anymore, so I won’t be making references to such practices as prayer, personal bible study and/or acts of penance. I’ve spent the last 6 years trying to peel off the crusty, fossilized layers of my conservative christian upbringing, and at this point, I am far more interested in spending a Sunday morning playing Uno with my kids than powering through an antiquated, misogynistic sermon that is a mildly fluffier version of one delivered not two weeks prior.

I can say with a relative amount of certainty, that it is most quite possible, even preferable, to raise children, good, loving compassionate children, without the aid (or hinderance, later in life) of religion. That’s not to say that I remain ignorant of spiritual practices and activities that make my family and myself better people. We take many liberties in poaching practices from the wealth of knowledge in spiritual practice throughout the world. So, contrary to the argument I regularly heard growing up, it’s not enough to just “read the bible” for all moral and spiritual questions, with the footnote; *don’t ask any questions.

In the scope of human history, significant on it’s own merits, yet pathetic on a cosmic scale, there are most certainly moral people who have evolved outside of a religious incubator. I would argue pulling back to gain a larger view in order to absorb more rather than less is exponentially more beneficial.

Quick detour in the never, yet strangely predictable existence that is parenting. While writing about parenting with spirituality, as is most often the case, I’m interrupted, mid thought. “Daddy! Im done!” And I must go wipe my kid’s ass. In all of my parenting fantasies, not once did I think to myself, “I can’t wait to be a dad and stick my face and hands so perilously close to so many steaming piles of shit, produced entirely by the tiny, ever changing, always smelling, growing changing bodies that are inhabited by the minds of my two boys.”

I seem to be building an argument for a rather simple way of being a parent that seems so difficult to actually implement in an actual existence. First, be true. As a parent, I will make a treacherous mess of an alarmingly large number of scenarios throughout my parenting career. The sooner I admit that, the better off we will all be. Second, love the hell out of your kids. As more and more sunrises and sunsets get filed into the appallingly boring history of my own existence, the best I can do for my boys is to love them with such reckless abandon that they have no question of their place in the world, how they can change it and love it back.

Shit, I’m losing my train of thought. Between wiping asses, breaking up fights and pouring cereal, this post seems like a mild case of projectile vomit, starts off with such force, but leaves behind a terrible taste in your cheeks with the added bonus of a sore stomach.

I’ll try again later. I’m pretty sure there’s some good stuff waiting to come out.

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The ebb and flow of life

It’s been nearly two weeks now since the last post. Not that I’m boiling over with things to say, but it certainly seems like I write more when I’m a bit agitated. Though today, I feel pretty good all the way around. I guess that’s what happens when you have a great date night with the wife and friends, sans kids. 

It is also interesting that recently my wife and I were talking about the different states we often find ourselves in, the ebb and flow, if you will. There was a time not very many weeks ago that we were devouring books left and right, plowing through all sorts of thoughts and musings on life, our goals, what kinds of people we hope to be. Yet now, we have slowed down significantly in many ways. We are much more contemplative, silent, perhaps even slow. 

And in this slowness, we have discovered something that we’ve been, in a sense, searching for, but haven’t had language or expereince to describe it. My wife and I have been in some surface-y conversations with my family about purchasing land together and pooling resources. For years this idea has been simmering on the back burner, but this past week things became pretty clear, and clear in ways I’m not sure we were expecting. 

We realized through a pretty difficult conversation that we aren’t in the same place as my family. In fact, we are in very different places spiritually, emotionally, politically, even the prominent drivers of our existence are in completely different places. Having put all the pieces together  for the first time, we are ready to head a different direction. We’ve spent a great deal of our lives orienting them around a family that is fundamentally on a different plane than ourselves and we have finally been able to admit that truth, and it’s been awfully freeing. 

There will likely be more difficult conversations ahead, but we are following the path that best suits our family and that seems right and good. 

Maybe I can start writing a little more out of a sense of peace and calm than anger and frustration. That would certainly be a flow I’m not used to. I’ll see how it goes. 

Checking in

As this blog, as it were, is primarily a place for me to journal and record things floating around in my head, I thought I probably should take a moment to check in with myself and see how things are going. Though it may be surprising to hear that I’m really pretty bad at this, it is true. 

I aim to be better, to pay attention to my physical body, the mental and spiritual parts that make up this frankly odd gathering of protons, electrons and neutrons that I call myself. 

I’ve not spent time with the quiet today, and I miss it, I long for it. Perhaps I’ll take a moment after clearing out some of this noise. 

I said no to joining a (religious) board at our church. I’m still having a great deal of difficulty with the idea of organized (in a building, primarily on Sundays) religion and the thought of getting involved in church politics, the governing of the physical entity that is our church, just seemed, as Rob Bell suggested in a recent podcast, like an activity that would neither be worth my while or energy providing for my soul. So I said no, which also, is a bit out of character. 

I’ll have to dwell on that for a bit. 

My bike ride was snowy and chilly this morning in to work, but I love the variability of sketchy weather. It is the most obvious and tangible thing that I have no control over, and I can tell you that, in my well ordered and organized existence, I love weather changes. 

I also adore my wife. There is not another human being alive with whom I would rather spend my time. She is the most amazing, strong, well-spoken, level-headed mother, wife and woman I know. Of course, I might be just a bit biased. 

Life is pretty good at the moment. My wife isn’t working, so paying bills may prove to be difficult, but possibly for the first time in a very long time, I am really not terribly concerned about it. Things will work out. They always have. I don’t know how, nor could I provide a set of data that would prove that notion, but somewhere deep in my bones, I just feel like things are going to be okay. Because for the first time we are intentionally slowing down to give ourselves adequate time to figure out what we really want for ourselves and our family. 

It’s fantastic. I have no idea where we are going, but I think the mystery is exciting and I can wait to see where we end up. Or more importantly, I can’t wait to wake up to the journey. 

Until the next round. 

Practice 

You know, some folks often say, “practice makes perfect.” Hell, I find myself saying that to my 10 year old all the time. I honestly can’t begin to imagine the number of times I’ve used that phrase which is quite interesting because there are others in my life who’ve been know to say things like, “practice what you preach.”

Well, we all know it’s much easier to point out the flaws in other people, especially our kids, because they don’t have any say in the matter; “I’m your dad!”

Truth is, I am not great at either of those two aphorisms. I have my days when I toil at something long enough that I gain a skill or actually pay attention to the things I’m saying, being aware enough to know when I’m about to put my own foot in my mouth. 

I think that’s the ticket, awareness. Seems to be a catch phrase lately, but my wife has been onto it for at least 5 years and she’s been doing her best to ivite me along with her on that journey. Sadly most of the time I more closely resemble a stubborn ass than a supportive husband and partner. That will change. As we like to say in our household, I need to “woman-up” and make some positive change for our family too. 

Side note: The whole man-up bit is, in my opinion, pretty ridiculous, especially, dudes, if we’re honest with ourselves, the reality is, we’re the pussies. Put me in a room pushing a baby out of my loins, sans medication. Ha! I can barely get myself out of bed with a cold and my wife is a fully functioning human being with a massive migraine, at the doctor’s office, kids screaming. And still she comes home to cook dinner, schedule a dentist visit, deal with insurance and sip hot tea next to my pathetic self on the couch. 

I digress. For the sake of my wellbeing and the wellbeing of my family, I must be one who practices presence and awareness, living life on purpose rather than hanging on and hoping things go well. 

Hard Shit

Something that I’ve never been good at is conflict. I can manage mediating difficulties between other parties, but something I’m terrible at is handling things when I’ve found myself in the middle of a fight. The worst imaginable, when my wife and I fight. 

My brain functions in fix-it mode. When there is a problem, all my energy is directed to solving the hang-up. What have I done that needs to be corrected? What patterns can I build into my orderly existence that will help me avoid this again? Why is it so difficult for me observe the conflict rather than become totally caught up in it, as if it is part of me? Does one ever get better at it?

So, the worst possible scenario: fights with my wife. The one person I the world I’m least interested in having conflict with. My head understands the “practice makes perfect” mantra, but I would rather not practice with my wife. Anyone else please. 

Marriage is not always a walk in the park, I know, but isn’t it possible to avoid certain difficulties en lue (spelling?) of marital harmony? Of course that’s not to say that I’m interested in throwing in the towel, because that is most certainly not the case. I will fight with every inch of my being for my marriage, until my dying breath. Sometimes, the easy button would be very useful, especially one that actually works. 

Marriage is hard shit and I’m pretty sure no one clued me into the truth of it when I was 20 years old with raging hormones. I am however determined to make this relationship the most meaningful, solid, unshakable and authentic it can possibly be. I am also convinced that as we travel along this journey there is an unmatched joy that comes with working so hard at something. 

So I will continue on and hopefully get better at this whole adulting thing, and yes, conflict is part of the deal and I’ll work to be better at it.