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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Discipline and lists

Just noticed a rather significant amount of time ha passed since my last entry: September (unless I count the last public post, March. Even more grotesque) yikes! 

Separately, I express myself best in writing. As with any barbed social media post, writing allows me, as well as many others I’m sure, to precisely curate my thoughts in order to paint myself in a more favorable light. Trouble is, the perfect syntax is in no way a true representation of my everyday reality. 

I may come across, at times, in my witing as one who is fairly well spoken, clear and concise. When in person, staring into they eyes of another person, I’m just as regular as the next bloke, fumbling for words, sweating profusely and largely unaware of the direction of the conversation I’m engaged in beyond the next couple words. 

That’s not to say I don’t have options about life, parenting, politics, cycling, meditation, gluten free foods and the like, I just have a mental block when trying to express those options and build coherent arguments on the fly, with another human being’s gaze leading me to believe they are waiting to pounce on any holes in my argument like a lioness on the Serengeti. 

I guess that’s where one should exercise discipline and as many authors and spiritual teachers have said, “do hard things,” and face head on the very things that trip me up. 

Until I get that nailed down, here is a list of other topics I aim to pen some thoughts about in the near future:

The #metoo social media campaign. (Spoiler alert. My feelings in short: men, quit thinking and speaking with your dicks. You well know if you’ve violated a woman’s body, admit it! When your answer is exactly the same as every other dudes answer, it seems pretty obvious to me that the ladies aren’t “fishing for publicity.”)

Parenting. As in, the real stuff my wife and I and our friends screw up every day in regards to our kids. 

Meditation/spirituality. Not the bullshit perpetuated by organized religion, but the real life, how the hell do I meditate when I’ve got a lego jammed up my ass from the tornado that is my living room, with my kids fighting about food and who stole who’s Pokémon cards? And, how does one square conservative politics with religion, Christianity specifically in the US?

Art. Likely a lament on the fact that I just don’t make time to create like I used to. 

That should keep me going for a while. A couple of those streams will more than certainly lead to a river, or to steal the far too often used metaphor, open up a can of worms. Should be fun, or at the very least cathartic and in the mean time, move me toward, or at the very least in the general direction of, that other title thought, discipline. 

Parenting 102

So I have to write this down because there is a certain level of brilliance that I don’t want to forget. 

As part of an ongoing my wife and I are having based around Rob Bell’s (and I’m sure others’) notion of an expanding universe, creativity, spiritual life, etc., my wife, in a moment of pure clarity and self realization, massively busted our own parenting chops. 

Here’s the story:

Our boys are probably some of the most creative kids I know, of course I am a little biased because they are my boys, I see a lot more of them than other kids. Not two days ago I was expressing to my wife how frustrated I sometimes get with our oldest son and his seemingly continual “upgrading” of his creations. He makes things all the time, costumes, lego stuff (rubber band shooters, Star Wars ships, candy dispensers, etc.), hand puppets, you name it, he’s probably made it out of something. Which is awesome, right?

Absolutely! But my frustration, pretty ridiculous now in hindsight, is that he never plays with the stuff he makes. He just makes it, then makes it better, then changes it, then starts over…

So fast forward to yesterday morning where my wife spends nearly two hours making a dinosaur train costume for our youngest son. Of course wants to add to it, because that’s what our boys do. He’s great until yesterday evening, when he wants to make another dinosaur train costume, to which my wife replies, rather sternly to both boys, something along the lines of, “I’m sick and tired of you boys making stuff, and remaking it, and changing it, and…” Then curiously, she stopped and said, “fine.” To which my boneheaded self completely missed the reason she stopped, so I stepped in to continue the sermon. I probably droned on for at least 5 minutes, until dinner was ready.

The fast forward again to last night as we are laying in bed, decompressing the day, as we typically do. My wife looks over at me and says, “you know what? We’ve spent a lot of time talking about an expanding universe, how creation is itself expanding, growing, getting better, improving upon itself. You know what else? We just railed on our boys tonight for being too creative, for doing the exact thing they have evolved to do: create, make things better. That’s what this whole thing is doing, right?”

To which I replied, “Shit! Are you serious? We just spent the evening telling our boys to limit themselves. Don’t do what you’re created to do… Wow, we can be real dumbasses.” We spent the next 15 minutes or so laughing at our own ineptitude and yet again, struggling through what it means to be a parent, a parent who gives a damn about what kind of kids they raise. 

I think my wife spent a good part of the morning talking to the boys about how mommy and daddy screwed up last night and that at the core of our being, we do not ever want to limit who or what they can be. I think honesty and some authentic self evaluation can go a long way. 

That said, I’m not sure that second dinosaur train costume is going to get made…

Parenting 101.1

It seems like there is an entire library of information about parenting that no one really knows about. Now don’t hear me wrong, I love being a dad and I wouldn’t change it for anything…but still, this gig is a surprise every day. 

Let me highlight a few parenting gaffs, childhood wonders and some just plain crazy moments in our home. 

I mentioned in the last parenting post about the rivaling chorus of Tron Legacy and Star Wars. Now, the latest sliver the boys keep pushing under our fingernails is singing a single line of the music playing under Sam Flynn’s first trip to the grid. (If you haven’t seen Tron Legacy, it’s a great movie with a fantastic score composed by Daft Punk.) not only have they been attached to this single line, they sing it over, and over, and over, and over… when we say, “please stop singing that,” or “okay, time to choose a different song,” they sing that much louder with a giant goofy grin smeared across their “innocent” little faces. 

Or here’s a good one. You know when you ask your kid to do something and not only do they not do what you’re asking, they in fact do the complete opposite. For instance, we have a no video policy during the week, especially in the morning when our oldest is getting ready for school. What does my wife find when she gets out of bed yesterday morning? Both boys glued to YouTube, our old hasn’t even gotten dressed, eaten breakfast or made his lunch… needless to say, he got a sermon, and not a snoozer like my old church. 

One of my favorites as well is when my wife and I are in the middle of a conversation trying to work out some important details and the youngest asks a question. Understandable, right? Until we say, “just a second buddy.” Then he proceeds to increase the intensity and frequency by which he is is asking the same question, blatantly ignoring any previous requests to wait. And the stuff that’s not written in any parenting book is how I’m supposed to respond when I’m basically arguing with a door. Usually ego wins out and one of us explodes and the moment between us is lost and we are supposed to try to carry on our conversation 4 hours later when the boys are in bed…yeah, nothing to it. 

Some of the good stuff though, that no one tells you about, is when they put on costumes and march around like house like they really are in a storm trooper battle or ninjas sneaking around the house shooting is with poisonous darts. Or when we have a fleet of paper airplanes that cover the floor. Indoor snowball fights, wrestling matches, crafts, food in every nook and cranny, boogers on every piece of furniture, clothing and bedding. 

Oh the stuff off parenthood that no one tells you. It’s the toughest job I’ve ever had. Hopefully they turn out okay because I feel like I’m wrecking them most of the time. But the responsibility and joy we share as we raise these two boys into loving, compassionate (we hope) individuals who will grow up to have a positive impact on the world, is something I will always cherish and take very seriously. 

These kids are awesome and all I’m really doing is hanging on for the ride, trying my best to learn the things they are teaching me rather than the other way around. 

Ignorance is…

I never understood quite what the phrase “ignorance is bliss” meant until I’d hurdled around the sun 20 or so times on this little blue ball we call earth. 

Even then, in my early 20’s, I think I assumed ignorance meant a lack of knowing details of sorts, that might cause worry or concern. My mother always used the phrase in the context of health or politics. “Ignorance is bliss,” she would say… “If I don’t go to the doctor and find out what this lump is, I don’t have to worry about it.” Or, “if I choose not to uncover the causes for suffering in the world, I won’t suffer as much.”

These are paraphrases of my early childhood, but they never sat well with me. Most would agree that suffering is part of the human condition, but one must not turn a blind eye or refuse to accept the part it plays for us. If we choose not to enter into suffering, that’s not really a defendable position for ignorance being bliss. That seems more to me to be an unfortunate choice not to engage with humanity. 

Healthcare… that’s an entirely different story. I’m not sure I can tell another person their methods for self care are flawed, at least not unsolicited. But I am the kind of person who would rather have all the details and make plans from there. 

However, I do think there are times when a bit of conscious ignorance is quite helpful. For instance, the current presidential administration. If I were to continue in my addiction to NPR (as unbiased as it is… or so we like to tell ourselves) I could not be present and, for example, enjoy my four year old’s birthday, because I’m might end up being too worried about the possibility that he won’t even have a place to live when he’s my age. 

Sometimes then, I will choose ignorance, I will choose when and where to consume news so that I can be here, in this moment, enjoying the peace of a lunch break and the view of the snow covered mountains not ten miles from my home. 

I don’t know what’s to come of this current administration, and if I’m honest, I’m pretty skeptical about the good that will come of it. I am not however going to be paralyzed by my fear of possibilities. I must make a conscious, deliberate, intentional decision to live in this moment with my two amazing boys and fantastically loving and compassionate wife. 

So, am I ignorant? When it brings me into this moment to love more fully and engage more authentically, absolutely. 

Where to now?

Yesterday was a pretty big day. The 20th of this month seems to have came and gone without much fanfare, but the 21st, the #Womensmarch, garnered quite a bit more attention. By the latest estimates, somewhere close to the tune of 4 million people marching all across the country.

Pretty big deal it seems. My wife was able to go to the Denver march and was, for lack of a better phrase, completely overwhelmed not just by the sheer scale of the crowd, but the fact that so many people were gathered with the same purpose.  All that to say, we probably should have joined her. There were families with kids, dads, mothers, a little of everyone there. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to kick this fear that seems to be wrapped up in our white privilege. “What if our kids get hurt?” “Is this something we should expose our family to?”

The truth is, we live in a bubble. There are people who have been struggling for years and years. A man on the bus with my wife and her friends yesterday took the time to ask about the sign she was holding and what it was for. He thanked her for participating. Without skipping a beat, my wife immediately responded, “Sir, I am not worthy of thanks. You have been blazing this trail long before I was even born. You’ve shown us how its done. So, thank you!” As they sat on the bus, this black man teared up and simply responded, “Thank you.”

I have a sense things are shifting. I hope that people beginning to see the necessity of shedding this tribal language, us and them, right and wrong. Things are a bit more nuanced than that. We need each other, that I’m sure of. The other bits, I’m not sure. Are we two easily distracted? Flashy, glitzy magazine articles telling us what will make us happy, LED screens constantly alerting us of things someone else thinks are important, I’m right and you’re wrong…

Ancient wisdom teachers, mystics and peace advocates of today all seem to tell us there is something more, something better. The universe is unfolding, growing, increasing in its depth, complexity and unity (thanks Rob Bell – Everything is Spiritual), though I couldn’t hope to understand it, I certainly want to join in the process.

I am hopeful of the places we are going. I am ready to be a person of true authenticity, living life with all humanity. We need strong men, as one sign I saw from yesterday said, “to grow a vagina.” I am privileged, being white and male, and I need to use that privilege not for my own gain, but to speak honestly, compassionately and forcefully for those groups who have been silenced over the centuries. We all need to stand for the greater good, because it’s right.

The world is a better place when we are all on the same team.

Parenting 101

Check out what we found as my wife and I were getting ready to climb in bed. 


Oh, the things no one tells you when thinking about parenthood. I had my thoughts about it; wrestling on the floor, throwing every conceivable type of ball, learning to ride a bike. 

But it’s this little stuff that regularly catches me off guard. A stuffed storm trooper laying in our bed, boogers on toys, clothes, walls, sheets, two boys singing opposing choruses of the Star Wars and Tron themes. 

Most of this parenting gig is awesome, and yet I still feel like I’m screwing up my boys either because I just flat made a fool of myself, I’m too selfish to engage or in or I’m preoccupied with some nonsense that really, in the grand scheme of life, doesn’t matter in the least. 

Intuitively I’m pretty sure I know the stuff I can do better, but this damn ego of mine puts up road blocks left and right. As of late, I think that’s why I’m gravitating to the Richard Rohrs, Thich Nhat Hahns and John Philip Newells of the world. There is a peace and silence they advocate that is not simply turning things off or getting away (solitude), but entering into a different realm that we might become people who not only think differently, but we also act and interact more holistically with our families, friends, humanity and all things living, created and evolving, even this planet and our relationship to it. 

I am hoping, that as I begin to embark on this journey of purpose and intention with my wife and family, I will start to become more aware of the light in myself and those around me, taking time to relish the beauty of my kids rather than letting my ass get chapped because they sing the same song all day long or punch me in the junk for the ninth time today. 

I keep coming back to the question, what kind of person do I want to be? How will we engage in lives of peace and compassion? We’ll see. Should be an exciting journey. 

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.