parenting Politics

So here’s the deal

In the dog days of summer, Washington D.C. is in the hottest place on earth.

This morning the Supreme Court issued their ruling upholding the major points of the Affordable Healthcare Act. (read the ruling, keep up with the New York Times live blog if your heart can handle it.)

By the end of the day both sides will claim victory. Both presidential candidates will make statements. Polls will be taken. Extremists will parade in front of cameras.

God bless America. (Said in a cynical tone.)

Here’s the deal. This isn’t the America I want to live in. This isn’t the America I want my kids dreaming about. This isn’t the America I read about in history books and biographies. United we stand, divided we fall.

Until we decide to unite, we are falling. It’s not the economies fault. It our fault. When we decide we, the people, will move forward. But right now we are stuck in inward-focused circles of bandaid application.

That said, I’m thankful that the courts are stepping in, pulling away from the politics far enough to help us move forward. I actually see today as an amazing day for those with aspirational goals in the legal field. (With the Jerry Sandusky decision last week it’s been a very big 7 days for the courts.) I am intrigued that Bush’s choice for Chief Justice sided with more liberal appointees. I think it shows the strength of Bush’s choice.

I’m tired of the divisions. I’ve got no pride or allegiance to a party. It’s not that I’m unwilling. It’s that I’m bored of it. Division doesn’t get me nearly as excited as forward progress.

I’m not naive. I know politics are brutal. But I don’t think our future as a nation lies in having elected officials stand opposed on everything just for the sake of standing opposed to every view. In this case the irony is really delicious. Obama passed a version of Romney’s law. So Republicans loved it when the conservative governor passed the law in a liberal state. But when the President passed Romney’s law at the federal level it became a liberal against conservative thing. Romney, the original author of the bill, had to stand opposed to his own idea for the sake of winning his parties nomination.

Republicans were for the Affordable Healthcare Act until Democrats were for it. Then they stumbled all over themselves throughout the primaries trying to convince everyone they were against it, and were always against it, even when they were for it in Massachusetts.

That’s what I mean. We need to stop disagreeing simply  for the sake of disagreement. We, the people, aren’t stupid. We hold this truth to be self-evident: Politicians will say whatever it takes to get lobbyists to write them checks. 

But this check of disagreement is being cashed by people like you and me. Both parties are guilty for the game is no longer Republicans vs. Democrats, but rich vs. poor. National politics has become the rich man’s WWE where both parties put on a show for the sake of getting the redneck’s inside the belt to write them checks.

Again, this isn’t my dream for our country. This isn’t the dream I want my children to aspire to.

I want my kids to see that two people who disagree can come together and make a joint decision for the good of others. Just like mom and dad make compromise after compromise for the sake of our family, I want them to know that compromise is a virtue.

This carries over directly to our faith, doesn’t it? I love that my kids are growing up in a home where mom and dad try to hold loosely to their personal convictions for the sake of the body of Christ. How pathetic would the Gospel be if we only worshipped with people we got along with? How pathetic would it be to only hang out with, be influenced by, and study things from a single perspective. Yes, we are conservative evangelicals. That’s who we are. But we make the conscious, hopeful choice to identify ourselves with Christ more than we identify ourselves with a theological heritage.

For the record: I’m in favor of a nationalized health care system. I’d like to see it illegal for drug companies to market to the public. And I  think all insurance companies should be not-for-profit, like the BlueCross system started as in the 1960s. So I’m not pumped about the decision today because I feel like it’s not the reform that is  truly needed.

Photo credit: Tosh at SCOTUS by Mark Trimble via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The Upside of Boredom

“I’m bored.” 

Paul, age 8, says this roughly every 30 seconds. It’s not that he’s spoiled or overly entertained or more addicted to the internet than his parents. It’s that he’s 8 and 8 year olds bug their parents by saying they are bored even when they aren’t. (Paul said he was bored during the previews for The Avengers. I thought about the $40 I just spent to take him and rolled my eyes.)

I’ve turned the I’m bored syndrome into a bit of a game between us. When Paul says, “I’m bored” I look at him and say “Good. And do you know why it’s good?

Here’s what I’m teaching Paul. It’s the upside of boredom. 

Boredom leads you to creativity. And creativity leads to figuring out things that no one else can figure out. And when you figure out stuff that no one else can figure out that will lead you to world domination. Therefore your boredom will lead you to the world domination you desire. Therefore boredom is a very good thing, right?

It’s a not-so-subtle thing I’m trying to plant in my son’s head. I’m combatting my nature to roll my eyes or scold him by teaching values:

  • Creativity happens when we create space for it.
  • There’s a difference between staying occupied and doing something amazing.
  • I actually think he can create something which might dominate the world.

What are other upsides to boredom?

Photo credit: I Can Has

Dear Abby on Parenting

Dear Abby on Parenting


family parenting

Celebrating 11 years of parenting

On Saturday, May 12th 2001 Megan Elisabeth McLane was born.

Some fun facts:

  • Megan came 2 weeks late. Kristen went into labor the morning after we went out to an Indian buffet with our friends Jason and Bambi. I’ve always claimed I was in labor the next day, too.
  • It’s a girl! From the moment we found out we were pregnant with Megan we knew it was a girl. But we had 3 ultrasounds that all said she was a boy. In video right after she was born you can hear me calling her… Paul. So Megan came home from the hospital in a Notre Dame jersey and spent her first year in a blue and gold nursery surrounded by pictures of Knute Rockne.
  • We missed Anne’s wedding! My cousin Anne married her longtime boyfriend Brad the same day. It was pretty cool to that my extended family was all together when we announced Megan’s birth.
  • Kristen’s parents hauled booty! When Kristen went into labor with Megan her parents had our nephew Jake at the Detroit Zoo. They quickly took him home and boogied to Chicago. Dave & Kathy made it about 2 hours after she was born, right on time.
  • Megan loved Gospel music. I spent the night with Megan in Northwestern’s nursery. We discovered that night that she loved Gospel music and R&B, something we popped into her stereo to calm her down as a baby. That’s also the night she got her nickname, “Sha-me-me.”

Today we are celebrating Megan. We are also celebrating 11 years of being parents. Paul came 2 years later an Jackson joined the party 10 years later after Megan.  Along the way we’ve learned a thing or two about parenting. I won’t say we are the best parents in the world… but we haven’t left a kid at the mall yet so that’s pretty darn good.

Some learnings:

  • We are all God’s kids. We’ve never been “rah-rah, we’re big and your small” kinds of parents. Actually, we have tried that and it didn’t work. What works for us is teaching our kids who we are. We are children of God who obey God’s rules.
  • There are no “big deals.” Holy smokes there is a lot of horrible parenting advice out there. The mommy blogger phenomenon is ripe with false expert advice. When Megan was born all the good yuppy mommies quit their jobs and put their babies on very strict schedules. I think we’ve done a good job to avoid the fads, skip the drama, and just relax about parenting.
  • We’ve kept our lives. True, at 35 years old and with 3 young kids, Kristen and I don’t have a huge social schedule. But we’ve always kept our friends and put put the kids second. We’ve never made idols of them and have always agreed that a healthy marriage will lead to healthy kids. (Even if they miss out on some things.)
  • We don’t lie to our kids. Yes, we’ve kept things from them. They don’t need to know everything that’s going on… we don’t overshare. But we never lied to them about little things like Santa or the Tooth Fairy because we want them to know that mom and dad are always honest with them. In the past year or so we’ve also been bringing them in on money discussions. They know how our business works, what our goals are, etc. Even when we bought our van a few weekends ago– Paul knew exactly what our budget was and helped me do the math on figuring out what we would offer for it.
  • We go to church, end of story. Off and on our lives have completely revolved around our church. Right now is probably the least involved we’ve ever been… but we still go to church twice per week! There will come a point when they can chose whether to go or not. But at 11, 8, and 1… they don’t get to chose because we just go.
  • You only live once. While our family keeps things pretty simple we still like to take some risks. We want our kids to know that life isn’t just about living safe. So we build in them a spirit of adventure in how we live and make decisions.
  • We nurture personality, not shape their reality. As a pastor, I was sickened when I met parents who tried to orchestrate their kids lives. They’d come into my office and tell me how their plan was different than what their kid wanted… “Well, that’s not going to work.” I’d always share my philosophy… “I want my kids to grow up to lead happy, healthy, and simple adult lives and work backwards from that.” How can I help them become a happy adult? A healthy adult emotionally, physically, socially, and sexually? How can I help them live a simple life satisfied with God’s will for them?”

These are the things we’re learning about parenthood. What do you agree with or disagree with? What would you add? 


Let them roar(ish)

We need to allow our kids to learn to roar.

At eight and ten years old our oldest are flourishing in the elementary years. Half of their existence is in the pretend world of video games, fantasy books, and made-up games in the backyard. The other half is the real world where they help with the baby, dominate academically at school, and run the shipping department for The Youth Cartel store.

The hard thing for Kristen and I is that they are growing up a little bit faster than we feel prepared to adapt our parenting. A year ago we woke up to the reality that we’d never left them home alone for even 5 minutes… or allowed them out of our sight on their own. So we started taking short trips to the grocery store without them or allowing them to go on walks in our neighborhood alone.

“It happens so fast.” People have told us this since the moment we found out we were pregnant with Megan. We’ve taken lots of pictures, we’ve enjoyed every step and stage. And yet it feels like it is still going so fast that we just want to hold on to each stage!

At the same time, it’s that little tendency… the desire to hold on… that we know is the difference between our kids roaring and our kids delaying maturation.

O! That we would be parents who don’t take video while our kids learn to roar, but stand behind them and encourage: Louder, you can do it!

Notre Dame parenting San Diego Living San Diego State Sports

Passing on a love of sports

My dad took me to lots of games at Notre Dame. Later in middle and high school it became more about football than the other sports. But I have lots of fond memories of spending time with my dad at Notre Dame basketball, hockey, and football games. I even remember a couple baseball and soccer games along the way.

Even though no one in my family went to Notre Dame, we lived so close and experienced so much there, that I have a pretty strong connection to the campus. My friends and I rode bikes all over campus. (Don’t tell my mom!) We played hide-n-seek near the Grotto and skateboarded the trail around St. Joeseph’s Lake. We yelled and made echoes between the giant buildings and dared one another to go into the administration building. (aka Golden Dome) I spent hundreds of hours in the library (aka Touchdown Jesus) during my senior year of high school and still have 10-15 unpaid parking tickets for parking in the basketball coaches spot when he wasn’t there.

But most of my memories of Notre Dame are from Saturday’s in the Fall. My dad had a group of friends who put on epic tailgate parties. 75-100 people would hang out and party between 3 motor homes starting before dawn and going until dark. When I was really young we went to almost every game because you could always find a ticket for free or almost free. That changed in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Lou Holtz had them in National Championship form year after year. But I managed to find a way in to a lot of games in those days. My stepdad had a brother who was an usher who could sneak me in. I’d get to the stadium several hours before the kickoff and sit in his usher seat during the game. When it was too cold or I’d get bored I’d climb into the scoreboard and watch the game from that little window, listening to the TV cameramen shuffle their feet above my head as they operated the endzone camera. For a couple of years my stepmom was an MBA student and we had tickets at the front of the student section. During those years I got to go to the games it was too cold for my dad and stepmom to enjoy. Cemented in my memory for a lifetime is freezing my butt off and hunting for hot chocolate during the 1992 snow bowl.

San Diego State

There’s no comparing Notre Dame to San Diego State. Pretty much everything that could be different about the two schools is different. But what isn’t different is the proximity of where we live. I grew up about a mile from Notre Dame’s campus and my kids are growing up about a mile from San Diego State’s campus. So I want my kids to experience the campus. (Um, the positive sides of campus activities!) That’s why I’m commited to taking them to football and basketball games and other fun/educational things offered on campus for kids.

I’d love for my kids to build happy memories about a place with their dad. Just like my growing up around Notre Dame… every moment isn’t memorable and not everything is going to make a lasting impression.

What are you doing to build memories with your kids? What kinds of things did you do with your parents which built lasting memories? 


To keep them young

Jackson is 8 months old. He crawls around on the floor. He pulls himself up on things to stand up. He coos, squeals, grunts, and makes endless raspberries. He’s the perfect size for Megan (10) and Paul (8) to pick up and play with. He loves to cuddle with mom and dad.

Eight months is one of those ages you wish your kids could just freeze and stay… forever.

This is the tension we live in as parents, isn’t it? We want them to slow down so we can enjoy each stage of development.

But they are in a hurry to grow up

Jackson wants to use real words to tells us exactly what he wants. He wants to not just stand up, but walk. He wants to run with his siblings. He wants to eat what we eat.

He wants to get big and we want to keep him small. 

It’s cute when they are babies. Certainly understandable and easy to justify.

But this tug to keep them young isn’t always good for them

The other day I hung out with Ryan McRae, a resident director at CSU San Marcos. He sees this same phenomenon every day with 18, 19, 20 year olds whose parents have done their best to keep their children young. Many of them are ill-equipped to live on their own. They lack basic judgment skills. Lots of them can’t even cook for themselves or do their own laundry.

Young adults who can’t take care of themselves. They can’t resolve conflict among themselves. He has to tell the parents to leave their adult-aged children alone.

I’m not a psychologist… but when I hear these things my mind wonders, “Are these young adults developmentally delayed?” Yes.

It’s cute to keep a baby young. But its not helpful to them beyond toddlerhood.

As parents we want to hold on to that cute baby who crawls around on the floor and coos. But, to be a good parent, we need to own our role in raising our children to become responsible, respectable adults. The goal of your parenting can not be to hold onto the past. It has to be to prepare your kids for the future.

Let’s explore this more. Join me in Atlanta for the Extended Adolescence Symposium on November 21st.

Books parenting

Join the Sticky Faith book club

To join us, buy the book and read chapter one by October 10th

“Lord, make me a better dad.” 

Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8

This is my daily prayer. Literally, it is my prayer every day. Why? Because there have been times when I’ve not been a good dad.

Here’s a painful reality that I’ve had to face: There have been times when I’ve cared more about ministering to other people’s kids while neglecting the needs of my own kids. And as I’ve shared that painful reality I’ve come to realize that I’m not alone in that struggle. It’s a common problem among ministry families and one I think we need to address together.

Your invitation

Kristen and I would like to invite you to join us in an online book club here on my blog where we will be reading, writing about, and wrestling through a brand new book. It’s called, Sticky Faith: Everyday ideas to build lasting faith in your kids by Kara Powell & Chap Clark.

About Sticky Faith

Nearly every Christian parent in America would give anything to find a viable resource for developing within their kids a deep, dynamic faith that ‘sticks’ long term. Sticky Faith delivers. Research shows that almost half of graduating high school seniors struggle deeply with their faith. Recognizing the ramifications of that statistic, the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) conducted the ‘College Transition Project’ in an effort to identify the relationships and best practices that can set young people on a trajectory of lifelong faith and service. Based on FYI findings, this easy-to-read guide presents both a compelling rationale and a powerful strategy to show parents how to actively encourage their children’s spiritual growth so that it will stick to them into adulthood and empower them to develop a living, lasting faith. Written by authors known for the integrity of their research and the intensity of their passion for young people, Sticky Faith is geared to spark a movement that empowers adults to develop robust and long-term faith in kids of all ages.

Each Monday we will write a brief reflection and some questions specifically geared for ministry families. (It’s open to anyone, obviously all Christians are in ministry to some extent, right?)

And then, just like a book club, we’ll open it up for discussion.

How long will it last?

The book is 8 chapters long, each week we will discuss a single chapter. Don’t worry– the chapters are pretty short.

Here’s the schedule:

October 10th – The not-so-sticky faith reality

October 17th – The sticky gospel

October 24th  – Sticky identity

October 31st – Stick faith conversations

November 7th – A sticky web of relationships

November 14th – Sticky justice

November 28th – A sticky bridge out of home

December 5th – The ups and downs of the sticky faith journey

Why this book?

  1. There are a lot of great books out there for parents, but this one is grounded in brand new research conducted by Fuller Youth Institute. Then they took their findings through a series of tests and dry runs to make sure that their learnings correlated. And only then did they boil it down into transferable principles. I think that sets it apart from most.
  2. Like I shared at the beginning, I think parents in ministry sometimes lose sight of their own kids. I’d like to help bring the focus on learning how to raise our own kids for a bit.
  3. I want to be a better dad. Kristen and I don’t have it all figured out. And we’d like the opportunity to learn from others so we can parent better.
  4. Kara Powell, Chap Clark, Brad Griffin, and the folks at FYI are amazing people. They have poured their heart and soul into this project. And I would love to see their hard work benefit families in my life.

How do I join the book club?

  1. Fill out the form below so we can follow-up with you along the way.
  2. Buy the book; read the first chapter by October 10th. (It’d be great if couples joined us!)
  3. Agree to participate in the discussion and contribute to the group. (Guest posts totally encouraged!)

Where do I buy the book?

  • – paperback or Kindle (I make 6% commission if you buy it this way)
  • – Pretty sure Doug is selling it cheaper than anyone, I don’t make anything from the sale but I did build his store, isn’t that cool?

Join the Sticky Faith online book club

It's free, all you need to do is buy the book and keep up!
  • You don't have to be married or even have kids to join. But if you are doing the book club as a couple we'd love to know that.
  • So we can follow up with you if you get quiet.

Have questions? Leave a comment.

Q1: I’m not in ministry, can I be in the book club? Absolutely! Just know that we’ll be gearing the discussion towards ministry families.


We need non-digital adventure

Photo by Christine K via Flickr (Creative Commons)

A couple weekends ago I told Megan and Paul to get in the car, we were going on a secret adventure.

Anticipation in the car was high. Were we going for ice cream? Was dad taking us to a movie? Were we going to buy new video games?

All were possibilities. But none were realities.

Dad’s plan– Spend an hour at Barnes & Noble picking out books.

I thought you were taking us on an adventure, dad. This sucks.” Those were the words of my 8 year old son as we entered the store.

I explained, “You need to take your brain on a non-digital adventure. And books can take you there.” Every time they picked up a book it was tied to a video game or cartoon. “Non-digital adventure. Longer, older, think about the classics.” They complained, “I don’t want to read an old book. I want to read something new. New stuff is good, old stuff is boring.” 

In the end we made a compromise. They could each pick out whatever book they wanted. And dad picked out two books for them. (The first two books in the Narnia series.)

Megan took the compromise. Paul didn’t pick out a book and went home empty handed on principle.

I went home and planned our camping trip– A non-digital adventure of the mind, body, and soul.

Besides restricting use, what are ways you help your kids take their brain on non-digital adventures? 


Daddy, if you love me…

I love spending solo time with my kids. And I really want them to enjoy spending time with me. We spend lots of time doing stuff together as a family, but I think there’s something special about the ratio being 1:1 (or 1:2) instead of 5:2.

At least once per month I try to take them out to do something– just the two of us. It’s often something simple. Like a trip to Target or Home Depot or out for a taco. But my goal is always to do something a little bigger. Something that’s really special. (When you live in a tourist destination like San Diego, this is actually pretty easy.)

I also try to mix passions in hopes of passing on some of the things I love. My love for college sports was passed on to me by my dad taking me to Notre Dame football, basketball, and hockey games as a kid. So they go with me to San Diego State football and basketball games. And this year we added the San Diego Padres to the mix because they both seem to enjoy baseball.

In March, Paul and I were walking to the SDSU vs. Utah game. The Aztecs were ranked in the top 10 in the country. The game was sold out. And the country was just discovering that Viejas Arena had become the most exciting venue west of the Mississippi. Paul dragged his feet a little as we walked across campus.

Paul, don’t you want to go to the game? It’s sold out. The Aztecs are awesome this year. And I love sharing this with you.” He got up the courage to tell me the truth. “I really like hanging out with you dad. But we always do things that you love, like sports, and it doesn’t count as a dad date unless it’s something I want to do.

My 7 year old prophet hit me… Right. Between. The. Eyes.

What do you want to do?

In some ways it seems silly to miss this. But I had a default to want to take my kids along to things I wanted to do. And they picked up that I would have gone to this stuff with or without them, so it didn’t feel as special. While they liked the games they wanted me to come spend time on their turf. They felt loved as we went to games. But they would really feel the love if I’d bypass what I wanted to do for what they wanted to do.

Yesterday was case-in-point as we went to the Pokemon World Championships. (Pictures above) Thousands of people geeked out on Pokemon. They spoke a language of characters I couldn’t comprehend. The card games, the collectables, the people dressed like the characters. I couldn’t have been more out of place.

But my kids? It was a giant “I love you” card for them. They couldn’t believe we actually went. (Paul asked me about it months ago but thought I had forgotten.) I didn’t rush them. I just tried to figure it out. I sat and watched as they played in table tournaments. I got excited when they won. I was disappointed when they lost. We took pictures. We wandered around the hotel to make sure they’d seen everything. I learned the names of some characters.

Parenthood is humbling. There’s times you think you’re winning when you are losing and visa versa. For every miss I’ve had– it felt good to get a win yesterday.