"I'm bored."

No, not me. My 6-year old.

He's bored.

Keep in mind his room is filled with a decent supply of toys... not like mine at his age, because my parents were on the extravagant credit card kick whereas my wife and I enjoy the simplicity of debit cards instead. Nonetheless, he's doing pretty good there, has an amazing collection of books my wife (a former school teacher) passed down to him, just bought a used Gamecube with money he put away for three months, and even has a little brother (4-years old) to play with.

He's bored.

I know this because recently I was doing something productive... sleeping, I think... and he walked into the room to tell me about it.

Him: I'm bored.

Me: (something unintelligible about the price of Ice Tea at Panera)

Him: Dad? I'm bored.

Me: I'm sorry, buddy. Why are you bored?

Him: I just want to play the Gamecube but I've already played it enough for the day. Mom said I'm done.

Me: (ah... yeah... we limit him on time because he's rather obsessive about the Gamecube - especially Lego Star Wars) I know it's hard to think about something else when you want to do one thing, but you do have a lot of toys, books, and games... and then there's your brother, too.

Him: Yeah, but none of those things sound good. I'm still bored.

Me: I'm sure you'll figure it out.
And then... that was the end of the conversation. Not because I fell back asleep, but because he was forced to figure it out. Ten minutes later I walked by his room and saw him playing with his brother, sharing his Matchbox cars and making all the appropriate "vroom" noises.
He's a great kid... blows me away everyday.

I'm not a parenting expert, but something I picked up along the way is that kids need to be bored. No matter how many or little toys they may have, every kid needs to learn how to entertain themselves with a spirit of contentment. I think a big problem for my generation is that my parents bought me something new when I was bored... or worse yet, they tried to dazzle me with busyness and movies and cartoons and candy and other things instead of letting me figure it out on my own.

Now, I love my parents... even after their divorce. In fact, in two days my mom is coming to live with us (long story) and so I'll have to clue her in on the way things work around our household.

One of them being that we don't stop our kids from feeling discontent in order to discover what contentment is.

You know... kind of like how God does it with us.

How often have we found ourselves in a situation in life and asked God to remove it from us only to hear back "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

God knows that in life you don't really learn how to ski until you lose your poles, and you don't really learn how to camp until your "hotel on wheels" breaks down. Maybe the reason the "poor in spirit" see Him is because they have nothing else to see.

So my encouragement for the day is to let your kids be bored until they find their way to contentment. If we let that muscle build into the the emerging generation, perhaps American consumerism will be replaced by Divine contentment in the years to come.
And maybe if that happens, we'll end up enjoyig/sharing our "toys" with the rest of our brothers (and sisters) in the world.


posted by Tony Myles at 10:10:00 PM | 6 comments
I was reflecting the other day on some of the social niceties that we teach out kids - out of habit more than anything - for instance, saying "please" when we ask for something. Alfie Kohn, a well known writer on issues of parenting, education, and human behavior, has pointed out that in most cases saying please is simply a meaningless ritual, an automatic trained response, and that the only reason to teach kids to say it is because others expect and will think you rude if you don't. In other words, there is no intrinsic reason to say please. It doesn't mean anything anymore.

I was thinking about this and basically Kohn is right. In today's world "please" doesn't mean anything. In fact, if anything, we teach it to kids simply as a way of adding emphasis - "pleeeeaaase, mommy" - that it's the "magic word" which, if they say it, automatically makes it more likely that the adult will have to give in and give them what they want.

However, it wasn't always like this. At one time saying please had a very specific meaning, and it's purpose was actually the opposite of manipulating others into doing what you want. Consider the original phrase: "If you please" (from the French, si vous plait) or "if it pleases you". What does it mean to put an "if you please" on the end of a request? Well, quite literally you are acknowledging the free will of the giver and respecting their right to say no. Rather than simply demanding that another person bend to your will and give you what you (which is how most children have learned to use the word "please"), "if you please" is a way of saying "Listen, only if you want to. You don't have to and I recognize that I don't have the right to command you." In other words, in its original form saying "please" is a sign of respect for the equality and freedom of other people, and a way of recognizing their actions towards you as a gift and not an obligation.

But I doubt that many children these days would understand it as such, and that is our fault as parents as much as anything. How many of us instruct our children on why we say "please" beyond simply telling them that it's "polite" or that it's the "magic word"? I know that I hadn't thought of it in that way before nor presented it that way to my daughter either. But imagine how formative it could be to teach our children to respect others as equals and free agents, and not simply as servants intended to fulfill our every whim. Imagine what it would be like to teach our children to treat receive everything in life as a gift and not simply as an entitlement. Hopefully some of us already are. I know it's something I want to do better and more consistently. Perhaps explaining the true meaning of "please" is a good place to start.
posted by Mike Clawson at 9:37:00 AM | 6 comments
How do we keep Christmas from being a holiday of over-consumption? This is the question that has been on mind. The challenge has become even more poignant because my two year old son is really excited about presents. He is excited to celebrate Jesus’ birthday and birthdays mean two things: cake and presents. I started explaining to him about Advent and the Advent house that we have to help our family countdown to Christmas and celebrate Jesus’ birthday. All of the sudden it struck me how non-sensical it all is! My son gets a little present everyday because Jesus is having a birthday? I have been caught- the consumer mindset has taken over Christmas. Even though we have told the grandparents “only three presents, please”—the struggle to keep Christmas to be more than shopping is real.

The tension tears at me because I love to give gifts. Yet my hope is to raise children who are as excited to give as to receive. I love the wonder and excitement of Christmas morning but I don’t what it to be all about presents. I want to nurture and display generosity but not materialism. I think Christmas is for fun and sometimes ‘luxurious’ giving. The challenge is to eliminate the stuff and to put the gift back into giving.

How can I help my two year old give to Jesus? A true gift- like the gift of the ham that the Herdmans left for the baby Jesus at the end of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (my favorite Christmas story of all time).

I like the idea of reclaiming Santa and brining back the story of St. Nicholas. Santa is not really evil. A friend told me of a Christmas Mass where Santa shows up to bring the baby Jesus a gift. Tim and I aren’t going to tell our kids that Santa is real but the story of a man who surprises boys and girls with presents is an example of generosity. Our Santa will give gifts whether or not they have been naughty or nice. God loves you so you get presents ? It is not by my merit that God gives me good or bad things.

Christmas will always include gift giving but I am hoping to avoid over- consumption. As my young family begins to make Christmas traditions of our own I want Advent and Christmas to be full of wonder, surprise and generosity. Santa can come along for the ride.

Resources we are enjoying this year: CD Andrew Peterson Behold the Lamb of God, book: God with Us edited by Gregory Wolfe
posted by Saranell at 4:10:00 PM | 3 comments
submitted by Emily Varner -

Mention “Christmas traditions” and something within me freaks. Tie myself down to one way of doing things forever? Start a routine that’s only remembered when I forget it? Not me. Yet as parents, we’ve all discovered the necessity of repetition in teaching our children about the things we value. This very idea of formation by repetition informs the ancient liturgical practices so many are rediscovering. Our Christmas decorating this year uncovered a simple, natural expression of Advent that I hope can become a part of our Christmas memories as a family.

Somehow I’ve received as gifts nativity sets enough for each room of our small house. The bedroom dressers, end table, kitchen windowsill and computer hutch each have at least the basic characters: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Most have more. My favorite is a hollowed-out coconut with tiny, featureless wooden figures glued inside. Most, however, are the glass-figure, dollar-store variety, each figure looking particularly reverent and somber. Turning most of these into additional props for my daughter Elinor’s daily play has me mulling over Advent aloud with her, and silently within.

It’s mostly about presence and mindfulness, of course. The constant visual reminder of where we stand in the church year and the tactile prompt to talk about it are vital given the other Christmas messages vying for my attention.

The other day Elinor and I discovered a crèche just right for her dresser, which she can currently just barely reach the top of. Resisting my urge to set up the scene myself, I decided to sit back and watch.

She sets up a scene unlike any storybook picture I have ever seen. Joseph in the distance, looking at Jesus straight-on; Mary and one of the wise men kneeling with heads together; the other two wise men, backs to Mary and Jesus, looking south.

My unsuspecting daughter has just laid out for me a meditation; I study it like an icon. Joseph thinks to himself, “You know, he still looks just like any other baby.” Mary listens to the wise man’s travel tales, holding them in her heart. Maybe some night when Jesus is having trouble getting to sleep, she’ll tell him the story. The other magi discuss what they’ve found. How can this be a royal family? They’re poor fugitives, on the run from their country’s ruler. They muse together. I muse too. Where am I meant to recognize the face of God in my day? Perhaps in similarly unlikely places.

The baby Jesus figures spend a good bit of time away from their scene because Elin has taken to them like baby dolls. Often I find them dwarfed by the doll high chair, and often she tells me “Baby Jesus crying.” We talk about why he might cry. Is he tired? Hungry? Does he need his mommy? I delight in subtly confronting the Docetic view that “the little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” And Elinor’s compassion prompts a prayer that she would always desire to dry the tears of those who cry.

The idea of tradition still scares me, inducing premature guilt over failing to live up to my expectations. But I hope that yearly I’m at least able to manage getting out the crèches, and that in years to come our play and talking about the holy family will be a recurring holiday memory that shapes the imagination and action of my children.

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posted by Julie at 11:05:00 AM | 0 comments
Troy Bronsink let me know about a great new advent resource for parents. This site they created has good ideas for observing advent with kids as well as creative and meaningful DIY related projects. As we reflect on the holidays here I recommend checking out this site.

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posted by Julie at 7:14:00 PM | 1 comments
This is is obviously not about Holidays...
I was just listening to Jim Wallis, on "Speaking of Faith" portray his parents urgency for him to be saved at an early age of 6. He retold the story of an evangelist coming to tell him and other children that if Jesus returned their parents would go to Heaven while the children, who have not repeated the "sinner's prayer," will go to Hell.
Where is the God of love (incidentally Wallis ' mother instilled that belief of God) in a story of children burning in Hell?
My wife and I are struggling to learn how to discipline our children without anger and prideful, egotistic demands of obedience. I cannot believe God reacts to us and our children with those emotions and legalities...
I want my children to love, not fear and mistrust.
posted by brett at 11:21:00 AM | 5 comments
During the month of December we will be focusing on holidays here at Emerging Parents. This is wide open to allow reflections on Christmas, Advent, or whatever Holiday you celebrate this month. We would love to hear personal stories, traditions, thoughts on consumerism and gift giving, ways to make the season meaningful to kids, resources you have found helpful, or whatever comes to mind. Many of us are attempting to work out how to be intentional in how we celebrate holidays and would appreciate learning from others.

There are a few people signed up already to post this month (see the list here), but we could use more contributors. So even if you just have a question you would like to pose to the group or a short advent reflection that you used with your kids, go ahead and post it.

I look forward to learning from everyone this month.


posted by Julie at 2:35:00 PM | 2 comments