Adventures in Fathering

Four out of five, because it’s impossible to get them all together…

When you take over as a full time parent, people always seem to have expectations for your success or failure. Dads are particularly singled out with these expectations, but not in the way one might think. From what I have experienced, the male of the species is expected to do a lot less.

I get compliments all the time about my kids. I suppose I could just chalk it up to how good they really are, and beautiful, and smart. But most of the compliments seem to be aimed at me. But I am only half of the reason they are how they are, if that. Would people compliment my wife like that? Would they compliment her if she had to wrestle all five of them through a church service? They tell me I’m doing so well bringing them week after week, would they do the same to her?

The double standard seems to assume men aren’t as capable of parenting as women. Fathers are inept creatures, barely able to juggle one child, let alone five.

Frankly the assertion makes me laugh. Yeah, my kids are a handful. They are constantly moving, vibrating really, and sometimes they make noise at inopportune times. They treat me like a jungle gym. They stand firm in “no” and make me drag them by the leg into certain places. But it isn’t hard. It’s exhausting sometimes to be sure, but not “hard”.

I love them. I love the challenges they bring. I love watching them make connections and grow and learn. I love that they force me to be strong and active. I love that they ask complex questions and make me think. If I was not actively involved in their lives I dare say I would atrophy.

I pity the men out there who don’t have kids, or at least act like they don’t. I pity the men who don’t know their kids well enough to know what discipline works for what kid (hint: they are individuals, every one is different). I pity the men who never engage with their kids, physically or mentally, for they will grow olds quickly without the exercise.

Most of all I feel a bit grumpy towards the men who fit the stereotype of inept and aloof. They are the reason for so many misplaced compliments towards men like me. They are the reason I will get five compliments to every one my wife gets. They are the reason my kids never get told how awesome they are, everyone is too busy being surprised by me.

Next time you see a lone father (or mother) with well behaved (mostly) kids, compliment all of them.

They’ll appreciate it.

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Judging A Book

Oh no, it’s that long haired hippie freak and his beard again…

What does your style say about you? Can someone really tell much just by what you wear or what you listen to? What do the various decorations you put on say to the world around you?

I walked into a country western store the other day. Everything in there was country, from the boots to the hats to jeans and the accessories. They even had redneck wine glasses. There was a guy in there with his son and they were both dressed to the hilt with rodeo garb. Needless to say my sandals, t-shirt, and long hair didn’t exactly fit in.

My wife works with a guy covered in tatoos. If you didn’t know him you would probably make an assumption that he has spent a bit of time in prison. Nothing could be further from the truth. He’s a hard worker who loves his kids.

I crossed paths with two guys in Wal-Mart who could have been drug dealers, but the well put together type. They were nothing but cordial when one of them almost ran into me. Definitely not the kind of reaction I would have expected if I had been judging them by their looks.

Even in church you meet some wiley looking characters. I grew up in a fairly well-to-do area where people dress up for church, and our church at “home” is filled with good-looking, tan, well dressed folks. It was a bit of a culture shock attending a mountain church. Mountain people live in a rough area, and they look the part. People come to church in jeans and graphic tees. They have mullets and scruffy unshaven faces. Some of them even smoke (gasp) in the parking lot. Yet they worship with sincerity and love God with all their hearts.

I love all these folks, from the tatooed characters in Wal-Mart to the well dressed folks in my home church. I may feel very conspicuous around many of them, and they may not always know how to talk to me, but every one of them is a person, created in the image of God, and worthy of love.

When we start judging people or expecting people to be just like us we risk alienating those who most need love. Christians stop spreading the Gospel. Imagine if Christ had avoided some of the people we do.

Now, this doesn’t mean we embrace sin. We shouldn’t be “inclusive” for the sake of political correctness or trying to make our church bankrolls bigger. Outright unrepentant sin should not be accepted by any true church.

But judging people by how they look and by their style is something no one should do.

On Being Boyish Or Girlish

Someone tell my daughter she’s too brave…

Brave, strong, energetic, fierce. What do you picture when you read those words? Rather, who do you picture? I dare say the person in your mind’s eye is a male.

Why?

Likely you have many reasons. Fairy tales, action movies, perhaps you even read the book “Wild At Heart”. We assume men naturally have these characteristics. And that these are positive traits. Men that lack them seem like less of men.

But girls that have them? Do they become less girly? No, quite the contrary: they are well recieved.

We actually value these traditional “male” traits more than traditional “female” traits like humility, quietness, meekness, and delicateness. Characteristics that can be considered “weak” are looked down upon in our “only the strong survive” culture.

We have so over-emphasized self-reliance that any trait that seems dependant on another person, like empathy or compassion, has become a flaw. Femininity, or rather what we have chosen to define as femininity, is weak. To be feminine is to be demure and vain.

Therefore, we are more than willing to accept a “boyish” girl. She is strong and self-reliant. She will not be a burden on our individualistic society. She will contribute to it by being in the workforce and producing independent, strong children (who she will give to the State to educate and raise, but I digress).

We can accept girls who don’t exhibit those traits. After all, they are girls. We can’t expect all but the most exceptional of them to act strong and independent. Girls who aren’t “boyish” are okay. They make good wives to the more “manly” (read: brutish) men out there.

What about boys who don’t exhibit those traits? What about ones who actually exhibit those feminine traits?

We have gotten to the point where it is just assumed they are probably gay. We have actually gone back in history and labeled many historical figures as such. Men who expressed deep love for other men and wrote passionate letters to them (not sexual, just passionate) must have been homosexual. I’ve even read theories that Jesus and John were a couple.

Apparently straight men are incapable of anything other than brutish vulgarity and everything they think, say, or do is basically sexual. If he is brutish and aggressive the man is straight, if he is gentle and passionate (yet restrained) he must be gay. Or at best asexual.

And gay, like feminine, is weak.

Why can girls be “boyish” but boys can’t be “girlish”? Because we are phobic of “weakness”, that’s why.

Boyish and Girlish

Oh look, a butterfly, so girly!

My wife sent me a link last week knowing that I would just have to comment. I have written at least three posts about the subject after all. I didn’t ask this exact question though: Why is it that girls can be “boyish” but boys can’t be “girlish”?

Perhaps that is the wrong question. The more pertinent question is: How do we define what is “boyish” or “girlish”?

The article in question discussed several points like clothing preferences (colors and sparkles) and personality traits like compassionate or caring vs agressive and aloof.

To the first: preferences like these are almost completely cultural. What one culture considers feminine may very well be masculine in another culture. Pink and blue are not inherently gendered. A flashy man is not a less masculine man. There just happens to have been a movement towards dull drab colors on men in our culture over the past 120 years or so. If your son likes rainbows and flash he is not less of a boy for it, he just likes something less boring than the current culture would like him to.

To the second: what makes character traits feminine or masculine? Sure, there are definite hormonal and physical differences between males and females that result in slightly different personalities, but these are hardly universal. And they aren’t even that big of differences when we really look at them. My sons are definitely different from my daughters, but the differences are so subtle I couldn’t tell you if it was gender or simply their personalities.

Why this cultural push to make gentleness and compassion a strictly “female” trait? Why assume that a gentle man is effeminate? Why assume a woman who is strong and courageous is “acting like a man”?

Personally I think we are a culture much too obsessed with sexuality and gender. Since when are people narrowly defined by who they want to have sex with? Since when does gender dictate every character trait and personality quirk?

It’s gotten to the point where people even worry about their sexuality in church. Someone was complaining that worship songs in their church sounded “gay” because they call God “beautiful” or express a sentiment of wanting to be with Jesus. While I could agree that the theology of these types of songs is usually lacking and they are usually set to fru fru tunes it is ignorant just to lay them out as “gay”. Are those sentiments incorrect? Was it “gay” when Jesus washed His disciples feet or when we are told to greet one another with a holy kiss? What is it about expressing love in a gentle fashion that is “gay” or even “unmanly”?

Back to the first question though: Why is it that girls can be “boyish” but boys can’t be “girlish”? For that answer you’ll have to wait for next week.

Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and Birth Control, A Dangerous Combination

From “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler

From my previous posts you have learned that I don’t oppose all forms of birth control, but that I urge caution about hormonal birth control.

I have two reasons for this: the first is the fact that hormonal birth control can be an abortificant. The second is much more personal, hormonal birth control can really create havoc on your body and mind.

Shortly before we were married, my wife went to her gynecologist for a routine check and pre-wedding screening (not like she needed it but whatever). While there, the doctor told her she should start taking birth control a couple of months before the wedding. “You don’t want to be inconvenienced by a baby.” she told her. Being young and naive my soon to be wife acquiesced and started taking what the doctor prescribed.

The side effects began her first week on the pill. At first it was a near constant nausea which kept her in bed most of the time. Next, a nearly insatiable libido disappeared. Then came the depression and anxiety. She reported these to the doctor and was assured they weren’t side-effects, she was probably just nervous about the wedding.

Reluctantly, the doctor switched her pills for the patch. Her nausea abated slightly, but the rest of the symptoms remained in full force.

By the time the wedding came, she had very little interest in sex. There were a few nights on the honeymoon where she cried for hours because she couldn’t understand what was happening to her. She didn’t want me anymore. What sort of switch happened that would cause her to suddenly stop her interest in me?

Upon our return, my new wife reported these problems to the doctor only to be told that she was probably just regretting her decision to get married so young. “Depression is not a side effect of birth control.” Nonetheless, her doctor agreed to change the medication again, this time to the Nuva Ring.

While the ring was better for nausea, the depression worsened dramatically. There were nights I would wake up next to a sweating, rocking, tearful woman. Sex was nearly impossible. She contemplated suicide.

All the while, the doctor insisted it was in her head.

I don’t remember exactly what clicked in my mind, but one morning I told her to quit the birth control. While the side-effects weren’t spelled out on the packaging, it was too suspicious to me that they would coincide with her first dosages. She quit taking them, much to her doctor’s chagrin.

Within a month her mood was vastly better. Her nausea disappeared. There were still incredible mental and emotional scars that made sex difficult, but her appetite for it returned in force. Two months after quitting (three months after the wedding), she was pregnant.

After our first daughter was born we ignorantly decided to try the BC again. Breastfeeding was a hellish nightmare (thanks to a lack of lactation consultants) and parenting did not seem like something we wanted to do more of at that point.

Side effects came right back full force. She was told “oh, those aren’t side effects” yet again.

Funny how they disappeared shortly after she stopped taking the pill for the second time.

The labels did vaguely mention that you could have suicidal thoughts as a side-effect. But it was listed as an almost unheard of side effect. Our only guess is that women who do not suffer from Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) rarely have those side effects. Or that doctors simply don’t care.

She was never screened for PMDD, we didn’t know she had it until almost ten years later. But the diagnosis made everything make sense. Any fluctuation in hormones brings about emotional and mental changes in her. Birth control, pregnancy, and breastfeeding each had their own effects, whether nausea or severe depression or decreased libido. Like clockwork she gets severe depression about ten days before her period and starts feeling better immediately upon menstruation. Then she is healthy for a week or so after, before plunging back down again.

Most doctors don’t even know what PMDD is, it’s just not on their radar. They are convinced that BC simply doesn’t have any emotional side effects. They barely listened to her about the nausea.

It’s almost like they have an agenda to push. Hence the “you don’t want to be inconvenienced by a baby” comment.

Needless to say, hormonal birth control is definitely not for us. Since this happened to us we have talked to dozens of women who had similar experiences, even ones without PMDD.

If you decide to use it and you experience similar side effects, don’t let the doctor tell you that you are crazy or that you should just switch until you find one that works. Get your hormones checked and talk to a doctor about the possibility of PMDD. It took a general practitioner about ten minutes to make the diagnosis and prescribe medication and other therapies. Now she is healthier emotionally than she has ever been.

It’s not worth living in misery when there are other ways to go about preventing pregnancy.

The “Wonderful” World of Kinism

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Way too obvious to be kinists….

“I’m not a white supremacist, I just believe that whites are superior.”

“It’s just statistics. Blacks aren’t as good as whites by various measures.”

“That person of X race who is good at y? That’s just an outlier.”

“You are putting your family in danger living in a black neighborhood. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ it’s a matter of ‘when’ you or your family will be attacked.”

“Oh, I believe that non-whites can be saved. There will be people of all colors in heaven. But we should not mix them on Earth. It’s not right.”

Racism: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

If cultists weren’t bad enough, Reformed groups on Facebook have also had to endure at times the assault of the wonderful folks known as kinists. You may not have heard of this group, as it’s fairly new in Christian circles. It has roots in the South, where many used it to justify slavery. Since the end of the Civil War it has maintained a steady following, and has even branched out to races other than those of European descent.

So how will you know you’ve run across a kinist and not just a run of the mill racist jerk?

When confronted, the white kinists (they come in all colors) will claim that they are not racists, because “racism” is a concept invented by Cultural Marxists intent on wiping out the white race. “Racism is a word without a definition” they will claim.

When confronted with the actual definition of racism all kinists will claim that they have no antagonism towards people of different races. They even trot out friends of different races, though not close ones, just to prove they can be civil towards them.

They may even claim that true racists are supremacists, but they are not. They believe their race is superior, but everyone believes that: “After all, don’t you know that the Japanese consider themselves superior to all other races? Do you not think that blacks think themselves superior to whites, Mexicans think themselves superior to blacks and so on?”

To them, ones race is just like a football team, you always root for the home team. They aren’t hating anyone, they are just cheering for the survival of their own group. They aren’t harming anyone, they are just keeping their people pure and undefiled from all those other inferior races.

Kinism is a subtle racism. It’s a slightly “cleaner” racism then the straight up Klansmen type. Kinists back up their position with out of context scripture and verbal gymnastics designed to make you look foolish for even beginning to disagree with them. You end up being the person who “doesn’t care about your child’s future”. Beware this menace. Don’t cast your pearls before these swine.

Instead, consider them a harm to the spread of the Gospel. Gently point out that you will not limit your evangelism to your “team” and that spouting off about how superior that “team” is creates unhelpful division within the church.They will likely counter this with some more nonsense out of context Scripture. At this point just walk away, there is little more you can do for them but pray.

Anyone else dealt with this menace?

Why Join a Cult?

21 JUMP STREET
From Texas Monthly

One of the Facebook groups I am a part of was invaded last week by two cult members. At first it seemed like a troll, since the posts were almost too ridiculous to be believed. But as the posts piled up it became apparent that these people were serious. They sincerely believed what they said.

The question came up, “Why would anyone want to join a cult?”

Well, my answer was this: “Anxiety and depression mostly. Some of us are prone to believing that our horribleness requires penance in the form of self depreciation and asceticism. The Gospel is sweet, but the bitterness of the law is strong and guilt can be hard to shake. By doing something, like fleeing alcohol or anything pleasant, it feels like we are actually doing something towards our salvation. Being confirmed in our thinking is a comfort, and our ability to deny ourselves gives us assurance. It can be pretty ugly. I have to stop talking to people like that because it can be quite alluring. I have to flee and preach the true Gospel to myself.”

Basically, people join cults because they doubt the promises of the Gospel. They deny that the Mercy of God is a free gift, not something they have worked to earn. The want to have their salvation based on their works because it gives them a sense of assurance. And they frequently have a very negative view of the world.

Interestingly enough, the same week my wife sent me this video and asked “why don’t I like these people? You would figure it would be right up our alley.”

It is a great question. We are very much a part of the “unconventional” crowd. Why are these people so offensive? Why are cults so offensive?

Immediately I thought what makes these people so unfriendly is their attitudes of judgment and anger.

Conservatives and liberals have this in common: everyone should be like them. They want a homogeneous culture. The consistent ones go and cloister themselves into little communities in the woods or small towns.

They aren’t really living happy lives, despite their claims. They want to claim that they are untangled with the culture, however, they are completely engaged with it. But instead of helping it or changing it, they vomit all over it. They throw all their judgement at it and yell at it.

They are not making the world a better place with their opposition. They are just making it uglier. Those that sequester themselves into enclaves out in the boonies focus entirely on the bad of the world, never on the good things. They are pessimists. They constantly talk about “when the shit hits the fan”. They make plans to completely cut out of the world when it does. Frequently, they are already living in cardboard huts anticipating it.

I don’t care if you want to have the situational awareness that tells you it might hit the fan. There is always the possibility things in society could go south. But to live with the assumption that it will? Why does it have to? Why assume that the world will ultimately collapse and leave you as the lone group of nutcase survivors?

Why not take an optimistic view that the world will at least be a neutral place?

There is evil in the world, but there is also Common Grace. And if we are Christians, we should definitely be optimistic.

I’m not saying we all adopt a PostMil worldview and assume the world gets better and better and when we finally have a Christian State, Jesus will come rule it. Nor should we take the negative approach and assume it all just goes bad and worse before Christ finally returns and makes it all better again.

A neutral view is far more Biblical. In the end days there will certainly be wars and rumors of wars (bad stuff) but people will be marrying and giving in marriage (good stuff).

“Post”-apocalyptic is a funny term. Christians should understand that after the apocalypse comes the new heaven and the new earth. Why be pessimistic about that?

We are put into a box in this world. God drops us in to a specific place and time in the universe, we have to engage with what we are given, not wish that we were somewhere or sometime else. Many have tried the ascetic way of pulling completely out of the world, and all of them have failed at bringing about any positive change on the world.

Instead of denying Christ’s promise of deliverance from the Law, and hiding in fear from the world, let’s be in the world but not of it like Christ described us.

Why join a cult? I have no idea. Enjoy the world that God has placed you in. Engage it and make it a better place.