10 Years Without TV (sort of)

When my daughter was born, 10 years ago, my wife and I talked intentionally about what exposure we did and didn’t want her to have to TV.  In the first two or three years, we didn’t really let her watch it at all.  After that, we decided we would let our kids watch to a limited degree on the weekends, but not on week days.  It’s now been 10 years in our house of limited TV.

Yesterday, after their sports camps, my kids spent a good part of the day reading.  At one point, my wife caught them arguing over who owned which book and got to read it next.trash

For all the damage done through my parenting foibles (we’re starting one fund for college, one for therapy), this may be one of the best decisions we ever made.  And I have to admit, it was my wife’s idea.  To this day, the kids usually don’t even ask to watch during the week, because they know our family’s habit – no TV, video, or internet during the week.

If you’ve got a young one in the family, or if you’re a grandparent or uncle or aunt who can be a part of the conversation, staving off video addiction may be the healthiest thing you can do for your kids.

  • Most programming isn’t of any educational or moral value in the first place
  • Most programming isn’t even that entertaining
  • The brain’s adaptive ability, “neuroplasticity,” will condition your kids to have sudden, jerky attention spans if that is the input they get for hours each day
  • Time spent reading is going to better prepare them for school
  • Time spent playing with other kids is going to better prepare them for relationships
  • Time spent in exercise will make them healthier, which will in turn make them happier

It’s neither too soon nor too late to start.  And giving in to a child’s tantrum to get them to stop is nowhere near as rewarding as having your child in their adult years thank you for being a good parent.

The-More-You-Know

See: “Media and Children,” the American Academy of Pediatrics, http://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx

On the baptism of my son

Koen,

Today I baptized you.  You were more excited about the party afterwards than the duty itself, but you had a particular interest in the proceedings.  You wanted it to happen in church instead of the pool next door – strange for an introvert – and for a moment you seemed to like the crowd.  We had rehearsed all the details.  It’s about Jesus forgiving your sins, and new life, and don’t goof around just because everyone is watching, and Papa might cry, and it doesn’t magically forgive you, it’s just a symbol, and hold your nose when you go backwards so you don’t get water in there.  It’s sort of a strange mix of cosmic theological truths and nitty gritty pragmatics.

Faith is kind of that way.  You can only imagine what the sovereign creator of the universe must want to say to us when we’re born.  “Now remember, I’ve already died for you for your forgiveness, stay close to me, look both ways before you cross the street, live by faith not by sight, say your prayers, and don’t swim right after you eat.” God has made us these fleshy spirits, and his will for us is a messy mix of cosmic truth and daily hygiene.

Part of the reason baptism is so beautiful because it is, as Augustine said it and no one has improved on his description since, a visible sign of an invisible grace.  It is the tangible washing of dirt mixed with the holy confirmation of cleansed sin.  It’s exactly what flesh and spirit need to speak the same language at the same time.  Sacraments are like phone wires from our bodies to our souls.

Fatherhood is a fleshy-spiritual kind of thing.  My deepest longings for you are that you would know Jesus, and that you would get married, that you would walk in peace, and that you would have good friends, that you would pray hard and that you would run fast.  I hope we learn to pray for each other as surely as we play catch.  And I’m touched that even if we weren’t related, we would still be best friends.  I have deep hopes for you, body and soul, and I’m thankful today that God came up with this amalgam of flesh-spirits that we are.  I wouldn’t want to miss out on either one.

Your dad can’t control all that happens to your body in a jagged world.  I can’t control Imageyour soul – because certain things can only happen in the conversation that you and God will have together, with me listening in through the door.  But I can drop you beneath the waters, accepting the reality that there is a part of all of us that must die, and then pull you back up to the life that I hope you will find.  I can raise you in a house where we pray, read the book, worship, and believe.  And I can point you in the direction of Jesus, who joined us in the messy package for spirit and flesh.

Love,

Papa

“Remember to fan into flame the gift that God gave you at the laying on of my hands.  God hasn’t given you a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self-disciple.  And don’t ever be ashamed of Jesus, or of his servants.  Instead, join me in enduring all things for the gospel, by the power of God.” -2 Timothy 1:6-8

Azusa and Calvary

A note to my 6 year old son:Image

This weekend we climbed a mountain. Quite literally, we hiked the Garcia Trail up at the back of Azusa, up past the overly proud, white “A” emblazoned on the hill, up to the cross that is frequented daily by students from the expanding Christian college next door.

“I’ll never do that again,” you told me, as did your sister.

It was slow going.  You were afraid of the sheer cliff that sat alongside the narrow path, and though you were never in any danger, the higher we got, the more you sounded like a kid mounting a diving board.  We had to hold hands most of the way to the top.  Your sister was not much better.  It was a complaint parade with grunts like a timpani and whines like a clarinet, with stops under every shady overhang we could find.

On the way down you and I walked a few feet in front of the girls.  I told you about being a leader and being brave, and how when times are hard, your family needs you to be a brave leader.

“Hm,” you said.  I think it was assent.

I wonder how much these moments will sink in over time.

Up at the top, the cross is ironically graffitied.  I’m not sure who decided that was appropriate.  It overlooks a vast 180 degree panorama of LA, all the way to Catalina island, and on the other side an equally sized panorama of national forests, spotted with reservoirs.  Cars wind through a lonely valley road, far enough away to seem like a silent movie of a leaf floating down a river.

Here I’m struck with an irony that we climbed to the cross.  I mean I get it, but it’s all wrong.  That first cross initially sat atop a hill, and placing them on top of hills today is sort of an implicit declaration of superiority and finality.  Jesus’ cross and our crosses are the parentheses that swallow all the history in between.  But theologically, it’s all wrong.  We don’t climb to the cross; it descends to us.  The whole point of the cross was that our climbing up was ineffectual, and so he climbed down. The cross was ultimately replacing our useless ladders with his working one.  So I’m afraid I’ve emblazoned on your memory an image of intense perseverance that earns you a view of the cross, when what I want you to know is that the perseverance was all on his part.

I wish I had told you that too, but perhaps this will make more sense later.

In The Mix

ImageI’m digging through drawers at my parents’ house, looking for stole-me-downs [(n.) stuff you take home from your parents’ house], and I’ve come across a pile of old papers and photographs.  They are valuable the way a foreign currency is valuable – only to the person who comes from the same place.  The place is my childhood, a country of one.  I’m the only traveler who would look at these and think I had found something worth keeping.

There are letters I wrote to my mom from camp, newspaper clippings of a diatribe I wrote to the Editor in high school, yellowed pictures of a school play.  I found things I drew when I was daydreaming.  It’s all wrapped in a dust sarcophagus that makes me sneeze.

So much goes into the making of an adult.  In this country, typically tens of thousands of dollars of expense, schooling, training, coaching, discipline.  If the ingredients of a recipe cost this much and the cooking took this long, you would expect an extraordinary meal.  You kind of think most adults should be marvelous instead of mundane.  Maybe we are.  Maybe we are simply so surrounded by one another that we take each other for granted.

I’m mixing a couple of recipes of my own.  We take pictures of them with Gramma and Grampa, which will in this generation will never yellow.  They will go in a digital file somewhere, numbered, and be forgotten for a generation.  They will not make anyone sneeze when they’re discovered.

There are certain key ingredients.  Today I took them to church.  At the lunch table, we talk about the faith.  We talk about what Jesus thinks and what the Bible says.  We talk about what it means to be good.  In my room, I’ve found notes from the first Bible study I joined in college.  Someone made sure that was part of my recipe along the way.  I’m making it the most important part of theirs.

To me, the recipe is worth every penny.  If I accomplish nothing else, I hope that my children are my masterpiece.  Somewhere deep in my soul I find a longing to make sure that they have everything they need and become everything they want to be.  I am crafting a work that will last forever.