The Perfect Dad

Every man dies. Not every man truly parents.

The Perfect Dad

Some of you have asked me some perfectly valid questions about the fact that I’m writing a book on parenting. Questions like: Rob, do you actually feel qualified to write a book about being a dad? Shouldn’t you wait until your kids are a little older–you don’t even have teenagers yet and that’s when the real parenting begins. How can you write, “a guide to not messing your kids up” when you don’t know if your kids are going to get messed up? Continue reading

pabloYou should keep your kids home if you can’t…

Watch over them at every moment. 

Control them in the restaurant.  

Make them behave.

Stop the baby from crying on the plane. Or at the movies. Or in the church service.

Keep them safe at the zoo.  

People who say this can’t truly grasp The Shining-like claustrophobia of parenthood. There are times as a parent when you just need to get out of the house. I don’t mean like, “Hey wouldn’t it be nice to get out for a little bit? I mean, I need to get out of the house like my lungs need oxygen. If I don’t get out, I will suffocate. Continue reading

Girl and screen

This summer I was shocked by what I read in To Kill A Mockingbird. It wasn’t that Atticus Finch was the greatest father/hero/human-being of all time, or by the way Maycomb treated Boo Radley. I was reading the novel for the umpteenth time in preparation for Lee’s controversial prequel, Go Set A Watchman. A few pages in I was floored by a scene where Jem and Scout played outside and became friends with a kid visiting for the summer named Dill.

Clearly this is a work of fiction, I thought. This just doesn’t happen anymore. Harper Lee acts like playing outside and meeting and befriending a neighbor kid is natural. But it isn’t anymore because a lot has changed in the 55 years between her two novels. More on this is a moment, but let me get to my main point.

I’m really struggling about what to do with my kids and screens. Continue reading

Moving Photo

Watch any coming of age movie and you’ll see that for a kid no event is more apocalyptic than moving. (Unless you’re watching a Disney movie, and in that case the apocalyptic event happens at the moment the children are orphaned after their parents are treated like red shirts on Star Trek.)

This phenomenon was most recently featured in Pixar’s Inside Out (a movie that should come with a trigger warning for any parents who have ever moved, or are about to move, their kids 1,000 miles away from home). The plot device is nothing new, moving is the center tension in cinema from my childhood like The Goonies and Karate Kid, as well as more recent offerings like Mean Girls and Earth To Echo.

The plot in these films shows kids uprooted from a place they hold dear and planted in a scary new world with no friends, strange schools, and hostile kids. They yearn to go home, but that place is gone and they can never return.

This is on my mind because this apocalyptic fate is about to strike my family. I am not an expert on the subject of moving with kids. I am only living it in real time.

When I asked my kids, “Do you want to move?” they screamed, “Yes!” They thought of moving like going camping or to Disney World. I wouldn’t let them off that easy. “Moving is adventure…” I said. They beamed like we were like astronauts going to a new planet “Are adventures easy or hard?”

“Hard,” they answered.

Reality was sinking in. The euphoria of adventure was getting sucked out of the room. “Will you go to a school where you know lots of people or don’t know anybody?”

“We won’t know anybody,” they said. Things were getting real.

I told them it would be okay. You made friends before and we will make friends again. When things feel tough with the move you can always talk with your mom and me. Our love for you is as big and wide as all of the stars in the sky.

We’ve tried to invite them into every step of the process. We’ve showed them houses, talked about neighborhoods, and discussed schools. My nine year-old daughter is an expert in the Austin housing market. She will look at a listing and say, “That is over priced by $10,000. Or that is a screaming deal.” She is an active participant in the move.

But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

So I’m letting them know it’s okay to experience all of the sad feelings. It’s okay to cry the tears for your friends at a goodbye party. Don’t feel bad because you’re going to miss sleepovers at cousin’s houses. There are new things on the horizon. Different things. But they are not the same things. You will miss the old things. When you think about your childhood you will think about some of these moments in the summer you just experienced. You will smile at them as they’re all blurry and warm in the camera vaults of your mind.

We’re going to try to find a new normal right away—new memories and friends to ride bikes around the cul-de-sac with. But the unknown is the scariest of things to us human beings, which is why we post 10 million links to Facebook about how the world is nearing the end. The future seems frightening because we have no idea what it is. It has always been this way.

When you’re moving with kids all I can say is pay close attention. Ask open-ended questions and reassure them. Every day I ask my eight year-old, “How are you feeling?” and tell my six year old, “I’m so proud for being so brave and caring.”

I remember that this is uncertain for me, but for them this is all they’ve ever known. I got to bed every night and think only four more sleeps until the apocalypse, only three more sleeps until the end, only two more sleeps…

I’m about to pack our minivan and drive out onto the edge of the earth known as Austin, Texas. My prayer is, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of the moving apocalypse I will fear no evil.” Because in these movies things start off so scary and difficult but by the end the characters are all stronger off and better than they ever were before.

I know that’s what will happen to us. Goonies never say die.

Big Hero 6

This weekend I took my kids to see Big Hero 6. A few minutes into the movie an important character appeared and my daughter inevitably asked, “Dad, is that a good guy or a bad guy?” Normally after a question like this I spoon feed the answer saying something like, “Yes, that’s Darth Vader. And he’s a bad guy. See the way he force choked that lady? That’s not nice is it?” I need to stop doing this for a couple of reasons.

1) I don’t want to teach my kids to talk during the movies. Nobody likes that person. If you’re reading this right now you know who you are. Continue reading

Family Selfie

I have something to confess: I am procrastinator. I hate taking my car to the mechanic because I’m afraid they’ll find something wrong. I hate doing my taxes because I fear I’ll owe a lot of money. And I hate going to the doctor because I’m afraid they’ll find something wrong with me.

But I’m a dad now, so it’s time that I grow up. When I was in my 20s I could just skate by and feel invincible like life was going to go on forever. Now that I am a dad I have so much more on the line. I have to be healthy for myself, my wife, and my four kids. Look at us in the picture. So happy. Healthy. The world is our oyster. Continue reading

NOTE: This post was originally published at OnFaith. You can read the full piece here. It’s such a weird thing to share intimate details of your baby delivery with the world and readers you’ve never met. But it’s such an interesting story and gave me thoughts about human life and politics and how we all come into the world. 

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I was dead asleep when my wife whispered, “Honey it’s time.” She was 38 weeks pregnant. We were waiting for this baby like born-again Christians wait for the rapture. It could come at any day, any moment.

“Contractions?” I asked. She answered, “Three in the last 20 minutes.” This was our fourth child, but my first time waking up in the middle of the night to go to the hospital. I’d like to say I sprang out of bed, called the doctor, and rounded up the kids to go to grandma and grandpas. But things were slower. Groggier. In real life, I’m never quite the action hero I am in my head.

My voice shook as we made a plan of action. It was embarrassing. I felt like newbie parent. My wife clutched the bathroom counter in pain. Another contraction.

By the time we got to the hospital, my wife’s contractions were so bad she could barely walk. It was 3 am and the emergency room was dark and abandoned. Two security guards were lit by the bluish glow of an iPad…

To continue reading my OnFaith article click here.