The Puny Pundit

Musings of a big guy with small thoughts.

My Song

I love to sing.  I am not great at it, but I love to sing.  I sing in the shower.  I sing in the car.  I serenade my children just about everyday.  The weird thing about my singing is not the quality, quantity, or location.  The weird thing is that my song selection does not take into consideration the gender of the author or lyrics of the song.  I frequently sing songs written and performed by women (often meant to be sung to a man).

Examples include Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know”, Celion Dion’s “I’m Your Lady”, Salt N’ Pepa’s “What a Man”.  Most recently I have been singing the song from the Mulan sound track “Reflection”.  My favorite part of the song to sing and read is the chorus…”Who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me?  When will my reflection show who I am inside?”  I sing this song at least once a day to all my kids.  They smile.  They laugh.  They join.

Last weekend we went with some friends to Disney on Ice at the Staples Center.  We had a blast.  Our kids loved the show.  #5 was sitting on my lap enjoying the performances and clapping for each Disney character that emerged.  During the princess performances Mulan came out to the song “Reflection”.  As she skates across the ice #5 leans over and says, “Daddy, it’s your song!  It’s your song!  Look Mulan is ice skating to your song!”  That moment opened my eyes to the fact that I should probably be more careful in my song selection.  I am not sure if it is healthy that my children associate the baring of my soul as a search for the inner girl inside.

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Childolatry | The Idols Our Kids Make

Last week we had some guests come over so my wife asked the kids to come downstairs so she could explain their duties and delegate some work.  The kids have a way of knowing when they are going to be used for labor so they took their time coming down, some of them complaining as they made their way into the living room.  My wife, understandably frustrated because there was so much to do, sat the kids down to let them know what she thought about their attitude.

This led to a conversation that revealed the idols of my children’s hearts.  If you haven’t been reading this blog click here for an explanation of idols.  The amazing thing is that all of my kids have different idols (good things made ultimate things).

#1

My oldest is just like me…her idol is power.  We are driven by our ambitions to achieve and succeed.  Our greatest fear is humiliation so we never attempt things in public that we first haven’t perfected in private.  When #1 complained about cleaning she expressed frustration because she felt there was no point.  #4 and #5 were gonna mess everything up an hour later so what was the point, she argued.  You see people who struggle with power (like me) are results oriented.  Show me the money.  If the results are not up to par, we get frustrated and angry.  So #1 expressed her complaints through this part of her heart.  Power.

#2

My second child struggles with my second idol, comfort.  Ironically, power is number one for me and comfort is number two.  How does that work?  That is another blog entry.  Well, people who struggle with comfort…their greatest nightmare is stress and demands.  They don’t like obligation.  They value their comfort and relaxation.  So #2 decides to rebel out of this heart.  No explanations.  No logic.  No reason.  She just said, “Awww.  I don’t want to clean.”  Comfort.

#3

My son is like my wife.  They struggle with control.  When my wife asked the kids to clean, #3 didn’t care about anything except one hope.  He immediately asked, “I don’t mind cleaning, but can I clean my room by myself?”  You see for my son, he doesn’t mind helping with anything as long as he can do it his way.  He asked the question he did because he hates collaboration especially if it is with his sisters who always have a different opinion of where things can go or how things can be done.  Control.

#5

My youngest cracks me up.  Her dominant idol is approval.  People who struggle with approval…their greatest nightmare is rejection so they will do anything as long as they are recognized and affirmed.  So #5 was eager to help as she waved an object that needed to be put away yelling, “Look at ME!  Look at ME mommy!  I am cleaning!”  Approval.

Some of you who follow this blog regularly are wondering, “What about #4?”  Well #4 had nothing to say.  She just smiled that beautiful smile of hers without any words.  My guess is that she was thinking about how much this reminds her of Cinderella and how with the help of some little friends, she would be a princess.

I don’t share this to knock on my kids.  I share this because discerning our kids strengths and weaknesses helps us as parents to do the work of contextualization in our communication of love, values, and discipline.  My wife and I are learning that one cannot communicate the same things to the same kids in the same way because each have different strengths, idols, and love languages.

When my wife shared this story with me it made me realize why she is such a great mom.  When she deals with things like the above situation she gives them enough to pull them out of their idol yet at the same time meets them where they are.  This is so important because remember idols are GOOD things made ULTIMATE things.  If you throw the baby out with the bath water you will remove a part of your child that is amazing and beautiful.

So what does my wife do in this situation?  Well, I just yell and tell everyone to shut up and do what they are told.  She will go up to #1 and say, “I know #4 and #5 will mess up the room again but we have guests coming over and we want to be good hosts and invite our friends upstairs to play and have fun.  But we can’t share your room with your friends if it is really messy.”  You see my wife will feed the GOOD thing that my daughter makes ultimate by speaking to her concern that there was not point.  My wife gave her a new purpose.  #1 loves that and then goes to work every time because for her she is not just rebelling (that is part of it) but more to the point she just needs to know that there is a point and that she agrees with that point as a good thing.

With #2 my wife will say things like, “#2 you got to go up and clean your room, but tell you what.  Once you are done, you can come downstairs and do whatever you want.”  Genius.  She calls #2 out of her laziness and gives her opportunity to enter into her rest, which usually means doing something she really enjoys.

#3 will be given the opportunity to clean his own room, his way, by himself.  But my wife will say things like, “But after that you will have to help #4 and #5 since they are little and you cannot boss them around.  Just help them.”

#5…well my wife will just look and say thank you.

#4…we have to yell and hope that our volume snaps her out of la-la land.

This process of parenting is hard and arduous.  It is not efficient but that is the way of love.  Love is the most inefficient virtue I know of.  But in doing this my wife helps our kids grow out of their sinfulness yet is able to retain their good qualities so they grow up confident sure of themselves.  BRILLIANT!  I thank God for this woman, though it makes me wonder all the voodoo ninja tricks she must be playing on me.

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Parent Teacher Conference – Part 2

Parent teacher conferences historically have revealed something deep in my heart…I ignore progress (my family and my own) because of my irrational desire for perfection.  I mentioned yesterday that prior to this year’s conferences I would be crushed by any negative comments about my kids.  My sensitivity was so high that even a neutral comment would disturb me.

Where does this come from?  I think part of it is my personality.  I am a lazy perfectionist.  I think it also comes from my inability to live in the tension of two opinions I have of myself: I believe I am a bad father and I believe I am a good father.  Both are true.  I am bad because I am flawed and inexperienced.  I am good because I would take a bullet for any of these kids in a heartbeat.  Parent teacher conferences have shown me that I spent my early years as a parent swinging like a pendulum from one extreme view of myself to another.  I am learning as a parent to live in the tension of two contradictory truths about myself.  As a father I am bad and good.

This year our kid’s teachers gave positive comments and shared areas they/we need to work on.  This year my wife and I were able to take it in stride because raising a family as a couple, starting a church and a non-profit that are  both growing brings with it tremendous stress and discouragement.  My wife and I have felt like the last 10 years revealed how messed up we are as people.  But this is because we spent 10 years measuring our success with perfection as our core metric, our measuring stick.

Our faith has taught us that life is not about perfection.  We should be measuring our success by our progress not flawlessness.  This year when we heard the evaluation of our children, we were encouraged, not because the reports were all high praise.  We were encouraged because they have progressed in their academic and social skills.

My wife and I feel more free.  When progress is the core metric of our self-evaluation we realize that we are a work in progress and a work that has progressed.  As a father I am committed to teach my kids about faith, character, hard work, etc.  The two things I really want to instill in them are….

1. Life is about progress not perfection

2. Pursue excellence without arrogance

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Parent Teacher Conference – Part 1

Two weeks ago we had parent teacher conferences.  I worked at home and stayed with the kids so my wife could meet with 4 teachers.  I don’t know about the rest of you parents, but for me these conferences always bring a little anxiety my way.  I love my kids.  I really enjoy who they are and believe in what they can become.  Sitting down with their teachers and listening to a third party evaluation makes me nervous.

Where does this anxiety come from?  Well, for sure it is rooted in my experience as a child.  I remember sitting at home while my parents went to school to talk to my teachers.  Every year same conversation…Alex is a really good student academically.  I got straight O’s every time.  Remember that…when we use to get O’s, S’s,or N’s (outstanding, satisfactory, needs improvement).  Then my teachers would always say, “But…he talks to much in class.  Never naps.  Always keeps other kids up by telling them stories.  He really needs to stop talking so much and disturbing the class.”  How do I know all this?  It was always written on my report cards.

I remember sitting and waiting anxiously till they got back wondering if I was gonna get in serious trouble or if they were gonna buy me some ice cream.  Every year they came back and said nothing.  Maybe it’s because they didn’t take their Korean-English Dictionary (read here for explanation) with them.  Not sure.  Did they not understand?  Did they not care because I got straight O’s academically?  Were they saving their anger for later?

With my kids I think most of the anxiety comes from the idea of someone sharing their evaluations of our kids.  Do they like our kids?  Do they believe in our kids?  Do they care?  Do they see the good?  Do they only see the weaknesses?  Maybe the anxiety comes from some hidden validation I seek from others that we are doing a good job as parents.

I am sure most of you are wondering what the teachers said about the kids.  I will keep that confidential but they did get overall good reviews.  We were proud.  We learned about the areas they excel.  We learned of areas that we need to work with our kids on.  In the past any negative review would have crushed me as a parent.  Actually any comment that wasn’t high praise would have killed me which would include vague, neutral comments like “your child learning and growing”.

I have learned to process these meetings better.  Each year Parent Teacher Conferences have helped me not only learn about my kids but learn about myself and my wife.  I would like to share a few of these things throughout this week.  See you tomorrow.

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