Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Love Changes Everything -- Missouri Father of Five -- Christopher Moss

Love is one of those terms that hold multiple definitions. Most people get their perception of love’s definition from personal experience; some good, some bad. And with society’s influence, it’s easy to water down the word love to simple romanticism. In our household, though, love is emphasized alongside mutual respect. It’s the foundation upon which we choose to build our entire lives.

With today’s “need it now” mentality, it’s important for my wife and I to refocus our kids’ perspective on love. One of the ways we do this is by teaching acceptance above tolerance; meaning we don’t judge by outward appearances, we stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, and we give generously to those who can’t repay. “Acceptance” tells us that we are enough. “Tolerance” tells us our acceptance is attached to a predisposed understanding that one is somehow better than another. Love is acceptance, not tolerance. We believe when contingencies are attached to our love based on who we think deserves it, we begin to foster an “us versus them” mentality. In reality, we’re all on equal playing field when it comes to love. Each of us plays a part in showing love and mutual respect to those who need it most.

Within this spectrum, our children ask many questions:

Daughter: “What if Tommy says hurtful things about me to other people?”

We try to be as real as possible with our answers:

Us: “Sometimes people do and say hurtful things. How we react to them should let them know that we can be both loving and respectful simultaneously. At times, we may even have to remove ourselves from being hurt by others. It doesn’t mean we don’t care for them. It simply means we care for ourselves too, and enough to make sure we are treated the same way we treat others.”

I wish I could tell them that loving is always easy, but sometimes it gets complicated. Ultimately, I want them to know that love overcomes hurt. By choosing to love when we hurt, we allow ourselves to heal from the ill intentions of others.

As a parent, I make a multitude of mistakes. I have to ask for my kids’ forgiveness on a daily basis. Many times I eat my words, and the foundations I want my kids to inherit are object lessons from my failures. I guess that’s why we find love such an important attribute for their success. When they fail, I want them to know it isn’t going to affect their relationship with me. When they get older and life gets messy, I want them to be comfortable telling me it’s messy. I don’t want their guilt and shame to keep them from being honest. I want them to understand that love is bigger than their slip-up.

A quote from Steve Goodier best defines this kind of love: “But I give best when I give from that deeper place; when I give simply, freely and generously, and sometimes for no particular reason. I give best when I give from my heart.”

Love Changes Everything.

Chris Moss, with his wife Tiffany, keep company with five lively children. He currently resides on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. Chris is the Missional Co-Founder of the grass-roots community organization The Serve Movement. He's a writer, a dreamer, and a voice for the underdog. He can be reached for comment or question at thechristophermoss@gmail.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/thechrismoss).

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What is Love . . . Really? -- Springfield Dad, Kevin Weaver

Nothing like the Valentine season to get people, even kids, talking about love. We all know that love means a myriad of things to a myriad of people. There are cultural definitions, with some languages having multiple words to express the levels of the emotion, unlike our English language which offers only one. And with just one little word to convey and explain meaning for such a big expression, no wonder it can be challenging to teach and show our kids what real love is. I mean, I love my wife and I love peanut butter. But, I can tell you that the love for my wife better bring a whole lot more with it than my love for the creamy, jarred substance. So, when our kids hear us using the same verb for so many, different things, how can we break it down for them? How do we show young children, and even grown ones, what love really is?

Obviously, the younger the child, the less complicated love can seem and the easier love can be to display. But, no matter the age, it seems that just taking time with our kids shows love in ways that mean more to them than we could ever imagine. And I know how a lot of dads are, the idea of spending time with their kids is great, as they truly love their kids…but the idea of initiating deep, loving, meaningful conversations is daunting. Sometimes, downright scary. How grateful most of us find ourselves when we realize that words are not always required to show our kids the great love we have for them.

I had, and have, a great dad. But, he was definitely from the generation of non-verbal expression within the family unit. That is, unless one of his young was in trouble. However, my own wife and kids have a hard time envisioning this, as my 76-year-old father is now one of the first to bear hug a family member and emphatically declare an emotional, “I love you!”

That stated, I don’t dwell on the number of “I love yous” I received growing up. Instead, I dwell time spent with my dad. He worked hard, and moments with him were great commodities. Some of my favorite moments, and moments in which I saw and felt love most expressed, were when we worked on my old car. More tools were passed than words, but standing side-by-side with both of our heads under the hood of that classic 1965 Ford Mustang, I felt it. I felt my father’s love.

Fast forward to my own days of dad-hood. No more perfect than any father before me, I had shining moments and colossal failures. But, one of the things that my now-grown sons remember to this very day, is either me coming home from work and simply throwing myself on the floor for them to climb around on, or me putting them to bed at night—on the nights I was home in time to do so.

I would like to think it was my stories they remember best, or my deep nuggets of shared wisdom, but no. They remember the climbing back and forth over me, the wrestling around, the being thrown onto lots and lots of cushions onto the couch, the tickling, and the laughing. (I promise no children were injured in the filming of our life story!) If one really investigated it, there were weeks when these loving memories were made in a matter of 15 minutes a day. I wish it could have been more, but I was young, they were young, and we all needed to eat. How grateful I am that love doesn’t always have to be expressed with flowery words, extravagant gifts, or costly trips. How grateful I am that love can sometimes be best expressed in just being there truly engaged.

I am now a grandfather, and am trying to show love in the same ways to my grandson and granddaughter as I did to my own sons. It takes me a little longer to get down and get back up, again, but the responses are the same. The minute I finally get my old football injury knees to bend, my grandkids are right there, ready to receive and exchange some love. Nothing could be sweeter.

Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at kweaver@network211.com

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What I Wish Dads Would Say to Their Teens about Love -- Dr. Jennifer Baker

Many dads fear “the talk” relative to conversations with their kids about love and sex. I can understand this discomfort, but I wish dads would focus more on the characteristics of a healthy relationship than the biology of sex. Even if they leave the topic of sex to teachers and moms, there’s still a lot to be said about love and relationships.

“What’s that Boiling on the Stove?”
Falling in love is a lot like the boiling pot I remember in the biology lab where my boyfriend (now husband) worked when we were in college. I often visited him there and regularly noticed something bubbling in a large pan on the stove, but it was usually boiling so hard the contents were indistinguishable. When I asked about their make-up, I got an unexpected answer.

“Road kill,” my boyfriend responded, rather matter-of-factly. “Some of the biology students cruise the country roads early in the morning to find freshly dead animals. They bring them back here, boil the meat off the bones, and then reconstruct the skeletons to study.”  Not the answer I had expected, but falling in love can be a lot like that.

Chemical Cocktail
When we become attracted to someone, a.k.a. “fall in love,” a chemical cocktail invades our brain and temporarily transforms us. The neurotransmitters of attraction and infatuation (e.g., like dopamine, phenylethylalamine and norepinephrine) flood our neural pathways and lead us to be overly optimistic, discount potentially negative information, and cling to a euphoric state with unquestioned certainty that we’ve found our soul mate and the world will be blissful forever. Eventually the impact of these hormones subsides, and other hormones of connection and bonding (e.g., oxytocin) take their place. When that occurs we find ourselves in a more rational, calmer state of being. Until it does, however, we can make some very unwise decisions regarding our love life.

Problem Behaviors
What kinds of behaviors do we overlook or rationalize during our euphoric state? Lying, cheating, controlling, and blaming others for his or her problems are good examples. An inability to keep a job, having a perpetually negative attitude, big mood swings and substance abuse are also red flags. Failure to take responsibility for one’s children and believing others are out to get you are also danger signs often condoned in the “falling in love” stage. Looking back, most people admit there were signs of bad behavior early in the relationship, but they were overlooked under the influence of the “love cocktail.”

Slowing to a Simmer
Although it has been said that a “watched pot never boils,” as we can already see, it might be better to watch what goes into the pot before it comes to a boil . . . or wait until it slows to a simmer before deciding what to do with the contents.

“The Seven Principles of Smart Love”
Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, authors of Relationships and Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, identify seven key factors to consider before making a serious commitment to someone. They include “ 1) Seek a good match; 2) Pay attention to values; 3) Choose a real partner, not a “makeover” project; 4) Don’t try to change yourself to be somebody else; 5) Expect good communication and don’t run from conflict; 6) Don’t play games, pressure or manipulate someone; and 7) Have a bottom line.”  Let’s consider each briefly.

Seek a good match. | Pay attention to values.
Beth and Josh could have saved themselves much heartache and frustration had they taken seriously the need for common interests after the heat of early passion slows to a simmer. Given that having fun together is one of the things happy couples identify as key to their marital satisfaction, it’s helpful if they enjoy doing some of the same things. It is equally important they have some friends in common, friends who like both of them and will support their relationship. Finally, having similar values in terms of shared beliefs mutual respect, and commitment is essential.

Choose a real partner, not a “makeover” project. | Don’t try to change yourself…
It goes without saying that trying to change your partner, or changing yourself just to please him or her is not a good idea. First, you are unlikely to be successful in the long run, which will be frustrating for both of you. Secondly, most people have a deep need to be accepted as they are. If you are trying to change your partner, then your love is conditional. Moreover, trying to change a core part of yourself for your partner is likely to leave you feeling hollow, empty and very lonely over time. It is definitely not a good way to feel loved and stay connected.

Expect good communication. | Don’t run from conflict. | Don’t play games …
Some differences are inevitable and when they occur what matters most is the ability to communicate well and solve problems as a team. Most people would agree that screaming, yelling and hitting are unacceptable, but fewer are aware of the damage conflict avoidance can do to a marriage as the years unfold. One person said it well when she exclaimed, “We’ve been pushing things under the carpet for years and now we have a very lumpy carpet.” A “very lumpy carpet” results in bitterness and resentment that becomes harder and harder to resolve as trust and respect deteriorate.

Have a bottom line.
Before you allow yourself to become seriously involved with someone, establish your “bottom line,” that is, the standard for how you wish to be treated in a relationship. What are the things you need and want? What are the deal breakers? Setting limits is healthy for you and for the one you love. It is also fair and honest.

Take Your Time
Determining whether or not a potential mate is a “smart love” takes time. It’s wise to see the person in a variety of situations over a period of several months, before allowing yourself to become too attached. It’s prudent to allow the hormones of love to stop boiling so that you have a better chance of knowing what you’ve got, than you do when the relationship is still steamy. It’s even better to learn more about a person before you allow yourself to get emotionally engaged. There’s a lot of time for regret later on.

Falling in love is often the easy part. Staying in love is harder, but a lot less work and more fun if you choose the right person from the start.

Dr. Jennifer Baker is the founder and director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She can be reached for question or comment at Jennifer@gooddads.com.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Teaching Love -- Jeffrey Sippy, Springfield Dad-in-Training

Love is not easy and teaching Love is harder yet.  We all have something to say about Love.  We all have an idea of what Love is.  Love is the most dominant theme of music, poetry, fiction and cinema.  But Love is not easy.

I recently watched a love story called The Notebook.  The Notebook is a 2004 American Romance based on the book of the same title and starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams.  The movie captured me.  I smiled.  I cried.  I wanted the love the movie portrayed for myself.  When the movie was over I Googled it.  I wanted to know more about the characters, the actors, and what the critics had to say.  The movie was a box office hit with teenagers and young adults but the critics dismantled it as unrealistic and sentimental.  What did this mean?  Do young people have an idealized--even romanticized--notion of what Love might be, but the older and wiser among us dismantle any attempts and modeling or proclaiming it?

I want my boys to be great lovers in every way.  When they marry I want their wives to fight with each other about who got the best of the Sippy boys.  I want little old ladies to marvel at my boys for being polite and thoughtful gentleman.  I want their employers to think of them as conscientious men who put the needs of others before their own. 

Love shows interest.  Love invests time.  Love never asks, “Do you love the ballet or basketball, sailing, fishing, art galleries, or golf?”  Love asks, “Do you love being with the person you love?”  When you love someone you want to know this person inside and out.  You want to know what makes them tick. You want to know their joys and hurts.  You want to listen.

Love takes time for others without looking for something in return.  Love stays up all night long with a baby who is crying.  Love sits beside of a person with Alzheimer’s. Love visits someone who is sick.  Love surrenders its own comforts and interests.  Love says, “I am here for you.” 

Love does little things in a big way.  Love calls someone on the phone when they have lost a loved one.  Love sends cards in the mail.  Love says, “I am thinking of you.”     

Admittedly, Love is not easy. It is risky.  You can be hurt in love.  You can show interest in another and the other not show interest in return.  But when you love the other is forgiven in advance. Is this easy? Not at all. 
I love you and I want you to know that Love is not easy.  It is not easy being a Good Dad, either.  But being a Good Dad and teaching our children to love makes for a lovelier world.  We will fail at love. I do.  And then, because we love, we will Love again. 

Jeff Sippy, a Dad-In-Training, is the father of three young men and the husband of Cindy. He enjoys sailing every chance that he gets. He is the senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Springfield, MO and can be reached for question or comment at jsippy@rlcmail.org