An open letter to people with no children

Dear People with No Children,

How’s it going? It’s been awhile. Hope you’re enjoying all of that travel, and sleep, and getting to do whatever you want with your lives. It must be great. I vaguely remember some of that. I’ve been meaning to write to you for a long time. You see, I wanted to let you know something. It’s an issue that needs to be resolved so that we can get back to raising our kids and you can get back to planning that weekend scuba getaway to Grand Cayman (at least, that’s what I imagine people with no kids do on the weekends). So here it is…

You can’t raise my kids better than me.

Whew. I feel better already. I know you think you can, and I get that. I mean, how hard could it be right? You just tell them what to do and they do it. We’re adults, they’re children. We’re the bosses, they’re the subordinates. 2 + 2 = 4, doesn’t it? And so when you hear my kids acting up in the restaurant, or whining incessantly as we walk through the mall, or bickering with each other in the backseat of a car ride, or creating messes wherever they go, I’m sure it’s natural for you to think, “If that was my kid, I would not allow [annoying behavior]/handle this better/put a stop to this…”

But you wouldn’t. You couldn’t.

You didn’t change thousands of their smelly, gross, urine-soaked diapers. You didn’t clean up the sheets, and clothes, and their bodies when they vomited on themselves in the middle of the night. You didn’t have to tell them they got cut from the ball team and then cry with them. You didn’t hold their hand or hold them down as the doctor administered necessary, but painful shots. You didn’t comfort them when their favorite pet died. You didn’t help them with their homework every night. You didn’t do 98% of their science project for them. You didn’t take them to swim lessons, ball, or music practice. You didn’t get in your car and go pick them up when they got homesick around midnight of their first sleepover. You didn’t comfort them when their friends were mean to them at school. You haven’t laid down on your bed, night after night, just hoping against hope that they will be safe, confident, and loved, and just knowing that you’re probably screwing it all up for them.

The truth is, there’s no “trick” to parenting. It’s not a science. There’s no formulas or strategies or magic bullets. You can read all of the parenting books in the world by all of the so-called parenting experts, and it’s still not enough to prepare you for it. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. And the truth is, I’m not sure I have any idea what I’m doing a lot of the time. Even though I’ve now got almost twelve years of experience under my belt.

Parenting is the most rewarding experience of my life. It’s the greatest privilege and the most challenging task. It is so beautiful and heart-wrenching at the same time that it’s difficult to put it into words. It’s almost as if we need another language, or at least some specialized terminology with a lot more texture and depth, to describe what it’s like to attempt to raise healthy, emotionally well-adjusted, spiritually-grounded, and confident children.

One word that could never be used to describe it is easy.

Kids are so unpredictable, and each one has to be raised differently than all of the others. So many changes are happening to their little minds and bodies that they don’t even understand why they are acting the way they are, which makes it very difficult for them to communicate to us what they need. If there’s anything I’ve learned about parenting is that nothing fits into neat little categories. And 2 + 2 doesn’t always equal 4. There’s a lot of guessing, and hoping, and praying.

But I understand where you’re coming from. I really do. I, too, was once a childless adult thinking I could do it better than parents. And who doesn’t want a nice, quiet, civilized atmosphere when you’re eating, or driving, or shopping? I know I do. Just know that it’s all part of a process. Believe me when I say that we’re working on it. We don’t have it all solved or even figured out yet, but we’re working on it. So be patient with us. And with our offspring. Please.

And I promise to you that one day, if and when you do have children of your own, I’ll be right there to try to help you in any way I can.

And possibly to say “I told you so.”

With much love and sincerity,

Mark

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Me and Ms. Kardashian

Friday was a big day. Huge. Enormous.

It was Kim Kardashian’s birthday.

The lovely and talented Ms. Kardashian

It was also my birthday. And sharing the same birthday with one of the most high-profile celebrities in America got me thinking. Because she’s famous for, well, being famous. And I’m not famous because, well, I’m not famous. Whoa. That’s another similarity between us. This is getting weird. Both of these startling truths started to make me wonder…

What else might Ms. Kardashian and I have in common?

1. Neither of us has ever watched a reality show about the other’s life.

2. Both of us, apparently, are finding it difficult for people to keep up with us.

3. We were both initially excited about the potential of Reggie Bush, but ended up being disappointed (note of explanation: I’m a life-long Miami Dolphins fan)

4. Her last name is Armenian for “son of a stone mason,” and I am the son of a mechanical engineer. Stone mason’s and mechanical engineers both build things, I think. Never mind that her actual father was a well-known attorney. They build cases, don’t they?

5. We’re both the second of four children (middle children, unite!)

6. We both have 2 sisters and 1 brother.

7. She’s alleged to have had success on what is known as the Cookie Diet. And I, too, at times, have been on a heavy cookie diet.

8. We both blog about important issues.

9. We’re both terrible dancers. (sorry, no video footage of me dancing is available).

10. Both of us are loved by God.

The point of all of this, I guess, is that we probably make a lot of snap judgments about people, for good or bad, based on what we think we know about them. Or what our television and/or gossip mag tells us about them. Truth is, we probably don’t know that much at all. And we probably have a lot more in common with important celebrity-types than we realize or they may be willing to admit.

We’re just people.

People made up of the same things, with the same wants, needs, and issues. People with the potential for disappointment or greatness, depending on how we use our God-given gifts and abilities. People who can’t fix any of the world’s problems, because we can’t fix ourselves. People who were created in the image of a Being so luminous and resplendent that it would burn our eyes to look at Him.

People whose only hope is the gospel of Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The laws of drive thru

Currently, I’m sitting in a Chick-Fil-A restaurant in Morgan County, Georgia. It’s Saturday at lunch time. The place is packed (Chick-Fil-A is always packed. I’m convinced if they were open 24 hours, the place would still be full at 3 a.m.).

I’m the only one in a suit.

I’m either really pretentious or I’m killing time before a wedding.

I’m occupying a four-person booth, watching college football streaming online (Vandy vs. Ole Miss. Let’s go, ‘Dores!) and writing this post. I’m getting a lot of dirty looks from families of four who are coveting the real estate that I’m occupying. Either that, or they don’t like guys in suits.

Fast food restaurants are interesting places. Not that I come to these often. I would never eat this unhealthy on a regular basis. And I’m sure none of you do, either. I don’t know how these places stay in business. Nobody I talk to ever eats fast food. This is America, where instead of doing what’s healthy for us, we do the exact opposite but never admit it to anyone. And we’re definitely fooling people. Our bodies don’t give away our secrets at all. Nope.

Anyway, on my [infrequent] visits to these grease pits over the years, more often than not I haven’t actually come in to the restaurant. I order my food through the drive-thru window and take it home or back to work. That way I don’t have to pay $2 for a soda that costs 1 penny to make (This knowledge was picked up when I may have worked at a fast food restaurant in high school. But I never ate the food). Over that time period, I’ve come to notice certain laws that govern the drive thru experience. These are not rules. You can’t break them. They’re laws. Like the law of gravity, Murphy’s Law, or Law & Order. You can fight the law, but the law always wins (someone should write a song about it).They exist and come to bear on you whether or not you notice them or acknowledge them. Even if you try to deny their existence, they are still in effect.

Here they are…

  • The law of the car in front of you. Whenever you decide to pull into a restaurant and make your way to the drive-thru window, the vehicle in front of you in traffic will always choose the exact same restaurant. And that car will never opt to dine inside. It will always pull into the drive-thru line right in front of you. This is especially true if you happen to be in a hurry, or you’re really hungry. More often than not, this car will have a very large and complicated order. Or they will have trouble locating their money once they get to the pay window. Thereby prolonging your time in line exponentially.
  • The law of napkins. You will never get just the right amount of napkins for your order. If you’re buying for a family of four, you will most likely receive one or no napkins. Which is good, because those cloth seats in the back are great for taking care of ketchup and chicken grease. If you are ordering alone, you will receive so many napkins that you can hear the faint sound of dying trees crying as they hand you the bag. You’ll have to clear out your glove box to make room for the pile of absorbent papers. (Side note: beware of the stray fast food napkin. This is the one napkin that doesn’t make it to the glove box or the trash can. It can come back to cause problems later on. For instance: once, I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a bee by the back window. Since I’m allergic, I mildly panicked and then rolled down all four windows to try to let it out. When I did so, a stray napkin flew up into the air and starting spinning around like a paper tornado in the back seat, which forced me to try to reach back while I was driving so I didn’t damage the environment by letting litter escape through the windows. This was a very dangerous procedure, and probably very humorous to watch if you could have seen it. None of it phased the bee, who continued to march back and forth across the top of the back seat.)
  • The law of sweet tea. Here in the South, we like sugar in our brewed tea. This is a foreign concept to those in other parts of the United States. But believe me when I say this: you’re missing out. The problem with fast food sweet tea is that brewing is a very particular process. You have to have the perfect combination of ingredients to make it work. And the tea cannot sit there for too long or it will sour. Typically, the tea is being made by teenagers who are getting paid minimum wage and don’t really care how it tastes. The result makes ordering sweet tea at the drive-thru sort of like Russian Roulette. One out of every six times, it turns out badly. It’s unlike Russian Roulette in that they don’t drink sweet tea in Russia, and nobody dies.
  • The law of the double check. Once you receive your bag of food, you double-check it to make sure the order is right. Every time you check the bag, the order will always be right. The one time you forget to check it, your order will be jacked up beyond recognition. You’ll look in the bag and wonder if the food even came from the same restaurant that you ordered it from. And you won’t realize any of this until you’re too far away to make it worth your while to go back.

These are some of the laws of drive-thru. You can’t break them, but they may break you.

I gotta run. A line has formed waiting on this prime four-person booth.

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