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Farm Pond in NebraskaWhile casually chatting with some new friends, one looks up and glances toward the lake where our kids are exploring. He asks about a noise he heard. The other Dad listens. “That’s not a good yell!” He says – and takes off running.

I didn’t hear the commotion, but knowing my kids are about 600 yards away by the farm pond, I too took off running.

Since lunch wouldn’t be ready right away, the kids decided to go explore the farm. I didn’t think too much of it, but later when I heard they were out by the lake, a small voice urged me to go check on them. And yet, I ignored it.

Well, I didn’t actually ignore it, but I did argue with that little voice. As an older father with a long history in EMS, I tend to be a bit cautious. I want my kids to inherit my adventuresome spirit, but I’d like them to survive.

I never feared death until my kids were born. Now, I feel vulnerable to death. It would kill me to lose them, and I’d hate to abandon them through my own death. For someone who embraces adventure and dangerous activities, it’s a weird place to be.

So here I am, running through waist deep grass and weeds about 30 feet behind my friend. We still don’t know what’s going on, but we can hear panicked screams of terror from at least one child. But we can’t see them. I’m praying the whole way and preplanning resuscitation scenarios in my head. I’m also steeling myself, emotionally, to do CPR on one of my kids.

Suddenly the weeds get thick and we can’t run. The vines are wrapping around our ankles and the nettles are stinging our legs. The urgency is still there, but I feel like a turtle running through peanut butter. We’re really in deep weeds now.

I catch a sight of my Smiling Son’s white cowboy hat, and I can see he’s walking around – but he’s near the lake. I call our my Darling Daughter’s name – once, twice, and she finally answers. The screaming calms and the kids appear out of the deep weeds. Just then, I get dive bombed by bees.

As I continue to struggle through the vines and grass, I’m waving my arms trying to fend off the bees. The kids tell us that they were attacked by bees. Ah, now they tell me! ūüėČ

I get through the weeds and away from the offended nest. I have a million grass seeds in my socks and shoes, and few stings from the nettles, but I escaped the angry bees. The kids are fine, except for a few stings, but they are all scared and relieved to see us. I, on the other hand am out of breath and filled with the adrenaline rush of fear, panic, and genuine parental concern.

I take turns holding my kids and soothing their fear.

That’s one of the hard things about being a parent. It doesn’t matter what emotions are in your own heart, your kids’ needs come first. They feared bees, I feared something more tragic and scary. They feared the physical pain of stingers, I feared losing one or both of them. Clearly, my fears trump theirs – but that is irrelevant. I held them. Their fears are real, and deep, and tragic.

At their ages, they could never understand the depth of my love for them. My Smiling Son and I have a little bedtime ritual. He tries to one-up me on how much he loves me more than I love him. I love his confidence and enthusiasm as he tries to show me how much he loves me. It’s a form of worship really. But, without crushing his spirit, I can never let him win this game.

First, he doesn’t understand, really, the depth of love we are really talking about. Second, he can never love me more. And finally, the stakes are high – our kids have to know the depth of our love for them. They have to know that our love is a nearly bottomless pit.

As we walked back to the farm-house, the kids shared their stories of the “hundreds and millions of bees” that attacked them. We two Dads, just held them, listened, and thanked God for the opportunity to still hold our kids.

Kids on facebookRecently I’ve noticed our kids taking a particular interest in Facebook – or, more correctly, our involvement on Facebook. This wasn’t a sudden change on their part, just an observation of mine. I’d like to tie this into a story from my childhood regarding something my parents did for my brother and I.

My Dad was a four-pack a-day smoker. And in his words, he didn’t just light them and let them burn, but he smoked the tar out of each one of them (pun intended). My Mom didn’t smoke quite as much, but nonetheless, like many in the rising middle class of the 1960s, she smoked her share too. When I was about seven years old, my parents read that kids are more likely to smoke if their parents smoke. So they quit – cold turkey. Looking back on that, I am filled with awe and respect. It was not easy for them, but it was entirely cool!

Now let me give you a little background regarding my involvement with social media.

I first used email in the very early 1980s Рlong before people had even heard of the Internet. About 1989 I discovered CompuServe and Prodigy. I was a big user of CompuServe and was very involved in several forums. I developed my first web page, via CompuServe about 1994. At the time, there were only about 100,000 public webpages online. CompuServe began to open pathways to the larger Internet and about 1995 I abandoned CompuServe, along with about 100 million other people and set out onto the free-range of the frontier Interwebs.

I sent my first Tweet in the Fall of 2007 Рin a deliberate move to explore social networking as a tool for leadership, outreach, and ministry. I resisted Facebook for another couple of years, but soon learned that Facebook is where the audience is. I now manage six Twitter accounts, and nine Facebook pages. I have several Google Plus pages, a YouTube channel, Flicker, Instagram, and a host of other apps to share stuff and participate online. I host my own blogs and have blogs scattered across networks. I consider myself to be one of the more informed social media users online. In fact, I have a fledgling social media consulting business.

Kind of like people talking about looking at something on their phone, but instead saying¬†iPhone. How we got the message, or through whatever medium (eg; email, text, phone, cell phone, Facebook, or face-to-face), it really doesn’t matter – but we always seem to label the medium. Why is that?

Health LivingOne of my goals for my online involvement is to reach audiences that won’t be reached through traditional media. In this way, I’m a social media evangelist. Another goal is to stay ahead of the curve so I can provide informed and solid guidance for my kids as they enter their teen years. They are growing up to be digital natives and will need good guidance to avoid some of the booby traps out there.

RELATED STORY: Why are 5 million kids on Facebook if it doesn’t want them?

The other night, while driving across South Dakota in the dark, I listened to an interview Emily Bazelon, the author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. What I heard scared the wazoo out of me.

  • First, I was reminded of social sites that I’ve not yet explored – and don’t want to.
  • Second, I realized I will never be able to single-handedly “stay ahead of the curve.”
  • Finally, after much reflection, I understood how my influence and example will pave the way for my kids.

Many of the sites mentioned in this interview, I’ve heard of and some, like Instagram, I use. But others, like Snapchat, Formspring, and Vine, I don’t use. First, I’ve heard that these sites are predominately used by teens and young adults; second, I’ve heard there’s a lot of sexting happening, and I’m not interested in being exposed to that; and finally, I’m just not interested in building a network of new followers. I already have about 6000+ followers on the sites I do use, I don’t have the time or inclination to go after a new audience. I suppose that’s a sign of old age, decreased testosterone levels, or sanity – I’ll let you decide.

As I thought about this later, it confirmed in my mind how our involvement is influencing our kids.

So, last night over a rare, but fun little dinner at Pizza Hut, I mentioned to my Wonderful Wife that I was rethinking our involvement in social media and Facebook. As we talked about this, our Darling 8yo Daughter seemed to show too much interest and was overly concerned that we should not end our involvement with Facebook. As I thought about this later, it confirmed in my mind how our involvement is influencing our kids.

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Too often our conversation revolves around stuff we’ve seen on Facebook. Not unlike how we would share things we heard at church, a book we’re reading, or something we saw on TV. However, because we don’t talk on the phone much, don’t watch TV at all, and we spend more time on Facebook then some of the other social activities, Facebook-related comments dominate in our conversation. For us, this has to change.

Then I discovered this interesting blog post on one of my favorite blogs: Walled-in: Life Without Facebook¬†(I’ll let you read it yourself) – here’s an sample quote:

“As the theme song of¬†Cheers¬†told us, ‘making your way in the world today takes everything¬†you’ve¬†got.’ Perhaps it takes too much, and we would rather fall to the familiar comfort of checking social networks. But it‚Äôs a worthy effort, giving all¬†you’ve¬†got, in order to make your own way. The path you walk on your own, it‚Äôs a path worth giving your soul for. Your feet on the barely-tread ground, the fresh air of wilderness around you, and your own voice for company. It‚Äôs worth everything¬†you’ve¬†got.”

So, I’m considering several options, but I want to be clear, this isn’t about time, wasting time, or some of the other issues I’ve heard from people who’ve given up Facebook. Several of my pastor friends have quit Facebook ¬†because they say it takes too much time. I personally think this is a mistake. Facebook allows a one-to-many conversation, as opposed to a phone call or text – which is one-to-one.

RELATED STORY:¬†Beware, Tech Abandoners. People Without Facebook Accounts Are ‘Suspicious.’

No, this is bigger than time management. This is about instilling values in our kids where they desire something bigger than social networking and the Interwebs. By the age of 11 or 12, too many kids are chomping at the bit to be online. In fact, too many parents let their kids onto Facebook even before they are 13 and “legally” old enough to have their own account.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Facebook, and as far as social networks go, it is one of the safer ones, but it’s about values and what values we want for our kids.

We made the choice before we ever had kids to raise them in a home without TV, and we’ve never¬†regretted¬†that decision. There are worse things than sheltering one’s kids.

Some of the ideas we’re considering include:

  • Only check Facebook once a day and for only 20 minutes at a time.
  • Only be on Facebook on Sundays.
  • More carefully utilize friend lists and notification options in order to limit the number of people with whom we interact.
  • Eliminate Facebook completely.
  • Disconnect the Internet completely.
  • ???????

Do you have thoughts, advice, or stories of how you’ve managed this? Have you thought about this idea that your actions influence your kids’ future behaviors and thoughts? What have you given up in order to provide a better example for your kids? What would you give up if you thought it would help?

 

This blog was originally started to chronicle my journey into fatherhood. I intended to show my failures, thoughts, lessons learned, and tips I’ve picked up on the way – hence, the original title, “Confessions of a not-so-perfect Dad.” And then life took a little sidetrack and my writing slipped into a pall of whining, bitterness, fear, and discouragement. In one sense, I’m ok with that – some of it needed to be said. On the other hand, we were building a pretty good audience here, and we’ve lost a lot of readers since.

Over the course of the past year or two, I’ve been exploring many paths and I’ve started new blogs and social media platforms to explore these. These are best reflected on my curated Scoop.it profile. I have blogs, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages that reflect these interests. It has been interesting to explore these topics – if for no other reason than it has helped me to see which avenue I should pursue and which I should walk away from.

The topics are as follows (in case you haven’t already clicked the Scoop.it link above): fatherhood, emergency medical services, leadership, social media, and post-denominational spirituality. More specifically, I want to help men become better fathers by becoming better men; I desire to see EMS move to the next level and get beyond its adolescence; I hope to build a community of leaders who are willing to share,¬†collaborate, and grow/learn together; I also am a bit of a¬†social media maven and I believe I could help people improve their online presence; and finally, like EMS, I see the Church stuck in a phase that is stifling growth, creativity, and usefulness – I would like to enable true spiritual seekers to find freedom from the constraints of¬†bureaucracy.

As I’ve explored these¬†ideologies, some with vigor and some with passivity. However, this process has enabled me to discover where the interests are, and, more importantly, where my passions lie.

Two months ago on Father’s Day, I was struck with an epiphany. As it often happens, these epiphanies come while I’m in the shower. I’m certain it has to do with the isolation, sensory deprivation, and lack of media¬†distractions¬†– but that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, as I stepped out of the shower and donned my new “I’ve Got Daddytude” t-shirt (which you can buy!), I realized this is where my passion lies. More than anything, I want to be a great Dad, a great husband, a good man, and a good person. I also want to help other men attain this. Holistic Daddytude – mental, spiritual, intellectual, social, and physical health that will enable men to be the kind of men their kids need, the kind of husband their partners want, and the kind of person that benefits society.

I also realize that I have a lot of little tips, advice, and wisdom tucked up my sleeve – little common things, but significant in ways that are uncommon. As you know, the problem with common sense is that it isn’t very common. I believe I can continue to curate on Scoop.it, Facebook, and Twitter, while also creating content and sharing practical common wisdom. While I may never bring in enough revenue to pay the bills, I’m not concerned about that – my gifts, my passion, and my talents are all screaming for an outlet – and I need to bring this together and make it a reality.

Stay tuned… ¬†to be continued.

 

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