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This parenting thing? Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise, it’s hard.

For several weeks we’ve been working with our Smiling Son on a particular issue (The actual issue doesn’t matter, and I don’t want to confuse the point of this post by getting into it in detail. Last night at dinner the issue arose its ugly head. We stopped and I told the above mentioned Smiling Son that we weren’t going to eat until he obeyed.

Of course this led to whining, fussing, begging, and pleading – not to mention his reactions!

All four of us became consumed with this issue. I invited him to sit on my lap and I sought to encourage him, while explaining why this was important. The food got cold, my Darling Daughter and Wonderful Wife were amazingly helpful. But we were all hungry.

Eventually I took my now not so Smiling Son into the bedroom so his Mom and Sister could eat. He and I began to work on the issue. Unfortunately, his first reaction was to go into full-blown meltdown tantrum mode. He tore the blankets off the bed, through the pillows, and pounded on the bed. I sat on the floor hoping he wouldn’t hurt himself, and praying.

Soon, his tantrum ran out of steam and he flopped into my lap and we talked. He wasn’t actually being naughty – but he was very shaken and disturbed. He absolutely did not want to do this thing. I was shaken and disturbed by his reaction, and seeing the long-term implications of this issue, I’d decided I wasn’t going to cave. I prayed more.

More tantrums, more prayer, more explanations – and amazingly, I was still calm.

I’ve long thought that there is a place for spanking, but it is rare and seldom necessary. Increasingly, I’m coming to the conclusion that I don’t want to spank my kids. I still have that tool in my box, but I’ve not used it in several years. Although, I have given a soft swat across the bottom to make my point

If last night was 50 years earlier, I certainly would have gotten a spanking and I would have obeyed. But, I don’t think it would have helped. Physical obedience is not the same as character development. My issue with my Son is his character. I need him to obey because I want him to have the tools to finish well. I want him to be a man of character and purpose, not a robot.

And so, we struggled last night. Amazingly, he stayed close to me – usually in my arms. He was frustrated, but I made it very clear that I was on his side and I wasn’t going to force him.

As we struggled, we had periods of calm and I told him stories – stories about me, stories from the Bible, and stories of success. We prayed together, we sang songs, and I held him. A couple of times we physically struggled – like Jacob and God on the banks of the Jordan River. He shed tears, I shed tears, and it was horrible and exhausting.

At one point, as I prayed for wisdom and insight, I received an epiphany. My Smiling Son was acting just like I do when God asks me to obey in certain areas. I shouldn’t ask my Son to do anything I’m not willing to do. We struggled some more. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually – we fought together.

Like Jacob fighting God, I learned something deep, but something I mostly knew. That is, God was always on Jacob’s side and Jacob’s hip was broken because God loved him so – not because of any untoward intentions. Last night, more than I’ve ever been in my life, I was on my Son’s side. I wrestled with him because my love for him was too deep to walk away.

We talked about how I helped him learn to ride his bike and how I would do anything for him. He understands this, but he was unwilling to yield. We talked about being rebellious and being willing to be changed. He wasn’t even willing to want to do this thing – he simply refused.

Finally, I lay on the bed and asked him to cuddle with me. I prayed with him and asked him to be willing to be willing. I talked to him about compromise. I talked to him about my great love for him. Then I told him how I would be willing to let us both go eat dinner (we were starving!) if he would be willing to be willing. After some thought, he agreed.

I prayed and he agreed with my prayer. Then we went to eat dinner.

The most amazing thing about this whole ordeal is that we were still close. During dinner he climbed into my lap. I wasn’t angry with him, he wasn’t angry with me. There was no shame. There was no threats or terror. Our relationship was intact – and that is something I’ve rarely witnessed. In fact, I don’t think I’ve pulled that off very well in the past. It was amazing!

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I have to admit though, I was exhausted. Emotionally and spiritually, I was spent. Indeed, i am humbled by the whole event. I realize lately how actually selfish and broken I am – and how much my personal rebellion affects my relationships with God, my family, and others. I hate it, and I’m ashamed.

As I realized last night, I can’t expect my Smiling Son to do something I won’t, can’t, and don’t. I have much to learn.

The kids have been sleeping with us due to the flu and all the changes lately. Last night my son had a 102° f temperature and was feeling really miserable. About 2am, I rolled over and put my hand on his chest – partly diagnostic, partly to comfort. As a paramedic, I’m attuned to temperature, skin condition, and breathing. But what I found disturbed me.

I sat up awake. Smiling Son was motionless, and I didn’t sense he was breathing. I put my finger between his ribs, where I should be able to feel his heart beat. I felt nothing. I still couldn’t sense any breathing – nor could I hear him breathing. I grabbed his arm to feel his radial pulse. His arm was cool and lifeless – I was now fully awake and fully intent. I couldn’t feel a pulse in his wrist, but as my hand moved up to check his brachial pulse, he stirred and pulled his arm away.

Joy and relief shot through my body and then I was filled with a wave of nausea like I’ve never experienced before.

I hugged him close, kissed his forehead, and then fell asleep praying for my whole family.

Living on the edge is not easy. We are poor, unemployed, and living on the kindness of new friends. But we’ve never been at more peace. In retrospect, I would not change the course of the past several years. I still would not back down to those who think I should sacrifice my family for the sake of a mere career.

When was the last time you took the time to just sit and do nothing? Waiting in line, at a traffic light, or for a medical appointment doesn’t count. Seriously, when was the last time you walked into a room, sat down, and did nothing – for awhile? Scheduled, or unscheduled? Or, when was the last time you went for a walk on the beach, a stroll through the woods, or sat on an isolated hilltop? If an example doesn’t leap out at you, stop, think about it for a minute, and try to remember the last time.

The last time I allowed myself to just be, was quite awhile ago. When I think back to the event, I remember feeling free, peaceful, and relaxed. In fact, coming out of that time away, better prepared me to face the challenges of life. Family, finances, and career pressures seemed to just slip away with the breeze. My guess is, it was the same for you.

It’s been said that just 10-15 minutes of meditation will allow us to be better prepared for the day and more productive overall. But I have to admit, usually, I’m so sleep deprived that I’d rather hit the snooze button and get an extra nine minutes of sleep. Often I’ll hit the snooze button two or three times. Not only do I miss out on some quality quiet time in the morning, but then I am rushed to get out of the house on time, I eat breakfast in the car, and I miss out on some quality time with my family. From there, the day just gets worse.

The Bible tells us that in the last days of Earth’s history, “many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.” ~Daniel 12:4 Too many times, I’ve found myself rushing from one event to the next. Driving too fast, with a burger in one hand, the cell phone in the other, and guzzling caffeinated beverages to fuel the fire.

Several years ago I found myself unable to sit still – even if I had the time. I didn’t know how to sit still. I didn’t want to sit still. If I was in a meeting, listening to a lecture, or working on a project that required me to sit still, I would chew gum, trim my fingernails, or doodle. At the very least, my foot would be tapping and I’d constantly watch the clock.

I finally realized that I was trying to do too much in too little time. Not only was I sleep deprived, but I was stressed, physically unhealthy, and often ill. It seemed as if I would get some form of a cold or flu about once a month. Plus I was cranky and unpleasant. I had to ask myself, is this really the way I want to live?

One day, I sat down and took stock of my time. I found that out of a 168 hour week, I was busy doing something at least 130 of those hours. This left me with 38 hours to sleep, eat, exercise, read, watch TV, and chill. In other words, I was left with 5½ hours a day to be a human being, instead of a human doing. Obviously this was unworkable.

It was at this point I discovered the concept of a sabbath day’s rest. To take one day out of seven to do nothing that will further my position in the rat race. Nothing job related, nothing that I have to do, and nothing that would cause me to feel rushed, busy, or stressed. Indeed, I reserved this day for things that would restore my soul – emotionally, physically, spiritually, and socially.

Of course one cannot simply decide to do this, it takes preparation and planning. There are many changes necessary to free up a 24 hour block of time that enables me to rest, recharge, regenerate, and recreate. For me, it is about priorities and values. I make constant choices during the week, that allow me to enjoy a weekly sabbatical. It takes discipline and is always a challenge, but the benefits are tremendous.

Now, almost 30 years later, since I made this choice, I am healthier, calmer, and I can sit still once in awhile. Where it used to be common for me to eat all of my meals in the car, now that is a rare event. I no longer need stimulants or depressants to manage my sleep and wakefulness. I also have the time to read, go for walks, and chill with my family. It is a great place to be.

Once a week, I put away my cares and relax. And about once a month, I take the time to go for a walk on the beach, a stroll through a forest, or to sit on a hilltop watching creation pass me by. Life is good.

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