On Sibling Relationships

Some Silly but Serious Rules You Should All Remember:

  1. Do not borrow money from each other. Ever.  I don’t care how affluent one of you may become, borrowing money puts a monetary value of the relationship.  It makes the person borrowed from feel as if the only reason that the relationship exists is to be a pocket book to the other.  It’s painful. When the person borrowed from finally says no, the relationship is extremely strained and it could take years or even a decade to overcome this.  No amount of money is worth this. Don’t Do It. Ever.
  2. Keep in contact with each other, but don’t feel like you need to be in constant contact.  This is a little tricky to manage and describe.  If one of you does all the initial contacting, that person is going to feel as if the relationship only exists because they are putting in the effort. So each of you must make the effort to initiate contact.  However, recognize that life is crazy hectic and busy. Long conversations, or the never-ending text conversation can’t always happen. People just can’t do it.  Sometimes just a simple text reminder that you are thinking of the other is enough.  Be aware of the other’s time commitments and struggles. Pray for each other. Be a support for each other.
  3. Be worthy of the relationship. Live your life as unto the Lord. Take care of your individual families. Always strive to improve yourself and do more and become a better man.  That effort should be there until the day you die. Be worthy.
  4. Be gentle with each other when it comes to childhood experiences.  Growing up is rough. Even under the best of circumstances, there will always be challenges when it comes to forging sibling relationships.  Mistakes are made. Bad attitudes may be present for a time.  Just try not to hold on to past resentments from childhood. If it still bothers you as an adult, it’s best to talk about it and get it out in the open. Handle it with wisdom and a great deal of prayer. Childhood experiences can open up some serious personal and hidden wounds. Just try not to base your relationship on things that happened during childhood itself, although I agree that it may be difficult.
  5. Try to see each other at least once a year.  I know that may be hard given how life leads us around, but do make the effort.  Having said that, when you do get together, there are some things you can do to keep things easy.  Try not to stay under the same roof, and if that can’t be avoided, keep the duration of that down to just a few days. People need a place to retreat to after a day of entertaining and visiting. That’s normal. Sometimes, we just need our coffee the way we like it, or we want the use of a normal size bathroom, or we just need our kids to begin to wind down without getting hyped up by their super cute and funny cousins, or we just need to chance to reconnect with our spouse because these visits often divide us up gender wise as men do men things and women do women things. I swear every family visit we have, I hardly see your Dad for a week.  It takes a toll but these simple things will keep the visits cheerful and manageable. Trying to visit for a whole week under one roof isn’t going to create the memory you want it to. Get a hotel if it’s going to be longer than 4 nights.  Seriously.
  6. Look for ways to make each other laugh.  There probably won’t be many people that can make you laugh so hard that snot flies than your brother.

 

Sibling relationships can be complicated.  Let me just say that up front. Your father and I have several siblings between the two of us, and there have been times in our lives when these relationships can pose the greatest challenges to us.

Some of this is because of our expectations. For one thing, we tend to believe that just by having a sibling, that there is some supernatural bond that will tie us all together and that natural feelings of love, empathy, compassion, kindness, and support are all going to be there, all the time, and in every single circumstance.  Let me just start by saying….that’s not exactly true.  Probably more so than any relationship you have in your entire life, this is the one that will require the MOST work because you have to choose to work on it. And here is the kicker – you both have to choose it but more importantly, you both MUST  be the kind of men worthy of being chosen for this kind of serious effort.

The kind of man you choose to be will dictate how natural your relationships are.  If one of you has decided to live a reckless and for all intents and purposes, irresponsible life, then these relationships will be difficult, and may not even be possible. It’s important that you recognize the simple and beautiful truth that you…must…grow…up!  You must be willing to take on life’s challenges and struggles and ever increasing responsibilities.  If you don’t choose to “grow up” with each other, at the same general pace, then things are going to get rocky really quick.  This doesn’t mean you have to have it all figured out by 18.  Few, if any of us, do.  It does mean that you have the ability to handle 18 with dignity.  If you are partying, and living the life of someone who belongs on a talk show – well, that’s going to be your indicator that you have gotten off track with your life and it’s time to go back to the Word and read and renew your relationship with God, and begin to put your life back on track. From there, you can begin to renew your relationships with your siblings.

What happens if one of you does go off the deep end? Does that mean that person is cut off? Let me surprise you and say this.  While my motherly instincts tell me that you are each so loved and there is no reason any one of you should ever be cut out of the life of the others…wisdom says that as grown men, you have responsibilities that you have taken on, and the decisions you make have to reflect on the impacts to your individual families.  This means that tough decisions will be necessary and I won’t tell you that just because someone has the title of “Brother” to you means that you keep that person, no matter how reckless their behavior, deeply involved in your lives. Drugs, alcohol, extremely poor financial decisions, a lack of work ethic to manage and do a job well to support the family, poor handling of general responsibility, reckless behavior… these things will create insurmountable challenges to keep a sibling relationship healthy.  Like I said, it may not be possible.

Having said that…can a person recover from this kind of life? Absolutely – you will see it over and over again throughout your lives that the power of God is awesome, and it is only through Him that lives can be turned around. But, it is ONLY through Him that they can be turned around.  Nothing else in this world will do it. Why? Because if he devil has managed to get a person so far off course, that’s where he would like to keep them and no amount of therapy or other intervention will create true change in a person’s life.  Only with humble prayers to God, will a person like this find new hope.

In closing, just know that your sibling relationships require a lot of work.   Work means that you have to do things for each other that remind each other that you care about them.  A lot of the negative feelings that we have tend to come from the belief that the other person doesn’t care for us – at least, not to the degree we care for them.  Putting in the effort for each other is important. One of the reasons that we are choosing to homeschool you boys is to give you the honest chance to put in the work to build up your relationships in your youth.  You have to find your common ground early on. If I were to send you off to school each day, you would be split up for most of your lives.

I’m going to have to stop here. You boys are out of bed, and playing with the felt board with Mary, Joseph, and the Angel.  I told you the Nativity story yesterday or tried to.  So far, you know that the Angel said “Don’t be afraid. You are going to have a baby boy, whose name will be Jesus, and He is the Son of God.”  That’s as far as we got.  So I need to shut this down. Know you are loved boys.  Always.

Edit Update:  Later this day, during prayer, Justin had an interesting thank you to God.  He said “Thank you for Mama and Daddy and Graham and Max and Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus and the Angel and the Moose”…     You read that right.  A moose. I don’t know what happened during the story that introduced a moose into the nativity, but he was very serious about it. Sometimes during prayer, I hear the craziest things.  God has to be laughing.

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Your Mother…the Scheduling Maker…Not the Scheduling Follower

I’m a planner.  I always have a plan. Back up plans? Yep, got those too.  Back-up to those? Oh yeah, usually have a few of those floating around too. I am the world’s best planner. My plans are detailed. Specific. Focused.

And then life happens. And I get tired. Or lazy. Or bored. Or frustrated. Or lack the resources. Or something looks more interesting at that particular moment.  Or I get a new idea that totally revamps the infrastructure of the original plan.  So I may spend hours planning, only to spend the same amount of time re-planning, leaving no energy whatsoever to actually “doing” what I planned.  (Which means my ideal work job if I ever have one again would probably be in consulting!)

Case in point. A month ago I developed a homeschool plan for 4 weeks. It took an entire day to build it when you consider the daily distractions of 3 energetic kids under 5. But it was perfect. I used the latest technology (Evernote) to organize it. I outlined the subjects I wanted to cover, the days I wanted to do it, the specific details of each subject even. I used screen shots.  Printing out the weekly plan in Evernote looked like I was a professional curriculum writer and that I really knew what I was dong.

And the result? I did it for one day – and that was 2 weeks ago. And I didn’t even do all of it.  Why?

Because I’m trying to cram real heavy work into a 4 year old.

You see, I have another problem. I get impatient. I want to get to the really good stuff. The fun stuff.  The interesting stuff.  And I am surrounded by very small children while trying to pull off what is effectively 1st grade curriculum work with a 4 year old (who will be 5 very soon).

Looking at the curriculum a regular Pre-K class would work on at this age, learning basic numbers, letters and sounds…it looks so simple. I know that Graham has already mastered those subjects.  For that matter, Graham has nearly learned real reading, so why would I bother teaching basics like “this is ‘A’…this is ‘B’ and so forth”. Now let’s color them….sheesh.

What I really need to be working on is listening comprehension. I need to be making him read very simple books. I need to be reading the harder ones. Lots of them. Instead, I’ve got him trying to do arithmetic. Or learn sentence structure.

I actually have the kid sitting in a school desk (and have for over 6 months), and expecting him to be able to not randomly fall out of his chair for no apparent reason. I seem to be fully underestimating the restrictions of his age, no matter how quickly he may pick up the nuances of a subject.  Just because we can forge through some tougher mater, doesn’t mean we should.

When we run into trouble, we both get frustrated. I’m pushing so hard that the joy of it is gone – even if he does start to get it.  The problem is not with Graham. It’s with me. I have an unreasonable expectation of lightly skipping through the boring stuff and diving head first into the complex.

All my Evernote plans have fallen by the wayside.  I went back to the internet to figure out what I was doing wrong and one them kept coming up.  I was trying to hard for such a young age – especially for boys.  Today’s regular public school seems really designed to cater to all of the strengths of girls and few for boys – especially in the early years. So if that structure isn’t the best for boys (and I only have boys), why am I trying to stick so hard to it? And worse, try to do it even earlier than they would?

Instead, we are going to take  step back and breathe. I’m going to chunk the Evernote curriculum maker for now. Instead, we are going to just move about a little less structured and cover topics in normal life.  It doesn’t mean I won’t use the white board. Everyone seems to love the white board.  But…I’m not going to hold everyone’s feet to the fire of my ridiculous planning ideas.

I am going to focus on books and the library and life experiences. I am going to make crafts that have a teaching element (like our Hercules Beetle lap book). I am going to calm down and worry less about progress and competing with the world even if it’s only a mental competition.  It’s wearing me out. I’m going to try to un-plan our learning and let the kids get just a little older before I make them sit in the desk again.

David…and How He Gets the Title “A Man After God’s Own Heart”…

Hi Boys!  I have been reading in the news about a family that I really admire (the “Duggars”) and they have been going through a tough time.  You see, some news and bad history has been dug up and even though the whole family worked through the tough situation, the world is having a whole lot of fun throwing some serious stones.  It really bothers me to watch this happen.  But it reminds me of something that I just recently learned.  Believe it or not, I sent this to one of their blogs, hoping it might find them and give them some comfort. I doubt it will ever reach them, but I just wanted to help a little.  Sometimes, a little encouragement is all you need.  It occurred to me after I sent it to them, that this may be something one of you need to hear at some point in your life. I’ve edited it, and written a little more as I’ve given it more thought. Just know you are loved – by your Dad and me, and most importantly, by God himself.

Post:

I never understood the biblical David. Nor have I ever understood why this was a guy who God said “I have found David a man after My own heart”.   I struggled with this my entire childhood and long into adulthood. I mean, seriously. We knew more about David, his extended and twisted family, his illicit affair, his accidental love child, the murder he all but ordered, all to hide his mistakes…the list goes on.   And this is the guy after God’s own heart?   I admit, up until very recently, I allowed that I just didn’t understand God as well as I thought…or the scriptures were seriously exaggerating God’s feeling about David.

David was and did all of these things. But…but…his was living historical testamental proof that the value of our lives is not the sum of our mistakes. We find, like David, that God’s love and compassion are truly the miracle. And God knew something about David that I failed to see.

David spent an awful lot of time attempting to draw his people closer to God Himself. David wanted his people to know how much they each were loved by Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth…. So, using his gifts, David penned the Psalms.

Let’s be honest. There aren’t any other songs in the entire Bible.  Okay, excepting Solomon, but his were mostly word of wisdom, and interestingly Solomon is David’s son.  It sounds like he learned a thing or two from Dad. But I want to focus on David, the dad here.   David wrote song after song – and he was the King! These psalms were a comfort to his subjects 6,000 years ago, and they are a comfort to me, today, when I face life’s challenges.   (And I’ve yet to see an inspirational song come out of any politics anywhere since!)

You see,  it is during our greatest trials when we find it is not the words of some  seemingly perfect man we recall. We recall the words of a sinner…”Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…you are with me. Your rod and staff comfort me. “   You know the rest.

Another funny thing about David. He wasn’t just the King – he was THE King. This guy was a celebrity amongst the Jews. Still is really. To say he was adored is just an understatement. So, when it came time to chronicle his life…isn’t it kind of strange that in the sacred texts, all the dirt managed to get recorded too?

And don’t you think that David himself could have prevented it?

Instead, it’s almost as if he made sure it was there. We get very personal accounts of his thoughts, words, and actions – kind of like he wanted it all to be there. He wanted us to know the good and the bad. And after all that- ALL THAT…God says that this man is one after His own heart.

I get that now. David brought people to God. David wanted people to see the great lengths of God’s grace. So we have his psalms…and his unvarnished life. And this is what makes David a man after God’s own heart.  He really put himself out there in his writings.  If there is nothing else you get from David, you can know that he was all about the relationship with God.  Having a relationship with God was not just for a king or a priest. It was for each of us.  He wanted his people to know that.

Interestingly, Jesus said the same thing.  “Go to a room, close the door and speak to your Father in Heaven”.  Did you catch that he DIDN’T say, “Go to a room and talk to Me, Jesus, and I’ll relay your thoughts on to God”….

Isn’t that amazing.  I have to admit to you that in this moment, I don’t really understand all that I should about how the Holy Trinity of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit works and I’m not sure I’m ever going to.  They seem to have some very specific roles though.  But the one that wants you talking to Him is God, your Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth.  Kind of awesome isn’t it.

Kind of sad when you realize you spend so little of your time doing it. I guess that is what free will is all about.

I don’t know if this make sense to anyone else out there. But I feel strongly that I needed to share it.   May the Lord bless you, and keep you.

By the way, if you haven’t done it lately boys, call us sometime.  We always want to talk to you too.  It’s another of those things that make us understand God a little more as parents.  We really do need and cherish conversations with our kids and grandkids.