The Joy-Robber

The Joy-Robber

I’ve recently been thankful for the character growth that happens when school events give me an opportunity to help my kids to understand and frame their experiences.

As my daughter’s spring concert approached, she lamented that she wasn’t chosen for a speaking part or for a solo. I responded out loud that not everyone gets to do everything, and I reminded her that one of her friends had practiced hard every week to develop her singing ability.

It was a very short conversation, and we moved on. My daughter’s concert came and went, our whole family watched to support her and her classmates, and she loved it.

A couple of weeks later, my daughter mentioned during our walk home that some of the girls at school were asking their friend, “Why did YOU get to do the solo?” And my daughter said that she was sad that they had that attitude.

First of all, I totally understand that attitude – because I’ve felt it often before in my own self. Envy: it’s ugly, it robs us of joy, and it starts so early in life.

As I walked with my daughter, I tried once again to find some words to help her process this experience. I told her, “I’m so sorry that they are saying that. It probably hurts your friend. But the girls need to understand that…” And I trailed off, trying to find just the right words that were full of truth and grace.

“…that not everyone gets to do everything, but everyone gets to do important things,” my daughter filled in quickly.

I was in shock that an 8-year-old had just spoken words that I hadn’t even thought of, but words that are so true, not only for children but also for us as adults.

How often do we long for an opportunity that we don’t have? Or wish that we had a better yard for our kids to play in? Or constantly check social media, hoping for more re-tweets or likes? Or want a job that more enjoyable, or meaningful, or more financially beneficial?

Those desires are not wrong; often they can motivate us to learn, to take a risk, and to grow. It’s not wrong for a child to want a solo in a concert and to take the steps to make it a reality. It’s not wrong to want a fulfilling job or better experiences or more connection with other people.

The trouble comes when we see others who have those things and then begin the comparison game. Envy turns us against other people. We long for the opportunity that someone else has. We walk past our neighbors’ yards and wish that those yards were ours. We feel downcast and lonely because someone else is getting the amount of re-tweets and likes that we were hoping for. We do our jobs with drudgery because what we really want is the job that our colleague or our acquaintance has. Envy puts walls between us and others, and it steals the joy and delight that we could be experiencing. It’s no wonder that the Bible labels envy and selfish ambition as “demonic” (James 3:13-16).

It’s true – I have desires and plans for new things. I don’t want my life to be stagnant in relationships or in purpose. But I love the freedom that comes from knowing that what I’m doing now is also important. At this very moment, I cannot do everything that other people can do, but I am doing something important. Knowing that truth gives me freedom to cheer other people on and to savor the opportunities that I have right now. And I will refuse to allow envy to rob me of joy. I hope that we can experience that freedom together, and I will be ecstatic if my kids can grasp that early in their lives.

“Not everyone gets to do everything, but everyone gets to do important things.”

 

Why Parents Should Do (Some) Fun Things (Sometimes) Without Their Kids

Why Parents Should Do (Some) Fun Things (Sometimes) Without Their Kids

I went on a whirlwind trip to Japan last weekend. Without my children.

The timing made sense. It was the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival, so my husband had some days off of work and could be with our kids while I was away. I have a friend who has lived in Japan for four years, and it just so happened that Pentatonix was doing a concert in her city. I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t want to catch up with a friend and see Pentatonix live before Avi leaves the group?

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But for my kids, it wasn’t that simple. My son has mentioned, without having ever seen the place, that he wants to live in Japan when he grows up. And my daughter enjoys Pentatonix as much as I do. The day before I left, I reminded them that I was leaving, and they both broke down in tears: one because I was exploring Japan without him, and the other because I was seeing Pentatonix without her.

I am not a heartless mom. I felt terrible. But in the end, I’m content with my decision to leave them behind for a few days.

Here’s why it’s important for parents to do some fun things, sometimes, without their children.

  1. It teaches children the benefits of delayed gratification. I’m confident that my son will someday see Japan with his own eyes. I assume that my daughter will begin to enjoy other bands and probably see some in concert. Now is not the right time for them to do those things. But while they wait for the right time, they can develop patience, and they will actually enjoy those gifts more because they’ve waited.
  2. It gives children a sense that there are benefits to being adults. A good friend visited me a couple months ago, and she mentioned that when she was a child, she wanted to grow up. There were aspects of being an adult that she was excited about. In contrast, it seems that nowadays there are plenty of children and young adults who would rather skip adulthood. Sure, there are parts of adulthood that aren’t easy, but to be honest, there are also parts of childhood that are difficult. Being an adult does come with different responsibilities, but also with different benefits. And because I’m working on raising adults, I want my kids to see my husband and me enjoying adulthood, both our work and our play, so that they can look forward to the privileges that come with growing up.
  3. It refreshes the parent. I spent the weekend with constant people and sightseeing, which tends to be tiring for me. But surprisingly, by the end of the trip, I was full of energy and ready to get back to my work at home, probably due to extra sleep, meaningful conversations, and a change of environment. My heart was overjoyed when I returned home and could give my husband and each of my kids big hugs, and I had determination the next morning to do some hardcore house cleaning.
  4. It reminds children how much they appreciate their parent’s presence. My children did not suffer in any way while I was gone; actually, they thrived on extra special time with their daddy, and they discovered that he cooks really tasty spaghetti with fresh veggies. However, when I arrived home, those kids couldn’t wait to shout “welcome home”, nearly knocked me over in the doorway, and began to run around showing me all of their new tricks. My short absence gave them a renewed enthusiasm to spend time with me.

And so, I hope that you do (some) fun things (sometimes) without your kids…

In addition to doing (lots) of fun things (often) with your kids.

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10-year Anniversary… With Children?!

10-year Anniversary… With Children?!

Where I’m from, a 10-year anniversary is a big deal. We celebrate every decade of marriage, but especially years 10, 25, and 50.

As my husband and I approached our 10-year anniversary, I said to myself, “This is so sad. This is seriously how we will spend our anniversary together this time?” You see, we had booked tickets to Disneyland, and we would be staying at the Toy Story Hotel on the night of our anniversary. With our three children. How romantic.

I’m sure that some of you would dream of going to Disney for your anniversary, but I thought of all the places to which I’d love to travel… without children. New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, really anywhere. I thought back to Costa Rica, where we adventured and saw Arenal during our honeymoon, and to New York City, where we experienced “The Phantom of the Opera” for our 5th anniversary.

But now we live an ocean away from our parents, and our kids needed to be with us. So I resigned myself to the fact that we just wouldn’t be able to get away on a short trip alone together this time. We were stuck with the kids.

I moped internally, tossing around the sense that going to a theme park with children did not constitute an appropriate 10th anniversary celebration. I could almost hear Jim Gaffigan laughing at how exhausted we parents would be.

I compared what we did in Costa Rica on our honeymoon versus what we would do at Disneyland on our 10th anniversary. And strangely, the more I compared the two, the more my mindset and attitude began to transform.

Costa Rica perfectly suited us as newlyweds. We could go somewhere international, experience a bit of another culture, spend a lot of time lounging around together, eat beans and rice and paella, drive through the countryside, and hike through the rainforest. We needed that. We needed the time to get to know each other and to enjoy each other.

Now here we are, ten years later, not with only the two of us, but with three kids as well. Being ten years into marriage with children in tow shows a change in our relationship. Our children are a reminder of how far we’ve come as a couple. These kids are the tangible demonstration of the love that my husband and I have for each other. When we are gone someday, our children and their children will be part of our legacy.

Disney perfectly suited us as a couple with young children. Our theme park adventure was indicative of the stage of life that our family is in, and honestly, that stage of life is exactly where I want to be ten years into marriage.

While I’m still a big fan of husbands and wives getting away together for a date or a short trip, I hope that all of us who are parents can gain the perspective that our children are not nuisances preventing us from what we could be doing, but that they are gifts borne out of the intimacy and strength of our marriages. That’s the best anniversary gift.

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The two of us enjoying Costa Rica for our honeymoon.
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The five of us enjoying Disneyland for our 10th anniversary.

By the way, we ALL loved Disney and… we got fireworks for our anniversary!

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Happy anniversary, Josh! Thank you for 10 years of adventure together. I’m looking forward to many more!