What's a not-too-religious way to symbolize prayer? I guess this'll do.

What’s a not-too-religious way to symbolize prayer? I guess this’ll do.

And so it has come to this, God: A prayer.

You know I’m not good at praying. You know I don’t do it enough. You know I don’t always put down my fork-full of dinner when one of my kids starts in on that whole “God is great, God is good” business. But I’m going to do this anyway.

I’m not going to ask for peace. Not going to ask for strength. Not going to ask for blessings upon those people who have died or upon their families (although that would probably be nice). I just need to talk. And because I feel silly talking out loud to you — don’t judge! — I’m going to talk here, on this blog. I assume you have the Internet.

I’m angry, God. I’m not angry at you. And I’m not angry at anyone in particular. But I’m angry. I’m angry at the lack of respect for human life. I’m angry about our human biases. I’m angry that I feel helpless to do anything to affect change. I’m angry.

I’m sad, God. I’m sad that understanding, compromise, sympathy and empathy seem to have fallen by the wayside in our country. I’m sad that fear and hatred grip us tightly, relentlessly chipping away at our humanity. I’m sad that my children — everyone’s children — are growing up with this pall of violence cast over us. I’m sad.

I’m afraid, God. I’m afraid it won’t end. I’m afraid clearer and wiser heads will not prevail in the end. I’m afraid the situation America is in will get worse before it gets better, if that’s possible. I’m afraid.

So that’s it.

I just thought you should know.

[OK, what do I do now? Say “Amen”? Just stop typing? I’ll just stop typing. No need to respond. I know you’re busy with more important things like picking next year’s college football national champion. OK, I do have one request: Just think about letting Texas A&M win it all.]

Disclaimer: This post was originally published in the blog section of Nurture My Child, a website that helps Austin families find camps, schools and childcare. I’m paid to write a blog and do social media work for NMC, but I would’ve done this post for free.


 

 

If you read my bio on the Nurture My Child page, you’ll see I initially went to college intending to become a vet. My plan changed when I realized I wasn’t very good at biology and chemistry — two subjects that are kind of important to anyone practicing medicine. Naturally, my next step after changing majors was to get a dog. My first college dog was a disaster. He was dumb. He was mean. He did not play well with others. He went to live on a farm in the country. No really…I gave him to a lady who lived on a farm.

My second college dog was amazing. She was sweet and loyal and perfectly happy swimming in the muddy pond water at Research Park on campus at Texas A&M University. A year or so before I married my wife, the dog and I moved to Austin, trading muddy Brazos County water for the clear green waters of Town Lake (remember when Lady Bird Lake was Town Lake?). We lived happily together as a family. My wife and I had three kids. We all loved my 2nd college dog. But like all dogs, her time on this earth was all too short. Last week, we said goodbye to my dear College Dog.

College Dog and I had 12.5 wonderful years together, but she was old and tired and cancer had taken its toll on her body. It was time. The decision to have her euthanized was easy — sad, but easy. The hardest part would be telling the kids. This was the first time my wife and I would truly discuss death with our children. But preparing for that conversation raised some big questions: Will the kids grasp the concept of death and its finality? They are all under 5 years old, after all. Should we even tell them College Dog died? Wouldn’t it be easier to just say she went to a retirement home for old dogs out in West Texas? Should we just read them that Rainbow Bridge poem and be done with it?

In the end, we chose the most honest route we felt we could take with our small children. We told the kids on a Friday that the upcoming weekend would be our last with the dog. Through tears, we explained that College Dog was very sick and she was going to die on Monday. We explained that the dog had a disease called cancer and that the vet would give her a shot that would make her stop breathing. We told them about cremation.

Our daughter, an always-curious five-year-old, asked if she could get sick from hugging the dog. We assured her she could not and she was free to hug the dog as much as she wanted to. She asked what exactly cancer is, and we tried to explain it in age-appropriate terms. She asked if College Dog was going to heaven. It fits our belief system, so we told her yes. She asked when we were getting a new dog. We just laughed and cried and told her not for a while.

Our oldest son, a three-year-old bowling ball of a boy, leaned in to kiss the dog, but backed away because she was “too stinky to kiss.” Again, laughter and tears.

Our youngest son cooed and smiled from my wife’s lap. He’s only five months old, so we didn’t get into specific details with him. I’m sure he’ll have his day sometime in the future.

I was surprised how well my kids were able to accept this hard truth about life. Each of the two older ones coped in their own way. They asked questions, drew pictures, and wrote notes about our old dog. We all hugged on College Dog as much as we could during her last weekend.

In the end, although our conversations with the kids about death and illness weren’t easy, I’m so glad we didn’t just pretend to send College Dog to that “retirement home in West Texas.” Her death was a sad time for our family, but it was a chance for us to grow together and celebrate all the fun times we had with her.

Take care, College Dog. We’ll miss you. Thank you for all the lessons you taught me along the way, from our first day together to our very last.

And so it has come to this: I’m one of those parents who gave his kid a weird name.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
– William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

Billy Shakespeare. Writing game on fleek.

Billy Shakespeare. Writing game on fleek.

I know. It’s kind of weird. The Wife and I weren’t sure about it either. In fact, there are days where I’m still not sure we made the right decision. Our first two kids have regular names. Sure, they’re kind of hipster-cool/over-popular, but we like the names we gave them just the same. She’s Harper; her name was inspired by author Harper Lee & musician Ben Harper. He’s Wyatt; we gave him a laid-back name that could fit easily on the nameplate of a future judge’s office or on a blue collar work shirt. And then there’s our third child. His name is Hawk. Continue reading →

And so it has come to this: It’s about time to declare my parenting style because, apparently, that’s everyone’s business.

I’m not as active in the “Parenting and Faith” Sunday school class at our church as I should be. Truthfully, I’m not active in the class at all. By that I mean that I don’t ever go. The Wife goes now and again, but, right or wrong, I haven’t filed the class into the “must do” part of my brain. Besides, Micah 6:8 says, “What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” It doesn’t say anything about getting kids ready an hour before worship and then fighting to get the 2-year-old to go tearfully into the nursery for a couple hours. Anyway, we’re off topic and I don’t want to make God angrier than s/he already is with me. [What’s up, Jesus!]

One of the leaders of the class sent out an email asking for discussion on this article in The New Yorker about so-called “free range kids.” Well, here we go…
Continue reading →

And so it has come to this: It actually gets harder.

Her room was a mess. Dolls and art supplies were strewn across the hardwood floor. Her bed was unmade. The dresser drawers open, skirts and My Little Pony shirts hanging out. And she sat there in the middle of it all — doing nothing. I had asked her, implored her, begged her to start cleaning up. No, not even clean up. Just straighten up enough so there might be an obstacle-free pathway from the door to her bed. But she sat there, crying, screaming for mommy. On a normal night I would’ve simply allowed my daughter to go down the hall and hug on The Wife’s legs while she changed our son into his pajamas. But not this time. By God, that child was going to stay in her room and clean. it. up. Continue reading →