‘Dad, I dreamed about my birth mom’

‘Dad, I dreamed about my birth mom’

Most families seem to have at least one kid who is the deep thinker. You know, the child who says crazy things like: “Shouldn’t we pray for Satan, too?”

For us, that’s William. He’s the 5-year-old, blue-eyed, curly-haired version of that French “Thinker” statue, except he’s bouncing off walls, jumping off couches and climbing up trees — doing his best to save the world in his muscular Spiderman costume. He would have broken that iconic statue, and out-thought it in the process.

So, it really didn’t surprise my wife and I when he recently hopped in our bed on a lazy Saturday morning and started describing his latest wild dream. It had all the things that make up a typical child’s dream – animals and toys and food and such – but this one was a bit different.

“Dad, I dreamed about my birth mom,” he said matter-of-factly.

We have three adopted children, and all of them know about their background, but William ponders his origins more than the other two, combined. That’s just his nature. He thinks a lot, about everything. Sometimes his questions are substantive. (“Why did God create the earth?) And other times they’re simply humorous. (“What was Yoda’s first name?”)

William wasn’t troubled by his dream, although he seemed to realize it was different than dreaming about, say, elephants.

He simply desired what any adopted child would have wanted in that moment — affirmation. He is not alone. It is natural for adopted children to ask as they grow older: Why did you adopt me?

Thankfully, the days of keeping a child’s adoption a secret are long gone. A 2007 government survey of 2,000 families found that 97 percent of adopted children ages 5 and older knew they were adopted.

We introduced William to his adoption story before he could form sentences, and as he grows older, we will add more details. No, he doesn’t fully comprehend it now, but he eventually will.

Our conversation with him that Saturday morning lasted all of about 30 seconds, but we made three quick points: Continue reading

We’re giving away our kids’ Christmas toys

We’re giving away our kids’ Christmas toys

My oldest son was two years old when he received his first “big” gift: a Thomas the Train track set.

It had everything a two-year-old – or even a 22-year-old – could have wanted. Fifty-two wooden pieces. A bridge. A tunnel. A crane. Even a tall, fake waterfall. And it all could be assembled on a wooden play table that was just-his-size.

He would play with it during the morning, afternoon and night, pushing Thomas, Gordon and Henry around the track. Over. And over. And over.

Seven years later, though, that train set gets little attention from my oldest son, or even from his younger brother and sister. Instead, it resides in a cluttered side of our basement amidst other toys that my children have received over the years – toys that on most days also get neglected. To borrow a phrase from a classic Christmas cartoon, it’s our own “Island of Misfit Toys” – and they’re all looking for a loving home.

Those toys can be an eyesore, yes, but they also can be convicting.

We’re giving away our kids’ Christmas toysConsider, for example, the items Samaritan’s Purse recommends packing in its Christmas shoeboxes that go to less-fortunate children in other countries. The list includes balls and dolls but also pens, pencils, socks, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Toothbrushes! Meanwhile, I and countless other Americans watch 42-inch televisions and wonder if it’s time to upgrade to something much larger for our Christmas present.

Experts tells us the United States has 3.1 percent of the world’s children yet purchases 40 percent of its toys. [1] But we shouldn’t point fingers at our kids. They didn’t buy those toys.

Besides, we adults are quite good at collecting our own “toys.” Continue reading

‘What’s the definition of beauty?’

‘What’s the definition of beauty?’My daughter is only four-years-old, but sometimes, I think she’s 14.

That was the case a few weeks ago, when she walked purposefully into the kitchen, sporting a pink dress, glitzy shoes and shiny fingernail polish, and asked me through a sweet smile: “Daddy, do you think I look beautiful?”

I chuckled at the situation and responded quickly, “Of course, I do!” She walked back into her room to continue her game of dress-up and I finished eating my snack, but later I began to ask myself: What am I teaching her? In other words, what is she learning about beauty?

If I’m not diligent, then she will learn all the worldly, wrong things as she grows older: that beauty is skin-deep, that worth is based on a perfect figure and the right clothes, and that her body is to be put on display like a cheap weekend sale at Walmart.

I thought about that recently when my family and I stopped at a gas station to fill up the van and to get snacks during a short road trip. There in the gas station window was the magazine rack, and there on the magazine rack were the latest “gentleman’s” magazines flaunting barely dressed models – easily seen by anyone who did not even enter the station. Such as my daughter.

But we don’t have to stop at the wrong gas station to be confronted with worldly images of beauty. We see it every Sunday during the fall, when the TV cameras switch from the football game to the cheerleaders and we’re left wondering if “thin, half-naked and blond” were the prerequisites. We’re faced with it during commercials, when Hardee’s trots out soft-porn images to try and sell us – of all things — hamburgers.

Heck, we even see it in during Disney and Pixar cartoons, which promote not immodesty but perfection. How many average-looking heroines can you remember from the most popular animated movies?

Then there’s social media. A recent Pew study found that 61 percent of teen girls — but only 44 percent of teen boys — regularly access Instagram, the picture-based platform where, essentially, only “glamour shots” are posted. As director Delaney Ruston discovered in the documentary Screenagers, Instagram and platforms like it are destroying the body image of middle school and high school girls, who feel constant pressure to look flawless for their friends and romantic interests. Continue reading

‘Dad, what’s wrong with her?’ (4 things to teach your kids about disabilities)

‘Dad, what’s wrong with her?’ (4 things to teach your kids about disabilities)

My oldest son was munching on French fries and looking around the restaurant, as the rest of our family finished a meal on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

His mind, though, was not on the topic of conversation. Instead, he was staring at an adjacent table, where another family was sitting.

“Dad, what’s wrong with her?”

Almost immediately, I knew what he was referencing. Sitting at the table was a woman in a wheelchair, maybe in her 20s, who was mentally disabled. Every now and then she would look our way and smile, and I would smile back, but my son – who at the time was in the second grade – did not know what to do.

“She keeps looking over here, Dad.”

My son was confused, not knowing what to think, and I was searching for answers. And I knew that this conversation would apply to every area of his life.

No matter where he goes – to school, to church and (one day) to work – he will encounter people who look different, sound different and act different. His friends might be tempted to say “she looks weird” or “he acts goofy,” but I pray he will respond with the heart of Christ, and not with the words of a bully.

After all, the entire point of the Gospel was to help those who are helpless. Sure, the core of it was Jesus saving sinners, but if we study His life on this earth, we discover He had a heart for the disabled: the leper, the blind man, the lame person. And what about the story of Zacchaeus (a despised tax collector who was so short he couldn’t see over anyone) or even Paul (who had an undefined “thorn in the flesh”)?

If my son gets this lesson right early in life, then he will have the courage to stand up for the humanity of the mentally disabled woman in the restaurant … or even the skinny, acne-prone boy in science class.

As we walked away from that restaurant, I made several points: Continue reading

6 secrets to ‘eating out’ — peacefully — with children

6 secrets to ‘eating out’ -- peacefully -- with children

The first time my wife and I took our newborn to a restaurant, time seemingly stood still. Sweet elderly ladies “oohed” and “aahed” over our little bundle of joy. Waitresses stopped by our table to take a peek, amazed by his long eyelashes and quiet manner. Heck, even a few rough-looking grown men—the type you don’t want to cross—cracked a smile.

It was, in one word, “wonderful.”

Fast forward two years, and restaurant visits were no longer the highlight of our week. Yes, our son, Graham, was still precious, but instead of sleeping, he was randomly putting pepper shakers in his mouth. Instead of calmly drinking a bottle, he was stubbornly tossing macaroni on the floor, wondering why Mommy and Daddy were stressed and the people at the next table were laughing. Then there was the time when we ordered our food and he immediately began pitching a fit. Unable to calm him, we boxed up all of our food, hopped in the car and drove home.

Not every instance with our then-2-year-old son was taxing, but there were enough tough moments that we began evaluating what we could do better to make visits to restaurants more enjoyable.

My family views “eating out” much the way people viewed meals during Jesus’ life—as a time of leisurely fun and fellowship. We’re not there simply to eat. We’re there to talk and enjoy one another.

So, can a family of small children eat out regularly without chaos ensuing? Yes.

Here are a few tips that helped us … and may help you, too:
Continue reading