‘Dad, can I buy this?’ (3 things to teach your kids about greed and shopping)

‘Dad, can I buy this?’ (3 things to teach your kids about shopping)

I was getting a haircut at the local budget salon a few months back when my 9-year-old son – who had just received his own trim – started growing restless.

“Dad, can I have your phone?”

Normally the answer is “no,” but his choice of magazines in the waiting area was too adult-oriented, and, besides, there are a few educational apps on my phone that he enjoys.

The rest of our trip to the salon was uneventful – he kindly grabbed a few suckers for his siblings and we ate a snack on the way home — but later that evening, after he went to bed, I discovered an unwelcome surprise in my email.

“Thank-you for shopping with us!” the email, from Amazon.com, read. “We’ll send a confirmation when your item ships.”

Umm, what item?

The LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon, of course. The expensive one with 1,329 pieces, ready to assemble. The one with Rey, Finn, Han Solo and Chewbacca. Even BB-8!

I didn’t share Amazon’s excitement, though, and I hadn’t ordered any LEGO toys. Continue reading

‘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

This St. Patrick’s Day, teach your kids about the real (mission-minded) Patrick

This St. Patrick’s Day, teach your kids about the real (mission-minded) PatrickAmerican holidays are a quirky thing. We celebrate turkey on Thanksgiving, Santa Claus on Christmas, green clothes on St. Patrick’s Day and bunny rabbits on Easter – even though each one has a uniquely Christian foundation.

What, you didn’t know that St. Patrick’s Day had a Christian theme?

Patrick was a real person who played a key role in the spreading of the Gospel in the 400s. He was a British teenager when, around age 16, he was sold into slavery and taken to Ireland, where he worked for about six years before escaping across the sea back to England. As Bruce Shelley writes in his book Church History In Plain Language, Patrick “would have gladly remained in England had he not had a dream one night in which the babies of Ireland pleaded with him to come back to their country and tell them about Christ.” He did that – and his work resulted in thousands coming to know the Lord.

So a man was sold into slavery, escaped, and then returned to tell those very same people about Jesus. What’s not to like about that story?

The story of Patrick is one we should be telling our children over and over, and what better time than St. Patrick’s Day? It’s a story of forgiveness, sacrifice, service and missions.

Want to know more? Read history professor Stephen Douglas Wilson’s column about St. Patrick. It’s told from a Baptist angle, but it’s applicable to all Christians.
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