Teach Your Daughter (and Son)

Photo Thanks to The Typical Female Magazine

Photo Thanks to The Typical Female Magazine

Teach your daughter how to cook kale.

Teach your daughter how to bake chocolate cake made with six sticks of butter.

Pass on your own mom’s recipe for Christmas morning coffee cake. Pass on your love of being outside.

Maybe you and your daughter both have thick thighs or wide ribcages. It’s easy to hate these non-size zero body parts. Don’t. Tell your daughter that with her legs she can run a marathon if she wants to, and her ribcage is nothing but a carrying case for strong lungs. She can scream and she can sing and she can lift up the world, if she wants.

Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul.

Read Sarah Koppelkam’s full article here.


Hayden’s Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early

and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,

then with cracked hands that ached

from labor in the weekday weather made

banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.

When the rooms were warm, he’d call,

and slowly I would rise and dress,

fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,

who had driven out the cold

and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?

Gerald Liu’s Fathers Know Best Interview #8

FF: Describe your family. 

Zoe, Vivian, and Gerald Liu

GL:  The family is made up of my wife Vivian and I (both 33 y.o. married almost 7 years), daughter Zoe (10 1/2 months), and our soft-coated wheaten terrier Colbie (4 years or is that 28 in dog years?).

FF: How has fatherhood changed you?

GL:  I think fatherhood has enhanced my interpretation of joy.  Through the challenging early goings of being new parents (with my wife Vivian BY FAR doing the most heavy lifting!) I think we grew to appreciate the small victories like when she first cooed, giggled, or slept through the night.  Even just returning home from after a long work day and seeing my daughter’s face or just dancing with her in the living room bring me the most satisfaction and joy.  I think it also helped me to have a higher appreciation for my own mom and dad and has given me a new viewpoint of the immense love of God.  I sometimes find myself pondering how my love for Zoe is completely eclipsed by God’s mighty love for me and that truth blows me away every time.

FF: What mistakes have you made as a dad? Name at least one and talk about what it meant to you.

GL:  Over protectiveness is one of my many mistakes.  I guess another result of fatherhood for me is an increased sense of fear for my daughter’s well being.  There have been situations where in my anxiety and panic I have spoken a bit harsh or unfairly to Vivian.  For instance if I thought a piece of food was too big for Zoe to swallow, I would in a panicked-tone question Vivian why she would give that to her (clearly it probably wasn’t too big.  I’m just a freak!).  I’m trying to get better, thanks for being patient Viv!  I think another mistake would be to take better care of my wife Vivian.  I think I some arguments we’ve had stemmed from communication or just the lack of simply asking Viv on how I can help.

FF: What’s the most helpful advice you heard when you were becoming a father or advice you’ve gained since you’ve been a father? 

GL:  I think people gave us a healthy fear of anticipating the challenges in the first few months.  I think that helped us prepare for the nightly feedings and sleepless nights.  A realization for me was understanding the statement “they grow up so fast!”.  Zoe’s only 10 1/2 months and everyday it seems like she has learned to do something new or something about her has changed (i.e. teeth).  So advice I give now to parents is “Don’t blink or you will miss something!!”.

FF: How do you attend to your relationship with your wife outside of your being parents, and has parenting changed your marriage?

GL:  People told us how important “date-nights” are for parents and we try to set aside time to connect and concentrate on our relationship.  When there is time we try to do things together like workout in the house, take walks, or watch a favorite show.  I definitely think our relationship has changed as a result of being parents.  I think we both cherish the time we have alone and are more communicative.

FF: What are some of the things you’ve struggled with as a relatively new father?  What are some of the things that have given you the most joy?

GL:  I think adjusting to new routines as a result of fatherly responsibilities is a general struggle.  Also another big struggle is balancing my friendships.  I think it takes much more planning and intentionality to get together with friends and its hard at times to relate to friends that live generally care-free lives.  The most joy I experience is in small things as I mentioned before.  When Zoe learns how to wave, or clap, or just laughs and giggles it makes me proud and happy.

FF: Would you be willing to talk about how your faith has been shaped or changed in the process of you and Vivian becoming parents?

GL:  There were some really dark times for us as we struggled for a number of years with our inability to conceive.  As couples around us became pregnant and other families grew, we often times felt envious, isolated, and alone in our struggles.  It was a load to bear and our focus and anxiety on conceiving became an unhealthy obsession that damaged our faith.  It was only after we begun to share our difficulties with others that we realized our situation was not uncommon and as we reached out to others for support we felt the “body of Christ” and its loving embrace for us in our time of need.

During one Sunday (Check out the podcast on thenewcom.com from 11/21/2010 towards the end 45 min or so in) where Viv and I were probably feeling the least hopeful, Pastor Peter preached on Jonah and talked about “rival gods” and how anything that we tell ourselves we “must” have is our real God and idol.  As he was preaching, I could not help to think that even our “good” and “reasonable” desires to have children was keeping our selves away from God.  Our “idol” was in having a baby and I realized that my hope was in our future family and not Christ.  After the sermon, Peter asked for people to come up and pray.  Without talking to each other or hesitation, both Viv and I stood up, walked to the front, and were in tears.  That moment confirmed to Viv and I where our hearts and minds were and that we were going to try to be, from that point on, ok with whatever God had planned for us.  Child or no child.  We both wanted God without condition and with an undivided heart despite our circumstances.

Little did we know, God was about to give us miraculous news.  Three days later, right before thanksgiving we confirmed that we were expecting.  God has a funny sense of timing and I truly believe that our journey was meant to be a testimony of how even the “good” things we naturally desire have the ability to wrestle our hearts away from the God who loves and desires our undivided hearts.

Now when I think of God while holding my daughter I am reminded of our family’s journey and know that as much as I love Zoe that my ultimate source of my joy, love, and salvation is in my God.  I hope to teach my Zoe that truth one day.

FF: What surprises are there along the way for parents? What do you wish you were told to expect? 

GL:  I would say that the surprises are in the amount changes to your own life, personality, and character are so many that after being a parent you may never comprehend how life was before your baby.  I wish I was told to expect how much baby stuff costs!  Yowzas!

FF: What is one recent memory you made with your child?

GL:  Swimming with Zoe for the first time.  While on vacation in Florida I’ll never forget how Zoe loved being in the pool and her enormous smile as she splashed the water with her hands.


Miscarriage, Marriage to a Bear, & Expecting a Daughter

My name is Nate Noonen and I am going to be a father in about two weeks, give or take two weeks. I have always dreamed of being a dad.  That sounds odd, but children were a huge part of my life growing up.  I married my teddy bear, Tabitha, in a ceremony performed by my father, an ordained minister in the Nazarene church.  I don’t think the ceremony was legally binding since I was three years old at the time.  From that point on, every teddy bear brought into my house was a child of Tabitha and me.  Having four younger sisters meant that Tabitha and I had children fairly regularly.

Tabitha now lives with my mom and the rest of my family back in Ohio and I have since married a beautiful non-ursine woman named Kimmy.  We live in an apartment in Logan Square which used to be populated by a series of pet rodents until the last one died a year or so ago.  After that we were going to get a dog but that was stopped by landlord intervention and a realization that what we really wanted, and felt God had prepared us for, was a child.

Kimmy had a miscarriage a year and ten days ago (July 5, 2011).  We confirmed pregnancy and knew she would have a baby for less than 24 hours before the miscarriage.  People don’t tell each other about those things, but they are all a part of being a parent.  The joy of the positive pregnancy test followed by the agony and shared pain of having to wait that much longer for the first, second, or third child.  I don’t want to get into a discussion on abortion, but I know a God who weeps for every living thing, regardless of age, and sometimes I weep with Him.

Through that sadness and the discussions we have had with other parents, we were prepared to try again, with a more in depth understanding of the fragility of life.  That fragility expresses itself in every offer of genetic testing, every “this is nothing to worry about but,” every realization of just how not in control we are and how petrifying that is.  A belief in a loving God does not shield us from that fear, but it does make the fear subject to the reminders of just how much He loves us, how much He loves my daughter Charlotte and knows her in her inmost being, regardless of the age at which she leaves this realm for another.

My daughter will be born at some point.  That is the only fact that I know right now.  Michael has asked me to write a monthly article for his blog which I will do everything in my power to fulfill.

I look forward to seeing what God has in store over the next year.


Fathers Know Best #6

FF: Describe your family.

JS: I like to think of my family as ‘typical,’ though I’m sure most people think the same of theirs, no matter how that looks. My wife, Annie, an educator in Chicago Public Schools, originally hails from Western Kentucky. We’ve been married 4 1/2 years now, and we live in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago. I am a white boy from the Chicago suburbs (though I try my best to dispel such notions) who transplanted to the city about 5 years ago. I work from home as a freelance market research analyst. Back in July, we welcomed our daughter Lisa into the world. She is now 7 months old, and ready to tackle anything—a trait we like to encourage in her. We also have two cats: Leroy (aka “Fats”) and Bianca. They have been surprisingly good with the transition from being the ‘kitty-babies’ to simply being pets who don’t get the attention they were accustomed to. They also have a healthy sense of anxiety around Lisa—she likes to grab and pull their fur, and they like to run away from her before she gets the chance.

As funny as it is for me to say it, we’re one of those ‘crunchy’ families. We (Annie, really) had an unmedicated home birth; we use cloth diapers; and we do a bunch of other ‘crunchy’ things. Annie is all about it because it’s healthier, better for the environment, etc. I’m mostly on board because it’s so much cheaper! Instead of buying 3500+ diapers for a kid through potty training, we have about 25 cloth diapers (and we can re-use them if/when we have more kids!). Instead of having to haul around formula, bottles, find a way to heat water, etc, Annie can just feed her at the “milk bar.” Plus, since we nurse, it means I don’t have to get up as much in the night!

FF: How has fatherhood changed you?

JS: I used to get very little sleep because I didn’t need it and wasn’t tired. Now, I need more sleep than I’m getting, and my waking time is not all by choice.  In a deeper sense, I worry more and hope more. I worry about the world in which my little girl is growing up. I wonder if our culture will twist her sense of beauty and self-worth, or even cause her to think that her value is only found in her appearance. I worry about whether gender stereotypes will limit her notions of what she can do–if she feels forced to wear pink and love princesses and unable to wear lab coats or be an astronaut. I worry about the gangs in our neighborhood and find myself paying attention to the tags, hoping that the most recent dis won’t be cause for shootings when the weather warms. I find myself encouraged by the neighborhood school (where I’m already involved as an LSC member), which is fantastic. I worry about the potential for flooding in the condo we’re about to buy, and trust that there isn’t harmful mold hiding under the carpets.

But I have hope too. I have hope that she will be a friend to others. I have hope that she will love the Lord. I have hope that somehow, my muddling fathering will help guide her into a full and vibrant person. I have hope that she will be an advocate for positive change in her world. I have hope that the best thing I can do–the strongest vote I can make and the loudest voice I can raise–is to trust that by bringing a life into the world, I am making the world better.

FF: What mistakes have you made as a dad? Name at least one and talk about what it meant to you.

JS: I think the greatest mistake I’ve made thus far is not investing enough time in my relationship with my wife over the past 7 months. We’ve both been busy with the routine of taking care of Lisa, preparing for the next day, working, and trying to find a moment of sleep to overcome exhaustion. We’ve not spent enough time on dates. We’ve not spent enough time just talking to each other. Because of this, our relationship has suffered–not in serious ways, but in subtle ones that lurk beneath the surface. I don’t ever want to get to a point, even years from now, where our lack of connection with each other causes us to have distance. And the better we are as husband and wife, the better we are/will be as parents.  We’re certainly nowhere close to this yet, but I don’t want my daughter to grow up in a home where good, healthy relationships aren’t being modeled for her. (Did I mention that I worry more these days?)

FF: What’s the most helpful advice you heard when you were becoming a father or advice you’ve gained since you’ve been a father?

JS: As soon as you find out you’re going to be a dad, start sleeping as much as you can. You’ll be glad for it later.

The best advice I’ve figured out since I’ve been a father is to get in your baby’s face. Let them feel your face and pull your hair and slobber on your nose. Blow raspberries on their belly and listen to them laugh. Sing to them. There is nothing more joyful and wonderful and awe-inspiring as seeing your child–this creature that was so utterly helpless and dependent–begin to respond to you and interact with you. Even before they have language, a kid will express so much emotion and share her love to you as a parent. Get close, and soak in as much of it as you can.

FF: How do you attend to your relationship with your wife outside of your being parents, and has parenting changed your marriage?

JS: Hah! I didn’t read ahead, and I feel like I already answered this one above. Parenting has definitely changed our marriage, simply by refocusing our attention on the little one rather than on ourselves. It’s so much *effort* to get away on our own, and so much of our lives are dictated by the baby’s schedule. Even when we do manage dates, there’s a sense of urgency to get back home to the baby, rather than linger and simply sit and enjoy each others’ company.


FF:  Talk about the role you want to play in teaching your daughter.  I imagine Annie will be a good educator to her, since she is an educator, but how have you taught her.  How do you hope to?

JS: I read to her. Probably not often enough, though she’s usually more interested in eating the pages than looking at the pictures. Her favorite books at the moment are “Moo, Baa, La La La,” “Oso Pardo, Oso Pardo, Que Ves Ahi?” and “Daddy and Me”. I love reading to her. Whenever I go on walks with her, I try to point out and talk about the things I see–dogs and trees and stores and cars and whatever else is around. She is wonderfully alert and just loves to take it all in.I must say, the notion of “teaching” Lisa seems a bit funny at this point. Most of her ‘learning’ is just a matter of her figuring out the world around her and how she can interact with it. My role in teaching her that sort of thing is more just a matter of exposing her to new situations, people, and things, and letting her figure it out. She has a wonderful ability to study objects in a measured way before picking them up or moving them or whatever she wants to do. She’s very thoughtful and deliberate; I don’t have to do much except get out of her way.

As she gets older, I hope to teach her in so many ways. I hope to teach her to be kind, loving, compassionate, encouraging, and friendly. I hope to help her gain a sense of God in her life. I hope to help her find the rhythms of family and spirituality by establishing traditions and sticking to them. When she gets to school age, I hope to help her with her homework and look for ways to challenge her and push her even more. I hope to expose her to a wide range of ideas and people and experiences and places. I hope to teach her to love the outcast, to be compassionate to the people around her to suffer. I could go on…

FF: What surprises are there along the way for parents? What do you wish you were told to expect?

JS: Well, there’s always the explosive poop while the diaper is off and baby is on the changing table. That’s always surprising.

I wish I had been told to expect that relationships would be so much harder to sustain after the baby comes. In the past 7 months of parenthood, I have not spent nearly enough time with my friends. Nor has Annie. As wonderful as it is to be a parent, there’s a sense of loss when it comes to the freedom I used to have to spend time with friends. If you can, really cultivate deep friendships with friends and get them used to coming to your home. It will be so much easier to maintain friendships if it’s already ‘normal’ for them to reach out to you and to come to you than it is to a) remember that you have friends you haven’t seen in a while, b) figure out when you can schedule to meet them, and c) actually muster the energy to pack up baby’s stuff, leave the house, and visit for a short while. If you think it’s hard to see your friends now, it’s 5 times harder once you’ve got a baby. Be intentional about your friends.FF: What is one recent memory you made with your child?JS: Every moment is a memory I’d love to hold on to. But one that feels especially cool at the moment is from last week. I had put Lisa in a sitting position in her crib for a moment while I went to prepare a diaper for her. A moment after I put her down, she grabbed the rail of the crib and pulled herself into a standing position–the first time she stood up completely on her own! I was simply shocked, but had the presence of mind to grab my mobile phone and shoot a video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoJUZyMbIls) when she did it a second time a few moments later. Such a great moment of pride for me (look how much she’s progressing!) and a cool ‘first’ for her!


The Story I Want To Tell

I’ve snatched the following from a recent post by Rachel Held Evans.  It’s by a father named Justin Bowers, whom I don’t know but whose words I enjoy.

Justin is responding to a question Rachel poses on her blog about a particular topic.  I’m taking part of his response, not to fall into that comment stream as much as to share his perspective raising daughters.  I think Justin is a pastor, if I read the earlier part of this comment correctly.  Whether you can relate to his faith-filled words, I imagine you have a story you want to tell the daughters and sons in your lives.

The story I want my daughters to live is the one that begins in Genesis.

The story where it is “not good” for the man to be alone.

The story where Eve is taken from Adam’s side–a place of companionship and equality, not to walk behind.

The story where, prior to sin entering the world, the relationship of the man and woman was a mirror of the unity of the Triune Creator–equal and submissive to each other because of love.

The story where the gospels open on amazingly godly women, Mary and Elizabeth, through whom the Kingdom invasion began.

The story where Paul writes, ‘There is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’

The story where the body of Christ–the Church–is at its fullest breathing capacity when its members function in their fullest giftedness regardless of any barrier.

Richard Westley on Why He Loves Having a Daughter

I was introduced to this pastor through a friend, and he has a splendid post about why he loves having a daughter.

I have just a few months before my youngest child and daughter turns two.  Cora Mae Nicole Johnson is a bright soul in my life.  Her smile is gorgeous and she’s becoming quite an entertainer.  I wish you could see her dance and hear her sing and watch her act as if all eyes are not on her.  Because I just had the inspiration to write about her, I thought I’d share what I am learning from “missy”.  My dreams for her are rooted in my theology that God equally calls and equips women for vocational ministry and service in the church.  Although I don’t necessarily see call of God for Cora to serve in a vocational ministry space, I certainly don’t want our culture nor the church to limit her opportunities to reach any potential the Spirit imparts to her.  So without further adue…my list for why I am thankful to have a daughter.

  1. Cora Mae teaches me to pay attention to gender differences.  I rough house with my boys and I muyst be mindful that Cora is not like that.  I can’t give a skowl to her (in jest) and expect her to playfully skowl back at me.  Her feelings can not be played with…and must be nurtured and protected.  One look could just about ruin a day for her and me.
  2. A daughter truly gives me a love that is different from my boys.  Just listening to her say, “daddy” is enough to make my day. I don’t feel called into competition nor do I feel as if need to coach with Cora.  Strangely, I am more relaxed around her.  Think about #1 on this list and you might assume I’d be on pins and needles around her.  On the contrary, I feel more at ease with Cora…playful.  With my boys I feel a sense of responsibility to prepare them for a harsh world.

Click here to finish reading Richard’s post.