david herndon

parenting for sand dollars

photo (27)

Two weeks ago my family was vacationing on The Gulf of Mexico.  There was a sandbar about 400 yards into the ocean, so as we looked out from the beach the water gradually became darker and then lighter again.  One of my favorite activities each day was to take my 10 year old son, a kayak, and a paddle board from the beach to the sandbar and then along the edge of the sandbar back and forth.  Since the water was so clear we could see EVERYTHING that swam and lived underneath– schools of mullet and redfish, Spanish Mackerel, King Mackerel, Sting rays, Blue crabs, and Sharks.

It was beautiful, and even more so because I was sharing this experience with my son.

It was so rewarding to introduce him to the adventure of paddling and to expose him to the beauty of creation – two things that I did not discover for myself until later in my life.  I could also see his self-confidence grow before my eyes as he paddled miles through the week on his own among sharks and sting rays and mackerels.

He’s not a little boy anymore.

One of our last days we drifted over the sandbar and my son exclaimed, “Dad! Look at that sand dollar!  It’s as big as a pancake!”  I looked down and there were hundreds upon hundreds of sand dollars – some as small as a poker chip and some, yes, as large as a pancake.  My son said, “Let’s dive down to them.”

Now if you know anything about me you will know that I have an irrational fear of deep water.  I prefer to go no deeper than my knees, my waist at most.  I like boats, kayaks, and paddleboards for the pure fact that they provide a barrier between me and things that can eat me.  I’m more likely to get struck by lightning than be bitten by a shark, but I still panic when my head can’t stay above water without my feet on the ground.  On our honeymoon my wife took me snorkeling in, literally, the most beautiful spot in the world.  It was the first and only panic attack I’ve ever had in my life.  Like I said – my fear is irrational.

And now here was my son asking me to dive down 15 feet in the open water – mere yards from where we saw a shark as big as me the day before.  No air tanks.  No spears.  No cage.  Just open water, the two of us, and hungry, hungry sharks lurking in the deep.  I was torn.

On one hand was my personal fear.  It has proved limiting to life in my past, but it was something I had grown accustomed to and found ways to manage.  It is not my favorite quality for myself, but I have come to accept it and I never try to change it.  It doesn’t make me a bad person or even a bad parent.  In some situations it could probably be a praiseworthy attribute of safety and self-preservation.

On the other hand, I was so proud of my son who in the past several days had become a young man right in front of my eyes.  His sense of adventure and self-confidence had grown exponentially in such a short time.  Did I really want to limit that?

I thought about telling him to go for it alone and I’d keep an eye out for sharks.  In the end that didn’t seem honorable.   So yes – I jumped in.  I dove down.  I swam along the bottom of the sandbar with my son.  I may have peed my pants a little.

Most importantly… I survived.  I even kind of enjoyed it.

It’s been almost a month since that trip and my son still talks about that day.   He tells random strangers that he swam with sharks and saw sand dollars as big as his head.  He is even requesting scuba lessons for his next birthday.   Not only that, I see that same self-confidence at work now that he has started a new school year with new peers and a new teacher.  It’s almost like he can handle anything because he did that.

I know that for most people diving on a sandbar is probably not that big of a deal – kid stuff.  But that one simple dive made a bigger impact on my son than I could ever imagine.

I can’t help but think: What if I said no to him that day?

As parents, we all want good things for our children.  We want them to do their best, to be successful, to make wise decisions, be kind, keep the right friends, follow Christ, give back to the community, be involved in church, and the list goes on.  But are we willing to go first?  How can we desire things for our children that we are not willing to pursue for ourselves?  We shouldn’t let our own fears and comfort zones limit our children’s lives.

So, parents, I issue the challenge to you: get out of the boat, dive into the deep stuff.  You will have to sacrifice.  It will cost you time and money.  It will be difficult.  I may even be uncomfortable.  But your children will follow… and one day they will go deeper than you could ever imagine.

Here are 3 things I think every parent should be involved in for the sake of their children:

1. Church

2. A Small Group/Bible Study

3. Community Service/Missions

So get out of the boat, Mom and Dad.  The water is beautiful.

Comments Off on parenting for sand dollars

godly parents
March 4, 2014, 5:01 pm
Filed under: parenting | Tags: , , , ,

I read a blog last week by a 19 year old who claims to have never rebelled and her article consisted of the top 5 things parents need to do so their kids don’t rebel either.  If I’m real honest, the whole article made me kind of sick.  First of all, I’m not in the habit of taking parenting advice from a teenager.  No offense meant.  I thought I knew everything about parenting at one time.  Then my wife got pregnant 3 times.  Secondly, I don’t think the mark of godly parents is a non-rebelling teenager.  My mother and step-father are two of the finest parents I know and two god-fearing people to boot.  I still screwed up.  A lot.  Finally, I think we need to redefine what we mean by rebellion.  Its a strong word that gets way overused in our American culture – just ask any third world country currently going through a true rebellion.

I know some of you may think your students are rebelling right now (and maybe they are).  But what if in actuality they are just expressing curiosity?  I know – our kids do things that we don’t understand… a lot!  As parents, it makes us feel like we’ve messed up or that our kids don’t trust/respect/love us.  But what if our kids are testing the boundaries BECAUSE we are doing a good job and BECAUSE they trust/respect/love us and they know that we trust/respect/love them too?  How do we teach ourselves to view our kids mistakes NOT as rebellion, but as… well… just mistakes?

Webster defines “rebellion” as “an act of violent or open resistance to an established government or ruler.”  In this case you (the parent) are the established government or ruler.  Like it or not, that’s your job.  God gave it to you, and you accepted when you participated in the life giving process of pregnancy and birth.  It was a pretty easy job to be the established government and ruler when your children just ate, slept, and pooped.  Then they learned how to run away screaming “no,” and its all been downhill since then.  However, before you are too quick to label your kids as rebels, ask yourself if they are indeed leading “a violent and open resistance to your rule.”  Or are they just being kids?  Just like I was a kid.  Just like you were a kid.

Now, to be fair, many teenagers do rebel.  This may be another topic for another day but I will give you my brief description of a TRUE rebelling teenager.  A true rebelling teenager leads to harming his/her self and/or his/her family in physical and emotional ways on a consistent, daily basis.  A true rebelling teenager will disappear, runaway, and lie on a consistent, daily basis.  A true rebelling teenager will break laws in order to feed their need to rebel on a consistent, daily basis.  I’ve helped with true rebelling teenagers and their families before, and usually I was joined by some sort of law agency or family services.  I can tell you there is a BIG difference between a kid who is testing boundaries and a kid who is truly rebelling.  However, both have a really good common trait – they both can change with the love and grace of Christ and his/her family… just like any student can.

So what is my point in all of this?

Your kids are going to test boundaries and your patience.  It is a part of growing up.  Your role as a parent is not to 100% completely prevent your kids from making mistakes.  That’s impossible, in case you didn’t know.  AND that is not the mark of a godly parent.  A godly parent finds the balance between love, grace, and discipline in order to help their kids learn from their mistakes in an environment of shared trust and respect.  You might just want to put that last sentence on the fridge.

If your child is participating in true rebellion and leading a violent open resistance to your rule, seek the help and counsel of the necessary agency, church, or ministry.

But if your child is just making mistakes… Try to keep extending love, grace, and discipline in an environment of trust and respect.  It might not make the difference you want today, but it will make an impact on your children… and their children… for the rest of your lives.

Sometimes we think Godly parenting is all about getting it all right, measuring up to some ridiculous standard, and raising perfect kids.  It’s not.  Godly parenting is all about parenting with total dependence on God… especially when our kids are testing boundaries.  Wait until your kids are adults before you deem yourself a bad parent.  You’re doing better than you think.

*Footnote: I did not link the referenced blog by the 19 year old because I mean no criticism to her or her heart in writing the article.  I applaud her for striving to seek God and to live her life according to His ways.  I do think some parents who are dealing with rebellion issues might find her thoughts a little defeating in the moment.  I simply wanted to share a different view of encouragement.

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