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Excerpt for Caution Ahead: 94 Ways to Navigate Parenthood by , available in its entirety at Smashwords



Caution Ahead


94 Ways
To Navigate Parenthood





Dave Dutrow

Copyright © 2018 Dave Dutrow

All rights reserved.

ISBN-10: 1987791436

ISBN-13: 978-1987791433


DEDICATION



To Kiersten, Katie, and Kelsey: my three girls who teach me new lessons every day. And to Lori, my wonderful wife who helps me make my way through this grand adventure we call parenting.



CONTENTS





ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


This book would not be possible without the help of many people. First of all, of course, I have to thank my family. Lori puts up with a lot from me, and that was never truer than throughout the process of making this book a reality. My girls, Kiersten, Katie, and Kelsey, were also extremely patient, even as they sometimes vetoed stories I wanted to put in the book. Once the book was written, I had some tremendous friends read through it and offer their thoughts on the book: the good, the bad and the ugly. So I want to thank the following people for proofreading my book and letting me know when I wasn’t making sense, when the lesson I thought I had learned was obviously NOT learned, and when I had added or left out punctuation and/or key words: Sam and Mary Dutrow (my parents who learned all of these lessons long before I did while raising me and my brother and sister), Alisa Edmonds, Lori Dutrow, Kiersten Dutrow, Katie Dutrow, and Christina Eder. Ashley Moody provided the incredible pictures for the front and back cover. Ashley is a wonderful photographer and even better person. Rob Ballister helped me walk through the publishing process. I know I am forgetting countless others who aided in the creation of this book, including all those who encouraged me to write it in the first place (and you know who you are).


Introduction

This book originated from my Facebook posts over the years. Several people told me I should write a book detailing some of the funny stories of my family. I thought about it a while and decided to write a book that tells the funny stories and the lessons I learned through those experiences. I had no idea how long the book would be, but quickly came to realize I was limited not by the number of funny stories and lessons I have learned from them, but only by how long I want to make the book. I thought about writing 100 lessons because that seemed like a nice round number. My oldest daughter convinced me to teach 94 lessons. I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1994, so 94 has always had a special significance to me.

Before reading these stories, however, it would be helpful to have a general idea of who the people are who are highlighted in these stories. All of the stories have taken place over the last year and a half, so the ages of my girls only vary by a year maximum for any given story. For example, Kiersten may be 16 during some of the stories, but only 15 in others. Without any further ado, here are the main characters you’re going to love like I do.

My wife Lori and I have been married for a little over twenty years now. She is the yin to my yang, and although we have struggles like every other married couple, it has been a wonderful ride over these twenty years. We often see things differently, which can get interesting at times. They say opposites attract, and that is certainly true in our case. Lori helps keep me grounded, and provides a greatly needed unique perspective on situations. I depend on her for innumerable things, and our family would be lost without her.

Kiersten is our oldest daughter. She is 16, and a sophomore in high school. Kiersten has a huge heart and is someone who cares deeply and passionately about her friends and family. She has an incredibly sharp wit and loves a good steak. Kiersten’s ability to read people is a great asset she continues to develop. She also has an amazing talent for working with children with special needs. She has an innate patience with them and can easily connect with them in ways few people can. Kiersten is truly a special gift to our family.

Katie is our middle child. She is 8 and in second grade. Katie’s mind assembles information on a different level than most second graders, and she has a gift for solving problems quickly and easily. She is outgoing and funny, although she often doesn’t realize how funny she is. Katie’s greatest gifts are her intellect and attitude. No one is ever a stranger to Katie and she seems to become friends with everyone she meets. She is a voracious reader and now writes her own short stories. Katie navigates the role of middle child effortlessly.

Kelsey is our youngest daughter. She is soon to be a 3-year-old, and the most strong-willed of our children. Kelsey is adorable and knows it, and she instinctively sees how to use that to her advantage. Most people who see her occasionally say they have never seen her without a smile. I am here to tell you I can testify differently. Kelsey has rare determination, and will stop at nothing to get whatever she sets her mind to getting. We look forward to what the future holds with this little dynamo. Kelsey has the potential to do anything.

There are two dogs featured in our family story. Duke was our yellow lab who we had for over ten years. He was an amazing dog and played a huge role in our lives. Sadly, he died in November 2016. We all still miss him, and I must admit I still occasionally call Rex by the wrong name. Rex is our “new” puppy. He is a black lab/German shepherd mix, and about a year and half old. He is a fairly big dog (~75 pounds or so), but certainly still a puppy. Rex is Kelsey’s best friend and constant playmate, just as Duke was. Rex now sleeps with Kiersten (also like Duke used to).

I cannot wait to see what my girls do in the future. I know each of them can change the world, and Lori and I are blessed we have been called to prepare them for God’s plans! So without further ado, here are 94 lessons I have learned from my girls that I hope will also be helpful to you.

Friends

Lesson 1: Sometimes a kid’s “help” does not turn out as planned…… and that is okay.

Katie often enjoys helping out around the house. This is especially true when it comes to her younger sister Kelsey. One day Katie had a friend spend the night on a Saturday. So of course the next morning, everyone was getting ready for church. As one might imagine, this can sometimes be chaotic in a house with four females. And on this particular day, we had added another female into the mix. But Katie and her friend Harper were able to get ready pretty quickly and ready to help out however they could.

They decided they could do Kelsey’s ponytail. Kelsey, being two years old, is not always patient while people are messing with her hair. As a result, their efforts did not turn out as they had envisioned. As Katie told me: “Dad, that didn’t turn out well.”

But the key thing was not that the two seven-year-old girls were able to put up Kelsey’s hair in a perfect ponytail. The most important thing is the servant’s heart developing within them. If we dismiss their efforts to help in one instance, they are likely to be less inclined to help later on. Kiersten can do Kelsey’s hair without any trouble at all. But her willingness to do Kelsey’s hair today comes from similar experiences when Katie was a toddler and Kiersten tried (unsuccessfully) to do her hair.

Always encourage your kids to help anytime they offer. It may not be as “helpful” in the moment as you would like, but you are developing something much more important in them, and encouraging them to think of others instead of focusing on themselves. I promise it will pay off in the long run. I have seen it and continue to see it play out in our household.










Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.

Ephesians 6:7

Lesson 2: Let kids do as much as they can on their own, especially if they are asking for the responsibility.

Katie is a big fan of cooking breakfast on the weekends. She is my early riser, and usually, the first thing she asks me when she comes downstairs is what we are going to cook for breakfast. She has progressed from being my helper, or my sous chef as we say, to being the executive chef who has her own kitchen and sous chef (me).

Sometimes, Katie has a friend spend the night and on these occasions she enjoys having a new sous chef. At this point I get kicked to the curb (to a certain extent). On one occasion, Katie and Harper came downstairs and wanted to make pancakes by themselves. All I was required to do was get out the griddle, and they were off and running.

The pancakes turned out great. There was only one problem with their meal. The kitchen looked like a hurricane had come through it!! The mess I had to clean up was incredible, but I was okay cleaning it up because I didn’t have to cook.

The next time those two were together, they again wanted to make pancakes. They simply said: “Dad, just get out the griddle and get out of the way!” I mentioned the huge mess they had made last time and asked if we could try and limit the mess to a Category 2 hurricane this time instead of a Category 4. The two of them had no recollection of ANY mess that had been left in their wake the last time they cooked.

However, at the end of this second breakfast experience, the mess was certainly more limited. I won’t say there was NO mess but it was more contained. If you allow your kids to take more responsibility, even if they are not COMPLETELY ready to handle every aspect, it can turn into a development opportunity for them. Their execution will improve over time. If they are never given the chance to spread their wings, they will never soar to greater heights of responsibility.








Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.

Proverbs 10:4

Lesson 3: Children love their siblings, even if they don’t always show it.

Kiersten went away on a ten day trip with her grandmother to explore the Northeast and get some Maine lobster (the original impetus for the trip). One evening at dinner, Katie said she wished Kiersten was home again because she missed her. So we called Kiersten to say hi, and this call morphed into FaceTimeing with her.

Well, as soon as there was a picture of her sister, Kelsey wanted to hold the phone and “talk face-to-face” with her. Once she had the phone there was no getting it back from her. She was running around the house yelling into the phone and laughing and having a great time, both because she got to talk with Kiersten and because everyone else was trying to get the phone back from her.

Now, this scenario was complicated by the fact that because Kelsey had decided she wanted to start potty training, she ran around the house with no diaper on, swinging the phone wildly as she ran. I was mostly afraid she was going to dump the phone in the toilet to show us she could put SOMETHING in the potty. After all, that’s what we wanted, right?

Luckily, everyone (and the phone) survived that particular FaceTime. Kiersten made it back from her trip and she and Katie immediately started getting on each other’s nerves again. But inarguably, in that span of time where they were apart, they both missed each other.

My brother, sister, and I fought A LOT growing up. But we are now adults (age-wise, anyway) and we get along great. It may not always seem like siblings get along. Often they simply don’t see eye-to-eye but there is always love between them, even when it is obscured by the screaming. Hold on to that! Or grab a pillow and scream into it yourself. Either option can be cathartic.






We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

1 John 4:19-21

Lesson 4: Go out and seek new adventures. Try something new every once in a while.

We are good friends with the McClain family. We met them at church, and their daughter Josie is Kiersten’s best friend. We have learned many things from them over the years. Some of these lessons have been parenting lessons and others are just good life lessons. The McClain’s have a tradition when they are on a road trip. When they are looking for a place to eat, they try to find someplace with some “local flavor” rather than stopping at a chain restaurant. They usually find these places based on reviews found on Yelp, and have had great success finding wonderful “hole in the wall” places to eat. And of course, those are almost always the best places!

On one trip, we decided to try the McClain method of choosing a restaurant. We found a Mexican place in this tiny town we were driving through and decided to try it out. When we got there, it was a great little Mexican bakery (not exactly a restaurant), but right next to it was a taco truck. I am always up for a good taco, and what better place for a taco than a place that said “Taco Truck” on the side, right?

However, Lori overruled my choice and we ended up at a little local burger joint. They had some great burgers and even better milkshakes. We thoroughly enjoyed it, even with the small hiccup of finding a bakery instead of a restaurant on our first attempt. We decided we would try the “local flavor experience” again. But I still wonder what the tacos from the taco truck would have tasted like…..

If you are anything like me, you may be described as a creature of habit. I know what restaurants I like, and I know what I like to eat at those restaurants. Occasionally I stray off the well-beaten path I have created for myself, but not often. I need to get out more and broaden my horizons. I usually like it when I try it. Not always, of course, but often enough that I should do it much more frequently. As you go through life, try new things. Those new experiences could end up being some of your favorite things to do in the future.






I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

Lesson 5: Kids and pets often speak the same language.

One day I was talking to Lori on the phone. At one point, she said to me: “Rex is barking at Kelsey as if she were trying to take his toy away from him….Oh, wait. She IS trying to take his toy away from him.” I got a good chuckle out of that because it was certainly not the first time I had heard something like that.

Kelsey and Rex have a funny relationship. Kelsey was a year old when we got Rex. We had a yellow lab named Duke before Rex, and Kelsey adored Duke. Duke was an older dog, but he was incredibly good with her. When we got Rex, he was a little puppy, but we knew he would be a big dog. We were a little concerned because Duke was so good with Kelsey and would let her do anything to him without getting upset.

We decided to get obedience training for Rex when he was young. He is incredibly good with Kelsey. It helps that she provides him with a constant source of food from the table, but the two of them are best friends. When Kelsey gets up in the morning, the first thing she usually does is go to Rex’s bed in the living room and lay on it, using him as a pillow.

They play tug-of-war with toys, both Rex’s and Kelsey’s. Rex is exceedingly gentle with her. He is less gentle with Katie but still fairly calm. With Kiersten, Lori, or myself he goes full out, shaking his head from side to side vehemently. Rex and Kelsey will talk to each other. She will say something to him, and he will bark back at her. They carry on an entire conversation! Sometimes I think they are plotting against us.

If you have kids and pets, watch how they interact. I am a dog person, so I am certainly partial to dogs. Watching the love a dog has for us is about as close as we can get to seeing God’s love for us in our lives. And kids seem to have a more direct way communicating with those pets than we adults do. Someone should do a study on that phenomenon.







The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

Isaiah 11:6

Lesson 6: Kids and pets together cause more trouble than apart……always.

Kelsey is two and Rex (our black lab/German shepherd mix) is one, so they are growing up together. We were a little concerned about getting a puppy we knew was going to be a big dog with a baby around, because of course babies are not known for being gentle……with anything. With that being said, they are pretty much inseparable, and there seems to be nothing she can do to make him mad at her (and believe me, she has tried almost everything from yanking on his tail to using him as a pillow).

Normally, both of them want to be right in Lori’s personal space. They follow her around the house, tripping her up at every opportunity. Occasionally, she can’t find either Rex or Kelsey. Usually, if she can’t find Kelsey, it’s because Kelsey has managed to find a marker (or three), and Rex wants no part of the insanity that invariably follows that discovery. If she can’t find Rex, he usually has found something to chew on, and he has hidden away to gnaw in peace.

Every once in a while, we can’t find either one of them. Those are the times we REALLY worry. If we can’t find either one, the chances are almost 100% the two of them are together and up to no good. Kelsey is a climber and has shown an amazing ability to put herself in locations she has no business being in. And Rex is ready to give her a boost if she needs it, even to the point of acting as a stepping stool!

If you have small children and pets, particularly young pets who have not gotten past the rambunctious stage, you need to keep an eye on them. Maybe put spy cams all over your house so you can capture those moments on video and send them in to America’s Funniest Videos or post them on YouTube. Maybe that’s what we should do. No good will come from a disappearing act that includes a small child and a pet. I promise you that.







You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.

Ezekiel 28:15

Lesson 7: Kids will get attached to your nicknames for them.

Each of our girls has a nickname. I highly recommend nicknames, as generally these terms of endearment are given because you care about someone. No one ever gives a nickname to someone they can’t stand. Okay, maybe that’s not exactly true, but the nicknames you give to people you love and care about are generally much nicer nicknames.

Anyway, here are my girls’ nicknames. Kiersten is Monkey because she was always climbing on everything as a baby. Katie is Pumpkin, because she was given a little pumpkin hat at the hospital when she was born, and we’d been calling her pumpkin during the pregnancy. Kelsey is Nugget because that is what we called her for months while Lori was pregnant and we didn’t want to tell the two older girls about the pregnancy yet.

Well, Kelsey has turned into quite the little climber as well. One night, Kelsey was climbing all over Lori at dinner, and I said: “Man, she is like a little monkey!!” Kiersten immediately glared at me. I quickly told Kiersten: “I said she is like A monkey, not MY monkey.” And so another crisis was narrowly averted.

My girls are all attached to their nicknames. Had I known they would get as attached to them as they have I may have put a little more thought into what the nicknames should be. I suppose hindsight is always 20/20, right? I’m just glad none of them hates their nickname.

I recommend you give each of your children a nickname, and use it often. It will help you develop a closer bond with them, just as you develop a bond with friends who have nicknames for you. There are people who to this day have never called me by my given name, only by my nickname Dutch. The nickname you have for your child will probably be the first one they have, and it will have special meaning for them. Just a word of caution: you’ll discover exactly how much special meaning it has for them any time you slip and use the wrong nickname for one of your kids. This is the voice of experience talking here.






A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Proverbs 22:1

Lesson 8: Your kids will learn your idiosyncrasies.

On Wednesday nights, Kiersten has youth group at church. It’s one of her favorite times of the week, as many of her friends are in her small group. I’m typically the one who drops her off and picks her up. I don’t mind this because I also have a lot of friends doing the exact same thing as me, and it gives me a chance to catch up with them.

Her small group has what one might call a “fluid” ending time. It can finish anywhere between 8:45 and 9:00, or occasionally even a little bit later if the girls are particularly chatty. Kiersten’s told me to get there at 9:00. That way, as she says: “Dad, if you’re at the church at 9, you won’t have to wait around for me as long.” She is always looking out for my best interests like that. Although the real reason she wants me to get there at 9:00, of course, is so she has time to talk with her friends until I get there.

I grew up as a Navy brat, and I was in the Navy, so as far as I am concerned, if you are early, you are on time, and if you are on time you are late. I do not hold others to this standard, but I do for myself, so I generally get to church at around 8:50-8:55. One night I got there, and saw one of Kiersten’s friends so I started chatting with her while waiting for Kiersten. She spotted Kiersten, so she glided over to tell Kiersten I had arrived and remarked: “I thought you told your dad to get here at 9:00. It’s only 8:55.” Kiersten smiled and said “8:55 IS 9:00 to my dad.”

We all have our own little quirks. Rest assured your children notice and learn those idiosyncrasies early on. They may or may not share those peculiarities, but they most assuredly know them. In fact, it may be interesting to ask your kids what they see as strange habits you have. You may learn something about yourself you never knew.








And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ

Philippians 1:9-10

Lesson 9: Never underestimate a child’s power of persuasion.

Sometimes my children’s ability to persuade others astounds me. One afternoon, Katie was out in the cul-de-sac playing with her friends. I walked out and told her she needed to pick up Rex’s poop in the backyard because our small group was meeting at our house that evening, and there would be a multitude of children out there playing in the backyard.

Every one of the kids Katie was playing with immediately chimed in with a chorus of “Ewww”. Her friends pleaded her case, asking if she could stay out and play a little while longer. But Katie, realizing it was pointless to argue, told them she would come back out when she got done picking up the poop. They asked what exactly she had to do, and she told them the whole process, making it sound as palatable as possible. Then she came in and got ready to get her gloved hands dirty.

Thirty seconds after Katie got on her latex gloves and headed out to the backyard, there was a knock at the door. I was slightly annoyed since her friends had all heard she had to finish her chores before playing any more. To my surprise, when I opened the door, three of Katie’s friends were there asking if I could get them some latex gloves so they could help Katie in the backyard. Stunned, I took them to the garage and got them each a pair of gloves. Within 5 minutes, they were done in the backyard, and they were all happily playing again in the cul-de-sac.

I would never have imagined a bunch of 7 and 8-year-old girls would all volunteer to put on gloves and pick up a dog’s poop without having to be told to do it. But there they were, all lined up and ready to act on behalf of their friend. I don’t know whether to chalk it up to salesmanship on Katie’s part or the fact she has chosen good friends who are willing to help her out, no matter how distasteful the task is. I have a feeling it is a combination of the two, as I have also seen Katie help her friends wash cars, clean out garages, and pull weeds.








Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

Philippians 2:4

Lesson 10: Show love for others, even when you are not getting anything out of it in return.

Katie loves helping in the kitchen, whether it is making breakfast on the weekends, helping on the grill, or making desserts. One day I asked Katie if she wanted to bake lemon bars with me for our Super Bowl party that day. Katie loves desserts but she does not share her Daddy’s love for all things lemon. I do not understand this. Still, I am hopeful a love of lemon will be something she eventually grows into.

She thought about my offer for a minute and said: “Okay, but only because it is you.” Now that is the true definition of love! She was willing to help make the lemon bars even though she wasn’t going to eat the finished product. It was a selfless act and we proceeded to have a great time making those lemon bars together. And the best part? There was no argument about who got to lick the whisk!

I lead a group of second graders at church on Sundays. That morning we had been talking about how you can show love to others around you. Katie made a perfect embodiment of that concept of unconditional love that day. All three of my girls do an admirable job living up to that ideal. None of them do it all of the time, of course. But each of them at times has helped either Lori, myself, their sisters, or friends accomplish something without expecting or receiving anything in return.

How much better would this world be if we all looked for opportunities to bless others without a single thought as to how the favor could be returned or what we might get out of it? If we would all look to help someone at least once per week, without expectation or desire of being paid back, this world would be a much brighter place.









A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

John 13:34

Lesson 11: Men and Women have different perspectives on the world.

Kiersten’s best friend, Josie, is my self-described fourth daughter. She fits right in everywhere we go. One day we were in the car heading to get ice cream and Josie said: “You know, if women ran the world, there wouldn’t be any wars. There would just be a bunch of countries not talking to each other.” I don’t recall what exactly brought forth this comment, but it got me thinking.

Men and women, speaking in broad generalities, approach conflict differently. When I was growing up, if I had a problem with another guy, friend or otherwise, we would settle it in relatively short order. Sometimes this involved a fight, and sometimes it involved talking it through. But once it was settled it was generally over and done with.

Women, on the other hand, will often let a problem simmer just under the surface, never fully addressed and therefore never solved. But because this disagreement is just below the surface, it’s available to pop up to the surface again at any moment.

Which of these approaches is better? I would say it depends on the situation. The first approach will generally get past the issue faster, because it is met head on (sometimes literally). Then again, someone may get hurt in the process (again, sometimes literally). The second approach may be better for an issue that will go away on its own without confrontation. But on the other hand, it can also leave things unresolved for great periods of time.

When faced with conflict, or the potential for conflict, it may be best to try to look at it objectively, in order to determine which course of action is best for that particular scenario. Neither is a one size fits all solution, although individuals will generally tend to gravitate to one or the other naturally.








Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

1 Corinthians 11:11-12

Lesson 12: Keep your children guessing. Life is more fun that way.

One day, I got a text from Kiersten asking if she could get a machete. I asked her if she even knew what a machete was and she responded: “Yes, a very long sharp knife.” She at least knew what she was asking for, so I decided to move on to determining exactly why she wanted a machete. When asked, her response was: “I mean, I’m gonna start dating soon.”

As sound as that logic seemed to Kiersten at the time, I told her she was insane, and no, she can’t have a machete. I subsequently found out she and Josie had a bet on whether or not I would allow her to get it in the first place. For some reason, those two have a lot of strange conversations with outlandish hypotheticals. At that point, it is sometimes up to me to settle the disagreement.

Kiersten, for some unknown reason, thought I would allow her to have a machete. I thought my girls knew me pretty well, but I guess sometimes it is good to keep them guessing. To this day, I am unsure what made her think I would agree to let her have a long, sharp knife. Maybe she had an inflated sense of her ability to talk her Daddy into things.

How often are your kids surprised by something you do or say? It is good to mix things up a little bit. Do you never allow them to have sweets in the afternoon? Maybe take them for ice cream on a Saturday afternoon. Or possibly just take a different route to the store to give you more time to talk to them while in the car. Predictability can be good in some cases, but in others it is good to keep your kids on their toes (which has the added benefit of making them look taller). When you change things up it can sometimes introduce opportunities to learn more about your kids that you never knew. It gives you a sharper perspective, almost like it was cut with a machete…










And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle.”

1 Samuel 3:11



Helping

Lesson 13: Kids all desire someone to look up to. Encourage your kids to be someone younger children yearn to emulate.

Kiersten went to a work conference with me last summer. While I was working at the conference during the day she hung out at the pool and relaxed. There was another gentleman at the conference who brought his entire family (with five children all under the age of ten) to the conference. Needless to say, he and his wife have their hands full.

Kiersten met the mom one morning at the pool and immediately started bonding with the kids. As a teenager with two younger sisters, she’s good at jumping in and initiating assistance with younger kids. She ended up spending a lot of the week with this family, sightseeing around town and exploring.

The day before we left the conference, Kiersten and I were walking by the pool, and I heard a chorus of young voices calling out: “Hi Kiersten!!” About a half hour later we were walking through the hotel, and I heard the same voices calling out to my daughter.

They had only known her for a few days, but just from interacting with them and spending time with them, she quickly made an impact on the whole family. The mother and father both sought me out individually to commend me on what a great daughter I have and how wonderful she is with their kids.

Lori and I certainly cannot take credit for how incredible Kiersten is with young kids. She works with kids every week at church and is something close to a miracle worker at times (especially with difficult children) from what we are told. We encourage her to use this God-given talent. We have seen the impact she has on young kids, and it is something to behold. Teens can often relate to young children at a level unavailable to most adults, so encourage your kids to take advantage of this, especially if they have a natural aptitude for it.







In everything set them a good example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Titus 2:7-8

Lesson 14: Let your kids help each other. It trains them to think of others later in life.

Like most toddlers, Kelsey has a lot of toys that require batteries in order to make them more annoying (I think toy manufacturers create battery-operated devices in order to test the noise tolerance level of parents)…. I mean in order to make them work and play the appropriate noises. Sorry. I don’t know what came over me there. One morning Kelsey had a “battery emergency” with one of her toys. Lori sent her to see if “Dr. Katie” could help her little sister out (Katie is a big fan of the Doc McStuffins cartoon character, as you may have guessed).

Katie dutifully took the toy and put it on her operating table (known throughout the rest of the world as the dining room table). She went to get a screwdriver to properly perform the necessary surgery. One must have the correct tools in order to do the job right, after all.

While she was away getting the screwdriver, Kelsey obviously got a little too close to the table. She can’t be blamed, as she was worried about the patient’s well-being. But when Katie got back she admonished Kelsey: “Get away from the exam table.” Kelsey obliged and moved back, and the “surgeon” was able to complete the procedure (replacing the battery) in short order. There was no time for recuperation for the patient, however, as Kelsey took it “home” immediately after surgery.

I love when my girls think of each other first. I will not lie and say they always think of each other first, but it certainly puts a smile on my face when they do, and Lori and I try to encourage that behavior in them. I believe we get more of the behavior we reward, even if that reward is simply a thank you, a smile, or even a knowing wink. They know we have recognized them helping out and are more likely to do it again. Try and catch your kids doing something right today. It will pay dividends down the road.







Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4

Lesson 15: Perception of an event varies based on your position.

I’m an early riser. Katie is also an early riser (although not as early as me). One morning, just before leaving for the gym, I heard Katie come out of her room and head to the bathroom upstairs. It is not a daily occurrence for her to get up before I leave, but it is not unusual, either.

One thing that must be understood is there is some sort of sound barrier between our downstairs and upstairs. I know this is true because my girls can never hear me when I call them from downstairs unless I “project my voice”. I heard her open her bedroom door and go to the bathroom, but she didn’t say anything to me. So I went ahead and left to go to the gym and to work.

As it turns out, Katie had gotten sick overnight. She was throwing up in the bathroom, and had already thrown up in her bedroom prior to going to the bathroom. She was not happy with me (as I found out later when I talked to Lori)! She told Lori: “Dad just abandoned me and went to the gym.”

Had I heard her throwing up (the sound barrier obviously works in reverse as well), I certainly would have stayed and helped her. My perception was that she had just gotten up a little bit early and was going to the bathroom. A perfectly normal day in our house, yet her perception was she was facing a time of dire need, her Daddy didn’t care and took off for the gym while she puked her guts out.

Who was right? Both of us. Both of those perceptions were true in terms of the actual facts of what happened. The only part that is not true is any perception of intent. Did I abandon her in her time of need? Yes. Did I realize it at the time and do it purposefully? Absolutely not. But I had to apologize to her when I got home that night and try to make it up to her with plenty of snuggles. Katie readily forgave me and accepted the snuggles as payment in full for my transgression.

It’s helpful to remember that based on what role you play in a story, your perception of said story is likely to change. Try and put yourself in a different role in the same story to see if you can relate to how they feel about it. It may be eye-opening for you. And hopefully your children will be as forgiving as mine when they perceive that you have failed them.

You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen.

Isaiah 42:20

Lesson 16: Children have solutions to problems adults would never think of.

One evening Kelsey decided she had had enough of……well, everything, it seemed. She kept crying and could not or would not be consoled by either Lori or me. I don’t know exactly what the problem was, or even a close approximation. I wouldn’t wager a guess, but the fact remains she was crying nonstop. Lori and I tried everything we could think of to calm her down. We rocked her, prayed over her, talked soothingly. Nothing at all consoled her.

Meanwhile, Katie was in the living room reading. Eventually, she got tired of her sister crying and decided to do something about it. She walked into the kitchen, got right in Kelsey’s face, and growled at her like a lion. Kelsey immediately stopped crying and growled back at Katie. The two of them growled back and forth at one another until Kelsey was laughing. At that point, Katie turned to us and said: “And THAT is how you get a baby to stop crying!!” And she went back to the other room to continue reading.

Keep in mind Kelsey is not our first child. She is our third baby, and one would think we would have picked up some tips and tricks over the course of raising two other daughters. The thought of simply growling at the baby would never have occurred to us in a million years. We would rock side to side, back and forth, up and down, sing to her, pray for her, feed her, etc. We had a whole lot of tools in our tool chest.


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