F.A.Q.

parkers

Last week my wife was out for a walk.  A man who is an acquaintance of ours stopped his car to have a brief chat with her.  He pointed directly at her belly and said, “Looks like you guys don’t know when to quit, do you?”  He said this in reference to the obvious fact that my wife is very pregnant.  Melody did not really respond as she was both stunned by his words, and she is very nice.  But if I had been there, I definitely would have said something.  I will let you decide whether or not my absence was a good thing.

Yes, we are a few weeks away from the birth of our eighth child.  And something about having what many people consider to be a lot of children makes people feel like they need to share things with you.  Complete strangers, when they learn that this isn’t our first child, or our third, or sixth, suddenly want to ask questions or wax philosophic.  Unfortunately, most of this is done toward my wife.  So I am not afforded the opportunity to respond.  Well, that changes right now.  Here are my responses to all the questions, comments and sometimes downright lunacy directed toward a woman about to give birth for the eighth time.

“You do know what causes this, right?”  Yes, we are aware of what causes this.  Are you aware that you are not funny and that joke is tired?

“Is this the last one?”  The last one what?  The last baby my wife will give birth to?  The last child we would gladly welcome into our home?  The last time I will talk with you?  Be more specific.

“I could never handle that many kids.”  I know you and you are probably right.  Wait, drop the probably.

“You trying for your own baseball team?”  Nope, Quidditch.  But we overshot by one.  Oh, sorry.  You don’t know what Quidditch is?  Try some reading.

“You guys must really like kids.”  Nope.  Hate’em.  Just really love changing diapers.

“I bet you guys never get even a moment alone do you?”  Eight pregnancies don’t happen by magic buddy.

“You can’t possibly spend enough time with each one of them.”  Of course not.  We picked out two of them awhile back to just ignore.  Think of it as a sociological experiment.

“How can you afford all those kids?”  We can’t.  How about ten bucks?

“You trying to get your own TV show?”  Yes, actually.  It is a show where I go around punching stupid people in the face.  Today is our first show.  Yay, you get to be on TV!

“Are you Catholic?”  How many Catholic’s do you know with eight kids?  No we aren’t Catholic.  We attend Holy Uterus Church of the Womb.  No, not the one’s who use the rhythm method, they’re apostate.

“Are you Mormon?”  Again, no.  Well some of us are.  We have too many kids to all fit in one car so we attend a couple of churches.

“I can’t imagine eating out with all those kids.”  I can’t imagine eating anywhere with you.

“I just couldn’t do it.”  No one is asking you to.

Now, let me say that most people don’t mean anything bad with these questions or comments.  Many of them are just trying to connect with a world they find strange or unknowable.  Some make it pretty obvious that something about our having this many kids makes them feel guilty for some weird reason.  A few I think actually hate children.  But if deep down you wonder why we would do this, then let me talk seriously for just a moment about why we are about to have eight children.

It is not because it is easy for us.  We aren’t Superparents.  It’s hard.  It’s dang hard.  It’s exhausting.  It tests your patience and your kindness.  Stretches your willingness to give to the breaking point.  I will not pretend that I don’t every once in a while, look at someone who is my age and is almost done raising children and think, wow that must be nice.

We don’t do this because it’s fun (although it most definitely is!!!).  We aren’t having more babies to try to prove something.  We aren’t in a cult.  We don’t believe this is what everyone has to do.  We don’t believe it makes us better than anyone else.

We are having another child because that is the blessing God has given us.  We are willing to have more children because that is the calling from Jesus He has placed on us.  We gladly take on the responsibility of another child because we believe God will provide the patience and stamina we need in the moment we need it.

We are having an eighth child because the seven we already have been the most wonderful, amazing, most life-changing gifts we have ever received.

Nothing has transformed me, matured me, like having all these kiddos.  My compassion is deeper, my patience longer.  I am learning how to love in the midst of difficulties, to be responsible in the midst of chaos.  I am forced to constantly reconsider whether something is actually important (almost nothing is actually important and the list keeps shrinking).  They have taught me the real meaning of wealth, and the utter foolishness of holding on tightly to a few dollars.

The major problem with our world is not too many people, but too few who actually know how to share and get along with others.  My kids and I are learning that lesson together.  You must share to get through even a day at our house.  You don’t have “your room” since there are a couple other people who could make the same claim.  The operative words are “our” and “us” not me and mine.

I don’t want to try to convince anyone that having a passel of kids is the key to life.  But I have had numerous people say to me (and us) that they wish they would have had more children.  I have yet to have anyone say they should have had less (although I know they are out there somewhere).

I love these guys.  Every one of them.  Would have been perfectly happy with seven.  But eight sounds even better.

And now to answer the man who spoke with my wife last week.

“You guys don’t know when to quit, do you?”  Quit what?  Talking to morons?  Yeah I guess we don’t know when to quit.

Or how about: “You guys don’t know when to quit, do you?”  Are you making a fat joke about my wife?  You thought she was pregnant?!

Or: “You guys don’t know when to quit, do you?”  I’ve watched you ___________  ____  _____  _____  ______  ______  ____  _______!”  (sorry, redacted by my wife for being just too mean and accurate.)

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Rick Barry Can Help Your Relationships (And Your Free Throws)

ricky barry

Rick Barry is a jerk.  Seriously.  According to a lot of people.  Most people.  Even family members.  If you don’t know Barry, he is a Hall of Fame basketball player.  Won league MVP honors.  Is considered one of the three or four best shooters EVER.  But, he is just as well-known for two things besides basketball ability.  One, he shot free throws underhanded (granny shot).  And two, he is a jerk.

You see Barry is a perfectionist.  That’s why he shot free throws underhanded.  (listen to Gladwell’s podcast to learn more about Barry and free throws, it’s really good)  Apparently, it is the most effective means of making them.  And Barry made them.  But Barry also expected others to have the same level of perfection when it came to basketball.  He would gripe at teammates for not doing everything to maximize their basketball prowess and therefore the team’s chance to win.  He complains about high-fiving players who missed a shot.  He can never understand why everyone wouldn’t shoot free throws like him when it is obviously the best way to do it.

Does any of this sound familiar?

The kid who practices piano for twenty hours a week can’t understand why anyone would practice an instrument less.  “Don’t you want to get good at it?”  But he probably also doesn’t get the kid that would practice 40 hours a week.  That is insane.

If I work 50 hours a week, I look at somebody who works seventy and say “good grief, get a life, be with your family.”  If someone works 35 I view them as lazy or perhaps entitled.  MY zone is THE zone.  Everyone’s home should be as clean as mine.  Maintain their cars at the same level I do.

But Barry confronts us with something because he is so far down the road.  We all have different “zones”.  Differing levels of expectation and perfectionism.  I know almost no one at Barry’s level.  But if I look honestly at my life and others, I see many different zones, most of which do not match mine.

This is critical as we deal with others in relationship.  I would guess that much of our frustration with others comes from real differences in our zones.  We butt heads because their zone just feels wrong to us.  But it feels wrong for a very good reason.  Because it is wrong for us.  We are not them.  They are not us.  For relationships to work I must be willing to drop the expectation that others will view life, work, relationships and love just like I do.

Who is right, the wife who is mad at her husband for not doing more to clean up dinner, or the husband who goes outside and plays with the kids?   Should we really expect everyone to have the same desire we do when it comes to work and family and friends?

Barry was right.  Let’s don’t forget that.  He had found some seriously better ways to play basketball.  But he found them because of his zone.  But what trapped him was that he could not manage to berate his teammates to move to his level.  Huh.  Something there will preach.

It’s funny.  When I go to the public library I typically wander over to the new book section.  Fiction is on the left, and I peruse it, scanning for anything interesting.  Then my eyes shift to the right.  Non-fiction.  I typically flip through a couple of biographies.  Skim the back cover of some political or sports book.  But my gaze inevitably falls on a particular set of books.  They are about business or entrepreneurship, leadership or maximizing potential.  They urge me to now “Smash It” and “Lead” and “Build my Brand.”  I stare at them for a moment.  And the same thought always goes through my head: “Nah, I don’t want to smash it”.  That’s right, I don’t really care if I maximize my potential.  At least not in the way those books mean it.

Rick Barry believed in shooting free throws underhanded because it was the best way to do it.  He was a perfectionist.  Other’s wouldn’t do it because they thought it made them look like a “sissy.”  What’s amusing is that if I made the NBA, I would shoot underhanded like Barry.  But not because I am a perfectionist.  I would shoot the granny shot because I would want to get along with Rick Barry.  Be his friend.  Relationships, that’s my zone.

One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and others is permission to be different.  To have various levels of desire and expectation.  We must recognize that someone who does life differently than we do isn’t crazy or lazy.  Nah.  They are just different.

Family Camp Fears

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Last week I went to Family Camp. That may sound completely awesome or absolutely horrible to you. And I would understand either perception. The word “camp” may bring back wonderful memories of your youth spent in little cabins in the woods, or remind you of debilitating heat and humidity and mosquitos the size of attack helicopters. But Family Camp turned out to be a wonderful week for our entire family.

We went to Glorieta, New Mexico and enjoyed time in the scenic mountains, a rafting trip down the Rio Grande, archery tag (you read that right), mountain biking, zip lines, and so much more. We met other amazing families, had some pretty incredible food, and were ministered to by such a great staff. My hat is off to Josh Baker and all his minions!

But it wasn’t all fun and games. There was some soul-searching that I desperately needed. And what I discovered was something both simple and extremely difficult. I learned that my children and I suffer from the same disease: Fear. Not fear of something lurking in the trees, or even fear of crashing on a mountain bike trail. No, a deeper and darker set of fears. Fears so prevalent and anxiety producing that they can weigh us down and keep us from becoming who we were truly meant to be.

You see, one day, as we talked about burdens at camp, many of my children expressed their fears of rejection, insignificance and loneliness.

I get it. Boy do I get it.

Confession time. I come across as pretty confident and self-assured. Yet, deep down I often feel unwanted, incapable, under-appreciated. Sometimes I don’t try as hard as I can because that way when things don’t work out, I can always think it was lack of effort on my part, not lack of acceptance or appreciation from others. Yes, the fears of loneliness and rejection that my children mentioned are writ large in me.

So what can we do? Obviously we should work on our fears. Push through. Talk about them with God. But there is something else I learned that is even deeper than my fears. Family can be the place where rejection, need for attainment, insignificance, and loneliness are crushed under an avalanche of acceptance, love and togetherness. When I think about my fears, they so often have to do with whether someone will think I did a good job, or whether somebody thinks highly enough of my work to hire me. But I do not fear my five-year old daughter will reject me. She and I have a bond of acceptance that runs deeper than any anxiety. Why am I so concerned with what strangers think of me when the most precious gifts God has given me offer nothing but affirmation and love?

I know not every family has that. Family can be the place where some of us feel the most rejected. But even if that is the case, maybe we can be the starting point for changing that. Perhaps I can love and accept and hug and kiss and affirm and honor my family in such a way that their fears disappear when I am around.

The claim of Jesus is that “perfect love drives out fear”. I think the opposite is often true as well, “fear pushes away love and acceptance”. We truly do live in a battle ground between fear and love. May our homes and families become places of refuge, where fears are relieved, and love always wins.

Ode To Mommy

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I live with a woman. Her name is Melody. Or at least it used to be. The other day, for I think the first time ever, I did what countless parents and grandparents have done before me. I always said I wouldn’t, but there I was, giving in. Yes, I called Melody…mom.

You know what I am talking about. I was conversing with my kids and my wife. I turned and looked at her and said, “Well, mom, what do you think?” What’s funny is I don’t think she even noticed. When seven people have been crying out “Mom!” all day, what is one more voice?

The point is, this beautiful, energetic, dedicated woman I married, has become Mom. Now, I am not talking about her only having an identity as a mother. Please. What I mean is, I have witnessed the transformation of a woman from single, to married, to mom. I know her as a missionary, a counselor, a student, a girlfriend, fiancé, wife, friend. But for these seven little (well, not all little) people she is mom, and forever will be.

I am amazed by her ability to completely immerse herself in this. Sure she struggles, gets stressed, wants alone time. But over and over she gives herself to these tiny beings. She loves them, cajoles them, cleans them, consoles them, feeds them, and hugs them. She immerses herself in being their mom. Finds utter joy in it. She is so completely dedicated to them that I often feel a little selfish and self-centered around her. I fall back on the knowledge that the greatest thing I ever did for my children was get them this mom. I can’t top that!

We often applaud what we think to be the work of mothers. The time spent mopping or washing clothes or changing diapers. But ultimately, what truly makes a mommy is their willingness to pour themselves out. It is not what they do that makes them so special. It is how they give from the deepest parts of their souls.

I know that holidays like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day are a mixed bag for so many people. Bittersweet. Or sometimes just bitter. So, I send hope and healing to all who struggle with loss, or infertility or a difficult past as Sunday approaches.

But I also want to say, that if I could wish anything for you this Mother’s day, it is that you find someone in your life, like the lady in mine. A woman emptying herself for the good of the others God has given her. Just being around them is inspiring. So this weekend I hope you get to spend some special time with a mom. A mommy. And just soak in the beauty of giving.

Slightly Stressed

 

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A little honesty today. I have seven children (that’s not the honesty part). Most of the time I am really glad I do. They bring joy, fun, and many opportunities for growth in my life. But every once in a while it is overwhelming. It has been almost fifteen years since nobody in our house needed a diaper change. A trip to the grocery store obliterates the budget. The other day I was in Wal-Mart. Just getting a couple of little things. Had my three-year old and ten month old with me. Suddenly, I had an urgent need to use the restroom. What do you do? Yes, I sat on a toilet while holding a ten month old and trying to keep an eye on a three-year old. When I walked out of the stall carrying a baby with my pants still down (underwear was up!) the employee at the sink looked at me like I was Ted Bundy.

What I am saying is this: it is very easy to be overrun, overwhelmed and just want it over. I desperately need reminders of why I am doing this, and the beauty of what I am doing. So here are a few tips to help us all get through the days when it seems like too much.

Hug every kid. When it feels overwhelming just stop. Stop trying. Stop talking. And just walk around and give everyone a hug. Then see where you are.

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Find something to be thankful for. That dollar you found in the dryer. The friend who unexpectedly called to just say hello. The child who didn’t do what you wanted, but instead colored a picture for you. Say “thank you” out loud.

Notice the good in everything. Our one-year-old likes to scream. Don’t know why. Don’t think there is a reason. But he likes to hit you out of nowhere with a Roger Daltry level yell. It will make your ears bleed. And, he does it in the middle of the night. Yes, a scream combined with still waking up several times a night. So what could possibly be the good I see here? Nothing. Just kidding. The good is hard to see. But if you have ever been at the birth of a child, then you know that the sound of their first cry/scream is actually joy to your ears. It means they are breathing, healthy, alive. My son’s screams leave no doubt he is alive and healthy. I am so glad he is.

Do less. I know that seems counter-intuitive. When we are behind and stressed our tendency is to work harder and try to “get it all done.” Oh, we are a bunch of Martha’s. Sometimes what is most needed is to stop, sit down, and let the world fly by for a minute. Watch your son play with his Hot Wheels. Listen to your daughter tell her silly story. I know, the dishes need to be washed. But is that what is most needed? Is that what you will remember in twenty years? That you got all the chores done? So many times we say that we need to get stuff done so we can do what we really want or what really matters. Why not do what really matters first? Has anyone ever, in the history of the world, said that their biggest regret in life was that they played with their child instead of doing the laundry?

The point is, don’t let everything that needs to be done overwhelm your reason for doing it. You vacuum because you love your family (right?). But if the need to get the vacuuming done makes you stressed and irritable, that’s not loving. I don’t want a dirty rug, but what’s it worth?