Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Power of Yes

I wrote a couple of months ago about getting back into running (if you missed it, you can read the article here). I am happy to say that my dog Kona and I have completed almost 350 miles in the past year, I am on my second pair of shoes, and, well, there are still some mornings when I just don't want to get out of bed early to run. However, during school breaks, when I don't have to get up so early, I enjoy going on a run (it's amazing how motivating it is when the sun is actually out). Yesterday, my seven year old asked if she could ride her bike with me and Kona. Sure! She's on a bike, I don't really have to slow down for her, so I let her ride and we had a lovely time together (of course I realized how much more difficult it is to run and have a conversation with my daughter). This morning, my five year old asked if she could join us and run with me. My initial answer was, "No, daddy is just going to run by himself today."

And then I stopped to think about why the default answer was no. Of course I had a hundred good reasons not to let her run with me. She will slow me down since she's not on a bike. It's 35 degrees outside. I can't run as far. I can't pay attention to one kid on a bike, one kid running, and an 80 pound dog on a leash while I'm trying to breathe. And the list could go on and on. And then I remembered the times I asked my parents for something ridiculous and they said yes. The times my dad went on a 4 mile walk with me so we could watch Monday Night Football. The dog they got me after years of asking for one. The firecrackers they let me buy when we went to Mexico (actually, I don't think they knew about those. Sorry mom and dad, but I sneaked those across the border and didn't get them from my friend Rami like I told you). This list could also go on and on.

I realized that my five year old was just asking to join me in something that I was already doing. Isn't that what I blog about? Isn't that the whole idea behind Renaissance Dad? Didn't I just write about answering yes when the kids ask if they can help (if you missed that one, you can read it here)? I'm not suggesting a blanket yes answer every time a kid asks a question. In hindsight, I'm glad that my parents never allowed me to jump into the pool from the roof of the house. I am saying that I am trying to search for my reason for a no answer to see if it is necessary before I give it. But there I was at 6:30 in the morning, without having had any coffee, trying to decide if my two daughters could go on a run with me. I was processing the best that I could and I couldn't come up with a legitimate reason not to let both come along. So I told them yes.

We bundled up, and with one on a bike, one running, and a dog on a leash, we went on a run. We managed a chilly 1.84 miles (a lot of that was me circling back to run with the kids), we had some good conversations, and I got great smiles from them throughout the run. And when we got home and walked through the door, my five year old said, "Daddy, I really like talking with you." Melt my heart, she could have asked for a pony and gotten one at that point. But I almost missed out on that because I was more interested in an average pace below nine minutes than time with my daughters. But I think that my 11:41 paced run will probably be one of the most memorable of 2015.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Teaching Kids Generosity: Giving as a Family

I love Christmas. I love decorations, and family, and gifts, and all that Christmas means. But it is so easy for me to get wrapped up in the craziness of the season that I miss out on what Christmas really means. Add on top of that the importance of teaching my kids how to get more excited about giving than receiving. Christmas can seem overwhelming.

Enter the Fritzes. The Fritzes are friends of ours who are great at getting their family focused on a singular cause. They regularly have fundraisers and raise money for causes that parents and kids can all get excited about. It began with two five-year-olds who wanted to raise money to help people in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. It is a remarkable story (read about it here), and I have often wondered how we could be more like the Fritzes (aside from ordering WWFD bracelets as a reminder).

This season we got a message from a friend of ours who lives in Rwanda and works for Azizi Life, an organization that works with Rwandan artisans to help sell products at a fair wage. They are beginning bee keeping endeavors, and our kids got excited about it. Really excited. As we told them about people who were wanting to be bee keepers as a way to provide for their families, we decided that we wanted to help. So we came up with the idea to give a Christmas present to Jesus. Here's what we're doing. We decided to look for ways to make extra money, and that money would go into a bag that hangs up by our stockings. At the end of the Christmas season, whatever is in the bag will be our gift that will go to help Azizi Life bee keepers begin their work.

Here's what I didn't expect. Our kids went nuts. First they went to their piggy banks. I thought that maybe they would pull out some of their money, but they emptied their piggy banks and put everything in the bag. Then they started looking for things to sell. The neighbors were having a garage sale, so all three kids went through their toys, loaded up a wagon, and went to latch on to the neighbor's garage sale. On top of that, Big E, my seven year old, decided that she would make and sell fresh squeezed lemonade at the garage sale (all of this with permission from our neighbors; I don't want to get excommunicated from the neighborhood). Then they started looking for other ways to make money. The entrepreneurial spirit really took over. I've been listing and selling things on Craigslist for them, and every time something sells, they excitedly take the cash and put it in the bag. I have no idea how much money is in the bag, but I am so excited for the joy in giving that I see growing in my kids.

I grew up watching my parents' generosity, specifically my dad's. I don't think that I have ever gone over to my parents' house when my dad has not offered me something to take home. And he is like this with everybody. I'm amazed that my parents have anything left in their house with how generous my dad is, and my kids are seeing this and doing the same. What this means during Christmas is that our kids' excitement comes in the form of wanting to see others open up their presents, instead of getting excited about what they're getting. They do not have lists of things that they want for Christmas; in fact, when a family member asks what one of my kids is hoping for for Christmas, I usually have no idea, since we usually just talk about what we're getting for other people.

So when I expected that my kids would do some extra chores to make a few dollars for a charity, what I saw was them modeling generosity. What they taught me was that we should look at everything that we have and be willing to give some things away to help those who could use it. I don't expect that this is the last Christmas that we will have a cause to give to. But I do expect that I will continually learn about generosity from my family as they remind me of ways that we can help others.