Thinking Out Loud

May 29, 2016

Yesterday We Graduated from University

Filed under: Christianity, family, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:26 am

He graduated in terms of actually taking the courses and getting the diploma. We graduated in terms of parenting him through the process. His undergraduate years as a student are now behind him, as are our parent-of-an-undergraduate years.

James Dobson frequently talked about the role of parents to “just get them through it.” I have mixed feelings about that phrase. I like the idea of parents seeing their offspring through the different stages of life, and going from A to B to C to D. But I think there’s more a parent can do. We can encourage them to completion of A and B and C, but we can also enrich the process so it isn’t reduced to a fatalistic ‘let’s get this over with and then we can relax.’ Women reading this are free to comment something like, ‘Only a male would say that parenting is just getting through it,’ because according to the stereotype, men are more goal oriented, and women are more process oriented. I would agree, there has to be more than just reaching graduation day, in the four or five years which lead up to it.

So yes, we worked to get him through it, but hopefully we also contributed to making it a life-changing experience regardless of the outcome; though, for the record, he did pass every course.

Congratulations, Aaron.


This also seemed like a good place to reiterate some text which has appeared, I believe, three times here now.

no vacancyOur kids hated road trips. We would get to a city, walk into a motel, pull out our coupon book, and then be told that due to a soccer tournament, there were no motels with openings anywhere within an hour radius. Back to the car, hungry, hot, tired, and another hour’s drive.

Later on, we discovered the joy of planning destinations ahead, and making reservations, though by that point, the kids were older and opting out of our excursions.

Their road trip phobia later turned into an interesting object lesson.  I told them that somewhere in the future, they will find themselves in situations that will tempt them to compromise their principles, or do something foolish and unsafe. We said that like our motel example, they need to pre-book their choices. That way they won’t regret something done in the heat of the moment. Decide now what they will and won’t do.

August 23, 2011

Students ‘Fess Up To Teacher 15 Years Later

Summer re-runs; what can I say? But a great link list tomorrow, I promise!

A decade and a half ago I was just finishing a one-year part-time contract at the local Christian school, teaching Bible, art, music, language and spelling.

Split grade seven and eight spelling to be precise. A weekly list. A weekly test. The one piece of the job I could farm out to my wife, whose spelling is dead-on accurate. (And proofreading, if you have anything that needs doing.)

This morning we visited the church where, at the time, half of the students in the Christian school attended; and one of them, who was not in my class, informed me that both my wife and I had been had.

Turns out, if they didn’t know how to spell a word, they would simply write down some other correctly spelled word. My wife would mark the word as correct, never suspecting that they were up to something. (And not noticing the variation in words, since she was doing two grades at once.)

Isn’t church like that. We give right answers, not so much to direct questions, but insofar as we say the right things and use the right words and phrases. Even if we’re giving the answer to a question that’s not being asked. (“It sure sounds like a “squirrel” but I think I’m supposed to say “Jesus.” *)

As long as we’re providing responses that are not stained by the messiness of misspellings, we’re given the proverbial red check mark by our church peers. Nobody ever suspects the possibility that they are being had.

We’ve lost the ability to say, “I’m not sure;” or “I don’t know;” or “That’s an issue I’m wrestling with in my own spiritual life.” We’re too proud to say, when we don’t know a particular ‘word,’ something like, “That’s a part of the Bible I’ve never studied;” or “That’s an area of theology I’ve never considered;” or “That’s a particular spiritual discipline that isn’t part of my personal experience.”

So we just give the so-called “right” answers that will get us by. Or we change the subject. Or we say something incredibly complex that has an air of depth to it.

Today I read an article in a newspaper, The Christian Courier which quotes Rob Bell as saying, in reference to his church and preaching style, “…We want to embrace mystery rather than conquer it.” In many churches they want the latter. And if someone does “conquer” all things spiritual, we give them some letters after their name which mean Master of Theology, or Master of Divinity.

Years ago, when our youngest son didn’t know the answer to a question I would ask at our family Bible study, he would just say, “Love?” It was a good guess. (One night it was the right answer.) He figured he couldn’t go wrong with “Love” as the possible answer, though he always raised his voice at the end admitting he wasn’t quite sure.

Well guess what? I haven’t mastered it. I’m working on it. I don’t know.

And I have one more thing to say to all of you: Love?

* One Sunday a pastor was using squirrels for an object lesson for the children. He started, “I’m going to describe something, and I want you to raise your hand when you know what it is.” The children nodded eagerly.

“This thing lives in trees (pause) and eats nuts (pause)…” No hands went up. “And it is gray (pause) and has a long bushy tail (pause)…” The children were looking at each other nervously, but still no hands raised. “It jumps from branch to branch (pause) and chatters and flips its tail when it’s excited (pause)…”

Finally one little boy tentatively raised his hand. The pastor quickly called on him. “Well,” said the boy, “I know the answer must be ‘Jesus’ … but it sure sounds like a squirrel!”


September 5, 2009

Moving on to the Next Chapter in Life

Filed under: family, parenting — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:01 am

Yesterday we drove our firstborn to his university to pick up his student card.   Tomorrow we’ll officially move him there.   It’s only about 40 minutes from our home; there will be daily e-mails, I’m sure; and he’ll be coming home most weekends.   Heck, if he had his full license he could commute daily, but the residence experience will be good for him, even if we can only afford it in first year.

It’s an experience I regret not having.  Growing up in Toronto and attending the University of Toronto may have seemed like a good and economical decision at the time, but I think much of  college and university learning takes place outside the classroom.    Besides, he’s been away for ten weeks this summer, so it’s not like it will be as big a deal to him as it will be to me.

There.  I said it.   I’m having a hard time adjusting to the fact we’re moving on to another chapter in life.   He leaves with our hopes and dreams fully invested in who he is and who he is becoming.    But also my fears and concerns as to where the next few months will take him.

Mixing with people of different faiths and holding to different philosophies.   Dealing with the temptations that always accompany college dorm life.   Having to handle a myriad of things on his own that we’ve always handled for him.   The whole spectre of the H1N1 virus and its impact on students in dormitories.   The security of his personal possessions, food, textbooks.   Having to drive 40 minutes there and 40 minutes back each Friday to pick him up, and then the same on Sunday to return him to the campus.    (If you’ve done this before, here’s where you jump in with your comments…)

University LibraryBut it’s also exciting for him to be going to the next level.   As he waited nearly an hour for his student card to be processed, I wandered the campus going from building to building, just as I did a lifetime ago in each of the 100-plus buildings that make up the University of Toronto campus.   Each floor, each stairwell yielding classrooms, offices and common rooms built mainly for  expanding the horizons of the next generation.

His campus is much smaller, about a dozen-plus buildings that he should be able to master in the first week.    It’s on the northern border of a medium sized city in a rather remote section that should be free of the distractions I encountered on a campus situated squarely in the heart of downtown Toronto.    It will also be easier to get to know both faculty and students in that setting.    It’s also a state-of-the-art high-tech facility, or at least, so we’ve been led to believe.

Where will all this lead?   We don’t know.   He’s not even sure which particular branch of engineering he wants to major in.    (For those of you who know me personally, think about it…my offspring in an engineering program!)   But standing still isn’t a healthy option, so onward we go.

I miss him already.

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