Archives For parenting

My Baby Girl Is Twelve

Erik Cooper —  February 9, 2011 — 4 Comments

Today my baby girl turns 12. Twelve.

Donuts come in dozens. So do roses. And now I guess years are packaging that way, too. Who knew?

To top it off, Mandy and I have officially become those parents. You know, the ones who spout annoying, clichéd sayings like “when did she ever get that old?” and “how did the years pass so quickly?” and “it seems like just yesterday we were bringing her home from the hospital.”

Don’t you hate those people?

(I’m sorry. It just happens like unwanted belly fat and male pattern baldness. Involuntary.)

Yet there she is, in all her emerging womanhood. Emma now shares shoes with her mom. She reads books with no pictures. She (occasionally) even talks to her dad about issues bigger than Justin Beiber and iCarly. She’s like a caterpillar in the early stages of pushing through its cocoon.

It’s beautifully scary.

So this year we’re launching an experiment. A year long intentional effort (that I honestly hope mom and dad have the courage to complete).

The entire year between Emma’s 12th and 13th birthdays is our gift (along with a few tangibles for dinner tonight, don’t worry we’re not crazy). Twelve months of exposure to new thoughts. Specific time set aside to write and dialog about those ideas with Mandy, me, and mentors we trust. A year of brand new experiences. A open window into the world. God’s world.

  • Relationships (and yes, the dreaded sex word).
  • Injustice and global responsibility.
  • Money and how we should think about it.
  • Scripture and what it means to work it into our lives.
  • A trip to an impoverished country.
  • Maybe even a physical challenge (a 5K or a biking event if dad can get motivated).

I’ll keep you posted here on our progress (the successes and challenges).

Our job as parents is to build our kids’ muscles. To help them see the world as God sees it. To get them leaning into their heavenly Father fully despite our own tendency to be such broken examples of who He really is (and trust me, even carrying the “pastor” label, we’re as flawed as they come).

So that when their cocoons fully open, they can fly.

Happy birthday baby girl! Here’s to a great year. To flying. Faster. Higher. Straighter. Closer to the Father.

With His heart in you.

All my love…daddy.

Becoming Mike Ditka

Erik Cooper —  December 13, 2010 — 2 Comments

As a father, I’ve always thought my personality was a little Tony Dungy integrity meets Bill Belichick stoicism (Yes, two of the most prolific coaches in NFL history. This is my blog here, roll with it). But last night I embodied a bit of Mike Ditka hothead.

I yelled at my son.

Not the kind of normal, everyday, sometimes audibly-elevated verbal correction that comes with the fatherhood territory. The kind that erupts from frustration. That serves no real purpose other than a momentary release of endorphins (like I just watched the New Orleans Saints recover another onside kick to start the second half of the Super Bowl).

It was an un-proud parental moment, and one I’m intentionally sharing in public to try and make a vulnerable point.

The nature of my son’s lamentable behavior is inconsequential. He was wrong.

I was wrong-er.

As the tears were drying, I had to ask him for forgiveness. And in that moment, I was reminded that my little boy doesn’t know me as pastor. He doesn’t know me as writer. He doesn’t know me as leader, or teacher, or musician.

He knows me as daddy.

A daddy that often reflects the love and life of Jesus Christ, but who sometimes shows his broken humanity.

A daddy grateful for his Father’s unending grace, the same grace he sometimes forgets to show to his own children.

A daddy who’s far from perfect, but is thankful He knows One who is.

Last night reminded of some lyrics Nathan LaGrange and I penned as a prayer for our children way back in 2002 (three years before Austin was even born). They’re still some of my favorites:

Father forgive me, even on the best of days
I am a poor reflection of Who You really are
So give me the strength to lead them through another day
And when I stumble and I fail
Keep their eyes on You

You’re not perfect. Neither am I. That’s what makes this Jesus thing such unbelievable news.

Great Expectations

Erik Cooper —  February 13, 2009 — Leave a comment

My 3 year old son has learned how to unbuckle his seat belt.  It’s a new talent he’s learning to use regularly as we’re driving at high speeds around the city of Indianapolis.  I’m convinced he does it simply to see his two thirty-something parents lose their minds.  We think all the stern yelling is effective…but I’m beginning to think he just finds it funny.

“Let’s watch mommy and daddy lose their minds…” click.
(insert devious 3 year old laughter here)

austinTonight I tried something different.  Instead of yelling at him, I squatted down at eye level (after I parked the car) and spent 30 seconds explaining to him why it’s a bad idea for him to unbuckle his belt while we’re out driving.  “Not only will you get hurt if we have to stop the car fast or get in an accident, but the police will arrest mommy and daddy and take them to jail if they catch us driving while you’re out of your seatbelt.”

Now reasoning with a three year old isn’t always the best course of action, but tonight I think he might have actually gotten it (although I question whether seeing mommy and daddy cuffed and stuffed in the back of a patrol car might be enticing to him).  And in the process I realized how often my expectations, not only of my 3 year old son but of others in general, can often outpace my willingness to educate.

Recently retired Colts head coach, Tony Dungy, was known for his amazing ability to keep his cool in the toughest of situations.  By his own admission when he was younger, he used to be a hot-head.  But coming from a family of teachers, Dungy learned over time to squelch his frustration with his now famous reputation of being an educator.  I want to be more like that.  I’ve got a long ways to go.

Most of the time, our internal anger and frustration with others comes from expectations we have of them that go unmet.  But if we’re really honest with ourselves, how many times have we placed that expectation without ever educating on the issue in the first place?   We erupt in anger but never take the time to explain the “why.”

Before you give me the father of the year award for my efforts with the seatbelt earlier this evening, I’m ashamed to say tonight was much more the exception than the rule.  Educating takes patience, kindness, self-control…and love (I heard a rumor somewhere that those are supposed to be the outflows of Christ living in me).  But it’s much easier to erupt in frustration than to have the patience and heart of a teacher.  Unfortunately the Bible is clear:

“There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up.” (1 Cor. 4:15 MSG)

Ouch.  I’ve got some work to do.  How about you?