Drop Off Dad

Back to school time can be a difficult season filled with anxiety, tears and sleepless nights. I am, of course, talking about parents.  The kids are usually fine after the first five minutes, but some of us moms and dads are absolute basket cases.

I speak from experience.  Here is my record so far:

1. First day of preschool, minor basket case
2. First day of kindergarten, major basket case.
3. First day of first grade, official Longaberger representative

Here’s the problem.  We had our kids at home for the first three years of their lives.  The only people to watch them were family and close friends.  Then came the day we had to drop them off with total strangers and just walk away.  For overprotective parents like us it’s a horrible feeling of releasing control and trusting your kid into the hands of someone else.

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The Power of the Payoff

When I was seven years old, I joined the Cub Scouts for a week. Massive disappointment. I thought it was going to be more of a special forces kind of thing. You know, fighting Communists (it was the 80’s), rescuing prisoners of war, protecting the President. Just the usual Navy SEALs, A-Team kind of stuff.

Instead, we spent our first meeting in someone’s basement talking about merit badges and membership dues. Where was my scout knife? Where was the wilderness survival training? Where was the counter terrorist briefing from the Pentagon? It was much less Rambo and Red Dawn than I’d pictured in my head.

So, I quit.

I signed up for little league around the same time but bailed out on that before the first practice. I took guitar lessons for three months, but didn’t get to play a single rock concert or hang out with the Beatles.

I played clarinet in the school band for a year, but, of course, that didn’t last either. I went for the clarinet because it was the only instrument that was black like the Knight Rider car and Darth Vader’s helmet. Unfortunately it turned out that only girls played the clarinet, and it did not help my chances at becoming a Jedi knight or a freelance adventurer like David Hasselhoff.

Later in high school my tenacious streak continued. I worked at Ponderosa steakhouse for a night and at Burger King for one afternoon. How I actually finished high school and college I’ll never know.

I am by nature a strong starter and an abysmal finisher. The fact that I’ve been married for sixteen years and have worked at the same place for nine are complete anomalies to the rest of my life’s history. To be honest, I’m lucky if I even finish this sente . . . just kidding.

Part of my problem is that I’m an idealist with big dreams, and everything I do – work, hobbies, home improvement projects, exercise routines – sounds like a load of fun before I actually begin doing it. Once I get into it, though, it’s always requires more effort than I’d guessed. That’s typically when I get distracted by a new infatuation, the thing I REALLY want to do, and ditch my first thing.

Then the vicious cycle continues over and over again.

Despite my natural tendencies, over the years I’ve discovered a secret to keep me motivated when my perseverance wanes – the power of the pay-off. Put simply, people who are strong finishers enjoy more rewards than those quit halfway through. I have to want the pay-off more than I want to quit.

The more writing projects I finish and submit, the more I get published. The more I force myself to hit the exercise bike, the more weight I lose. The more work I do around the house, the better the house looks. By fixating, no obsessing, over the reward, I force myself to stay in the game and keep at it.

But far more important than any of these other things is how determined I am to stick with God and keep doing what’s right.

The Bible says not to become weary in doing good, because you’ll reap a big reward if you don’t give up. Even if you’re not a natural quitter like me, you may be in a situation right now where doing the right thing is getting really old. Your circumstances and the people around you may be making it as tough as possible for you to keep your integrity and do what you know is right.

Whether you’re caring for an elderly parent, raising a child by yourself, working at a difficult marriage or just trying to be honest at work, doing good day in and day out can be hard. But listen closely to this. Don’t. Give. Up.

There will come a day you’ll look back with great joy that you finished what you started. You will be blessed by hanging in there, praying for perseverance and just doing the right thing one day at a time. It doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect, just persistent.

Sure, you may never be a Green Beret Cub Scout like I was, single-handedly responsible for the fate of the free world. You may not ever play with the Beatles or ride around in a black Trans-Am with David Hasselhoff, but you will be a hero nonetheless – a good, faithful person making a difference in a fickle, selfish world.

Pumpkin Patch Faith

I loved Halloween as a kid for many reasons: the costumes, the candy, and, of course, the Great Pumpkin. I’ve watched the classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” dozens of times, but no matter how much I’ve seen it, my heart still goes out to poor Linus, who spends the night in the pumpkin patch awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin.

In case you grew up on the moon and have never seen this Peanuts’ masterpiece, let me bring you up to speed.  Linus van Pelt has somehow confused his holiday traditions and believes that just as Santa makes his rounds every Christmas Eve, so the legendary Great Pumpkin visits children on Halloween night.

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