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March 04, 2005
Thin and Happy

Something about being in charge is that to do my job well I have to make someone unhappy every day. If you put enough people in an organization, you almost guarantee that at any moment someone will feel that the pay/workload/recognition/criticism is too low/high/infrequent/unfair compared to what they do/need/want/could get somewhere else/see someone else doing/getting/taking. Like most people, I want to be liked, so I don't enjoy this.

What I'm learning, though, is that if you try to make everyone happy in the short run, you end up getting little done, which leaves most people unhappy in the long run.

I traveled to 9 cities in 23 days last month. I don't know if the three return trips also count, though the miles are just as hard coming or going. I hardly wrote anything during that time, which disappoints me. Sometimes I think if I just stretch myself a little thinner, then I can make the time to write. That's what real writers do, right?

I don't know. Sometimes writing is just breathing for me. I'm better off when I do it. But time is so precious. I sleep 4-6 hours at night to get the work done and still be there like a good husband and father is supposed to be. Most of the time I feel like I fail at it anyway. I let friendships wane, and reading go undone, and only squeeze in the writing when I can't hold my breath any more.

I remind myself it's just a season. I want to kick myself, though, when I think about how I spent my time years ago. Nine hours of sleep a night, television, lounging around -- oh, the hours I wasted! If only there were some bank into which we could place the time, just to keep it safe from the days when we don't know how to use it properly. In our maturing years we could withdraw it when we look at our children and see them getting older almost overnight.

Caleb is quite the diligent student in our home school. One day he was scribbling in random colors, and the next he is drawing people and writing his name. Yesterday I came home and found a picture on our refrigerator: two little smiling stick people with triangular bodies and big heads, holding hands. Under the slightly bigger body was scrawled "Caleb," and under the smaller body was "Eli." Eli does his best to keep up, and my wife is good about giving him work to do too, so when I come home they rush to the door to show me their school work.

Short of seeing them pray together, and seeing one take care of the other when there are tears, I can't think of any sight that gives me greater joy.

Caleb had his "five birthday" a few weeks ago. We had a little party here in Virginia, and then because I was traveling so much I took the whole family to Wichita to deposit them for a couple of weeks, which meant another party with his Kansas friends. The day before that second party, he began to quiz me about the amount of presents he was likely to get.

"Caleb, you got most of your presents at the Virginia party. This is a friend party."

"But, but, but, will there be presents?"

"There will be a couple."

"How many?"

"A couple. Two."

"Only two presents?"

"Yes, and you should be thankful."

"Well, that is very, very sad. Do other people only get two presents when they turn a number?"

I found myself going down the path of telling him to be thankful because children in China don't have enough rice to eat. It's amazing how our parents didn't know anything when we were kids, yet they get wiser as we age. Take that infamous parent reason for obedience: "because I said so." Who didn't hate that rebuttal, that unreasoned muzzle on further debate?

Yet now I think it's one of the best things a child can learn. Because I said so. I said it, thus it is so. Don't argue, for I have spoken.

Because. I. Said. So.

Brilliant. Subtle, yet authoritative. It's especially useful when you realize, as I have, that your five year-old is a better attorney than you. That boy is bound for the legal profession. We should therefore pray for his soul, and pity his future opponents in the courtroom. Or perhaps he'll end up a preacher. He's lately taken it upon himself to evangelize to Eli, who is unashamed to say what many of us feel at times.

"Eli, is Jesus in your heart?"


"You should invite him in. He wants to be there."

"But he's not."

"He just wants to love you and take care of you forever."

Eli informs us that though Jesus is not in his heart, the King of kings and Lord of lords is in his shirt. I don't know how Jesus got there, but Eli tells us that is where he currently resides. I suppose this is progress.

For all my complaints, I'm storing up these memories. I'm living a good life. So who needs sleep?

Posted by Woodlief on March 04, 2005 at 08:36 AM


Yes, store the memories, but I am so very grateful you share them as well.

Beautiful, just beautiful.

; )

Posted by: Christina at March 4, 2005 9:16 AM

Thanks for the update. It's one thing to have an attitude of gratitude, it's a whole 'nother thing to instill it in your children.

I wonder how many of our prayers our answered by our Heavenly Father telling us "Because I said so", yet we think we hear nothing or deny the answer. You know that God has limitless patience when He has billions of His "babies" asking Him why every day.

Don't worry about us readers and our supply of free ice cream - just keep enjoying those youngsters and lovin' on them.

Posted by: MarcV at March 4, 2005 2:24 PM

Sweet and funny and thank you. And when those boys read this one day, they can laugh without humiliation, you write it so truly and with so much love.

Posted by: AH at March 5, 2005 1:03 AM

Tony, One piece of advice about "storing up memories." It's wonderful to write them down, but even that isn't foolproof. As a gift for my 83-year-old MIL's birthday, we just had self-published all the poetry she's written since WWII. We printed 60 copies of her book, and she's passing them out to all her buddies at the retirement community where she lives.

"Oh, Adele...this love poem is beautiful. Who did you write this about?"

Adele looks at it and says, "I have no idea...it was a really long time ago!"

Make sure you name and date all those kids in your stories, or you won't know who the heck you're talking about later!

Posted by: Katy Raymond at March 5, 2005 4:16 PM

It is fantastic to be so grateful for memories such as these. It is Mothering Sunday here in the UK today and I've blogged the things my kids wrote in my card for the very same reason :) Still love reading about your beautiful family too, even though I don't get time to comment very often.

Incidentally, our weblog has moved, so you might want to update your 'Family Clarke' link, thanks :)

Posted by: Sarah at March 6, 2005 7:52 AM

Jesus teaches us to “do the right thing” by following his example and invoking our God-given ability to reason. However, whether it’s dealing with our kids or our colleagues, sometimes doing the right thing actually makes you the “bad guy”. This hardly seems fair, but it’s really okay – as along as you know, in your heart, that you are on the right track.

I think the worst thing a parent can do is make their desire to be popular or liked by their children a priority. Much more than a friendship, a child needs the unique, unconditional love of a parent. God loves us no matter what – even when we curse His good name. We are called to the same standard of conduct with our own children.

I dread the day when my child tells me that he hates me. For whatever reason, he will be unhappy with a decision I make and in turn, throw a stone at my heart making me question whether my disciplinary action was really worth the resulting pain it caused me in return. But I will try and remember to stand my ground and do the right thing:

Because I said so. (i.e. I love you)

Posted by: Scarlett at March 6, 2005 5:37 PM

"So who needs sleep?"

Not you and William "Who Needs Sleep?" Isaac!

Posted by: Sandee at March 8, 2005 6:26 PM