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A Dad’s 6 Principles for Raising Some Pretty Cool Kids

Father’s Day is just days away, and this week a few Houston dads have graciously contributed their thoughts on parenting. Today, Matt Clanahan, husband of Houston Moms Blog’s own Project Coordinator Meagan, reflects on his guiding principles for raising some pretty cool kids, his seven year old twins.

Dear Ryan and Quinn,

I just wanted to take a moment to share some of my thoughts on parenting you and where I am right now.  It has truly been the hardest thing I have done in my life.  I thought marriage was challenging, in all the right ways, but your mom and I are working together to have a very rewarding marriage.  The two of you are so awesome, and I can’t wait to get to know the adults you are becoming.  I am not a perfect father by any means, but I’m trying.  When you are older and look back, perhaps to question why I parented the way I did when you were seven, below is a list of principles and mindsets that I am using as ‘good advice’ for myself for where we are right now. 

1} Reach beyond your grasp – The world is full of opportunities, and I want you to explore God’s creation. You two are so bright and curious, and I want you to want big things.  God made each of you unique, and He has a plan that your uniqueness can play a part in.  In your life you will always be able to do the things within your reach, but you will not grow.  In growing you become the best version of yourself.  By reaching beyond your grasp, you will become the best version of yourself – and God will use you to further His kingdom in marvelous ways.

A Dad's 6 Principles for Raising Cool Kids | Houston Moms Blog

2} I hope for you to be a ‘life ready’ kid – Sure, I can parent you hovering like a Chinook helicopter over an LZ. Or, better yet, I can let Homer and Marge Simpson raise you, while your Kardashian cousins provide the real life example of what a family ‘looks’ like…or not.  But, the fact is, as much as I want to keep you from all harm and give you the world on a silver platter, it will not prepare you for life.  Life has pain and pleasure, ups and downs, victory and defeat, sickness and death, recovery and birth.  Life has bullies and bad guys, but life also has friends and superheroes.  I can’t make each decision that comes up for you, but I can help you think through the options and possible outcomes.  Sometimes there is not a wrong answer, just a choice.  And one day I won’t be able to help you with life and the decisions that come, which is why I want to help you be life ready as you grow up.

3} You are a boat to sail at sea and not to stay tied up at the dock – Yachts are cool; they are big and shiny with lots of cool ‘bells and whistles.’ But, of all the movies I have seen, the yacht always sinks.  It doesn’t ever save the day.  It’s always the dinghy or the boat that has seen better days.  Take the Orca, from Jaws {yes, it sank, but keep up for a bit}.  It was not the new model with shiny new engines or state of the art technology.  But it got the job done.  It set out to catch the beast of a shark that terrorized the people of Amity, Massachusetts.  It did not stay tied up at the marina, it set sail with a purpose.  Well, God made you like a boat – with a purpose.  Sure, you can go through life idling around in the marina or no wake zones…Or you can go beyond the jetties where the waters are not calm all the time.  If you stay in the still water, you will never know what God has in store, or what you were made for.  I even struggle with this myself today.  

A Dad's 6 Principles for Raising Cool Kids | Houston Moms Blog

4} Failure IS an option – but so IS learning – You will lose, you will not get 100s on all of your tests, and, most likely, you will genuinely disappoint your parents at some point. But you will not fail…ever; IF and only if, you choose to learn from your mistakes.   I must say that as your father I have learned to not find my own worth in how much you accomplish – your medals, certificates, trophies.  How the world measures success {or let’s be honest, even participation} today is way different than in the 80s and 90s.  Unfortunately, our culture has enabled parents to find their value of “quality parenting” in their kids’ successes.  I do not want that… Not for you, there will be enough pressure on you as you grow up.  Not for me, I want to continue to serve using my unique gifts.  I recall when my parents were moving out of the house I grew up in, and I had all sports trophies and medals from my childhood in a box…I could take them with me or trash them.  These icons were snapshots of my “success” as a child.  They were not a measure of the quality of parenting or their love for me.  They were constructed of mere plastic.  So, I pitched them.  I hesitated at first, but then I put them square in the trash.  And guess what, absolutely nothing happened. For every first place ribbon you get, there are several second or DNF {did not finish} ribbons.  When you don’t get first place/best in class, etc., you can learn.  You are NOT a failure if you don’t win.  It’s an opportunity to grow and become better.  As Jocko Willink put it, “If you aren’t good at pull ups, do pull ups.”  Yeah, if you are not good at something, a way to get better is to try it again.  So, please, try, please do your best.  If you are not the best – I still love the crap out of you.  I’m still crazy for you.  But when you do not finish first, learn, grow, and then get after it.

5} Be BOLD – Say Sorry, Give Grace, Forgive – Ryan and Quinn, life for you won’t be easy.  I want to assure you that if you are BOLD, you can accomplish great things.  The world will whisper to you… “You CAN’T do it.”  “You’re too small.”  So, today you two are the smallest or almost smallest kids in each activity that you do.  But guess what, you are SO BOLD.  Quinn, on the soccer field you are like a cheetah.  You attack the soccer ball like the wild cat attacks a gazelle.  And when a bigger kid bumps into you and knocks you down on the field…you roll right over and jump back on your feet to find your prey.  I did not teach you that, nor did your mom.  It’s inside of you.  It’s what you have in YOUR uniqueness that gives you the courage and tenacity to take on any challenge with zeal.  Ryan, you leave everything on the field of play.  When a ball goes out of bounds, you sprint after it for the throw in.  In baseball, from second base you cover the entire infield to get the grounder as your teammates throw their gloves in the air and spin around in circles.  You have the heart of a lion, and will sacrifice yourself for the greater good of the team.  I did not teach you that, nor did your mom.  That was put in YOUR unique DNA, and no one can take it from you.  As a coach, I’ll take tenacity and heart over talent every damn day.  A good coach can use a player’s talents to benefit the team.  And one spoiled player can ruin a team’s ultimate goal.  But a coach can’t teach tenacity.  A coach can’t teach heart.  You both bring that to the table of life.  If size were measured by tenacity and heart, the two of you would be the biggest in your class and beyond.  Don’t hold back in life.  Not now, not ever. By all means, sing in public, dance in public, tell jokes, and profess your love for your elementary sweetheart.  This world is full of too many people who held back and were not BOLD, only to have regrets.  Joshua was BOLD, Samson was BOLD, Peter was BOLD, Paul was BOLD, Jesus was BOLD, Lincoln was BOLD, Bonheoffer was BOLD, MLK was BOLD …BE. BOLD.  And when you do wrong, say sorry from the heart.  Learn from it, and be bold enough to grow from it.  And when someone else wrongs you, show grace to him or her.  You don’t have to be their best friend right away or ever.  But show grace.  And forgive.  When you forgive, put it behind you like it never happened.  And if someone ever tries to remind you of how someone else wronged you, be BOLD and tell them you don’t know what they are talking about. 

A Dad's 6 Principles for Raising Cool Kids | Houston Moms Blog

6} Your mother is more important to me than you are – While that sounds harsh, I made a promise before God to your mother to love her through thick and thin. I did not make that promise about the two of you.  By God’s grace the two of you were gifted to us… And I am trying to raise you to be life ready and to love and serve.  But your mother is my soul mate.  She allows me the opportunity to love.  I can be the man I was made to be with your mother by my side.  I can forgive when your mom falls short.  And I can seek forgiveness and be transparent with her in my struggles as a husband, father, and man.  I must say I have not set the ideal example of a husband to each of you.  Ryan, I love your mother more than life itself.  I hope I am setting a good example of how to treat your wife when you are married.  But, know that I can do more for your mother.  I can speak her love language, and I can serve her better than I do.  My heart is committed to your mother, and at times my actions and words do not convey this commitment.  I want to be BOLD and learn from my shortcomings so that I can love and respect your mother the way I’m supposed to.  Quinn, you know I cherish your mother with my all and everything.  But, I fall short.  She deserves the best in me, so I continue to work to be a better husband to your mother.  You deserve and should expect a man to treat you with love and speak your love language in your marriage.  At 37, I still struggle.  But, your mother shows grace, she apologizes when she is wrong, she forgives when I don’t measure up.  She shows me the love of Christ each and every day.  You two may question why mom and I need a date night… Well, when you have kids you will understand.  It’s not because we don’t want to spend time with you or as a family.  It’s because God has put your mother and me in each other’s lives to live out God’s love for one another. 

We will see where I am with respect to parenting in a few years.  I love you both without hesitation. My heart is full.  Thank you for being such great kids and for loving your mother and me with YOUR everything.  

Love,

Dad

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