FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

Reflection at Starbucks

Written By: Scot Butwell - May• 31•14

My wife took this picture of my while at Starbucks. We had the rare privilege of a Parents Night Out, thanks to our church providing child care for three hours for a minimal cost, and I was struck by the fatigue and reflectiveness I see in the photo.

Maybe you don’t see the reflectiveness.  But I was grateful to God to have made it through another week of work and parenting and to have some actual time to sit, drink a Green Tea Frappachino and eat a Chocolate Croussant and thank God for sustaining me.

The wife made a run for a healthy snack at Sprouts, and while she ran into a friend, this gave me some alone time to sit and think and to spill chocolate all over my shirt and meditate on scriptures in a devotional.

The devotional I enjoyed the best emphasized how important it is to breathe.  We can be so busy in all our different roles in life that we have no or little time to breathe in and out and just be aware of God’s presence in our lives.

One of the scriptures I read was from Psalm 18.  It said God rescues those in whom He delights, and this was my prayer the past two days: that in the absence of my physical and mental strength, God would rescue me by helping me get through my days.

Given my fatigue, the last three weeks of a school year for a teacher (my occupation) can seem like three months, and God gave me the right attitude to respond to each potentially challenging situation to reflect His character.

I also read an article by Donald Miller, author of the memoir Blue Like Jazz.  in it, he presents his thought-provoking views on whether God has a specific plan for every believer’s life that counter-argue what most Christians believe.

He says:

“I want to write an essay saying the statistical chance of God having a specific plan for your life is roughly 1 in 227.  I’d base that statistic on scripture, because scripturally, for every one person God had a specific plan for, there were 226 He did not.  Joseph was in, Benjamin was out and so on.”

He contends too many Christians waste time thinking and praying for God to tell them exactly what to do, waiting around to hear from God while we could instead be serving God. 

After giving an example of an earthly father who tells his kids what to eat, drink, and do with their time (a Father He calls controlling and nuts), he gives this illustration to describe the fathering role of our Heavenly Father:

“If God is fathering us, He is helping us discover what is good, right, pure, and worthy  to pursue. He teaches us morality and ethics, but also gives us a heart filled with desire and longing.  It’s as though God sets before us a big sheet of butcher paper and hands us a box of crayons and tells us to dream.”

As a person who has been seeking God’s specific purpose for my life, I know for certain God speaks through scripture, other people and circumstances to guide us to specific plans for our life, and yet at the same time, He gives us freedom to dream and serve Him.

So, I guess I agree and disagree with Donald Miller, whose Blue Like Jazz is a book I couldn’t put down while on vacation to Canada several years ago.

I know I have been guilty of over-thinking God’s plan for my life at the expense of serving Him at times, so Miller has a good point about spending too much time waiting to hear from God.

But I have also been guilty of not thinking carefully enough about God’s plan for my life, especially regarding crossroads in my life that involve having taken the time to think how God has designed me and gifted me.

Failing to give consideration to the unique type of person God has created me has been partially responsible for wrong roads I’ve gone down, and I know in hindsight that if I’d spent more time talking and listening to God, I would have gone done His road.

So, does this mean God does have a specific plan for every believer?

I will just say that my time with God is the most precious part of my day and I will let Him guide me on how I spend my time, but I do appreciate Donald Miller’s perspective and it will become part of my next conversation with God.

And it may lead me to cut shorter my time with Him and go out and serve others.  

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Zingo

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jan• 28•14

We are playing Zingo.  It is a game where you pull two small number squares from a card holder and match them to your game card.  Similar to bingo, the winner yells “Zingo!” when their card is filled up.

My son is pulling the plastic yellow number tiles from the card holder.  We both have filled up our card except for the number “two,” so I tell him, “Hey, we both need the number two—you better be ready.”

A few cards later, he pulls the number two. I give him a few seconds to yell out “two.”  But when he reaches to pull the card holder, I grab the number two tile, put it on my card and yell out “Zingo!”

My yell, I must admit, had a certain level of exhuberant excitement, and so I look at my son to see his reaction.  His reaction is instantaneous.

He grabs my game card, flings it and the number tiles up in the air and very quickly moves the card holder back and forth to find a number two.   Then, he places it on his card and yells out, “Zingo…I win!”

Watching the scene unfold, I was amazed at his determined focus to find the number two.  If only his easily distracted mind could learn to such focus cleaning his room or putting on his pajamas.

My first reaction was a sudden flash of anger at seeing the yellow tiles scattered across his bedroom floor.  I had just supervised him cleaning his room, and every parent knows how difficult this can be for a five-year-old.

I also rued that the little yellow tiles representated a similar potential fate to most of his board games pieces.  That is to say, they would be forever seperated from the game board and, therefore, render the game useless.

My son lacks organizational skills, and though this falls under my responsibity to teach him, I just want to play a game with him without having to search for a missing pience.

My second reaction was acceptance.  I know this moment is related to his capacity to go from calm to angry in one second, and I am learning to accept my son for where he is in his development.

Nevertheless, I could not help but feeling like this was a significant “life lesson” for him, and that I had to seize it upon it as a father-son teachable moment.

“Who won?”

“I won.”

“Who won?”

“I won.”

“Who won?”

“No, I won.”

I realized this wasn’t one of our races to the front door from the park.  Those races where the parent plays the role of Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters and lets their child win every time.

So I reviewed what had just transpired, explaining that I filled up my number card first and was the first one to yell “Zingo.”  It made perfect sense to me, but I know this doesn’t mean it made sense to him.

Looking at his face, I could tell he thought was the winner because he flung my game pieces, found the number two, place it on his game card and declared himself the winner.

Of course, he knows I won or he wouldn’t have flung my pieces.

But still in his mind, I could tell believed he has won.  We all do this in our mind, too. We choose  to believe the beautiful lie rather than accept the ugly truth.

We all rationalize and justify wrong behaviors to avoid facing the truth.  We justify our wrong behaviors by making alibis and excuses, saying “That’s just who I am.”

“It’s okay if you don’t win every time,” I say, trying to bring perspective to his world.  ”But you can’t throw the game pieces when you don’t win.  Instead, you can congratulate the winner.”

It’s difficult to know if he absorbs my lesson especially when he just received five dollars under his pillow a few nights ago from losing his first tooth ago.

I am sure there will be bigger fish to fry than getting his to accept he lost a game of Zingo…like it’s always better to tell the ugly truth than a beautiful lie.

My own tendency to avoid dealing with the truth is a fact that I’ve only come to embrace recently, and this is one habit I want to be sure he doesn’t develop from a young age.

I hope my son gets this lesson:  It’s okay if you don’t win every time and it’s not acceptable to throw your game pieces.  That’s the father-son lesson for today.

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Blessings from Above

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jan• 26•14

We do not go out very often on family outings, but today was a day to celebrate. My mom bought a new car and she gave me her 2001 Toyota Camry with only 62,000 miles on it.

She picked me up at 1 p.m. and we drove to the Automotive Club.  We completed a few forms requiring license plate, vehicle identification numberand driver’s license numbers and the car was registered in my name.

We then drove to the Toyota dealer.  She picked up her new car and drove off in a new blue Camry and I drove home in my new car, thinking my wife, son and I should drive somewhere together to express our gratitude

This is the back story: For the past two and a half months, after my car died and I sold it for $375, I rode my bike and/or got a ride from the wife to work, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.

We have been down to one car and the wife’s car runs badly.  We drive a longer way to church to avoid going up a hill and $552 worth of car repairs (money we did not have to spare) did not make it run better.

In fact, it ran worse.

As we were driving up a smaller hill to church, the wife said, “I don’t think the car is going to make it. What are we going to do?  This car isn’t going to last long…I don’t want to drive it until it dies.”

There was so much irony in her statement: Our car is in bad shape.  We need a good running car.  And my mom had offered to give us her car.  Yet, the wife had been adamantly opposed against me accepting the car.

I reminded her that my mom wanted to give us her car.  Then I told her this story: A man was stranded on his roof during a flood.  He prayed and asked God to rescue him.

Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.”

The stranded man shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying to God and He will save me.”

So the rowboat went on.

Then a motorboat came by.

The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.”

The stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and He is going to save me. I have faith.”

So the motorboat went on.

Then a helicopter came by.  The pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.”

The stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and He is going to save me. I have faith.”

So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.

Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven and told God, “I had faith in you, but you didn’t save me.  You let me drown. I don’t understand why!”

God replied, “I sent you a rowboat, a motorboat and a helicopter…what more did you expect?”

I felt like God was seeing our need and giving us a car, and by refusing to accept the car, the wife was like the man who rejected the rowboat, motorboat and helicopter God sent.  She was saying no to His Mercy.

When I finished telling the story, the wife said God had spoken to her about accepting the car, so it felt appropriate to take a drive and go somewhere: To celebrate together, as an expression of gratitude, for this gift from God.

We settled on the beach. I know my son well enough to know he wanted to run in the open space of the beach.  And I know my wife well enough to know she wanted us to hold hands and walk together.

I have been working at being united with the wife, and even when we have different views on parenting our son, my goal has been to find common ground.  This was my call to unity.

We agreed that if he held hands and walked together with us then he could run on the beach.  He agreed and my son and I were soon running and chasing birds.

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Family Fun

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jan• 22•14

pboatI have been teaching my senior English class how to write a College Personal Statement.   Our focus has been, “Thousands upon thousands of essays tell who they are…while only hundreds show who they are.”

One of the two prompts asks applicants to describe their word–their school, community, or family–and how it has shaped their life.  I can’t help but think how my son is being shaped by our family dynamics.

Our recent trip to the Family Fun Center could have made a You Tube video on Family Dysfunction.   Our son was running in circles in the video arcade, but to me this really wasn’t such as big deal.

He was excited by all the visual and auditory stimulation, but the wife was getting more upset with each passing second and I, as the organizer of this family outing, found myself having to make a decision.

Do I accept her terse demands to stop him from running around or trust my own instincts that his mind and body will calm down in a few minutes on its own?

Furthermore, I know our son has a highly-active sensory system, but what’s wrong with a little over-excitement on his first trip to a video arcade?

He slid into a large video game booth, and as my son, my wife and I shot and killed incoming bad guys, we became immersed in the action and experienced a brief moment of unity in our family.

However, our unity ended when the game ended, and we went back to being a fractured family from the wife and I having different beliefs on how to handle our son’s hyperactivity.

It only took a few minutes before we unraveled, and that is why we seldom go out together as a family.  In fact, this was our first family outing in two or three months.

As our son ran from one video game to the next, the wife issued more terse demands and/or statements and then retreated to another room and sent me a series of texts telling me what to do.

There were also harsh criticism of me as a parent, and I responded by not responding.

Technically, I believe what I did is called being a centrist in politics, a person who takes a middle position and avoids taking a definitive stand on an issue.

mulligans

She responded by going to the car in the parking lot; actually, a better analogy for our parenting styles would be: the wife is an extreme conservative and I am very liberal and allow our son freedom to be a kid.

The wife’s final text came as my son and I were standing in line to go on a two-passenger Go-Kart.  It said she was going home and to text her what time we wanted to be picked up.

The wife is right: our son needs to learn to regulate his body to succeed in school, at birthday parties, and in other settings.  I am total agreement; it’s just that this was a video arcade and isn’t the purpose is to have fun?

Webster’s dictionary describes fun as 1: “what provides amusement or enjoyment; specifically, playful often boisterous action or speech. 2: a mood for finding or making amusement.” 

As a sensory kid, our son is often boisterous and in a constinuous search for amusement.  He is not that different from most five-year-olds in this regard.  His over-responsive senses are not right or wrong; just different from other kids.

In fact, I have often thought he has a corner on the market of fun because he finds amusement in everything due to his over-responsive senses.  Flicking sand or shredding leaves at the park gives him tremendous joy.

However, I am recognizing my wife and I need to be in agreement in how we parent our son.  I need to set more parameters for our son’s behavior and the wife needs to relate to our son and not just issue commands.

The fact is, being in a continuous state of conflict is not very much fun. The wife and I take turns spending time with our son and rationalize this practice because we are both introverts and we each need time alone.

But dividing our time with out son has created a divided mind in our son.  He prefers spending time with me and will often say rude comments to his mom when returning from our outings.

It doesn’t take counseling degree to see this is a reflection of of our different parenting styles.  But seeing the need the need for change and allowing the change to occur are two different things.

But I am slowly seeing that our son is affected by the wife and my different parting styles, and we all lose from our lack of unity by becoming a fractured family.

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Turning Six

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jan• 19•14

My son sensed his sixth birthday was a big milestone.  It was a few days before his birthday, and when I mentioned in the car that he would soon be six, he told his mom and me, “I don’t want to be a man.”  

We both laughed, and as we explained to him that he would still be boy for many more years, and that he should learn to enjoy his time being a kid, I sensed his mind was greatly relieved by this knowledge.

He had cupcakes with his classmates on his birthday.  His weekly class of six home schooled kids shrunk in half, and if he felt like classroom royalty for a day, his was a tiny Kingdom of three boys.  

My son and I went to McDonald’s, and while snacking on French fries and chocolate chip cookies, I hit our digital golf ball into outer space, and as it slowly drifted down into space, he laughed hysterically.

So, we forgot trying to hit the ball in the hole.  Instead, we hit ball after ball into space and he kept laughing.  It was probably my first laugh all day. Laughter is good for the soul.

We had a quiet birthday celebration at home.  Mom, Dad and Son. He had a gluten-free cake and ice-cream, and after he blew out the candles and made his birthday wish, it was time unwrap the presents.

He got an Adventure bible and basketball.  He isn’t into playing sports, and the bible didn’t excite him.  I admit they were selected more with spiritual and physical milestones in mind.

C.H. Spurgeon says, nothing magnifies a person as the contemplation of God; however, my son looked in the bag his gifts came from and said, “I want Iron Man. Where is Iron Man?”

He has a ways to go in his spiritual development–which is to be expected for a six-year-old.

He bounced the basketball a few times on the floor, and then flung it in the air and it ricocheted off the wall, nearly missing a lamp by inches, and father and son were sternly commanded to go outside.

A few days later, his grandmother took us out for dinner.  He unwrapped his present and, without any parental intervention, it was Iron Man–the perfect end to his birthday week.     

It was like he just met his new BFF, and they struck up an animated dialogue.

That was the beginning and end of conversation with him: if we wanted to converse, it had to include Iron Man.  But, boy, was he ever happy. 

Happy birthday, son!

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Queen Mary’s Chill

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jan• 05•14

IMG_5305

Being the parent of a five-year-old, I am duty bound to conceal my minimalist holiday mentality. It’s just something about the commercialism of the holiday that I don’t like and the realization the present will get little attention after all the fanfare of opening them on Christmas morning.

Not that I didn’t love Christmas as a kid!

My brother and I relished the anticipation of the days leading up to it.  My dad definitely went to over board in the amount of presents he would buy and put under the tree.  Many of the presents had cards informing the gifts were from our favorite sports player or tv show character.

But I prefer to enjoy taking a walk in the neighborhood to look Christmas lights  and watching Christmas classics like “Frosty the Snowman” with my son than running around a crowded store to buy a bunch of Christmas presents.  That’s just how like to celebrate the holiday season.

But I don’t want to become the Grinch who stole Christmas, either.  That is one of the reasons I love visiting the Queen Mary’s “Chill” during the holidays.  The combination of ice tubing and ice skating and food and holiday atmosphere make it a great place to enjoy the holiday spirit.

IMG_5288This was our family’s second consecutive year going to “Chill,” and by the size of the lines at the ice tubing, it is evident “Chill” is becoming a part of many Southern Californian family’s holiday traditions.

I am notorious non-planner and, due to typical and other obligations, our first visit lasted just over an hour. Enough time to let my son and me go ice tubing and ice skating and for him to get excited for our return visit.

This year was different.

We stayed several hours to walk around and enjoy the holiday music and decorations and to linger in the holiday ambience that is “Chill.”  The festive holiday decorations are one of my favorite things about “Chill.”

IMG_5300The Ice Kingdom is a walk through a winter wonderland with a wide array of Christmas-themed ice sculptures and Tchaikovsky’s music playing.  I pranced to the music to keep my body warm.

l liked the reminder by the guy at the entrance to not lick the ice sculptures or “it will become ours.” That was a good warning for a sensory kid like our son–and the wife and I repeated it to him.

IMG_5321

There is no doubt ice tubing is my son’s favorite part of “Chill.” He was giddy with excitement the entire time from going down the 30-foot slide (my guess-timate) to carrying his tube back up the stairs to the top.

He even ran towards a fellow ice tuber once after going down in his tube.  He was that excited.  No question about it, he has the adrenaline gene or a sensory predisosition for fast movement.

The wait in line was long, and I entertained myself watching two kids play the Heads Up App, but the wait was a good thing.  

My son will soon be starting karate lessons and, as sensory kid, modulating his body is a challenge. But he waited over an hour. Just fine. Really. 

There was a mild episode of hand-flapping, and hand-smacking on my head while he was on my shoulders, and I needed to give him some hugs for sensory input. But he handled the wait without a single complaint.

IMG_5355Meanwhile, the wife waited patiently at a table, writing in her journal and munching on carmel popcorn. I was glad to see she was able to relax and not be frustrated.

Jumping in a giant Snowman jumper was a close second to ice tubing.  For my son, that is.  There’s just something about being five jumping in an inflatable jumper with other like-minded kids.

This was my favorite part of the day: there is also just something about seeing you son having fun, but also peering through a plastic window and seeing a little girl with a dazed look and chocolate-covered face.

There’s so much to do at “Chill:” ride a mechanical reindeer (for six years and older, my son missed by two weeks), go ice skating, eat carnival-style food like Parmesan garlic french fries, or take a walk on the Queen Mary.   

IMG_5335I can’t recommend the Queen Mary’s “Chill” enough.  It is the perfect combination of family fun, winter activities without the drive and time spent with the family.

Full Disclosure: We enjoyed “Chill” compliments of the Queen Mary.  Thank you to the Queen Mary for tickets in exchange for this blog post.  We look forward to continuing to visit “Chill” next year as part of our holiday family tradition.  

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Lost Teeth

Written By: Scot Butwell - Dec• 31•13

lost teeth

He lost his first two baby teeth.  They netted him $5 apiece from the Tooth Fairy.

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This is Love…

Written By: Scot Butwell - Dec• 31•13

dom dad2

You run down a trail and find an old ball, and you smack your dad on the head with it, as I carry you up a steep hill on my shoulders.

But this is love…your sensory way of saying, “I love you, dad.”  Your way of having fun smacking me and getting a reaction.  You just being you…one of the things I hope you will never forget to be.

You like taking off running out of the house and hiding in the laundry room.  My first response is anger.  But I know in your mind you are just playing with me.

Sometimes, I just forget.

You resist holding my hand in parking lots and pull your body weight to the ground.  You like to see me get upset, and I do, and a lady reminded me the last time that you were just having fun.

The mother who raised four boys was right: You were just having fun and I needed this reminder.  It just took time awhile for me to realize she was right.

rocket sillu

Yesterday, a friend told me her cat attacked her when it became startled looking at a lady bug.  I thought how you are a lot like the cat and lady buy.  A young boy with impulses easy to misinterpret.

But the wife is right: You are five, less than a month away from turning six and one day you will be 10 and 15, and how I parent you now will make a difference in your behavior in five or ten years.

I am gradually absorbing this truth, how important it is to be united as parents, despite our differences in personality and beliefs.

rship trailI appreciate the unique ways you express your love to me, but at the same time I plan to be better at teaching you the right behavior.

You are teaching me: love is patient and kind.  Love does not envy or boast.  Love is not rude or self-seeking.  Love is not easily angered and keeps no records of wrongs.

It always protects, always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres.

Love never fails, according to God.

trot

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Mother and Son

Written By: Scot Butwell - Dec• 31•13

lisa dom samo

We went to see a drama performance of “Hansel and Gretal” in Santa Monica.   Our son sat between us and made it through the entire performance.   We plan to take him to more children’s drama productions because he has an active imagination.   He likes slap stick type humor…his favorite show on tv is H.R. Puff N’ Stuff with a funny witch named Witchy Poo.  This performance could have used more silliness to appeal to his taste.

theatre

Dad and son chillin.’    He used to not eat cookies due to texture issues.  Now, he loves cookies.   He has found his Sweet Tooth.  Here, he is enjoying a cookie during intermission.

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Tin Man and Scarecrow

Written By: Scot Butwell - Dec• 31•13

hween bestHalloween is my favorite holiday.  Christmas is commercial.  Thanksgiving an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Turkey, mashed potatoes, green beens and cranberry all mixed together.

But Halloween is the chance to throw off your every day identity, assume a new persona and, for my son and me, a night of running with other kids from house to house in the dark of night.

It is a night ripe for father-son bonding.

Halloween appeals to my son’s imagination and attachment to pop culture characters. He does not just wear a costume. He literally becomes his character and assumes their identity.

Halloween allows me to join my son in the trenches of childhood. There is no better way to narrow the gap between his childhood world of actions and sensations and my adult world of thoughts and ideas than donning a costume.

I put my costume on while the wife and son ran a few errands. When they returned and I stepped into the living room in my costume, my son looked like he had taken a sniff of a boutonniere and been squirted in the face with water.

“The Tin Man!” he exclaimed. “It’s the Tin Man!”

He had been watching a tv show in his Scarecrow costume, but instantly began checking out each part of my costume – from my silver-painted poster board with a big red heart, silver make-up, oil funnel hat and my ax.

I spray-painted over the red fake blood on the ax to not be a gory Tin Man.  And I struck my pose as the rusted solid Tin Man and repeated his famous first line in a throaty groan, “Oil.”

scarecrowMy son gave me a squirt of oil and our Halloween began right there.  I had promised to become the Tin Man and I had delivered.  The wife even complimented me for keeping my promise to our son.

As I made some last minute tweaks to my costume, my son played with my ax or came over every few moments to inspect me.  It was as if he could not believe the Tin Man was in his living room.

He had been passively sitting in a chair and watching Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman, and now, he was jumping off the sofa with the ax, running with excitement and chopping down imaginary trees.

We joined up with an Army soldier with a gas mask and Robin Hood for the first couple of blocks and then we converged on the sidewalk with other small groups of trick-or-treaters and their parents.

scary houseMy son pushed the door bell and put his arms out to the side on an imaginary crossbar and, when the door was opened, he announced, “We’re going to the Emerald City!” I held up my ax and we were the Tin Man and Scarecrow.

He greeted other kids in their costumes by their character’s name.  They were not just a kid in a costume to him. He greeted them as if they were Spiderman, Batman or The Incredible Hulk.

“Hey, Thor, let me see you hammer.”

“Hi, Spiderman.”

“The Incredible Hulk!”

The joy and excitement my son feels for Halloween is contagious, but also carries with it this reality: that he will not stay young forever and will one day be more independent and want to spend time with friends rather than me.

I will deal with that day when it comes…by cherishing these memories, letting go and finding new ways to spend time with my son.

We went home and watched the “Charlie Brown’s Halloween Special” with the wife.  This is our annual tradition two years running and we relive our Halloween experience by watching the Peanuts’ characters go trick-or-treating.

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