Christmas Eve on the Side of the Road

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Our car waiting patiently for a new alternator.

 

Sitting on the side of the road in a car with a dead alternator sucks. 

Such was the Lenshyn family reality on a rainy Christmas eve.  It was cold, wet, and horribly frustrating as we sat in a dead car.  All we saw was the dollar signs it will take to fix our car troubles.   

After we made the call to family with an emphatic “help” our three year old began negotiating his release from the car seat.  Knowing our the hour long wait before us we said yes.  The last thing we wanted was a grumpy kid strapped to a car seat.

And so began a wonderful hour of sitting in a car with our boy.  He climbed, told us jokes, begged passing cars to stop driving, tried fixing our car with pretend Band-Aids, sang us a few songs, asked about the baby in his moms tummy and couldn’t wait to see his uncle Christ who was heroically driving out an hour out of his way to save us. 

I hate clichés.  They make me cringe.  For me to write that I found a simple meaning of Christmas on the side of the road in a dead car with my family sounds lame.  Yet it set off a chain of events that offered us love and support in the most practical of ways.  Ways that are radical when compared with the opposite.  We could have been sitting on the side of the road wishing we were loved. 

Our Christmas we great.  We didn’t miss a beat because people dare to love us.  May we be a people who love.   

I thanked Jesus for that hour.

How was your Christmas?

On Being a Dad

It is simply something that I felt compelled to write about being a father.

This is not a comprehensive list, nor is it a list that is intended to knock your socks off.  These are in no particular order.

1.  My son has introduced me to a new kind of love I never thought possible.  To be such an integral part of my son’s upbringing has caused me great joy, anxiety, sleepless nights, pain, hope, and all that comes with caring for someone more than anything else in this world.

2.  One of the greatest days in my life was when my son told me he loved me.  It sounded more like “I luh loo” but it was still beautiful.

3.  I don’t even mind listening to Raffi, or other super catchy kids music.  It’s worth it just to see how happy he gets.  Sometimes I catch myself listening to it when he isn’t even in the car because that’s what was in the CD player.

4.  I was kindly reminded the other day that I will never regret spending time with my family.  I will never look back upon life and say “gosh, I sure did spend waaay too much time with my son.”  In a seemingly ‘work hard, play hard’ world, this reminder becomes increasingly important.

5.  I’m terrified because I know I will make mistakes.

6.  The call to fatherhood is a divine calling.

7.  The new thing my son and I are doing is singing our ABC’s.  He gets about half of the letters right, but that’s ok because him doing it right isn’t the point.  The point is that we are singing it, and learning it together.

I love my boy and thank God for him every day.

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Five: Parenting @ the McDonald’s “Playplace” Jungle

It has become standard practice in the Lenshyn household that when I’ve been away for a weekend, which happens about once a month, I take my 2 year old son Asher out to McDonald’s for some ‘food’ and playtime in the ‘playplace’  for some quality father/son time.  These past weeks have been quite busy, so this past Friday we decided to make it a family affair.

The food can be sketchy, that is a given.  Have you ever heard of the McGirggles?  But entering the ‘playplace’ which is cordoned off by 4 walls and a glass door from the rest of the joint is like entering a whole new world of chaos where survival of the fittest rules apply.  On this typical rainy British Columbia evening the ‘playplace’ was populated with a giant 14 year old (seriously, the size of an Ent), a few 10 year olds, a few kids in the 3-4 age range, and my 2 year old son who stands eye to eye with many 3 year olds.  As we walk in I’m thinking to myself, ‘this is a great place for my son to learn how to play with other children.’

About 10 minutes go by and I find myself sitting there watching my son get pushed over by some seemingly maniac 4 year old whose grandfather, amidst all the noisy craziness of the playplace jungle was asleep in the corner of the room.  I was paralyzed.  Luckily, as I sat in a daze, my beautiful wife elbowed me with her sharp bony elbows encouraging me to go rescue my pushed over son.  At the moment her elbow poked my side I sprung into action like a father of the year hopeful, picking up my wailing son and giving the 4 year old girl a stare down that even Dirty Harry himself would be proud of.  At the moment of my son’s rescue, as if an alarm clock had gone off, the grandfather jumped up, hurried over in a stumble and asked if his grand-daughter had pushed over my son.  Awkwardly, as I sat down I muttered ‘yes.’

It wasn’t the Ultimate Fighting Championship style takedown/push that my son endured like a 2 year old Rocky Balboa from the 4 year old girl/Amazon woman. 

Ok, not an Amazon woman, she was about as tall as my son.  

It wasn’t even that my son was a bit distraught from the whole experience.  It was my feeling of ineptness in that moment to protect my son from the harm that came his way.  I froze.  ‘I love him too much to freeze’ I thought to myself wondering how I can prevent this kind of thing from happening again.  

It prodded the seemingly familiar question deep within my parental soul; how do I navigate the tension between action and inaction in those parental moments where I find myself hoping beyond all hope that my decision, whatever it may be, will be for the betterment of my child for decades to come?

I have no answer to that question as of yet.  I’m not really sure if I ever will.  If you want an answer, it may be in your best interest to find the real father of the year and ask him.  Whatever the answer is, protecting my son from harm feels near, or at least at the top of the list of parenting guidelines.  However, I do know that my deep love for my son which is grounded in our little family, and our peace-loving Anabaptist faith orient the manner in which I act as a parent.  Knowing that my son will be subjected to the world like everyone else seems to be a tough pill for me to swallow at the moment.  Especially because he is so dang beautiful and curiously innocent.  If I could put my son in a bubble and protect him from the harms of this world I would.  It’s a jungle out there.

being a dad: what ‘the road’ got me thinking about…

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A few months before my son Asher was born I picked up a book called ‘the road’ by Cormac McCarthy.  Strangely enough, 2 years later, it is a book that I think about often when I am with my son.  Initially when I picked it up I was hoping to dive into a post apocalyptic story about desperate survival amidst a shattered world.  But what I ended up with would get me thinking about what it means to be a dad.

The setting is brutal.  Bleak and dangerous, the world of ‘the road’ is certainly no place for anybody let alone a boy. There is no food and there are gangs of cannibals motivated by desperation are ravaging the landscape looking for anyone to eat. Yet within this horrendous world, a mere man and his son are embarking on a journey to a place that is rumoured to be a safe-haven.  They are taking ‘the road’ which is an old highway, to get there carrying their stuff in a shopping cart.  They are travelling the road of hope.

“This is my son, he said. I wash a dead man’s brains out of his hair. That is my job.”

The mutual love and dependency upon one another within the bleakness of a post apocalyptic context is what gives the story life.  Even in the midst of chaos and a cannibalism that has become seemingly normative for what is left of society, the man marches on with his son to the beat of a different drum.  He refuses to be a cannibal even to the brink of starvation.  He stunningly teaches his son of a different morality and ethic of a world past while fully and completely protecting his son from the violence of the new post apocalyptic reality.

The man will do anything for his son.  He teaches him not only how to physically survive, but the man teaches his son how to live.  This is the what got me thinking. 

When I first read the book it got me thinking, what kind of father will I be?  Today it has me thinking about what kind of father I am.

Am I the kind of father that would succumb to the structures of a post apocalyptic world and enter into a the dark places of cannibalism?  Or am I so bold to tell my son of a different way of life that requires significant sacrifice?  The struggle is brutal.  In ‘the road’ the man loves his son to the point that they may starve.  Yet, the desperation to survive we know that the man will do anything for his boy.

One look from my son and in his eyes I see a dependency so innocent and vital to his mere physical survival I feel intimidated by the responsibility.  That is when I again realize that I love him and will do anything for him.  But there is more to being a father than just keeping the kid alive.  What will I show him and teach him about life?  How will I walk with him on the journey?  How can I be used to show him of this wonderful divine being alive and active in our world? 

I have learned in the mere 20+ months of being a dad that the best thing I can do is be a father who is fully present with his son.  I hope that with that presence I can be a medium for which God’s love will reign down on his tiny little toddler self.  I hope that no matter what the context, post apocalyptic, West End Winnipeg, or the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, that we walk the road of hope together.

I would gladly wash dead mans brains out of my sons hair!