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MARCUS BROTHERTON New York Times Bestselling Author

What to remember when raising young pirates

Oct 18, 2011 // By Marcus Brotherton

Cropped Zach

The elderly woman stood next to me in line at the bookstore and made googly-eyes at my son. She grinned gap-toothed at my 3-year-old, flapped her nose, and made motorboat sounds with her lips. Then she looked at me, her eyes shining.

“You’re going to have so much fun raising your son,” she said.
That wasn’t what I expected to hear. People normally look at a little kid and say, “Oh, how cute.” Or ask how old he is. But she was predicting the future. It was a blanket pronouncement from somebody who’d been there once with her own kids, I guessed-and had a ball.
I confess I don’t often see life through that grid. Even when it comes to raising my kids. Oh sure, there are fun moments. But most of the time having kids mean installing car seats, and watch out for strangers, and eat your carrots! That kind of …uh … fun.
How easy it is as leaders to place fun on the bottom rung of priorities. We’re more prone to busy ourselves with the importance of whatever needs doing. Work isn’t about fun, we’ve long since told ourselves. We need to complete a project, meet a deadline, or sell a product. And home life isn’t about fun either. Not if we’re honest. The mortgage swirls through our mind. We’ve got a car to maintain, a spouse to schedule a date with, a child to take to soccer practice.
But fun?
Last night I needed to discipline Zach. He was being zany, pushing his sister, yelling like a cutthroat pirate. I don’t remember the specifics. He’s at that wacky age where we don’t keep track of his nuttiness for long.
After I growled at him, and we got that over with, I put him in the bathtub and let him putter around with boats for awhile. We recently had a new shower installed with an all-glass enclosure, similar to the ones you’ll see on Zach has been really keen to use it rather than the bath, but he makes such a mess splashing around in there and getting fingerprints all over the glass. Thankfully, tonight he settled for the bath. I got him out and put jammies on him, and we sat in the old brown overstuffed chair in his room. Normally we have the same nighttime agenda: book, prayers, bed. But last night Zach was quieter than usual. He didn’t clamor for a book. Not even The Sneetches-his favorite. He simply sat on my lap and leaned close into me.
Normally, Zach absolutely loves reading books at bedtime. Although he adores the stories, it is the illustrations that seem to really catch his eye. I find that the illustrations in books for children are always so colorful and exciting.
In fact, a friend of ours writes and illustrates books for children. She has worked a few children’s book illustration jobs in her time and certainly knows a thing or two about how to engage children with reading material. She has such an amazing job, and she even gets to create from the comfort of her own home.
To be honest, I would love to write a book for children too. If ever I get an idea, I will be sure to contact my friend to take care of the illustrations. She is such a talented artist.
Anyway, on this particular night, Zach did not want to read. I simply let him do what he wanted. I turned off the lamp and wrapped my arms around him, and we didn’t do anything except sit in quietness. Maybe twenty minutes passed. Zach’s breathing grew deeper and regular, and I knew he’d fallen asleep. When I carried him to bed, and placed him on his hybrid mattress before tucking him in, I noticed how long and angular he felt. How quickly the days with him are already passing.
You’re going to have so much fun raising your kids.
As a family leader, or any kind of a leader, will I remember that basic truth-that much of life is indeed fun, if we see it as so. And will I allow that blessed grid to become the filter for the moments of my daily life?
I tucked the blankets around my son’s chin, and crept softly out of the room.
Question: Do you tend to see life as a problem to be solved, or a journey to be experienced. Explain.