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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. Then 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.
And I simply let him. 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, 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.


Enjoy Marcus’ new novel, FEAST FOR THIEVES


  • Anonymous

    In my very limited experience (I mean, 23 years is not much), life’s full of responsibilities and “fun” just catches up occasionally. I’d be hard pressed to believe it can be scheduled and it can certainly not be demanded. But it does tend to pop up if you stop to smell the roses…

  • Marcus, that is extremely special. What a moment and Im glad you got to experience that moment, in light of the comment too. I think I’m too simple to experience life any other way than it is pretty fun. On a side note, your last comment so much reminded me of somethign GK Chesterton said that i have to quote it, “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.” hope that’s the way we might look at life a bit more. Here’s to the adventures bro.

  • Bob

    Marcus, I’m really liking your new blog. It’s a thinking man’s blog. We need more of those.

    And this post was an especially good one. I find myself going through periods of stress and always trying to look ahead to the next fun or enjoyable time, rather than endeavoring to find the fun, or maybe more appropriately, joy, in the moment…whether that be with my wife, kids, job …whatever.

    I met a guy the other day who said he honestly wakes up every morning looking forward to going to work! I thought, “Wow! How rare, and cool, is that?!”

    I’ve always seen myself as an “enjoying the journey” type but this is another good reminder to stop and look for the fun in an “everyday” way!

    Thanks for the great blog! Keep it up!


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  • Great question, Marcus! I think life is a combination, a journey to be enjoyed with problems all along the way. Problems and happiness are not mutually exclusive. To me, accepting that life includes a never ending stream of problems means putting them in perspective and realizing that none of them are insurmountable. You can’t let the problems define your happiness in the short term or in the long run.

    Each day there’s something that can bring happiness, contentment or at least a momentary smile…whether it’s humor, beauty, kindness, love or something else, even simply thinking that things could be worse. Cumulatively, these snipits of positive moments make the journey enjoyable.

  • Unfortunately, I spend most of my time looking at life as a journey to a destination. So much of my activities and thoughts are with the mindset, “Just get there. Buckle down, gird up, and push through.” My head’s down, teeth gritted, and mind focused – but I can miss so much of the joy of the journey. And the destination is never…what you think it will be or as fulfilling. Not that the trip was pointless, but feels different than I thought it would.

    And thanks so much for starting this blog – I can tell we would be friends.

  • Marcus, what a beautiful moment with your son. He will remember that, just as you will. I agree wholeheartedly that this life journey is to be savored every step of the way – good, bad and heartbreaking. If we only complain along the way, we miss those quiet moments with our heavenly Father when we just want to lean in … and He lets us.

  • Kate

    While we do have to balance a hundred different things in our lives to make life work, Marcus, those golden times are like quicksilver. As a mother of two grown children, I look back and wish I could have just one “normal” day back with them when they were little. I call them “Do Over Days”. Those are the precious days that we “do” over & over again in our memory. How many of those moments or days do we miss when we lose the perspective of what is important? Very often, I am a Martha. She was highly irritated when Mary sat at the feet of Jesus when he visited and she was stuck in the kitchen with KP duty. Lots of people to feed & of course, it had to be perfect. No help from that selfish sister! I can see the petulant & harried look on her martyred face when she tattled on Mary to the Lord. He cut her down to size when he looked at her and said, “Martha, Martha,” you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” In other words, “Chill, Martha. Go in there and slap some sandwiches together & come join us”. While we cannot shirk the responsibilities & mechanics of living, we must find ways to capture and memorialize the “better” moments that make life worth living.
    Marcus, stay very close to that old brown overstuffed chair. From there, “Do Over Days” will abound. We all need to find such a chair.

  • My wife recently went back to work full-time so I took over the morning gig: waking, dressing, making breakfast and school lunches and getting them to the bust stop and dropped off at day care. At first I thought it was going to be a major inconvenience and another series of deadlines and added stress, but I’ve come to enjoy that morning time because we all make it fun. We goof around in the kitchen, singing songs, cracking jokes, doing silly dances. My kids provide me with a venue to act like a kid myself and I try to soak up as much of it as I can every single day!

    Another great post, Marcus – keep ’em coming and cherish those quiet moments just as much as the silly ones!

  • Marcus

    So many good thoughts here today. Thank you all. Keep up the good stuff!

  • I have always purposed to see life, including raising kids, as a journey to be experienced and enjoyed. I remember someone saying to me when our first was little “It is so wonderful to see someone really enjoying her child”. I thought the comment strange, didn’t everyone enjoy their children. Sadly, not true. Life is saddest when it is a problem to be solved and I have been there, certainly. But, I’m going for that promise of “abundant life” and I think that is a journey to be experienced.
    – Wendy

  • The problem to be solved is the driving force by which the journey is experienced. Even a wanderer has small but measurable destinations that keep the journey alive. That said, sometimes the most significant parts of the journey are not the destination but the moments along the road.

    While making dinner last night, I had on a midweek college football game between two teams I could care less about. My 6 year old daughter asked me who I was rooting for and I told her I didn’t care, then I asked her the same question. She replied, “I don’t care either, I just like watching.” The journey of our busy week found a nice little college football rest stop on a Tuesday night.

  • Great reminder, Marcus. I tend to see life as duty to be served, and therefore I appreciate the reminder to enjoy the daily miracles, ironies, and belly-laughs that it brings.
    Strangely enough, the person who best reminds me to enjoy life and have fun is my pastor (who is also a great friend). You would have to show up on a Sunday morning sometime to truly understand…but we regularly have a lot of fun together, including at church.

  • Marcus

    Great comments, folks. Thanks!

  • Karen

    This was my favorite so far.

  • Lee S

    Marcus, a very special moment not to be taken for granted, i have 2 children with autism where moments like that are few and far between which i share with all my family and friends on FB whether they want to hear it or not as it may be mundane to them, but is a significant event in our lives.
    My family life is scheduled between therapies, meals, bath time, bed, all sorts of routines, just like any household but with sometimes dire consequences if one was to break from that.
    Fun can sometimes be hard to find but one must look for it where they can or they risk becoming overwhelmed in seriousness, stress and possibly depression, which in many circumstances can be quite easy to dwell on the negatives and the lack of progress etc, but life is much easier when you slow down, don’t look at life as a whole, break it up and appreciate the individual achievements or moments that come along.

  • Tobias (GER)

    LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT! I don’t know who said it but it is kind of true. Sure there are things which you can not affect, but most things you can.
    The difficulty in life is to notice the fun moments. They happen mostly every day, but it’s hard to realize them. Mostly because time flies by so fast and the life from nowadays is very transient.
    I’m very happy for you Marcus that you have such great moments with your kids and that you have the ability to notice them.
    I always wonder how you notice these things during your day and how you convert them into this fine blog. I guess that’s what makes you such a good writer and human.

  • Marcus, you’ve gone and made me cry. What a beautiful moment with your son.

    Tobias – a retired Air Force Colonel told me that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you make of it. For me, a long commute means that I finally have 2 hours a day alone when I can recite my French lessons. Life is what you make of it.

  • Tobias (GER)

    word habap!

  • Life is solving problems. When you have children, you make a commitment to care for them, keep them safe, teach them how to live and help them through hard times. That’s what responsible parents do. However, in the rush and confusion of navigating through these challenges, there will come moments of pure joy. Cherish them. But remember, once we have children, we are no longer in this game for ourselves. As we make the tradeoffs, most of us will regret not smelling the flowers more often. Even the best of us will have some regrets in spite of successfully raising our own. But for the very fortunate among us, there are “do-overs”. They’re called grandchildren.

  • Anonymous

    Nice one.

    This blog entry made me think of playing board games with the kids. Sometimes, it’s easy to fall into the “get to the end of the game” trap or the “follow the rules” trap when really it’s about spending the time along the way and making it enjoyable for them and having a laugh. That’s it.
    Brent Lee

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the bestselling author or coauthor of more than 25 books. Welcome to my blog. Thoreau pointed out how too many people lead lives of quiet desperation. Their lives are bland and meaningless, or they make choices that trap them in despair and darkness. By contrast, I want to help people lead lives of excellence. Meet here regularly for powerful stories and insight into how to live and lead well.