This is the third in a series of behind-the-scenes blog posts regarding the book, The Single Dad Detour.

Page 39 includes a story about the infamous unwanted grapefruit tree my first wife and I received as a gift. What you don’t know is that the tree was a Christmas gift from my in-laws.11

A nice enough gift if their motive had been right and if I was more mature. But we were both wrong. They gave us the tree merely thinking it would grow and they would get some fresh fruit in return.

In their defense, they were not thinking about the time and money it takes to grow good citrus in Florida. Fertilizer, pruning, and pest control (rats) were added chores that came with owning a fruit tree. At the time, I held an out-of-town job and commuted to work. I was away from home 12 hours each day. I rarely had time to do extra work.

Oh and let’s not overlook my identity to a yard. To me, the yard was a reflection of who I was—-much like house decor reflects the woman who lives there. I was particular (maybe too much) of what I put in my yard. I carefully considered the type of grass, each flower and tree, the kind of landscape bricks—-everything.

So when I saw the potted tree on Christmas morning, I was not sure how to respond. The look on my in-law’s faces clued me in to smile big and thank them. But as they dove into their expectations of reciprocated bags of fruit, my grin faded. I had visions of fat, fruit-fed rats taking over my yard and home, money spent of pruning tools and fertilizers, a heater to keep the tree from freezing during the winter months. Yes, central Florida often gets freezing temperatures that ruin entire citrus groves.333

I dutifully planted the tree and watered it. Then, under cover of night, so my neighbors couldn’t see me, I poured gasoline on the roots of that sweet little tree.

So good for the environment.

I never bothered to stop and ask God what I should do. Instead, as Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way.”

What a coward and a fool I was. I might have enjoyed years of fresh produce but I was too self-centered. I forfeited the joy of receiving a wonderful gift and the opportunity to provide sweet treats to my wife, kids, and in-laws.

22In this story shared in The Single Dad Detour I go on to explain how, if unchecked, our attitudes and actions lead us down roads we later regret. 

Being led by the Holy Spirit is key to surviving, whether it’s a Christmas gift you don’t want or a spouse that doesn’t want you. How often we take matters into our own hands.

When things don’t go as planned, pray. That’s the lesson here. Pray for wisdom, pray for humility, pray for maturity. The Lord is an ever-present help in time of need.

The rest of the story? Well, that poisoned tree lasted about 4-5 days and died. Then I pulled it out of the ground and tossed it in the trash can. I thought my problems were solved. In actuality, that dead tree represented a much bigger problem I was of yet unaware. 

The devil had poured poison on my family and I was about to discover my marriage was dead. But you’ll have to read the book if you want to know more about that.    

 

 

I’m not a big fan of bragging about my kids. My parents had some close friends when I was growing up and all they talked about was how amazing their kids were. It was annoying. 

2017-02-11 17.40.59

As a parent now, what I do want to make sure I do is encourage my kids, without prideful statements. As a Christian, I value humility. But don’t get me wrong, I struggle with pride myself, and have to make a conscious effort to kill it every day.

It seems the Lord has given me particular talents that make this harder. I’m an actor, a speaker, a writer, and a leader. All these things are prone to increase my pride and often requires self-promotion (hate that word) when I need to market myself or my books. 

And let’s not forget, I’m male…and men struggle with the sin of pride anyway, even without talents and abilities. It’s in our nature. I could blame it on testosterone, but it’s deeper than that.

Maybe I’ll blame it on Adam. I love pointing fingers!

At any rate, because I struggle with pride, it’s hard not to see it in others too…especially my middle school-aged children. But this is when they need to be bragged about most. I see it in their eyes, that longing for approval and esteem. 

Middle school is hard for kids. They are stuck between childhood and adulthood. There’s so much pressure to be liked and approved of among peers. They come home exhausted from the social interactions alone. 

So when they brag about themselves, it’s because they are desperate for it and I’m probably not doing a good enough job reminding them how awesome they are.

Last week, one of my daughters begin talking about how good she looked. I caught myself getting ready to share the importance God places on modesty and humility, but I stopped. She just needed Daddy to mention how incredibly beautiful she was, without turning it into a lesson on humility. 

Yesterday, my other middle school daughter wrote an email to the school dean asking him to reevaluate a teacher’s decision to give a bad grade. She never asked her mom or me to do it for her. that would be helicopter parenting (but that’s a topic for another post). She was confident enough to take this upon herself and she did well. The email was mature and professional and contained no teen angst that might normally disqualify her complaint. There was no whining. Not once did she include “It’s not fair!” or “Mrs. X hates me.” 

I was proud of my child and I told her. Later, I brought it up again, letting her know I was still pondering it and how impressed I was with her maturity.

Lest you think I’m a better dad than I am, let me tell you: I don’t make a practice of this like I should. Most times I think it, but don’t say it aloud, for fear I’ll create a prideful teen. Silly, I know.

Sometimes I suck at parenting. But I’m trying.

How about you? Do you agree it’s ok to encourage your kids? What about in public, among others, where it could be considered bragging? How does this fit into your family if you’re followers of Christ? Where’s the balance? Share your thought in the comments. 

If you’re a single parent, consider Tez’s book, The Single Dad Detour, available today on Amazon.com