Being a Bubble Gum Dad - by Adam
In last week's episode, Dave and I took on the difficult topic of raising Christian children with everything that's going on in the world today. Whether or not you subscribe to our religious beliefs, we can all agree that raising children in this day and age presents unique challenges that previous generations did not have to face. That's not to say we have it worse -- pandemics aren't new; we aren't living through a World War; we have many modern conveniences, etc. There are just new challenges we face that no other generation of parents has had to deal with.
Imagine going back in time and telling your great-great-grandparents that you would have to beg your children to get off of devices that would be able to stream any TV show, movie, or song at any time, anywhere in the world! I'm sure they would tell us that what we're facing is nothing, and that to get anywhere, they had to walk (uphill...both ways...in the snow...and they were happy to do it!), and I, for one, would be grateful for that dose of perspective. But no matter what we're facing, the good news is that there are simple things that we can do as parents that will help us all ensure we raise healthy, well-adjusted and happy children through "these unprecedented times"! And to illustrate those simple things, I present to you The Bubble Gum Dad!
Now I know you're thinking, "What is a bubble gum dad?" so allow me to explain. When I played baseball (which I did a lot when I was a kid), my dad would go to the concession stand and buy a paper sack of Super Bubble gum and bring it to the dugout for us to chew on while we sat there. One of the most vivid memories of my Little League years was not just him handing us gum through the chain link fence of the dugout, but also how the other players reacted. It was such a simple kindness, but in that moment, he was bigger than Willy Wonka to a group of 10-year-olds. The coaches of the team took notice, and at the awards ceremony at the end of the year, they presented my dad with a plaque thanking him for being our "Bubble Gum Dad."
Now that I'm a father, I've looked at that plaque time after time and pondered what I can do to be the "Bubble Gum Dad" for my own kids and my community, and I believe it comes down to a handful of things that stand the test of time and are just as applicable today as they were 30 years ago:
Find little ways to surprise and delight your children. A few dollars on a paper sack of gum can mean more to a child than a toy, stuffed animal or anything that's more expensive. We all worry about spoiling our children, so forgo the expensive things and give them little things - gum, a trip for ice cream, or just your time. You will show them that you love them and eliminate your concern about spoiling them at the same time!
Find ways to serve your children, no matter how small their wants/needs seem to you. My dad looked in the dugout and saw a baseball team sitting there without gum. This can't be...baseball and bubble gum just go together! So he served that need and got significant appreciation in return from both the players and the coaches. As adults, we can often look at what our children say they want or need and consider it insignificant, but who can blame us? Look at everything we deal with - bills, pandemics, work. In the grand scheme of life, how can their wants or needs stack up to that? But strip all that away, put yourself in their mindset, and bubble gum in the dugout looks much more important. Don't forget to look at the world through their eyes and figure out what is important to your children!
Be kind without being asked. Please don't misunderstand me here! I am not taking anything away from parents who sign up to bring snacks, who volunteer, or do anything when asked to make their children's activities successful. But what I take away from this story, maybe more than anything else, is that no one asked my dad to do this. There wasn't a bubble gum signup sheet or bubble gum schedule...he just saw something he could do and he did it, without being asked. We should always be on the lookout for ways to serve others, whether we're asked or not.
Kindness leaves a legacy. Last, but not least, what I find amazing is how my dad's kindness was recognized and rewarded by the coaches, and here we are now, 30 years later, talking about that kindness. His kindness not only left impressions on me, the players and the coaches, but now it's able to leave impressions on each of you that are reading this. Kindness really can leave a legacy with our children (and in this case, people 30 years in the future that we would have never imagined knowing).
What stories will your children tell about you 30 years from now? My hope is that if we all can take a moment to look at the world through our children's eyes and show them that kindness is best shown through the small things, then we will find that we do have control over who ends up telling our story - our children will. (Yes, that's a Hamilton reference...I couldn't help myself!)