From Across the Net – “When Parents Feel Like We Are Mostly Failing Most of the Time”

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Appreciated this piece from Tim Challies. Especially liked his list of principles, he has been pondering, towards the end of the article.

As parents in this digital world, it’s like we have planted ourselves and our families on a beach. Though the water is rising, we have convinced ourselves that we can somehow hold back the tide. But inevitably it just keeps creeping higher and higher up the beach until our best plans, like feeble little sandcastles, are swept away. There seems to be a kind of inevitability about it, that before long we’ll all always be staring at our devices. In fact, it seems like our devices have wills of their own, and this is exactly what they want. They want to dominate our lives. They want to be our main thing.

You can read more here

Photo by Austrian National Library on Unsplash

In the Shadows of Fortnite

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Last November, Tabitha and I were struggling through the Fortnite craze with Wyatt. At the time, I penned a blog post that opened with this:

“I feel caught between being a parent and a gamer. Caught between my son loving Fortnite and me seeing the game for what it is, exploitative. I find myself fighting the urge to erase the game from my house. To pretend that Fortnite does not exist and funnel Wyatt towards games that are not built upon:

  • The addictive free-to-play foundations of games such as Candy Crush and Clash of Clans. Games that are built to encourage consumers to spend real life money to advance/keep playing. Pay-to-win, children!
  • Female characters designed to be objectified/sexual eye candy.
  • A non-stop gameplay loop.
  • An in-game store that creates an artificial need to buy skins (think: clothing/costumes) and items that will expire within an arbitrary time limit.

I can feel my parents surging within me, screaming, “JUST PULL THE PLUG!” But I’m trying to push through that deep rooted feeling. I’m trying to like Fortnite for my son; I’m trying to parent through it.”

I wrote much more than what I’m sharing above. The Fortnite post was up, on this site, for a couple of hours until I removed it. Not that I disagreed with anything that I had written, but I realized that the game had changed.

There comes a point, in parenting, where you need to work through things on your own. I realized that I was painting myself, as a parent, into a corner. Failing to realize:

  • That my attitude towards Fornite might change in the future.
  • That one day Wyatt might discover my blog and read what I have written about him.
  • That I want to be careful with how I represent my son online.
  • That some things are best worked out as a family. Privately.

Yes, we struggled as a family through Fortnite. I know many of you did. But me writing that unpublished blog post made me re-think how I blog about myself and my family. Not everything that happens in our homes, with our kids, needs to end up online.

From Across the Net – “10 Ways Porn Culture Will Target Your Kids in 2020 (Be Prepared, Not Scared!)”

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Some of the points, on this list, seem like no duh parenting moments; other points come across as alarmist. But, I did find a few things helpful, like this:

Teach kids that when someone offers to show them anything on a screen, they should ask “What is it?” before looking.

And this regarding streaming services:

Many will tell you to just set up a separate profile for the kids–easy! But that’s not enough. The profiles are not password protected and kids can easily switch profiles. Your best line of defense is to set up parental controls. Some parents find it annoying that they have to enter a password so that they themselves can watch content, but it’s a small price to pay to protect your child from mature content!

Photo by Thibault Penin on Unsplash

I have to admit, I always thought that having separate profiles would be enough. Setting up a PIN, for all accounts, to help govern content watched, seems smart.

You can read more here

From Across the Net – “The best parenting decision I ever made”

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Love this. Reminds me that I need to start up Boy’s Club again with Wyatt. Be purposeful.

When I was growing up a man in my church gave me perhaps the greatest gift I have ever received…weekly, uninterrupted, quality time. Mr. Zechman was a busy guy. He had four busy and successful daughters of his own. He was involved in our church and community in all sorts of ways. He had a demanding job and was a public figure in our town. He was the kind of guy who should not have had time for a goofy ninth grade boy like me. And yet he made time.

You can read more here

Stop thinking you’ll adopt a baby

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We were towards the end of our PRIDE training when our PRIDE Trainer dropped a news bomb:

“If you are thinking you are going to adopt a baby, you need to quit thinking that. If you want to adopt a baby, you will have to foster.”

With no prior mention or warning, in all of our 40 hours worth of state-mandated classroom training, we were all stunned! One of the adoptive couples (our class was mostly made up of adoption only couples with but a few couples looking to foster/adopt) started to cry. Our trainer continued talking about how her supervisor wanted her to make that announcement (CPS pushes for foster families… I get it.). She went on to talk to us about how the system works, etc. But the baby bomb had been dropped.

Abortion has been the political ice cream flavor of the month lately. With news pieces on:

The couples in our foster and adoption classes reminded me that there are MANY couples out there who want to adopt; couples who would love to adopt the baby of the disabled woman in the above linked article.

Photo by insung yoon on Unsplash

We have the choice to be a culture of life. A culture that fights for those who cannot speak in the womb. A culture that embraces adoption and gives life a chance.

You never know who that baby is going to grow up to be.

The Parenting Foxhole

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I’ve learned that parenting is full of moments where I have no clue what to do. It was in one of those moments that my wife reminded me how thankful I am to be parenting with her. 
 
Recently, we encountered a situation that called for an emergency strategy session. I had no idea how to proceed.
 
Tabitha looked at me, “I’ve got this.”
 
And she did. I walked back into our back hallway, right outside Wyatt’s room, and listened to her talk to him. A shining ambassador of grace, wisdom, and truth. I was in awe of how Tabitha handled the situation; a situation that she deescalated with poise.

Photo by Bill Jelen on Unsplash

I was ready to launch a rocket.

I have to admit, I’m not sure I would have handled the situation in the same way. But it was in that moment that I found myself thankful. Thankful for our different parenting strengths.
Tabitha, I love you. Thank you for sharing the parenting foxhole that we are in. I love the way you are able to speak to our son in a way that is hard for me. I can’t imagine doing this parenting thing without you. I am excited for where we are going as we add to our family. We can do this, together. I love you baby.
 
Bryan

From Across the Net – “4 Painful Lies Stay-at-Home Moms Tell Themselves”

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Jasmine Holmes, writing from The Gospel Coalition, has a great article titled “4 Painful Lies Stay-at-Home Moms Tell Themselves“.

I’m a stay-at-home mom because I’m striving to obey God’s calling on my life. He’s given me gifts, talents, and abilities that I steward while devoting most of my time to my family. We prayerfully made these decisions for our family; they’re not a judgment call on yours.

The stay-at-home mom life doesn’t define me any more than my professional life defined me—Christ’s death on the cross does. Staying home isn’t the most important detail about me. My identity as Christ’s daughter is.

You can read more here

I’ve also written on this topic before here

From Across the Net – “8 Reasons Why Pastors Need to Serve in the Nursery or Preschool for a Sunday”

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I can’t agree with Chuck Lawless enough here, speaking to pastors:

You need to model for your church’s parents the importance of serving in the nursery and preschool departments. Too many parents receive the benefits of childcare for their little ones, but they don’t give back by serving themselves. Perhaps seeing their pastor serve would encourage them to make a commitment.

Read more here

Blackballed

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We live in an odd time. A time where we think about how much our friends like our social media posts. How when they suddenly stop liking them or commenting, we begin to question whether they really are our friends or not.

Can you imagine telling your great grandparents, those that had lived through the Great Depression, about how your friends on social media are suddenly not liking your posts?

“I feel like they are blackballing me, Great Grandma Hall.”

And as we are navigating these choppy social waters, the thought dawns on us that we will have to help our kids through muck like this too. (Pulling the plug on the Internet isn’t the solution either. Let go of the cord!) We have to engage, walk through, and confront these thoughts/situations that pop up.  Asking ourselves if perhaps:

  • We are spending too much time on social media
  • A friend we know through social media isn’t a great influence on us
  • Why such such a seemingly petty thing matters

When we get down to the core of the issue, it shouldn’t matter whether someone likes or comments on our posts… and yet it does.

“And Jesus said, love only those who like and comment on your social media musings.” – Not In The Bible

What do you think? I love it when you share your thoughts below in the comments.

Personal Preferences and Media Consumption

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Back on this date in 2017, I asked the following question on Facebook:

Parents: How much do personal preferences play a role in what media your child consumes?

The general response was that personal parental preferences play a huge role in what media a child consumes. I know that for years, in my home, I have curated and encouraged consumption of specific video games, shows, and movies. Part of that is me being an engaged parent; the other part of that is wanting to show my son what quality media looks and feels like.

Super Mario Odyssey represents quality media.

Over the years, my son has watched a few shows that have driven me nuts. There has been nothing wrong with these shows, content-wise, but the voice acting and plotlines just seemed inane. Something I’ve had to learn, as a parent, is that sometimes my kid is going to like something I do not.

The big bad video game, in my house lately, has been Fortnite. A typical match looks like:

  • Picking a place on the map to start out in
  • Scavenging for weapons
  • Trying not to make a lot of noise and survive
  • Engaging fellow players with the weapons I’ve collected while trying not to become a victim of the virtual Hunger Games.

I have found that I enjoy the satisfaction of staying alive and making it into the final 5 players alive. Knowing that 95 other players have been eliminated and that I’m one of the few remaining is a good feeling. But I dislike how aimless Fortnite otherwise feels. I dislike the lack of direction, objectives, and how I have to make my own fun while surviving at the same time.

Fortnite does not fit my personal gaming preferences. This has taken me awhile to realize/put into words. But I’ve learned that there are times, as a parent, where you need to be quiet and explore the things your kids love. I may dislike Fortnite for many reasons, but I enjoy the time I get to play with my son. I have to focus on that positive, co-op play, and ignore the “we could be playing such-and-such game instead because that game is designed better” thoughts. Play in the moment, right?

Moving Along

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I wrestle over writing on the topics of faith, parenting, and gaming. Realizing that faith and gaming seem like polar opposite topics pitted against each other. I have a tendency to lean more towards gaming when I write as those posts get more clicks. That’s me being real. I hate how when I log into JBG, the first thing I see are the site statistics.

Over the years, I’ve been told to focus my blog more. Focus more on gaming, keep your faith and life posts to yourself or better yet, journal or start another blog for those. I’ve even had some encourage me to quit blogging, as it is a perceived waste of my time, and focus on writing for professional outlets.

Photo by Alexandru STAVRICĂ on Unsplash

In the shower this morning (where I do all my deep thinking, of course), I had one of those realizations that I’ve been allowing others, even complete strangers, to influence my thinking. Had to pray over this:

God help me to move on, to not be stuck on the past nor by what people have said. I’m tired of feeling held back by past hurt.

All of the above to say, that I’m going to keep writing. I’m going to keep blogging on the topics of faith, parenting, and gaming. Hopefully some of you find my writing helpful, insightful, funny, or just plain ludicrous.

Drop me a note in the comments section, if you have a moment. Let me know if you have benefited from joining me on this life journey. Thank you, as always, for reading. It means a lot to me.

Bryan

From Across the Net – “School-Year Screen-Time Rules from a Teacher”

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I enjoyed this piece, “School-Year Screen-Time Rules from a Teacher“, by Rebecca Young over at Common Sense Media.

Last year Fortnite invaded my middle school classroom — as I believe it did to middle school classrooms across the country. Students who were usually on task and high-performing were nodding off and “forgetting” to do their homework. The morning conversations about how late they stayed up or who was the last man standing became part of our early morning check-ins. Then the phone calls with parents started: Over several months, I had numerous telephone and after-school meetings with parents concerned about their kids’ performance. When I brought up screen time, there were a range of reactions. Some parents seemed oblivious as to what their children were doing after hours, some didn’t know how to rein in screen time, and some thought they had it all under control — but clearly did not.

You can read more here.

I Know Nothing

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There have been times, as a parent, where I’ve thought that I have had everything figured out. Moments where I mistakenly concluded that I had mastered the art of parenting. Looking back on old photos, I realize now that I knew nothing. The older Wyatt grows, the more I feel unequipped as a dad. Each day presenting a new challenge, a new set of decisions on how best to guide my child.

Parenting an almost 9 year old, I have been learning about freedom and letting go. Making what feel like hard decisions in the moment, like sending him to summer camp for a week by himself. Emotion versus logic battle it out:

  • Emotion: He is too young to be gone for a week by himself. What if he gets scared or wants to come home?
  • Logic: We can always go pick him up if need be. He’ll be in a safe place. Our Children’s Director, who is amazing, is going to camp/loves the camp they are attending.

The instant gut reaction of “lets wait until next year” gives way to questions of why. Tab and I are learning to push through these gut reactions, compare them against non-emotional truths, and then ask Wyatt what he thinks. Giving him voice and a choice in the decision at hand has helped us both make a final decision. Big decisions, such as “let’s try this!”

Parenting is not easy. But I’m thankful for the grace that is given to parents which allows us to grow up alongside our children. Grace that allows me to admit that I do not know everything about parenting, but I know a little.

Where I am with all things video games

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JohnnyBGamer.com has been quiet for awhile now. One of those times where I feel like I have nothing to say and a lot to say at the same time. Instead of sitting down and writing though, I’ve taken the easy route and not written at all. That all changed after reading a GameChurch article by Andy Robertson titled, “Don’t Do Video Games in Church, Do Church in Video Games“.

Games aren’t worthwhile because they educate, inform, develop skills or solve problems. They are valuable because they are games.

Andy helped me realize just where I am with video games. I’m not sure if it is my age or what, but I no longer feel the need to seek validation for the hobby nor advocate for it becoming something more, specifically in the church-space. I don’t care if video games are viewed as art or if fellow Christians think the pastime is evil. I think it’s great that Andy is championing for a deeper discussion on gaming, but that is no longer me. I play what I like, when I like, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.

I no longer identify as a gamer, at all. I am a husband, father, and friend who happens to think video games are pretty neat. At this point in my life, I might play a game a few hours a week. Gone are my multiple day/hours long gaming sessions where that is all I would do in the evening–and ignore my wife in the process–. I am not that guy anymore.

Who I am now is:

  • A dad who is concerned over how much Zelda: Breath of the Wild has taken ahold of my kid.
  • Someone who is trying to figure out what gaming looks like in my household with the Nintendo Switch. I go back and forth over how much I love the system and how much I hate it. The singleplayer games seem to dominate game time in our house. I miss the more co-op atmosphere but also realize that my son is growing up and wanting to play things by himself (and talk about those experiences).

Part of me feels old and part of me feels free when it comes to video games. The part of me that feels old is the part that feels like my parents. My wife and I trying to figure out how much is too much and how to curate/guide my son’s gameplay. The part of me that feels free is the part that no longer feels like I have something to prove. I enjoy playing games when I get the chance. No matter the difficulty setting I play on; no matter how long I end up playing per week. Video games are still cool but they do not hold the place that they once did in my life.

I needed to write that. Admit it out loud.

The Long Hall – Episode Two

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I went to bed depressed after recording this episode. Jonathan Clauson, someone I’ve internet-known for quite sometime, joined me on The Long Hall. He got talking about how his son doesn’t think he is cool anymore… how their relationship has changed over time. Our conversation continued from there… but that is what got to me. Could there come a day where Wyatt doesn’t see me as anything less than awesome? The thought of that… bummed me out.

But don’t let that bum you out. Check out this episode and let me know what you think in the comments below OR even better yet, via an iTunes review.

– Show Links – 

Guest: Jonathan Clauson

– Download Links – 

Broken Jars Broadcasting

iTunes

The Electronic Monster in My Pocket

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Every time we go to a school event, I’m struck by parents glued to their phones.

The other day, I watched a parent sitting in front of me flip through their cell phone’s menu screen. Aimlessly. No doubt with a delightful internal monologue:

“Which app do I choose? I haven’t played Clash Royale in ages. Ah, don’t make eye contact! They might want to talk!!”

The introvert side of me gets it. The phone provides a safety blanket against scary “stranger” conversations. As a parent, as a dad, I wonder what the kids see though. Do they see parents:

  • Distracted/not present in the moment?
  • Displaying the same electronic habits at home?

Put it down.

The screen is so magical!

I know that being in a crowd of people we don’t know can be intimidating. I know that it is easier to escape into a phone, look important, and ignore those around us. But at what cost does our escape come at? What are we modeling for our children when we can’t even put down our phones for a moment?

I’m not trying to sound judgmental nor make others feel guilty. I’ve used my phone to ignore people many times. The thing is, I want my son to know that he is important. That I can be present in the moment. No matter how hard or uncomfortable that might be.

Parenting Fail – The Nunchucks

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mikey

The boy was whirling around a pair of foam green nunchucks.

I looked at him, “You’re doing it wrong.”

“What do you mean?”

“You need training. Let’s check out some Youtube videos so that you can see how awesome you can be.”

A few videos in, I kept waiting for Wyatt to peg himself as he mimicked the motions on screen.

Didn’t happen.

Five videos in, I hear a sudden yelp as Wyatt accidentally hit himself in the face. His left eye to be specific.

I started laughing. Hard.

He didn’t like that.

I laughed harder.