A Special Message For Good Parents: Loosen Up

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Both boys looked at me like I was crazy. They were being told to break what they thought was an unbreakable rule. And from their own father at that.

It was a lazy Saturday at our house. One of those days when you leave your pajamas on until 3 in the afternoon. And then at 3 in the afternoon you put on a fresh pair of pajamas. Lazy Saturday. Well, for more and more people in our country that’s the regular routine for every other day of the week. Call it Lazy Tuesday, I guess.

Everyone, minus the lazy Tuesday crowd, needs a lazy Saturday. You need to rest. You need the time together as a family with nowhere to go and nothing to do. That was our day. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. We had a busy afternoon scheduled. But my son got sick right about the time when he was supposed to change out of his pajamas. So much for our busy day. Bring on the new pair of pajamas.

Our original plans included dinner. Our new, Lazy Saturday plans did not. But we were all hungry for dinner. That’s the thing about Lazy Saturday. You still get hungry but you don’t have time to make anything, what with being lazy and all. Also, you’re not Mike or Carol Brady so there’s no maid to do the job for you.

Since there was no maid, I decided to go with the next best thing.

Pizza Hut.

There’s nothing better for a child’s upset stomach than Pizza Hut. Right? Didn’t Doctor Oz recommend that? Also, my seven-year-old son earned himself two free personal pan pizzas because he read somewhere around 45,000 books at school last fall. It would have been 45,001 but War and Peace took him a little longer than we expected. Oh well, maybe next year.

This was a beautiful scenario for our family. Free pizza that none of us had to cook.

So, like any proud father, I called Pizza Hut, told them about my son’s free pizza that he earned by reading 45,000 books last fall and warned them to be ready for us. I didn’t mention anything about his struggles with War and Peace.

“Okay sir, but if you want two free pizzas through our book program, you’re going to have to bring both kids in with you.”

Really? Is reading certificate fraud that big of a problem? I mean, I’ve heard of parents stealing their kid’s Social Security Number and opening up credit cards in their six-month old’s name. But reading fraud? That’s a new low.

So much for staying in all day.

“Come on kids, we’re going to Pizza Hut to get our free pizzas.”

That’s when they both looked at me like I was crazy for asking them to break some unbreakable rule.

“But dad, we’re in our pajamas.”

I was prepared for such a response. So I had to use my extensive training as a theologian, counselor and leader to convince them to come with me.

“Boys, it’s Pizza Hut. Everyone there is in their pajamas. Some people aren’t even wearing that much. You’ll probably be the best dressed people in the whole place.”

“Okay but can we wear jackets?”

Compromise is a very important part of fatherhood.

So off we went in our pajamas and ski jackets. We were headed to Pizza Hut. And we looked like hungry superheroes from Colorado.

My oldest son still wasn’t convinced we weren’t going to get arrested for wearing pajamas in public.

“Dad, are you sure that this is okay?”

My youngest son thinks that clothing is a disease and nudity is the cure so he was doing just fine. As he sees it, pajamas are the next best thing to wearing nothing at all.

My oldest son almost convinced me to turn the car around and head back home minus those two free pizzas.

“Dad, my pajama pants are green.”

“Yeah. So what?”

“People might think that I’m a Florida Gators fan.”

He had a point. Florida Gator fans are frequently found wearing their pajamas out in public.  But seeing as how none of us were wearing jean shorts with boots, I decided to press on.

When we walked in to Pizza Hut, my prediction was proven true. We were the best dressed folks in there. People were looking at us and wondering why the prom was so early this year.

We got our pizza.

We drove home listening to loud rock and roll music.

We ate in front of the TV.

And after that we had dessert.

Rules are important. But sometimes some rules can be just as beneficial when they are broken as they are when they are kept. Otherwise, the rule becomes an end in itself and ten years later we wonder why our kid turned out either a.) smoking weed during Sunday School, b.) looking down on others who are no good at keeping rules that he can’t even keep, c.) or even worse, becoming a Florida Gator fan.

Our kids need rules. They need structure. But, from time to time, they need to be taught that rules exist to point to something greater.

These are lessons that can only be learned when a kid is pulled out of bed by his mother and father and taken to Dairy Queen at 10:00 on a school night.

Or when she is checked out of school right before lunch, not because she has to go to the dentist but because her dad wants to take her to see Frozen.

Or when he creates a piece of art that isn’t quite inside the lines and his parents tell him how much they love it.

Parents, your kids need rules. More than that, they need you to enforce those rules. But it is possible to miss something in all of our enforcing.

No sugar.

No television during dinner.

No laying around all day on a Saturday.

And no grace.

Your kids also need you to remind them that there is more to life than just keeping a list of rules.

At some point, they’ll learn that lesson, with our without you. It could be learned at home, on a lazy Saturday, eating pizza in front of the television with you. Or it could be learned a few years later on a weekend night in a crowded parking lot with all of the wrong people. The choice is yours.

So if you ever see me in a Pizza Hut, stop by and say hello.

I’ll be the guy standing next to two kids in green pajamas.

But whatever you do, please don’t mistake us for Florida Gator fans.

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