To live your best life, be wrong more

Often we worry about being right. But I think we should be spending more time being wrong.

Because sometimes, in life, being wrong is the most right you can be.

This sounds strange, I know. But that doesn’t mean it’s false.

You see, we live in a world that is obsessed with being right.

The schools we went to taught us that getting A’s, 100%s, 4.0 GPAs was the way to be.

And we learned that if we followed that paradigm of always being right, it would lead to success, riches—our dreams.

But that’s not how our post-school lives work. Real-life isn’t about being right. It operates quite differently. There aren’t A’s, 100%s, 4.0s here—no.

Work isn’t about perfection. It’s about creativity, ideation, iteration.

And, relationships are murky, muddled, messy. And no one is acing that class.

Life isn’t school.

Trying to be right all of the time makes us paralyzed, inflexible, ineffective.

Often, it keeps us from being our best. It makes us play it safe, take fewer risks, live less life.

And that, in my opinion, isn’t how most of us really want to be like. We want more. And, I think, we should.

To do that, we need to be wrong more.

See, there are times to “move fast and break things” to err on the side of doing things without knowing if those things we’re doing will work.

We need to experiment.

I’m not saying to be wrong just to be wrong.

No, that’s dumb.

What I mean is that we should be trying to do things that we’re unsure about, that are uncertain, you know—risky. And we’re not doing that for just any reason. We’re doing that for a very specific purpose—to reach our dreams.

But, going after them can make us wrong. What I mean is that you’ll make a lot of mistakes. What you do will be filled with failures and imperfections. That’s what happens when you pursue a dream: you’re wrong, a lot.

But, when we make errors, that’s when we can find corrections. Problems allow us to create solutions. Without an error, we often don’t know what to correct and how to move forward.

But the good thing about mistakes is that they are rarely final. After we make a mistake, most of us get retakes. We get to try again. We get second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances, etc.

And that’s where the magic happens. That’s where we get opportunities to learn from that wrong and make it better.

You can take a failed experiment, a terrible proposal, an ill-timed investment, a shuttered company, a broken relationship, and study them. And you’ll begin to understand what went wrong and how it could have been different, better and glean the lessons you need to succeed in the future.

Then, on a retake, apply those learnings when you try again in that next experiment, proposal, investment, company, relationship. Because as long as you are alive, you will have retakes.

Take them. And make the best of them. Take all of the wrongs and make them better.

And over the years and decades, you’ll see that you’ll be far more right than you would have ever been if you were only trying to be right. You’ll even live your best life.

In fact, you’ll have lived a dream.

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Endings are new beginnings

By embracing the end, you will start to see new beginnings. 

Sure, some endings are good, like getting out of a bad job or unhealthy relationships, etc. But I’m not talking about that. 

I’m talking about the things we don’t want to end, the ones that aren’t good. It can be as trivial as a great movie or show, or as serious as some major life change, or watching your baby grow up too fast.

It was a warm late summer morning, with golden rays of sun breaking through the trees, as the laughter of children rang through the air. Our firstborn was three and starting pre-school. It was his first day. We didn’t know how he would take us leaving him at school. It marked the first time he would ever be away from us. Our family was on the playground as other parents talked and the children ran around playing. Some kids were crying. 

But ours wasn’t, and he didn’t. 

When it was time for us to say goodbye, he almost didn’t care that we were leaving. We kissed, and he ran off with his new friends, unbothered. 

When my wife and I got into our car to drive home, we found that we couldn’t. Instead, we sat there and watched him. We cried like babies as we realized that our child was no longer a baby.

Endings are everywhere. They happen every day. 

Some endings just hurt. They’re hard. Really hard. They stun us. They may even kill a little bit of something inside of us. They can break our hearts. They make us cry in our car as we watch our baby growing up before our eyes.

Some of you are experiencing midlife. Like me, you feel it. And, it’s strange. It feels like you lost your youth somewhere along your journey, and you realize that you’ll never get it back. And you hate it.

Others of you are experiencing moving out of a city you love, losing a community, needing to find a new job, a loss of a career. And you’re having a hard time imagining what the future will hold because that end still has ahold of you.

All of us are feeling what the pandemic ended for us. Normal feels dead. The upcoming holidays smack us hard with that fact. 

And the problem is that we often try to fight those endings. We’re wrestling against the realities that we live in.

But, we can’t fight aging, and sometimes, we have to move, find a new job—change.

Sometimes fighting only hurts us. 

That’s why we must drop our fists and embrace the end. 

When you do that, you see life as it is. You accept the truth. You’re no longer wasting your energy running against it, no. You see that fighting some endings is like trying to stop a wave from crashing the beach—impossible. 

But, when you decide to let go of the past, that’s when something magical happens. You can see new potential, possibilities, opportunities.

You see, when you give in to the end, you welcome new beginnings. 

You see that life isn’t ending. Instead, you are allowing yourself to change, evolve, even transform. 

In midlife, you can take the learnings you gleaned in your youth and start to optimize your life. If you moved, you could start to appreciate your new home and begin to set new roots and make new friends. In the pandemic, you might see how good it is to work from home and how nice it feels to slow down. 

See, an end isn’t the end. It’s a new beginning.

And when you stop trying to fight the ocean waves, you can begin to swim with them. And when you do that, they will propel you to new places and possibilities.

You won’t be trapped in the past. You’ll be present. 

You’ll be free. 

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Civil war? I doubt it

Everyone’s talking about it. It’s in vogue. It’s the “it” thing. You would think we are talking about a new gadget or the newest Tesla. But, no, we’re not. 

We’re talking about this. 

Civil war. 

Yes, it’s a possibility—but so are Martians landing on Earth. Civil war is possible, but I don’t think it’s likely. 

This morning my wife listened to a podcast where the CEO of Whole Foods said that what he most feared in the near term was a civil war. Then, she asked me if I felt the same. 

And, the truth is, I am scared. The idea of a war on domestic soil where citizens, neighbors, friends, family take up arms against each other should send the fear-shivers down anybody’s spine. 

But, when I stop to think about, I’m less afraid. 

Here’s why. 

Those who really believe that civil war is probable are underestimating how difficult it is to mobilize a group of people willing to fight for a cause. Normal citizens don’t usually want to go to war, get bullets shot at them, feel like they don’t have a place to rest. Then add the additional complexity of fighting within and against their own country and countryman makes it all the more improbable. 

The Civil War, back in the 1800s, made sense. The Southerners had their livelihood, wealth, and way of life threatened (I’m not defending slavery at all; abolishing it was right; I’m just outlining the core reasons the South rebelled). And they all lived in a similar location or same region, where they had an overlapping culture. In other words, they had an existential cause and other characteristics that made mobilizing to fight the federal government easier. 

But it wasn’t easy. 

Mobilizing a war machine is never easy. And, I mean, anger and QAnon and white supremacy and Evangelicals do not hold those characteristics that the South had when Lincoln was the president. As radical as some of them may seem, I don’t think that they will be radical and organized and overlapping enough to actually band together to create a hierarchy or even some sort of loose coalition to begin a war. And I doubt that most of them would lay down their lives for Trump or some other cause.

Some livelihoods are at stake. Unions and blue-collared workers do feel threatened. And many of them will vote for Trump. And they may think that their salvation will come from Trump, but I am still skeptical that they will be able to form a war-making effort. 

People will fight, but I doubt they will make war. 

See, I believe there will likely be violence. The frequency of it will probably grow and escalate. There will be more protesting with higher amounts of violent clashes. That could and probably will happen no matter what happens after November. But, that doesn’t mean we will have warfare. 

You see, civil unrest isn’t the same as a civil war. 

Look, I get it. We’re all afflicted with worst-case-scenario thinking these days. How can we not? With a historic election, our countries weakened standing in the world, the rising of new world powers who want to take our country’s lunch money, a recession and deep economic uncertainty, and, not to mention, a pandemic, its easy to think negatively, pessimistically. The times seem apocalyptic.

But it’s not the apocalypse. Or, at least, I don’t think so. 

And I won’t say that a civil war is impossible. It’s not. It could happen. But we can’t live in the mindset of worst-case scenarios. Living in fear is no life. And it’s certainly not reality. 

One more reason I think this way is the stock market. It’s a pretty good gauge for where people’s minds are at and how they see the future. Investors are betting their money not just on today but also on tomorrow. And, as the market continues to climb, it appears they believe the world is going to be ok. Of course it’s not a crystal ball. But it is an indicator. The future is always murky, but it’s good to read the signs. And the market is signaling everything is going to keep chugging along. 

No, everything won’t be ok. There is much work to do to heal all of the fractures our country is experiencing. There will be unrest after the election. But it needn’t stay that way.

But being afraid of a civil war won’t help. We need to change our mindset from one of fear to hope. Better yet, we can find ways where we can take responsibility. 

And if we want to worry about anything, I think we should be worrying about this. 

How we can better care for our neighbors.


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Failing as a father

One of my greatest fears is to ruin my kids with my parenting.

You don’t have to be a parent to understand that fear. But when you are one, it just makes it more visceral, possible—real.

I’ve got two sons. They’re great. They love to play, roughhouse, laugh—all the good stuff kids typically do.

There are times when they misbehave. But that’s not the worst part.

I do, too. I get angry at them, and it’s wrong.

I’m not saying all anger is wrong. It’s not. Sometimes it’s right to be angry when your child disobeys you or does something bad for themselves or others.

And it must be dealt with, disciplined. But it needn’t be done angrily.

That’s where I fail. Instead of responding, sometimes I react. Instead of talking, sometimes I yell. Instead of instructing, sometimes I scold.

Yeah, I know. I’m failing.

But it’s not all of the time. I’m getting better. I do all of that reacting less and less, or, at least, I hope so.

And, there are some things that my kids and I do that are gloriously good.

These days, my firstborn and I go for bike rides. We ride all over the neighborhood. He leads the way. He’s trying new things like riding and taking his hand off of the handlebar or going with no feet on the pedals or pedaling while standing up. And I applaud him and celebrate his accomplishments. I shower him with encouragement.

Those are the best days.

I know that no father is perfect. But I want to improve my imperfections as each day passes. I want my son to have more happy days than sad. And when I must discipline him, I want to do it in a manner that is loving and true and good.

If you’re a parent and feel like you are failing your child, remember this.

All of our parents failed us in some form or fashion. I don’t know anyone who grew up with perfect parents, with a leave-it-to-beaver family, whatever that is. I certainly didn’t grow up that way.

And, really, who said parenthood was about perfection. Being perfect doesn’t work; life’s too messy for that. That’s why we should change the way we think about parenting.

It’s in the depths of imperfection and failings that we have the opportunity to choose to grow. It’s where we get to realize we were wrong and course-correct. It’s where we learn to become better fathers, mothers—parents.

To be a better father isn’t about always being right or good. I find it’s often about knowing when you’re wrong and admitting to it—and even being willing to ask your kid to forgive you for being an ass, temperamental, wrong.

It’s in the wrongness where we can be the most right. It’s in our worst where we can be our best. It’s when we fail as parents that we have the opportunity to succeed in parenting.

No, it’s not about being perfect. It’s about being perfected. It’s about being humble enough to realize we are all in process.

And if you do that, you may not be the “perfect” parent, but you will be a good one. You will bring out of the best in your child by admitting to your worst.

Because, really, parenting is less about failing or succeeding, and more about this.

Love.

If you do that, you won’t ruin your kids. Even with all of your failings, you’ll raise them well.

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Dear Mr. Biden, last night was a disappointment

The debate last night was very disappointing. I was rooting for you, Mr. Biden, but you failed to shine. Instead you got mired in the muck. You were easily rattled and resorted to name-calling, making you look weak and childish, not the man we need you to be.

Yes, you were dealing with a bully of the nth degree, one of the bulliest of bullies. It’s true. Trump’s a silverback, throwing his weight around, thundering about.

No, I don’t think he should be president, but he was true to himself. He’s a schoolyard brute. He lies. He distorts. He gnaws at you. He grinds. But that’s Trump. He was distinctly himself. He knows not how to be anyone else.

But that’s not what is most troubling to me, nor should it be for you.

The problem, I believe, is that I didn’t know who you are, Mr. Biden. Your identity and what identified you weren’t exactly clear in the debate. What I did see, I didn’t like. I saw someone who could be shaken, unsure, uncertain, unable to stand up for himself, or to a bully.

The best thing that you did was address the American people, and it seemed to convey a real concern for us. That was good. Yet, it didn’t seem to be enough.

You didn’t have a strong grasp of your message nor your platform. I really didn’t know what you were for. You need to figure out how to make Biden more Biden. Right now, you look like a man who wasn’t ready to cross sabers with the neighborhood tough-guy.

You need to be more distinct. If you’re going to be the kinder and softer president, do that. Or, maybe it’s the classier or geekier or whatever version. No matter what it is, be that. Be true. Because no matter what the opponent does, he seems to convey that type of authenticity.

You don’t.

You’re confusing. The Biden that showed up last night looked like one who wanted to be nice and polite but then got snippy and angry and frustrated.

Trump is Trump. Everyone knows that. That’s one of the most powerful things about him. His base knows him. Even his enemies know him. He’s predictably unpredictable. He plays to the mob. He doesn’t waver from his ways. That’s why they love him and appreciate him. He’s seen as an outsider. That’s what he wants. He says what he thinks. He does anything to win. Even deceive. That’s the truth we all know.

But what do you, Mr. Biden, stand for? Who are you? What are you made of? I want to vote for you.

I won’t vote for Trump. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

And last night, I don’t think Trump won. But I don’t think you did either.

And just because I’m against him doesn’t make me for you. Don’t get me wrong. I want to be for you. I’m just not there yet. I’m looking for more from you. I think we all are.

Give us a reason to believe in you. Give us a reason to follow you.

Don’t just tell us what you think we want to hear. Don’t do what you think will affect the polls. Do what you think is right, what will help the people, what will unify this divided nation. That’s what we need. We need real leadership.

We need you to lead.

Reflections on a conversation with someone who doesn’t believe in covid

Humans are not good at finding the truth: Look at science.

There are too many examples of scientists and physicians in history who couldn’t see the truth because they were too entrenched in their own beliefs and ways of thinking.

For example, we all know smoking is bad for us these days. But only seventy years ago, people, even medical professionals, doubted the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

And there’s an even more recent example of people being wrong about the body.

In 1999, Russell Foster made a discovery about the eye that everyone in his scientific community would not believe. He discovered a third photoreceptor cell type that has nothing to do with vision. It only senses brightness to recognize day and night. When he announced his finding, the ophthalmological world found him ludicrous. At a meeting where Foster presented his findings, one member of the audience left, shouting, “Bullshit!”

He did a remarkable experiment to prove his point. He asked a woman who was utterly blind to tell him when the room was light or dark. And as the light went on and off, she told him with complete accuracy when it was light or dark.

His discovery is now taken as gospel, but it sure took him getting a shellacking to get here.

These people, who couldn’t see smoking as a killer or a new receptor in our eyes, weren’t stupid. These were and are scientists, researchers, scholars, doctors. They were intelligent. But they refused to accept the truth.

They were just stuck in a worldview. They were the fish in the proverbial water.

Look, humans have a hard time seeing new facts, new data, even with evidence and research, even if it’s outright true.

Just last week, I talked to someone who doubts covid.

He told me that no one he knows had had it. To him, it’s just a news headline without any evidence in his life or those around him. And all he could see was politicians making decisions that affected his life, his work, his kids. His daughter just got married and had only thirty guests there. All he’s seen is disruption from a force that he doesn’t see.

I tried to tell him that I know people who’ve had the virus, even knew some who’ve died. He didn’t disagree with me, but he didn’t seem convinced either.

These days there’s a lot of disagreeing over facts. And I’ve heard all kinds of words hurled at differing parties. Each side is apparently “stupid” or “foolish” or “misinformed.”

But they’re not. Just as the cigarette toking doctors of the 1950s and profanity yelling ophthalmologists weren’t dumb, neither is the person who disbelieves in covid or the people from the other political party.

The truth is often the hardest to see in the present. When it becomes the past, it’s more easily recognized, accepted—believed. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

Today, no one denies that smoking increases our chances of getting lung cancer. It took years to get there.

And I think the virus and the election and the president and all of the things that we argue about these days will also play out, and the “unknown” truth of today will be undeniable tomorrow.

It’s true, humans may be terrible at finding the truth, but the truth does find us.

It just takes time.

New York City Is Not Dead

New York City will thrive again.

Yes, the city seems gutted. But it’s not gone. It feels lifeless but it’s not dead. Just because a creature is still doesn’t mean it has been snuffed out. It’s resting.

More than that, it’s transforming. New York is evolving.

It’s done it in the past; it will do it again. Too many times have skeptics and pessimists said New York was down and died. The 1970s were a dark time, so was 9/11; then there was the financial meltdown down with 2008. But each time it learned and changed and grew. Sure it was knocked down those times before, but each time it came back stronger. Because, when it fell, it learned.

But this time, some may say, is different.

The virus makes the city’s strength, human density, its kryptonite. It’s flipping its power into poison. And the city is on life support. And that’s true.

People are leaving the city. My family and I moved out of our West Village apartment right as the virus caused the city to lockdown in March. We didn’t leave because of the pandemic. We thought it would be better for us to return to our midwestern roots with our growing family. But now, months later, we are hearing from various neighbors and friends about how they are leaving NYC permanently, too. The city is bleeding. And it seems abysmal and terminal.

But doomsayers always seem right when the night is darkest. And in the darkness, they forget the dawn. Sure, there are no assurances that a city will survive a devastating blow like a pandemic. But many think crises are worse when times are bad, believing the worst case before it happens. They have a harder time seeing the horizon or the silver lining. Fear does that. It makes the dark darker and the bad worse. And, in those times, it’s easy to sound right, and smart, by being negative. And, optimism will seem foolish and naive then.

But just as New York overcame overwhelming obstacles in its past, it will do the same now. Fighting is its trademark; it’s codified in its DNA.

I believe in the resilience, ingenuity, tenacity, and spirit of New York City and its people. They fight and possess grit. They might get knocked down when things are tough, but they don’t stay there. They will claw back to their feet. They will create their way out of this, find new avenues to subsist and grow. Yes, many small businesses and companies will not make it out of this—but some will. And new ones will start. Entrepreneurs will discover innovations and business methods and protocols that won’t only help them survive but let them thrive. They will emerge stronger and more resilient and more successful than they ever have been.

That’s the thing about pain and difficulty, it’s dark for a season. But it’s also the spark that ignites creativity, innovation, transformation. And that’s the most critical part. We mustn’t focus on the negative and forget to see that often it’s the darkness that forces us to discover fire.

And I believe New York’s flame is not out. They are just finding a way to build a bigger torch. And when they do, the city’s light will blaze brighter and larger than ever.

One of the best ways to stay motivated

Many of us push ourselves to stay motivated. We force, cajole, pressure, sometimes even yell at ourselves to get going.

But pushing yourself isn’t as effective as being pulled.

I don’t mean being yanked or dragged like a prisoner, no.

I mean something summoning you by an irresistible force, like being in love, where you’re carried forth, wooed, because you want to be, have to be.

And the thing that best pulls us is this.

Purpose.

Purpose gives you meaning

It’s the why we do what we do. It’s the reason for which we live and act and rise.

Purpose gives us meaning.

It clarifies our lives, bringing it into focus, letting us see the reason for living.

Purpose gives you the feeling that you are connected to a bigger plan than just making money, accumulating things, raising your status, lifestyle, and well-being. It’s something you would die for. But more importantly, it’s something you live for.

Purpose propels you further

Purpose is life’s greatest magnet, drawing you forth. It beckons you to attempt greater feats, go farther lengths, pursue higher goals, and achieve more than you could ever imagine.

It provides the oomph to lean into the most challenging seasons of life, face the darkest times, learn in the face of failure. It strengthens us in the face of stress, fatigue, and uncertainty.

Purpose’s purpose

So, if you want motivation, energy, a reason to get out and face the day, don’t spend your time shoving and pushing yourself—no.

Instead, answer this question.

What is your purpose?

Doing that will help you do everything else.


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Jesus is not Republican

He isn’t.

Do you know how I know?

When he lived on this planet, he did not get involved with Roman politics or Israeli politics or run for Galilean office. In his ministry, he did not focus on politics or spend much of his infinite and divine energies fighting the Roman Empire or speaking to the powers of his day, even though he lived during a time when the Roman Empire ruled the Israelites with an iron fist.

Jesus wasn’t about political power

The Roman Empire didn’t exactly uphold human rights. They oppressed many of the lands they occupied, like Israel. Justice wasn’t abounding for those who weren’t citizens. Yet Jesus did not primarily come to address that, not even their oppressive taxing measures. We see that in this famous passage.

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, The religious leaders tried to embroil Jesus in a charged issue of taxation, asking, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” And remember, Caesar had put severe taxation requirements on its satellite nations like Israel that put the IRS to shame, which even indebted many people. So when someone asked a question about taxes to Jesus, every ear turned to listen. How could they not? And his response surprised and baffled everyone with its brilliance.

He said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and God the things that are God’s.” His answer didn’t thwart the land’s law and affirmed the people’s need to stay devoted to God. It was apolitical. It was balanced.

And instead of pursuing political power, he spent his time with twelve obscure men, healing and teaching the poor, rejected, sick, and marginalized. He wasn’t about mobilizing a rebellion or implementing policies or getting votes—no. He was about his Father’s business.

Now you might be wondering, What’s your point? Good question.

Christians want political power

In the 2016 presidential election, 81% of white evangelical Christians voted for Trump. That says something about the state of Christians and Christianity and the church. I’m a Christian. So I’m not criticizing this faith. But there has been a large shift in how many are expressing beliefs. Christians are more political and more adamant and less open. That’s what I’ve seen in the media and data and even in my relationships with other Christians.

And that makes me wonder, Why are Christians so political, when Jesus was nothing of the sort?

If Christians were honest with themselves, they wouldn’t have a very good biblical reason—especially those who follow Trump. I understand the arguments for him. I am pro-life and see the allure of his political actions. And yes, he has put conservatives on the highest judicial bench in the land. But should we really support him simply for those reasons?

I don’t think so.

Why Christians shouldn’t support Trump

Here’s the reason: Christians are losing credibility and witness with people who don’t believe as we do. Isn’t that what Jesus commissioned us to do? To go and make disciples? But instead, we are alienating others. And why wouldn’t that happen? We are supporting a person who sows division, untruth, racism, discord, and lives in a manner that doesn’t align with Scripture. How could we not be discredited?

I’m not alone in this thinking. The former editor and chief of Christianity Today wrote an article stating that Christians needed to stop following Trump for at least the reason that we can’t truthfully say that we follow the God of love by our political affiliations. Too many have traded the Great Commission for a different agenda.

According to this article, Christians feel powerless and disrespected and unacknowledged, especially those in middle America. And many voted for Trump because he made promises to empower Christians with political power.

But there is one major problem with that.

Why Jesus really lived

Jesus had (and has) ultimate, infinite, all-consuming power, but he didn’t use it to gain significance or lord it over others. No. He used it to lift others up by lowering himself down.

The religious leaders turned him over to the Roman authorities. And Jesus submitted. The magistrates ordered him flogged, beaten, kicked, stripped, crucified, crushed, and killed. He was humiliated. He allowed a lessor power to overpower his unlimited power. He elected to be abandoned by his Father, as they had planned from the beginning of time. Even though he could lift himself off of the cross and wipe away all those who harmed him like gnats and save himself, he didn’t. He absorbed everything, even the judgment of his Father, for our sins.

Why?

Because he loves us, he wanted to save us from our sins, our unrighteousness, our rebellion, our failure to see his Great Commission. He didn’t seek power; he emptied himself of it to fulfill his Father’s plan and love humanity.

And because of that work, you have the living God within you. Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God, would dwell within you. If that is so, how can you be powerless? And why would you need Trump to give you power? Your power is not one that is rooted on earth but is from Heaven.

The question is, What will you do with that power?

Photo credit: John Tyson

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Is remote learning hurting my kid?

The school year kicked off and it’s nerve wracking.

Many classrooms are empty and our living rooms have replaced them. Our kids are sitting in front of a device all day, and they aren’t physically interacting with anyone.

They’re remote learning.

And we, parents, are wondering, Will our kids remotely learning anything?

And let’s face it, it’s scary. At least, it’s uncertain. And many of us are worried, and concerned. My wife and I are, too.

Worried about our kid being on a device all day

Our first grader just started school and he’s constantly on a device. There’s a school issued iPad sitting on his desk as I type this. And he’s staring at it right now. He has been for hours since the beginning of last week, all day every day, for like five hours a day.

And my wife came to me, worried, and said, “Should he be on that thing all the time? I’m concerned that it’s hurting him.”

I paused. And thought. And I realized I’m on a device all day every day. I’m on my phone right now, typing feverishly on it to clarify my thoughts around my kid being on a device. So I’m on a device talking about my kid being on a device. I know—meta.

But, I’m not watching YouTube or playing candy crush or whatever. I’m writing. My device is rarely used as an entertainment portal to get lost in. If I’m not writing on it, then I’m reading or doing some other kind of learning on it. I use it as a tool to produce good for myself and for others. And that’s exactly what my son is doing, too.

A device can be a learning tool

He’s engaging with kids his age, talking with them, learning social skills. He’s getting lessons on social studies, English, science, math. He’s drawing on his iPad, taking photos of his work to show others. He’s breaking out into small groups to talk about what they’re learning, listening to book readings, building relationships. This remote learning seems to be making an impact on him.

I get why some parents would be scared. (I have been one of them.) Over the years there has been a lot of talk about how kids can become zombies and irritable and get ADD from devices. And there was also this article that talks about how parents being distracted by their devices are also contributing to the problem. (I’m probably one of those, too.)

But after thinking about this, I realized that the issue isn’t about usage but use. And, as I see it, for five hours a day, my son is using his iPad as a tool. And so are all of the other kids in his class. Just because he’s on device for lengthy periods doesn’t necessarily cause him harm or make him a poorer student. On the contrary, it’s actually improving him and his mind and his social skills. He’s even learning ways to make connections digitally and how to deepen them, which will only serve him well as interactions become increasingly digitized. That’s something many of us Gen-Xers or older never learned in our youth. I think this generation may even be stretching their EQ (emotional quotient) in ways that we’ve never seen before.

Socialization and blue light and homeschooling

I do wonder about his ability to socialize in the physical presence of people. Will he know how to handshake properly if and when that ever happens again? Will it be firm enough? Will he know how to look a person in the eye, not the screen eye or camera eye? Will he know how to stand in the presence of strangers and present himself well? Those are all questions I’m asking. You probably are, too. And the truth is, we don’t know. All we can do is teach them what to do around us and wait and see.

Blue light, the light emanates from the screen, is also another concern. Researchers aren’t sure if they are as harmful as some may suspect. But it may be good to be careful nonetheless. We bought these blue light blocking glasses (affiliate) for our son. They aren’t cheap. But they were the best we could find. We wanted to err on the side of caution especially since, as I said, he’s looking at a screen every day for five hours a day.

A family we know decided to pull their kids out of school because they didn’t want them wearing masks or sitting in front of a screen, all day. So they’re homeschooling. And that’s a perfectly viable option. In someways I’d like to do the same. Last year we saw our son do rather well while he was under the my wife’s tutelage. But we decided to go full remote learning because our extroverted son needs more interactions than what he’s getting from just his parents.

And it’s working, I think. He seems to be doing well. He’s enjoying the classes, most days. It’s a little early to say he’s flourishing. But he could be. He seems to be. We’re hoping he will. I’m wishing the same for your child, too.

Parents, remember this in remote learning

But the biggest thing to remember, parents, is this: we’re all making due with a terrible situation. We’re all making lemonade out of the lemons. And whatever direction you go, it won’t be perfect. I mean, no one has the perfect solution for educating kids in normal life, let alone in a pandemic. So, take it a little easier on yourself, take a breath, keep moving forward, and know that you’re doing the best you can for your child. In times like these, that’s the best we can do.

And, listen, since the beginning of time, parents have been worrying about their kids. I’m fairly sure that all of the Neanderthal parents were worried about how their Neanderthal kids would handle this or that change, like the discovery of fire or the Ice Age, or whatever. Those parents might have even been concerned about how the sun reflected off of the rock tablet their prehistoric child was using as they were making a cave drawing on it and sat them under the shade of a tree to block the ferocious light from their little cave-person eyes.

You get it. Parents worry—no matter what Age you’re in. It’s a part of the job description for parenting.

But if your kid is learning and, more importantly, learning how to learn, you’re going in the right direction. Whether with an iPad or a paper notebook or chalkboard or a stone tablet, the whole point is that they are growing as humans. And when we are directing them on that trajectory, we’re doing the right thing.

Parenting is a tough business. Full stop.

But parenting in a pandemic is something else entirely. It’s like survival of the fittest. It’s our ice age. Some could liken it to warfare. But whatever you’re calling it, if we can help our kids find pockets of goodness and growth, you should be feel good about it.

Remote learning isn’t perfect, but I think it’s going to be far less harmful than we fear and far better than we hope. We, parents, will need to supplement that learning and stay with our kids in this process. But, I believe, it will work out.

I mean, look at far we’ve come from Neanderthal Man.

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