Family: June 2005 Archives

Just got back from four very pleasant days in Arkansas' capital city visiting family and friends. My wife's uncle and aunt raise German Shepherds on a farm north of town -- while I worked Monday, she and the kids spent most of the day there, being gang-tackled by about a dozen 10-week old pups. (There are some great photos, which I hope to get posted soon.) In Little Rock, the family restores historic homes in the Quapaw Quarter district, and we stayed with them in their latest project, a lovely and spacious home built in 1913. It was interesting to hear about some of the obstacles they and other homeowners faced over the last 25 years, often facing indifference and hostility from City Hall. Nowadays, Little Rock seems quite committed to preserving and appreciating its historic neighborhoods.

We also got to spend time with our friends Jeff and Jan and their daughter Olivia. We got to know them through our church when they lived in Tulsa. We and several other couples were part of a wonderful small group Bible study -- the rare kind that actually stay together beyond the short term. Most of us married relatively late, and we all started having kids about the same time. We've scattered to the four winds, but we still keep in touch. The wonderful thing about long-time friends is being able to pick up the conversation as if you'd just left off. They were kind enough to have us over to dinner one evening and to keep the kids the next evening.

And the reason we needed someone to watch the kids last night was the official reason we were in town. My mother-in-law was being honored as one of several recipients of a Community Service Award for her work in establishing, administering, and raising funds for the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County. (In 2002, she received a Presidential Point of Light award.)

During our visit, we went to the local children's museum (fun, but terribly PC in places), had lunch and looked around the River Market and downtown, drove past the Clinton Library, and admired the beautiful homes in our family's neighborhood. Mikki got to join her mom at a luncheon at the Governor's Mansion, hosted by Arkansas' First Lady, Janet Huckabee. (Mikki overheard a local media personality say how nice it was that folks with real class were living in the mansion, unlike the '80s.) I maintained a fairly normal work schedule on Monday and Tuesday, taking advantage of local eateries with Wi-Fi to do so. More about all that over the course of rest of the week, I hope.

Tulsa Christian therapist Bowden McElroy mentions that he's off to Dallas for the Smart Marriages conference. One of the conference speakers is Bill Doherty, who was featured in a story in Wednesday's USA Today. This week Doherty is launching the National Registry of Marriage Friendly Therapists. The purpose of the registry is so that couples who are seeking help to save their marriages can find a counselor who shares their commitment to the sanctity of marriage and who actually has the skills and training to help them.

"The registry is about training and competence and about values, because most couples assume the therapist is pro-marriage, but many therapists feel they have to be neutral," he says. "The values thing comes into play when there seems to be a discrepancy between somebody's personal happiness and their commitment to the marriage."

A Christian couple in trouble knows that it would be wrong, however tempting, to abandon their vows and just walk away, but they may need help so that staying together isn't just a matter of grim endurance. They may need help clearing away years of accumulated grievances so that something resembling joy can return to the relationship. They need encouragement, suggestions for getting around obstacles, and the occasional kick in the seat of the pants. Such a couple isn't going to be helped if the therapist they hire turns out to be open to divorce as a possible solution, or if the therapist believes personal happiness and individual autonomy are the highest aims in life. I suspect some couples delay seeking help for fear of getting a therapist who will lead them down the wrong path.

In any kind of therapy, for that matter, you'd want a therapist who shares your values and world-view, not someone who will work to undermine it. You'd also like to know something about the therapist's credentials and experience.

Doherty's registry seems like a very sensible and helpful idea, but of course there are objectors who seem to feel that the name of the registry is too judgmental:

Some therapists question the need for an additional service. The fact that Doherty is calling his list "marriage-friendly" irks others, who say it suggests some therapists are biased in favor of divorce. Still others are concerned about what they see as an underlying conservative message with the name and the values statement.

"I don't know of any body of research that suggests therapists who sign a values statement are going to be better at keeping couples together than those who don't sign a values statement," says Alan Hovestadt, a professor of family therapy at Western Michigan University and AAMFT president.

And David Schnarch, who directs the Marriage & Family Health Center in Evergreen, Colo., disagrees with Doherty's assessment of his peers. "Certainly, there was a period in the '60s and '70s where there was tremendous focus on individual growth at the expense of relationships," he says. "But to position marital therapists as doing that is completely inaccurate."

We're still dealing with the fallout of that "tremendous focus on individual growth."

The registry will be available for free to prospective clients looking for a therapist. There probably aren't many listings yet, but the website has some articles that look interesting:

  • What to Look For in a Marriage Therapist
  • Divided Loyalties: The Challenge of Stepfamily Life
  • How Therapists Harm Marriages and What We Can Do About It

A tip of the hat and best wishes to Bill Doherty and the National Registry of Marriage Friendly Therapists.

Happy to be a dad

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It's the end of a busy and unusual Father's Day, in the midst of a busy summer.

The eight-year-old has had two weeks of camp away from home, back-to-back -- not only camp, but time with the extended family. The first week was in Oklahoma City with my sister and his cousins -- boys just a bit older than he is. My sister teaches art at an elementary school and does an annual "art camp" -- a week of half-days working on some unusual and creative projects. Early in the week he made a papier mache light saber, but at the end of the week he found that tulle wrapped around wooden dowels created a more realistic effect. This is the second year she's invited him down to participate, and he's really enjoyed it, but he also enjoyed late nights playing Game Cube with the cousins.

This last week was spent with the grandparents in Arkansas and going to a day camp at Bella Vista. He said it wasn't as fun this year. Last year on the nature hike they climbed up behind and over a waterfall and caught crawdads in a creek. I guess a parent complained, or maybe the insurance company threw a fit -- too dangerous to do it again this year. He still had a good time. Grandmother remarked that he'd matured a lot in a year's time -- much quicker to comply and not so much fussing when things don't go his way. Last year she was alarmed that he was self-centered and demanding in the way that seven-year-old boys are and seemed certain that it was because we were too strict or too lenient.

The house was quieter without the two kids pestering and teasing each other. The four-year-old has enjoyed the exclusive attention. She had eight swim lessons over the two weeks and really enjoyed them. She's now confident enough to be in the water without five different flotation devices strapped to her. She's especially proud that she can now touch the bottom of the neighborhood pool -- if she's on the very edge of the shallow end and on her tiptoes.

At home, she has been spending a lot of time playing with the keyboard, picking out tunes of her own invention. She always seems to be working on a plan. When preschool was in session, she had a plan to get the boys to stop picking on the girls. More recently, she had a plan to make a delicious dessert with whipped cream and strawberries.

I'm very blessed to have two beautiful, loving, smart, funny, and affectionate children. I'm proud to be their dad, and I'm very thankful for their mom -- my wife -- the lovely woman who brought them into this world and devotes her life to caring for them.

I should add that the longer I'm in this dad business the better I understand the joys and frustrations (especially the latter) that my dad experienced. Thanks, Dad.

The news from the backyard


From our little wildlife sanctuary:

So far we've had two batches of baby birds -- four robins back in May, in a nest in the bend of a downspout, just outside our back door; this month, a batch of baby sparrows in a nest box mounted on the outside of our shed.

A male cardinal who lost his crest -- fight with a blue jay? -- has been making regular visits to our deck. We call him Flattop.

We've been seeing a rabbit around the neighborhood, and a couple of days ago I saw it loping across the backyard.

The toads have been singing merrily most nights, and a couple of voices have been singing harmony -- green tree frogs. Not many of them yet, but they are there. Last year was the first time we found one in our yard. This year we've seen and heard them several nights.

Speaking of toads, I spotted a new string of eggs in the pond yesterday. A few days ago, my four-year-old saw the first couple of baby toads on dry ground -- each just about the size of her thumbnail.

The goldfish are doing well, but we miss the Big Kahuna -- a big orange, black, and white koi -- haven't seen him in months, and haven't seen any sign of his demise either. I've wondered if some predator fished him out for dinner. A few years ago I walked out on the deck one morning, heard a couple of big fwoomps, and looked up to see a great blue heron flying away from the pond.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Family category from June 2005.

Family: May 2005 is the previous archive.

Family: July 2005 is the next archive.

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