Dad-style PPE – 180 push-ups away from a more patient, present & empathetic dad

Dad-style PPE – 180 push-ups away from a more patient, present & empathetic dad

Tyler Van Eps - Dad-Style PPE BLOG

[Guest Blog Post: Tyler Van Eps]

Triage. When we had our 4th kid, this word started to make a lot more sense to me. It’s a word well understood in the medical community, but not always used in other spaces. Triage is assigning degrees of urgency. For example, let’s take a look at these “pretend” scenarios:

  • One-year-old playing with an electrical outlet or four-year-old needing to be wiped
  • Six-year-old finding Frozen 2 on Disney Plus or other four-year-old needing help with her paint project
  • Wife looking for her phone or dog escaping the backyard

We all do it every single day. We make decisions, invest time, and expend energy in different ways. Recently, our systems and processes underwent an overhaul. Can I get an amen?

I’m writing this for the dads out there that need to know you’re not alone. I’m writing for the fathers out there that need to breathe and talk about their “feelings”. I’m writing this for all the dads that need encouragement, support, or a good ol’ fashioned “both ways uphill” speech. I’m also writing this for therapy, so don’t judge.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) has been all the rage lately. Isn’t vocabulary a funny thing? Case in point, has anyone been in an argument with their spouse recently and used the line, “I think we need to work on our social distancing right now”? Or what about walking into your kid’s room saying, “what happened in here?”, only to be met with the response, “I don’t know, some kind of outbreak I think”. Or, when they tell you that 23 snack times a day is the “new normal”. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about PPE lately. When things are normal, we never talk about it and take it completely for granted. When there’s a disaster, it’s a mad scramble to produce, acquire, and distribute it. After my first two weeks in quarantine, I started feeling that same tension in my own mind and heart. Then, I heard some stats that broke me. Across the world, domestic abuse rates are up between 20 and 40 percent from country to country. Online alcohol sales went up almost 250% in April. Treatment helplines are reporting a staggering number of relapses. Pornography use has increased by almost 15%. In a time when insane measures are being exercised to protect our bodies, I think it is worth considering how we protect our minds and hearts. 

Now back to my two-week quarantine mark. There were highs and lows throughout those first two weeks, but the end of the second week started to expose just how many control tendencies are usually buried beneath the surface, especially when it comes to my kids. Before I share this part of the story, I think a preface is in order. We have four kids six and under. I literally eat multitasking for breakfast, and that is a claim of survival, not pride. Our house is loud and full of little girl screams. More often than not, the loudest voice gets heard. We’re not proud of it, but its reality. Two weeks into quarantine, I started to realize how much I was trying to control the environment with my voice. My kids noticed it too. My emotionally asymptomatic week one had transitioned to a contagious and unhealthy week two–usually by the seventh-morning snack.

As I spent one of the next couple of mornings reflecting and repenting, I started to ask God what he wanted to grow in my heart during this season. I also started asking what he was up to in the people and communities around me, especially when it comes to fatherhood. I felt a startling and clear impression as I invited the Holy Spirit to speak: “I want to raise up a generation of fathers that are patient, present and empathetic.” I was a little surprised by the clarity, but I was also convicted by what that word meant. None of those attributes are natural for me. I’m usually a blur of energy with too much activity to slow down and be patient. I tend to be a dreamer and visionary, and rooting myself in the present is often far less entertaining than the future. And empathy, I’ve been trying to get a grasp on that one for a while too. 

PPE. Patient, present and empathetic. The daily tools and equipment are necessary to protect the emotional and spiritual health of those around me. Here’s where I want to take a little turn and encourage my guys out there. I decided to tackle my impatience first. I wasn’t going to change our environment (short of buying a new house…and the thought did cross my mind once or twice). I was also running out of ways to get my kids to stop asking for snacks (I know I’m obsessing over the snacks, but give my mild OCD a break). The thing I wanted and needed to change the most was using my voice to overpower my children.

Sitting down with the whole family, I told them, 

“Everyone, Daddy’s really sorry for how much I’ve been raising my voice lately. I was praying and God told me I’ve got to work on that. Can you help me out?” 

Here’s the deal: kids are AWESOME! They are always ready to help. Maybe not when it comes to cleaning their room, but when it comes to making us better people, they’re all in. My kids were too.

“Every time Daddy raises his voice, I want you to say, ‘Dad, chill out and do some push-ups’.”

It only took a couple practice rounds before they got the hang of it. I’m sure there are some counselors and therapists out there that can explain exactly why this was successful, but going from 180 push-ups on day one to twenty push-ups on day four or five was evidence enough of the change that was happening in my heart and mind. It was exactly what we needed. My kids had their voice and power restored to them. I had a trigger that helped me cope and redirect. And the whole family had a good time laughing as daddy learned patience and self-control right in front of them.

Guys, pick one battle and fight. Let this be a season where God works some kinks out of your heart. Let this be a season where God raises us up into a generation of dads that are patient, present and empathetic. Put on your PPE, and let’s face any pandemic this world throws our way.

~Tyler Van Eps


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