10 Complementarian Lessons From “The Paper Bag Princess”

paper“The Paper Bag Princess” is a popular kids book. Here’s a Coles notes version (which is not much shorter than the actual book):

The Prince (Ronald) gets snatched by a dragon. The Princess (Elizabeth) wisely tricks the dragon into exercising his powers and eventually the dragon falls asleep. In the process the princess gets tangled hair, smells bad, and her dress is replaced by a dirty paper bag. She returns to the Prince, and he rebuffs her and tells her to change so she looks like a real princess. The Princess responds and says “your clothes are really pretty and your hair is very neat. You look like a real prince, but you are a bum.” And they don’t get married after all.

Contrary, to what some might initially think, there is more to it than sheer feminism. Here are ten great lessons that can be gleaned from the story from a Complementarian, Christian perspective.

  1. One way or another, the Dragon’s plan is doomed.
  2. Arrogance and ingratitude is not to be confused with manliness. And ingratitude is a grievous sin.
  3. “Manliness” that does not have a place for tenderness is not manliness. The only time Ronald faces Elizabeth in the story, is with a pointing finger and a critical, accusatory tone.
  4. Femininity is very compatible with being strong, firm, blunt, and uncompromising. A godly women is in many ways, a strong woman (“She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong” – Proverbs 31:17)
  5. That man and women have distinct roles does not mean that those roles are given because the opposite gender is incompetent at them.
  6. Though nagging, nitpicking, and being overly critical is often culturally attributed to women, men can fall into that trap just as easily!
  7. Hair and clothes and bravado can be manly, but they don’t make one manly. It is one thing to appear manly, it is another thing to be manly.
  8. Some (many?) men need to be called bums. Or jerks. Or both. And, in some contexts, they should be told to get lost.
  9. Some (many?) women who are being pursued by unworthy men need to tell them to get lost.
  10. Not getting married to a jerk is an outcome a person seeking marriage should see as a good outcome (as hard as it may be at the time). In dating/courting with a view to getting married, singles should define success in a way that embraces the possibility of deciding to not go further and being OK with that.

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Stranger In A Strange Land

Every once in a while one gets a reminder of the strange times one lives in.

Today, over lunch, it was this item from Playmobil. Targeted at ages 4-7 (make sure you check out the secondary photos on the left hand side!)

And, in case you think your kid is too sheltered from the reality of perpetual war, there is also this.

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8 Reading Goals for 2013

  1. Read the 12 books my wife will chose out for me to read in 2013 (one per month–a mutual tradition we started in 2012).
  2. Read 5 books I’ve already read (some potential candidates are The Master and Margarita, Augustine’s Confessions, Holy War, Pilgrim’s Progress, Brothers Karamazov, and The Hobbit)
  3. Read two books I’ve been meaning to read for a long time: Augustine’s City of God and Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago
  4. Read The Lord Of The Rings trilogy
  5. Read 5 African novels (I’m thinking maybe something by Chinua Achebe or Nuruddin Farah. Does anyone have any other suggestions?)
  6. Read a new poet from 5 different countries besides Canada, U.S., or the U.K. (Does anyone have any suggestions?)
  7. Read all the books I have loaned out from my church library and return them
  8. Read at least two books from every book shelf I have (we have five 7 segment shelves, and one 5 segment shelf)

These goals are, of course, to be qualified by “Lord willing”.

Do you have any reading goals for 2013?

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Being A Father

I love being a father. “Father” is a bit on the formal side for my liking, so let’s make that “daddy” for now. I love the role even when it is unenjoyable. Sometimes the worst moments are the best moments!

For instance, what father–or mother for that matter–can think of early morning diaper changes without registering a slight twinge of pain buried deeply in their psyche. As they say, there are smells and sights that no one should see! And yet, the responsibility is really quite precious. And, I must ask, is there really anything on earth sweeter than those early morning smiles and coos that redeem it all? Even if it means tackling what must be the biggest instance of human excrement disposal known to mankind!?  (Being daddy entitles me to a bit of hyperbole, I think.)

Can anything compare to the frustratingly delightful task of trying to prevent a pink-hooded leaf-eating-munchkin from doing what so naturally comes to her, eating the October leaves she’s playing in?

A father’s role is much different than a mother’s, and I would argue, much easier. It does, however, come with its own unique challenges. And, as it is the case with mothers, the very thing that would in any other context drive a guy nuts, become his very delight–at least a “dirty diaper” sort of delight.

There are many other double-edged realities to being a father which seem far more weighty than diaper changes or preventing leaf-eating. How about the fact that I am teaching my daughter every day, intentionally or unintentionally? That’s a big blessing. And a fearful responsibility. Umberto Eco once wrote in one of his novels: “I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us”. Fathers, chew on that one for a moment, and see if your knees don’t shake!

I never knew my father, and so even though becoming a father is what I wanted, the concept always seemed to be intimidating.  I am encouraged to know that from here on, I can apply the lessons I’ve learned in the first seven months. That is more comforting to me than you can probably imagine. Quite the seven months its been, too!

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November 12, 2012 | Posted in: Parenting | Comments Closed

Orphans/Fatherless/Motherless Writers

Some time ago I read in an autobiography of Tolkien (by Mark Horne) that “Interesting studies show that people who have lost one or both parents are highly represented among creative people”.  It is true! Many great writers have been orphans or fatherless or motherless. This seems a little too frequent to be a coincidence.

Here are some examples of orphans who have gone on to be great writers:

  1. Leo Tolstoy (orphaned at age 9). Author of the classic War and Peace, 7 other novels, and a plethora of other writings.
  2. Fyodor Dostoyevsky (orphaned in his teens). Author of the classics Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, and other novels.
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien (orphaned at age 12).  Author of the wildly successful Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit.
  4. Joseph Conrad (orphaned at age 11). Author of around 20 novels, including Lord Jim.
  5. Edgar Allan Poe (orphaned at age 2).  American novelist and poet, perhaps best known for The Black Cat and The Raven.
  6. William Wordsworth (orphaned at age 12). Famous English romantic poet.
Here are some examples of the fatherless or motherless writers:
  1. Lord Byron (lost his father at 3).  English poet.
  2. Robert Frost (lost his father at 11). American poet.
  3. Mark Twain (lost his father at 11). Wrote Huckleberry Finn, often called “The Great American Novel” as well as many other novels, satires, and travelogues.
  4. C.S. Lewis (lost his mother at 9). Wrote Chronicles of Narnia series and many other novels.
  5. George Macdonald (lost his father at 8). Wrote many novels and fairy tales.
  6. Albert Camus (lost his father in infancy). French novelist, perhaps best know for The Stranger and The Plague.
  7. Daniel Defoe (lost his mother at 10). British novelist, perhaps best known for Robinson Crusoe.
  8. John Bunyan (lost his mother in his teens). Best known for his allegory Pilgrim’s Progress.

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A Review of Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

A review of Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

Parents wanting to raise their kids thoughtfully and learn from different cultures will likely find this book helpful and entertaining. It’s a memoir by an American expatriate mother living in France, documenting her investigation of French parenting.

It’s not that I necessarily agree with everything here. I don’t think that’s the point. The idea isn’t that the French do parenting perfectly or that everyone should thoughtlessly copy them. Rather, the point is that while some French parenting practices may seem foreign to Americans, many of them really make sense and are very helpful and amazingly successful. And there is some clear evidence of better results.

Unlike many parenting books and memoirs, this book is actually written in a skillful, fun and fresh way. It is intimate and emotional but not overly sentimental either. Even though it describes a mom’s perspective, dads can enjoy it too! In fact, even if you never have had, and never will have, any children, it’s unlikely you’ll find this dull!

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Fathering A Newborn

I. Fathering a newborn is
a spit-up filled shirt
arm asleep
rocking baby to sleep
an unfinished board game
a night gone away
perhaps it is a sleepless night.

II. Fathering a newborn is
dirty diapers
panicked moments
cleaning up the floor
wondering what to do
sometimes worried.

III. Fathering a newborn is
being needed by two
being crucial to two
being loved by two.

IV. Fathering a newborn has
deep joys
sometimes exasperation
deep meaning
found in the mundane things
deep love
found in a baby’s faithful dependance
deep and significant duty
found in meeting basic needs.

V. Fathering a newborn is
finding out your wife is
nearly superhuman
precious and lovely.

VI. Fathering a newborn is
getting a few morning coos
from the bundle in your arms
and an admiring look
with eyes twinkling up at you
a smile in the morning
making one forget
everything difficult
everything hard
and the days fly by
as you watch the baby grow.


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16 Things I’ve Learned From Being A Father For A Few Days

(some of these I’ve already known, but are now reinforced)

  1. My wife is a beautiful, precious, loving, sweet, amazing, strong women. And she’s a fantastic mother.
  2. My baby is incredibly cute and sweet.
  3. God has been incredibly good to me, beyond what I deserve.
  4. When you think you are going to get hospital food and you get great Arabic food (in this case Iraqi) instead, it is wonderful.
  5. We have incredibly loving, serving, understanding friends and family!!
  6. Having a non-related woman other than doctors or nurses who knows her stuff and is there for you (ie. a Doula for example) is amazingly helpful. The father’s support crucial, but having someone with a professional approach and a feminine touch and knowledge of labour is also extremely helpful both to mother and father (and baby). Even if all your nurses are great, they won’t always be there and due to the rotations will be unlikely to be as invested in  you. Follow-ups with this person is a great idea too!
  7. God’s design of the human body is amazing!
  8. God answers prayer.
  9. Having a quiet, calm atmosphere that is not buzzing with people (medical people or visitors) is so helpful! Babies need serenity and as much as people buzzing around to monitor her is truly for her own good, it doesn’t make for a happy baby! Finding the balance between activity and non-activity can be difficult, but is crucial.
  10. Having left the hospital, it becomes so apparent that home is so much of  better place for new parents and a baby than the hospital!
  11. Reading is better when you are a father. Albeit you get less of it, but its so much sweeter and enjoyable! Generally,  I’ve found that in the first few days one page of reading gives way more pleasure than 20 pages of reading before fatherhood. Same thing with listening to music.
  12. It’s amazing what you can remember when you need to remember it! I never would have  imagined I’d nearly precisely quote a Robert Hunter / Jerry Garcia song in the labour (The Wheel – “Little bit harder, just a little bit more Little bit farther than you than you’ve gone before”).
  13. It’s easier to pray for your kid when she’s sleeping in your arms.
  14. Fatherhood is such an amazing thing!
  15. Watching your wife cuddling with your new baby is amazing!!!!
  16. Did I mention I’m just totally floored to be taking this new journey!

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