29 June 2013

Helping in Another Home, Part 2: Helping while Mama is Away

Dear Lissy,

We're headed over to HVBC for Old Home Days Sunday, and everyone is in high spirits.  We'll get to see Pastor and Esther, a rare treat since Daddy's usually filling the pulpit while they're on vacation.  The afternoon song and testimony service is the highlight for Daddy and I.  A barrel vaulted ceiling and a musically talented congregation make for an a-maz-ing service.  I'm pretty sure your brothers are eying the potluck and ice cream social after services with their friends.   We'll be bringing pans of sweet potato rolls and a Mexican chicken and rice casserole with roasted corn, so you and I have some kitchen time ahead of us , too.

Today's letter is a bit more serious:  how to help in a home when Mama is away, and Daddy and the kids are running the home.  If you haven't read Part 1, take a few minutes to look back through that letter before you begin this one.  I've written most of this letter to address a situation where Mom is away for a week or more.  This letter assumes that Dad has one or more preschool or school aged children.  I also wanted it to be appropriate for those homes where mama has gone home to Heaven.  I find it unsettling that so many women in their late thirties and early forties succumb to cancer while they still have young families.  Those families need quiet assistance for years, not days.  It's been my experience that very often mom's absences are emergencies, and she doesn't have time to organize much help ahead of time.

25 June 2013

One Quick Tip: Drip Dry in Half the Time

Dear Lissy,

This little tip comes to you courtesy of my college roommates.

Silk needs special care!   http://www.wikihow.com/Wash-Silk-Garments

  • Hand wash, rinse, and wring  garment.
  • Lay garment flat on the top half of a bath towel, and fold the other half of the towel over the top.  For a large garment, use two towels.
  • Roll the towel and garment together into a cylinder.
  • Place the roll-up on the floor, and do a little stomp dance on top of it.  Make sure your entire body weight is on top of each part of the roll-up several times.
  • Unroll and hang or lay out the garment to finish drying.  Pantyhose and nylon undergarments will be dry enough to wear right after unrolling if necessary.

19 June 2013

Baker's Secret: Super Parchment Paper

Dear Lissy,
I've used baking parchment for all of my baked goods (except cupcakes and muffins when I mix up my special pan release) since I was newly married. Nothing sticks to it, and it protects pans better than any non-stick coating.   I'd been toying with the idea of getting a silicon baking mat when I discovered teflon super parchment.  It's a better investment than either parchment or a baking mat.  Like parchment, it can be cut or folded to any size pan, but like a baking mat it's washable and reusable.  A 13 x 17 sheet costs under $5 and gives hundreds of uses, making it a great investment. Roll it into a thin tube to store -- it won't curl like regular parchment.  Super parchment makes a great gift for a bridal shower or baking friend, too.

  • Lining baking sheets for cookies and biscuits
  • Lining baking pans for brownies and cakes
  • Rolling out pie crust
  • Kneading bread
  • Lining an electric griddle for frying pancakes, grilled cheese, eggs, english muffins, etc.
  • Fold it for use in an indoor electric grill (Foreman grill) or panini press.  You'll still get the grill marks, but no messy cleanup.
  • Placing under an artisan loaf or pizza so it slides easily onto the baking stone.  It works far better than cornmeal and eliminates the need for a peel.
  • Candy making - caramel, peanut brittle, etc.release cleanly and easily.  If you're doing a lot of work with sugar, invest in a silicone baking mat since it doesn't slide.
  • Roasting vegetables or meats.  Parchment (super or regular) keeps breaded chicken and fish from becoming soggy.
  • Cut a piece the same size and shape as the microwave turntable.
Don't try to use if for any application with direct flames. Super Parchment is safe to 500 degrees.  Knives (or pizza rollers) will damage it, but unlike a baking mat you won't end up with fiberglass shreds in your food.  Super parchment, sometimes called reusable parchment, is available at many kitchen supply stores, but usually spendy at gourmet kitchen shops. 

Stuck on You!

17 June 2013

Helping in Another Home: Part 1

Dear Lissy,

One of the ways God has used me over the years is helping in others' homes during extended seasons of difficulty.  There are three or four different scenarios, and each requires a different wisdom.

Part 1:  Helping when a momma is still home, but unable to be on her feet.
Part 2:  Helping a Dad & kids run the home when momma is away.
Part 3:  Helping a single mom.
Part 4:  Helping an overwhelmed momma
Part 5:  Helping a busy momma.

Today we'll just chat about helping a lady who has to be off her feet for an extended period of time.  Short term help is usually handled by the church, but long term needs are beyond the scope of most church ministries. This is often the help you'll be giving an elderly couple, the terminally ill, or a very young family

1.  Prayerfully consider how much assistance you can give and still care for your own family.
Prayer is the first step before helping another person no matter what the circumstance.  Your husband or roommates should be a part of the decision making process, too. Don't give away what you haven't first given at home.   If your husband says "no," consider the matter closed.

You also need to pray about how much assistance you can offer.  Are you going to bring in one meal a week or run laundry three times a week?  Do you have the ability to provide transportation for a family member?  Childcare?  Start small and build, or as Daddy would say, "under-promise and over-deliver".

2.  ASK her in what areas she would prefer assistance.
After you've prayed, speak privately with the woman you are seeking to assist and her husband.  She may insist that she doesn't want or need help, in which case you can simply assure her that you are praying and available.  Follow up with her in a couple of weeks, but don't offer help more than twice.

Ask her how you can best help her in the time you have available.  Often it will be something simple like picking the kids up from school, or taking the dog for a walk.  An elderly person may need a ride to the doctor or grocery store.  For a lady on extended bed rest, a thorough weekly cleaning  or taking the children after school is often the most welcome help.  Don't be surprised if an elderly or terminally ill person simply wants your company.  One new mama I worked with wanted someone to come and study the Bible and pray with her because she missed her weekly ladies' Bible study.

3.  Assist to her standards, not your own.
Cook, clean, and assist with childcare in a way that's a blessing, not a backhanded criticism of her choices.  For one family of picky eaters I rarely made meals, but instead grocery shopped and bought food her husband and kids could fix for themselves.  They wouldn't have eaten a simple homemade ziti bake, but they loved their Tostino's pizza rolls and microwave popcorn.  I only knew that because I asked.  Everyone else in our Sunday school class brought them homemade food that ended up in the trash.  Find out about food allergies and preferences before you bring a meal.

If  that sweet little grammy keeps the house tidy, pulling out all the stops and giving the house a spring cleaning top to bottom may insult her.  Whenever you clean, be sure you ask what and how much they want done.
  • The first four of the five most important household tasks are a good place to start if they're uncomfortable giving you direction.  
  • Most people don't want you in their master bed and bath unless you are already close friends.  
  • Many men are uncomfortable with anyone but their wives or themselves doing their laundry.  
  • This is NOT the time to re-organize or dig out a basement or attic.  Keep the decisions for the lady who is ill to a minimum.
  • You may be tasked with jobs you consider OCD or a waste of time, like cleaning blinds slat by slat.  Bless them by doing it well and without complaint.

Your only priorities for short term child care are to keep the children safe and happy.  You are not their parent.  I messed up in this area with a family we had in our church, and it is one of my biggest regrets.  Their mom chose to parent for happiness, and the whining and rivalry between siblings was nearly unbearable.  I thought I could pop in like Supernanny, and ended up (understandably) offending the mother. I could have endured a few afternoons of whining far more easily than the drama that ensued.

If they run a daycare, or give a friend or grandchildren a free place to plop their kids, that is not your problem or obligation.  They need to make other arrangements if they are unavailable for a long time.  Don't become entangled with their commitments to another person. 

4.  Respect the family's privacy.
It is a privilege to help another person in their home.  If you can't keep your mouth shut, don't offer help.  Period.  No one except your husband should be aware you're helping unless that family chooses to share your ministry.  Your kids need to be taught from a very young age that helping another family is "family business" and not a topic of discussion.  When you find out a couple has separate sleeping arrangements, or that they love a T.V. show  you consider filth, it may be tempting to share that juicy little tidbit.  Don't.

Equally important is understanding that many people, like us, are very private about their lives.  Your pastoral staff, a judge or other high-ranking official, and even company executives probably won't welcome in-home assistance.   If your assistance causes embarrassment or discomfort for the family, it's not a blessing.

5.  Don't offer in-home assistance unless you have been in the home.
I've been in the home of a busy mother of five that was always tidy, and a widow that should have been evicted.  There is no rhyme or reason to who keeps their home, and who lets it slide. The worst clean out Dad ever had was in the wealthy town of Quechee, Vermont in an upscale housing development.   If you haven't personally been in the home, volunteer a few hours first before volunteering for weeks.  You have no idea how bad homes can get, for which I am grateful.  Dad and I have had the opportunity many times to see homes where rats, insects, and feces were considered normal living conditions.

You will occasionally run into shocking or illegal things in others homes, too.  Some illegal activities have to be reported, or you are considered guilty as well.  Be careful before taking on a long term, in-home obligation.  If you are no longer able to serve in a home because of what you see; give the family a short, simple explanation and a guarantee of your discretion in the matter.

Ways to assist from outside the home. . .
  • Pick up school-aged children and help them do their homework.
  • Take pre-school children to the park or watch them in your home.
  • Provide meals -- make a casserole, order a pizza, do the grocery shopping
  • Provide disposables - paper plates, cleaning wipes, diapers
  • Offer laundry service
  • Discreet anonymous cash gifts or gift cards.
  • Rides to the doctor.
  • Pre-paid toll or parking cards
 The first few times you assist may be awkward for both of you.  After you are a part of the family's routine, you'll be taken for granted, and the work you do will become expected.  Don't become upset when that happens -- this is when you're serving "as unto the Lord."  Finally, reassure them that God is taking care of your paycheck if they fret about the amount of time and effort you're giving.  The blessings of being the hands for God's heart far outweigh any inconvenience.


07 June 2013

Proactive Parenting, Part 2: Principle #2:Connection

Dear Lissy,

One of my very favorite new momma memories is the feeling of snuggling your velvety soft head against my neck. Whether we were rocking while you nursed or you were in your little snuggly carrier, we both craved that touch. 

Parenting is a process of establishing connections that allow for direction and correction of the child's attitudes and actions.

The first thing we sorted in principle #1 was that our roles in this relationship are not equal yet.  God has placed us over you three to represent Himself while you are in the first twenty years of your lives.  The 12 - 20 year age is a time of transition from our authority and watch care to God's, but we are still ultimately responsible for what happens during those years.  This brings us to principle #2:

Principle #2:  Physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy are the fuel for the child's obedience.


From the time you are born until I am called home to heaven I will hug you, chase you, tickle you, cuddle you, hold your hand, rub your back. . . and that's just for starters!  Kiddos need physical touch to fill their love tank. All three of you loved to have me lay in bed with you rubbing your head while you told me all about your day.  Matt and I have had a silly "Mama Kitty Lick of Approval" thing going on since he was 5 years old.  He's the only one of my kids that I know how he tastes!

Talk less, touch more when directing or redirecting behavior.  Children are more physical than mental for the first 10 or 12 years. When you squat or bend down and gently hold their shoulders or cup their face to direct (or redirect!) there is a noticeable difference in their reaction.  Standing and making proclamations from on high puts distance in your relationship.  Putting your hand on a child's back when they are facing something new and a bit scary gives them a great deal of security and confidence.  When a toddler is having a meltdown, for the love of sanity, don't try to talk them down -- you're just a buzzing sound in the background.  Wrap them in a snug hug instead, and just. be. silent.   

Any and all instructions should be given ONE TIME in the fewest words possible with no question marks involved.  The older the child, the more words you need.  I shoot for one word per year of age until about age 10.
Two or three years old:  Scooch down to eye level, hold those precious chubby cheeks in your hands, and say a firm, bright:  "Pick up!"  and put one toy in the toy basket.  Give them a little high five for each toy they put away quickly.  Depending on the child's sense of humor "Too slow -- down low" can be fun.  Don't do that if it's frustrating, though.
Four or five years old: Bend down to their eye level, put a hand on their shoulder and say:  "Pick up Legos now".  They should always respond, "Yes, Mom!"  Set a timer and leave the room.  Be sure to come back for inspection and a high five.
Eight years old +:  "Time for supper:  Put the Legos away, please"  Again, I required a "Yes, Mom" or whatever crazy variation you came up with.  Come back in for a quick inspection and a special secret high five that just belongs to that kid (criss cross or fist bump or whatever). 

Correction requires physical touch as well as talking.  Hold your child, or at least their hands, while you make a correction.  Sometimes when they're very little, you may choose to spank for certain offenses.  We chose spankings for the "D's" - Defiance, Dishonesty, Disrespect, and Danger.   Shepherding a Child's Heart discusses spanking at length, so I won't rehash that here.  Once the child has submitted their will to yours, a hug reconnects you both.


I'm going to share one of the biggest parenting secrets I know with you.  Your kids can tell what you love by where you put your presence. Because of that, the first 15 minutes that Daddy is home every day (after welcome hugs, of course) is with mommy on the couchKids aren't allowed to interrupt this time physically or verbally.  This one technique - Daddy and mommy time first will turn around poor behavior faster than almost any other parenting technique I know. 

Discipline yourself in regards to the computer, the phone, and limit other distractions you might have.  Kids need to know they are a welcome and wanted part of your life, not just an afterthought.  If you have housework, hobbies, work from home, or have friends over; set a timer or show them on the clock when you will be done and how to interrupt if they really need you.
Kids need the physical presence of their parents as a constant in their lives. Even if you're not in the same room, they need to know you are there.  A deep sense of security, an anchor, is formed by knowing mom and dad are with them at expected times.  If your husband have rotating shifts or travel, this can be a particularly difficult challenge.  Have some kind of magnet or chart that tells the kids if Dad will be home for touchpoints like wake up, breakfast, supper, and bedtime.  If he's not, create little rituals that still allow them to connect with him at those times.  If you work, the same applies.  

Emotional connection

Remember when you met Mr. Right, and we cautioned you about getting emotionally connected before you were engaged?  Emotional connection is expressing how you feel about what's happening.  It's a key part of connecting with your kids.  For littles, this is usually done through tone of voice, exaggerated facial expressions, and.silly noises.  Purring when your three year old gives you a backrub with their toy rolling pin is a good example.  As they grow into the preschool and elementary years, express how you feel when they obey, disobey, take initiative, etc.  "Wow, that makes me happy when you play with your baby sister so gently." and use physical reinforcement like a hug.  When they get into the pre-teen/teen years, express the emotion and the reasoning along with the touch.  "You're so gentle with her even when she's frustrating.  It really pleases me that you're able to react well even when you're not being treated right.  I'm sure God was pleased, too."  (Remember, at this point you're transitioning them to the Holy Spirit.)

The other half of this is using touch and presence to get your children to tell you how they feel.  When they're little they stomp their feet or light up like a Christmas tree -- you can read them like a book.  As they get older, I've found a drive in the car is a great time to talk because it's intimate without being overbearing.  Silence isn't uncomfortable in the car.  You can repeat what you thought they said back to them without sounding like a Hollywood shrink.  I also planned alone time working or just going out for a quick bite to eat with each of you at least once a month.  Working out together is another great time to connect.  We spent many happy hours walking, biking, and doing laps.

Spiritual Connection

You are the main link between your child and God.  Everything they know about Him will be through you either directly or indirectly.  They need to know God's intimate care for every aspect of their lives before He is their primary directing authority.

Begin sharing parts of the gospel with your child from a very early age.  As they grow, fit the pieces into place.  Not every child will accept child at a young age, but 99% of those who accept Christ accept Him before the age of 21.  

I expect to have "Let's pray about it first" engraved on my tombstone I said it so often while the three of you were growing up.  Teach your child to bring everything to God in prayer. 

Nothing is too great for His power, and nothing too small for His love.

Make up a praise song when God answers a prayer and sing it joyfully at the top of your lungs.  Begin by bringing physical requests to God.  The car won't start.  The dog did a Houdini with the fence.  Somebody is sick or has a booboo.  Increase to emotions when they're still little, and eventually teach them to share their desires, or will with God and seek His will for them.  Introduce intercessory prayer at a young age, too.

Spend time together in God's Word.   Teach them to hear and discern God's voice.  Discuss worldview when you read or watch a movie.  Coach them through the tough decisions, always pointing them to the Scriptures.

Make Sunday a day of delight, not drudgery.  Have special toys or games they only get to play on Sunday.  Prepare special food and wear special clothes.

Serve together as a family.  Make another family a meal.  Visit an elderly person in your church.  Help at a work day, or help a neighbor.

Once your children are able to handle Algebra, they're old enough to begin to transition to God's authority and a truly personal relationship with Him.  Do anything and everything possible to nurture that relationship so that it's strong by the time they leave home.

A car needs more than fuel to go, but it can't go anywhere without fuel.  The same is true of the human heart.  You need more than loving connections, but you can't get anywhere without them.
"Being wanted is the fuel for obedience.”

You are cherished!

03 June 2013

Quick Fashion Tip: The Slip

Dear Lissy,

Until a couple of years ago I only wore slips if a garment was see-through.  Turns out I was wrong.  In the fashion industry slips are used to create a smooth surface between foundation garments and fashion garments.  They allow the fashion garment to maintain it's clean lines no matter how much you twist, bend, turn, and walk.  Slips come in a variety of styles and colors and are a great investment to help your clothes look their best.
  • Eliminate panty and bra lines.
  • Eliminate show through and "peeking" at the waistline.
  • Eliminate catching on foundation garments.
  • Eliminate bunching, rubbing, and itching.
  • Eliminate "crawl" when wearing tights or walking.
  • Eliminate lumps, bumps, and lines-- hooray for looking thinner!
  • Prevent body odors, perspiration,  and oils from transferring to garments.
  • Prevent garments from sticking to perspiration.
Color is the same as for foundation garments:  nude and black are the most versatile.  The styles you need depend largely on your wardrobe.  Lace on foundation garments or slips gives a lumpy-bumpy look to stretchy fashion garments. 

If you have a mixed wardrobe of dresses, skirts and tops, and trousers I'd recommend:
  • Nude and black full slips
  • Nude and black half slips
  • Nude and black camiole tops unless you regularly layer tanks or t's under your shirts.
  • Nude pettipants.   Truly horrible name, but they allow trousers to fall cleanly and eliminate a world of embarrassing fashion faux pas.
Slips aren't necessary with activewear or very casual outfits like t's and jeans -- just wear smooth nylon or silk underthings to keep the fashion garment from bunching, catching, and crawling.  Slips make comfy, pretty nightwear that won't stick to the sheets when you roll over, too.  Nylon and silk last longest if hand washed, but can be tossed in the laundry in a mesh bag on gentle cycle if you're tight on time.

Slip me a hug soon!

01 June 2013

Proactive Parenting, Part 2: Principle #1: Authority

Dear Lissy,
Summer is officially here along with scorching temperatures.  We finished the 2012-2013 school year yesterday despite an ENT infection that's given us all vertigo. . .wheeeeeeeee.  I'm doing my housework by little bits today, and writing you to cool off and catch my balance in between tasks.

Proactive parenting says:
"I will look ahead to see challenges or difficulties that will arise in the care, love, and guidance of my children, and take appropriate positive steps to ensure their physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional safety and growth."

Principle #1:  Children need strong authority and boundaries to thrive as much as adults need personal sovereignty and freedom.

God gave parents His own authority to rule their children's lives. 
God put parents in charge of their children "as God" in their little lives. He demands that we parent our children in a calm, assertive way on his behalf.  Ephesians and Colossians command children to obey "in the Lord," and we see the same principle time and time again throughout the Old Testament.  We made it a point to refer to ourselves as "mommy" and "daddy" not "I" or "me".  It is our role that gives us authority, not our person.  Authority doesn't displace intimacy, but friendship between equals will have to wait.

Take that charge seriously, Liss!  When you are under God's authority, and acting in His stead in your child's life, you have tremendous responsibility and power.  In the tween and teen years you will begin transitioning your child to the Holy Spirit's authority, but during the preschool and elementary years, they simply don't possess the physical ability to think abstractly.  Asking them to self-govern is like asking a kindergartener to run a chop saw.  One of Daddy's favorite sayings is "how your children obey you now is how they'll obey God as an adult."  

Choice = power. 
Remember the story of Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady?  Or better yet, Eve and the Serpent?  This is one of the unbreakable laws of the universe.  If I allow you to choose, I am handing you power.  Because we want you to have the ability to choose wisely for yourself by the time you leave home, choices, and therefore power, are slowly and carefully given. 
A child should have no choices until they consistently demonstrate immediate obedience and the ability to grasp at least the short term consequence of their choice.   At that stage, we slowly increase choices until you are able to self-govern.  Don't make the mistake of purchasing peace at the cost of power like I did with you.
Example:  In our home, A two year old might be given a piece of peanut butter toast, a few banana slices, and a cup of milk for breakfast.  A four year old might be given the choice of pb toast with banana and a cup of milk or a bowl of Cheerios with banana slices. At ten, we ask you to eat one serving each of carb, protein, and fruit for breakfast.  Nate, our 15 year old,  is welcome to fix any breakfast appropriate foods he desires.  No snacks are available until 10:00 a.m, when you're allowed a piece of fruit or cut up veg.
In the above example, if a 4 year old decides she wants Cheerios instead of pb toast after we've already fixed pb toast, the answer is a gentle "No, you chose toast.  You may have Cheerios tomorrow."  If that happens more than 2-3 times, she'll go back to no choice until she stops the power play and understands that a choice has a consequence.  We also regularly tested you as pre-school children by not giving you a breakfast choice once a week or so.  If you put up a fuss, we knew you were being given too much autonomy too soon.   While this sounds a little "control freakish" to some Americans, in the rest of the world it's culturally normal to give little to no choice at the dining table and few to no snacks during the day.
Children who are given choices, or too many choices too soon, develop choice addiction.
This is the #1 family problem Daddy and I see.  Parents refuse to exercise their authority (because of personal authority issues or laziness) and instead allow their children to call the shots as long as it falls within loosely acceptable parameters.  The child becomes increasingly demanding and willful because he's been given power before he's ready.  By 3 or 4 years of age, the child is pushing those parameters beyond the acceptable limits, and has become a pint-sized dictator.  The whole family revolves around the child's demands. Throw in a few equally demanding siblings, and the parents wonder why they ever chose to have kids at all.
In scouts, almost all of the children under our care had severe choice addiction.  Their parents were usually gobsmacked to see their nearly unmanageable children become sweet, loving, and cooperative under the strict authority and rules imposed in Scouting.  We were dealing with knives, fire, and other hazardous situations that required absolute compliance with the rules.  Our friend Dennis reported the same changes in kids that trained in Tae Kwon Do at his Institute. 
Choice addiction typically comes to a head in the young adult years when teens start making choices without regards to the legal or moral consequences.  Samson is a classic case of this hideous disease.
We've been dealing with a mild case of choice addiction with you for years.  I was too lazy to stay the course with you when your brothers were already safely through that stage of life and had many choices.  What I failed to have the strength to do for 2-3 years, I am still paying for 8 years later.  No fun.  It's a common pitfall for large families, and one I want you to be keenly aware of.
Choices with moral consequences require a great deal of discipleship and accountability.
Example:  Screen time and content is a distinctly moral choice.  We carefully control both until well into the teenage years.  We talk often about why we limit time, and what sites or programs will decrease our sensitivity to Christ.  Bit by bit, you are given more control over both time and content.  Once completely autonomous,you are still accountable.  We encourage that accountability to transition outside the home in the late teens.  We believe every adult should have an accountability partner outside their own home for the time and content of their computer/tv usage.
Dad and mom need to prayerfully and intelligently set family rules and enforce them.
There are only two master rules:  Love & respect God (and God ordained authority) and love others as yourself.  Every other rule, large or small, has to fit within those two.  It doesn't show love or respect to others to allow your child to snap another child's crayons in half or steal their toy, even if you promise to replace them.  Allowing a child to take valuable pots, pans, and utensils to the sandbox instead of using their own sand toys doesn't show love or respect for mom, even if she "doesn't mind".  A teenager halfheartedly weeding the garden isn't showing respect for God-given authority.
The second half of this equation is mom and dad consistently enforcing the rules, day in, day out.  This is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I get so tired, I often have to remember why I care.  Those rules we had prayed and talked over seemed far less important at four in the afternoon after a day with three kids under five.  By 8 or 10 years old you would try to reason with me, and I had to uphold rules that even I doubted at the moment.  We'll talk about consistency a lot more in the next principle, but for now, I'll leave you with a couple of stories.

Example:  When we prayerfully decided that 45 minutes of screen time twice a week was more than enough, that was true no matter the weather.  I felt like world's worst mother as eleven year old Nate would sit there on rainy days writing code in his notebook with a pencil for hours after his computer time ended.  "What's the harm?" my brain would argue, "there's nothing else to do."  Fast forward four years, and his final exams for AP Computer Science as well as any and all college Comp Sci exams are paper and pencil coding, something that gives most students a tremendous challenge.  He just laughs and reminds me of his notebooks full of code as a kid.

Example:  We had a handful of non-negotiable "church rules" when you were little. There were consequences for breaking these rules every. single. time.  It didn't matter if you were tired, or "so and so was doing it," you were held responsible.  This often meant interrupting some of the only adult social time during the week to attend to a naughty child.  All three of you have been called down from the pulpit at least once.  It always tickled Daddy's funny bone to see people who had been texting, doodling, or sleeping sit up straight and pay attention after he called one of you down publicly.

As problems arose, we dealt with them in light of Love & Respect God or Love and Respect Others, not by creating infinite new rules.  

Example:  At two or three, Matt decided to hide one couple's car keys in his boot so they couldn't go home.   We didn't make rules against hiding keys, we took the time to teach him how that action didn't show love and respect for a family he dearly loved. 

Dad and mom need to train each child's strengths and weaknesses, whether or not the child sees them as "fair."
Each child is unique and special. They have their own set of weaknesses and strengths that need to be parented. While we have general age guidelines in our home, those are strongly influenced by the unique mix of character traits each child possesses.  It is only because of my God-given mission to raise each of you into His capable, devoted servants that I have the strength to parent this way.  I have the usual firstborn's sense of fair play at any cost, and often have had to pay the price when I go my way instead of God's.
Examples:  At three, you were required to stay "in arm's reach" following church services even though many of the other children your age were allowed to run and play freely. You had demonstrated more than once that you weren't able to follow rules when we weren't present.
 I have different "food rules" for Matt than I did Nate at the same age.  Nate learned to self-regulate quantity and sweets fairly young.  Matt would eat a quart of cookie dough without blinking. 
We now allow Nate several hours a day of computer time because he's programming Dad's business website and working for Google's coding apprenticeship program.  
The big takeaway?  Your children aren't miniature adults.  They have the God-given right to have two decades of loving, thoughtful training before they are fully responsible to interact with a sin-sick world.   YOU have the privilege of being their God-given teacher, coach, and mentor to prepare them to follow the Word and respond to the Holy Spirit.  Rise to your calling.

Love ya,

P.S.  My aunt and uncle, unbelievers, exercised authority and raised four stable, moral, civic-minded men.  I admire all of my cousins immensely.  While it is harder to make a case for parental authority without God, it isn't impossible.