Chip Mattis’s Under the Dancing Tree
It has been nearly a year since I started this blog, and I have met so many wonderful people so far in this adventure! One of those people is blogger, and newly published author, Chip Mattis. I enjoyed reading Chip’s blogs at chipmattis.com before I got to know him, but since I have gotten to know him I have grown to appreciate his work even more. Chip and his wife Jessie have 3 children, and have gained a lot of wisdom in their time as parents.
Some of the wisdom Chip has gained by being a father to daughters inspired his new book, Under the Dancing Tree. The book is a beautiful expression of longing to keep your little girl little, while also being excited for the future that lies ahead of her. To get your own copy of this fantastic book, or to leave a review if you’ve already read it, follow this link to the Amazon Under the Dancing Tree product page.
In honor of the release of Under the Dancing Tree, I asked Chip to impart a little more of his wisdom (and humor) to us with a guest post! If you like what he has to say here, you can find more on his blog, or on Twitter!
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Maybe it’s just me, but I think I spend more time turning off lights in my house than I do on personal grooming. That’s probably why my hair always looks unkempt. I’m paying to illuminate the airplane tarmac a few miles away.
When I realized how much I was muttering to myself about lights and power bills, I realized I had become my dad without meaning to. When I was young, my dad installed switches that required keys to turn on. It was a bit neurotic looking back, but I have days when I wish I could ask him where he got them and if they come in beige.
Seasons in Parenting
It’s little things like this that make me long for better days ahead when my kids will learn to turn lights off when they leave a room or when they’ll finally chew with their mouths closed. I dream of the day my kids stop whining about a pear that just fell on the floor (just rinse it off—it’s fine) or tell me every detail about some cartoon episode I care nothing about (wow! That sounds interesting, kiddo…).
But then I realize that this season of little annoyances is fuller with the little blessings of each age. My seven-year-old is so cuddly and affectionate. My nine-year-old loves reading Hardy Boys and discussing Star Wars. My eleven-year-old is wiser and more responsible than any eleven-year-old I’ve ever known and full of innocent, good-natured humor.
My life as a father is being perpetually torn between keeping things the way they are (all the little blessings I’ll never get back) and moving things along.
I don’t think I’m alone in thinking about these seasons my kids go through. All people, good and bad, go through seasons. It’s just that parents understand it better than most, because we get to watch it happen right before our eyes.
God’s Gift of Parenting
Aside from inspiring some groovy hippie ballads, the book of Ecclesiastes has some wise words for parents as we watch the seasons change in our kids’ lives. I’ve done some editorializing on the Message translation below:
There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to discipline that kid and another to heal their scraped knees,
A right time to destroy their stash and another to construct a memory,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out your hair and another to mend the relationship,
A right time to shut up about their fashion and another to speak up about their choices in friends,
A right time to love them for who they are and another to hate their boyfriends,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.
But in the end, does it really make a difference what any parent does? I’ve had a good look at my to-do list—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but we are left in the dark, so we can never know what our kids are up to, whether they’re coming or going. I’ve decided that there’s nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That’s it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job as a parent. It’s God’s gift.
I’ve admittedly taken some liberties with the text, but I’m sure old Solomon would agree with me. After all, a man with hundreds of wives probably had a lot of advice about parenting. Although, truth be told, he didn’t seem to grasp monogamy very well.
This passage speaks to the heart of changing seasons, but, more accurately, it can describe a single day. Parent, you have the hardest, most rewarding job in raising your kids. One minute they’re difficult, and you’re longing for tomorrow. The next you’re embracing them so tightly you’re afraid if you let them go it’ll break the spell your heart is under.
So what are we parents supposed to do? Is there any cure for the ups and downs? Is there a book, a post, a list of 10 things that will solve our parenting dilemmas?
Lessons in Parenting
No, there’s no solution or magic bullet.
If someone finds one they’ll be rich beyond measure.
In the meantime, I do think there are a couple lessons we should keep in mind.
- You’re supposed to have highs and lows. It’s natural. Every parent has them. If you don’t, you’re either lying or you’re burying your head in the sand.
And anyway, highs and lows are relative. The mountaintop has the best view, but the valley has the greenest grass. All the effort of climbing that next summit comes from the camp you pitched in the last valley. What you need to focus on is celebrating the highs and celebrating the lows with every day. They’re God’s gift to you as a parent, and each is one of a kind.
- Get the most out of life you can. Because the highs and lows are inevitable, the only thing you can change is how you respond to it. Instead of seeing each valley as the end of the journey, see it as the watering hole for the next climb. Highs and lows will come again with your kids. You just need to change your perspective to take advantage of them while they last. So enjoy the time you have with them. Make memories. Have adventures. Take that vacation. Go paintballing. Play Ding-Dong Ditch as a family. Whatever you do, do it because it brings life to your family.
So Friend, decide today that in the midst of the challenges you face with your kiddo you’re going to be grateful for God’s gift. When today is hard, look to their future and dream about who they’re becoming. When today is wonderful, look back at where you’ve come from and hold your kiddo tightly. Your kids are God’s gift to you and your gift to the world.
About the Author
From the time he was small, Chip loved to read and write. He wrote poems for his grandmother and songs for himself. As a sophomore in high school, Chip won a contest to have a poem published in an anthology of U.S. high school poets. It was a seminal moment.
A few years later, Chip was admitted to the collegiate poetry and short story club, Scribblerus. He was dedicated to the purpose of the club: to read and critique others’ work in the club and submit works for critique by others. They met every week, and the honing of his craft began in earnest. He graduated magna cum laude from Greenville University with a BA in Philosophy and Religion.
Chip attended the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference in 2018 where he was awarded the Foundations First Runner-Up for Best Children’s Picture Book. His debut book, Under the Dancing Tree, from Elk Lake Publishing will be in stores in March 2019.