A Letter to My Daughter

Dear Daughter,

If you’re reading this, you’re finally old enough to know the truth. Or you’ve figured out how to disable parental controls, which means I can’t keep anything from you anyway.

First, please know that I love you. What you’re about to read will raise many questions, and you may begin to doubt all that you know about me. Never doubt that I love you, despite the terrible secret I’ve been keeping from you. Despite all that I’ve done without your knowledge for all these years.

You’re old enough to suspect that something is not quite right. I’ve been afraid that you will figure it out on your own one day. Frankly, it’s a bit surprising that you haven’t reached this conclusion on your own. The evidence has been right in front of you for years.

OK, here goes.

I’ve been eating your candy.

This comes as a great shock, I know, and you’re tempted to reject the idea. Just ask yourself a few questions.

  • Doesn’t it seem like your Halloween, Valentine’s, and Easter candy doesn’t last as long as it should? It’s a huge bag. Shouldn’t it last more than a day or two?
  • Why do you always seem to have so few Starburst, Butterfinger, and Skittles? Heck, have you even tasted a Butterfinger? I’m pretty sure I eat all of them first.
  • Don’t you wonder why your little brother acts so confused when you accuse him of taking your candy? Usually, he’s all “No, no, it wasn’t me!”, not “Why would I do that? Won’t the firemen be mad?”

I am so, so sorry to have betrayed your trust in this way. I hope you’ll forgive me. Also, I hope that you’ll tell me where you’ve hidden your candy.

Your loving father

P.S. Please don’t tell your brother that we aren’t giving his candy to firemen as thanks for their bravery.

The Parent as Dungeon Master: Our RPG Parenting Experiment

RPG Character Sheet

Lydia the Dwarf Wizard, our 9-year-old daughter’s “real life RPG” character

Maybe I’m the only parent who has this problem, but our children hate doing chores. And they sometimes fight with each other. And each of them has several bad habits that we want them to stop. Stop me if this sounds familiar.

Last Christmas, my wife Elizabeth gave me this awesome book called Geek Dad by Ken Denmead. Based on his blog of the same name, the book offers (as the subtitle says) “awesomely geeky projects and activities for dads and kids to share.” A few examples:

  • LED fireflies
  • High-altitude video cameras
  • Eletronic origami

One of the chapters — “Parenting and Role Playing Games” — describes a Dungeons & Dragons-like system for getting kids to help out around the house and reward them for their successes. I mentioned it the other day to Elizabeth as something that might be fun to try, not really intending to put it place anytime soon. Our older daughter, however, overheard me and immediately fell in love with the idea. She could not stop talking about the idea of becoming a Dwarf Wizard, and she asked me several times a day when we start the game. So, on Friday during the kids’ snow day, we officially launched the Hickerson RPG. Continue reading

The City of God


For a long time now, I have intended to read Augustine’s City of God, his massive (1000+ pages in English translation) book about the fall of Rome, the will of God, and the “two cities” – the city of man and the City of God – that coexist during our current era. It connects several themes that I have been interested in, and, having heard many good things about the book, expected it to be enlightening.

I did not expect it to be so pastoral, however. This has been a difficult time for our nation in general and for my family in particular. I won’t go over the details here, but suffice it to say, it has been a rough 2009.

So, too, was the year 410 for Augustine. Alaric, king of the Visigoths, sacked Rome. It was a crushing defeat for the once-invincible Roman Empire, and many Roman pagans blamed Christians for “softening” their formerly great city. (Christianity had recently grown considerably in the Roman Empire.) For Augustine personally, it was a great tragedy, since he loved the city of Rome and the Roman glory that it stood for. He began City of God in 413, at the request of a former student, who was facing challenges from pagans that Christians were to blame for the fall of Rome.

Thus, the book begins with a consideration of evil and suffering, the classic question, “Why do the good suffer while the evil prosper?” Augustine, following the lead of Jesus, observes that suffering and prosperity fall on both the righteous and unrighteous alike, according to the will of God:

But he has willed that temporal goods and temporal evils should befall good and bad alike, so that the good things should not be too eagerly coveted, when it is seen that the wicked also enjoy them, and the the evils should not be discreditably shunned, when it is apparent that the good are often afflicted with them. (CoG, 1.9)

Suffering, however, takes on very different characters, depending on who suffers:

…when the good and the wicked suffer alike, the identity of their sufferings does not mean that there is no different between them. Through the sufferings are the same, the sufferers remain different. Virtue and vice are not the same, even if they undergo the same torment. The fire which makes gold shine makes chaff smoke; the same flail breaks up the straw, and clears the grain; and oil is not mistaken for lees because both are forced out by the same press…Stir a cesspit, and a foul stench arises; stir a perfume, and a delightful fragrance ascends. But the movement is identical. (ibid.)

The same suffering that leads the unrighteous to curse God, leads the good man to prayer.