taking the words of Jesus seriously

Bruce Reyes-Chow, longtime friend of RLC, has recently released a book on parenting with his lovely wife Robin. Check out our conversation and an excerpt below.

Q1: Let’s start with the title: Don’t Be An Asshat? What exactly is an Asshat and why the provocative title?

What provocative title? Jokes 🙂

Yeah, we do not expect that you will find #DontBeAnAsshat at your local Christian Bookstore, but in all honestly, this is not a book for “church” people. What we mean by that is that this is not a book about how to raise kids with a foundation of the Christian faith. We certainly talk about our Christian roots in the book as part of our story, but our main audience are those who are simply trying to raise kind, compassionate, confident, kids — and this is a hope for many parents rooted in faith, or not.

As fas as the actual word, “Asshat, ” goes, it is one of Bruce’s favorite words ever to describe people who not only believe that they are the center of the universe, but feel compelled to remind everyone around them that they are, in fact, the center of the universe. The title in particular was inspired by a friend of ours who posted on Facebook that she was not role models, but she did think that the number one task of a parent was to, “Not raise a$$holes.” So, yeah, if people get offended by Asshats, just be thankful we didn’t go with the exact quote. 🙂

Q2: Parenting is incredibly difficult, and you and Robin seem to approach it in a very light-hearted way, with a list of 101 “rules.” Assuming you don’t really want your girls to “skip school” (Rule 78), what do you want parents to know or feel after reading this book?

Well, sometimes, taking a day off is actually okay with us. Our rule puts some more parameters around that, but like most every rule in the book, we are not just speaking to the raising of children, but also to the growth of parents. Taking a Day-off (#78), assuming goodness in others (#36), confronting injustice (#70) or not flipping off the tow truck driver (#38) are all things that every parent might also want to consider.

We hope folks will laugh in public, shed a tear of empathy, and add a few rules of their own. We also hope that parents will experience validation of what they have been doing, a little push to change they way they see the world, and a deep affirmation that the parenting things is an endeavor done in isolation or without impact on others around us.

To quote the teen juggernaut, High School Musical, the first one, “We’re all in this together.”

Q3: How do people get a taste of the book?

We are slowly posting the entire book online, so if you want to browse what we have posted so far, go here.

Q4: How do folks get the book and stay connected?

Hashtag to use: #DontBeAnAsshat

Book on Amazon: Paperback and Kindle

Book on Instagram

Book on Twitter

 

 

Below is the letter that nearly 50 Bruce writes to himself at 26.

Dear Twenty-Six-Year-Old Bruce, from Old Bruce

Congrats to you, Bruce of 1996!

Oh, 1996—the “Macarena” is all the rage, Major League Baseball approves interleague play, Rent opens on Broadway, Friends is beginning its epic run, some company called Amazon starts making waves, and New Edition finally releases their reunion album.

These are the days—and the days before offspring.

Well, my friend, all of that is about to change.

Not only did you somehow find a person who is willing to partner up with you for life but she is open to the possibility of producing and raising offspring with you. Yeah, dude, go kiss Robin. She is pretty awesome.

But now, as the kids say, “This shit is getting real, ” and you all are having a baby human. Daaaaaaaaaaaamn.

So, here is the thing: you are probably pretty well-prepared. After all, you have three younger siblings and multiple cousins, the communities that have raised you will continue to support you, and yeah, your mom has provided a positive and grounded model for parenting. I have faith that you will do fine. That said, dear Bruce of 1996, now that I am nearly twenty years the wiser, let me offer us a few words of encouragement and wisdom to keep in mind as this adventure unfolds.

Raise strong girls.

Yep, three girls.

Contrary to what many would have you believe, this is not a tragic twist of fate that can be cured with the birth of a boy, nor is this some kind of karmic payback for past acts of heartbreak or indiscretion. You simply have girls, and it is wonderful. Sure, there are nuances and challenges specific to raising daughters in the world, but trade for three boys? Not in a million years.

The hardest part of raising girls is that you get a glimpse into the world that women have to deal with: a world that objectifies and sexualizes, a world where there is gender-based pay inequity in the workplace, a world where femininity is equated with weakness, and a world where sexism is still pervasive. It is your job to do everything in your power to provide a counternarrative and encourage your girls to be strong women, equipped to navigate and thrive in the world. There are many ways to do this: support activities where women are taking the lead, don’t confine them to “girl” things, allow them the agency to make choices in their lives, and most important, be a good male in their world: one who builds them up, supports their risk taking, and is always learning how to be a better man in the world.

You will be changed; embrace it.

Do not parent with fear.

Oh, Bruce, you had a crappy stepfather. Let’s call him The Big D. While your mom eventually found the courage to leave him, he parented you for a long time and during your formative years. To pretend that you don’t have some of his wicked anger embedded in your DNA is foolish and risks being the kind of physically and emotionally violent parent that he was. So check yourself at all times. Do not parent with fear, intimidation, or threats of physical harm, but at every turn, be sure to parent in a way that creates and nurtures a relationship where your children respect you, trust you, and know that you represent safety, support, and love.

Love them.

This does seems a bit obvious, but there will be times when you will rely too much on tricks and tools in order to deal with the stress and struggles of parenting. During these times, remember that the best thing you can do is simply love them. That love will look different depending on the situation and the child. Sometimes it will mean binge-watching cheesy television when stress is overwhelming her; at other times it will be taking her out for a late-night ice-cream run without the sisters; and still at other times, it will mean saying, “I’m sorry. I love you.”

It’s going to be a wild and wonderful life. Enjoy the ride.

Bruce

About The Author

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A 3rd Generation Chinese/Filipino, armchair sociologist, and technology enthusiast Bruce speaks and teaches on faith, race, parenting, and technology in a variety contexts from seminaries to conferences to congregations to pre-schools. While he speaks to both religious and secular audiences, he is committed to living and expressing a Christian faith that is beautifully complex, unimaginably just, and excruciatingly gracious.

Bruce is the part-time Transitional Pastor at Valley Presbyterian Church in Portola Valley, CA, and is a Coach and Senior Consultant with the Center of Progressive Renewal. He is the author of four books: “The Definitive-ish Guide for Using Social Media in the Church” (Shookfoil Books, 2012); “But I Don’t See You as Asian: Curating Conversations about Race” (2013); “40 Days, 40, Prayers, 40 Words: Lenten Reflections for Everyday Life” (WJK Press, 2016); and “Rule #2: Don’t be an Asshat: An Official Handbook for Raising Parents and Children” (Bacosa Books, 2016). He currently blogs for The Huffington Post, The Working Preacher, and Red Letter Christians.

Bruce has been a Presbyterian pastor for nearly 20 years and founded Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco, a church of young, multicultural and progressive Presbyterians. In 2008 he was the youngest person ever elected as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the highest elected office of the 1.8 million member denomination. Bruce received his B.A. in Asian American Studies, Philosophy and Sociology from San Francisco State University (1991), M.A. from San Francisco Theological Seminary (1995), and an honorary Doctor of Divinity from Austin College (2010).

Bruce currently lives in San Francisco with his wife, three daughters, and two canines.

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