When we caught up with Jacob he was driving his truck somewhere near Dixon, Tennessee in his home state. He told us he had been driving with Prime for 4 ½ years. Part of his job includes training student drivers. In fact, in 2016 Jacob was recognized by Prime as one of the finalists for their TNT Trainer of the Year Award. Jacob says he became a trainer to “payback,” to help new drivers like someone helped him.
Although Jacob likes the freedom associated with driving an 18-wheeler over-the-road, he is excited that his new Prime route will soon allow him to get home once a week. That’s where he catches up with Niki, his wife of 11 years, and their two daughters, Abby (5) and Riley (2).
We asked Jacob how his family felt about him driving “over-the-road.” He told us one big benefit for him and Niki was that the income he earned allowed her to quit her job and stay home with the children. He admitted it is a sacrifice not to be with them as much as he would like, but both Jacob and Niki feel it is worth it to have her with the children more of the time.
Staying Connected Over the Road
It’s not always easy to stay connected with your kids when you’re on the road, but Jacob is a big believer in using every electronic means possible. He says his kids love to video chat, e.g., through SnapChat, but Jacob has another unique means for staying connected with his girls.
In part, because he was training new drivers, Jacob developed his own YouTube channel, Prime Driver Jacob. In it, he gives instructions and encouragement to new drivers. He has a unique approach using hyper-lapse videos to capture what it’s really like to drive a truck over the road in all kinds of conditions. With more than 1500 followers, it is clear Jacob’s contribution is appreciated.
What My Dad Does
But Jacob’s videos serve another purpose, as well. As he drives down the road, he often talks to the camera about what he’s thinking and experiencing. The hyper-lapse approach allows him to capture a whole day of driving in just 30 minutes. Doing this, he hopes to communicate who he is and what he does to his daughters, especially since work requires that he spend time away from them.
“I want them to know, especially if something should happen to me, who I am and what I do,” he explains.
This became especially important to Jacob with the passing of his own father in April 2017.
Given all the means Jacob uses to stay connected with his family, it’s not surprising that he has the following words of encouragement for truck driving dads:
1. Stay connected with your family. It can get hectic. You may need to take time out. Remember family first.
2. Let your fleet manager know what’s going on with you. Communication is key with him and with the folks at home.
At 47, Joe Ndiba describes himself as an “older dad.” He is also as a highly engaged, proud father of four. His first two children, a 22-year-old son, and 19-year-old stepdaughter are out of the house, but still at home are William (11) and Logan (9). With these two, Joe finds himself involved much of the time. Although he wouldn’t necessarily describe himself as “low-volume,” he does consider his focus as a father to be on “high quality” parenting.
“Kids don’t come with a manual,” he says. “Even if they did, dads might not read it.”
“Having babies,” he quips, “is a lot like making pancakes. You burn the first two before you get it right.” Perhaps that’s why Joe is trying so many different things with his boys. This includes being attentive to his son’s behavior, their education, and their experiences.
A significant part of the time Joe spends with his sons includes activities associated with Springfield Taekwondo Academy, and their behavioral development. Taekwondo is a business he owns and operates in addition to his work as a representative for Follette School Solutions. Joe says his boys spend a lot of time at the academy with him and his oldest, William (11), even assists him with helping train the younger and less experienced children. It is just one of the ways he helps to instill self-confidence in them.
In order to do this, Joe says he tries different strategies depending on the needs and personality of his sons. One son excels in math and the other in reading.
“Increasing self-confidence,” he says, “is a father’s job. I try different tactics to teach them. With one boy I spend time reading. I ask him to tell me various words on signs when we’re driving in the car. With the other, I make up problems. I discovered that sometimes it’s just a lack of self-assurance.
“What do I want these children to become?” Joe answers this questions for himself through involvement in his sons’ lives, engagement in their activities – a number of avenues to help them learn and discover, along with him, who they are. This includes cooking with them and taking them to school, in addition to working with them at the Taekwondo Academy. He does not expect perfection from his children, nor does he want them to feel pressured, but he does hope to raise sons who are trying.
Laughter is a big part of their interactions. Joe describes both his boys as “hilarious” and “jokesters.” They love having fun with their dad. As an older dad, Joe says he doesn’t have much energy to yell and scream. Instead, he believes his sons learn more through laughter. He believes this is a quality that will help him sustain a great friendship relationship with his sons as they age.
“They still know who’s in charge,” he explains, “but that doesn’t mean they don’t try to get their way.” He says that his oldest, in particular, often offers to “egotiate” when things are not quite as he would prefer.
Joe offers two words of encouragement to other dads:
Dr. Mike Dawson has been the Chief Learning Officer for Springfield Public Schools since 2015. He is also married to Dr. Wendy Dawson and the father of three great kids: Emma (17), Jack (13), and Christian (11). “Each,” he says, “has a distinct personality.” Emma is class president, an “achiever” and very concerned about social justice. Jack is “joyful” and an athlete who loves cross country, wrestling, basketball, and track. Christian is “all things Star War” and Legos.
“My kids,” claims Mike, “make me a better person.”
Learning to be a Good Dad
How did Mike learn to be a good dad, one who cares not only about his own children, but all the children in Missouri’s largest school district? It’s not what you might expect.
“When I was 12 and my brother was 18, we were getting dressed for one of our mother’s weddings. (We had five different step-fathers, so I don’t recall which one this was.) We stopped, looked at each other, and said, ‘We are never going to do this to our kids.’ And we never have. We have both kept our promise. We have both been able to be there for our kids.”
Mike also credits his wife, Wendy, as playing an important role in helping him create the kind of family environment he wants for his children. Over the years, he says he has also made time for mentors and role models – “coffee buddies” – who helped him become the kind of dad and man he wants to be.
How does someone as busy as Dr. Dawson make time for his kids?
Mike says taking the “long route” while driving his kids to one of their activities has been helpful. It gives them time to talk more, to discuss concerns and ideas.
“We have serious conversations,” he reports, “I am purposeful about the 20 minutes in the car. This includes taking the phone away from the passenger in the front seat.”
Keeping it Light
Overseeing the learning of 25,000+ students is serious business, especially when it includes your own children. It would be easy for Mike to live on the somber side of life, but he says he tries to avoid that. His advice: “Don’t take life too seriously. Laugh a lot. Some sarcasm is okay, but keep it light-hearted.”
Some of Mike’s favorite things to do with his kids include piling into the car on Sunday morning, worshiping together, watching Emma lead worship, and going out to eat together.
Words of Advice for Other Dads
How do you become a better dad? Mike suggests seeking mentors and building a trusting relationship with them. He points to men in his life who did this for him.
“Become coffee buddies,” he says. “Pray. Share your heart with them. Be vulnerable.”
Taking care of your own heart and soul, it seems, is critical to caring for your kids.
Mark Walker is the oldest of four children. He is also the President and CEO of TransLand, the Springfield-based trucking business founded by his parents in 1982. Today TransLand has a fleet of 170 trucks and more than 200 employees. Prior to returning to Springfield, Mark used his leadership skills in a variety of ways. This includes five years of international leadership of corporate social responsibility, corporate philanthropy, and employee engagement functions. He served as Managing Director of Global Community Affairs at Applied Materials and Executive Director of the Applied Materials Foundation, headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif. He also served as President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way Silicon Valley, San Jose, California for six years.
He credits most of what he knows and does as a leader and father to “amazing role models,” his parents. You might think people who own their own business would have time for little else, but Mark claims “whenever my parents saw leadership roles, they embraced them.” This included everything from Cub Scouts, their church and community life in general. Even today, when he has assumed the primary leadership role for TransLand, he credits them with being “super” or “uber” parents. From them, he says, he learned the importance of being a calm leader in the workplace. He also considers “calm leadership” to be indispensable at home.
On April 24, 2010, I became a husband and father of two. I went from bachelorhood to fatherhood almost instantly. I soon learned each child had their own personality and each responded quite differently when it came to discipline. Soon after our marriage, Emily and I added our 3rd child, a boy, who was born in February 2011.
Today, our oldest, Leah, is 14 and in 8th grade. She is smart, beautiful, athletic, has a fantastic singing voice and is also creative and artistic. She can either be my best friend or Satan, depending on the day and her mood. I learned early on that she was stubborn and very independent. “High volume” parenting never worked with her. If I were to yell at Leah for something she had done wrong, she would just stare at me as if I were a complete fool, with that “whatever” look. I think this is one of the reasons why we have a great relationship now that she is a teenager. From age six to 14, we’ve had a lot of “talks” and many tears. Just the other day, I posted a quote on my FB page after one of our talks. It stated, “The sweet spot of parenting is somewhere between giving high-fives, and giving them the middle finger behind their backs.” I’m hoping I can survive the next four years dealing with a teenaged daughter.
Our middle child, Alex, just turned 13 last week. He is, as most boys his age are, still very immature. Alex was five when my wife and I got married. It took several years for us to realize he has ADHD. There were definitely times when the boy tested my patience. Anyone who knows me would tell you I’m a pretty calm and an even-keeled guy, but I found myself yelling at him constantly. I would try to use the same methods as I did with our daughter, but they would not work. Once we got him medicated for his ADHD, it certainly helped. To this day, I find myself getting annoyed quicker and yelling at him. This seems to be the only way to get his attention and make him understand I’m serious. Alex is intelligent, funny, respectful and caring, but I’m constantly searching for ways to motivate him when it comes to cleaning his room, doing chores or schoolwork. I’m praying for a drastic uptick in maturity with Alex so the gray hair sightings will slow down.
Our youngest, Herbie, will be seven in February. He is so sweet, kind-hearted and quite sensitive. If I were to yell at him for any wrong-doing, he would completely break down into a ball of tears. I would have to spend way too much time, trying to comfort, console, and building him back up, just to discipline him for his poor decision. Herbie likes to take advantage of his ability to tune me out. I know he can hear me; he just doesn’t like to listen to me. I have to get in his face and make sure we are eye-t-eye, in order to get through to him. This, by the way, is something I’ve also tried with Alex. It has resulted in him laughing in my face.
Regardless of our issues and my parenting fails, these three kids are the reason I get up each morning. Really, really, early, each morning........each and every freaking single morning!
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com
Although you might not think about the Business Agent for Heavy Construction Laborers to have a very soft spot in his heart for his wife and family, if you’re thinking of Derick Barnes, you’d be wrong. Derick describes himself as having a “lifetime of construction,” the last 13 of which have been spent with Heavy Construction Laborers 663. He is also married, and the proud father of three adult children and two grandchildren. In addition to his job, Derick has served as a youth pastor and is actively engaged in a small group of men.
Derick's parents divorced when he was seven, which really threw him into a tailspin. He began getting into a lot of trouble when his dad moved out of the home.
Derick reports, "I became too much to handle for my mom and I put her through hell, but she was always there for me and prayed for me. I was thrown out of school when I was in first grade and had to attend another school instead. During fifth grade, I was arrested for stealing money from the Jerry Lewis Fund. I got into a lot of trouble including drugs use and alcohol.”
It was during this period that Derick was sent from his mother’s home to his father’s. Many people struggle to overcome a difficult childhood, but Derick found help and hope in his faith community. When asked how he learned to be a dad, he states that “without a doubt, my biggest influence was our church,” and then identified some couples who were critical to his development.
Perhaps it is his background in construction that causes Derick to describe himself as a “fixer.” That role, he claims, is a stressful one. Early in his parenting, he found himself feeling overwhelmed because he could not “fix” everything for his wife and kids. It was during this period he discovered that high-volume parenting really didn’t work very well at home or in the workplace.
“I learned,” he said, “to whisper criticism and shout praise," but almost too late. Derick says he found this guiding principle to be especially important as he learned to coach his daughter’s softball team. In that context and in many others, he found it key to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
Just knowing what to do doesn’t mean one will also do it. Derick stresses the importance of saying, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” when you fail. He says that meeting with a small group of men on a regular basis helps him to examine himself and admit his mistakes. Now that his children are grown, Derick says one of the best things is having them, in addition to his wife, all as best friends. He really enjoys having them nearby, even when some of them get their heads together to surprise him in a scary way. One such incident involved his wife and daughter handing him what he thought was a box of cookies that actually contained a dead black snake, knowing he hates snakes.
“That snake was dead,” he explained, “but it bit me three times before I got out of the chair.” All the same, he sees the trick as all in good fun and looks forward to other adventures with his family.
When asked what he would like to share with other dads, Derick identified six things:
1) Don’t be afraid to fail. The important thing is to try.
2) Be in a men’s group. We all blow it. We need to hear and learn from others.
3) Lead by example.
4) Be consistent. Your family and your coworkers should know what to expect from you.
5) Apologize when necessary and ask for forgiveness.
6) Be there for your kids—whatever their activities may be.