My wife Jill and I have been married for almost 22 years and have two teenage boys. Hayden is 15 and a sophomore at Kickapoo High School and his brother Caleb is a 13-year-old 8th grader at Cherokee Middle School. When we look back it has all gone by so fast. People always tell you it will but, when you are living it every day it can be just a blur. From changing diapers, learning to talk and walk, sports, homework, church and now soon to be drivers and girlfriends, WOW what just happened!
When I think of all the conversations we’ve had with our boys over the years it’s amazing. We’ve always tried to be open and honest with them, but also tried to keep it age appropriate. Sometimes you can offer up too much information when all they are really after is just a simple answer to satisfy their curiosity. But there are times they can go deep with their inquiries.
I remember when Hayden was younger and an early riser like me (but now that he’s a teenager sleeping in is a common occurrence). Most Saturday mornings while Jill and Caleb were still asleep we’d going riding around together—no real destination just coffee for me and maybe some breakfast for both of us. We’d talk about all kinds of things just as they came up while we were cruising around town for an hour or two. It was just simple basic stuff, but what great memories for me and hopefully for him. I think most of the time he taught me more than I taught him. Kids have a way of breaking it down and keeping simple; adults tend to complicate things. Remember everything we need to know we learned in kindergarten and kindness matters.
This past summer I had the chance to drive to several baseball tournaments with Caleb. Just me and him while Jill was running with Hayden to his baseball games. Divide and conquer. Those of you with kids involved in various activities know what it’s like. It was a blessing to me to get to spend more time with him. Talking, (listening to music most of it his, but some of mine too), and staying in a hotel together as roommates. While I like to watch him play and compete to watch how he responds to and handles game situations, e.g., winning and losing I was most proud of him as a teammate and watching him develop and gain confidence in himself. Now when I hear some of the songs it brings back memories of the summer road trips together.
Lots of our conversations with the boys now have to do with sex, drugs, alcohol, death, friends and even politics. It’s grown up stuff that sometimes I don’t always understand or have all the answers. But together Jill and I do our best to have a discussion to help them think through it and hopefully make good decisions. They must understand the consequence and the impact it will have on their future and career opportunities. We sometimes hear the locker room language during the sex talks. All the things they hear on the bus at school on social media and even on TV or YouTube. It’s sure not Leave it to Beaver anymore with Ward and June explaining things the Wally and Theodore.
I think it is extremely important to include Jill in the conversations as they happen, although she would sometimes like to bow out. When the topic of sex comes up she’ll roll her eyes or give a heavy sigh and ask, “Do I really need to be part of this?” I feel they need a woman’s perspective. It’s important to hear from their mom what girls think and feel about boys and men.
Death is another topic we’ve always been very open about with our boys. We’ve lost close family members and friends over the years. When my brother battled leukemia several years ago and finally died in 2010 we included the boys in our regular visits with him and openly discussed his disease with them. They really seemed to understand it more at times than we gave them credit.
Communication is key. It is so important in any family or organization to have open, honest and respectful conversations. Not that we are experts. It can get heated in our household at times. Tempers flare at times with teenagers. My wife is good about making sure we eat together regularly as a family. And when we go out to dinner NO cell phones are allowed. It works most of the time.
Having frequent conversations is so important. You don’t always have to have an agenda. Just make sure you take the opportunities to talk when they arise, and they will. I know they often do around our house and especially when driving in our vehicles. And remember to listen to our kids. They will tell us what they want to know and they can teach us lessons. I know my boys do all the time.
Dennis and his wife, Jill, are the parents of two sons. When not staying engaged with his sons and their schedules, Dennis volunteers time as a Good Dads Board member. He can be reached for question or comment at email@example.com.
Before we have children, we tend to spend much time dreaming about all of the things we will do with them, and all of the meaningful, wonderful conversations we will share. Maybe we will dream and brainstorm with them about what they will be when they grow up. Maybe we will sit on the front porch swing and talk about all of the fun they had with friends at summer camp. Rarely do we think about, or prepare and plan for, the tough conversations of life.
Peer pressure, bullying, drugs, death, and yes, the dreaded topic of sex, are not topics that fill our parenting daydreams. As a matter of fact, these things tend to be the elements making up many of our parenting nightmares. Or, if not nightmares, at least the not so exciting topics that truly can shape our child’s thinking. But, does it really have to be that way? Can we approach the hard things in better or more comfortable ways? While these conversations may never become easy, I do believe they can be (more comfortable), without the anxiety that so many of us parents experience with these issues.
If I could share with you only one admonishment regarding this from my 30 years of parenting, it simply would be: DON’T FREAK OUT. If we want our kids to best handle the hardest things they will face in life, we have to be the first people, and offer the safest place, to which they can turn.
My wife often tells younger moms that one of the things she regrets doing with our oldest son is too often overreacting to the hard questions and situations he would bring to her. The mama bear in her wanted to shield him from the hard things, and she admits that the struggle to accept the fact that he was growing up and in a world that was going to challenge him, often parentally paralyzed her.
Eventually, she and I found a mantra that helped us better address the hard things with our boys: “We can’t always protect, but we certainly can equip.” Fully accepting the fact that our kids absolutely would face tough things, from broken relationships to illness to death, then working to create a safe place in which they could become equipped to face these tough things, are the two key components we found to be most helpful to us as parents. In turn, these things absolutely benefited our children.
.Of course, the way in which we discuss the “hard things” may vary, based on what each “hard thing” it we are discussing is, and how each child reacts to the respective “hard things” he or she individually faces. Some topics may be more easily handled within the home, between you and your child. Other times, it is okay to look at a child and say, “You know what? How would you feel about us bringing someone else into our conversation?” For instance, if you are walking a child through the loss of a dear, loved one, you may want to have them receive encouragement from a young person, a bit older than your young person, who has walked the path of loss and is doing well. If bullying is occurring at school, whether your child is the victim, bystander, or even bully, you may need to have your son or daughter visit with a school counselor or teacher. Of all the hard topics, believe it or not, sex seems to be the one most parents tend to shy away from or overreact to. My wife has admitted that she would have rather tackled the subject of tragic death than that of sex, when our boys were young. Fortunately, we live in a day and age in which there are a myriad of resources, books, conferences, and workshops that can also help us help our children. Taking some time to find the resources that make us comfortable discussing the topic can be a great plan to prepare for that inevitable question.
However, at the end of the day, regardless of the great resources and tools that we may draw from, never forget that you, me - the parents - are the ones providing the toolbox. Remember, they will get the answers from somewhere. For me, I wanted that “somewhere” to be a conversation with Dad and Mom first, and creating that safe place where they knew they would never be judged, criticized or ignored when hard topics surfaced made all the difference.
Kevin Weaver is a Springfield father of three.
Before he began driving for Prime, Rosalio Matute Jr. (aka Junior Honduras), did his homework. He researched a lot of companies and came to the conclusion Prime was the best one for him. He earned his CDL with Prime and began driving with Prime in July 2011 and eventually became a trainer—something he loves that feels like a natural fit for his personality and background. His experience as a crew trainer at McDonald’s helped him know he would enjoy training others and seeing their skills develop and improve.
Prior to becoming a Prime driver, Junior worked as a plant manager at an architecture molding company in Sarasota, Florida. He knows a lot about crown molding and tell you quickly whether or not something is solid concrete or foam-based. Eventually with the recession, the company where Junior was employed instituted lay-offs and he lost his job. It was then Junior began considering a “Plan B,” namely his lifelong interest in driving an 18-wheeler. He and Pamela, his wife, discussed it and he decided to apply to Prime--something he considers a really good decision. He began driving for Prime as a company driver for three months and soon switched to leasing his own truck. Junior is clearly proud of what he does as a driver and the ways in which he can provide for his family.
He says, “I can give them things I couldn’t have as a child.”
Junior’s family, his “home team,” includes his wife, Pamela, daughters Elizabeth (15), Emily (11) and Caitlyn (4) and son, Dylan (2). He clearly recognizes the role Pamela plays in keeping things running smoothly while he drives over-the-road. He has strong feelings about the importance of discipline and education.
“She’s the one in charge,” he explains. “Sometimes I feel like I’m the bad guy. I hate doing it, but I’ve got to do it so they grow up right.”
Junior admits that driving over-the-road can be difficult for one’s family. For that reason, he intentionally chooses to do a lot of his driving in Florida—an area some drivers avoid because of the rain—so he has more opportunities to see his wife and children.
“Many people don’t like it,” he says, “but I’ll take it. If it allows me to go by the house for a few hours, I’ll do it.”
In terms of being successful with driving and maintaining a healthy marriage and family life, Junior advises, “Communication is key. I try to stay in touch with my wife as much as I can. Stay on top of the conversations and what’s going on. Talk . . . talk . . . talk. It helps out here. Make time to let your wife and kids know you’re thinking about them.”
Do you drive for Prime? Get a free decal for your truck telling the world you are a Prime Good Dad by going to www.primegooddads.com and signing up for the Prime Good Dads program.
I have three adult sons. Each is a quitter. Being a quitter is not always a bad thing.
Since my children were young they had the opportunity to try new things from playing soccer to playing in the band. They also had the opportunity to decide when enough was enough.
Don’t get me wrong. Watching T.V. and playing video games all the time was not an option, and there were areas of life my boys were not going to quit no matter how much they kicked and screamed. My boys were not going to quit school. They were going to do their homework, like it or not. They were going to be polite and respectful to teachers and people in authority. And they were going to live by the rules of the house so long as they lived in our home.
But there were plenty of areas of life where my boys had choices to make. They could try new things. They could join this and that. And they could quit when enough was enough. No guilt. No shame. No burden or pressure. Of course, they would be respectful. They would communicate clearly. But they could quit if they wanted.
My boys were brilliant soccer players. I don’t mean good. I mean brilliant. They were each drafted on all-star teams. But one by one each of them quit playing soccer for the sake of new interests. Oh, I grieved. But it was their choice to make. They quit.
One of my sons wanted to quit the band. He played the saxophone. He was very good. But one day he said, I want to quit. I took him out for dinner. We talked for two hours. I encouraged him to try a new instrument. In the end he said, “I want to quit the band.” It was his choice to make. He quit.
Two of my boys were drafted to play on a travel hockey team out of Arkansas. After traveling to Dallas, Texas and back, and staying in a hotel, my boys had had enough. They quit.
One of my boys joined a fraternity – and then decided it was not for him. He quit.
Of course it would not be healthy to quit everything. Neither is it healthy to be stretched to the limits. Good Dads will listen to their children and help them make good, positive and healthy choices. Together, you and your children will learn that quitting is not always a bad thing. My boys know that if they have difficult decisions to make they usually get a steak dinner out of the deal!
I am proud of my boys. They are adventuress, able, and independent. This year my oldest went on a ski vacation to South America. My middle son went to the Dominican Republic with friends. And my youngest went to Denmark and Sweden – and was certified in Scuba Diving!
My boys have quit their way to a balanced, healthy life.
Jeff Sippy, a Dad-In-Training, is the father of three young men and the husband of Cindy. He enjoys sailing every chance that he gets. He is the senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran in Springfield, MO and can be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am a father of three children, ages 7, 13 and 15. I am the only driver in the house, so I am constantly on the go. I pick up and deliver kids to three different schools each day. There are sports practices and games all year round. Birthday party invites seem to come weekly, not to mention sleepovers and slumber parties. All of this makes family time a bit difficult.
There are times when I am forced to tell my teenagers, “No,” to doing something fun with their friends, so that we may have a night of family time. My daughter, who is now in high school, feels she misses out on a lot when I won’t allow her to go to a football game so that we can spend quality family time together. The thing is, she has no interest in the actual football game. I believe, in the end, she really enjoys hanging out watching movies and eating popcorn with her brothers.
My seven-year-old comes home with many birthday party invites. These are usually on the weekends when we have the chance to spend time together as a family. I can easily convince him to skip a party, as long as I come up with something fun to do as a family. There have been times where I have “accidentally” forgotten about the party. I usually don’t hear from him about it until after his first day back to school with his friends.
I just recently got to thinking about the last time we, as a family, took a vacation outside of the state of Missouri. I realized it had been six years. My youngest was one-year-old when we went to Disney World in Orlando. Yes, we take small trips to KC, St Louis, Branson, Jeff City, Columbia and Lake of the Ozarks, but they need to experience more.
I made the decision to plan and book a weeklong trip this December. The kids will have to miss four days of school, but I feel like it’s worth it. I will surprise them with this pre-Christmas trip, right before we are set to leave.
While there will always be the “fear of missing out” for our children, we as parents can turn those moments into “joys of missing out.”
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 email@example.com . You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com
FOMO – that’s what some people use for “Fear of Missing Out,” that is, being so concerned about missing something important you are rarely actually present in the moment. For some, this means constant connection to social media. Who hasn’t seen people in a lovely setting – couples in a cozy restaurant, families at the beach or on vacation, parents at the park with their children – but they are really somewhere else because their attention is their phones. They are really fairly oblivious to what is going on right in front of their nose because they’re distracted by, and engaged with, something on their smart phone. In many cases they have FOMO, a fear of missing out on a group text, a post on Instagram or Facebook, or an interaction on an online game. There are so many options to grab their attention and they fear missing out.
FOMO can be a problem with social media, but it can also be a concern when it comes to our kids’ activities. There’s real pressure to put kids in sports at earlier and earlier ages. I recently heard a parent say she has some regret about not putting her children in basketball earlier because now they were “so far behind” skill-wise as 11-year-olds she didn’t know if they could catch up. It wasn’t that long ago that 10- and 11-year-olds were just beginning to learn skills related to soccer, basketball, volleyball and the like, but in the past 15-20 years, pressure to participate has pushed down to younger and younger children. It’s not uncommon now to see 4-year-olds enrolled in organized sports. I doubt that a majority of parents enjoy spending a significant portion of their Saturday morning standing on the sidelines of a soccer field, especially when their children are quite young. I would guess that many feel pressure from other parents and they “fear missing out” for their child’s sake. Kids start so young these days. What if their child is left out?
I’ve got nothing against organized sports, music lessons, gymnastics, karate, or any number of things we allow our children to try. The problem comes when families are so over-scheduled they rarely spend time sitting at the same table eating with and talking to each other. When this happens, most conversations take place in a car coming or going from an event if – and this is a big if – kids and parents are not distracted by radio, podcasts, videos in the back seat, and so on. Over time, kids tend to feel more disconnected from their parents and parents find it hard to engage their children.
What’s a concerned parent to do? Here are few things to consider:
Dr. Jennifer Baker
Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is my first attempt at writing for a blog, so please, set your expectations low and take it easy on me. In the grand scheme of things, I am a rookie at this parenting thing. I'm figuring it out as I go (or possibly making it up as I go) and I by no means have it all figured out. But, then again, no one does. I am the father of two young children: a 3-year-old daughter and a son who is a little over 1-years-old. They certainly keep my wife and I busy . . . and entertained.
The topic I was given is a difficult one: "Fear of Missing Out vs. Joy of Missing Out? How much activity is best?" I feel like this is very subjective and varies with every child (and every parent). The easy answer is that the answer depends on the kid. But, something else occurred to me when I was writing: this topic could be viewed two-ways . . . the parent’s point of view and the child’s point of view. So, I decided to write about that.
Both of our kids have a serious case of Fear of Missing Out, or as we like to call it, FOMO. They always think they are missing out on something, or that someone else is doing something fun they are missing out on. For our oldest, this has led to issues getting her to sleep or dropping her off at daycare. We've tried to convince her we aren't doing anything fun after she goes to bed . . . unless you consider meal-prepping for the next day or washing dishes fun. Recently, my wife took our daughter to a dentist appointment and dropped her off at daycare afterwards. That led to a meltdown because my daughter wanted to stay with my wife. My wife is an accountant and tried to explain to our daughter absolutely nothing fun was going to happen when she was at work. Her words fell upon deaf ears because my daughter KNEW she was missing out on something.
At the same time, we try not to cram-pack our free time with activities. I think this is where the Joy of Missing Out comes into play. At this stage in the game, we've limited our kids’ activities to mainly just swim lessons. My wife has done some mom and baby yoga a handful of times, but we don't want to overwhelm them. Actually, if we're being honest, we don't want to overwhelm us. We would much rather have a family dinner at home and go for a walk or watch a movie than spend two hours at a 3-year-old t-ball practice. I'm not knocking other parents, because I would never do that (see the statement above about it varying with every child and parent). But, you won't find me at any sort of organized sport activity for at least 5 more years. I don't have the patience to sit and watch. For me, that is the joy of missing out (for parents and for kids). I think this FOMO for parents sometimes leads to overwhelming schedules and burnt-out kids.
It occurred to me that we, as parents, have a case of FOMO as well. At least I know I do. We don't want to miss out on the amazing things our kids do. We don't want to miss out on fun they're having, e.g., first words, first steps, seeing their personalities develop. The reality is we cannot be there for absolutely everything. When my wife tells me she was playing with our son and he said, "sister," I spend the next 10 minutes trying to get him to re-create the moment because I don't want to miss that moment.
In closing, I will fall back on my original assessment, i.e., "How much activity is best?" depends on the child and the situation. It is important to find that balance. We try to let our kids be who they are and do what they want to do. To that end, I think it is important to let them try what they want to try. But, I also think it is important to make them finish what they start. Lastly, we try really hard not to make our kids participate in something that they don’t want to do. To that end, I don’t think you should make a kid do an activity just because you want them to do it. I think that is parental FOMO and that has the potential to turn out badly.
Clayton Ballard is the father of two small children. He is also a Good Dads board member and an attorney for Great Southern Bank. He can be reached for question or comment at email@example.com.