As Americans, we tend to proudly raise our children with the wonderful knowledge that ours is indeed a free country. From the time our offspring are preschoolers, we tell them they can be anything they want to be, do anything they want to do. It’s inspiring. It’s encouraging. However, while we all enjoy the freedoms afforded us by so many who have gone before us, as well as those serving our country today, the idea of telling our kids they can do anything they want needs to be a lesson learned with loving limits.
I’m not saying we squash our kids’ creativity, imagination, or desires to succeed. I’m just saying that while we gradually turn the keys of their lives over to them, we make sure they understand that the guardrails, caution signs, and even “highway patrolmen” are there for their well-being. While growing up, my wife and I loved to share with the boys a quote we picked up somewhere along the way, “Freedom doesn’t mean you should choose do what you want…rather it means you have the power and opportunity to choose what is right.” That definition of freedom has gone a long way to shape their thinking as they walked through their formative years.
But, how do we raise children to become adults who greatly use and enjoy their freedoms, while simultaneously honor and appreciate them? Ironically, the word that must be coupled with freedom would appear to be its antagonist: limits. And I would like to add the adjective “loving” to the term limits. With some thought and care, we can teacher our kids the loving and beneficial limits to living free.
The current tenor of politics aside, two of the areas adults often see an abuse of freedom falls into those of finances and relationships. It’s easy to see how that happens in a culture in which we have a 20 trillion-dollar national debt and divorce statistics are at an all-time high. But, what about on a “kid-level?” Shouldn’t these things be addressed early on, in order to give them the best tools and perspectives possible, later on? Let’s break it down, child-style.
Finances. I’m most certain that when our boys were small, they believed that as long as there were checks in Mommy & Daddy’s checkbook (remember those?) that there was a limitless amount of money in the bank. I chuckle to think of that, but then quickly remember that there are many college students who still think this way, and if that doesn’t change, they become adults who can never manage their finances, often experiencing unnecessary strain in an area they could have better controlled and subsequently enjoyed.
So, what can we do? Well, perhaps we can start when they are little, giving them small tasks to mimic the actual work they will need to have one day, and also in giving them compensation for completing those tasks. Every family has to figure out the details of teaching kids financial management on their own. Every family values different things, and has to create their plan to instruct their kids. My wife’s parents didn’t drive the newest cars or believe in keeping up with the neighbors in fashion or “toys” (boats, motorcycles, etc.), but they were very committed to family vacations and their children’s educations. On the latter, that did not mean they could select any college in the land, but with planning and preparation, some financial support would be there to assist them.
When it came time to raise our own family, my wife and I decided that vacations and family experiences were of the most importance, but we encouraged the boys to find ways to pay for their own education. In addition, they paid for their own cars, taxes, tags, and insurance. Friends of ours often gasped at the concepts, but our now grown sons constantly are telling us that they are so glad they learned the power and reward of hard work and responsibility, early on. All of this to say, we would never let them starve in college, or leave them stranded with a blown-up engine on the highway, but figuring out how to teach our kids the limits of financial freedom . . . with love . . . is critical.
The other area of understanding loving limits, greatly affects our children’s relationships. With ever-increasing instances of bullying and the rhetoric in our nation via social media and politics, it is more important than ever to help our kids understand the responsibility they have to others in relationships. While I believe relationships are far more important than finances, I can boil it down in a far more succinct manner. Quite simply: we must model and guide our sons and daughters to enter into relationships understanding that they need to care for the other people in them as much as they do themselves.
Ultimately, they need to value themselves, especially when a relationship turns unhealthy or potentially harmful to them, and also value others. How do you pass that on? One easy to understand paradox we tried to pass along to our boys. When you care about others, and serve others needs before your own, it pays dividends that are priceless. A lesson we can all practice a little more I think!
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you ever wish you could remember more things about your life when you were little?
I am a father to one son named Hayden. He’s 8. I’m 48. Yes, I’m the “older dad.” But being older, I believe it has caused me to not take for granted this amazing gift that God has given us.
Since he was born, I have wanted to make absolutely sure that I cherished every moment with my son. Sure, I have moments when he drives me crazy, moments when we argue, moments when I have screwed up and said things that I should not have said to him. In those times when I’ve messed up, I’ve made sure to tell him I was wrong, I made a mistake, and I’m sorry. (I believe it’s good for children to see their parents mess up, and then humble themselves and apologize.)
But the majority of the time, I do my best to make sure my son realizes that he is one of the greatest things that has ever happened in my life.
I believe one of the main reasons that I try so hard to spend as much quality time with Hayden, is because I lost both of my parents when I was in my mid 30’s. I took for granted the time I had with them, while they were here. For the last 13 years, I’ve deeply missed having them around. Especially the last 8 years with my son, and all we’ve experienced.
One of the small things I miss the most is simply not being able to ask my parents about certain things from my childhood that I can’t remember, so I can share those stories with my son.
For Hayden, that won’t be a problem when he is grown up. Thankfully, a dear friend of mine gave me the idea of writing in a journal every day, once my son was born.
For the first 5 years of his life, I added to this journal every day. Whether it was something he did that day, something that was going on in my life, something big that happened in the world, simple words of wisdom, or even just telling him I thanked God for him that day … I typed into that journal every single day.
The last few years, I still add things, but it’s not every day. Mainly big things that happen, that he’ll want to remember.
I now have 351 pages of memories in this journal that he’ll be able to look back through when he is older.
For the dads reading this who have babies or young children, I encourage you to start a journal. I believe it will be one of the great gifts that your children will treasure as an adult.
For those of you with grown children, I encourage you to spend more time talking with your kids about memories from their childhood. It will be quality time that they (and you) will love.
Some of us put so much pressure on ourselves to be great parents, that we set unrealistic expectations that we can usually never achieve. But when I think about it, my greatest memories of my dad are simply the times he spent one on one quality time with me. It didn’t even really matter what we were doing. I just knew I was enjoying it and so was he.
Spending undistracted, engaged, quality time with your children is the best thing you can do. And it’s these times that will create amazing lifelong memories for your child, and for you.
Paul and his wife Christie are parents of one son. They enjoy being at the lake every chance they get, being involved in Hayden’s sports, and serving at their church in Nixa, The Bridge. Paul worked in the Media Industry in southwest Missouri for 20+ years and has recently started a consulting business. He can be reached for questions or comments at email@example.com
Women of Steel. That’s what you might call the seven women gathered for lunch on a chilly November afternoon to talk about what it’s like to be married to a long-haul driver. Debra, Alika, Brandy, Terry, Melissa and Melanie—that’s who sat at the table. Donna joined us by phone. Their stories and histories vary, but the one thing they all have in common is their love and commitment to a man who drives an 18-wheeler. In this instance, all the men drive a flatbed trucks for Steelman Transportation, a trucking company located in Springfield, Missouri.
Terry Hayden: Terry’s husband has driven a truck for more than 40 years. She lived on the truck with him until family issues took her off the road. In fact, Terry worked as a certified driver herself for eight years. These days she says, “We talk all the time and use video chat.” She feels better knowing that her husband has his dog “right there in the truck with him.”
Theresa Greenland, aka Alika: Alika’s husband, Alan, has been driving on and off for 15 years, the past three for Steelman. She, too, uses video chat to stay in touch with her husband. She also has lived on the truck, but had to come off the road due to health issues. She describes life on the truck, “as a great adventure.” “Where else,” she asks, “could you get to see as much of the country as you can from the cab of a truck?”
Debra Hill: Debra’s husband, Michael, has been driving for more than 20 years—the last three months with Steelman. Debra says she and Michael “talk on the phone a lot. Between the two of us, we have seven kids—all boys.” They are also grandparents to six grandchildren.
Brandy Howe: Brandy’s husband, Paul has been driving for 10 years – the first two with the military and the last eight with Steelman. The couple has two older children, 21 and 16. They expect the arrival of a new baby girl in the spring to change some things about the way they communicate, especially since they prefer talking on the phone to video chatting. When the baby arrives, Brandy predicts they will be using video chatting a lot more often.
Donna Harper: Donna’s husband, Johnny, has been driving for 20 years. She believes it’s critical that to be “100% supportive of what he’s doing. If he is to be successful in his work, he must have support at home.”
Melissa Vaughn: As the newest member of the Women of Steel, Melissa has been with her boyfriend on the truck for two months. She sees her life at this point as an exciting journey and looks forward to what each new day will bring.
Melanie Borden: Melanie has been married to her husband, Paul, for 40 years. He’s been driving over the road since 2004, and she’s worked for Steelman Transportation since 2005. The couple has adult children and four grandchildren. “The honeymoon happens,” she says, “when he comes home. In between times, I can get my house clean and my life in order. Then he comes home and we have wonderful chaos.”
What It Takes to be a Woman of Steel
None of the Women of Steel I met would say that being the woman behind the man on the road is easy, but all can tell you how important their role is to their partner’s success.
“I love YouTube,” claims Brandy. “I’ve learned a lot of ways to fix things at home on my own so that when he comes off the road he can enjoy himself and relax.”
The other women agreed with Brandy listing the wide variety of things they handle so “he doesn’t have to worry about them.” These include handling all the financials (bills, child care, child support) and house and home repairs. They reason their driver does better when he knows, “she’s got it under control.”
“Sometimes,” they say, “we just do it (fix something) and then tell him. This way he doesn’t have to worry.”
“It’s important to keep the home stress at a minimum, so they can focus on driving.”
Alika says, “I even buy his groceries for the truck so that when he’s home, he doesn’t have to think about doing that.”
Perhaps because of the shared experience the typical non-driving family might not understand, the women all expressed a close connection to Steelman and described their relationship “like family.” They said they have experienced a very welcoming environment, emotional support in hard times, and sensitivity to their partner’s desire to be home for special family events.
They’ve also reached out to other women with OTR (over-the-road) partners. Donna started a group on Facebook for Trucker Wives who want to support their driver and each other, “Trucker Wives Who Support Their Truckers and Each Other”. She believes the shared “adventure of the road” brings us all together. “Some women,” she says, “have messaged me and asked for input.” She believes it is critical for the women at home to have relationships with people who can relate positively.
Challenges for Women of Steel
Not surprisingly, extended time a part from each other is one of the biggest challenges these women face. They caution against being resentful about being alone and note that their partner is alone, too, on the truck. “He spends long hours by himself,” they explain. “That’s why communication is a big thing.”
Women of Steel also worry about their men. “Is he safe?” they wonder, as one of them describes how hard the job is. She has read that driving a truck over the road is more dangerous than being a fire fighter. “People don’t respect that,” she says. “They don’t know what a hard job it is.”
Becoming a Woman of Steel
It takes time to adjust to life on and off the road. According to the Women of Steel, “Flexibility is key.” They also emphasize how important it is to have “trust in and believe in each other.” When it comes to their partner’s job, they stress, “It’s important to remember they drive because they want to take care of their family.”
Donna offers, “Even when he can’t be home, try and include him as much as possible. Talk with him about what’s going on. And do fun things!” Donna and her husband have even done something she refers to as “truck karaoke” to have a good time together even while separated by distance.
While some of the women have lived on the truck with their partner, most have not. Even so, all recommend spending some time on the truck, e.g., a week or two. “They spend a lot of time alone,” they explain. “Keeping them company helps you understand what they do and helps them feel supported.”
I am a husband, father of three, and two-time communicator of, “The Talk.” My oldest, and only daughter is now 15, while my middle child, and oldest son, is 13. My first experience of trying to have “The Talk” was more about me “finding an app for that.” I downloaded it to my iPad, had her watch it, then come to me with any questions. Thankfully, I did not have to answer anything too hard. With my son, I felt more comfortable, and it was much easier to discuss . . . at least for me.
I feel like the schools do an outstanding job of teaching them a lot of the information they need, at the Junior High level. Unfortunately, there is much more they need to learn, in this new day and age of internet and devices.
I’ve had many conversations with my daughter regarding chatting with strangers on social media or other apps. I’ve also had to explain to her, beginning in 7th grade, that she has to respect herself and not send inappropriate photos/texts, just because a cute or popular boy is asking for this stuff. Several students in her junior high were busted for sending and sharing nude photos when she was in 7th grade. Thankfully, she was unaware of it and not involved. I do my best to keep an open line of communication with her, and not freak out when she comes to me about any sensitive subject matter.
With my boys, I just want to make sure they know to always respect girls and women in every way. I have warned my 13-year-old against asking for inappropriate images. I tell him not to do or ask for anything that he wouldn’t want asked of or done to his sister. When the time comes, I’ll go through all of this again with my youngest, who is now seven.
There is so much more out there to protect our children from and against than when I was a teen in the early ‘90’s. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with periodically checking their devices or rooms. This is something I am up front with them about. I know one day they will look back and understand why their Dad was so protective and in their business, seemingly all of the time.
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