There is hardly a person on the planet that doesn’t like the opportunity to play. Of course, the term “play” has varying meanings at varying ages. For instance, play to a two-year-old might mean whacking a bowl with a mixing spoon, while play to a 10-year-old might mean hours of meticulously building multi-thousand-piece Lego lands. A teenager? Often sports come to mind, while in the world of adults – at least for me – it has often meant long motorcycle trips or quietly fishing by the lake. To my wife? Drop her off at any local décor super store and she can happily play all day.
Just how important is play and playing with our kids? I don’t simply mean the battle over “going outside vs. staying inside game,” either. Is it about what our children are playing, or is it more about the fact they are playing and that we, as parents, are encouraging and engaging as well?
I get being a young man who is also a young parent. In the very season of life I was trying to navigate my way through a career path, my wife and I eagerly also brought into the task of navigating the parenting path as well. The trend for “career first, family second” may be on the upswing, but that blueprint never crossed our life desks. We didn’t want to wait for kids, and the kids would have to eat... so, the balancing began. With long days and sometimes long nights of working, just seeing my kids, let alone playing with them, seemed a monumental feat. I learned playtime didn’t have to involve loading up the minivan with a picnic basket and sports’ gear in a run for the local park for an entire afternoon. It’s a great gig if you can make it happen, but when you can’t, there’s hope.
While organized play was a huge part of our boys’ childhoods (and might I add the one non-athlete’s marching band camps and practices rivaled the rigor and fun the two athletes’ baseball, basketball, and football endeavors offered), impromptu play proved to be their favorite. To this day, my grown sons rarely mention a thing about one of the many sporting activities or all-day family play outings, but rather they recall the five-minute, nightly, free-for-alls. They can give a true “play-by-play” about these encounters.
Kids are smart. Kids know. Kids are wise enough to know that sometimes dads work long hours and can’t coach their teams and can’t take an entire afternoon to go to the park. That’s when they’re smart enough to know that those minutes in which a tired, hard-working dad turns into a goofy Godzilla to make brushing teeth and going to bed more fun are some of the most meaningful play dates they will ever have.
For me, the bottom line was that I just wanted to connect with my boys whenever and however I could. In the midst of all this, I learned something very important; the power of play can never be underestimated. Sure, hard work is the foundation of an ethic that can move our kids to success. If you can’t enjoy what you work for and find enjoyment in what your life has to offer, what’s the point?
So, my family and I chose to “play” and enjoy this adventure we call life. And, more importantly... we do it whenever possible! Looking back, it is one of most important ingredients to our family bond.
Five Tips for Maximizing Playtime With Your Kids:
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
As a kid growing up in a small town, I loved to play sports. I began playing baseball at a young age, then football, basketball, bowling and track. I not only enjoyed playing, but watching sports on TV or in person, as well. I knew when I had kids of my own, I would steer them in the direction of athletics as soon as possible.
When I married my wife, I became a stepfather, of Leah, age 7, and Alex, age 5. They had not yet been introduced to sports, but I quickly signed them up for different things. I instantly knew Leah had some athletic ability. She did well in everything she tried. Alex, on the other hand, not so much. When it came to baseball, he preferred to build dirt castles on the field so he could kick them down. When he wasn’t doing that, he was chasing butterflies and grasshoppers. He had no interest in the baseball aspect, which was fine, but every year, when I’d ask if he wanted to play, he always said yes.
We tried Mighty Mites football when he was old enough, and again, he was the kid dancing during the game and stacking cones on the sidelines. He had no interest in the sport at all. I signed him up for soccer, which I knew nothing about because it not offered to me as a kid. Though I did not know anything about the game, I did know running in circles and trying to play tag with your teammates during the game, was not part of the competition.
I thought maybe bowling would be more his jam. Sadly, he would walk up, chuck the ball down the lane, and instantly turn around, with zero care as to where the ball would end up.
Alex continued to play sports through grade school, mostly because he knew he would get a medal at the end of the season and snacks after games.
Once he hit junior high, Alex began to get into things like horticulture and wanted to join band. These are two things I never did, but I was happy to invest my time and money if he enjoyed these activities. He did not try out for a single sport in junior high until 8th grade when he found out he couldn’t be cut from the track team. About two weeks into practice, he had a little mishap, and broke his elbow. His junior high athletic career was over!
The summer break between 8th grade and high school, Alex played a lot of backyard football with friends. He fell in love with it and told me he was ready to try out for the football team. As happy as I was to hear it, I also knew he would be so far behind all the other kids who had been playing for years. I warned him of the uphill battle he was about to enter. He went ahead and tried out and made the team, though he only played a few minutes in one game. He still loved it and wants to play again next season.
He joined Jr. ROTC and stuck with band his freshman year. I had no idea how much time and money goes into high school band. There are band camps during the summer, practicing before and after school, and out of town band competitions every weekend. I tried to be there to support him while also getting my other two children to their sporting events and practices.
Although I would prefer to be watching him hit a baseball or drain a three pointer, I will continue to support him in whatever it is that makes him happy as he makes his way through high school and beyond. I've learned we can try to raise our children to share our interests, but it is also very important to support them in their choices, and I can credit Alex with helping me learn this. Here are three quick tips to get started:
From there, you're armed with a better understanding of what interests your child, and you can learn more about it and find ways to talk to them about it. Or if it's an activity you can even make plans to join them in doing it sometime. The important thing is that they'll know you're paying attention to them and that they have your support, and that's invaluable in creating a bond that will last a lifetime.
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.
You’re on the website and reading this article because you want to be a good dad. Congratulations for making this a priority in your life. Our society needs more guys like you who aren’t satisfied with their current dad skills, but instead want to step up their dad game.
You could probably write a list of the things you do, day in and day out, that make you a good dad, but one skill that you might overlook (and it’s super common) is your marriage. Think about it, if you want to really take your skills to the next level, why not show your kids what being a good husband looks like? I’m not playing Monday morning quarter back. I have three young kids of my own and somedays—more than I’d like to admit—working on my husband game is not on my “to-do” list. But leaning into your marriage is one of the most powerful things you can do for your children. Here’s why. Believe it or not, you’re the lens through which your daughter is going to see her future husband. And you will play a big role in what kind of husband and father your son will grow up to be someday. The stakes are high and each day is an opportunity to speak into whom your children will grow up to be.
Below are three things that you can start doing today that will help you step up your dad game (and your wife won’t mind either)!
You’ve just read three ways you can keep that spark alive in your marriage, even with young children. Maybe you’ll start by taking one of the tips above and trying it out this week, or maybe you are really ambitious and you’ve already planned out how you’re going to start doing it tonight. Remember being a good dad is hard work, but stay committed to your marriage because it changes lives.
Want more insights into keeping the spark alive? Check out this three part Good Dads Podcast with three dads talking about just that topic ➡️ Part I, Part II, and Part III.
Jim Bartok is the pastor at My Church in Ozark, Missouri. He is a follower of Jesus, husband, father of three and a church planter. He loves spending time with his family, being outdoors and helping people encounter Jesus. He can be reached at email@example.com.
In February Daniel Skidmore was driving his truck in Illinois in when he got the call his wife, Kerry, was in early labor. Her water had broken and she was headed to the hospital. He quickly got on the phone with his fleet manager at Prime headquarters and was told he could bring his load into Springfield, Missouri and catch a flight out of the airport there. Jackson Daniel Skidmore was five weeks early, but he still waited just long enough for his daddy to arrive.
Daniel recalls, “I made it to the hospital less than two hours before my first born was delivered via emergency C-section. Prime is and will always be a family-first company, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. Who knows, in 21 years I might be training him how to drive with us."
Daniel has been driving for Prime since December 2015. He began his career with another company, but says he quickly changed to Prime when learned of the great benefits there. In 2016 he became a CDL instructor, something he has enjoyed doing for the past three years. He sees driver training as both an art form and skill set. “You can teach someone the skills necessary to pass the Missouri Department of Transportation test, but knowing how to drive under different conditions and a variety of settings—that’s an art form that can only be learned in real life situations.” This is what Daniel hopes to teach the new drivers he trains.
A native of central West Virginia, Daniel initially sought employment in manufacturing or warehousing when he moved Florida in 2015. The jobs available did not pay well. At some point, he started thinking about driving and consulted Kerry about the opportunity and possibility. He found both her and his parents to be both encouraging and supportive. “She wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and my driving allows it.”
Even though he’s on the road and Kerry is at home with Jackson, Daniel sees his wife’s ongoing support as vital to his success and happiness as a driver. “Kerry,” he insists, “is my emotional rock” and explains how he found talking with her reassuring while recently driving in wintry conditions.
“Today,” Daniel says, “I can’t imagine doing anything else. The view outside my ‘office’ window changes every mile. I like the challenge of driving—the multiple calculations I need to make with fuel, hours of service, and parking to be successful. It makes me think!”
Daniel typically drives four to six weeks before returning home for a break. In order to stay happy and healthy on the road he recommends the following:
1. While on the road, find time for “you,” that is your own space even when you have another driver with you. It’s important to preserve at least some personal space.
2. Plan “daddy days” when you’re home. For Daniel this means taking full responsibility caring for his son. “It gives my wife a break and allows me to bond with my son,” He explains. He acknowledges that Kerry’s help in making a detailed list and schedule goes a long way to helping him be successful in this regard.
3. Help out your wife when you’re home. She carries the burden most of the time when you’re gone.
4. Arrange with your fleet manager to be home for special occasions, e.g., Christmas and birthdays.
Although he can’t be home as often as he likes, Daniel still thinks a great deal about what he wants for his son. He has strong ideas about how he plans to train and influence Jackson. “He needs to know how to properly treat a woman. I want him to treat his partner with love and respect. I want him to know that home is a safe place, even when he’s made mistakes. Kerry and I will try to be firm and fair no matter what has happened.”
With an attitude, aspirations and support like this, it’s easy to see how and why Daniel is a Prime Good Dad.
Stella, age 4, can hardly wait until Christmas. She is hoping that Santa will bring her a "My Little Pony," preferably blue.
Her older sisters, age six, are hoping for new cowboy boots--the kind with lots of glitz and glitter that girls their age love to wear.
I bet most of us remember the longing we experienced as children, waiting what seemed like an eternity for that special day to arrive when we would receive the much anticipated gift we felt certain would be under the Christmas tree. In those days, most of us waited with some kind of certainty our wishes would be fulfilled. It just might take longer than we would like.
When we grow up, we still long for things but often with less certainty. Some of us long for a life partner; others for a child of their own. Some folks yearn for healing in a relationship, or for the return of a rebellious child, or even an end to chronic pain and suffering. When we wait for these kinds of things our waiting is much less certain. We're not at all certain our marriage will be healed, our child will return from his or her rebellious ways, or our family member will be reconciled. We don't know if we'll ever marry, we'll have a baby of our own, or the pain we're enduring will loosen its icy grip on our lives. When we wait for things like this, it's much harder to be hopeful. In fact, in the dark days of December when other people seem to be so "merry and bright," it can be even more difficult to experience the hopeful waiting that seems to be such a part of this season.
So what can be done? How can one wait hopefully and avoid a dreary descent into anger, bitterness and despair? When it comes to answering questions like these, I turn to people who seem to have done a much better job than I have . . . people who teach me what it means to wait with peace, patience and perspective. One such person is Cathy Tijerina.
Cathy writes the following:
In September of 1991, I was twenty-four years old when I found myself trying to explain to my two and four year old sons why Daddy didn’t come home that day. “Prison” was a new word to define for my sons - a word that toddlers should not even know - yet here I was trying desperately to provide an explanation to them that would make sense without completely robbing them of their innocence. We were so sure that Ron was not going to be convicted of a crime he did not commit we had not even thought about telling our sons anything. Now, as I sat alone on the floor of our house, holding my sobbing, frightened children, I wondered how on earth our young family was going to make it through that night—let alone the next 14-25 years my husband was just sentenced.
Little did I know that the devastation I felt as I walked out of the court house alone that day was just the beginning of a journey of pain, shame, disappointment and social shunning that my husband’s incarceration had created for my children and me.
Ron was released from prison after 15 years. He missed most of the growing up years for his sons--the birthdays, Christmases and graduations. While he was gone, Cathy functioned as a single parent, helping her children stay connected with their father through regular visits to the prison, keeping the faith that someday Ron would be released and they all would be together as a family. That time finally came in 2006, but in the interim both Ron and Cathy had to wait with a lot of uncertainty about the future.
I thought of Cathy when I was driving to work one day week, wallowing in a bit of "December dreariness." I reflected on all the Decembers she must have spent loading kids in and out of the car by herself, putting up a tree and holiday decorations by herself, shoveling snow and managing wintry weather conditions by herself while she waited for one day, some day, when she wouldn't have to do it all alone.
I know Ron and Cathy, have heard them speak on a number of occasions and talked with them in person. When I'm tempted to feel discouraged or sorry for myself, reflecting on their story gives me a great deal of hope. Here are some things I think they might tell you.
Faith makes a difference. Early in their experience of incarceration, Ron and Cathy became part of a faith community--Ron behind the walls, Cathy on the outside. They would tell you that their faith in God was transformative. They would also emphasize the importance of being associated with like-minded people. If one must persist and endure, waiting with the encouragement of others can be very helpful.
Look beyond yourself. In the first year or two of Ron's incarceration, Cathy began to look for meaningful support for someone like herself--a committed wife and mother who wanted to wait for her husband's release with patience and courage. She writes:
Ron continually inspired me and encouraged me that we COULD make a difference for all those who came behind us. I believed him, and we took on a new mission beyond just our own family. In 1993, we began with a program we developed called Keeping FAITH (now the Keeping Families And Inmates Together in Harmony program.) In this program, Ron mentored other men in prison, while I would meet with and encourage their families on the outside. This was the beginning of the Ridge Project. In 2000, while Ron was still incarcerated, we officially founded the Ridge Project. Ron continued to mentor incarcerated men, while I worked with their families, and I also began an after-school program to help at-risk or struggling youth.
People forced to wait by a serious illness, marital discord, rebellious children and a host of other problems often report finding great meaning in looking beyond themselves to comfort and encourage others who are experiencing similar difficulties. This doesn't necessarily change the circumstances (Ron was still incarcerated for 15 years), but it brings meaning to suffering.
Enjoy the little things. Although I haven't heard Cathy or Ron say this specifically, I know from my contact with them that they are two of the most joyful people I know. They embrace life and enjoy each other. Their enthusiasm is infectious. One cannot help but be impacted by their presence. There's so much about which they might be bitter and angry, but they have chosen to focus on the good. I want to be more like them.
I confess to being a prone-to-impatience kind of person. Waiting is rarely easy for me. At the same time, I can see that watchful waiting, done in the right way, can soften us into more peaceable persons who bring joy and hope to others. Maybe that's what I'm waiting for this Christmas and I do think it's the kind of thing that's worth the wait.
Waiting with you,
Dr. Jennifer Baker
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.
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 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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
I remember when I was a Junior High-aged teenager, growing up in a small town. It was hard to work up the courage to ask a girl for her parents’ phone number, then worry about calling the number, hoping her Dad didn’t answer. I worried about calling too late or staying on the phone too long. There was always the concern that someone was listening in on our conversations as well.
Here I am, some 30 years later, and I have a Junior High-aged daughter of my own. So much has changed. Every kid has a mobile device and most teenagers have multiple social media apps to communicate with friends, family or strangers. These kids can call, text or even FaceTime, at any moment.
I don’t want my children to feel like I’m smothering them, yet at the same time, I want to know what is going on. I want my kids to make their own friends and be able to use their own judgment when certain situations arise. I have basically told my daughter she can have a passcode on her phone as long as I know it, and she knows I may check it from time to time. I have read some messages between her and other girls, and wonder how they could be friends. I’ve also read a message sent to her from boys, and decided, “He will not be her friend!”
My kids are constantly wanting to spend the night with friends. I think it is good for them to get out and experience for themselves, the way others live. Sometimes they come home and really appreciate how good they have it, and other times they come home wanting a pony, or a game room.
We have set up special emoji codes in case they are at a friend’s home and are uncomfortable, or just don’t want to be there any longer. My daughter is not a fan of clowns, so if she is someplace and wants me to come get her, all she has to do is text me the clown emoji. This has already been implemented once. Last summer she had a friend stay at our home. Everything went well, and they seemed to get along great. A few weeks later she wanted to go stay with the same girl at her home. I got the address and warned that the area of homes was not great. I dropped her off around 7 p.m., and around midnight, I received the “clown” text. I called the parent of my daughter’s friend and told them we had an emergency, so I needed to come get her.
My daughter was unable to sleep because as she said, “Everything was dirty and it smelled bad.” We have had the same girl over to our house multiple times, and they continue to be good friends.
As kids get older and begin meeting new people and making new friends, it’s best to keep an open line of communication with them. Talk to them about situations that may occur, and give them ideas of ways to handle them.
I also share news stories with my teenagers, where kids were manipulated by adults posing as children of their own age. They have to know not everyone online or on social media is a friend, or are who they say they are.
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
One of the most difficult things a parent has to do is to guide their children through the minefields of life, helping them claim good values, and the skills to succeed in life. One area of potential difficulty is in regards to friends. When our kids were young we lived in a neighborhood without many children. There was only one home nearby that had two girls near the age of my daughter. I would say that they were living in near poverty. As a pastor, I try to treat everyone equally, and not discriminate against people, but I was concerned about this home. The kids had a single mom, and there was a continuous changing of the men who would stay in this house. We didn’t really want our kids to spend time there, but preventing that seemed like casting a judgment upon them. We preferred the two girls to spend time at our home, where we could supervise them more closely, and hopefully, demonstrate what a stable home and marriage looked like.
In one episode our daughter came home and talked about some dirty magazines she had seen at her friends home. This kind of confirmed our worries about the environment there. My wife and I were more determined to channel our daughter away from that home, but to encourage her friends to come to our house. Eventually, we moved to another town and things worked out better.
Another move brought us to Monett. We look back at this move and believe it was an answer to prayer for our daughter, and our son. Our daughter fell in with a group of high achieving girls, who were active in school activities, and made excellent grades. Her own grades rose, and she expanded her activities to include cheerleading, drama, and speech and debate. Most of her friends came from solid families that wanted their daughters to excel and succeed. Our son became friends with kids who he still remains connected to twenty years later. As parents we were very relieved to know the crowd our kids were with was a positive one. My wife and I brought together all of the parents of our sons friends to help supervise our children and to make sure they were where they were supposed to be. This let the kids know that the community was involved in their raising. That may be an advantage of living in a small town.
Sometimes we sacrifice things in our lives to help raise our children. I was offered a move to a much larger church, with a much larger salary, that was about 225 miles away. If I accepted the offer, my daughter would change high schools in her senior year. From my own experience I knew how difficult that can be. So we turned down the offer and stayed until both my kids graduated from high school before accepting another move. We felt it was important for them to graduate with their best friends.
Parenting is challenging! Sometimes we will face awkward experiences that can be filled with real drama, but when you choose to have children, that comes with the territory. Good parents will be deeply involved in their children’s lives. Good parents will set boundaries and enforce them. We can’t make friends for our children, but we can create opportunities to make friends.
When I was 16 my family moved from California to Kirkwood, Missouri. My father insisted that I attend our church’s youth fellowship group that met on Sunday evening. I really resisted this, fearing it would be awkward for me. My father prevailed, and I went. My fears were relieved, and the kids were most friendly, and became my best friends in my last two years of high school. My father made the right decision regarding my participation in the youth group. That’s an example of helping our kids make good friends!
We wanted our kids to know that it was always okay for them to bring their friends to our home. We enjoyed getting to know the friends of our son and daughter. My advice for parents of young children is be involved. Know what’s going on. Talk to your kids about things they’re concerned with. Be wary of potential problems, and steer your kids in the right direction. If you love them and do your best, most likely they will turn out to be responsible people!
Mark Mildren, retired Methodist minister, is the father of two and grandfather of three. He serves as the faith-community liaison for Good Dads and can be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.