As we close out 2019 and look to 2020, we often take stock of our year; the good, the bad, and in-between. We vow to make some changes. Eat less. Hug more. Actually vacuum the coils underneath the refrigerator. Obviously, some will happen and some won't.
Something I've heard people say, and have said myself, is to volunteer somewhere. Anywhere. If this is you, let me recommend contacting Good Dads and checking to see if your neighborhood elementary school has an All Pro Dad chapter. Consider helping with the All Pro Dad chapter there . . . and if there isn't one, maybe you can start one! Maybe you have a child at the school, a grandkid, a nephew, or a neighbor. If you attend a church, maybe there’s already a relationship established with a nearby school. That's how I got started.
I didn't have any kids of my own when my church started a chapter at a school, but I jumped right in. Initially, I was just a helper, but slowly became a co-captain. (Teamwork makes the dream work.)
Now, our team is on Year 4 of meeting with kids and parents for breakfast at McGregor Elementary. We recognize many dads and kids. We know the staff at the school. We were politely asked not to give the kids candy before they go to class. You live and you learn, right?
You're probably thinking, that's great, but why should I get involved? There are so many answers to that question, but the simplest is if not you, then who?
This world moves fast. Our culture is so divisive and self-centered, that we all need to chip in. We can make a difference. Our community is like one big quilt. We can either continue to sew it together or let the edges fray. And it's too big of a job for just the government or the schools or the churches or the non-profits. We all have a role to play.
The wonderful thing about being an All Pro Dad Captain is that the barrier to entry is really low. All the material you need to get started is readily available. There are curriculum, discussion ideas, games to play, and even videos to show if you want to use them. Moreover, our school district, Springfield Public Schools, has been very willing to help as much as possible.
What are the desired skills for a Captain, you ask?
So now you know. Being a Captain isn't daunting. The most important thing to remember is that you are a facilitator of a time for kids and their parents to just be together. And in this fast paced world, providing something so small can have a big difference.
Brian Mattson and his wife, Jessica, welcomed a son to their family just over a year ago, to join their 10-year-old Golden Retriever named Albus. Brian is the Director of Worship & Operations at The Downtown Church and in his free time plays and sings in a cover band (Deja Crew), enjoys walks with the family, planning the next great road trip, and quoting Seinfeld episodes.
Robert Hawkins has been a cattleman for as long as he can remember--his entire life actually. He grew up on a farm and when his father died suddenly while Robert was still a teenager, he carried on the operation with his brother until he was old enough to run the farm on his own. Robert is also in the construction business, but for the purposes of this article, we focused on his skills as a cattleman.
Raising cattle is a long-term commitment. I know because I grew up on a farm and have some personal experience with what is required when your livelihood depends on how the livestock are doing. It strikes me that there are certain characteristics that define a successful farmer that may be common to a great relationship. I asked Robert, "What do you think a cattleman requires? What kind of person does he need to be?"
Take the Long-Term View. The first thing Robert mentioned was patience. He said, "If you don’t make any big mistakes, things usually get better in the long run. You need to be a long-term planner." Robert certainly took his own advice when he met and married Kim. They first met when she was a "skinny little 12-year-old" and he was a teen five years older. "We teased her and made fun of her then," he said, but later on he clearly changed his mind. The two of them have been a couple for 30 years and married for 24.
"You’re going to have a bad day, month, or year every once in a while," he remarked, "I only plan on making a profit 3 out of 5 years."
Now there's some great advice for a good relationship. Take your time. Be patient. Let things work themselves out. I wonder what a difference it would make if we applied the 3/5 ratio to our marriages. Of course we want it to be sunshine and roses every day, but that's just not realistic. There are those moments, those days, and sometimes even longer when it's necessary to take the long-term view in life and love. Cattlemen know this. We do well to remember it too.
A compatible partner is key. "It’s hard to survive without a good partner. In farming, she’s not just my wife, she’s a vested partner, a hired hand, and more. We each have multiple roles." With this statement, Robert clearly demonstrates his understanding of the importance of "making the right choice," i.e., taking the time to find a compatible person who shares the same interests. Robert loves farming and he loves Kim all the more because she does too. Had he not chosen carefully, the two of them might be miserable. Even so, sharing this love would not be enough if either of them were tied into rigid role expectations. Allowing Kim the freedom to do a number of things and fulfill a variety of roles is key to their happiness.
Have similar values. It's one thing to love the idea of country life. It's quite another to actually live it. According to Robert, this is the utmost in importance. He related a recent icy weekend when they had seven calves born during an ice storm. "We were both up until midnight—wet, cold and exhausted—and just happy as could be that we didn't lose any calves. And then, we still had to get up and go to work the next day."
"I think it was one of the moments when you realize you married the right woman--when she milks a wild cow to help a baby calf survive. . . . Kim was a city girl who always wanted to be a country girl. The first time I had to help a fallen calf I knew I had struck gold, because she had afterbirth up to her armpits and was as happy as a clam.”
I wish more couples would give the significance of shared values serious consideration when they are contemplating marriage. Share the same interests and values and you have, as Robert says, "struck gold." It's not enough to find each other fun and attractive. It's much more important that you embrace the same values and beliefs. That's infinitely more likely to get you through a lot of cold and snowy nights out in the barn-- or other difficult places where couples might find themselves.
Good Stock: A good cattleman looks for the proper genetic characteristics. Robert has approximately 100 head herd of the Beefmaster breed. This particular breed was developed by a Texas rancher who combined the Shorthorn, Hereford and Brahman breeds to get the characteristics of cattle that do well in cold winters and the hot, humid summers of Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri. In a similar way, if you want someone who will share similar interests and values, it's important to look for "good stock," i.e., someone with strong character and good family values.
Robert agrees. "This makes a big difference when you raise children together. We could have sold our farm years ago, but we could not think of a better environment in which to raise our sons. We have raised three very responsible and well-adjusted young men."
At the same time, this doesn't mean that Robert and Kim think of and react to the world in exactly the same way. "Kim is a super-sensitive lover of life and she has a very hard time accepting the death of an animal. I’m an old callous cowboy with the idea that 'things die.' She thinks I’m insensitive at times. When we lose an animal, she takes it hard. We approach things differently. I need to remember this."
I love the way these two think. Perhaps that's why they've been such good hosts and role models for other couples--young and old. Together they bring a measure of tenderness and toughness that makes them hard to resist.
In summing up what he knows about farming and relationships, Robert had a few closing thoughts. "Learn to pick your battles," he said, "in business, farming, and relationships. I don’t fight every situation. On a farm, there’s always so much work to do that you have to choose what matters most, like good fences, the health of your cattle and so on. You deal with weeds, rocks, etc. later. We’re very open. We’re not afraid to talk. We bring it out. There’s no skeletons. We concentrate on what is key to success in life and love and get to the rest when we can."
I knew I liked Robert the first time I met him. Now I know why. He has a great handle on what's important in life and how to keep the main thing, the main thing. Plus, he married a wonderful woman.
Call me grateful for two terrific role models,
Dr. Jennifer L. 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 email@example.com.
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.
I am a wack-o. Wack-o is a layman’s term for what a professional therapist might diagnose as a bit up-tight, too anxious, overwhelmed, and sometimes controlling. I don’t try to be. It just happened one day or another after my first child was born, continued with the birth of my second and the third, the next 25 years, and 1,000 life events. Trips to the ER, college tuition, sports, dating, and the death of my parents have just about done me in. I used to be so playful and at ease about everything. What happened? I became a parent. So I am a wack-o.
It is not good to be a wack-o. Being a wack-o is not the way to be a Good Dad, either. Good Dads work hard and are responsible, model good behavior and character, and teach all kinds of things like right and wrong, how to drive, and how to catch a fish. But Good Dads are not all work and no play. Good Dads are relaxed and playful. If you are not there yet, no worries! Let’s help each other lighten up and brighten up.
A playful Dad is a gracious dad. A playful Dad understands that children make mistakes, get into trouble, go down the wrong path, are sometime ornery, anxious, and even uptight. So are we!!
Do you ever wonder where uptight, anxious children come from? They come from anxious, uptight Dads! Our children learn from you and me. Let’s teach them to be relaxed and playful rather than uptight and anxious.
My three boys, Clayton, Aaron, and Jason are teaching me to lighten up and brighten up. My boys are literally the life of my party. They tickle me till I cannot breathe. They pour ice water on me when I am in the shower. They hide my dinner plate when I am not looking. They tell me horrible, rude, offensive stories that would have made their Grandma Lita blush. They don’t let up until I laugh out loud.
Playful Dad goes with the flow. They don’t try to make their children something they are not – from straight A students, to star athletes, to the best in the band. Let them find their way on a pathway marked with playfulness, mercy, and grace. Let your children pick the restaurant, where they want to go on vacation, and what they want to study in college. Because of my boys, I have learned how to ice skate, play hockey, and how to sail. We have gone white water rafting and climbed 14,000 foot mountains in Colorado.
I’m still a wack-o but I am less of a wack-o each day. It is not easy being a Dad. But it is easier, and more fun when we help each other and when we learn to lighten up, brighten up, and be a bit more playful. If I can be a help or blessing to you I am always close by!
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
When I was growing up, my dad was a man of few words, but many actions. And in my 13-year-old opinion, far too many actions. Case in point: car washing. It took my dad forever to wash and clean out a car. He painstakingly, meticulously detailed each nook and cranny, until the automobile was practically back to show-room worthy. He wasn’t slow, he was sure. He was sure to do things right, or at the very least, do his best to do things right. He worked hard, kept his word, took care of things, and took care of me. And at 13, or even six or 16, I don’t know if I quite appreciated the way my dad always got things done. I would have rather he, like so many other adults, just talk about doing them, or take shortcuts to get them done in a more timely manner. However, neither of those options were ones my dad was willing to take. So, I continued to watch him do things, and do them well. Regardless of the amount of work, patience or time they took, and much to the chagrin of his young son.
Then, something happened. As high school was winding down, and life out in the big world for me was winding up, I realized something: I could do things. A lot of things, and a lot of things a lot of my friends couldn’t do. Whether it was small home improvements, car repairs, reading the financial section of the paper and somewhat understanding it, or driving a combine, I was your guy. I hadn’t gone to school for any of these things, and I certainly had not done any sort of formal apprenticeship. I simply had the privilege of having a front row seat, watching a one-man, life-long, almost silent infomercial of how to do things, to the best of one’s ability. To do them well. To do them right.
Fast-forward to my own home of a few years ago, full of rambunctious boys, restless and a little frustrated at the fact the tools had to put back in their places, or the expensive shoes their grandmother bought them couldn’t be left in the middle of the floor, or that we periodically stopped what our family was doing to take a few minutes to help a family less fortunate than ours.
Now, fast-fast-forward to the home of my son, as I sit and watch him with his son, my grandson. Every puzzle piece is put back in the box. Every toy is put back on the shelf. Every chance to help a neighbor or open the door for an elderly person is witnessed and endured by an energetic, playful, three-year-old. Will it matter? Well, we’re into our fourth generation of running on the fact that it most certainly has.
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “It is no use to preach to children if you do not act decently yourself.” Thanks for the vacations, ball games and days at the lake, Dad. But, most of all, thanks for doing, and doing well right. It stuck!!
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