My name is Kyle, I’m a librarian, a dad, and soon to be Charlee’s husband. My son (5) and her two daughters (5 & 3) blend into our family of three kids and a rascally-rescued hound named Radar. Books have played a major role in our family from the very beginning. Charlee and I met at the library. We got to know each other by discussing books we’ve read, authors we both liked, and suggesting future reads. So, it should be no surprise that we both place a high value on reading to our kids.
I started reading to my son as soon as he was born. As an infant, he was just a captive audience who couldn’t even hold up his own head, let alone run away from me clumsily reading Maurice Sendak for the tenth time (Where the Wild Things Are is still one of my favorite books). I read to him so young because exposing kids to books, even as infants, familiarizes them with voices and even begins to build the structures for syntax in their rapidly developing brains. As he got older he loved being read to so much I became captive to his insatiable hunger to read Green Eggs and Ham by Doctor Seuss for the tenth straight night.
Story time is among the most precious moments spent with my son. It is bonding time. It is virtually the only time during the day he slows down enough to tolerate being snuggled. Throughout all of the familial transitions we faced, books and reading together at bedtime were a constant source of reassurance and comfort for both of us. Every night we read together was a lesson for both us that our relationship was stable and reliable, regardless of the changes in our family structure.
While I was getting to know my new daughters, I thought it was important to give them room and let them come to me. At first there was a lot of the discerning glances and giggling games of peek-a-boo from their hiding spot behind Charlee’s knees. Several stages followed including the you-may-give-us-candy stage; the you-may-sit-next-to-us-with-food stage; and the you-may-swing-us stage. All were positive steps, and I was delighted at each step the girls’ took with me. However, it was a huge milestone for me when they crawled into my lap clutching their favorite books and asked me to read to them. I knew this indicated a new level of trust and acceptance.
Equally monumental was the first time that the five of us sat crumpled in a pile on the floor as a family to read together before bed. Some nights the sibling conflict is just too real. On those nights we read separately, and that’s okay, but as often as possible we all get together and read at night before bed. We do it because we want to feed their curiosity about reading; we want to support their future success; and, most of all, we do it because it is time devoted to bonding our new family together. The kids get to know each other discussing each others’ favorite characters and theorizing about what will happen next. They grow closer and more comfortable with each other as they smush together and share our laps to see the illustrations.
We have also learned that books can unlock our kids from their anxieties. Our son did not adapt well to day care, so before he started kindergarten summer school we checked out The Pigeon has to Go to School! by Mo Willems from the library. Every night for three weeks it was his favorite book at our house and summer school became less of an anxiety trigger for him.
After a particularly grueling weekend of sibling bickering, tattling, and tears, Charlee brought home Even Superheroes have Bad Days by Shelly Becker. The kids enjoy playing superheroes together, and the book illustrates superheroes have bad days too and how they process different emotions. Obviously, it wasn’t an instant panacea, but it gave us a framework in which to talk to the kids at their level about emotions like anger and sadness.
Books are a skeleton key that unlock doors and empower children to be more successful. Reading to children and having age-appropriate books in the house are the most important factors in assuring healthy language development and determining future academic success. Regularly reading to your children is also time spent nurturing and showing them affection. There is literally no downside to the time you spend with your children and books. If you don’t believe me, check out “FiftyTop Literacy Statistics” at ferstreaders.org. They’ve dug through all of the child literacy studies for you and compiled a truly eye-opening list of reasons to read to your children.
Kyle Evans is dad to three and reference associate for the Springfield-Greene County Library District.
Shawn Askinosie knows about heartbreak. When he was 12, his father was diagnosed with lung cancer. At 13, he learned to give his father the injections of Demerol required for pain management. When he was 14, his father died.
During the period of his father’s declining health, the leader of a well-meaning prayer group suggested there should be “no talk about death.” To do so, the leader said, indicated a lack of faith in their prayers for healing. After his father died, Shawn said he spent the next 25 years overcoming every obstacle in his path and accomplishing every goal presented to him as a means of dealing with his untreated adolescent grief.
The conclusion of a successful murder trial where Shawn served as the defense attorney, eventually led to a personal recognition of an “out of balance life.” The book Tuesdays with Morrie was also a big influence during this period. What occurred next is what Shawn refers to as a “time of physical and emotional reawakening.” Five years after the trial’s conclusion, he found himself choosing an entirely new life associated with chocolate. He also reports coming to see heartbreak, including his own, as a necessary ingredient to a full life.
“If you love,” he explains, “you will know the grief and sorrow of loss.”
Today Shawn is the CEO of Askinosie Chocolate, a small batch, award winning chocolate factory in Springfield, Missouri. Askinosie Chocolate has been named “One of the 25 Best Small Companies in America” by Forbes and featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, on Bloomberg, MSNBC and various other national and international media outlets. Shawn also serves on the board of Lost & Found Grief Center of Southwest Missouri, an organization he helped start to assist children in dealing with grief and loss.
Today Shawn sees heartbreak as a necessity for a full life. If this is so, then how does a thoughtful parent handle this tender topic? Shawn offers these considerations:
1. Avoid trying to inoculate or prevent all heartbreak for your child. Loss and grief are inevitable. Offer support and empathy, but try not to prevent or rescue.
2. Model healthy grieving. Allow your child to see what brings you great joy and deep sadness. A child who sees healthy grieving modeled by a loving parent learns to handle loss.
3. Help kids learn that broken hearts are meant to be tended, not fixed. Embracing a loss, versus avoiding or denying, helps children grow in compassion.
There was a time when Shawn Askinosie was a fearsome trial attorney. These days he speaks in a different voice, emphasizing and encouraging language of hope and compassion for our children and others.
by Dr. Jennifer Baker
This article was written by Dr. Jennifer Baker, Founder and Executive Director of Good Dads, following a podcast with Shawn. To hear the full interview, download part 1 and part 2 of his Good Dads podcast.
For those of you fathers out there who drive the kids to school each day, here is an old blog post of mine that you may relate to as we're getting back into the swing of things with the start of school right around the corner...
For about the past month, whenever that alarm screams at me to rise, I've been a complete zombie. I literally get out of bed, slip on some sandals, yell "load up" and take the kids to school. This is a complete gamble on my part, because the kids are usually not ready at all. I've had to turn around several times to retrieve items like backpacks, socks, Chromebooks and lunch. Since about May 23rd, I've been shuttling the kids to school in the same outfit I roll out of bed in, which is my boxer shorts and a t-shirt. One morning last week, the boys were upset because they didn't have time to eat breakfast. I thought I would be the good Dad, and swing by the convenience store to grab them donuts on the way to school.
I dropped my daughter off at school first, then pulled into the Casey's General Store parking lot. My youngest asked, "Dad what are you doing?" I explained that I was gonna grab breakfast for them. I pulled into a spot up front, opened my car door and slowly got out. I could hear some giggling from the boys in the back seat. I figured they were playing one of the silly games they seem to wanna play way too early in the morning. I shut the door and walked into the store. I looked towards the case filled with sugary treats, and suddenly realized......oh no.....I had forgotten my glasses at home. I had gotten out of bed and failed to put them on. What an idiot!!! I'm standing there squinting, trying to figure out which delicious delights I would treat my children to, when I heard a strange voice behind me. "Did you lose your pants?" a man asked. I looked behind me to see who he was talking to and what moron was walking around without pants. As I turned towards the strange voice, I happened to look down. Oh no.....holy sh!@t!!! I was the imbecile the voice was talking to. I had completely forgotten I strolled out of the house in my undies. I've gotta believe, if my daughter were still in the car, she would not have let me exit the vehicle. My boys on the other hand, they could care less. They just thought it was Dad's newest attempt at humor
There I am in my old, red, Adidas t-shirt, and my bright blue, striped, boxer shorts. I have a few pair that have the button on the front to keep the barn door shut. This particular pair of "Fruit of the Loom's" did not have the button. I was one awkward movement from letting the turtle poke its head out of its shell. For all I know, it had already gotten a peek. I did not say a word to the man, or anyone else, I just turned and walked out as quickly as I could. I got back into the car where my youngest was quick to point out that he wasn't the only forgetful one.
A week or so earlier, I was rushing to get the boys to their games. My 6-year-old had gotten dressed, got into the car, and rode all the way to the fields before realizing he had no shoes on. Obviously, I was frustrated that I had to go back home to get his shoes. He had remembered this, and was letting me know about it.
Needless to say, I've made sure to get myself properly dressed in the morning since.
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, and you can check out Herb's own blog at www.thecodylife.weebly.com
Some years ago, back when my joints didn’t crack when I dragged myself off the couch, I was father to four little girls. The last two are twins and there’s just a bit more than three years separating all of them.
Each night, after supper, and after their baths, I’d lay on the rug in the living room and they’d jump all over me. I’d roll this way and that and growl like a bear and they’d laugh until they couldn’t catch their breath. They smelled of baby shampoo and talcum power.
Later, I’d sit on the couch and the four of them would sit on my lap. I’d smell their clean hair and read to them from Danny and the Dinosaur and Sammy the Seal, both by Syd Hoff, and perhaps the best books ever written for little kids. I’d change the stories a bit each night and they’d shout to correct me, “No, no, no! That’s not the way it goes.” And I’d tell them that those are the words in the book and that I wasn’t changing a thing, and in this way, the four of them wanted to learn how to read. To keep me honest.
I traveled to New York for the manufacturer’s rep in those days and when I came home late and they wondered what happened I would ask them if they hadn’t seen it on the news. “What Daddy?”
“You know that big tennis stadium that we pass in Brooklyn when we drive sometimes? The one that glows like a big balloon because they puff it up with air?” They nodded. “Well, there’s a plumbing supply house right next door to that place, and today one of the men drove his forklift into the big balloon. It was an accident, of course, but the balloon took off into the air and flew all over the sky. It landed across the highway and that’s why the traffic was backed up. And That’s why I’m late.”
“were the people still inside the balloon, Daddy?”
“Yes, and they were all wearing white shorts.”
They looked at me and at each other, and one would say, “That’s not true!” and I would look hurt. Another would ask, “Is it true?”
“Of course it is. Don’t you watch the news on the TV?” And in this way they became interested in current events. Can’t be too careful with those big tennis balloons.
They grew and they all went to school together and I would drive them there whenever I could. One day in early spring I had them look at the buds on the trees as we drove and I told them that it’s important for them to pay close attention to those buds because Lime Day was coming. I just cast it back there into the minivan and waited for one of them to bite.
“What’s Lime Day, Daddy?”
“What’s Lime Day? Are you serious?”
They looked at each other, each not wanting to be the only one not knowing, and once they agreed that it was safe to continue, one said, “We don’t know what that is?”
So I laughed and explained to them that Lime Day is a National holiday. It comes around once a year on the day when all the buds on all the trees are that absolutely perfect shade of lime. “It helps if it’s misting a bit on that day because a bit of mist makes lime even prettier.”
“What day is Lime Day, Daddy?”
“That’s the best part,” I explained. “Every kid gets to call Lime Day. You have to watch the trees very carefully, and you have to decide for yourself that it would be impossible for the leaves to be any more limey than they are right now. Then you call it and that’s it. Lime Day. The next day, the leaves are just boring green and they’ll stay that way all summer long.”
“But what if you call Lime Day and the next day is limier?”
“Well, then your sister wins and that makes you a loser,” I explained.
They looked at each other and said, “There’s no such day.”
“Of course there is,” I said, and as spring crept closer and closer to us that year, I convinced them that Lime Day was as real as the Fourth of July.
Now here comes the best part: As the weeks went by, they each went to their classes and told the other kids about Lime Day. The other kids told my kids that they were full of crap, of course, but in their hearts, those other kids wanted there to be such a day because it’s just the best thing going, so they went home and asked their parents. The kids explained Lime Day and the magnificent parents all lied right along with me. Wouldn’t you?
They came to see the beauty of nature in the paved-over, suburban world of Long Island and they carried it with them. In all the many years that have gone by since then, each of my daughters call in Lime Day each spring, no matter where she is in the world. I live for those calls.They came to see the beauty of nature in the paved-over, suburban world of Long Island and they carried it with them. In all the many years that have gone by since then, each of my daughters call in Lime Day each spring, no matter where she is in the world. I live for those calls.
Dan Holohan is a father of four. This blog was used with permission from a larger post by Dan Holohan, at Heatinghelp.com. To read the post in its entirety, please go to: https://heatinghelp.com/blog/sully/
When my boys were young they played ice hockey. I did not play hockey in my youth so it was fun for us to learn together.
I discovered a father – son hockey camp in Minnesota called Peak Performance Hockey Camp. The camp provided a great opportunity for fathers and sons to learn hockey and be together. I cannot tell you how much fun we had – and how hard it was to say “good bye” at the end of the summer.
One year at hockey camp one of the dads was more over the top than the rest of us. We were all a bit nuts but this dad was in a league by himself. He was yelling at his son, telling him to try hard, and to do better.
Note to Good Dads: This is not good.
Without saying a word we all knew someone had to say something. The point of these moments is not to tell someone how bad they are being. The point of these moments is that we all benefit from each other. I do. You do. Good Dads need Good Dads.
I put my hand on the man’s shoulder and said, “You sure have a great boy. He is one of the best out there.” He looked at me and said, “Thanks; he really is a good boy.” And this man really was a good dad.
Later that day we went to the water park. The kids swam and played while the dads sat together. We told stories. We laughed. We listened to each other.
The man who had been yelling at his son shared how he was recently divorced. He hated it. He saw his son every two weeks and two weeks in the summer. He admitted how anxious he gets and how hard it is when his son has to leave.
It is hard for all of us to say “good bye” to summer and special moments. I could not image how much harder it was for this man. The man apologized for the way he had been acting. He shared how much pressure he felt to make the most of every moment and how it felt like he was losing his son.
Summer marks the passage of time for all of us. Dads and children can feel like they won’t have this moment again. Good Dads will make the most of each moment -- and begin planning the next moment together:
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
The second Saturday in May they always appeared, side by side in the refrigerator, in perfect white boxes tied with gold cord. Sometimes they were roses, sometimes orchids. Always they were chosen to coordinate with dresses to be worn by my mother and grandmother the next day. They were one way my father annually honored both his wife and mother on Mother’s Day. The regularity of this simple gift spoke volumes to me, my brother, and my sister. It reminded us of the importance of not only loving our mother, and communicating that on a regular basis, but also setting aside time to honor her on special occasions. It emphasized to us the importance of remembering.
Two weeks after this event came Memorial Day, a time when we honor those who have gone before us and given their lives fighting for our country. Because of them we enjoy the freedoms we have today. Our farm family frequently spent the day making hay—it was that time of year in Missouri. But Mom always remembered to get out the flag and fly it from the front porch—no matter what we were doing. It made us reflect on where our freedom to make hay came from in the first place.
Hundreds of miles away, at the same time we were making hay, my husband’s family in Michigan was enjoying a slightly different observance of the day. His family typically made their semiannual trek to the cemetery on Memorial Day. Flowers were placed on graves or planted in urns as people walked among the grave markers and talked quietly of those who had died. It was a day for remembering.
Remembering, recalling, and respecting are vital to families. We need these times when we touch our roots, connect with our past, and recall the hard work, courage, and dedication of those who have gone before us. We need these intentional moments as inspiration for our future. According to Bill Doherty, author of The Intentional Family, “Only an Intentional Family has a fighting chance to maintain and increase its sense of connection, meaning, and community over the years” (p.8).
So how might you do this? Here are just a few ideas to consider trying this year with your children or grandchildren.
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.
No family is perfect and every family has its secrets. The secret in our family was kept for 35 years.
We were to go on a picnic on a Sunday afternoon right after church. The house was to be clean. Everyone was to be up and ready for church. No fighting. As soon as you get home get going, get your clothes changed, and get in the car.
I believe the sermon was on Forgiveness. If it wasn’t it should have been. But there would be no forgiveness that day.
Picnics were a sacred thing in our family. Mom would fry up the chicken, put it under foil, and put it in the fridge. Her potato salad is the best in the world and a tempting midnight snack. But the unspoken rule was well understood: Don’t touch the chicken. Don’t get into the salad.
We got home from church. The absolution was pronounced and judgement was to come. Mom opened the fridge. The foil was not in place. A piece of chicken was gone.
Parents need to realize that children are not merely being raised for the moment or for themselves. “No” can be a very good word. We want to raise children who think more of others than of themselves, who are content with what they have, and who are generous with others.
Mom went into orbit. It seemed to last forever before mom and dad finally dashed out of the house with the chicken and potato salad.
It was quiet for a time until someone dared to ask the obvious: Who took the chicken? No judgement. No guilt. No shame. But no one confessed.
My parents instilled great values in us. Life is not all about you. Put the needs of others before your own. Be content and grateful with what you have. Don’t live just for the moment and don’t live just for yourselves.
For 35 years no one spoke of the matter until Mr. and Mrs. Sippy’s 50th anniversary. It was a grand occasion. But the question had to be asked. In the midst of the merriment my sister Renee insisted that the secret finally be revealed. “Who ate the chicken?”
The room was silent until a quiet voice finally spoke. “I ate the chicken.”
The room erupted. It was Dad -- Don Sippy! My Dad cried he laughed so hard. My mom kissed him and told him how terrible he was. “You made those kids suffer all those years!”
We suffered very little. My parents delivered us from ourselves. They taught us to put the needs of others before our own. They taught us to live not for the moment and some instant gratification. They taught us to be content with what we have and generous with others.
It’s no secret: Being a parent is no picnic. But it is easier when we help and encourage each other.
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 67-year-old grandfather, married to one woman, Lynda, for almost 45 years. I have a 38-yr-old daughter and a 36-year-old son. Both are happily married and each has children. I am proud of my family, and the fact both of our kids have turned out to be successful in their individual lives.
Lynda and I waited to have children for six years after getting married. We wanted for me to finish seminary education at SMU and for us to have some time married before having children. And we wanted, if possible, to have a son and a daughter. Our plans worked out pretty well!
Our hopes for our children to make it on their own have been fulfilled. They have found intelligent mates to marry. They have their own homes, and they work hard at parenting. How did our kids turn out so well?
I reflected on that question this week. There is no single thing that created them becoming good people, but rather many things. It began with us wanting to have children, and waiting for a good time where we could more easily care for them. Lynda was a stay-at-home mom until both kids were in grade school, so she could devote her full attention to them. Once in grade school, she just worked part-time so she could send the kids off to school in the morning, and be home when they got out of school. That was very intentional. We could have used the extra money if she had worked full time, but we both thought it would be better for the kids to do it this way.
At dinner time we sat at the table together and talked about the day. Mealtime became an important part of our family routine. Lynda was awesome in helping the kids with homework as they grew older. On Sundays we all went to church together, and all of us went to Sunday school. As a pastor that was just expected, but had I not been a pastor we would have done the same. That’s the way it was when I grew up in my family. I realized that being a pastor greater scrutiny would be given to our kids by parishioners. We heard plenty of stories of rebellious preacher’s kids! We wanted to make our home life as normal as possible and not put greater pressure on our kids to conform to some image of what a “preacher’s kid” should look like. I think we did pretty good on that score.
The first half of my ministry my salary wasn’t too great, but we saved so we could always take a relaxing, week-long vacation somewhere nice, either in Florida or in Colorado. We still talk about those road trips and how much fun they were. Likewise, we took our kids to appropriate movies we could all watch together, like E.T. or Back to the Future. We lived close to the kids’ grandparents and decided to live in Missouri just for that reason. We wanted our children to really know their grandparents. That, too, had a significant effect with our children who grew up loving their grandparents, and extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I think our kids turned out very well because we invested ourselves in their lives while they lived at home. We taught our values to them, and demonstrated those values in everyday living. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts we gave to our kids was a stable and loving marriage that Elizabeth and James could observe every day. I cannot overstate how important that is! While many people in their thirties have rejected church, both of ours attend United Methodist churches in Kansas and Michigan. I am very happy knowing that. In mostly little ways we became a close family that loves being together. The investments were worth it!
Mark Mildren, father of two adults children and grandfather of three, is a retired Methodist minister. He spends part of almost every week working at Good Dads. He can be reached for question or comment at email@example.com.
Daddy’s worried about you.
Actually . . . Daddy worries about you everyday.
We get up at 5:30 every morning. We rush to get your clothes on, check for homework in your backpacks, quick kisses on foreheads, and pats on the butt for good measure. We loudly exchange “Love Yous” as you “walk quickly, don’t run” to the bus stop, narrowly averting it’s departure. If we’re lucky, no one has a meltdown (including Daddy). I kiss Mommy on the forehead as she and your baby sister catch up on sleep that was eluded through their previous nightly routine. I use the drive to work to catch my breath. It’s only 15 minutes, but I make it to work. I drop your little brother off at daycare, and start my day.
Throughout my busy day, I catch myself thinking about your day.
“Did everyone eat breakfast at school?”
“I hope Bubby remembers his spelling words.”
“Were kids mean on the bus?”
“I hope Mommy and sister are having a good day.”
“Did I forget to sign progress reports again? . . . I hope teachers don’t blame you for that.”
Mostly though . . . I’m worried I’ve not done enough for you. You are all great kids. Your teachers and other adults in your life tell me that. So I’m not worried about how you’re acting; Not really.
I’m concerned that when I told you I’m sorry for getting upset at you for not moving quick enough this morning, that you didn’t know I meant it; I’m afraid when I told you ‘I love you’ after getting on to you for bickering back and forth, that I didn’t say it loud enough to cover my frustrated reaction to the situation; I’m worried that, when you get older, the kisses and hugs will not have outweigh my need to let you just be kids, and mess up, and learn from your mistakes with love and grace.
And I’m worried that I’m going to wake up tomorrow and you’re graduating High School, or College, or getting married . . . and I’ve missed enjoying you grow up.
More than anything, I’m worried that in teaching you love and forgiveness are what life's about, I’ve missed tangible opportunities to show both of those to you.
I’m taking time to write this to you so you know how I feel about you: Your Daddy is crazy about you; he’s so proud of each and every one of you; and you can never do anything to make him stop loving you! I know you didn’t mean to spill that, and I know you didn’t mean to break that. I’m not mad at you, even if I get upset. You bring light and joy to my day. You add a beat to my heart.
If there’s anything I want you to learn from me, it’s this -- and I hope you hear the tears in my voice when you read this: You can never love too much. Forgiveness makes your heart lighter. Let grace be what you’re known for. Never be afraid to say you’re sorry.
And always know that I’m here cheering for you. Even when it feels like no one is in your corner, I am. I always will be.
Love Your Biggest Fan,
Chris Moss, with his wife Tiffany, keep company with five lively children. He currently resides on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. Chris is the Missional Co-Founder of the grass-roots community organization The Serve Movement. He's a writer, a dreamer, and a voice for the underdog. He can be reached for comment or question at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/thechrismoss).
Is one really lost if they don't know they are lost? That is a question I have returned to again and again after a recent incident at the State Fair of Minnesota.
As Minnesotans living in the heat of Texas, the annual explosion of Facebook images at the end of August from the Great Minnesota Get-together causes me and my wife severe pains of nostalgia. This year we remedied that with a trip back to Minnesota.
We spent the weeks before our arrival making plans to attend the fair with friends, just like in the old days. Unlike the old days, we would be making this trip with friends . . . and children. Among the six adults there were eight children ranging in age from 18 months to 8 years to keep track of. Since my brood accounted for half the children present we were playing zone defense. This is not uncommon, but the degree of difficulty increases when you consider the unfamiliar and expansive nature of the terrain and the 180K people in attendance that day
At the start of the day, I recognized the chance of losing one of my three boys and we all made plans for what to do in the event this happened. My oldest, in particular, is super independent and one of those kids who is always running ahead, whether it be at the mall, the trail leading into the Grand Canyon, or even the dentist (we have an awesome dentist, but still). I specifically pulled him aside when we got to the grounds to remind him where to go and reminded him to stay put if he lost contact with us at any point.
Skip ahead to the end of the day. We are watching the tail end of the midday parade head off into the crush of humanity and packing up to start back to the bus that will take us to where we left our car. Sawyer, our oldest, tells Sarah that he is going to start walking. She calmly tells him "No," asks for him to wait, and returns to getting the 18-month-old buckled into the stroller.
When she turns around Sawyer is nowhere to be seen. Assuming he just started walking down the street we start heading that way. When we get to the end of the street where he should be waiting for us, like countless time throughout the day, he is nowhere to be seen. I am annoyed; Sarah is fearfully annoyed; and his younger brothers are angry because they want to play baseball with their uncle waiting at home (they wanted to leave him at the Fair).
We divide and conquer, another dad and I looping in the directions we think Sawyer might be headed. Two moms head back to the meeting spot and Sarah heads to the police station to report a missing child.
After an hour and a half of looking, I finally locate him at the very bus stop we arrived at earlier in the day. This was over a mile away and involved navigating the entire length of the fairgrounds. Obviously, I was relieved to have found Sawyer, but he was not the least bit bothered by being separated from everybody else for over an hour.
When he couldn't find us, he returned to the designated meeting spot and didn't see anybody so figured we all headed to the buses. He remembered the Skyway was located where we came in, so he just followed the tracks through the 180,000 people the entire length of the fairground and out the gate.
He reasoned "I knew you wouldn't leave me, and you would have to get on a bus eventually so I just came here and waited." I have to admit part of me was proud of his independence, but he also inconvenienced everybody else and people were genuinely afraid for him.
The next day we talked through the whole event and recapped what had happened and what choices he could have made differently. I did this with his brothers present. Although they are unlikely to get lost, if they did accidentally get separated, they are also not nearly as independent. They needed to hear how Sawyer solved problems and kept himself safe. They also needed to know what he could have done differently.
Independence is a double edged sword. We want our kids to be independent eventually, but how much is too much? Sawyer never got upset because he never considered himself lost, even if the rest of us did. As parents we are continually given chances to help our kids gain confidence and independence that will serve them well as they grow up, but sometimes we wish it wasn't in such stressful situations.
a. minor baker
A. Minor Baker is the husband of Sarah and father of four, currently residing in Austin, Texas. When he's not working as a research assistant at Texas State University or riding his bicycle, he can be reached for question or comment at email@example.com.