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 email@example.com
Getting kids to learn the value of work is no easy task. When you throw in a couple of parents who most likely were raised with varying views of chores, allowances, and the appropriate age to start working at an outside job finding level ground about teaching children about work and why it is important can be especially challenging. Instructing and modeling in this area of parenting–-though it will require some “work” from the grownups--pays off for our children, not just for the future of their respective finances, but also for the future of their respective character.
Though I was the oldest and my wife was the baby, we both were raised by hard-working parents. We grew up watching our moms and dads work faithfully and fervently at everything they did. However, when it came to what was required of us as children, that’s when things took a turn. As the oldest, my dad pushed me to work on my grandparents' dairy farm years before my teens. In addition, I had chores in and outside of our house, plus I was expected to earn money from outside employment as soon as I was of age. My teen years were spent doing all of the typical things from playing sports to making sure grades were up to parental standards, plus holding down various jobs.
My wife, while raised with high standards of manners and overall behaviors, was a surprise child and the only girl, arriving years after three brothers. Her parents would not tolerate poor attitude, disrespect, unkindness, or ungratefulness, but they felt that outside of an occasional babysitting job her primary “work” was related to school.
When our boys came along, three in rapid succession, we quickly found ourselves not at odds, but struggling to find our own rhythm in teaching our boys to be workers.
The first discussion we had regarding our own children and work, or “chores,” came when they were only two, four, and six. One night, my wife dumped a load of clean towels on the couch to fold. As I grabbed one, I said, “Hey, why aren’t the boys helping us fold these?”
She replied, "You want our gooey-fingered, booger-picking, Tasmanian Devil of a two-year-old folding your bath towel?”
I grimaced a bit and answered, “Well, maybe after we wash his hands.”
So, that night she called them in and gave the oldest the bath towels, the middle the hand towels, and the baby the wash cloths. It wasn’t long before the elder brother folded towels like the head housekeeper at the Ritz. The hand towels were so-so, but the wash cloths looked like an elephant had stomped on them . . . after someone had already used them.
At first, my wife refolded them, but finally came to the conclusion that if the boys always saw her redoing their work–-especially work they were proud of--it would defeat the purpose.
One time, when my in-laws were visiting, they watched my wife put away some not-so-perfectly-folded towels. My father-in-law asked my mother-in-law if she could have tolerated putting such poorly folded linens in the cabinet. When my mother-in-law answered, “No. I don’t think you or I could have,” my father-in-law responded, “Well, we should have.”
I realize towel folding is not a huge life skill that will bring in large amounts of money in our children’s futures, but it is a start. As the boys grow, both mentally and physically, they were able to take on more responsibility in and around our home. These tasks not only helped our family, but also gave them a necessary life skills and a sense of accomplishment. They weeded flower beds, hauled gravel, mowed lawns, cleaned baseboards (those young knees could take it far better than mine or my wife’s), split firewood, and eventually helped our neighbors and many others--all for free.
Though as adults we absolutely equate work with money, how we attain and do those “big people” jobs is greatly affected by our skill and attitude toward the “w” word itself. Skill and attitude are often acquired by learning how to willingly put all of our effort into doing something as small as folding a washcloth.
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.
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.
Robert Hullett has been with Prime nearly two years—7 months driving accompany truck and more recently, as a lease operator. He currently drives a 2016 Peterbilt and is looking forward to upgrading to a 2019 Peterbilt soon. He drives a “reefer” (refrigerator trailer). During the last two years, Robert has learned a lot about making money, saving money, and setting aside time to be with family—all skills and information he shares as a trainer with new drivers at Prime. As a solo driver, he says he averages $4000-$7500/week [gross revenue] depending on how the loads run the proximity of delivery sites between pick up and drop off.
Before coming to Prime, Robert worked for 25 years in warehousing, so he has a good understanding of the shipping and receiving side of trucking. He has done it all – loading, unloading, reception, shipping and receiving, and describes coming to Prime as a career boost. He hopes to have a long career with Prime and eventually move to a position as fleet manager, a job for which he believes he is well qualified with his background in warehousing. Even so, he sees himself as continuing to learn every day on the most financially rewarding loads and freight lanes.
Robert has researched and thought about driving a truck for more than 20 years—according to him, since he was in the sandbox. He was influenced by the fathers of friends, who also drove a truck. He also credits his desire to drive to wanting to provide in the best way possible for his family.
Robert has three daughters – two he shares with his fiancée, ages 6- and 9-years-old. During the summer months, he does the best he can to arrange time to take them with him—something the girls really enjoy. When possible, he arranges loads with his family on the truck and they go on vacation together.
Robert stays connected with his loved ones in through his cell phone. When he’s not driving, he uses video chat and Facebook. His goal is to use a video camera focused on him while he’s driving (a vlog) allowing his family to see what he is doing while he’s driving without him seeing them, thus eliminating distractions for him while he’s on the road. He loves the idea of sharing his view from the road, including many of his scenic vistas, with his fiancée and daughters at home.
Reflecting on the lyrics of “Barbed Wire and Roses,” Robert acknowledges that “being a truck driver can ruin a family because if you’re not home, you miss out on so much.” He’s realistic about the challenges drivers face in staying connected with their loved ones, but continues to remain optimistic about ways to stay in touch.
Advice to New Drivers
Robert has trained close to 50 drivers, so he has had more than a few opportunities to pass along words of encouragement and wisdom to new drivers. Here are a few of his thoughts:
1) Use cameras, video chatting and even make a video diary to stay in touch with loved ones.
2) Budget time and finance for home time.
3) Let your family know how important they are to you. Robert has named his LLC after his three daughters.
4) Keep family members informed. Let them know what’s going on with you. Talk frequently.
5) Consider allowing your partner to handing the bookkeeping so you’ll both know what’s going on.
6) Stay flexible in your thinking and approach to the challenges you face, e.g., sometimes it’s possible to stop by for a brief visit with your kids when your route runs near home.
Larry Hinex describes himself as “a pretty simplistic guy,” driving for Prime with a goal of earning enough money to help his daughter, Jakeisha, who is in college pursuing a degree in a law-related field. Larry also has two sons, Larry and R.J., who are out on their own. He was born and raised in Oklahoma City. The day we spoke with him he was driving a flatbed truck loaded with water pipes somewhere in southern Texas.
Larry has been driving for Prime for nearly two years—his first experience as an over-the-road driver. He claims his Uncle Rick was his inspiration for truck driving. When he was a boy, his uncle took Larry and his dad along with him on a trip to Dallas. He recalls watching his uncle on that trip and thinking how “cool” he was talking on the CB and handling his rig. From that time on, he says, he had a secret desire to drive a truck. Finally, years later, with encouragement from a friend he overcame his fears and pursued his dream.
You might not expect someone who was once a personal trainer to choose driving an 18-wheeler as an occupation, but Larry says it’s possible to stay physically fit and he works hard to have a healthy lifestyle while on the road. Sometimes this means exercise he does by himself at a truck stop. Other times, it means parking near a gym or fitness club and taking advantage of the various machines and activities offered there. In fact, Larry reports finding his “sanity” and “peace of mind” in the gym. He acknowledges that even though he loves driving, it can sometimes be a lonely job. This is why he believes it’s so important for a driver to take care of himself physically, mentally, spiritually and relationally.
Maintaining a good relationship with his kids is also important to Larry. He’s home for a week about once a month. When he’s home, Larry enjoys hanging out with his kids watching a movie, going to the beach, or traveling to see things. One of his favorite memories occurred when his children were young and his daughter hooked a 70 lb. catfish near the Panama Canal. He still laughs thinking about that event. “Being former Navy,” he says, “I’m used to living in a lot of places. I don’t know how to sit down.”
When he’s on the road Larry frequently uses social media to help him to stay connected with his family. Even though his kids are grown and out on their own, he wants to be supportive of them. He sees cell phones, FaceTime, texting and Facebook Messenger as being critical to staying in touch with all of them.
When asked how he tries to be a good dad over the road, Larry responded, “Stay engaged. Stay Engaged. Stay engaged.” He also gave the following suggestions for maintaining overall well-being.
1) Find your peace while on the road. Do your best to stay physically fit. Make time to work out at your truck or in the gym if at all possible.
2) Read books. Larry recommends reading the Bible, among others.
3) Listen to YouTube. There are lots of interesting things to learn about.
4) When possible, attend a “Truck Driver Church.”
5) Hold yourself accountable to the goals you set for yourself and the kind of man you want to be.
When we caught up with Jacob he was driving his truck somewhere near Dixon, Tennessee in his home state. He told us he had been driving with Prime for 4 ½ years. Part of his job includes training student drivers. In fact, in 2016 Jacob was recognized by Prime as one of the finalists for their TNT Trainer of the Year Award. Jacob says he became a trainer to “payback,” to help new drivers like someone helped him.
Although Jacob likes the freedom associated with driving an 18-wheeler over-the-road, he is excited that his new Prime route will soon allow him to get home once a week. That’s where he catches up with Niki, his wife of 11 years, and their two daughters, Abby (5) and Riley (2).
We asked Jacob how his family felt about him driving “over-the-road.” He told us one big benefit for him and Niki was that the income he earned allowed her to quit her job and stay home with the children. He admitted it is a sacrifice not to be with them as much as he would like, but both Jacob and Niki feel it is worth it to have her with the children more of the time.
Staying Connected Over the Road
It’s not always easy to stay connected with your kids when you’re on the road, but Jacob is a big believer in using every electronic means possible. He says his kids love to video chat, e.g., through SnapChat, but Jacob has another unique means for staying connected with his girls.
In part, because he was training new drivers, Jacob developed his own YouTube channel, Prime Driver Jacob. In it, he gives instructions and encouragement to new drivers. He has a unique approach using hyper-lapse videos to capture what it’s really like to drive a truck over the road in all kinds of conditions. With more than 1500 followers, it is clear Jacob’s contribution is appreciated.
What My Dad Does
But Jacob’s videos serve another purpose, as well. As he drives down the road, he often talks to the camera about what he’s thinking and experiencing. The hyper-lapse approach allows him to capture a whole day of driving in just 30 minutes. Doing this, he hopes to communicate who he is and what he does to his daughters, especially since work requires that he spend time away from them.
“I want them to know, especially if something should happen to me, who I am and what I do,” he explains.
This became especially important to Jacob with the passing of his own father in April 2017.
Given all the means Jacob uses to stay connected with his family, it’s not surprising that he has the following words of encouragement for truck driving dads:
1. Stay connected with your family. It can get hectic. You may need to take time out. Remember family first.
2. Let your fleet manager know what’s going on with you. Communication is key with him and with the folks at home.