Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Good Bye to Summer


Sometimes parents welcome it, while it seems that almost always, children dread it. What am I talking about? The end of summer. To parents, it can signal the conclusion of finding babysitters, refereeing a staggering number of fights, and answering the question, “What can I do today?” To children, it most certainly signals carefree days morphing into those filled with early mornings, rigor, and homework.

As the “golden months” come to a close, making way for the busyness of fall, families often are also left to deal with a myriad of “guilt” or “grief” types of emotions. For instance, if summer didn’t quite go as planned - the trips were canceled, or the family time parents over promised just didn’t happen - guilty angst can creep into a mom or dad’s heart. On the other hand, if the summer was especially sweet, instead of being grateful for the time spent, resentment can set in at the thought of the “back to school” commitments that tend to pull families in a myriad of directions.

How can families make the transition from summer to fall in the best, most painless ways possible? Our family certainly did not perfect this transition, but in the 22 years in which we were annually sending someone “back to school,” we did find some things that helped.


One thing we found that enabled us to run a bit smoother when summer stopped and school started, was the effort of preparing ourselves before we prepared our kids. My wife would laugh and say, “Well, babe! School starts in a few weeks, so time to get the pen, calendar, and checkbook out!” The amount of scheduling, paperwork, and fees that hit parents of only one child can be daunting, but throw some more kids into the mix, and you very quickly can feel buried and broke. We gave ourselves notice to get ready. We tried to look at the budget and make accommodations for the activity, sports, music, and materials’ costs, often for three, teenage boys. Oh, and did I mention lunch money? For three, teenage boys? You bet we had to plan for that one! 

My wife was the master planner when it came to the kids, and would make sure that the huge (but somehow stylish) dry-erase wall calendar with the markers in colors for each family member, was ready to be filled in as soon as the school schedules started coming home. She also set up a filing crate, in which each boy had separate files for the portions of syllabi that didn’t have to be signed and returned to school. Also into the crate went copies of upcoming class project expectations (much needed in order to avoid late night poster board runs!), or team and class phone trees. My wife would tell you that she is a pretty free-spirited, easy-going person, and that is the very reason why she needed systems. It’s hard enough to get back into the swing of school. Most of us parents know it’s even harder when forms are lost and kids miss first practices.

After parents fully realize summer is winding down and fall is just around the corner, it’s time to prep the kids. There are some youngsters who enjoy heading back to school. Having both grown up in the country, my wife and I were always somewhat eager for fall, just to (pre-cell phone and social media) connect with our friends again on a daily basis. But, most kids have a hard time getting back into the routine. It isn’t easy, but aiming for earlier bedtimes as the summer months begin to wane is a great thing to strive for. In addition to that, setting aside some one-on-one time with each child to discuss or address fears or concerns he or she may have about the upcoming school year can be very comforting and reassuring. Especially if they are transitioning to Jr. High, High School or even College.


There are many things parents and children can do together, as well as individually, to send summer off into the sunset well. And you never know...there may be some leftover fireworks from the 4th of July to really make it feel like a celebration. The bottom line...be intentional. Intentionality always seems to open the door to smoother transitions.  Have a happy fall!

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 kweaver@network211.com

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Making Friends/ Good Friends -- Springfield Dad & Grandfather Mark Mildren


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 mark@gooddads.com.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Saying "Good Bye" to Summer -- Jeffrey Sippy, Springfield Dad-in-Training


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:     

1.      Relax and enjoy special times just as they are.  Never try to do more or make more of a moment than what it is.
    
2.      Ask your children what they most enjoyed.  Listen.  Make a date of it.  A souvenir, a scrapbook, or a photo can make a summertime memory last forever.
      

3.      Plan for a similar time for the winter – a Thanksgiving trip, a Christmas vacation, or some other time 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 jsippy@rlcmail.org



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Dark and Other Great Stories -- Dr. Jennifer Baker


It's summer in the Midwest and it's hot. That's really not unusual, but sometimes parents run short of ideas to keep their kids happy and occupied, especially by the end of long, steamy days. It's easy to sit them in front of a screen of some sort, but I'd like to recommend you end your day with a good book or two. Even children who can read enjoy being read to, and summer is a great time to create memories by diving into new books. Imagine the excitement of reading a "thriller" by flashlight on the patio, deck or porch.


The Dark, written by Lemony Snicket, features Laszlo, a little boy who is afraid of the dark. Laszlo knows the dark lurks in any number of places in his house, but especially in the cellar. One night, after his nightlight goes out, Laszlo plucks up his nerve, takes his flashlight and heads to the cellar to meet the dark. You’ll have to get the book to find out what happens, but let’s just say that my four-year-old granddaughter was spell-bound as Laszlo inched down the steps toward the dark.


In fact, the look on her face was something akin to what you might see on an adult’s face in the midst of a mystery thriller movie. I won’t spoil the ending, but I am happy to say the book reached a satisfying conclusion. My granddaughters and I learned something about the thrill of a good book, while also getting some insight into the importance of facing our fears.

I wish more of us could read The Dark and other good children’s books. If we did, we might better remember what we once knew as children and have somehow forgotten as adults. Take, for example, the lesson of The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen.

The pout-pout fish appears to have a problem with a bad attitude. He’s a glass-half-full kind of guy. Ever know anyone like that? Lots of folks try to cheer him up, but he continues to insist, “I’m a pout-pout fish with a pout-pout face. So I spread the dreary-wearies all over the place.” The grand-boys loved this book, and wanted me to read it over and over.

The book is fun. The words rhyme and the illustrations are terrific, but dealing with a pouty person on a regular basis is not. What do you do if you’ve got a “pout-pout fish” in your home or workplace who appears resistant to any and all efforts to bring a smile to his face? I can’t tell you, but the book will. The book even may help you if you are prone to being a pout-pout fish yourself. Check it out.


There’s a lot about adult life that is serious—very serious. The events headlined in the evening news remind us all too well of just how brief and tenuous life can be. With that in mind, how would you like to spend the precious time allotted to you? Do you want fear to be the focus of your days? Can you really change the future by worrying? Will a frown on your face change the outcome of a potential bad event? Probably not! None of us knows the length of our days, but when I come to the end of mine I hope I will have filled as many moments as possible with the joy of ordinary things—things like enjoying a good tickle.



The Tickle Monster, by Josie Bissett, gives you lots of ideas for tickling someone you love.


If we tickled more and fought less would the world be a better place? I think it probably would. It seems we all knew this as children. Perhaps if we read children’s books more often we would remember it as adults.

Dr. Jennifer Baker, the founder and director of Good Dads, is the wife of one, the mother of two the the grandmother of eight. She can be reached for question or comment at jennifer@gooddads.com.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Freedom Isn’t Free -- Springfield Dad, Kevin Weaver


July is not just the golden month of summer for most families. Golden in that it is the one month, nationwide, when most schools are guaranteed not to be in session… whatsoever. But, July is also “firecracker” month, the month we gather, cook out, and blow things up to the squealing delight of young and old, alike. The month we celebrate our nation’s freedom.

Although I did serve four years in the US Air Force in the early to mid 1980’s, by the time I met my wife and we started our family, I was in a completely different line of work.  However, early on my wife and I agreed that it was important for our boys, growing up in a country in which it would be so easy to casually enjoy so many freedoms, to somehow learn to understand and truly appreciate sacrifice. In particular, the sacrifices made by countless men, women, and family associated with our Armed Forces.

Regardless of what side of the political aisle people are from, most Americans seem to be on the same side when it comes to supporting our service men and women. Sadly, this has not always been the case, as a few of us are just old enough to remember the tragic treatment of soldiers coming home from Vietnam. But, in the past 20 years, remembering what it is to honor those who give so much – sometimes even giving all – appears to be trending.

From the time our sons could talk, we taught them to recognize service members, identify the various branches, and to always express their gratitude for the sacrifice of any patriot they might happen across. One of our sons was painfully shy and struggled even speaking to most of our extended family and close friends. But just like his brothers, he lit up when he saw a soldier, and would boldly express his thanks. Maybe he somehow knew, even at an early age, stepping out of a social comfort zone was nothing in comparison to a young man or woman willing to step into a combat zone.

As the boys hit their tweens, we began watching various war films and documentary series. These things always served as springboards to lengthy discussions regarding the things that lead to such conflicts, as well as the many brave current and historical figures that fight and have fought in them. In time, real-life heroes such as Captain Dick Winters from Easy Company replaced superheroes such as Batman from Gotham City. Oh, they were still very typical 21st Century kids who argued with each other over whose turn it was to empty the garbage, but they were daily growing in their appreciation of those willing to be so unselfishly, incredibly uncomfortable for the rest of us to live in comfort.

Today, a small flag with two, blue stars hangs in a front window of our home. In the 1940’s, pretty much any American would have understood what that flag represented. But in 2017, a little past the 4th of July holiday, many mistake it for festive d├ęcor that we merely forgot to take down. Regardless, the flag stays up. And we pray each day that the stars stay blue. Because those blue stars represent two-thirds of our offspring, now-grown men, who appreciated the sacrifices made for their freedoms to the point that they felt they could do nothing but be willing to make the same sacrifices. We didn’t push them to become Army officers, just as we didn’t push our oldest son to go into the same occupation that I currently am in. We didn’t paint pictures of war being glorious, we shutter at the thought of them being harmed or killed, and dislike not seeing any of them as much as we would like.

But, we are thankful that they understand the cost of freedom. And we are proud that they are willing to pay the price.


We celebrate the 4th of July once a year, but may we daily appreciate our freedom.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Importance of Granddads -- Springfield Grandfather, Mark Mildren


I have been a grandfather for five years now. I got a little later start than other grandfathers, but eventually my kids came through and now I have three grandchildren ages five, three, and 9 months –two boys and a girl. I hope that I can be as good of a granddad as mine were to me.                                             

One grandfather died just before I was born. His wife was my grandmother Susie. I didn’t spend a lot of time with her, so I never knew her well. But my grandparents on my mother’s side were wonderful! I knew they loved me and enjoyed spending every moment with me when we were together. They taught me many things: stories about my family’s history, having a sense of humor, the love of Missouri and the importance of grandparenting. One of the simplest pleasures they instilled in me is the love of just sitting on a porch watching the day go by.
               
On my two week visits every summer with them in Neosho, we would spend hours on their front porch in the evening. Two of us would be in the porch swing, and one would sit in a folding chair nearby. We watched the goings on of their neighborhood, and we talked. Conversation never lagged. My grandmother loved poetry and as a girl and college student, memorized numerous poems which she recited to me. One in particular, fascinated me: the Ballad of Little Orphan Annie. It was spell-binding and a little scary. When they both went to work in the morning and I was left alone, I would spend a considerable amount of time in their porch swing.
               
Eventually, they left their small home and moved into a high-rise senior living apartment. They didn’t have a porch, so they didn’t need the swing anymore, but I couldn’t let it go. I brought it home with me. When I built a small log cabin from scratch, I put the swing up and found a new, pleasurable use for it. To sit in the swing brought back precious memories for me with my grandparents, and a new reason to enjoy the view from the cabin porch of the surrounding woods.
               
At our former home in West Plains we had a front and a back porch. I utilized them both. Before going to work, I would take a cup of coffee and my devotional books and read them quietly on the back porch. The back porch was raised off the ground, and had an amazing tree that wrapped around the porch on two sides. It was like a tree house. The 20 minutes alone in spiritual preparation made my day go better.
               
Now I live in Springfield and am retired. I have a covered porch in the back of the house where I now like to spend quiet time. I still do my morning devotions with a cup of coffee in hand. I have a beautiful back yard where the trees and shrubs screen out the neighbors. I watch the birds come to the feeders and the birdbath. It is quiet and peaceful and I find I can sit there for long periods of time without any difficulty. When we have company we eventually end up on the back porch for some good conversation. I trace my love of sitting on porches back to my grandparents. I remember the hours I spent with them fondly. One of the reasons I loved them so much was because of the time they shared with me in just sitting and talking.
               


One of the major decisions my wife and I made when we retired is to spend more time with our family and the grandkids. Both of us are making a conscious decision to become the grandparents to our grandkids that our grandparents were to us. We want to be familiar faces to them. We want them to grow up loving us, as we love them. We freely make this choice knowing that doing so will broaden their family experience, connect them to their own family history, and help their mothers and fathers reinforce solid values of faith and morals. And who knows, maybe we’ll produce another generation of porch sitters!

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 mark@gooddads.com.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Freedom Isn't Free -- Jeffrey Sippy, Dad in Training

Clayton Sippy -- Software Developer, O'Reilly Automotive, Springfield, MO

My dad was a Good Dad even if he seemed backwards and out of touch at times.  When I graduated from high school in 1978 my dad said, “Well, son, you will never sleep for free again.” 

These were shocking words to me. I was a guy who had been spoon fed most of his life.  It sounded like free was disappearing for me. 

My dad went on to explain.  “You can join the service, go to college, get an apartment, or pay room and board.”  All of these options were going to cost me something. 

I opted for the room and board.  It was a painful $75 a month but considerably less than my mortgage today.   

In truth, nothing is free.  An education is not free.  Service to your country is not free.  An apartment or house is not free.  Nothing is free.  And Freedom itself is not free, either. Freedom costs us all.  If we will not pay the cost of freedom then we will pay the higher cost of slavery to ourselves and to disappointment.  
    
Aaron Sippy, Project Engineer, United Rotary Brush, Lenexa, KS

Nothing is free; not even freedom itself.  Children who are not taught this will become greatly disadvantaged.  They will become self-centered and entitled children who grow up to be angry and hopeless.  They will blame others for the circumstances of life they cannot manage or negotiate.  They will talk about how unfair life is and how stupid others are.   

Sadly, self-centered and entitled children are the uneducated ones.  What appears to be unfair is nothing other than poor education and equipping.     

Life is not fair all the time.  This doesn’t mean it is bad.  It took my son six months to get his first job.  Is this fair?  It’s life.  In contrast, my dad was out of work a half a dozen times during my childhood – sometimes months at a time.  Both of them adjusted to their situation.    
     
True freedom costs everyone.  We all must sacrifice and give in to enjoy the freedom we desire.  Or we all become slaves.  One person’s freedom should never be at the expense of another person’s freedom. 

Jason Sippy, Project Engineer, Mastercraft, Springfield, MO

For freedom to prevail we must defeat the oppressive enemy of our own selfish and entitled ways.  We must surrender ourselves to the greater good of a free society.  One person’s freedom of speech does not give him the right to yell “fire” in a theatre or to call another person a racially or sexually charged insult or name.  The freedom of religion guarantees all people the freedom of religion whether someone else’s religion is the same as yours or not.        

It is not easy being a Good Dad and it is not easy teaching your children good things.  Freedom is not a matter of doing whatever you want, whenever you want.  Rather, freedom is the power and the courage to do what is right.   

Nothing in life is free – not even freedom itself.  And that’s o.k. 


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 jsippy@rlcmail.org