Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Annual Christmas Crisis -- Dr. Jennifer Baker, Good Dads Founder & Executive Director

Let’s face it. Celebrating the holidays can be very stressful and depending on your family’s background and traditions, the tension can last for weeks. Even if you are able to keep plans for your festivities reasonable, you still have to cope with the behavior and expectations of others. Just trying to find a parking place near your favorite store can be a hassle on December days when every space is taken. This kind of stress is peripheral to the pressure we may feel from family to perform in a certain way (gatherings, gifts, etc.) on specific days like Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Some folks I know spend a majority of their time shuttling their offspring between households of extended family regardless of weather conditions, sleeplessness and exhaustion because it is expected they will do so. A perfect storm of stressors begins to build for many families around this time of year and often reaches a boiling point right at the time we long to be “merry and bright.”
Christmas Amnesia
Because this “holiday hoe down” happens every year, we ought to be smarter about planning for it and preparing to alter the course of our behavior, but most of us don’t. Bill Doherty, author of The Intentional Family, refers to this phenomenon as “Christmas amnesia” and notes that it is akin to “women forgetting the pain of childbirth soon after delivery. It is an amnesia that helps to populate the earth and keep the tradition of family Christmas alive.” We could make plans to do things differently, to allow for demanding people and difficult situations, but we often disregard our discouragement, delay making plans to do something different, and delve back into the same dilemmas a year later. This year, why not plan to do something different.

Be Honest about Discouragements
There’s no time like the present to take a few notes about what discourages you most. You may not be able to extricate yourself from some holiday hassles this year, but the hope of doing something different next year can help sustain you. While the feelings and thoughts are fresh, write them down. This will be critical in March and April when Christmas amnesia is likely to set in. 

Plan Early to Do Something Different
You know that celebrating the holidays can have its anxious moments. You’re aware there are some people—often those to whom we’re related—who will be difficult. If you are the person in charge of seeing that the holiday happens for your clan (Doherty refers to you as the “Christmas Coordinator), then recognize you need help. The key to all these realizations is planning for changes before the season heats up and then letting others know early and often about the changes that will occur. What might that entail?

Developing Solutions for Old Dilemmas
If you are the Christmas Coordinator you’re very likely to assume a martyr role as the holiday approaches, doing more and enjoying it less, while your spouse and family sit on the sidelines and watch you work. Here are some suggestions to assist you in altering that behavior.

1)      Involve other by asking for help with specific tasks. 
         Instead of saying, “I need help with the shopping;” say “I need you to purchase the gifts for your brother and sister. I’ll give you the list at least six weeks in advance.”  Rather than bemoaning that you “always have to do all the decorating,” say “I need you to get all the boxes out of storage and set up the tree the day after Thanksgiving.” Others are much more likely to respond when they know exactly what they need to do to assist and how much time it might take.

2)      Respect the old, but try something new. As families grow they include others, e.g., a new brother-in-law or sister-in-law, who will have new traditions. Take the time to discover how they celebrate. Do they exchange names for gift giving versus buying something for everyone? Do they swap “white elephant” presents in lieu of something more serious? Consider how you might honor the traditions of new members while trimming back some of the old.

3)      Discuss gift exchanges and holiday travel well in    advance. 
        If you want to spend Christmas Eve or Christmas morning in your own home and this challenges the expectations of others, tell them early (e.g. in July) and often (repeated monthly if necessary) about your plans. Expect change back messages on the part of other when you do this, but hold firm.

It’s not easy to make changes in family routines and rituals, but it is possible. Challenge yourself to think about the memories you want both you and your loved ones to have as they recall Christmases past. Will what you’re doing now cause them to remember you more like the happy and fun-loving Buddy in the Christmas movie Elf or someone more akin to the Grinch who stole Christmas? It’s really up to you.

Merrily yours,

Dr. Jennifer Baker

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

What Are You Waiting For -- Dr. Jennifer Baker

Stella, age 4, can hardly wait until Christmas. She is hoping that Santa will bring her a "My Little Pony," preferably blue.

Her older sisters, age six, are hoping for new cowboy boots--the kind with lots of glitz and glitter that girls their age love to wear.
I bet most of us remember the longing we experienced as children, waiting what seemed like an eternity for that special day to arrive when we would receive the much anticipated gift we felt certain would be under the Christmas tree. In those days, most of us waited with some kind of certainty our wishes would be fulfilled. It just might take longer than we would like.

When we grow up, we still long for things but often with less certainty. Some of us long for a life partner; others for a child of their own. Some folks yearn for healing in a relationship, or for the return of a rebellious child, or even an end to chronic pain and suffering. When we wait for these kinds of things our waiting is much less certain. We're not at all certain our marriage will be healed, our child will return from his or her rebellious ways, or our family member will be reconciled. We don't know if we'll ever marry, we'll have a baby of our own, or the pain we're enduring will loosen its icy grip on our lives. When we wait for things like this, it's much harder to be hopeful. In fact, in the dark days of December when other people seem to be so "merry and bright," it can be even more difficult to experience the hopeful waiting that seems to be such a part of this season.

So what can be done? How can one wait hopefully and avoid a dreary descent into anger, bitterness and despair? When it comes to answering questions like these, I turn to people who seem to have done a much better job than I have . . . people who teach me what it means to wait with peace, patience and perspective. One such person is Cathy Tijerina.

Cathy writes the following:

     In September of 1991, I was twenty-four years old when I found myself trying to explain to my two and four year old sons why Daddy didn’t come home that day. “Prison” was a new word to define for my sons - a word that toddlers should not even know - yet here I was trying desperately to provide an explanation to them that would make sense without completely robbing them of their innocence. We were so sure that Ron was not going to be convicted of a crime he did not commit we had not even thought about telling our sons anything. Now, as I sat alone on the floor of our house, holding my sobbing, frightened children, I wondered how on earth our young family was going to make it through that night—let alone the next 14-25 years my husband was just sentenced.
     Little did I know that the devastation I felt as I walked out of the court house alone that day was just the beginning of a journey of pain, shame, disappointment and social shunning that my husband’s incarceration had created for my children and me. 

(See http://www.theridgeproject.com/#/about-us/ron-cathy-tijerina.)

Ron was released from prison after 15 years. He missed most of the growing up years for his sons--the birthdays, Christmases and graduations. While he was gone, Cathy functioned as a single parent, helping her children stay connected with their father through regular visits to the prison, keeping the faith that someday Ron would be released and they all would be together as a family. That time finally came in 2006, but in the interim both Ron and Cathy had to wait with a lot of uncertainty about the future. 
I thought of Cathy when I was driving to work one day week, wallowing in a bit of "December dreariness."  I reflected on all the Decembers she must have spent loading kids in and out of the car by herself, putting up a tree and holiday decorations by herself, shoveling snow and managing wintry weather conditions by herself while she waited for one day, some day, when she wouldn't have to do it all alone.

I know Ron and Cathy, have heard them speak on a number of occasions and talked with them in person. When I'm tempted to feel discouraged or sorry for myself, reflecting on their story gives me a great deal of hope. Here are some things I think they might tell you.

Faith makes a difference. Early in their experience of incarceration, Ron and Cathy became part of a faith community--Ron behind the walls, Cathy on the outside. They would tell you that their faith in God was transformative. They would also emphasize the importance of being associated with like-minded people. If one must persist and endure, waiting with the encouragement of others can be very helpful.

Look beyond yourself. In the first year or two of Ron's incarceration, Cathy began to look for meaningful support for someone like herself--a committed wife and mother who wanted to wait for her husband's release with patience and courage. She writes:

Ron continually inspired me and encouraged me that we COULD make a difference for all those who came behind us. I believed him, and we took on a new mission beyond just our own family. In 1993, we began with a program we developed called Keeping FAITH (now the Keeping Families And Inmates Together in Harmony program.) In this program, Ron mentored other men in prison, while I would meet with and encourage their families on the outside. This was the beginning of the Ridge Project. In 2000, while Ron was still incarcerated, we officially founded the Ridge Project. Ron continued to mentor incarcerated men, while I worked with their families, and I also began an after-school program to help at-risk or struggling youth. 

People forced to wait by a serious illness, marital discord, rebellious children and a host of other problems often report finding great meaning in looking beyond themselves to comfort and encourage others who are experiencing similar difficulties. This doesn't necessarily change the circumstances (Ron was still incarcerated for 15 years), but it brings meaning to suffering.
Enjoy the little things. Although I haven't heard Cathy or Ron say this specifically, I know from my contact with them that they are two of the most joyful people I know. They embrace life and enjoy each other. Their enthusiasm is infectious. One cannot help but be impacted by their presence. There's so much about which they might be bitter and angry, but they have chosen to focus on the good. I want to be more like them.

I confess to being a prone-to-impatience kind of person. Waiting is rarely easy for me. At the same time, I can see that watchful waiting, done in the right way, can soften us into more peaceable persons who bring joy and hope to others. Maybe that's what I'm waiting for this Christmas and I do think it's the kind of thing that's worth the wait.

Waiting with you,

Dr. Jennifer Baker

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Setting Limits -- Nixa Father of Three, Herb Cody

A few weekends ago, during a busy Saturday of shuttling my three kids from once place to another, my 13-year-old son asked if he could make himself some hot dogs. That was once less person I had to worry about feeding that afternoon, so I told him yes.  I went to pick up my 7-year-old, who was hungry and asking what he could eat. I told him what his brother had, and he was good with the same. When we got home, I began to look for the dogs in the fridge. They, however, were nowhere to be found. I asked my son what had happened to them. “I ate them!”, he replied. I could not believe it; he had eaten all six hotdogs. I asked him, “When have I ever made lunch, and served you six hot dogs?”, “Never!”, he sheepishly responded. 

I think one of our main responsibilities as parents is teaching our kids about limits. This applies to food, sports, relationships, money and material things. When I think about it, I’m constantly setting minimum/maximum limits with all three of my kids.

My youngest is a very picky eater, so I’ve found that if I give him a minimum amount of vegetables he has to eat before he gets dessert, he will try to complete the task. With the other two, I have to remind them there is only so much to go around, and there is a max number of tacos or burgers they can have. 

My daughter just recently began bowling more competitively. She practices a couple of hours almost every day, and the thing is, if it were up to her, she would spend her entire evening practicing after school and basketball practice. I have to explain to her, that while I love her commitment, I have to limit her time so that her school grades and family time are not put on the back burner. 

As we all know, teenagers want the newest and coolest shoes, clothes, video games or devices. While some of their friends may show up to school with the newest iPhone, or a $200 pair of shoes, I’ve made it clear to my kids I’ll keep them in style, but I won’t break the bank to do so. We are going to spend $50 on some jeans rather than $250, and put some money aside for a car, college or any other opportunities that may present themselves. 

I’ve found myself having to limit the amount of time my kids spend with certain friends. While I’m happy they have friends they enjoy being around, I also want them to explore relationships with more than just one or two people. Learning to handle all the different personalities of people, while they are young, will only benefit them as they become adults. 

When setting limits with small children, start small, set consequences that make sense to them, stick to those limits you’ve set, and try to keep your cool when those set limits are broken.

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 herbie05@yahoo.com. You can check out Herb's own blog at www.thecodylife.weebly.com

Monday, November 19, 2018

Setting Life Limits: Finances & Relationships -- Springfield Father of Three, Kevin Weaver

As Americans, we tend to proudly raise our children with the wonderful knowledge that ours is indeed a free country. From the time our offspring are preschoolers, we tell them they can be anything they want to be, do anything they want to do. It’s inspiring. It’s encouraging. However, while we all enjoy the freedoms afforded us by so many who have gone before us, as well as those serving our country today, the idea of telling our kids they can do anything they want needs to be a lesson learned with loving limits.

I’m not saying we squash our kids’ creativity, imagination, or desires to succeed. I’m just saying that while we gradually turn the keys of their lives over to them, we make sure they understand that the guardrails, caution signs, and even “highway patrolmen” are there for their well-being. While growing up, my wife and I loved to share with the boys a quote we picked up somewhere along the way, “Freedom doesn’t mean you should choose do what you want…rather it means you have the power and opportunity to choose what is right.”  That definition of freedom has gone a long way to shape their thinking as they walked through their formative years.

But, how do we raise children to become adults who greatly use and enjoy their freedoms, while simultaneously honor and appreciate them? Ironically, the word that must be coupled with freedom would appear to be its antagonist: limits. And I would like to add the adjective “loving” to the term limits. With some thought and care, we can teacher our kids the loving and beneficial limits to living free.

The current tenor of politics aside, two of the areas adults often see an abuse of freedom falls into those of finances and relationships. It’s easy to see how that happens in a culture in which we have a 20 trillion-dollar national debt and divorce statistics are at an all-time high.  But, what about on a “kid-level?” Shouldn’t these things be addressed early on, in order to give them the best tools and perspectives possible, later on? Let’s break it down, child-style.

Finances. I’m most certain that when our boys were small, they believed that as long as there were checks in Mommy & Daddy’s checkbook (remember those?) that there was a limitless amount of money in the bank. I chuckle to think of that, but then quickly remember that there are many college students who still think this way, and if that doesn’t change, they become adults who can never manage their finances, often experiencing unnecessary strain in an area they could have better controlled and subsequently enjoyed.  

So, what can we do? Well, perhaps we can start when they are little, giving them small tasks to mimic the actual work they will need to have one day, and also in giving them compensation for completing those tasks. Every family has to figure out the details of teaching kids financial management on their own. Every family values different things, and has to create their plan to instruct their kids. My wife’s parents didn’t drive the newest cars or believe in keeping up with the neighbors in fashion or “toys” (boats, motorcycles, etc.), but they were very committed to family vacations and their children’s educations. On the latter, that did not mean they could select any college in the land, but with planning and preparation, some financial support would be there to assist them. 

When it came time to raise our own family, my wife and I decided that vacations and family experiences were of the most importance, but we encouraged the boys to find ways to pay for their own education. In addition, they paid for their own cars, taxes, tags, and insurance. Friends of ours often gasped at the concepts, but our now grown sons constantly are telling us that they are so glad they learned the power and reward of hard work and responsibility, early on.  All of this to say, we would never let them starve in college, or leave them stranded with a blown-up engine on the highway, but figuring out how to teach our kids the limits of financial freedom . . . with love . . . is critical.

The other area of understanding loving limits, greatly affects our children’s relationships. With ever-increasing instances of bullying and the rhetoric in our nation via social media and politics, it is more important than ever to help our kids understand the responsibility they have to others in relationships. While I believe relationships are far more important than finances, I can boil it down in a far more succinct manner. Quite simply: we must model and guide our sons and daughters to enter into relationships understanding that they need to care for the other people in them as much as they do themselves. 

Ultimately, they need to value themselves, especially when a relationship turns unhealthy or potentially harmful to them, and also value others. How do you pass that on?  One easy to understand paradox we tried to pass along to our boys.  When you care about others, and serve others needs before your own, it pays dividends that are priceless.  A lesson we can all practice a little more I think!

Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at kweaver@network211.com

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Lifelong Memories -- Paul Windisch, Nixa Dad of One

Do you ever wish you could remember more things about your life when you were little?
I am a father to one son named Hayden.  He’s 8.  I’m 48.  Yes, I’m the “older dad.”  But being older, I believe it has caused me to not take for granted this amazing gift that God has given us. 

Since he was born, I have wanted to make absolutely sure that I cherished every moment with my son.  Sure, I have moments when he drives me crazy, moments when we argue, moments when I have screwed up and said things that I should not have said to him.  In those times when I’ve messed up, I’ve made sure to tell him I was wrong, I made a mistake, and I’m sorry.  (I believe it’s good for children to see their parents mess up, and then humble themselves and apologize.) 

But the majority of the time, I do my best to make sure my son realizes that he is one of the greatest things that has ever happened in my life. 

I believe one of the main reasons that I try so hard to spend as much quality time with Hayden, is because I lost both of my parents when I was in my mid 30’s.  I took for granted the time I had with them, while they were here.  For the last 13 years, I’ve deeply missed having them around.  Especially the last 8 years with my son, and all we’ve experienced.  

One of the small things I miss the most is simply not being able to ask my parents about certain things from my childhood that I can’t remember, so I can share those stories with my son.

For Hayden, that won’t be a problem when he is grown up.  Thankfully, a dear friend of mine gave me the idea of writing in a journal every day, once my son was born. 
For the first 5 years of his life, I added to this journal every day.  Whether it was something he did that day, something that was going on in my life, something big that happened in the world, simple words of wisdom, or even just telling him I thanked God for him that day … I typed into that journal every single day. 

The last few years, I still add things, but it’s not every day.  Mainly big things that happen, that he’ll want to remember. 

I now have 351 pages of memories in this journal that he’ll be able to look back through when he is older. 
For the dads reading this who have babies or young children, I encourage you to start a journal.  I believe it will be one of the great gifts that your children will treasure as an adult. 

For those of you with grown children, I encourage you to spend more time talking with your kids about memories from their childhood.  It will be quality time that they (and you) will love.  

Some of us put so much pressure on ourselves to be great parents, that we set unrealistic expectations that we can usually never achieve.  But when I think about it, my greatest memories of my dad are simply the times he spent one on one quality time with me.  It didn’t even really matter what we were doing.  I just knew I was enjoying it and so was he. 

Spending undistracted, engaged, quality time with your children is the best thing you can do.  And it’s these times that will create amazing lifelong memories for your child, and for you.

Paul and his wife Christie are parents of one son.  They enjoy being at the lake every chance they get, being involved in Hayden’s sports, and serving at their church in Nixa, The Bridge.  Paul worked in the Media Industry in southwest Missouri for 20+ years and has recently started a consulting business.  He can be reached for questions or comments at paul.windisch@sbcglobal.net   

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Women of Steel(man) -- The Women Behind the Men of Steelman Transportation

Women of Steel. That’s what you might call the seven women gathered for lunch on a chilly November afternoon to talk about what it’s like to be married to a long-haul driver. Debra, Alika, Brandy, Terry, Melissa and Melanie—that’s who sat at the table. Donna joined us by phone. Their stories and histories vary, but the one thing they all have in common is their love and commitment to a man who drives an 18-wheeler. In this instance, all the men drive a flatbed trucks for Steelman Transportation, a trucking company located in Springfield, Missouri.

Terry Hayden: Terry’s husband has driven a truck for more than 40 years. She lived on the truck with him until family issues took her off the road. In fact, Terry worked as a certified driver herself for eight years. These days she says, “We talk all the time and use video chat.” She feels better knowing that her husband has his dog “right there in the truck with him.”

Theresa Greenland, aka Alika: Alika’s husband, Alan, has been driving on and off for 15 years, the past three for Steelman. She, too, uses video chat to stay in touch with her husband. She also has lived on the truck, but had to come off the road do to health issues. She describes life on the truck, “as a great adventure.” “Where else,” she asks, “could you get to see as much of the country as you can from the cab of a truck?”

Debra Hill:  Debra’s husband, Michael, has been driving for more than 20 years—the last three months with Steelman. Debra says she and Michael “talk on the phone a lot. Between the two of us, we have seven kids—all boys.” They are also grandparents to six grandchildren.

Brandy Howe: Brandy’s husband, Paul has been driving for 10 years – the first two with the military and the last eight with Steelman. The couple has two older children, 21 and 16. They expect the arrival of a new baby girl in the spring to change some things about the way they communicate, especially since they prefer talking on the phone to video chatting. When the baby arrives, Brandy predicts they will be using video chatting a lot more often.  

Donna Harper: Donna’s husband, Johnny, has been driving for 20 years. She believes it’s critical that to be “100% supportive of what he’s doing. If he is to be successful in his work, he must have support at home.”

Melissa Vaughn: As the newest member of the Women of Steel, Melissa has been with her boyfriend on the truck for two months. She sees her life at this point as an exciting journey and looks forward to what each new day will bring.

Melanie Borden: Melanie has been married to her husband, Paul, for 40 years. He’s been driving over the road since 2004, and she’s worked for Steelman Transportation since 2005. The couple has adult children and four grandchildren. “The honeymoon happens,” she says, “when he comes home. In between times, I can get my house clean and my life in order. Then he comes home and we have wonderful chaos.”

What It Takes to be a Woman of Steel
None of the Women of Steel I met would say that being the woman behind the man on the road is easy, but all can tell you how important their role is to their partner’s success.
“I love YouTube,” claims Brandy. “I’ve learned a lot of ways to fix things at home on my own so that when he comes off the road he can enjoy himself and relax.”
The other women agreed with Brandy listing the wide variety of things they handle so “he doesn’t have to worry about them.” These include handling all the financials (bills, child care, child support) and house and home repairs. They reason their driver does better when he knows, “she’s got it under control.”

“Sometimes,” they say, “we just do it (fix something) and then tell him. This way he doesn’t have to worry.”

“It’s important to keep the home stress at a minimum, so they can focus on driving.”
Alika says, “I even buy his groceries for the truck so that when he’s home, he doesn’t have to think about doing that.”

Perhaps because of the shared experience the typical non-driving family might not understand, the women all expressed a close connection to Steelman and described their relationship “like family.” They said they have experienced a very welcoming environment, emotional support in hard times, and sensitivity to their partner’s desire to be home for special family events.

They’ve also reached out to other women with OTR (over-the-road) partners. Donna started a group on Facebook for Trucker Wives who want to support their driver and each other, “Trucker Wives Who Support Their Truckers and Each Other”. She believes the shared “adventure of the road” brings us all together. “Some women,” she says, “have messaged me and asked for input.” She believes it is critical for the women at home to have relationships with people who can relate positively.

Challenges for Women of Steel
Not surprisingly, extended time a part from each other is one of the biggest challenges these women face. They caution against being resentful about being alone and note that their partner is alone, too, on the truck. “He spends long hours by himself,” they explain. “That’s why communication is a big thing.”

Women of Steel also worry about their men. “Is he safe?” they wonder, as one of them describes how hard the job is. She has read that driving a truck over the road is more dangerous than being a fire fighter. “People don’t respect that,” she says. “They don’t know what a hard job it is.”

Becoming a Woman of Steel
It takes time to adjust to life on and off the road. According to the Women of Steel, “Flexibility is key.” They also emphasize how important it is to have “trust in and believe in each other.” When it comes to their partner’s job, they stress, “It’s important to remember they drive because they want to take care of their family.”

Donna offers, “Even when he can’t be home, try and include him as much as possible. Talk with him about what’s going on. And do fun things!” Donna and her husband have even done something she refers to as “truck karaoke” to have a good time together even while separated by distance.

While some of the women have lived on the truck with their partner, most have not. Even so, all recommend spending some time on the truck, e.g., a week or two. “They spend a lot of time alone,” they explain. “Keeping them company helps you understand what they do and helps them feel supported.”

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Talk -- Nixa Dad of Three, Herb Cody

I am a husband, father of three, and two-time communicator of, “The Talk.” My oldest, and only daughter is now 15, while my middle child, and oldest son, is 13. My first experience of trying to have “The Talk” was more about me “finding an app for that.” I downloaded it to my iPad, had her watch it, then come to me with any questions. Thankfully, I did not have to answer anything too hard. With my son, I felt more comfortable, and it was much easier to discuss . . . at least for me. 

I feel like the schools do an outstanding job of teaching them a lot of the information they need, at the Junior High level. Unfortunately, there is much more they need to learn, in this new day and age of internet and devices.

I’ve had many conversations with my daughter regarding chatting with strangers on social media or other apps. I’ve also had to explain to her, beginning in 7th grade, that she has to respect herself and not send inappropriate photos/texts, just because a cute or popular boy is asking for this stuff. Several students in her junior high were busted for sending and sharing nude photos when she was in 7th grade. Thankfully, she was unaware of it and not involved. I do my best to keep an open line of communication with her, and not freak out when she comes to me about any sensitive subject matter. 

With my boys, I just want to make sure they know to always respect girls and women in every way. I have warned my 13-year-old against asking for inappropriate images. I tell him not to do or ask for anything that he wouldn’t want asked of or done to his sister. When the time comes, I’ll go through all of this again with my youngest, who is now seven. 

There is so much more out there to protect our children from and against than when I was a teen in the early ‘90’s. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with periodically checking their devices or rooms. This is something I am up front with them about. I know one day they will look back and understand why their Dad was so protective and in their business, seemingly all of the time. 

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 herbie05@yahoo.com

You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.weebly.thecodylife.com.

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Days are Long and the Years are Short -- Dennis Wiggins, Springfield Father of Two

My wife Jill and I have been married for almost 22 years and have two teenage boys. Hayden is 15 and a sophomore at Kickapoo High School and his brother Caleb is a 13-year-old 8th grader at Cherokee Middle School. When we look back it has all gone by so fast. People always tell you it will but, when you are living it every day it can be just a blur. From changing diapers, learning to talk and walk, sports, homework, church and now soon to be drivers and girlfriends, WOW what just happened!

When I think of all the conversations we’ve had with our boys over the years it’s amazing. We’ve always tried to be open and honest with them, but also tried to keep it age appropriate. Sometimes you can offer up too much information when all they are really after is just a simple answer to satisfy their curiosity. But there are times they can go deep with their inquiries.

I remember when Hayden was younger and an early riser like me (but now that he’s a teenager sleeping in is a common occurrence). Most Saturday mornings while Jill and Caleb were still asleep we’d going riding around together—no real destination just coffee for me and maybe some breakfast for both of us. We’d talk about all kinds of things just as they came up while we were cruising around town for an hour or two. It was just simple basic stuff, but what great memories for me and hopefully for him. I think most of the time he taught me more than I taught him. Kids have a way of breaking it down and keeping simple; adults tend to complicate things. Remember everything we need to know we learned in kindergarten and kindness matters.

This past summer I had the chance to drive to several baseball tournaments with Caleb. Just me and him while Jill was running with Hayden to his baseball games. Divide and conquer. Those of you with kids involved in various activities know what it’s like. It was a blessing to me to get to spend more time with him. Talking, (listening to music most of it his, but some of mine too), and staying in a hotel together as roommates. While I like to watch him play and compete to watch how he responds to and handles game situations, e.g., winning and losing I was most proud of him as a teammate and watching him develop and gain confidence in himself. Now when I hear some of the songs it brings back memories of the summer road trips together.

Lots of our conversations with the boys now have to do with sex, drugs, alcohol, death, friends and even politics. It’s grown up stuff that sometimes I don’t always understand or have all the answers. But together Jill and I do our best to have a discussion to help them think through it and hopefully make good decisions. They must understand the consequence and the impact it will have on their future and career opportunities. We sometimes hear the locker room language during the sex talks. All the things they hear on the bus at school on social media and even on TV or YouTube. It’s sure not Leave it to Beaver anymore with Ward and June explaining things the Wally and Theodore.

I think it is extremely important to include Jill in the conversations as they happen, although she would sometimes like to bow out. When the topic of sex comes up she’ll roll her eyes or give a heavy sigh and ask, “Do I really need to be part of this?” I feel they need a woman’s perspective. It’s important to hear from their mom what girls think and feel about boys and men.

Death is another topic we’ve always been very open about with our boys. We’ve lost close family members and friends over the years. When my brother battled leukemia several years ago and finally died in 2010 we included the boys in our regular visits with him and openly discussed his disease with them. They really seemed to understand it more at times than we gave them credit.

Communication is key. It is so important in any family or organization to have open, honest and respectful conversations. Not that we are experts. It can get heated in our household at times. Tempers flare at times with teenagers. My wife is good about making sure we eat together regularly as a family. And when we go out to dinner NO cell phones are allowed. It works most of the time.

Having frequent conversations is so important. You don’t always have to have an agenda. Just make sure you take the opportunities to talk when they arise, and they will. I know they often do around our house and especially when driving in our vehicles. And remember to listen to our kids. They will tell us what they want to know and they can teach us lessons. I know my boys do all the time.

Dennis and his wife, Jill, are the parents of two sons. When not staying engaged with his sons and their schedules, Dennis volunteers time as a Good Dads Board member. He can be reached for question or comment at dennis.a.wiggins@gmail.com.