Byron's Babbles

Linked Lives

Linked Lives: Dad & Man

You all know I am a very reflective person. Holidays always seem to become days of reflection for me. On this Fourth if July holiday I am reflecting about my son growing up, our relationship changing from dad and lad to dad and man, and whether my dad knew how great a job he did for prepping me for life and how much I appreciated it. Circumstances have allowed me to get to be at my son’s house in Madisonville, Kentucky near where he is interning for Cal-Maine Foods, every weekend for the past five weekends in a row. Dream come true, because I love spending time with the boy, now man. I make a point of saying, man now, because he is just that. And what’s more the father-son links are now converting to an adult relationship and I am loving every minute of it. Everyone who knows me knows how close Heath and I are. I’m always in a funk for a couple of days after spending time with him.

Last weekend I had the chance to meet my son’s boss and have a great conversation. In the course of the conversation he gave me one of the greatest compliments a dad could hear. He said that he could tell how close Heath and I were and that I had not left raising him and giving him the experiences necessary to succeed in life to anyone else. He said, “All the responsibility you gave him and the modeling you did for him on the farm growing up has prepared him for this moment and his life’s work (I just teared up repeating that). I quickly deferred much of the credit to Hope, my wife and Heath’s mother, but then was very thankful that he recognized that. When Heath was born, I made a commitment that I was going to spend every moment I could with him – and I did. I had watched other people leave much of this responsibility to grandparents or hired people and I just wasn’t going to do that. I know some very wealthy and allegedly successful people who never really got to know their kids. Sad! I am so blessed to have taken Heath on so many FFA trips with me and all the time we spent working side-by-side here on the farm. Some said it was too early to have him in Washington D.C. at six months old or out helping me with horses and livestock from the time he could walk, but the research would now suggest I was on to something. My goal was to have had him in all 50 states by the time he graduated high school. We did not quite make that goal but have made it to 46 and Canada twice. This year is his senior year in college, so I have a year to get him to Utah, Idaho, New Mexico, and Alaska before he graduates from college.

Please do not take this post as a criticism of others’ parenting because it is not meant to be. It is meant to highlight the concept of “linked lives” introduced in Parent Nation: Unlocking Every Child’s Potential, Fulfilling Society’s Promise by Dr. Dana Suskind. All members of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) were given the opportunity to receive a copy of the book. So glad I got my copy! I am reading the book right now and have been inspired, as a policymaker and education leader, to want to shepherd and cheerlead the concepts introduced in the book. For example, I was recently told that some schools no longer allow their agriculture teachers to take their own children on trips. This would have seriously limited my time with Heath. At a time when teachers a seriously exploring alternative career options, shouldn’t we be finding (exploring) ways to help our teachers stay linked to their own children? In the book Dr. Suskind said, “The lives of children and parents are intertwined” (p. 139). As a policy-maker I recommit to doing all I can to create environments where parents can be all they can be. I hear parents say they appreciated the extra quality time that they had during the pandemic. Let’s learn from this and find creative/flexible ways to help.

Also, we need to think both quantity and quality. More time with our kids is great, period. So that is a start, but quality of that time really thinking about brain development is also critical. I think back to my own upbringing by two of the greatest parents of all times. I was linked to their lives. Dr. Suskind also said, “The experiences we have in childhood, as mediated by our parents, will be reflected in much of what happens years later” (p. 139). At my mom’s passing I blogged about our link in Leadership Lessons From My Mom and I am reflecting on my dad this morning and all he did to prepare me for all the moments I have been blessed with; including raising an incredible lad turned man. My dad passed away when I was 25. My hope on this holiday morning is that he knew the great job he had done at linking our lives.

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