A few weeks ago I experienced a rather unusual night of party hopping that included seeing John Ondrasik (aka. Five for Fighting) live at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. In addition to being utterly moved by the musical experience itself, I also was touched by John’s clear love for his family (exemplified when he explained the inspiration for various songs). Thanks to the lovely Barbara Jones, I met John after the show, at which time he kindly offered to pen a guest blog post on Boston Mamas. In particular, I was curious about John’s best strategies for staying connected with his family while on the road; an issue I discuss with many parents who travel for work. Read on for John's advice on this topic:
From John Ondrasik:
I have the two best jobs in the world. Around 8pm every night I realize my childhood dream as a touring singer/songwriter. The gig takes me to venues across the country and allows me to share a common experience with old fans and new. When it works, there's nothing better. Well, there's one thing better, and that's my other job...Daddy.
As a father to a nine-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter, I'm smack in the parental golden age and I know it! And here's the rub: with two amazing, inquisitive, competitive, and (mostly) innocent no longer babies, it's rough being on the road, again.
Many families face this reality, especially our troops, who are away from home for months on end. We mom’s and dad’s learn to treasure every car pool wait line, soccer net take down, and late night burger run. I was asked if I have any tips for my fellow parental road warriors. Here are a few:
1. Believe the Skype! Video conferencing is as crucial to the traveling parent as the babysitter is to the work-at-homer. Being able to see as well as talk to Daddy is huge for my kids’ psyches. I try to call around the same time each night and spend both group and one-on-one time. My daughter enjoys a tour of my hotel room and my son digs the up close eyeball-in-the-camera gag. Skype also is free once you have an Internet connection, so set up the monopoly board and buy some houses!
2. Pen Pals. Exchange the written word! I get more insight into my children’s lives through their letters than any conversation. It’s cathartic for both sides and sneaky bonus writing practice. E-mails are fine but throw in some handwritten letters as well. They can be re-read when needed, and age better than your favorite Amarone.
3. Stay Engaged. When I’m out for weeks at a time I have my wife send me the kids’ homework and art projects. With technology I can get same day video files of the kids’ games and recitals. Though it’s not the same as being there it brings me closer to home and helps them focus on times tables and piano practice.
4. Bring ‘Em! On short trips sometimes I’ll bring one of my kids, even pulling them out of school if it’s just a day jaunt. Not only do they get a sense of Daddy’s job and see a bit of the world, it’s an adventure and treasured alone time. (And make sure Mommy gets her turn too!)
Whatever the tech or the trick, there’s no perfect answer for road dogs with puppies. We’re like anyone else and just miss our kids! For me, I don’t tour as much these days. I’m lucky to have that choice, because these golden ages are only gold, once.