When you were born, instructions on how to raise you were not included.” – Carol Worley Swindle –

I cannot say with a straight face that I was an easy child. I was stubborn, mischievous, sometimes disobedient, amongst other things. Some folks say that those characteristics have followed me into adulthood. There may be some truth to that. But, I plead not guilty.

As I grew from a child into a teenager, somehow, I figured out that my parents were not nearly as smart as me. I thought that they “just fell off the turnip truck.” While I cannot incriminate my friends, some of them figured this out as well.

It did not take long for me to learn that Mom and Dad were a little more savvy than I thought.

1988 – Summer – 11:00pm – The four pillows in my bed look like a person sleeping. My parents are asleep. The car keys are on the kitchen counter. The door to the garage is unlocked.

My plan is to sneak out, take the car, and hang out with some unnamed co-conspirators. The plan works perfectly until I return home and see two Carroll County patrol vehicles and Sheriff Jack Bell’s vehicle in the driveway.

I did not realize that my mother had a habit of checking on me at night. The four pillows were not very convincing nor effective.

After spending the night with Sheriff Bell in his office with coffee and being lectured, I realized that Mom and Dad were sharper than I had thought. A few years later, I thanked Sheriff Bell for his willingness to share his stories and tell me where I could be headed soon. Jack Bell had a huge impact on my life.

December 18th – 2005 – Evening – I am in the waiting room at Tanner Medical Center anticipating the arrival of my first-born son. As I wait, I notice that there are no cigars or libations in the room like the old days. I thought that fathers were expected to remain in the waiting room and relax.

Suddenly, a petite doctor comes into the room and tells me, “It is time.” Time for what? She says that it is time for me to enter the delivery room. Because I am naturally nervous being in hospitals, I politely tell her that I can just wait.

Dr. Zoeller did not approve of my response and took me by the hand into the delivery room.

As Jason W. Swindle Jr. (Jake) was coming into this world, I was so nervous that Dr. Zoeller asked me whether I needed to be admitted as a patient too. I politely declined.

Thankfully, both Jake and his mother were healthy after the delivery.

12 Years Later – To my surprise, Jake suddenly thinks that I fell off the turnip truck. He knows that he can outsmart the old man. But, not so fast….. After a few minor acts of mischief, he quickly realized that I do not ride on the back of turnip trucks.

16 Years Later – Today, Jake is almost a man. He has handled adversity like a man. He has taken pride in his work like a man. He has made mistakes like a man.

But, the most shocking thing he has done is to unknowingly teach me how to be a better father.

For years, I placed the practice of law above my boys and family. Even though practicing law is still a passion, watching Jake and his brother, Reagan, grow has become more important. I am proud to say that he places the four-character attributes that were passed down from my paternal grandfather above all others; loyalty, honesty, integrity, and honor.

His influence has affected others as well. My wife, Lisa, and Reagan, have learned from Jake’s journey as well. While it is challenging to admit that a child can change your view of life, Jake has done that.

As we enter the Christmas season and focus toward 2022, I look forward, like most parents, to our child’s development. I also look forward to how he can teach me to be the best father that I can be.

For 16 years, I have been waiting for those instructions on how to raise a boy. The instructions have not arrived as of today. However, I do not believe that they are needed at this point.

Jake’s influence on an imperfect father is all that is needed.

I am forever grateful for the gift that God gave me and his mother 16 years ago.

Merry Christmas.