A good wingman is always 'with'

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jason Whittle
  • 65th Contracting Squadron commander
I have three small kids and I still haven't been issued a parenting manual. I've changed a lot of diapers and still struggle.

You'll frequently see my children in mismatched clothes -- that's because it was daddy's turn to dress them. When I cook dinner, it looks more like a college kid's menu -- a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a banana, a cheese stick and some gummy bears. When I'm tasked to clean the peanut butter and jelly from my kids' hands, face, ears and hair, you can bet I'll miss most of it (incidentally, PB&J makes great hair gel).

Momma spends a lot of time fixing what I've goofed up. But all I have to do is lay on the floor and the kids come swarming, excited to jump on daddy. Fortunately, their love isn't based on my skill -- whew! They just love to be with me. Sometimes I'm the punching bag, or trampoline, or even the tackling dummy. Sometimes I get to be their pillow too. My kids just want to be with me.

We're social creatures, hard-wired to spend time with one another, help each other, talk, listen and enjoy the company of our friends and family.

Facebook and Twitter help us stay in touch with friends, no matter the distance between us. Our cities and towns are full of people and we spend our days surrounded by others. Yet many people still feel alone, unconnected and dissatisfied. We send emails to our family members ... who may be in the same house.

Even phone calls have been replaced by easier and less personal communication methods. Instead of visiting our friends, we text them. We exchange conversation and company for a few typed words sent from phone to phone.

There are countless books on leadership, parenthood and even friendship. We're taught to be good Wingmen. I'm going to save you some time -- there is a foundational truth that runs through all of these books and classes: "with." A good leader is "with" their people, talking, listening, observing, and simply being there -- management by walking around. A good parent is "with" their children, playing, running, wrestling, and simply being there (even if I often fail to completely clean the peanut butter out of my kids' hair).

During dark times in my life, through the pain of loss or rejection, my friends have comforted me by being "with" me. I don't remember anything they said, but I remember their presence when I needed them. And your Wingmen -- they're by your side; they got your back no matter the situation.

Put down the laptop, turn off the TV, and go be with people. Talk, listen, care. "Half the battle is showing up." Sometimes it's the whole battle.