We are very excited to be able to share this interview we did with Cris and Belinda Vleck. Cris and Belinda are the founders of Onlyaparent.com and the OAP podcast.
Fatherville: Hello Cris and Belinda, and welcome to Fatherville. To start things off could you please tell our readers what motivated you to start the “Only A Parent” podcast?
Only A Parent: For us it feels like a calling. We were at a conference a couple of years ago and one of the leaders, who we have a lot of respect for, told us that we should start speaking at parenting conferences. Since cold calling parenting conferences and saying ‘hey, we’re available’ isn’t exactly realistic, we felt that the best way to get started was by doing a podcast.
FV: We listened to a very thoughtful podcast on the topic of “Entitlement” How did you choose that topic and generally speaking how do you choose which topics you will feature on the program? There are so many parenting topics to cover.
OAP: Entitlement was one of those easy subjects for us to talk about. The sense of entitlement is pervasive throughout society and we battle it in our own home. It’s becoming a pretty big problem yet it almost goes unnoticed these days.
As for the second part of that question, we’d love to say we have a great method for coming up with topics but we haven’t figured that out yet. We have a very busy schedule so we are often scrambling at the last moment to come up with a subject to talk about. It’s actually a point of frustration for us because the podcast is growing quickly and we know we need to put in more effort weekly in terms of research and articulating our thoughts.
We do have some loose criteria that we follow. We have to have a personal story to tell and it has to be subject that seems to be something that we and a lot of other parents are working through. We have a lot of subjects that seems to be great ideas to talk about at first but they really don’t have the legs to last for a 20 -25 minute episode.
FV: With a website, a podcast, and a twitter presence–who is your intended target audience?
OAP: That’s a great question. We’ve never really ever thought about it. Again, we felt like it was something we were being called to do. So we’re just doing it and seeing what happens. If we can connect with other parents, great. If other parents are struggling and we can throw some encouragement or laughter their way, even better. To answer the question more directly, demographics are a funny thing. If we find a target audience then we are excluding everyone else. We’re trying to find those topics that would engage with the common threads in us all.
FV: What are some of your favourite parenting sites? Tell us what parenting books are on your reading list.
OAP: We have quite a few. We put out a lot of content via Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest every month. Our list of resource sites is pretty long. A few of our faves are;
We have also found a lot of lesser known gems through Twitter including;
And on a very unsolicited note. We are also genuinely enjoying Fatherville.com. Your article we posted last week about winning your teen daughter’s heart was one of the best I’d (Cris) had ever read. I got misty.
We’ve picked up (and put down) a lot of books over the years but the only one still really stands out is “The Happiest Baby on the Block”. It’s pure gold and an essential first-time parents’ survival tool.
FV: What, in your opinion, are some of the biggest challenges parents face today when it comes to raising sons and/or daughters?
OAP: That’s a tough question. There are so many symptoms in the world that look like root problems. We’ve spent years trying to philosophically boil it all down to one or two root causes. That’s not something that is possible to do.
One thing we’ve noticed is that there seems to be a lot of confusion about right and wrong these days. The moment you plant your flag in an opinion and say ‘this’ is definitively right (or wrong) someone will challenge you. The latest Superman movies are a great example. It used to be that Superman was the symbol for all that is good and heroic. The latest movies add a lot of debate about the moral implications behind that heroism. There seems to be a lot of what we call ‘flipping the script’, where right is wrong and vice versa.
This creates a lot of confusion in our kids. Confusion creates anger. We know this from the years Cris spent volunteering at a juvenile detention centre. Most of those kids were in there because of a lack of rules in their family lives. Mostly because of parents who wanted to be buddies not parents. When that approach went sideways and the kids ended up in jail they did really well. When you give kids consistency and discipline they thrive and grow. We think parents need to have the courage to take a stand and say ‘this’ (whatever ‘this’ may be) is right or wrong. They need to be consistent and need to be the anchor from which their kids can tether themselves. Sometimes that’s hard to do because a lot of the time you’re going to take your shots.
Another challenge is being able to make family time. People generally have to work more to make ends meet and with the added distractions of a flood of media, family time seems to becoming an endangered species. Carving out quality, uninterrupted, family time, no matter how difficult, is monumentally important. Try to reclaim the daily family dinners, or walks or whatever you do and make that time sacred. Also, we hate to beat a tired old cliché but smartphones really are killing old fashioned quality relationships. We love media in our house but it also one of our biggest handicaps. We actually unplug and have ‘media free’ times at least twice a year. These times can last from a weekend to a full week. We can’t stress enough how much these distraction free times have deepened our relationships with our kids. Once they they have gotten over the withdrawal symptoms of taking their phones away that is. But hey, what’s one day of crying in a fetal position in the grand scheme of things.
FV: Toons? What’s the story behind the cartoons on your website? Whose idea was this?
OAP: It started when Cris said the phrase , “How many times do I have to tell you not to put the kangaroo in the toilet?” Then he immediately thought, ‘What an utterly insane thing to say.’ As parents, we end up using a lot words in a sentence that no normal person would string together at one time. Cris started talking about it with some friends who all had similar stories and thought it would be fun to make a website out of funny things parents say. The idea of adding a cartoon to the phrases followed shortly after and, boom, OnlyaParent.com was born.
FV: Growing up–who were each of your childhood heroes?
OAP: (Belinda) My teachers were huge heroes to me growing up. I had fantastic teachers who truly cared how I was doing and pushed me academically and socially to exceed my expectations. I also had amazing parents who were involved in my life and continue to be involved in both my life and the life of my sister, but made a commitment to be involved in the lives of our kids.
(Cris) I didn’t have the same kind of positive school and home experiences growing up that Belinda did. My heroes at the time were more of your classic comic book characters like Spiderman and Green Lantern, etc. I think I liked the idea of clashing against evil and engaging in the big battle.
FV: Who are your heroes today?
OAP: If we are keeping it to the subject of parenting, we think a lot of our heroes are people we know personally. It’s not the big publicized events that make a person great, it is the small victories that you win on a daily basis for years that make a hero. It’s the little things that always go unnoticed but you do them anyway. We know the most amazing people who are getting some of the biggest parenting wins that you’ve never heard of. We have friends who have severely autistic children, others who have lost spouses to cancer, another who’s spouse is in and out of the hospital due to mental health issues. They are dealing with really tough stuff yet they endure. They keep fighting and are carving out great lives for their kids. We have so much respect for them that we can’t even put it into words.
FV: Cris and Belinda what would you say are your biggest accomplishments to date? What are you most proud of?
OAP: Our kids. We’re proud of them every second of the day.
FV: Tell us a little bit more about yourselves. Your passions, hobbies, and goals for the future.
OAP: Cris loves writing and is currently working on his second novel. Belinda loves music and literature and is currently in debate over a career change! (Is back to school in the future????) All other spare time is taken up with work and hanging out with our kids, family and friends…oh…and the Only a Parent podcast.
FV: Thank you very much for talking with us and sharing a bit more about your vision for Only A Parent.
For more information about Only A Parent check out the following resources:
- Only A Parent Podcast by Chris and Belinda Vleck on iTunes
- and find them on Twitter like we did at @OAPpodcast