Fun is still a family word

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 30, 2002

The family nucleus is not the same as it was 40 years ago when mom stayed home, took care of the kids and watched the house while dad went off to work to earn the paycheck.

Saturday, March 30, 2002

The family nucleus is not the same as it was 40 years ago when mom stayed home, took care of the kids and watched the house while dad went off to work to earn the paycheck.

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Many families now are combined with extended families, of stepfathers, stepmothers and stepchildren.

Even though the family nucleus has changed, putting one’s family first is extremely important to the people in our area. Families are very involved with their children’s activities even though both parents work. A lot of parental activity includes hauling children to music lessons, sports practices, swimming lessons and other extra-curricular activities.

Jim McDermott is a parent who is extremely involved in his son’s extra-curricular activities. He was a wrestler in high school and he has two sons, Jimmy, 13, and Dennis, 9. He wanted his sons to have an edge when wrestling. McDermott, who volunteers with the Austin Youth Wrestling program, never had a one-on-one coach when he was wrestling and he wanted to be there, hands on, with his sons.

He purchased some used wrestling mats from Troy Cunningham who had three sons. They used the mats in a room at their house.

McDermott explained, "Spud Bothum had them before Cunningham did for his kids. They have been passed down. We use them a lot."

The McDermotts have a small room in their house lined where the mats line the wall and the floor.

Jimmy and Dennis spend hours wrestling one another in this room. Their dad coaches them on – yelling out moves. Jimmy’s best friend Tommy Lukowski comes over to visit and tries out his moves in the wrestling room. The boys’ friends think the wrestling room is great. They head for the mats whenever they come to visit.

"Jimmy is not so big on his dad coaching him with wrestling like he used to be. It is great for Dennis, he has gotten so much stronger and coordinated through wrestling," said McDermott.

Dennis has Downs Syndrome but he has not let this stop him. He rolls and hollers on the floor while wrestling his brother and friends.

Thirteen-year-old Jimmy takes care of the mats and wipes and sweeps them down when he is through wrestling for the day. He said, "All my friends want to join wrestling after coming over here."

"I really enjoy being with my sons. I wish I had someone to give me more advice in high school. That’s why I wanted to help them. They have been doing this since they were very young. It has helped them learn new moves," said McDermott.

Not everyone has the space to have a wrestling room, but families support each other even in small ways.

We all have to do grocery shopping and there are always errands to run. Alissa Berg, 15, takes her brother Jace Greenman to the Oak Park Mall to run off energy and ride on the cars in the mall while her mother goes grocery shopping.

"I baby sit Jace almost every afternoon after school. Jace causes trouble at the grocery store and he won’t sit still," she said.

Alissa is very close to her brother. She was 12 when he was born and she cares for him lovingly as they wander around the mall.

One of the best places in town to spend time with your children is the Austin Public Library.

Carla Cecil brings her son John Diggins, 7, niece, Robin Brandt, and nephew, Nicholas Brandt, to the library almost every week.

"We usually come after I’m done with work. John and Nicholas love spooky books. I read to my son every night. I get spooky videos for him on the weekends. You can get free Goose Bumps’ videos at Cash Wise and he just loves them," said Cecil.

Even when children get older, parents still like to be there for them. Chuck Akkerman, a carpenter and construction worker loves to help his daughters. His daughter, Danielle, is a dancer and Akkerman has helped her remodel a room in her house for a dance room.

He has been helping his older daughter, Angie Krueger, remodel her house too.

Danielle has worked beside her dad through the remodeling and said," I have learned so much from my dad. I learned to strip wood floors and I have really learned to keep my mouth closed and let my dad do the work. He knows what he is doing more than I do."

Akkerman’s father, Elmer, taught him the skills he knows and Akkerman said," I help my daughters out of the goodness of my heart. I just love them."

That is what family is about loving one another and being there for them. Whether it is watching a little brother, going to a concert together, picking out a video to watch at home or working side on a project.

Family activities seem to happen naturally, if you have a family and you live together you can’t help but be active together.

Call Sheila Donnelly at 434-2233 or e-mail her at