Wichita dad: ‘Invest in your kids’

Written by Amy Palser

Dr. Antoine “Tony” Wakim says that being a dad is no hands-off affair. It’s year after year of attending school events like band concerts and honors nights; day after day of encouraging and praising, inquiring and worrying. And he’s loved every minute of it.

“I’m very blessed to have the kids that I have,” he said. “We just made it our life goal to be involved with them, to spend as much time as we could with them and to celebrate their successes. What you invest in your kids you will get back.”

Tony and wife Mimi of Wichita have four grown children: Lily, 29; Joey, 27; André, 25; and Alex, 23. Lily and Joey are both dentists alongside their dad at Wakim Cosmetic and Family Dental Group in west Wichita. André is in his third year of medical school studying neurosurgery. And youngest son Alex, an accomplished musician and composer, is completing his master’s degree in music composition and film scoring in New York.

So what are Tony’s tips for parenting children into successful adults? “Get involved with what they’re doing,” he said. “We wanted to know who they hung out with. We were very close with them. We always kept them busy with sports and music.”

Tony expected A’s in school, and the kids grew up knowing they would go to a four-year college and beyond. The children often helped at dad’s dental practice. “They would come set stuff up, clean and, once in a while, when we’d have an emergency, they would help me by holding the suction,” he said with a laugh. “I worked hard and had fun doing it and they saw that and did the same.” The family also served together in church, helping with the children’s program at St. George Orthodox Christian Cathedral in Wichita.

Tony said it’s important to reward children for their accomplishments. “Whether it’s $5 or $50 or $1 or accolades, celebrate their success.” And, he said, downtime together is so valuable. “We grew up playing tennis, going to the lake, ice skating. We enjoyed traveling with our kids; they were babies when we started.” The family traveled extensively through Europe and the United States. Sometimes, they would depart on a whim. If they had frequent flier miles, they would often book a trip just a couple days in advance.

Travel is something every family should do together, Tony said, especially before the children are too busy. “Once they start going to college, it’s hard to get them all together. Travel is just a great bonding time — you’re away from work, away from school and you get to really spend some special time together. It’s so funny how my personality changes once I’m on that plane — I’m liberated or something,” he said, laughing.

Mimi said Tony taught the children to get out of their comfort zones and to persevere. “Like, even if you are tired, it’s OK to take one more step and do a little extra,” she said. He made sure they were in touch with nature, watering plants, planting trees, spending time outside.

He still often wakes in the night worrying about the now-grown kids. “He’ll say, ‘Have you talked to your daughter today? Is everything OK? Does she need any money?” Mimi said with a chuckle. “He is an incredible dad. He is truly the rock.”

 

With six daughters, this hunter is now ‘dance dad’

For a guy who grew up the oldest of three boys and whose favorite activity is hunting, life sure threw Tanner Erdman a curveball. The Wichita man is the father of six girls who range in age from 10 months to 15 years old.

“I never imagined I would have this many kids — or that I wouldn’t have any sons,” Tanner said, chuckling.

He and wife Katie are the parents of Elyse, 15; Delaney; 12; Charlotte, 9; Jane, 5; Vivian, 3; and Annie, 10 months. A household of six young girls means lots of pink, lots of sparkles and lots of dance parties.

“He is such an outdoors guy, and he’s a hunter” Katie said.”He’s the oldest of three boys and he didn’t grow up around little girls. But here he is with six daughters. And he’s just so gentle and caring with them.”

The girls are dancers and don’t play sports, so Tanner is a certified “dance dad,” Katie said. “They’re all into ballet, tap, jazz — sweet guy sits through hours of dance recitals.” He even helps with the alterations of the dance recital costumes, a skill he picked up in Boys Scouts. “He’ll sit there and help me sew their little dance costumes,” she said laughing.

The couple met their freshman year in college; Tanner attended Wichita State University and Katie was at Friends University. They met through mutual friends, hit it off and got married the following year. Early on, a big family was never on their bucket list. “I come from five and I thought, ‘I don’t want five; maybe two or three,” Katie said. “He was the same way. But we were just open to what God wanted us to have and we ended up with six. When you look at your children as blessings, why wouldn’t we want to have as many blessings as we can?”

Katie said having a big family is challenging when the kids are very little, but it’s much more manageable now that the older kids can help. “Two of them can babysit and even Charlotte is such a big help,” she said.

Despite the Erdman daughters’ penchant for girly things, they love to go hunting with dad. Katie said the girls all want to tag along, even for duck hunting, which tends to be the coldest hunt because it falls between November and January. “Even when the hunt’s bad,” she said. “They just love the time with him.”

Tanner said the perfect day off for him is being outside with the girls — whether being in the pool in the summer, going hunting, or jumping in the car to go fishing for a bit. “They love going,” he said. “It’s probably more about being with me than the actual sport of fishing or hunting.”

Katie said her husband is an extremely hard worker. “He works in a family business, AAA Restaurant Supply, and he pretty much works 8 to 6 daily with no lunch — and normally he’s working in the home office from 9 p.m. to midnight,” she said. “He’s got six weddings and six college educations he feels responsible for.”

Tanner said between work and six young children, it feels like he is going all the time. “Fatherhood is a whirlwind, but it’s great.”

 
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