Diamond Rio‘s lead guitarist loves being an older parent. “I enjoy fishing with my boys, backyard camping and watching superhero cartoons,“ he says.
As the lead guitarist for Diamond Rio, one of the most successful bands in country music history, Jimmy Olander enjoyed fame, travel and the comfortable existence that comes from hard work and commercial success. But at the tender age of 40, Jimmy and his wife, Claudia, realized that something was missing. With the help of Miriam’s Promise in Nashville, their lives changed forever when they adopted son Max (now 8) and two years later adopted another son, Tank (now 6).
Why did you choose to create your family through open adoption?
“When we started this process and open adoption was suggested to us,” Jimmy says, “I had all the stereotypical negative reactions you could have. I thought the birth mother would go crazy and want to steal the baby or hit us up for money. I learned that I was the one who was crazy. The truth is, birth moms sacrifice the most for all the right reasons, yet they are judged the harshest.”
How much contact do you have with the boys‘ birth mothers?
“The boys have always known their birth mothers. They know their birth grandparents, their half siblings and aunts and uncles. Tank’s birth mom has been to Titan’s games with us, and we go to his birth half-brother’s birthday parties. When Max’s birth mom lived nearby we’d see her more often. She even came for a sleepover.”
How does open adoption benefit Max and Tank?
“The identity of who they are will be consistent from the beginning. They know where they came from. There won’t be any trauma with that information because they’ve always known and we can always answer their questions. If Max wants to ask a question about it and he doesn’t like our answer, we’ll just let him call his birth mom to get another perspective. Our sons know they were never abandoned or unwanted. Their birth moms loved them enough to give them the family they needed. They know that they are loved.”
You became a dad at 40. What are the benefits of being an “older” dad?
“I really know who I am. I don’t have to figure that out while I’m helping them find their self worth. I had a full adulthood before starting this phase. Now I can enjoy fishing with my boys, backyard camping and watching superhero cartoons.”
Who taught you to be good parents?
“The nice thing about being older parents is that most of our friends have been through this already, so we pick up all these techniques from family members, our band members and their wives,” says Jimmy. Claudia adds, “I have two sisters, and I’ve learned so much from watching them be parents, how gentle they were, not getting angry, but teaching their children and being nurturing.”
How do you respond when the boys act out?
“We don’t believe in corporal punishment,” says Jimmy, “so we use timeouts or other consequences like taking away the Wii or DS. But our techniques are different with each boy. They’re individuals and you have to deal with them differently. We give them just enough to turn their behavior around,” he says.
You‘re a world class guitarist. How are you helping your boys find their talents?
“Tank has cerebral palsy that affects his legs, so sports are harder, but he’s very artistic,” says Jimmy. “And he’s about to start horseback riding. His big brother is good at all these sports, so we’re helping him find something that’s for Tank and Tank alone.” “For Max,” says Claudia, “It’s been easy because he’s a sports addict and so am I. He’ll watch any sport, talk about it or play it.”
What do the boys like to eat?
“Generally, they eat healthy,” Claudia says, “But if it’s a “˜boys night,'” adds Jimmy, “it’s breakfast for dinner and Pringles for breakfast. We’re not letting them eat junk food all the time, but when it’s a ‘just guys’ celebration … anything goes.”
What advice would you give someone about adoption?
“Adoption is the greatest thing that has ever happened to us,” says Claudia. Jimmy adds, “Don’t let preconceived notions turn you off from investigating open adoption. My life would be completely different if we hadn’t looked into it. I almost feel blessed that we were infertile because if we hadn’t adopted, we wouldn’t have the amazing kids that we have now.”
Deborah Bohn writes Busy Bodies for this publication in addition to celebrity profiles. She lives in Franklin with her family.