MAPLE GROVE, Minn. – Ask C.J. Ham about the Vikings playbook, and he'll be able to tell you his responsibility on any given offensive play.
But when he's not on the field or in the team meeting room, Ham is learning hands-on about the playbook of parenting.
Recently, he and his wife, Stephanie, joined KFAN personality A.J. Mansour and his wife, Abby, as part of a panel at "Baby Training Camp with the Minnesota Vikings" presented by North Memorial Health. The event was held last month at Maple Grove Hospital and offered families of infants and young children a fun and informative evening.
C.J. and Stephanie are parents of daughters Skylar, 3, and Stella, 10 months. A.J. and Abby have two sons: Mac, 5, and Mason, 1 year.
The two sets of parents started the panel by discussing various prompts posed by the Mansours. C.J. and Stephanie also responded specifically to questions about balancing family life with the unique lifestyle that accompanies a career in the NFL.
The group was then joined by three North Memorial Health medical professionals: Dr. Jason Prostrollo, Pediatrician; Whitney Johnson, Child & Family Life Specialist with North Memorial Health; and Dr. Jane Barthell, Neonatologist with Minnesota Neonatal Physicians.
"It's always fun to talk to other parents – different experiences, different kids and different households," A.J. said. "I mentioned in the program that we're all in this together, and survival sometimes is the best outcome of a day, for the kids and for the parents. So just to hear funny stories from different families, to hear from the experts that we had on-hand to get some advice, it was good."
Added C.J.: "It was a lot of fun. We're obviously not 'experts' at being parents or on children, but it was very informative to learn from the experts, and I can really take those things back home and try to implement them into our parenting style."
The experts weighed in on various parenting topics, including recommended parameters around screen time, transitioning from one child to two, using the Internet as a diagnostician and the importance of family meal time.
C.J. most appreciated the latter discussion topic. He acknowledged that dinner time can be hectic between his football schedule and that of Stephanie, who recently graduated with a DPT degree to become a physical therapist.
"A lot of times, dinner plans don't really happen until we get home," C.J. said. "So I just want to be more intentional about having a family dinner – maybe sitting at the dinner table more often rather than at the island, and just really having that time with Skylar.
"Our 10-month-old, she'll sit anywhere," C.J. added with a laugh. "But really with our 3-year-old, just diving into the day as much as we can with her."
A.J., whose sons were both born at the Maple Grove Hospital, was eager to partner with North Memorial Health for the event and also took away some useful insights.
He joked about the difference in parenting styles between him and Abby, saying she was much more likely to research and learn, while he self-identifies as a "fly by the seat of your pants" guy.
"So, it was good to hear some of the things that we're doing with combatting screen time, trying to not take that away from them [completely] because that's going to be something that's important to them in their future life, but at the same time, not using it as a crutch," A.J. said. "It was also interesting to hear them talk about monitoring our own screen time and the example that set in our household. It's always a good thing to remember as a parent, that you're always being watched by those little eyes, and they're really soaking in everything that they hear, everything that they see, and everything that we as parents do rubs off on them."
A.J. has become well-acquainted with C.J., who was a guest on his faith-based podcast, “Here on Earth,” which airs on KFAN. He emphasized the importance of showing Vikings fans another side of the players they watch weekly on television.
"C.J. talked on the podcast about being a dad and being a man of faith and how he takes that into his marriage, into his house," A.J. said. "I think it's good for me personally, but also to highlight these things [publicly] and just remind people that [these athletes are] no different than us.
"They have struggles with their kids, getting them to eat vegetables. They have questions about their faith and things that pop up," A.J. continued. "They go through the same things we do; they just have a different job. I think that's a fun thing to highlight."
C.J. concurred with part of the motivation to participate in community events such as the Baby Training Camp, explaining that he hopes to reflect a positive image that goes beyond the stat sheet.
"I do play football, that's my occupation, but I really don't want to be known for just being a football player," he said. "I want to be known for being somebody who did more than that. Somebody who has a strong faith and really enjoys time with his family."