I don’t have many people I’d call a “best friend” though I have a good number of very interesting people with whom I rub shoulders with infrequently. We can connect as often as it happens and be completely cool with the fact that neither of us have made an effort to go have a beer together, or whatever.
Outside of work, probably the one thing I do the next most of, is spend time either coaching, or watching my kids play sports. It’s a year round thing in our house—football, basketball, baseball, cheerleading, dance—you name it. So in any given year, my kids spend a substantial portion of their free time with anywhere from 5-10 different coaches, and a cadre of assistant coaches, all “carefully” selected by our local city recreational staff.
Overall, our Rec staff do a good job. I’ve coached a number of years, across a number of sports and by and large most of the coaches are just dads who want to be involved. Yes, there’s “Daddy Ball” where a few dads get together and form a “team” to dominate the league, and there’s other politics, but generally speaking, we all have good intentions.
But when you work with that many different people, problems are bound to arise. I’ve had to step in and replace a coach with a drinking problem. I’ve felt obliged to step in and speak with a coach who seemed more a drill sergeant than a teacher—and I’m still feeling the backlashes of that one. There’s also been some very expensive programs where the “volunteer” coaches just want to show up and chit chat rather than actually work with the kids.
And so it was that in one of my recent conversations with our local sports staff, I was told that I’m the most vocal parent he’s ever had—and that made me pause.
It’s true, I’ve filed my share of informal complaints, both as a concerned parent AND as a coach and maybe sometimes I should have given a particular coach a few more days before sending a “WTH?” note to Rec staff, but I also feel like it’s sort of my job, as a parent, to be vocal.
Parents pay a lot of money for their kids to play sports and in our case, our kids are actually really good athletes. We’re not a family that’s just happy that uncoordinated Johnny made a team. No, we’re a family who’s trying to make sure our kids are working with coaches who have the patience and experience necessary to help them progress.
So yeah, when I see a coach working his way up through the league based solely on the fact that he’s volunteering just so his average kid can get a spot in one of the league’s top tier teams, even though that coach is a tyrant on the field who bullies parents to the point where they’re afraid of saying anything lest their child get treated poorly (and stuck in the outfield), I’m going to say something.
And yes, I’ll accept whatever blows back on me because of it, but I detest bullies—kids and adults alike—and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect my family.
My team may not win every championship, but nobody ever cried on my field (OK, that’s not entirely true, but it wasn’t my fault…she was just really tired and didn’t want to be at practice) and to my knowledge, no one ever left my field not wanting to play the sport any longer.
If we win some games, the kids have fun and they learn a little something along the way, that’s a “W” in my book.
It’s Spring and that means one thing around my house – baseball! With two boys playing ball, one in “Select” league, it also means that I’m lucky if I’m home two nights during the work week. It also means that CareerMom, who works out of the house, is stuck doing the bulk of the schlepping back and forth. She called me yesterday and–you know how this works–asked if I planned on going to my son’s game last night. I could tell by the sound of her voice that there was an undercurrent of hope that I would not.
What happened was that we had an early game last night, which meant getting there really early (coach wants them there 45 mins early), which meant my wife had to either pick my daughter from DayCare early and be late to the game, OR drop off my son at his game, and then drive ALLLL the way back to get my daughter.
I made it easy on my wife and skipped the game and picked up my daughter and went home. Throughout the evening, my wife kept me updated via text messages, so I got all the benefits of being there, with little of the nervousness.
But a great thing came out of that–I got to spend quality time with Baby Girl. She’s four now and she’s a talkative spirit. After she fell asleep on the couch and then woke up again around 7:45, we spent 45 wonderful minutes on the back porch, under a blanket, watching the stars and airplanes, and making wishes. With three kids (did I mention my friend has five?) that kind of quality time doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, you have to squeeze every moment out of it.
When we found out we were having our third child, one of my fears was this very issue of spending quality time with that many different children, plus keeping a marriage healthy, plus keeping my career going. I wish I could say that I was wrong and it’s easy to do, but it’s not. Then again, maybe it depends on your definitions of sucess. All I know is that last night was a success. The first thing she said to me this morning was, “Daddy, do you remember making wishes on the wishing star last night?”
I sure do Baby Girl. I sure do.
It seems that every generation gets a label these days. Kids in the early 20s now are called “Gen Y’ers” and they are the social media age. Apparently, they don’t have the same sense of entitlement that we Gen X’ers supposedly have, though I’m really not sure where that “entitlement” label came from. Gen Y’ers are also supposed to be more driven, crave positive feedback and generally don’t feel the need to slave 50 hours a week at a meaningless job (bully for them!). Interestingly, they also seem less familial-inclined, which is a stark departure from my generation.
But even though my world revolves around my family, I struggle with the line between parent and play-buddy. On the one hand, I look back on my own childhood–one where I was generally an only child and if there was playing to be done, it was usually done alone. My parents just weren’t involved. On the other hand, I don’t want the same for my own children, so I DO try to do things with them frequently and when you add in Career-Mom’s near-constant need to get out of the house and do something, it seems like we’re always on the go.
I struggle with this balance. For example today…we played outside with the kids for about an hour, then we took them down to the science museum. When we got home, they wanted me to ride bikes with them. Really? After everything we JUST did…?
So back to my quandry…I want to be with my kids and I don’t want them to look back on THEIR childhood–like I do mine–and feel like all their dad ever did was work around the house, but at the same time, I HAD my childhood already. Can I just enjoy my adulthood a bit? And can’t that mean that I don’t have to play with my kids and when I don’t, can I do it without guilt?
I’ll let you know how that works out. So far, I’m riddled with guilt.
My oldest son has developed a seemingly irrational fear of thunderstorms. True, we’ve had our share recently. Already, it’s been an unusually active season, and summer just started. But still, we’re not even talking dark clouds and high winds–no, from the moment he gets up in the morning, he’s peering at the sky and if there’s a hint of even puffy white clouds up there, he heads for weatherchannel.com.
In my infinite parental wisdom, I’ve decided that I have no blame here. No, I blame school. I blame those snotty little five year olds who come on the P.A. system every morning and tell the rest of the student body what the weather is going to be. And then I blame the school system for too many dad-blamed storm drills. A couple of times this past school year, by the time he got off the bus in the afternoon, storms or no, he was already wild-eyed and near tears over the fact that there was a ‘chance’ of evening thunderstorms.
Now this goes hand in hand with another fear that seems to have come out of nowhere…and that being, that we’re going to leave him alone. I can’t tell you how many times in the past six months I’ve had to answer, “Where’s mommy?” or “Where are you going?” And heaven forbid, when you drop him off at the kids’ play area at the gym while you work out, that you’re even a minute later than you told him you’d be–NIAGARA FALLS!
OK, maybe I share a little of the blame here–but indirectly. As a child I was also a bit of a worry-er. But the things I worried about were just a tad more serious that this stuff. And by serious, I mean like, “Oh crap, what now?” kind of stuff.
But I didn’t worry about the weather.
In retrospect, I suppose if he’s going to be worried about something, it could be worse. But we’ve tried reassurance; we tried fussing at him; nothing seems to work. And while I know that mostly he’ll grow out of it, I know I still carry some of my childhood worries with me today. Even now, when I hear footsteps above me in the house coming towards me, for just a second, my gut clenches up and my heart jumps ahead. I wish I knew how to take these fears away from him.
Hmm, I’m sure I’m the first parent to have ever said THAT.
Last night at our house:
(CareerMom is helping MLI with his homework. The assignment: paste pictures beginning with the letter “E” on a piece of paper.)
I come in from being outside playing with MLE and picked up the homework that MLI and CareerMom have just completed.
Me: Honey, why is there a picture of two elephants “doing it” on MLI’s homework:
CareerMom: What, WHat WHAT?!!!
She swears it was a complete oversight.
Kids all handle fear in different ways. When I was young, at night I would completely cover my body with my sheets for fear that whatever was not covered, would get chopped off by some axe-wielding monster. I have no idea where this fear came from, but it also prompted me to attempt world-record breaking sprinting attempts from my lightswitch to my bed.
I must have been fast since I still have all of my appendages.
My oldest son, whom I’ve affectionately, if perhaps prematurely, labeled “My little Introvert,” seems to have his own method of handling the night-time boogeyman. And while I’m a little fearful of what this might mean in the future, right now, I applaud his audacity:
(I’m adding blank space so you don’t see it before you read the intro)
Defense: Ninja Turtle Style!