March 15, 2014

You failed

You played in your third little league game today. In your previous two games, you struck out and then grounded out in your only at-bats. But progress was there and the coaches (of which I am one) have noticed how hard you have been working since the start of the season. Back when you couldn’t catch, or throw and could barely hit. But 8 weeks later, and you’re making progress and the coaches moved you up in the batting order. Today you hit second. And as I watched you from the dugout in your first at-bat, you watched two balls go by that were called for strikes. Then you swung and missed at the third pitch for strike three.

You jogged back to the dugout and your eyes met mine. “Hey, Buddy. You gotta swing the bat on those good pitches.” I tell you. I think it’s helpful advice but I can tell you hear it as criticism. You rest your helmeted head against my stomach and I can’t see your face. I move you away to arms-length so I can see your eyes and when they meet mine again, tears start to flow from them and stream down your dirt-smudged face.

“Oh, it’s okay, Buddy.” I say. I kneel down and give you a hug in front of your teammates. You don’t say anything but I can see the disappointment in your eyes. “Hey. It’s okay if you strike out. Everyone does it. I’m proud of you no matter what. Just try your hardest, okay?” We’ve talked a lot about effort and how important it is to do your best but I can see the doubt in your eyes right now. As if it’s being tested – as if my approval and my love depend on how whether you hit the ball or not. I hug you tight and tell you once more that it’s okay. The inning is over and it’s time to go out to the field. You grab your hat and glove and trot out to second base and my heart hurts for you as you paw at the dirt and take ground balls tossed from the first baseman.

I hurt and I’m conflicted because I have been very careful to frame baseball as something that is for fun and that the only thing I want from you is to try your hardest and learn as much as you can. We’ve talked a lot about this but now it’s being tested.

Luckily, our pitcher makes quick work of the opposing hitters and before we know it, you are back in the dugout. Soon, it’s your turn to bat. I wonder how you will respond but even before we can really see, you get hit on the leg by the pitch and are awarded first base. In retrospect, it’s probably the best thing that could happen. You were on the bases for the first time this season and you eventually came around to score. You were part of the game.

Your third at-bat was with the game well in hand. We were ahead 9 to 1 and there wasn’t a lot of pressure on anyone. There was one out and a runner on third. The opposing pitcher couldn’t find the strike zone and soon, as your league allows, it was the coach’s turn to pitch to you. That coach was me. I trotted out to the mound and I think I was more nervous than you. I only get four pitches and my first three were awful (one was even behind you!). On that fourth and final pitch, though, it was just like you and I at the park near our home. I tossed it in there you hit it into the ground towards the third baseman. The runner on third broke for the plate and you raced towards first. When it was all said and done, you had your first hit, your first RBI and your first big smile while standing on first base.

After the game, in a moment when it was just the two of us, I got down on my knee and I said, “I’m really proud of you, Buddy. After your first at-bat you were feeling terrible but you shook that off and came back and scored a run, got a hit and even made a nice play at second base. I’m really proud of you and I loved watching you play today.”

He looked at me and smiled and nodded. We embraced briefly. I pulled away again and looked into his eyes and said, “I’m really proud that you were able to shake off that strike out today. Sometimes, things don’t go the way we want them to and what we do next is what’s really important. Remember that, okay?” You nodded and smiled and we walked off towards the families waiting for us.

I’m not sure if this day will be a seminal moment but it was everything I was hoping sports would be. Sports are so much more than winning and losing. They are about overcoming failure and learning that failure doesn’t define us any more than success does. How we respond to adversity and disappointment means everything. And I’m glad I was there to help you learn that lesson. You failed. But then you didn’t.

Love, Daddy.

October 6, 2013

Bath Time

“Girly, your doggie is dirty. He needs a bath.” I say gently as you grasp your favorite stuffed animal – the only animal that has claimed the #1 spot in your heart for almost your entire life.

You look at the animal with uncertainty in your eyes and then you look up at me with your sweet two-year-old eyes and firmly tell me, “No, Daddy. I no like it.”

I can tell that you are scared to let go of your doggie. This is the animal that has been by your side through thick and thin. The one who you cuddle with as you fall asleep each night. “Girly, your doggie is really dirty. I will wash her with your clothes, Sweetie. I promise it will be okay.”

You look again at your doggie and then look at me with a sadness in your eyes that melts my heart. You reluctantly hold your doggie up to me and then, in your two-year-old drawl you tell me, “Be cah-ful.”

Of course I’ll be careful, my sweet girl. You hand her to me and I scoop you up in my arms and I ask you if you want to put doggie in the washer. You nod and we head to the laundry room and while we walk you say aloud, “Doggie take a bath. Doggie dirty. Daddy be cah-ful.”

And now, as I write this, you are coloring and every now and then you look up and announce to me, as if to make sure everything is okay, “Doggie taking a bath?”

“Yes, my sweet girl. Doggie is taking a bath. And very soon you will have him back.”

August 20, 2013

Home is where the heart is

This is the last night in the only house I’ve ever owned.

As I sit here in the familiar silence of the evening, amongst boxes stacked high to the ceiling, I try to push the conflicting emotions from my mind as I wait for the aching in my muscles to give way to the fatigue that will bring sleep.

I try not to think of all the memories that this house holds. My mind wanders to the exciting times as we watched the house being built, still early in my marriage and my life still open to possibility and success. I remember laying the floor in the kitchen with my own hands. I remember planting the bougainvillea that now flash bright reds and pinks along the fence line outside. I remember bringing home two little ones for the first time and countless memories of first steps, first bites and first days of school. I remember little smiling faces rushing to the sliding glass door as my car pulled into the driveway each night and I remember kisses goodnight in cribs and then big boy/big girl beds.

I remember holding hands while watching tv, snuggles under the covers with temporary window coverings that eventually became permanent. I remember bike rides and morning runs, afternoon runs and evening runs.

I remember learning we were having a third child and excited to bring this wonderful new little one into our family. I remember first steps and first bites all over again. I remember laughter and tears and yes, shouting and frustration. I remember times that were so bad that I couldn’t breathe. But then, I could because this was our home.

This was our home while we lived a life. It was a home that Swee’Pea and TheMonk will remember fondly but GirlyGirl probably won’t remember much beyond what she sees in the countless photographs. It was a home we made friends in a community we loved. And while it’s easy to sit here and feel anger about the reasons why I’m leaving this home, the truth is, we needed a fresh start. A new chapter that includes a healthy bank account and credit cards with zero balances. And it will be an opportunity to mend fences and strengthen relationships.

And it will be a time to write a new chapter in our lives. And now that I’m a little older and, I think, a little wiser, I won’t take this new life for granted. I’ll be thankful for what I have and look back at the past with nothing but love and respect for the past is what made me who I am today.

And as I close the door one last time on this house and open the door for the first time in my new house, I will try and remember that houses are not what makes a home.

Home is where the heart is.

May 18, 2013

One more way that I’ve become my mother

As a child, I used to sit outside of my mother’s closed bathroom door as she did whatever bathroomly stuff that mothers did and read to her from my latest issue of Sports Illustrated. I’d recite stats from the previous night’s baseball game and tell her about the latest musician that I liked.

And I thought my mother was interested in all that I had to tell her.

But now, decades later, as my son sits on the couch shouting to me things like, “Daddy! This girl in Minecraft has her own cat!” or “Daddy, listen to this Demi Lovato song!” that I have come to the shocking realization that my mother had absolutely zero interest in what I was telling her.

In retrospect, I can’t imagine why she’d want to know the current batting average of Jack Clark or hearing me read the entire article of the Curious Case of Sidd Finch, but she somehow would add enough “mmmm-hmmm’s” to make me feel like she cared.

And as I sit here decades later, I find myself saying “mmmmm-hmmmm” a lot and I think back to my mother and say, “Well played, Mom. Well played.”

April 25, 2013

Third Time’s a Charm

Girly,

You are 22 months old and I want you to know that in spite of all that has happened in my life during that time, I thank God that you are here to bless my life.

In the past several months, you have transformed from a baby to a full-fledged toddler. You are communicating at an amazing rate and while your diction leaves a little to be desired, I have learned to speak fluent Girly – which makes hanging out with you a lot of fun.

One thing that I have come to love about you is your sense of humor. You know how to ham it up with a silly face and laugh at whatever the world has presented. You have even learned to use good old gas-passing as humor, which I discovered the other night when I lay you in your crib and you suddenly shouted, “Toot-Toot, Daddy!” and you let out a rather loud noise from your nether-regions, giggling mischievously as you looked into my eyes with pure joy lighting up the darkness of the room. Of course, I laughed too. Because fart jokes are always funny.

And that mischievousness also is evident in other ways. You know when you shouldn’t be doing something and when you are caught, let’s say, sneaking a granola bar from the pantry, you don’t wallow in pity or look at me with puppy-dog eyes begging for forgiveness. No, you take off running with your little hand clutching the contraband like a vice.

As you can see, you can be quite a handful. You are opinionated, loud, full of energy, hard-headed and filled with a spark that lights up the room. And I love every damn minute of it.

20130425-145555.jpg

April 6, 2013

It’s a man’s world but don’t just live in it

To my girls…

Someday, you won’t be little girls with ribbons in your hair and stains from Crayola markers adorning your hands. Someday, you will be all grown up and finding your place in this big, yet small, world. This is what I hope for you…

Despite much change, it’s still a man’s world when it comes to getting ahead in life. They shape how much you get paid, what you should wear and how you should look. Don’t buy into that. The most successful women aren’t the ones who accept the status quo – they are the ones that look the patriarchy in the eye without blinking and blaze their own path. I hope that you find the strength to be true to yourself – not to what any man (or woman, for that matter) thinks you should be.

I hope that you grow up not needing the embrace of a man to make you feel whole. I want you to know you are whole now. No man can give you what you already have inside.

But when it comes to settling down (if that’s where your heart leads) I hope you find a man (or woman, for that matter) that each and every day feels damn lucky to be with you. And I hope you feel the same way. I hope you find that person that understands that two can be stronger than one.

I hope you never look at yourself in the mirror and think anything other than, “I’m beautiful.” You are imperfectly perfect and being comfortable with who you are and not what anyone else – men or media alike – says you should be will lift you up when the world tries to drag you down. Be yourself. Love yourself. Nothing else matters.

And while we’re on the subject, I hope you don’t live your life based on what you think others will think of you. Don’t waste energy on what other people think. Chances are, they are too worried about what others think of them to spend too much time thinking about you. Live your life! Be free from the chains of expectations that will yoke you to the ground like turkeys and prohibit you from flying with the eagles where you belong.

And finally, I hope you lift other women up rather than tear them down. There’s room at the top for everyone and for every woman who is where they want to be, there are many more who could use a helping hand. Refrain from tearing others down to make yourself look better. Instead, give a helping hand and realize that your successes don’t come at the expense of others, they come when you are true to yourself and to women everywhere.

Oh, and call your father. He loves you.

March 14, 2013

You shine too bright to be in the shadows

Swee’Pea,

We had your parent-teacher conference yesterday. In it, your teacher told us of your fantastic reading skills (4th grade level) and your burgeoning math skills and how well you are doing in your classes. She showed us your reading scores and your math scores and we went over areas that we could help you (apparently you’re only just average when it comes to interpreting graphs and charts). It was great to hear how well you are doing.

And as I asked how you were in class, the teacher said, “She’s quiet. Not that it’s a bad thing! She’s just quiet. Every now and then she’ll answer a question but most of the time she’s quiet.”

And that is what I found most interesting difference between you and your brother’s conferences. Your brother participates fully and is clearly a class favorite. You are quiet. But when I look at the test scores, it becomes clear that you could give your brother a run for his money any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Your verbal scores are on par with his. Your math scores are right on par with his. But you’re quiet.

When asked about how you are socially, your teacher told me that you are “really sweet and really smart…” and she held out her hands as if to say that you are perfectly balanced. And then she added five words that I found better than any talk about how smart you are…. “And she works really hard.”

I love that you work hard. Indeed, a strong work ethic will take you farther than intelligence. The world is filled with smart, lazy people my dear and I am glad to see that you are a triple threat in the intelligence/work ethic/personality realm.

But it does make me a tad bitter that just because you are quiet, you don’t get the cheering that your brother does. His personality and, perhaps, him being a boy, makes it more acceptable to be really good at school. For as long as you two have been in school, your brother is good at math and you are good at reading. That’s just the label that’s been placed. But I think it’s time to recognize that you are a bright, shining star in everything that you do.

You shine too bright to be in anyone’s shadow my darling daughter. May the light you exude never be extinguished.

March 13, 2013

Smart is as Smart does

Monkey,

We met with your teacher today. I have come to enjoy these conferences as it allows me to bask in the glory of TheMonk. We’ve been doing this for three years now and every conference comes down to this… You are an incredibly smart little boy. As your teachers go over test scores and writing samples and we see perfect score after almost-perfect score, it is nice to hear that you are doing so well. It’s a testament to your hard work and your mother’s attention during homework and your natural curiosity that has propelled you to such heights. You are a very good student. Today, in fact, your teacher gushed that she thinks you have a shot to get a perfect score on the upcoming standardized testing. “Only 18 students in the district scored a perfect score last year.” She said.

But I don’t care about tests. You are good at taking tests and that skill will take you far in a world that doesn’t know how to judge anyone than by comparing them to a mean. I think it’s safe to say that you are above the mean. And for that I am proud. But what I am more proud of is the stories we inevitably hear about your character.

At some point during the conference I always ask, “How is he doing socially?” I ask this because I want to know how you relate to your peers. I want to know how you treat others. I want to know that not only are you a good student but that you are living the values your mother and I have worked hard to instill.

Last year, your teacher told us the following story. “I sat TheMonk next to a boy who is on the spectrum. This boy had a habit of doing his work and checking TheMonk’s work to compare his to your son’s work. After a while I could tell that TheMonk was bothered by this. He is such a good rule follower that it was visibly bothering him that the boy was looking at his work. After a while, I decided to move TheMonk so that he wouldn’t be stressed about this anymore. Now, even though he sits at another table, whenever he finishes his work, he walks over to the boy that used to stress him out and checks in with him to see if he needs help.”

That story, Monkey, brings tears of pride to my eye just thinking about it. You have a heart of gold and you are filled with a kindness that I pray never diminishes. And then, today, your teacher and I spoke about a boy in your class who you have mentioned at home. This boy is a selective mute and does not speak at school. No one at your school has heard him speak. I asked your teacher about this boy and I could tell that she was very moved by this boy who has gone through “terrible things.” As she told us of this boy who does not talk I thought back to your stories about this boy and how you play with him at recess. “We played superheroes today and Joseph* played too. His superpower was superhuman strength.” I asked you how you knew what his superpower was. “I just went up to him and asked him what he wanted his superpower to be and then I started listing possible powers until he nodded yes.”

You shared this so matter of fact. And as I learned that this boy has had “terrible things” happen to him it made me tear up again at how much your friendship must mean to him. You give him a voice, son. You tell him that he matters. And while you probably don’t realize the true impact your friendship means to a boy who chooses not to speak, I gave you an extra kiss tonight at bed and I told you how proud I am of you.

Your teacher is right. You are a great test taker. You’re kicking ass in the test of life.

(* not his real name)

February 27, 2013

Daddy’s Fables

The twins asked for a bedtime story tonight. Not a book but a story. As I tucked them into bed, my mind raced to form a story. Something funny? Something with Princesses and slimy creatures? Or perhaps something with a little bit of wisdom attached to it. This is what I told them…

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Gustav. Gustav was just like any other kid. He played with cars and did well at at school. He loved sweets too. But what he loved most was Raspberry Sorbet.

One hot day he was dying for some raspberry sorbet. But he didn’t have any money. “How can I buy some raspberry sorbet if I don’t have money?” he thought. He thought about his conundrum as he walked along the busy road to the sorbet shop. Then, it hit him. “I KNOW!!” he exclaimed. “I’ll dance and sing along this busy road and ask for donations! Maybe I’ll earn enough for some raspberry sorbet.”

But then he began to worry. “What if people laugh at me?” he thought. “What if people think my dancing and singing is terrible and they make fun of me?” Thinking of how others would think of him was making him nervous and scared. But then he thought of how much he loved raspberry sorbet. And how much he loved to sing and dance. And suddenly HE DIDN’T CARE WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THOUGHT! He began to dance and wiggle and shimmy and shake and he DANCED! He started to sing too! His voice overcoming the sounds of the cars at the busy intersection and, before he knew it, people started showering him with money. Coins and bills were dumped at his feet as he boogied up and down the sidewalk and before long he had made a tremendous amount of money.

It was so much money that he struggled to collect it all up. But when he did, he staggered along to the Sorbet Shop and asked the owner if he had enough to buy some Raspberry Sorbet. After counting it all up, the owner exclaimed, “Son, not only do you have enough to buy some raspberry sorbet, you have enough money to buy the whole shop!”

And with that, Gustav bought his very own Sorbet Shop and he ate Raspberry Sorbet whenever he felt like it. All because he didn’t care what others would think of him and he did what he loved.

The end.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. – Dr. Seuss

February 19, 2013

Breaking the rules

You were frustrated. Your vocabulary, while expanding rapidly, was inadequate to express your feelings – so you lashed out at me and hit me in the face. You knew you were wrong. I could see it in your eyes as I told you “No! We don’t hit.

And then I added something I haven’t had to add before… “You are getting a timeout!”

I picked you up and placed you in the nearest corner. I wondered how you would react. Would you stay there? Would you understand what was happening? I needn’t have wondered, however, because even at 20 months, you seem to understand everything. You sat there for the duration of the timeout – which was only about a minute but seemed so much longer.

When I told you that timeout was done, I picked you up onto your feet and it was clear that you wanted to make amends. Your mother was sitting nearby and you sought comfort in her arms and then you turned to me and toddled into my arms and gave me a hug and then a kiss. You were sorry.

And so it begins. For me, I am sometimes torn between what needs disciplining (although in this case, hitting was clearly deserving of punishment) and what needs to be encouraged. For instance, you run away from me often, laughing mischievously as you escape my clutches.  You throw food onto the ground when you don’t want to eat it and you sometimes turn a deaf ear when you don’t want to hear what I’m saying.

And while I am contemplating what to do, I am often reminded of the saying, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”  I am keenly aware that how I shape your reaction to authority will have an impact on who you become. Yes, I want you to be polite and courteous, but I also want you to feel comfortable challenging authority and following your heart rather than following someone else’s plan for you (and every other child). You are unique. You are special. You can be anything you want to be, little girl. I want you to be sure of that.

So let’s hope this timeout only prevents you from hitting people in the face.

First timeout

Next Page »
Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: