October 5, 2005

Sports Talk

Last week Blogging Baby picked up my post about TheMonk and I watching football. One of the comments the Blogging Baby post got was from “Uncle Roger” who outlined his distaste for sports and what they represent.

In his comment he suggests going for a hike and that checking out girls in bathing suits is better than participating in sports.

Well, Uncle Roger, you picked on the wrong guy. See, it just goes to show how we can jump to conclusions based on what one writes on his or her blog.

What Uncle Roger doesn’t know is that I have a Master’s Degree in Sport Psychology. My thesis was titled “The Socialization of Sport: The Role of the Parent in Pressuring and Supporting Children in Sports.” I did countless hours of research regarding the role of the parent. I witnessed the stereotypical “Little League Parents” who yelled at their children to do better. I witnessed children not wanting to play because they didn’t want their parents to yell at them.

So, yes, parents can be a problem when it comes to sports (The main difference: When adults are questioned why one participates in sports, “To Win” is listed as the number one reason. When children are asked why they play sports , “To Have Fun” is the most common answer – winning doesn’t even make the top five.) but parents can also be a great motivator and facilitator when it comes to participating in and even watching sports.

As for what activities are more or less important? All I can say is as a parent I will expose my child to a wide variety of activities. For example, my wife and I enjoy mountain biking, hiking and camping. Of course we will expose our children to this. I’m a pretty good swimmer and I’ll teach my children to swim. I love to play baseball so we’ll play whiffle ball at the local park. I have coached kids in track and field for a number of years so I’ll show them how to take a handoff and explode from the starting blocks. And yes, I’ll even sit down and watch a game with them. We’ll talk about strategy. We’ll talk about the latest transgression of the local sports star. We might have a conversation about the definition of a hero and whether or not that applies to a guy who gets paid to tackle the quarterback.

My point? Aside from the fact that Uncle Roger pissed me off, it is that sports have a valid place in our society. They have the ability to teach values. They teach young children how to win with humility and lose with pride. They teach us that all competition isn’t necessarily bad. They teach us how to rebound from a disappointing loss to fight again. They teach us that life isn’t all about being serious. It’s about enjoying the smooth swing of a Barry Bonds or the leaping ability of a Michael Jordan. It’s about knowing you pushed yourself to the limit and discovered who you really can be. It’s about loyalty and rooting for the team you grew up with in a day when we change spouses and jobs at the drop of a hat. It’s about a father (or mother!) and son (or daughter!) sitting down together and enjoying each other’s company over a football game.

Uncle Roger, it’s too bad you have this attitude towards sports. Get beyond the beer and peanuts aspect of it and our children can learn alot.

(By the way, that “abomination they built in downtown SF” was paid for by private money and is helping revitalize a part of town you wouldn’t have stepped foot in 10 years ago. )

Okay, I feel much better now.

September 19, 2005

Tough Interview

I love children’s books. There’s something about the possibility of imagination as you hold a hardback children’s book for the first time. Of course, the illustrations are just as important as the story and I love to spend time examining each page of a “Goodnight Moon” or a “Where the Wild Things Are.” These books bring back great memories of childhood and I currently have a print hanging in my office of The Wild Rumpus in the aforementioned Where the Wild Things Are. It reminds me that while my job can be wild, it can also be an adventure.

As for my job, I work at a Y. I am in charge of branch operations. It has been some time since I have worked directly with children and none of the people who work for me have seen me in this capacity. I am, to them, an administrator. Lately I have been sitting in on interviews for childcare positions we have open. I helped design the questions we ask and I thought it was important to gauge how these applicants relate to children. A couple sample questions…

  • How well do you relate to children?
  • Can you be silly?
  • What’s your favorite children’s book? Why?
  • Often they will have just told us that they relate well to children and yes, they can be silly. When they get to the children’s book question is when I start being persisitent. Many times the favorite book mentioned is “Green Eggs and Ham” or “Where the Wild Things Are.” I then will ask them to tell me their favorite part. I’ll ask them to recite part of Green Eggs and Ham to me. I’ll even help them out by saying things like, “I would not eat them on a boat, I would not eat them with a goat.” or “I would not eat them here nor there, I would not eat them anywhere!” Even then, the applicant does not want to look silly and will laugh uneasily and look at the other interviewers in the room (we always do panel interviews) to see if I’m serious. Finally, the good ones will go “What the heck” and jump in and recite the book.

    My staff, through these interviews, are beginning to see a different side of me. I hope that I’m showing how important it is that we find the right people to work with these kids. I tell the applicants they have the most important job in the world – they are developing today’s youth. And I want staff who really want to take on that responsibility. My feeling is we can teach someone how to discipline a naughty child or how to develop 6 to 8 year old curriculum, but you can’t teach the ability to be silly and the ability to connect with kids on their level.

    So, when I ask an applicant to sing me their favorite nursery rhyme or camp song or childhood rhyme, it’s the most serious interview question they’ll ever get.

    Let the Wild Rumpus Begin!

    September 11, 2005

    The Day The World Changed

    Four years ago today I was awakened by a phone call from my mother. “Turn on the TV,” she said. “A plane crashed into one of the twin towers in New York.”

    For the next hour or so, I sat in front of the television, 3,000 miles away from death and destruction, with a numbing sense that our lives would never be the same. I didn’t cry – not that day – it was too surreal to cry. But I mourned for the loss of lives and the families and friends they left behind, I mourned for the city that I had lived in for six years, and I mourned for the loss of innocence that inevitably arises from such a tragedy.

    I wasn’t a parent then. I didn’t yet have to think about how to explain how such hatred and violence can occur in the same world that let’s us experience the beauty of a rainbow after a summer shower, the aroma of freshly baked cookies on a cold winter’s day, or the soft underside of a lazy kitty’s belly. I’m not sure what I would have said then, had I been a parent. It caught me off guard and I’m not sure I would have had an explanation. But I’ve had some time to think about it. I know that someday I’m going to have to discuss how such atrocities can happen. I use the word “discuss” because I’m not sure there is an “explanation.” At least not one that could ever truly make sense.

    Yes, September 11, 2001 changed me. I am now keenly aware of the role I will have to play in the development of my children. I am raising my children in a world that is far more complex than anything I experienced as a child and they will have to face issues that I never dreamed of as I was growing up. I have written before of how I want to teach my children ways to look at these challenges and choose to act in a way that will foster love and not hatred. That will promote peace and not war. That will provide understanding and not ignorance. These skills are becoming more and more important. No longer do our actions just affect those immediately around us. No, the world is a smaller place and our actions have the power to produce tidal waves across the world rather than just ripples across a pond.

    I have saved newspaper clippings and books that detail the events of 9/11. I hope someday to share these with Jonathan and Swee’Pea. I want them to see what happened. But as much as I want them to understand the events that happened that day, I also want them to see the outpouring of love and compassion that erupted from this horrific event. Strangers helping strangers down long flights of stairs in total darkness, children donating their piggy banks to help in the recovery of a nation, and parents hugging those children close and telling them they are loved and they are safe.

    My hope for my children is for them to be a difference maker. And I don’t mean that in a grand, global sort of way – for we can all make a difference in the lives that we touch. But in order to do that, we have to make the effort! We have to reach out and touch those around us. We have to get to know our neighbors first and the rest of the world second. And while it’s natural to gravitate to those who are most like you (those that look like you, talk like you or think like you), perhaps it’s more important to get to know those who are least like you. Stretch beyond what is comfortable and strive to know your world. Because I believe that it’s hard to hate those that you have taken the time and interest to know and understand.

    I pray for those who lost their lives on 9/11 but I also pray that my children will grow up in a world that grows closer together rather than farther apart. If it has to start somewhere, let it start with them. Let it start with me.

    August 31, 2005

    Let’s hear it for us 38%

    I have a Treo cell phone/PDA that I can check my email on, balance my checkbook, take pictures and video with and generally manage my entire life. My carrier is Verizon Wireless and I subscribe to a “Thought of the Day” that is text messaged to my phone each morning at 9:00 a.m. These thoughts vary from random to absurd. For example, I have learned that only 21% of all couples have separate checking accounts (My wife and I fall into this minority.), that the average person falls asleep in seven minutes and that the risk of having a heart attack is 50% higher on a Monday than any other day of the week.

    This week I got a message that hit a little closer to home…

    V. THOUGHT: DO YOU KNOW WHAT A BLOG IS In early 2005, 62 percent of Americans had no idea, according to Pew Internet & American Life Project.

    How sad and empty those lives must be.

    July 24, 2005

    DOB: 07/24/71

    On Friday, I was driving to work and I thought, “What day is it” I did some mental calculations in my head to determine that it was the 22nd. I was satisfied until I realized I wasn’t entirely sure what month I was in. Some more calculations determined that it was, in fact, July. Again, feeling satisfied, I drifted away from that thought and had almost entirely turned my attention to something else when something inside my head persisted that I was missing an important piece of the puzzle. I was jolted back to counting days when I realized that July 24th is a signifcant date. It’s my birthday.

    Okay, I can be excused for forgetting my birthday, right I mean I’ve got a couple of distracting elements in my life right now and it’s okay that my birthday is just another day in getting to know my two little ones a bit more.

    I do have some fond memories of birthdays past. I remember turning eight years old, we had just moved from a little country town to Santa Cruz, California where my mother was attending school. I didn’t know anyone but my mother was determined to throw me a party. I don’t recollect where the kids came from but I do remember accompanying my mother to downtown Santa Cruz to pick up my birthday cake. It was there we saw a group of people in a brightly painted, old school bus. They wore outlandish outfits and had long hair (okay, so that describes just about everyone in downtown Santa Cruz, but they were a bit more over the top) and seemed to be some sort of traveling sideshow. I distinctly remember my mother rolling down her window and shouting at them, “Hey, do you guys do birthday parties” The next thing I know we’re being entertained by a bunch of nomadic gypsies with puppets, ballon animals and all things fun. A good birthday.

    For my 23rd birthday, I was living in New York City and I happened to notice that the New York Mets were playing my favorite team, the San Francisco Giants on my birthday. I hopped on the subway to the ballpark where I bought the best seat I could afford. I always keep score at games and as I was marking my scoresheet early in the game I noticed the young boy sitting next to me watch what I wrote in my scorecard and then write the exact same thing in his. Soon enough I was showing him how to keep score and we talked baseball for the rest of the day. His favorite player was Bobby Bonilla who was a teammate of Barry Bonds in Pittsburgh. I noticed that the boy was at the game with his mother. At the end of the game, a Giants win, we said our goodbyes. The mother made eye contact with me for the first time and mouthed the words, “Thank you.” For the first time, I got a glimpse of bringing my son to a baseball game.

    Today, I held my son and daughter in my arms while simultaneously feeding both at 5:30 a.m. They were both very alert for such an early morning. They looked up at me over the end of the bottles in their mouths as I told them how much they mean to me. I’ve never had such a good birthday present.

    July 17, 2005

    Off on the Hogwarts Express

    Harry Potter arrived today thanks to my mother-in-law. Now I have yet another reason to miss sleep (as if I needed another excuse). If I don’t post for a few days, I’m probably away from you muggles and off at my sixth year at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

    Bye. I’m off to find platform 9 and 3/4.

    July 12, 2005


    My mother-in-law is in town and she has already left her mark. In addition to making dinner, I came home today to find a few week’s worth of laundry washed and neatly folded.

    I’m trying to overlook the fact that my mother-in-law has now handled my underwear.

    July 7, 2005

    Polluted roadways

    As I travel along the freeway on the way home from work, I notice along the median what appear, at first glance, to be dozens of white legionaire hats. Then, as I pass a bunch, I realize these are not hats. No, any person who has changed over 350 diapers in the past month would recognize these as the diapers they are. The interesting thing is that, even though we haven’t seen rain in a while, it is clear that these diapers are full. Their moisture-absorbing insides are bloated, making them look like large marshmallows with tails.

    The pragmatist in me can’t help but feel sorry for the folks who shelled out the dough for those diapers.

    May 25, 2005

    I’m a little bit country…

    I spent the first 8 years of my life living in a small country town, population: 500 (which is now a thriving metropolis of 2,800). Because of this upbringing, I was influenced by country music as a youngster. In fact, my first live concert was seeing John Denver at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Since then, I have turned away from my country roots and embraced a wide array of music. Over the years I have had my Heavy Metal phase (my mom hated AC/DC’s Back in Black), my decidedly Pop phase (I have far too many Mariah Carey CD’s), and even a short-lived Rap phase (I saw MC Hammer in concert as well). In between I was influenced by the music my mother played in the house. I vividly recall songs from the Doobie Brothers, Marvin Gaye, Donna Summers, Pablo Cruise and Boz Scaggs, to name a few.

    In recent years I have enjoyed crossover country musicians like Shania Twain and Faith Hill. However, it took Carrie Underwood to make me a Country Fan again. I admit, I’m smitten with the small-town country girl on American Idol. While I have watched the show since its inception, this is the first time that I have voted for someone. I have been phoning in my votes for the past several weeks – never wavering, always voting for my girl Carrie. The past few weeks I was greeted by a message from Carrie when I got through (“Hi, thank you for voting for me, Carrie. Tune in tomorrow night at 9:00/8:00 Central to see the results”). Tonight, I was rewarded by Carrie winning the competition. I must say, I felt a certain amount of pride knowing that my votes may have been the ones that put her over the top.

    Now, I guess I’ll have to buy her CD. Yay Carrie!

    January 14, 2005

    A Dream revisited

    On Monday we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Marting Luther King Jr. If he were alive today, I don’t think he would say that his “Dream” has been achieved. Today, ask yourself, what can you do to make Dr. King’s dream a reality Perhaps help someone who needs help, or spread a message of acceptance rather than hatred or love someone who is hard to love. Too many people focus on what we want for ourselves instead of what we need for our society.

    “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, other-centered men can build up.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    On Friday, I sat at a breakfast honoring the memory of Dr. King. Over 700 people felt it was important enough to gather together – to remember the Dream of Dr. King’s – because as long as we are killing each other on the streets, we will never reach the promised land that Dr. King hoped for African-Americans and, indeed, for all of us.

    I have two children on the way. I thought about them today and it scared me that they are coming into a world where gang members kill each other over drugs and territory on a daily basis in our country. It scared me that I will have to be concerned about what color shirt they are wearing or what part of town they travel in. My children will be/are part African-American, part Latino, and part White. I want them to be proud of their heritage and judge others, as Dr. King said, “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I want to teach them that love always conquers hate, that acceptance always trumps violence, and that being open-minded will always overcome ignorance.

    Dr. King’s message starts with us. We can change the way we look at the world and perhaps leave it better than when we entered it – for our children.

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