The plush spherical object achieves the uppermost portion of the flight pattern's arc in perfect symmetry between the source and destination. As the journey nears conclusion, my smiling child happily awaits the arrival of the angry bird I had just thrown. As the stuffed animal bounces off her chest and scampers under the couch, I can only help but smile back. After all, she's only three months old and not expected to be able to master the art of catch. Well, not quite yet.
You see, in a dad's life, baseball and parenting go hand-in-hand. There is just something about the sport — more than any other sport — that fosters the father-child bond. Perhaps it is that the game itself seems so simple. Throw and catch. Throw and hit. Yet, the intricacies of how those simple tasks are completed fill volumes of books and are still not fully understood. As with parenting, the simplicity of loving and caring for a child is more complex than can be understood without experiencing it yourself.
Zack Meisel of cleveland.com expressed how a simple game of catch can help strengthen the bond whether the child is the GM of the Cleveland Indians or even if the kid cannot remember the game of catch being played (hint: go read it.).
Dad's get stuff done. There's a reason Home Depot's slogan is "Let's do this" as they target those dads that need to accomplish tasks around the house. And, if stuff is going to get done, then it should get done correctly. Well, how do you learn how to do things "the right way"? That's right, a generational passing of knowledge from father to child is an ongoing tradition since the beginning of humankind.
Whether it is how to tie shoelaces, how to use a caulking gun, how to use a computer/smart phone, or how impress at a job interview, a dad's life coaching his kids is never done. Last weekend, my oldest son hung his first television set. He measured out the holes for the frame (and leveled out the line), marked the spots, ratcheted in the lag screws, and tightened the TV on the frame. A simple chore, but one that he now knows he can accomplish, which means there are other things he'll have the confidence to do. Coaching 'em up is an important responsibility.
The ground crew
When one wanders into the house and sees a clean, well-decorated home with a beautiful color pallette, pleasantries usually are directed towards the matriach of the estate. However, the traditional duty of the patriarch also is the first item noticed upon arrival. The landscape of the yard begins to depict the narrative of the man. Are the weeds trimmed? Is the grass cut evenly? Is there a water feature? Once a new visitor arrives at the domicile, he can tell them a ton about the man residing there. And, of course, the size and customization-level of the playscape is a handiness indicator.
My dad had nearly two acres of lawn to cultivate and maintain. He taught me everything from gardening to time maintenance to how to get a stubborn riding lawn mower engine to turn over. Now, I have a little more than an acre. It's all on me for the moment, but there will come a time in the not too distant future when those lessons too will be passed.
There are doctors to determine the true rehabilitation path of injuries and the best courses of action. But, most homes and playing fields do not have their own doctor standing to diagnose. Therefore, it is the Dad's repsonsibility to evaluate on-site whether his kid is hurt or injured. Whether they need to be pushed to persevere or told it is OK to shut it down. It is not an easy task. But, whether it be evaluating an ankle injury or a morning cough, it must be done.
My eldest son had a near-Uribe moment when he was playing in an eight-year old All-Star tournament. He was playing third base and had been inching forward with men on first and second base. On this particular play, the batter smashed a one-hopper that hit him square in the knee, which buckled as he fell onto the infield grass. Somehow, he gathered the ball, marine-crawled to third base and sat upon it bawling his eyes out as he recorded the out. After time was called, I raced onto the field (not a coach) and checked on him. The indention of the seams of the baseball were well within his skin, but he was fine after catching his breath.
The PR man & PA announcer
As Colt McCoy's dad can tell you, there is no louder proponent of a child than their dad. Any slightly favorable happening in the life of a child will be announced and relayed to friends, family, and anyone with the good fortune to spark a conversation (or not run away). Lest you think it not an important part of development, it is this steady diet of encouragement that builds the quiet confidence for the child.
My daughter is a gymnast and a tumbler. She has all of the balance and rhythm that I never was blessed to possess. It is as if she was allocated my allotment, which is fine with me. However, she also is a girly girl who doesn't always want to do the boyish things.
When she first made her way to the fields to practice baseball with her older brothers (as a three year old), I did not know what to expect. Well, I should have known better. The fiery little girl took precious little coaching to understand how to swing the bat. She wanted nothing to do with a tee either. If the boys could hit pitches, then so could she. So, she smashed the ball easily and took off down the bases. As she did cartwheels into second base (yes, cartwheels), the only one with a bigger smile than her was me.
Of course, the greatest and most important role of a dad is to be there and to listen. To be strict with discipline when it is needed, but soft with hugs as well. To know when they need to be pushed and when they need that gentle understanding. There's a reason that the Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona is considered one of the best in baseball. It sure isn't for game decisions that allow a .111 hitter to bat in a crucial spot in the ninth inning of a one-run game.
I am not always finding the delicate balance here that I wish I could obtain. I'm too quick to scold or correct at times, too soft at others. But, when I come home, my kids seem genuinely happy to give me hugs and excited to show me their drawings of bunnies and Tie-Fighters and the like. Well, I've got to be doing something right.
Also, please don't forget that WFNY is hosting a Father's Day contest. Yes, you can still enter.
Any format will be accepted. The only stipulation is that you keep it under 250 words and it can be as short as you want. So, tell us about your dad or about being a dad and be as creative, emotional, or silly as you want. Plus, three entries will receive a prize, and who doesn't love free stuff.