Some mornings you wake up and your Ward Cleaver. Sharing profound perspicacity with Wally and the Beav before they head off to school, while June toils at the griddle preparing your daily ration of scrambled eggs and bacon. Remarkably, you have never had a cholesterol issue!


Other days, you are Phil Dunphy, trying so hard to get it right your gums hurt. Living in the shadow of your own father, whom you considered impeccable, and never quite measuring up to his standard. Sure, your intentions were good, but the results were not always as planned. Luckily, you had your own Claire to come in and repair the damage, smooth over the rough edges, and restore calm.


Then there are the times Hoss and Little Joe are in a heap of trouble, no one has seen Adam in years, and Hop Sing is demanding a livable wage. As the steady patriarch Ben, it all falls on your shoulders. Can you rise to the occasion? You try, lord knows you try, and hope you get partial credit for at least trying.




My personal favorite are the Ray Barone days. They are never easy days, but somewhere buried deep inside the insanity of it all, you try to find some humor. For example, on those interminable car rides when you turn it into the boys’ sing-along, knowing full well no one knows the words but you. Even still, you announce their solo spot and roundly cheer when the vocals have finished, and Clarence is wailing away on his saxophone. Looking back, you see their shy smile, not quite knowing what’s actually happening, but enjoying the ride just the same.


Never seen amidst all the pandemonium is a Tom Corbett, Jim Nash, Andy Taylor, Steve Douglas, Alex Stone, Mike Brady, nor even a Rob Petrie. They set the bar too ridiculously high. A standard impossible to achieve. Of course, the children were way to complacent and obedient to be believed as well.




There might have been a Herman Munster or Gomez Addams occasionally, but that only seemed to be when the in-laws arrived. Through it all, you just hoped to stay one step ahead of the kids and survive until bedtime, when you could finally relax in front of the tube and see how other TV dads handle their children. Still, I should probably get my cholesterol tested again.


Let Me Be There In Your Morning…


In 1973, I was twelve years-old and had a huge crush on Olivia Newton-John. She had just released a new album, Let Me Be There, and I asked my Mom if we could get it. I basically wanted it for the cover! So off we went to the record store at Geary and Masonic in San Francisco. We marched into the record section of the department store and my Mom located the salesclerk and asked, “Do you have that album by the trio Olivia, Newt and John?”


This is why I have always believed it is a parent’s sworn duty to embarrass their children. Nothing major, mind you, no naked shopping at the minimart or singing a cappella at a school function, but the little things that they will remember fifty years on. I am sure my four sons can attest to the fact that I have done more than my share of embarrassing things. They could probably come up with their own list, but here are a few of mine.


A Parent’s Sworn Duty


For years I coached the boys T-Ball and Double-A teams, never taking the competition as seriously as my fellow coaches. Every year I taught the kids a team cheer. My personal favorite was from Remember the Titans. You know the one, “Everywhere we go, people want to know… We are the Titans, the mighty mighty Titans…” We simply inserted the name of the Little League team in place of Titans. Besides the song, my season-opening talk always included this little pearl of wisdom, “This is your mitt, this is your bat, don’t get them confused.” The mortification this induced in my sons was colossal!


Embarrassment was not only relegated to the playing field though. Quite often a well-placed t-shirt or distinctive baseball cap could do the trick. I worked in local television at the time so there was no shortage of attire featuring the names and faces of shows that could instantly cause prepubescent humiliation. “Dude, what’s your Dad wearing?” “Whatever you do, don’t ask him!”


Pass the Syrup


Then of course there were the meals that included their friends. This was open season for a passing nickname “Pumpkin seed, can you pass the syrup?” or humorous reflection, “Remember the time (insert son’s name) was skating on the hardwood floor and crashed into the refrigerator?”


You may well assert that this is retribution for the wrongs of my youth, but I firmly believe it is a parent’s sworn duty to carry on family traditions. After all, Dads are only good for a few things; opening jars, killing bugs and embarrassing their children. Take away the third item and our tenure is very precarious!



The pre-Christmas frenzy with children must be what it feels like to Steph Curry when he steps onto the court: so many points to score so little time. The kids would circle virtually everything in the holiday catalog to add to their Christmas list, “Uh, kids, do you really want this solid oak humidifier and four horsepower mower-weed whacker combo from Sears?”


In our house the hysteria started right after Halloween and lasted until December 26. Somehow Election Day, Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving did not garner the same respect. In a very real sense, it was a wondrous time. The anticipation, the suspense, the questions, the lists of sizes, styles and colors; they always managed to bring a smile and trigger musings about my own childhood.




One of my favorite parts was the forethought and complexity that demystified the Santa Claus mystique. “Daddy, you know how Sana Claws comes in ‘cause we don’t have any fireplace he lands the reindeer and stuff on the roof and Rudolph comes down and opens up the big window in the living room then Sana grabs the resents jumps on a rope and flys into the house. That’s how Daddy.” His younger brothers looked on with fascination wondering how long it would take before they could solve these perplexing riddles.


My wife, God bless her soul, tried to teach the boys about the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, how he came to save us, the shepherds in the fields, the wise men…

First child: “Mommy, didn’t the wiser guys bring presents? I’ll bet they brought Jesus Monopoly Junior.”

Second child: “Yeah, or maybe a castle and some castle guys…”

First child: “Let’s look through the catalog again?”

Second child: “Yeah, thanks Mom.”


It was a valiant effort just the same, but spiritual enlightenment was a little out of the reach of a three and four-year-old.




Everything was unveiled at this age, as if for the very first time. And I suppose they did not remember too many things from their previous Christmas celebrations, so it was all new to them.


  • Picking out the tree: You would think this should be an incredibly happy, handholding, Walton’s Mountain kind of event. Yet in my family it could turn into an ordeal. “That is just not right,” my wife states inspecting tree #248, located in the third Christmas tree farm we have visited that morning. By this point the boys would begin to gnaw on the tree bark they were so hungry and then my wife found it. It was always an impressive Spruce, very full without a bare spot in any direction. Then I would pull out my trusty saw, and discover why no one had touched it. The circumference of the trunk looks like a redwood. “We can’t cut this one down,” I inform my wife, “I am sure it is a national landmark; it has got to be 200 years old.” I would saw for the next forty-eight minutes. It took a forklift and the entire tree farm staff to hoist it on our van. Sweaty and numb, I would drive home.
  • Tree in stand: The act of transporting the tree into the home is not fit for family fare. Some of the expletives the tree and I shared should be kept between man and nature. It would not have been so bad if the boys hadn’t been trying to swing on the branches while I was securing it in the stand.
  • Decorating said tree: The actual decorating goes much more smoothly. There was some concern about which child hung more ornaments than the other, but upon further review, if you took the seven broken ones into account, it was about even. It is always a trip down memory lane to pull out the old ornaments and decorations. Although with the children it usually was condensed to a run down memory alley. They don’t have time for the stories. They want to get back to the hanging part and see how far up the ladder they can get before we notice.
  • Outside decorations: Once again my wife is the superior parent when it comes to involving the boys and giving them tasks they could accomplish. In my defense, though, I was on the roof hanging lights while she was putting garland around our front yard. So, while they were inside drinking cocoa and speculating about Sana, I was trying to reach the corner of the house without moving the laddahhhhhhhhhhhhh. “I’m all right!”
  • Presents: The first rule is you can’t touch the presents under the tree. Let me say first off, if that rule had been enforced there would have been an empty tree come Christmas Day. Picking up, shaking, standing on, tugging, tossing was all part of the pre-Christmas process. Sometimes they even did that to their own presents.
  • Gifts from them: This was the best! “Dad can I have tape.” Off they went to wrap their crayon in about three feet of Christmas wrap utilizing one and a half rolls of tape and enough ribbon to wrap a two door Mercedes. There it sat under the tree for three weeks, the biggest present of the bunch and best of all, it was for Daddy.
  • Christmas (early) morning: It happened as early as 5:02am and as late as 5:17am. Of course, this made it very easy to attend the early services. They came barreling into the bedroom, blanket in one hand, Pooh Bear under the other. They dragged you out to the tree to see that yes, Santa had eaten their cookie and taken the carrot to Rudolph. The frenzy began as they dove into the presents like rugby players jumping into a scrum. They stopped only long enough to ask if there were anymore. The day was pretty much nonstop with brief interludes for worship and eating. At the end of the day, they would lay in their bed exhausted, sleeping with their favorite new board game under the pillow, and ask that simple question, “How long ’til next Christmas?”




I could see the trepidation in his eyes, and, for the first time, I could do nothing to alleviate it. He knew it and I knew it. It wasn’t preschool where I could just take him home if he was having an off day…or a rough tee-ball practice when I could give him a treat…or a trip to the park ending in a scraped knee that always felt better after one of daddy’s milk shakes…I could offer little comfort today. This was the beginning of Reality 101 (inasmuch as a parochial kindergarten can be reality).


Somehow, I felt this was tougher on me than on him. He did not comprehend the realities that begin with school: homework, 17 years in the classroom, teachers, bullies, the wonders of the universe, computers, painting, art, science, math, history, camaraderie, girls, crushes, crossing guards, recess, lunch, field trips, and everything in between.




To him it was the beginning of a new adventure, as it should be. To me it was the end of an era. Our direct daily dominion was now being supplanted by a myriad of outside influences, all of which were out of our control.


As my wife and I lay in bed before the boys awoke that morning, she traced our oldest sons six years of life by recounting brief memory shards. Focusing on the highlights, wonders and joys inextricably connected with that first child. I marveled at the love in her recollections and I visualized each moment as she described it.




As he climbed into bed with us before his first day of kindergarten, the innocence that comes with the initial half dozen years of life was beautifully reflected in his eyes. As he put on his school uniform, so painfully similar to the one I had donned for eight years, I flashed-back to a hundred different grammar school memories, a few of them were even positive! Hopefully his experiences would be better.


As we approached the school my son spotted some of his friends from preschool and they chatted excitedly about the new path on which they were about to embark. I looked around at the other parents, all looking around at the other parents, and the realization of this new journey struck like a fastball to the gut. The teacher made a very subtle overture for the parents to leave, “I need all the parents to please leave the classroom!” But being the product of a rebellious youth, we ignored her.




“Please now, say goodbye, we need to begin our day,” the teacher tried again. Photos were taken, hugs exchanged, and we made our way out the door. As the parents all shuffled down the stairs, I told my wife I was going back in for one final pat. My son patted me on the hand and assured me everything would be all right.


I could see the trepidation in my wife’s eyes, and I could do nothing to alleviate it. It was time for our son to begin a new facet in his very young life. But the remembrances of his first six years will live forever in our hearts, replaying like a favorite old film offering comfort and joy.




Coaching my boys Tee-Ball team is one of the best things I have done as a parent to date.  For those of you not up to speed on this sport sweeping the post-toddler set, it is baseball with the ball placed firmly on a stand at the child’s waist level.  The child takes a bat and tries to hit it as far as he can.  Sometimes the tee will make it to the pitcher’s mound!  Other times they will make contact with the ball which is even more exciting since that is the object of the game.  Hank Greenwald, one of my favorite broadcasters, used to say, “You can come out to the ballpark and see something new every day.”  Truer words were never spoken than at the tee-ball level.


The time I spent with eleven kids under the age of seven was very satisfying, and remarkably entertaining.  Mind you, I am to coaching what the NHL is to etiquette, but my emphasis was on fun and teamwork which appeared to satisfy all involved.  Except for some of my fellow coaches, that is.




This is one of the kid’s first exposures to team sports, if not sports in general.  I was pleased if I could get them to find first base, throw the ball forward and put the glove on the correct hand (“Remember, not the hand you throw with”).  Yet, some of the other coaches thought they were teaching them how to focus and win games.  Win games, you don’t even keep score in tee-ball! 

We played against one team who actually had a chant every time one of my players was up to bat.  I looked at the kids on this team and they did not seem to be having much fun.  Maybe I am off base on this (pun intended), but there will be plenty of times in their life for competition and bearing down for an achievable goal, tee-ball is just not one of them.




I remember in the second game of the season, I was given a new player who stood just slightly higher than the tee.  He was assigned the coveted fielding position of mid-second-shortstop.  In his first at bat he dribbled the ball up the third baseline.  A little unclear on the concept, he felt it was his obligation to retrieve the ball, all the while clutching the bat in his hand.  It was quite a sight, the bat flailing in his hand, running after the ball, with me in hot pursuit trying to convince him to drop the lumber and run.  No one on the other team interfered with his mission for fear they would get clocked by the bat. 


I am confident that the other coach, already holding a low opinion of me, felt I was very ineffectual as an instructor, and you know what, I could care less.  My kids were having fun, I knew that much, and the parents did not have any complaints. 


In practice they were learning some rudimentary baseball skills (very basic, such as, “This is the ball, you catch the ball with your glove, it goes on your hand”) and how to play as a team, and respect other players.  To me those were lofty goals for a two-and-a-half-month season.  I made sure that the parents knew where I stood right from the start in my coaching philosophy, and I was pleased to see they all appeared to feel the same way.




I am sure I encountered a myriad of situations that Bruce Bochy never has, but I also did not have to deal with high priced players and hamstring pulls.   Loose teeth, yes; donuts after the game, certainly; potty breaks, undoubtedly; but kid durham did not involve a single groin injury.


If you get this opportunity, I have three words for you, jump at it!  But utilize the opportunity to educate them on teamwork and the fundamentals of the game.  By fundamentals I mean, “This is a bat.  This is a mitt.  Try not to get them confused.”  Take the time to enjoy the kids, their enthusiasm and childishness.  Who better to act like a child than a five-year-old?  Don’t get into the competitive thing with kids at this age.  They will have the rest of their lives to worry about being first.


As time goes on, I hope my boys will excel in some sport, if that is their choice.  I feel they all have the skills and the potential to be very athletic.  I plan to encourage this, but not force it upon them, and especially not at the ripe old age of five.


Editors note: No groins were injured during the writing of this blog.

…he felt it was his obligation to retrieve the ball, all the while clutching the bat in his hand.  It was quite a sight, the bat flailing in his hand, running after the ball, with me in hot pursuit trying to convince him to drop the lumber and run