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!

 

PARTY-TIME

 

You are at a work party without the kids, a glass of wine in one hand, peanuts in the other, all the while trying desperately to maintain a conversation with the guy in accounting when it hits you: I don’t know how to talk to adults anymore! I have nothing to say and I don’t even remember the structure of an adult conversation.

 

Sure, you talk to your wife, but those are brief snippets of one cohesive thought. “Today at work I (ten minute break to change a diaper) had a budget meeting (twenty-seven minute interruption to settle an argument, wipe faces, and load the dishwasher) where they reviewed my department (seventeen minute bath time interlude) and realized it wasn’t (bedtime story, prayer, kisses, chat about the existence of dragons, another kiss, more chatting, argument about said dragons, lights out) necessary. They gave me two weeks. How was your day?”

 

KID TALK

 

Fear hits you as you realize to have a meaningful conversation anymore the other participant must be under four feet tall, believe wholeheartedly in the existence of Spider-man and use the word “potty” in their daily vocabulary. Otherwise you have nothing to say to these people.

 

It is a shocking dose of reality as you look around the party and see that no one else seems to be having a problem discussing various adult topics. You spot your wife on the other side of the room happily carrying on a conversation with Dennis in marketing. Dennis! How come they can have a normal conversation? What is normal anyway? I should talk to the boys about normal tomorrow.

 

When you try to interject yourself into a conversation, your contributions appear to fall on deaf ears:

 

  • Movies – “I just saw Benji VI: The Last Canine on Prime. Not much of a plot, but the special effects were impressive.”
  • Politics – “My son is running for Kindergarten Rep. He would have run for Vice President if it wasn’t for that Nicholson kid.”
  • Sports – “We ranked third in the Little League Double A standings and just missed the playoffs because of those darn Riverbats!”

 

PLAY BALL?

 

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.

 

IT’S A GAME

 

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.

 

ROGUE BAT!

 

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.

 

NO GROIN INJURIES

 

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