As parents we all make mistakes, its inevitable. Many times over the years I have reiterated the painful fact that parenting doesn’t come with a manual specific to you. It is one of the hardest most demanding jobs we as a adults will ever work. (my prevalent graying hair loss is proof) Yet despite our best intentions along with all the ups and downs, we cross our fingers and pray at the end of the day everything will work out just fine.
Over the years, through thousands of snap judgements, arguments and skull scratching moments there have been times my decisions havent been the most sound. Be it exhaustion from the endless bombardment our children’s attention requires, or just the sheer fact I really wasnt listening. It remains a fact. Times when I said or did something I wished I could have taken back. Worried I may have scarred a little ego or trampled even the best of efforts through my obvious ignorance. It has been said; “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”. But when you consistently strive to be the best parent you can be the odds are stacked against you.
So my question is this: What did you say or do while parenting that you wish you could either take back or change?
One day my 7-year-old daughter dragged all my baseball coaching gear out onto the backyard lawn. Now this had been an ongoing problem as repeatedly there had been gear spread across our property. Being the ever vigilant, penny-pinching father every one of those items equated to a dollar sign and over the years we had accumulated quite a bit of high quality instructional aids for little league baseball. Having coached ball for 4 years while my oldest played, the sanctity of these items was paramount to the future success of our younger boys as they too aspired to play baseball. Up until that moment I had assumed the boys were responsible for dragging this gear out and leaving it spread across our little forty acre parcel. But now it was obvious my daughter was to blame.
The backyard was laid out perfectly with a throwing station, batting station and bases which formed up a miniature diamond. As she pulled a baseball from the bucket and wound up to throw towards one of two targets I leaned out the backdoor bellowing; PUT THAT STUFF AWAY!
She tried to say something to me but all I could do was point towards the garage and sternly say: I don’t want to hear it honey put the baseball stuff away!!!
Lip quivering and a dumbfounded look upon her face she began mumbling about throwing, catching, hitting, what ever, I didn’t care she was a girl, girls don’t play baseball they play softball and their was no way she was going to play with MY baseball equipment!
I proclaimed in my sternest voice: PUT IT AWAY NOW OR RISK SPENDING THE AFTERNOON IN YOUR ROOM!
Turning on my heels, door closing behind me I headed for a cup of coffee. After brewing up a pot and pouring myself a cup I gazed towards the backyard once again only to notice nothing had been cleaned up! To make matters worse she was getting ready to toss a ball straight up in the air with bat in hand! Before my temper could rise or my body could clear the back door she tossed it up and actually hit the ball! That’s right she hit the ball! My seven-year old little girl not only defied my direct order to put all the gear away but actually hit the damn ball!
And it was sailing out of the backyard!
Standing slack-jawed in astonishment the “coach” in me held back as she did it time and again! She kept reaching into the bucket pulling out another ball and crushing it! Then just as I was about to walk out and see if she could throw (scouting report and all) she did the unthinkable! She switched sides! Yep, not only had she crushed the ball hitting right-handed she was now sailing them out into the field hitting left-handed! Stop the god damn presses! Could it be we have a self-taught switch hitter living in this household?
Walking into the backyard, she turned and looked at me as if a prison sentence was in her future, but instead with a sheepish look upon my face I softly asked her to do it again! She nodded yes, hit the ball and with a smile on her face asked me if I thought she was any good? I laughed and said; yes honey I think you are pretty good. She asked me if I would play catch with her, so off I scurried to grab my mit with the exuberance of someone who just found out they were playing catch with Nolan Ryan!
We threw the ball back and forth a few times and amazingly she threw quite well! But what made it even better was her ability to throw both left and right-handed! Now don’t let me paint you a picture of a baseball/softball prodigy in the making, she definitely needed lots of work, but just to be able to do those things on her own without anyone showing her how was pretty cool. We ended up finishing the afternoon laughing and joking about her becoming the best baseball player around.
Her mother signed her up for softball later that year. She had a good season and was an average player, (no hero-worship yet) but she still practices every chance she gets and can’t wait for the new season to begin!
What do I wish I could change?
By not recognizing my daughter as a person who loves baseball I inadvertently created a gender bias. As a father that is a giant FAIL! “It wasnt about the gear it was about some notion that “girls don’t play baseball” not even recognizing the softball cross over or the pure fact none of that even mattered if she was just having fun. What made it worse for me personally is the fact as a firefighter working in a male driven profession I am one of those guys who believe anyone can do this job, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, etc..! Shining moment of double standards! Father of the year? It was a humbling experience and as a parent a learning moment!
So the question remains: What did you say or do while parenting that you wish you could either take back or change?
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2 thoughts on “Father of the year?”
Mine was when my son was all of 3.5 years old. He had walked way earlier than his brain was able to identify danger and I spent a lot of time running into traffic after him. I had, also, spent a lot of time after running after him lecturing on how and why that was the wrong choice. Often I found myself so frustrated I wanted to shout the first thing that came to my head in those moments, sounding dangerously like my father (gasp) when I was young (sorry, Dad, but it’s true). So, I was picking him and his sister up at daycare after a long day at work, wrung out and grumpy. He started to run towards the car, no cars coming, but the principle made me want to drive the lesson home, so I laid into him about darting out and that he had to hold my hand. He started to open his mouth to “talk back”( my mind’s label), so I cut him off with the classic, ” I don’t want to hear it, young man, don’t give me any of your garbage!”. Nothing horrible, right? I get him strapped in, circle around and get in. It’s quiet in the car, sure sign of a problem, I look back and my sweet little boy, with a giant, caring heart, is in tears, quietly sobbing. He looks up, tears in his eyes, “I wasn’t trying to give you garbage, mommy! I sorry!”. Well, I felt like the biggest loser Mom, ever! It was nothing, right? How could something so off the cuff, benign, have such a big affect on him…cuz I’m his mommy and he listens to EVERYTHING I say, even when it doesn’t seem like it!
It is so true, they really do listen to everything! I have found myself on more than one frustrating occasion using words I should’nt to drive home a point! I have also found an apology and hug often help show our children we are human too and make mistakes. Nice story, Thank you…