Taking Stock of Life on My Birthday

A few years back, I called my Dad (who will be 69 in December) on his birthday.  I asked him if he was having a good day.  He responded, more philosophically than normal, “Any day that your feet hit the floor is a good day.”

Even though no one, no matter how old, ever wants to admit that their parents are right about anything, I’ll grant my Dad this one.  His thought helps to put the difficulties of everyday life into perspective.  Since then, I have responded with his answer when people ask me how my day is going.

As I turn 44 today, as I do on each birthday, I’m taking stock of my life as it stands today.  I passed my Dad’s hurdle at 4:45am this morning when I got out of bed to hit the treadmill.  That makes today a good day.

So – let’s start with positives:   Loving wife.  Two great kids.  Everyone is healthy.  Best dog ever.  A good job.  Money in the bank.  Saving for college (a ways to go!).  Saving for retirement (more than a ways to go!).  Awesome vacations and global travel.  A home theater to watch my Capitals, Yankees and Redskins (love that DirecTV!).

On the downside:  Way too much stress at work that has, from time to time, bled into our home.  Can’t stop biting my nails.  Need to lose 10 to 20 pounds.  Spend too much money than I would like, but can’t seem to stop.  House is 8 years old, and things are beginning to go.  Wish I could see my sisters and parents and nieces and nephews more often.  Wish I was more involved in some community activities.  Wish I could help my wife out more at home.  Wish I could cook like the men and women on Top Chef.

That was easy and leads to an easy conclusion:  I think I’ll take my life.  Doing this puts everything into clear perspective.  The little picture may be dire from time to time, but the big picture is fantastic.

I can only hope the next 56 years are just as good.  And by the way, 56 more years is just a minimum, not a maximum.

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First Day of School – A Tale of Two Kids

Today is the first day of the 2010-2011 school year for my kids.  Back when I was their age, we didn’t start school until the Tuesday after Labor Day.  Then again, we didn’t get out until the middle of June.  My kids are normally done just before or just after Memorial Day.

Although both believe that summer vacation is entirely too short, my children took very different approaches as the first day of school neared.

One child got on Facebook to compare schedules with friends to see who is in which classes.  The other didn’t look at their schedule in detail until just yesterday and only grudgingly admitted knowing a few people who were in the same classes.

One child did extensive shopping with my wife to find the perfect backpack and the perfect school supplies.  The other was dragged to look for a backpack and then poked through a pile of school supplies on the kitchen counter before pronouncing that what was needed was there.

One child packed their backpack early yesterday evening without being asked to make sure they had everything ready to go.  The other child was prompted to pack their backpack after 10:00pm last night, gave us a blank stare, and then threw a few things in.

One child tried on multiple first-day-of-school outfits last night, asking both me and my wife which looked better, only to change to a different outfit this morning.  The other didn’t consider what to wear until they got out of the shower and then grabbed whatever was clean (or at least what looked clean to us).

One child popped out of bed this morning, got dressed early and waited for the bus.  The other got up on time but then lay down on the couch to get as much sleep as possible until the last possible minute they could leave for marching band practice.

One child is starting 7th grade.  The other is starting 10th grade.

One child is a girl, and the other child is a boy.

Both are excellent students and get good grades with many outside-of-school activities.  This stereotypical (yet true!) tale of two kids proves there is more than one way to get the same results.

Best wishes to parents and students for a successful school year.

Pledging to Be the “Right” Parent of a High School Athlete

Just over a month ago, I posted somewhat of a diatribe about how poorly the high school ice hockey league in the St. Louis metro area is run. I’m sad to say that the issue did not resolve itself as I had hoped.

In the end, my son’s public high school will not be able to field an ice hockey team for the 2010-2011 season. Instead of allowing us to merge his school’s program with another from a nearby school, the adults that manage the league want to disperse the kids to other teams via a draft or the equivalent of free agency.

The dispute I and other parents have with the Mid States Hockey Association is a bit political.  It’s two sides with different opinions, both of which seem logical to the holder of the opinions.  I won’t rehash the argument here.  Like many political arguments, the dispute is not, at this point, resolvable.

I am able to justify the blog post and a couple of widely broadcast emails because I believe I was doing what I needed to do as a parent to support my child.  Upon reflection, however, I suspect some other parents or the leaders of Mid States didn’t perceive my actions in the same way.  I wonder if others thought I was lobbying for my son in a way that put my son above the others because my son is “special.”  That’s certainly not what I intend.  I never want to become that ugly parent of an athlete that clearly thinks his child is above everyone else.  I want to be known as a supportive, fair parent, who encourages his son to play to the best of his ability.

I pledge to be the “right” parent.  Specifically:

  1. I will make sure that my son attends every practice and every game, except for illnesses or for schoolwork problems.
  2. I will attend every game that does not conflict with other family obligations or business trips out of town.  If I cannot attend, my wife will do her best to attend.
  3. I will support the coaches’ decisions when my son complains and encourage him to raise any concerns to the coaches and not to me or his mom.
  4. I pledge not to talk to my son or yell at my son to do something in the middle of the game.
  5. I will allow the coaches to make their own strategic decisions, playing time decisions, and playing position decisions.
  6. If I want to talk with the coach, I will do so privately, but not within 24 hours after the end of a game.  This will give me time to reconsider or calm down, if I am frustrated.
  7. I will not talk negatively about my son’s teammates’ abilities.
  8. I will not denigrate the opponents loudly during the game.
  9. I will volunteer to assist the team in score-keeping, fund-raising or other role.
  10. I will make sure that all fees we owe for the team are paid.

Are these the right things to focus on?  Tell me what you think.

Does it make sense to list out these things and have all the parents sign a pledge?  Personally, I think so.

Golfing With My Parents on July 4

On this July 4, it’s time to take a break from the World Cup, from free agency in both the NBA and NHL, and from the discussion of whether Stephen Strasburg should be in baseball’s all-star game.

Because July 4 is a day that families spend together, I’ve decided to post about the round of golf I played with my son and parents in Delaware. It was a six-hour (!) round of golf in a hot, humid, bug-infested environment.  But it was also an example of sport bringing together multiple family generations.

The golf wasn’t good. My dad shot 108, and he was at least 10 strokes better than me. I had given up scoring on the fourth hole, so I honestly don’t know my score.

The View from the Driving Range on July 4

I had some real Caddyshack moments on the course.  At first, I felt like we were at Bushwood Country Club itself when loud music blared from across the cove as I and my collared shirt grabbed golf balls from a well-formed pyramid on the driving range. Get the picture?

My son played like Judge Smails’ nephew Spaulding (Sorry, Caddyshack aficionados, that’s the only similarity). And my dad was a bit like Judge Smails himself, in that he’s a stickler for the rules and for fast play.

But, to be fair, the day was about the time we spent together.

It was about my son and his grandma riding in the same cart (she with lit Marlboro menthol in hand) and laughing as she explains what a FISH golf shot is (fuck it’s still here).

It was about my dad, just like a dad should,  telling me that it was ok when I plunked one in the water (never mind I’m 43 and didn’t really care about the lost ball).

It was about my mom, just like a mom should, telling me not to drink beer on the course because it dehydrated you (I drunk one anyway).

It was about my son, just like a 15-year-old should, actively and loudly washing his ball as his grandma tried to tee off.  His grandma said it was ok, and his grandpa took the opportunity explain golf etiquette, just like they each should.

And it was about the sneer my mom gave me when I asked if my son could drive the cart, which is against club rules, yet happily letting him drive a few holes later, just as a grandma should.

There was no family celebration over a hole-in-one or even a chip-in. There was no emotional hug on the 18th green. By the time my dad and I putted out on 18, my mom and son were safely in my folks’ air-conditioned house, having left after the 13th hole.

I left the course knowing that my son will remember this day with his grandparents, just as I remember a day driving the cart for my dad’s dad. And someday, when I play golf with him and his son or daughter, he’ll tell them about this day with fond memories.

He’ll probably compare me to my dad or my mom or both. I will probably deserve it. That will be fine with me.