As far as sports are concerned, baseball is my first love.
As a child, I remember sleeping with my baseball glove rather than a teddy bear or a favorite blanket. I used to chew on the leather strings like they were a teething ring.
I liked the game as a child, fell in love with the game as a teenager and now adore the game as an adult.
Nowadays, I’m teaching my children to not just look at the score and who won, but also appreciate the nuances and journey of the game. The outcome (who won and who lost) is important, but it’s not the only reason to love baseball.
Football is entertaining, but true romantics still consider baseball our national pastime.
A pastime, by definition, is something that connects us to our ancestors. Pastimes allow us to link back to a time when our our parents were younger, our worries were fewer and our lives were more simple.
My grandfather cannot teach his great grandchildren how to text on a cell phone, but he can throw batting practice pitches to his great grandchildren in the backyard where his children once roamed in generations prior. You don’t need a users manual. Baseball is a universal language.
In baseball, there is no rush. Time is on our side. There are no clocks. There is no halftime or intermission. Baseball reads nearly as a continuous poem. Pitchers can pitch the ball when they are comfortable. Batters can enter the batter’s box at their own cadence.
As a fan we enjoy the sounds of the game. Sounds that are emitted from a baseball field are timeless. Even a blind man can tell when a ball is struck perfectly with a wooden bat. That sound never leaves your memory. When we go to a baseball game, we forget about reality. Our worries are less, our relaxation is high and we have time to spend with those we love.
Baseball also has many parallels with life and parenting.
Baseball is a long, tireless grind. Major league baseball teams play 162 regular season games per year. Games occur nearly every day. Sometimes there are two games in a day.
The season starts in the early spring and ends in the late fall. There are winning streaks and losing streaks. There are high highs and low lows.
The best players keep their emotions in-line. One day you can hit the game winning home run and the next day you can go hitless and make two errors. Baseball can make you feel like a hero one day, and a schmuck the next.
When I think of the most dynamic season for a baseball player of all time, I think of Ted Williams and his season with the Boston Red Sox in 1941.
In 1941, at the ripe age of 22, Ted Williams hit for a batting average of .406. Amazingly, In 1941, sacrifice flies counted against your batting average, unlike today. If batting average statistics were calculated for his season in 1941 like they are today, Teddy Ballgame (one of his many nicknames) would’ve hit .419.
Ted Williams averaged better than two hits in every five at bats. No player has hit .400 or better since 1941. Hall of Famer George Brett came close. Tony Gwynn did too. But neither hit .400, only Ted Williams.
In that same year, Ted Williams had 37 home runs and drove in 120 runs. His on-base percentage was .551.
His performance in 1941 is arguably the best statistical year of any hitter in the history of the game. In a word, for a hitter, his season was perfect.
One lesson we can take from this baseball story though was that Teddy Ballgame had bad days that year, too.
Shockingly, Ted Williams was not voted most valuable player in 1941. He finished second. That had to be a bad, freaking day.
Ted Williams struck out 27 times that year. There were numerous bad days sprinkled in there.
Outcome-wise, the record breaking season by Williams was not nearly enough to help the cursed Red Sox that year. They finished 17 games out of first place and missed the playoffs. The last day of the season, though he won the batting title, Ted Williams went home to listen to the baseball playoffs on his radio. That had to be a bad day.
On December 7th, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked. This was one of the saddest days in the history of our country.
On May 22, 1942, Ted Williams joined the United States Navy… in the prime of his career.
On Saturday, as a parent, I had a bad day.
Some history first…
Our kids have done swim lessons in the past and have showed wonderful progress. They love the water and being able to swim is important to us as parents. We spend a lot of time on a boat on Lake Erie during the summer. We are worried about their safety. Our one son walked into a swimming pool without a swimming lifejacket last year and nearly drown. Still we never have forced them to do swim lessons. It’s always been their choice and decision.
After completing the prior level of swim lessons late last year, they said they liked it and wanted to continue with the program and start the next level of lessons in early 2014. Thus we paid the fee (double since we have twins) and signed them up at our local recreation center.
As soon as Teddy popped out of bed last Saturday, he started saying he didn’t want to go to swim lessons. When asked why, he could not provide an explanation. He refused to get dressed. He refused to brush his teeth. He refused to eat breakfast. Teddy, in all fairness, was having a very bad day too.
Usually, Teddy can easily be threatened or bribed. These are tools us parents use when all else fails. We try to use them sparingly. On a small scale, when you follow through and are consistent, both are time tested useful parenting tactics.
We tried bribing Teddy with post swim lessons donuts. Nope.
We tried bribing him with candy. Nope.
We threatened to take away his new favorite toy, his iPad, for a week. He did not care, he said.
I was fed up. I yelled. I screamed. My wife followed suit. We were spitting nails. I threatened to leave him at home to spend the whole day in his room. I was serious. I hate yelling, but I yelled some more.
“You told us you wanted to do this! It was your idea!”
I repeated this over, over and over again.
Finally, I dropped the grenade that I thought would force him in the car.
I threatened to cancel his birthday party.
Yep, no birthday for a five year old.
His twin brother could celebrate, but he would get nothing. No party. No cake. Nothing.
He cried and cried and cried. He was hysterical. At that point, there was no way he was getting in the car. I took his brother to the recreation center and left Teddy alone at home, in his room, with his mother downstairs doing laundry. He was in a bad place and so were we.
I came home from swim lessons with our other child Cooper and apologized to Teddy. Despite his poor, ungrateful and wasteful attitude, I had overreacted and taken the threats to the extreme.
I never planned to cancel his birthday party. Threats only work if they are real and you follow through with them. My wife pointed out that I went over the line. That threat sucked. I justified the threat (we were already late, I did not want to make Cooper late for Teddy’s temper tantrum), but realized it was over the top.
Teddy apologized to me. He told me he was sorry and he does not know why he was in a bad mood. He wants to go to swim lessons next week.
Today, Teddy told his mommy she was the best mommy in the world. He told me I was the best daddy in the world. He thanked me for warming up the car for him so he wouldn’t be cold this morning on his ride to daycare. He loved that I carried him through the garage, to the car, buckled his seatbelt for him and gave him a kiss as I do every morning. He has forgotten all about this incident that happened just five days ago.
After thinking about the situation, at first, I felt guilty for the way I handled it.
I was wrong, but none of us our perfect. Not me. Not you. Not even Ted Williams.
Parenting, like baseball, is a grind.
Each day you wake up and there’s a new game to be played. Year, after year, after year, you play the game and hope that one day, your legacy will be deemed successful and worthwhile.
The night before my son’s bad day, he had experienced his first NBA game and ate at a fine dining restaurant that most kids don’t have the opportunity to experience. The day after the incident, we went sledding with new snazzy snow tubes and made timeless memories.
Sandwiched in between Friday and Sunday was a bad day.
Ted Williams had bad days in 1941. He was not a bad baseball player. He one of the best baseball players to ever live.
We have bad days as parents, but that does not make us bad parents.
Here are some tips for getting past a bad parenting day:
1) Never expect perfection from yourself or your child
2) Try to wipe the slate clean after a bad day and start fresh the next day
3) Talk to your spouse or a friend about how you handled the situation and be open to constructive criticism
4) Try to rest well that night and get a full eight hours of sleep
5) Recognize and reward your children when they exhibit good behaviors
6) Be kind to yourself
7) Be mindful that most of the time, bad days are just bad days and are not part of a deeper issue
Bad parents ignore their children. Bad parents are apathetic about parenting. Bad parents grossly criticize their children in public and private. Bad parents take their anger, depression, and/or frustrations out on their kids. Bad parents are undependable. Bad parents physically and mentally abuse their children.
I’m not a bad parent, I just struck out that one day.
I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s game.
Have you ever had a bad day? How do you handle/overcome similar situations like these?