Archive for the ‘Family’ Category
I cannot think of many reasons to listen to Boomer Esiason. He is your classic ex-football player turned sports announcer that has nothing new to say about anything. He is a stereotype, and a poor man’s Phil Simms.
Today he was on the radio sharing old thoughts about old topics, and he joined a New York host that isn’t named Howard Stern in bashing Daniel Murphy, a second baseman for the New York Mets, that used his right to take paternity leave after the birth of his son.
Esiason suggested that the couple should have scheduled a Caesarian-section so as not to miss the first few games of the season, and also because Esiason is a total idiot.
I was going to write a whole post about it, but it turns out I don’t have to. I have written it before, when another guy that gets paid to talk about games openly criticized a player for making a similar choice, that of family over baseball, which doesn’t seem like it should be a choice at all.
In the spirit of sports pundits having nothing new to talk about I have shared my original post (DadCentric, 2011) below. Enjoy my anger.
Telling the Men From the Boys of Summer
“In Game 2, Colby Lewis is scheduled to start after missing his last regular turn in the rotation because—I’m not making this up—his wife, Jenny, was giving birth in California. To the couple’s second child … If it was a first child, maybe. But a second child causing a player to miss a game? Ludicrous.” – Richie Whitt of the Dallas Observer
It is rare, to the point of utter amazement, in these volatile times to find someone that reaches a level of asshole capable of separating them so clearly from the pack. Richie Whitt is on top of his game.
Whitt is slamming the decision of Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis to utilize a new rule in MLB which allows players to take 24 to 72 hours of paternity leave, in order to be present during the birth of his daughter.
The birth of his daughter.
And to make sure that we understood exactly what Whitt meant when he chastised a man for choosing family OVER A GAME he followed his original quote with this gem:
“I don’t care if Lewis is a good dad. If I wanted to root for a team of great role models, I’d renew my season tickets to watch the deacons at my Sunday church. I want—always have, always will—the Rangers to win.
“If the Rangers lose the AL West by one game—and if it can be reasonably concluded that Lewis missing that start contributed to them missing the playoffs—I’ll be pissed.”
All of which makes me think that Richie Whitt must be a very special kind of fucking idiot.
We all say stupid things. Hell, some of us make a living out of it. However, it’s only a matter of time before one is held accountable for said stupidity, and Whitt may want to start painting pictures with the humble brush while he is still on this side of a paycheck.
Granted, I’m not one to suggest a person should be punished for speaking their mind (or what passes for it), but to put the weight of a franchise, of a city, on the shoulders of father and his baby girl? That’s so incredibly ignorant that it borders on awesome. No, I’m not calling for his job, or even a boycott of whatever dribble it is that he gets paid to publish, but I would like everyone to point at him and laugh. Loudly.
Kids, don’t feed the buffoon.
We live at a crossroads in America, where stereotypes, gender roles, and all kinds of thought fueled with hate are being shattered and remolded for the better. Colby Lewis did what any decent man should do, make every possible attempt to be present for his family when they need him. It’s a no-brainer.
Therein lies the rub about crossroads, for every right decision or Ralph Macchio guitar solo, there is a devil or two hanging around waiting to knock you for it. It’s time to pay the devil his due.
I’m speaking metaphorically here.
Someday Colby Lewis is going to be an ex-baseball player, and he may regret certain errors or pitches, or be proud of this stat or that game. However, the best decision he will ever make in a Rangers uniform is already behind him. It won’t show up in the box score, and it won’t earn him any awards, but it is a far better mark of a man than any earned run average could ever hope to be.
Something tells me that Richie Whitt has no idea what I’m talking about.
UPDATED: Boomer Esiason issued a public apology to Murphy and his wife on the show this morning, and while it was the right thing to do I can’t help but wonder why he skirted the issue of men taking paternity leave. He acknowledged that he was wrong to bring the Murphy family into a public conversation, and that the March of Dimes had reiterated their mission statement about healthy pregnancies, but refrained from commenting on his stance. Still, it’s something like progress.
You’ll find it in the “Parenting” section of your local bookstore, but I’ve seen it listed as self-help and spiritual, too. Everything has a label, and my book is no different. After all, how do we know how to judge a thing unless we know the context upon which said thing is to be judged? We like to compare our words to our actions and contrast our thoughts against apples, oranges, and the next big thing. We are those that deem things worthy.
That being the case, I fear The Parents’ Phrase Book is on the wrong shelf. It isn’t a parenting book.
Yes, I said it. And yes, technically, it is a parenting book, in that it was created in hopes of helping parents communicate openly and effectively with their children, but I like to think that it is bigger than that. The Parents’ Phrase Book was written as a love letter to empathy and imagination, the comfort of self, the appreciation of others, and the wonder of wonder. It is about striving to be the best person that each of us could ever wish to be, to celebrate the differences between us and to make a difference when a difference is needed. It is an ode to love and ceaseless encouragement for ourselves, our children, and those around us.
Perhaps it aims too high and leans too far toward quixotic attempts and idealistic implementation; but if we are set on being better shouldn’t we reach for those aspirations that are hardest to reach, rather than settle for those already within our grasp? Shouldn’t we search for inspiration while always hoping to inspire?
I like to think so.
Which leads to the question, who am I to offer suggestions on parenting and life? What the hell do I know?
I know what not to do, the things I wish I did, and those I long to achieve. I know hope and regret, and the gray between. I know what I have done wrong, and I trust that sharing it will help people, myself included, avoid such mistakes, or at least provide some assurance that such mishaps may be overcome, learned from, and built upon. I know what makes me happy. That is why I have written this book, and that is why it is as open as only a book can be—let us be better to ourselves and more excellent to each other.
It’s like Wyld Stallyns, but with less Keanu.
The Parents’ Phrase Book is perfect for parents, but it is also great for non-parents and anyone else that has ever talked to another human being. It is for the future in the nicest way possible.
I wrote it for you, specifically.
Every street corner is more or less the same. They are the crossroads between where we are going and where we have been. The paths of others are layered across it. They are decorated in flowers, rocks, and fifty shades of concrete. There may be a light, a newspaper, or a marker-smudged sign with human hands upon it.
The signs are a barrier between those that hold them and those that fiddle with the radio in an attempt to avoid eye contact. Even the best of us find it hard to read every word, every time. It is hard to look into the face of need when we all need something.
The sign is a humble invitation to human contact between those that lack it and those that take it for granted. It is an opportunity for small moments of pity and respect, civility and kindness. A lot can happen at a red light.
We sat in the car with the windows down. It was a beautiful blue-skied day, and the breeze from the hills felt vaguely of the sea. It danced loosely across the salt of our thinly layered sweat, and it lingered soft and cool for a moment as if thinking about home. Then it carried on to woo the next in line, leaving memories and taking parts with it. A blink. A breath. A whisper.
We were leaving a store full of red shirts, value, and everything. Our bags were full and my wallet was empty. I had nothing in my pocket but a collection of plastic cards that owed more than I have and a balance that was anything but.
The breeze danced in my window, spun me around, tickled the nose of one boy, then the other, and flew out toward the man that stood there waiting. He smiled beneath a skin taught with sun and a layer of sweat much heavier than mine. His glance fell down, past the cardboard sign in his hands, to the grass beneath his feet and the child that sat quietly upon it. The breeze rolled from father to son and the smile went with it.
“Why is that boy there?” asked my youngest son from his spot in the backseat. His window was down, too, and his words were loud and carried on the wind.
The man kept his gaze to the ground and the boy looked at something important in the opposite direction. We were at a stop sign and there were no cars behind us.
My reaction in such situations, when a child’s innocence tends to jump from one side of a socially awkward bridge to the other, is usually alarm and quick words of quiet, something that surely embarrasses us both, but instead I took the man’s invitation.
To be clear, this isn’t meant to suggest that I am noble, doing the right thing, or any sort of action that merits acknowledgement beyond those involved, but rather a reminder about how much we all share and to suggest that we shouldn’t need signs that confound our attentions.
I could be that man. Any of us could. As it is I have been barely getting by for years—I went from making a very good living to making nothing, and now, thanks to a writing degree and access to the internet, I am making just enough to supplement my wife’s income so that we don’t go under. In fact, a few years ago we found ourselves having serious talks about what we feared was inevitable. We didn’t have many options, and we started to prepare for the worst. It scared the hell out of us.
The man on the street corner, the man that could have been me, was equal parts proud and humiliated as he leaned in the window that I am lucky to have, and answered:
“No, of course not. Change is very much appreciated.”
It was all I had and I gave him all of it.
“Why did you give that man money?” asked my oldest son from his spot in the backseat.
“Because he’s a daddy,” replied his brother.
The man’s eyes met mine, and one of us nodded and then the other. There was nothing left to say.
As we pulled away I watched the rear-view mirror and a fading street corner looking more or less like any other: a slab of concrete, a slice of shade, and a small, smiling boy held in the hands of a man where a sign used to be.
Granted, the oldest boy is fairly lazy with regard to must-dos, and as a result he cares nothing for schoolwork. He would prefer to spend his time and imagination on more frivolous pursuits like creating and thinking rather than learning from rote the pillars of a public school education. He is quite stubborn about it.
The youngest boy was, until recently, eager to complete his assignments, but these days when the window between classroom and bedroom is a scant five hours in which he must balance time outside with dinner and a moment with his family he has had to make sacrifices. It is homework that he has placed upon the pile, and there are matches nearby.
This has made my wife and I into the homework enforcers, and it is not a role that suits me. Sure, I can be bad cop until the cows come home, which not only begs the question as to where the cows went, but also, why does it take such aggressive measures to make the boys do that which they are required to do?
Surely they could complete their homework in a time much shorter than the span they spend arguing about it, after all, it is only elementary school busy work.
And there is the rub. I am not a fan of homework for the sake of homework, and it appears that the majority of assignments brought home are just that. Also, I am a big believer in life being short and severely lacking in tomorrows, so when my first grader would rather spend the lingering minutes of twilight playing catch than copying a word he can easily spell, a skill he mastered pages ago, we are going to play ball. Every time.
However, it is the attitude of the older son that troubles me more than his blatant disregard for paperwork. When given the opportunity to remain calm and carry on, he is choosing to throw tantrums much too elaborate for a child his age, and they are far beyond any emotion he has ever displayed during times of real consequence. Frankly, it is disgusting, and his actions are bringing the world down around him.
We have tried everything: reason, enticement, and fighting with fire—often in one conversation. He understands that he is the one with the power for change. He knows that he doesn’t have to like what he is charged with doing, but that it must be done. He gets that a quick buckling down on schoolwork will reward him with time and opportunities to pursue other activities, but more often than not he will stay in the ring, swinging at commonsense and sobbing on occasion.
To be fair, he gets a lot of homework, and it is the effort demanded by quantity, not the challenge of the work it contains, that pushes his buttons. He is not opposed to learning, in fact, he soaks up knowledge like a dry, thirsty sponge. He is incredibly bright. The point of his contention is the fear of losing an hour to something he finds tedious, and that results in his losing twice the time over something even more so. He is nine, he understands the argument, but the pill is still so hard to swallow.
We have a meeting scheduled with his teacher and principal to find productive ways to hold him accountable and to get his work done. The goal is to bend his attitude, not break his spirit. I only hope that there is some give for the take.
There is a joke being told, just south of off-the-cuff, and despite the new delivery and foreign subject matter I already know the punchline. It is the same as the joke before and the one to surely follow. It is on repeat, and I, the captive audience, have become a man of constant sorrow.
The laugh comes at “fart” (in 4D!) and, unlike something funny, the only one laughing is the one telling (and his brother, or vice versa). It is Smelt It, Dealt It 2.0, and frankly, I am over it.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that breaking wind is very important and even necessary on a medicinal level. It is common knowledge that holding in one’s own gas for extended periods of time may result in violent cases of the vapors, bloated bellyaches, or spontaneous combustion. In fact, there is a whole list of side effects that would make a Viagra commercial blush. However, there is something to be said for location, location, and, of course, location.
Also, I get it. I used to be a young boy, and there were few things more hilarious than farting in the vicinity of my younger sister, where vicinity equaled as close to her face as humanly possible. But that was funny! I was the Sid Caesar of passing gas, and my sister, if I recall correctly, loved every minute of it. Everybody did.
Which brings me to the problem with kids today. They have no respect for comedic timing. They have a glaring lack of common courtesy regarding where they are and those around them. It is a shame, and I blame the parents.
Granted, fault does not fall entirely on the shoulders of my wife—there is also the influence of society: Video games, movies, television, books, and family members have long glorified the pulling of fingers and bubbles in the bathwater. Yet I argue that the fart, as a joke, is crude, uncouth, and totally lost any semblance to comedy the minute that it hit my nose (possible exceptions include when I tell it).
Remember, just because something was funny a generation ago does not mean it plays well now, especially in the car with the windows up.
There is a joke being told, off-the-cuff, and it goes like this:
Did ya puh-who?
No, but I farted.
The punchline is fragrant, and my eyes are slightly burning—the laughter so thick you can smell it.