Sunday, December 2, 2007

Spending quality time with my kids

My son played catch with me on a daily basis last summer, and he’s damn good at it for his age. To be honest, he throws about as hard as I do, and playing with him was like playing with myself -- he was that good.

On most days he wouldn't let me go to work without playing catch at least 10 minutes. My daughter tried to get into the action too, and my son usually got mad. Sometimes I'd try to sneak out with my son, and KK's find her way outside with us. Many times JJ and I would end up tossing the ball to KK, and then she'd get bored and would find other things to do, like playing with the neighbor kids.

JJ loves to play catch with me, but he will rarely sit through a sporting event on TV. I say rarely: I should say never. But that's normal for a 9-year-old.

“Is the game you’re watching more important that playing catch with me,” JJ asked me one day during a Lions game, “because I’d really like to play catch.”

I said, “It’s not more important, but, to answer your question, I’m not going to play catch during the game.”

Stuff like this makes me feel like a bad dad.

My aunt M. told me that when she was a little girl her daddy was sleeping on the couch. She kissed him on the cheek and turned off the baseball game.

“Turn that game back on right now!” he bellowed. She did.

I feel I’m not much different than that, and grandpa was considered a good man. Then again, I wonder how many playgrounds or libraries grandpa took his kids too. I might have him there.

I try to spend equal time with both my kids. Sometimes I feel guilty because I spend too much time with one or the other. I take KK to the library every week and I hate it. I love the library, but I hate sitting in that little room while the librarian talks in her wee little voice to the kids. I’ve done it every week now for two years with KK. Did it with Jordan too.

Looking back on what I just wrote I have to wonder if I really am a bad dad because I don’t like to participate with her and sing along to the Hokey Pokey and the other songs. I mean: I did take her, you know. When the boy was her age, I took him too. How many dad’s would do that?

Now that I think about it, I probably spend more time with my kids than any dad in history; well, family history anyway. I have no memory of my dad taking me to the library. Heck, I have only a few memories of him playing catch with me and my brothers; and that was only because he obligated himself to coaching one summer.

That wasn’t a very good memory anyway. I mean, I thought it was cool when I was a kid to have my dad as coach, but now that I look back on it I wonder if it really was. I sucked as a baseball player when I was 10 and my dad probably new this, which is why he obligated me to play outfield.

I remember one time a ball came my way I ran away from it and, once it hit the ground, chased it to the fence. Upon picking it off the ground, I looked to the infield and had absolutely no idea what to do with it.

Did that make my dad a bad dad too. I suppose he could have put me in the infield and made me learn how to play, but that would have entailed spending time with me at home as well as on the practice field once a week.

But, then again, dad believed in letting us learn things for ourselves. Likewise, he didn’t want to give us special treatment, which meant placing someone else’s kid at the important positions and delegating his kid to the positions only a few balls are hit to.

But the question is: did this make him a bad dad? My opinion is no; he was not a bad dad. He was a dad who tried. He was also a dad who wanted to be fair, and, most important, he was a dad who worked for a living to support us kids.

There were times I never saw my dad except a few minutes at dinner and, maybe if I was lucky, right before bed where he would give us high fives and tuck us in at night. He worked at his business (the car lot) all day, and then, after dinner and after high fives, he would go work on his apartments.

Then again, I must have really sucked if my own dad put me in the outfield. If I asked him now he’d be modest and say he doesn’t remember. Or, more than likely, he might simply not remember.

My kids, on the other hand, have a dad who went to college and found a good job working at a hospital that requires only three 12 hour shifts per week. The rest of my time I get to spend at home, which provides my kids ample time with their dad.

So, while I spend more time with my kids than any dad in history, I don’t think I should feel guilty that I don’t enjoy every minute of it.

Then I was a kid I loved playing Nintendo, but last night I played an hour with my son a game on the Game Cube that I had no clue what I was doing. But, because I wanted to spend time with him, I suffered through it. Should I tell him I didn’t enjoy it? In a way, I guess I did my mumbling and grumbling about finishing in last place every time we raced the characters. Man, I was really irritated I couldn’t beat my seven-year-old son. In my day, I was master of any game, and now I couldn’t catch on to a silly racing game.

Now, not only am I a bad dad, I’m old and out of touch. Now I'm learning that intendo football and baseball and basketball games are as fun now as they used to be. The boy is interested in them. I hated all sports until I turned 12, and then I became rapt in baseball. Considering he’s got an IQ about 50 points higher than mine, he'll probably be beating me in no time.

“Dad,” he said one day in a condescending tone when I told him that one day he will love to sit and watch a baseball game with me, “I’m never going to be interested in baseball.” Here he looked at me as though I was a big dumb dad. “Why would I want to sit and watch a stupid game with you? How boring!”

Well, he's now interested in sports. I’ll just have to be patient and he'll be sitting with me eating peanuts during the games.

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